New dog research shows that domesticated dogs may originate in Europe. Hunter-gathers in prehistoric Europe first learnt to tame wolves into companions somewhere between 19,000 and 32,000 years ago.
This dog research is based on analysis of DNA fragments from fossils of ancient wolves and dogs. It contradicts prior research suggesting that dogs were originally domesticated in the Middle East or East Asia.
Most experts generally agree that dog training first started wolves looking for scraps of food around human camps. Humans became more comfortable with then and eventually trained the as companions, guards and hunting partners.
The location and time of this happening has always been controversial.
A group of Finnish researchers have traced dog taming to Europe. Olaf Thalmann, of the University of Turku and colleagues found that the DNA of today’s dogs most closely matches that of either ancient European canines or modern European wolves, but not wolves outside Europe.
Thalmann, said “We’re pretty sure that Europe played a major role in the domestication of the dog.” His dog research was published in the journal Science last week.
This is a turn around on previous views. If dogs were domesticated so early in Europe, this means that they joined human society when humans were still hunter-gathers, not farmers, as was previously thought. .
Resulting from this, Thalmann believes that the first “proto-dogs” may well have scavenged on the carcasses left by early human hunters. They may also have helped humans them hunt prey and defended them against other predators.
Genetic analysis was based on mitochondrial DNA extracted from the fossils of eight ancient dogs and ten wolves. This is a commonly used tool for tracking ancestry. One hundred and thirty modern dogs were used for comparison.
Researchers concluded that the first dogs originated in Europe from a population of now-extinct gray wolves.