"The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog."

The Debate on Canine Domestication

Canine Origin Story
Jawbone and teeth fragments held at the Oxford Museum of Natural History. DNA extracted from these and similar materials contributes to the effort to track the separation between wolf and dog.
Jennings Dog, 2nd century AD; Linnaeus’s Systema Naturae described a new classification system.
Natufian burial of human with dog, Israel, 12.5 to 10.8 BCE; Illustration from Buffon’s Histoire Naturelle.

Researchers have identified the origin of cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, camels, ducks, chickens, cats and goats. But the genesis of the domestic dog, our oldest companion and the most varied, numerous and widely distributed domestic animal on the globe? We’re still trying to figure out that one.

The study of patterns of diversity is called systematics, and it is a critical subdivision of evolutionary biology. Systematics researchers (earlier called naturalists and taxonomists) sort out species’ genealogical relationships and estimate the points at which populations diverged from one another. Traditionally, they relied on observations of differences in stable physical traits like teeth, skulls and sometimes fossils. More recently, genome-wide comparisons have been used to provide detailed information about species relationships, including the question of when and where wolves became dogs.

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