From wolves to dogs in half a century?

The Victoria Times Colonist notes that "an evolutionary biologist at the University of Victoria is working on the hypothesis that a kinder, gentler breed of wolf was developed in half a century." Here’s the article: We didn’t go to the dogs — canines went to the people.

That dogs descended from wolves is commonly accepted. So is the theory that this evolution took about 14,000 years.

Or did it? Crockford suggests the metamorphosis could have taken place over the span of a single human life — between 20 and 40 years.

Crockford points to a 40-year experiment by geneticist Dmitry K. Belyaev and his Siberian research group at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, where silver foxes were selectively bred for gentleness.

As expected, each succeeding generation was more docile than the last.

What was not expected was that within 20 generations, changes in appearance emerged among the litters. Some pups displayed piebald markings, curled tails and drooping ears. Some also developed another distinctive dog behaviour: They barked.

Foxes breed annually, wolves every two years, so if a similar progression occurred on wolves’ journey toward domestication, it could have taken place over 40 years, still within a single human lifespan.

That, says Crockford, would explain a number of archeological findings from sites dating back between 4,000 and 14,000 years. At these sites, most of which are in the Americas, canines were buried atop humans, the dogs set in curled postures, as though asleep. [continue]


One thought on “From wolves to dogs in half a century?

  1. The article talks, at the end, about the way dogs changed humans.

    “Did dogs change the world?

    “They certainly changed how we see and approach the world,” says Crockford. Their function as hunting partner, hauler, guard and companion enabled humankind to move beyond its own physical limitations. Smaller societies that utilized dogs were able to take on tasks that otherwise would be beyond their capabilities.”

    I would also argue that dogs changed us in ways that could be described as socialization/companionship. Do you know any human more unconditionally loving, more accepting, more protective than your dog? Neither do I; those are qualities we emulate, strive for and admire. We call those human who achieve them saints.

Comments are closed.