The dog has been a domesticated, long-tailed form of wild wolf. The dog evolved from an ancient, extinct species, with the wild wolf being the closest living relative of the dog. The dog was probably the first mammal to be domesticated by early hunter-gatherers over 15,000 years ago, before the advent of agriculture. The dog was used for numerous purposes in early history.
Dog breed refers to various physical characteristics and behavior, including the genetic coding of a particular type of dog (Canidae). There are presently approximately 22 breeds of dogs in the world. Many dog breeds are specialized in functions such as tracking, companion animals, or sport activities. Although there is little genetic difference between dogs of the same breed, the differences among breeds in behavior and structure may result in the selection of dogs having very different traits. There is much correspondence between breeds in the domestic dog, but each breed has its own distinctive personality.
A number of closely related breeds such as the Greyhound, Doberman Pinscher, Beagle, and German Shepherd are sometimes referred to collectively as the “Packs” because they usually descend from a number of breeds common in packs like the Bloodhounds, Bulldogs, Rottweilers, and the Jack Russell Terriers. Domestic dogs that are of non-wolf bloodlines are known as Non-Canidae. These dogs may be domestic cats or may be of other canines. There are also some breeds of canines which are completely wolf-like.
Genetic evidence indicates that dogs descended from a common ancestor of all modern dogs. Evidence from wolf fossils indicates that dogs and wolves interbred between 80 and 200 thousand years ago. Recent studies indicate that most modern breeds are most likely to have begun their domestication during the last million years. Domesticated dogs, most of which were bred for utility rather than for fashion, first appeared in China approximately forty thousand years ago. During the last ten thousand years, mankind’s demand for dogs has increased significantly, along with the variety of available dog breeds.
Modern dogs are now used in nearly every walk of life. They are used to hunt, herd cattle, protect homes and business, assist in accidents and search for missing persons. Some breeds even assisted early man in his task of hunting animals for food, such as the grey wolf and the wild boar.
Many people argue that dogs are not meant to be used as pets or for hunting since they are clearly more pack animals. However, recent genetic studies have shown that dogs were actually meant to domesticate first. Their ancestors were wolves that were able to adapt and thrive as farm animals and were capable of working alongside humans as well. We owe a lot to these ancient wolves for our technological prosperity, as well as for our compassion for canines.