The dog, Canis lupus familiaris, was the first animal, and the only large carnivore, to be domesticated. Yet its origins remain a mystery. Now, an unprecedented global collaboration of scientists is at last unraveling the tangled story hidden in dogs DNA.
For years, getting researchers to pinpoint the origin of man’s best friend was like walking into a room full of dog owners and asking, ‘Who’s a good boy?’ Everyone would promote, with utmost confidence, their own pet theory.
Recent genetic studies have placed ground zero for dog domestication in Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, South Asia or Southeast Asia. And they date dog origins anywhere between 10,000 and 38,000 years ago.
Some of these contradictory results arise from dogs’ complex history with humans and other canids. Once domesticated, dogs proved valuable in myriad ways: guards, hunters, shepherds, pack animals, sled pullers.