Studies of prehistoric dog burials have been making splashy headlines lately. Although the popular press would have us believe that these finds are proof of the affectionate relationship our ancestors had with dogs, the unifying theory that gives meaning to burial patterns remains elusive because ancient people left no written record.
During the summer of 1938, a frail 82-year-old man was forced by the Nazis to flee his home. On the train out of Vienna, along with other family members, was his Chow companion Lün. Upon arriving in Dover, in accordance with English laws, Lün was taken from him and placed in the quarantine kennels at Ladbroke Grove, London. Just five days after Freud settled into his new house, the weary exile ventured out on his first trip. This is how an Australian newspaper, The Referee, described the event:
Just as scientific research is confirming that, indeed, the canine/human friendship goes back many millennia, it’s a good time to look at what the ancients have to say about the subject. For example, take the Mahabharata, the Sanskrit masterwork thought to be the longest-ever epic poem. Not only is it 1.8 million words, it’s also one of the oldest, with origins in the 8th century BCE.
In the world of mammals, the domestic dog— Canis lupus familiaris, a subspecies of the gray wolf— reigns as the most morphologically diverse. Consider, for example, the extremes represented by the 155- pound South Russian Ovcharka and the seven-pound Silky Terrier. This incredible variety can be attributed in part to the dog’s basic template, which can be customized by the manipulation of a very small number of genes.
With dogs in the house, returning home—from a day at work or a trip to the mailbox—is cause for celebration, a wagging tail, the gift of a ball at your feet or even a little dance. You’re home! You’re home! But have you ever wondered why some parties are bigger than others?
Like classic twin studies that investigate the interplay of nature and nurture, comparing the genome of village dogs to modern dogs may help disentangle the long-term evolutionary effects of genetic and environmental influences.