Dog, first domesticated animal
Domestication is a slow and complex process. The dog is a unique case of domestication by man: most probably the first species to have approached primitive human societies, he has become in 10,000 years an indispensable companion of life, present in all our societies.
Unlike other domesticated species, which are used in food, the dog fulfills many other very different roles .
What is domestication?
We define domestication as the process where an animal species reproduces only in a human environment, see in a human-driven framework that then makes a selection. This is opposed to the wild, where the human has no control over the way of life and reproduction.
At the time when the dog was domesticated, many species then accompanied him , especially when human populations are sedentary: pork, buffalo, zebu, goose, duck, hen, sheep, goat, horse, camel, cat...
The characteristics of a domesticated species are generally 'a selection process, and are hereditary. This is the case, for example, of the absence of fear towards the human , one of the fundamental differences between a wolf and a dog. Indeed, a pup and a puppy raised in identical conditions of human presence, we will see more often the Cub scared of the man than the puppy. There is therefore a heredity for this type of criteria, and men select by reproducing only animals that adapt to the environment of human life, without fear.
It is therefore very important to grasp this nuance to understand what is happening at the genetic level in a domesticated animal population: it is the human who "creates", according to his needs, the new subspecies . The dog is the best example available, because it has a lot of use. Most species domesticated by humans are for food reasons, they are animals raised for the purpose of being eaten. But the dog is used for hunting, keeping, driving, fighting, running, company: as many groups of dogs that have selected to meet these needs more specifically. We can observe, for example, dogs cut for speed and the race (greyhound type), or rather strong and hypervigilant for guarding (molossoid type).
Domestication: a slow process
This process of domestication is slow The genetic evolution of a species occurs over tens of thousands of years , and even if domestication accelerates it severely, it remains a process that is difficult to observe, especially as the traces left in our history are scattered and far away.
Moreover, the human knowledge of crossing made it possible to make a real selection only very late, a few centuries ago.
We observe the first racial sub-types around 1000 years ago, around the Middle Ages:
- Braques the
- masters the
- spitz and the greyhounds
. We must see the Book of Hunting, written by Gaston Phoebus, count of Foix, from 1387 at 1389. The content consists of a prologue and an epilogue framing seven chapters, of which the first two, "From the nature of the animals" and "From the nature of the dogs", are an embryo of descriptive natural history. It includes the first pictures of domestic dogs in our history
. At the present time there are between 100 to 400 dog breeds
. The definition of a race does not reach consensus, everyone does not agree on this number. Approximately one hundred distinct morphological and behavioral types, and many "subtypes" fairly close to each other will be determined.
More than 400 different dog breeds
The breeds are classified into 10 categories, which classification is is not based on scientific criteria such as genetics but which relate more to the historical evolution of the different races and morphological types (hence the presence of category "catch-all" which includes several).
- We find in particular:
- Shepherds and Bouviers
- Common Dogs and Research Dogs
- Resting Dogs
- Pet Dogs
- Reporting Dogs, Raising Dogs, Water Dogs
- Pinschers, Schnauzers, Molossoids and Swiss Bouviers
- Spitz and primitive type
Terriers In this classification we note the characteristic of domestication, namely that selection takes place according to the needs of humans. Each Negory corresponds to specific needs
: hunting to survey, ratio of prey, suitable for large or small preys, guarding, company. Moreover, the function called "company" appeared in the end very late
: it is less than a century, when our lifestyles have gained in comfort, that the dog has settled at home as a full member of the family, and not only as a working tool. It is at this moment that the number of racial types has also exploded, to the diversity observed today. In the end, the domestication of the dog represents a unique and formidable case of inter-symbiosis -species
, even though the dog's genetic and behavioral evolution has been heavily man-led for 10,000 years. His influence on our societies and the traces he has left in our history are proof of this, and the adage "the best friend of man" is not based on a myth!
Dr Stéphane Tardif
Veterinary doctor and editor for AllCreatureAnimalClinic