Europe is the cradle of many dog breeds which were formed from free-breeding village dogs living in Europe for many millenia. These dogs adapted to the cold winters of Scandanavia and the hot summers of Spain, and they also, over time, found many ways to be useful to the humans they lived near. Some became hunters of everything from boar to squirrels while others became talented sheep herders, guardians, or just companions. Some of these dogs eventually became the founders of many popular dog breeds today, though most village dogs just continued living on as free-breeding village dogs even after the formation of modern breeds. Now they are found mostly in southern and eastern Europe.
Illustration courtesy of the Swedish Kennel Club
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A European village dog is the oldest known fossil dog. The dog lived nearly 15,000 years ago in what is now Germany and was buried with a human family.
After dogs were domesticated in Central Asia, they quickly followed humans to Europe. Once in Europe, they spread across the entire continent, managing to find a living eating scraps and trash everywhere they went. Over time, some of them adapted to roles helping humans hunt, tend and guard livestock, and guard homes. They also changed humans wherever they went, making dog lovers of many people. Some of our most enduring myths, like zombies and werewolves, trace to European village dogs (in those cases, rabid dogs specifically).
European village dogs in Scandinavia formed the initial stock for Spitz-type dogs, while some European dogs further south were bred in recent centuries into many of the breeds we know today. However, many village dogs remained just that: free-breeding, free-spirited dogs living on the margins of human society. They continue to live in southern and eastern Europe to this day.
Like village dogs everywhere, European village dogs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and temperaments; however, they are most often tan, around 30-40 pounds, and generally friendly after their initial shyness. They often have independent spirits, but they can make for very lovely pets. After all, humans have been living with them for over 10,000 years.
European Village Dogs on Embark
Explore some Embark dogs that share European Village Dog ancestry.