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The Origins Of The Dog

Tracing the origins of man’s best friend. Maybe they didn’t come from wolves. New research on the evolution of dogs.

A Lagotto Romagnolo is introduced at a news conference, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016 in New York as one of seven breeds which will compete for the first time at next month's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

A Lagotto Romagnolo is introduced at a news conference, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016 in New York as one of seven breeds which will compete for the first time at next month’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

We love dogs. Dogs seem to love us, and they’ve done very well by that. But where did they come from? Really? Exactly?  We imagine maybe that somebody reached into a wolf’s den eons ago, pulled out a cub, brought it home, and so it began. But what if the story was quite different? And what about breeds? How on earth did dogs go from their ancestral origins to a world of Chihuahuas and Great Danes? This hour On Point, where dogs came from, and the evolution of man’s best friend.

— Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Greger Larson, professor of evolutionary genomics at Oxford University, where he directs the Ancient Dog Project. (@Greger_Larson)

Ray Coppinger, professor emeritus of biology at Hampshire College. Author of the book “Dogs” and co-author, with Mark Feinstein, of “How Dogs Work.”

Mietje Germonpre, paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of the Natural Scientists, where she studies prehistoric canines and the early domestication of the wolf.

From Tom’s Reading List

Cell Research: Out of southern East Asia: the natural history of domestic dogs across the world — “Around 15 000 years ago, a subset of ancestral dogs started migrating to the Middle East, Africa and Europe, arriving in Europe at about 10 000 years ago. One of the out of Asia lineages also migrated back to the east, creating a series of admixed populations with the endemic Asian lineages in northern China before migrating to the New World. For the first time, our study unravels an extraordinary journey that the domestic dog has traveled on earth.”

National Geographic: New Clues on How and When Wolves Became Dogs — “Although dogs may have initially been domesticated in China, they didn’t begin their spread around the world until about 15,000 years ago. At that time, the dogs began migrating out of Southeast Asia towards Africa and the Middle East, arriving in Europe around 10,000 years ago, giving rise to the modern assortment of dog breeds that we see today.”

New York Times: The Big Search to Find Out Where Dogs Come From — “Scientists have come up with a broad picture of the origins of dogs. First off, researchers agree that they evolved from ancient wolves. Scientists once thought that some visionary hunter-gatherer nabbed a wolf puppy from its den one day and started raising tamer and tamer wolves, taking the first steps on the long road to leashes and flea collars. This is oversimplified, of course, but the essence of the idea is that people actively bred wolves to become dogs just the way they now breed dogs to be tiny or large, or to herd sheep.”

#DogsOfOnPoint

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