Saturday, June 13, 2009

The First Dogs

I've been reading an interesting book by Stanley Coren called
The Intelligence of Dogs: A Guide to the Thoughts, Emotions, and Inner Lives of Our Canine Companions.

Chapter two delves into the natural history of dogs and how dogs have evolved over the centuries.

For instance, it says that no adult dogs in the wild have hanging ears. Only puppies have floppy ears. The fact that our modern breeds have hanging ears is one of many signs that our modern dogs are more "puppylike" than their ancestors were.

It also says that dogs have been our companions longer than any other animal. (I think a record my kids had when they were small talked about the dog being the "first friend," too.)

A fossil found in the 1950's in Iraq shows that dogs have been dwelling with humans for 14,000 years. This dog is so similar to "modern" dogs that at first the fossil was ignored. Researchers incorrectly assumed that it was a more modern dog who had wandered into the ancient cave site and died there.

It wasn't until 1974 that researchers from the British Museum in London decided to take a closer look.

Another excavation, this one in southern Europe, revealed bones from about the same time period, and showed that dogs must have been considered protectors even then. The skeleton of a Stone Age girl was found surrounded by 4 dogs, each facing a different direction, as if to guard her.

In America, bones have been found that show dogs were sharing lodgings with humans eleven thousand years ago.

But my favorite part of this chapter relates a folk tale from the Kato Indians of California. This is a legend about how the god Nagaicho created the world.

Once the world was created, he began walking about, creating the creeks and rivers, men and women, and a variety of animals. And, on this walk about the new world, he was accompanied by his dog. Apparently, to the Kato Indians, the idea of a human (the god Nagaicho) going around without his dog was just not thinkable, so Nagaicho had his canine companion even before he created the world.

The dog was simply always there.

I agree with the Katos - going around without a dog is simply unthinkable!

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