A Man's Best Friend.. For 33,000 Years!

Feb 8, 2012 By Akila, Junior Editor
diamond's picture

Dogs are regarded as a “man’s best friend”. But did you know that this may have been so for over 30 centuries, perhaps even before the Ice age?

Recently scientists found a 33,000 year old dog skull in a cave in the Altai Mountains in Siberia. Another dog skull has also been discovered in Belgium which is thought to be at least 30,000 years old. These are the oldest known evidence of dog domestication. These discoveries have changed the thinking about the origin of dogs. 

Before these skulls were discovered, it was believed that dogs became domesticated (began living with man and lost their wild ways) only about 12000 to 15000 years ago. They were also believed to have evolved from a single ancestor. Because the two skulls have been found so far apart, scientists now rethink that modern dogs may have several different ancestors. Could it be that dogs and man have lived together at various places around the world all through history? 

Establishing the age

It is fascinating the way scientists figure out the age of dead plants and fossils. They use a method known as carbon dating. In nature, carbon can be found in three different forms- C12, C13 and C14. C14  is radioactive – that means, it is continuously emitting radiation and decaying and losing strength. C14 loses half its strength every 5730 years. This property of radioactive materials is called half life. By measuring the amount of C14 left in the skull, scientists were able to tell that the dog skull was 33,000 years old. 

Evolution of dogs

Dogs are known to have evolved from wolves. Researchers know this because of the similarities in their behavior and looks. Since wolves live and hunt in the wild they have longer snouts, thinner jaws and spaced out teeth. However when dogs came to live with humans, they lost their ability to live in the wild and began to depend on humans. They adapted and developed shorter snouts, wider jaws and crowded teeth. The arrangement of the snout and teeth give clues to the scientists that the fossils belong to domesticated dogs. 

Domestication of Dogs

Dogs are pack animals. They bond and interact with other dogs and humans. Dogs are also known to be den animals as they are comfortable relaxing in enclosed areas such as a crate.

When we think of domestication, cows and sheep come to mind. It may be surprising for you that dogs were probably the first animals to be domesticated by humans. In the early days when man lived in forests and hunted for food, dogs were a hunting partner because of their keen sense of smell. Over time, when man settled down and began to farm, dogs helped humans with many chores such as herding cattle. When he invented sleds and other mechanisms of transportation, dogs would pull them. In recent times, dogs act as human companions, household pets, service and guide dogs and police dogs.


scherero's picture
scherero September 30, 2015 - 12:07pm

30,000 years old!

Jacqueline_V's picture
Jacqueline_V March 25, 2015 - 12:25pm

I love dogs and I think that it's really cool that they have been pets for as long as 33,000 years!

nanny2015's picture
nanny2015 July 7, 2015 - 10:13am

I love dogs too!!

7-em's picture
7-em February 4, 2013 - 8:06am

I love wolves they are amazing creatures. I know how the dog packs work and stuff because my mom and i rescued a lot of rottwielers from this nasty place (women) and despite all the hunger and pain they had been through they were the sweetest dogs and very protective. So yes dogs are neat

Olivia-Anna's picture
Olivia-Anna January 28, 2013 - 3:32pm

I love dogs a ton! I thought this article was super interesting.

Jacqueline_V's picture
Jacqueline_V March 25, 2015 - 12:26pm

Yes there should!

Ella's picture
Ella February 16, 2012 - 9:58am

Really cool! And great video.

dolphingirl's picture
dolphingirl February 15, 2012 - 3:19pm
Caramel-Marek's picture
Caramel-Marek February 15, 2012 - 1:34pm
Our dog is a Boston Terrier. His name is Orson. Hes going bald.
Warisha's picture
Warisha March 3, 2013 - 3:25pm

love cats,too!!!

Anita R's picture
Anita R February 13, 2012 - 4:09pm

'Man' here means humans. Not boy or girl, man or woman...

Ella's picture
Ella February 13, 2012 - 12:59pm
My dog looks nothing like a wolf.
Tessa's picture
Tessa February 13, 2012 - 11:05am

I don't think we would still be hunter gatherers without dogs. Humans would have found ways to farm without dogs.

sb2's picture
sb2 February 12, 2012 - 11:01am

Wow! Dogs helped us become civilized!

sb2's picture
sb2 February 12, 2012 - 10:56am

I think there is going to be a current events story on this tomorrow because they found one in Belgium

asiainasia's picture
asiainasia February 11, 2012 - 7:41pm

I LOVE dogs

jessical's picture
jessical February 11, 2012 - 1:18pm

Wow, I never thought how dogs use to hunt on their own but, now... their teeth come together and their snout is smaller!!! I never thought about that! This article was great!!!