Until recently, evidence showed that dogs could have been domesticated 11,000 years ago. However, recent studies show that the domestication of dogs is older than previously thought. Genetic analysis of fossils shows that several dog breeds already existed at the end of the last ice age. So this may be evidence that domestication has been going on for much longer.
Some estimates show that this process could have started about 100,000 years ago. However, there is a consensus in the scientific community between 40,000 and 20,000 years ago. In one way or another, humans were already deeply attached to dogs long before the species started to dominate the planet.
However, to understand this connection with our canine friends, we need to understand how domestication occurs.
Today it is believed that there are three main paths for the domestication of an animal: the path of the prey, the directed path, and the commensal path.
The path of prey was what happened to farm animals such as pigs and cows. Possibly the prehistoric human communities realized that it was better to trap animals in pens than to hunt whenever they needed food. So communities preferred to care for animals that had the best meat or milk.
On the other hand, the path directed was that which occurred with horses, donkeys and camels. H. sapiens did not use these animals for food production, but they were very resistant. In this way, humans began to use the strongest and tame animals to travel long distances.
Finally, with regard to our dogs, we have the commensal path. It turns out that after the hunt, humans ended up not eating all the meat and left scraps from around the camp. The wolves then fed on these remains and ended up getting used to Homo sapiens. After many generations, the canines who were more sociable kept in touch with the communities and ended up living with them.
Because domestication of dogs may be older than previously thought
There are two main pieces of evidence for domesticating dogs. The first is funerals. These rites probably symbolized the importance of an individual to the tribe. However, dogs were also buried similarly to humans. This may indicate that dogs were part of human communities.
Another piece of evidence is genetic analysis. DNA sequencing of dog fossils around the world shows that these dogs began to differentiate genetically a long time ago. Long before the estimated 11,000 years. Furthermore, domesticated dogs have genes that facilitate the digestion of starch. This is because when humans started to grow wheat, for example, they also started to feed dogs with bread and pasta.
The scientific article was published in the journal Science.