National Dog Day was August 26. I’m on this late because I was traveling today (You’d think the airlines might have given me half off the faire). I didn’t want to merely do as others have and post cute pictures. Here’s the story of why there is a National Dog Day, and perhaps the story explains why you are here to read it.
You’re on this planet because of dogs. Whether or not you even like dogs, you can thank a canine for your very existence.
Let me explain.
Today’s humans are evolved from Cro-Magnon men, who made it through the Ice Age and eventually evolved into you and me. Neanderthal man wasn’t so lucky, and eventually died out.
Experts suggest Co-Magnon and Neanderthals shared the planet for several thousand years. Cro-Magnon, from which we evolved, were thought to be more advanced. But the truth is they were much the same as Neanderthal at this point, as many of their developments came later when something happened in their culture, which I will explain.
The People magazine question, did the two humanoid species interbreed? Really, don’t you want to know?
While scientists allow that there were probably plenty of random matings and hookups, any long-term interbreeding is unlikely.
Just as we look at Neanderthals today and suggest they look homely – apparently our Co-Magnon ancestors felt similarly. Also, the humanoids couldn’t communicate with one another. And one more thing, single bars weren’t invented yet.
While Cro-Magnon men developed more intricate tools, and were apparently better hunters than Neanderthal (despite what you might have heard), both species shared similar lifestyles.
For starters, they both lived in social groups, and mostly stayed in one place. And they were both slobs. There were no garbage disposals or toilets – so they kept all the refuse and such just outside the perimeter of their villages.
Lots of animals came by to snack, and that included a (now extinct) ancestor of today’s wolf. Genetic archeologists and DNA evidence suggests that over time, these wolf-like animals began to consider the fringes of human settlements as their territories, and defended them. They warned one another of danger, and in doing so, people were warned about very large sabre-toothed animals approaching.
Cro-Magnon’s began to associate with friendlier and less timid individual canines, and even began to selectively breed them, and take a role in puppy raising.
Remember these aren’t dogs at this point – but instead relatives of today’s wolf….but the process of domestication had now begun.
The deal was a good one for the wolves too; the humans offered some protection, and a steady and easy supply of food. You could die from battling a giant bear. You won’t likely die being tossed left-overs. Cro-Magnons more than appreciated the company, they soon encouraged the animals’ natural instinct to guard. Cro-Magnons didn’t have cars. Canines were a whole lot faster than people, and soon they hunted together. And the ability to hunt was bred for. Together, it must have been quite the efficient team; the canines’ speed and the Cro-Magnon’s tools.
Meanwhile, no one knows why the Neanderthals didn’t form an alliance with the canines. Maybe the wolves didn’t hang around their settlements as much because they had less trash to scavenge. Who knows?
But we do know that with the coming of the ice-cage, farming became more challenging in places and the big prey was dying out. And Neanderthals were never as skilled hunters as Cro-Magnon.
Dogs also kept Cro-Magnon warm at night. There’s evidence that by now some of the canines actually slept with Cro-Magnon family members, and with the oncoming ice-age it was getting cold out – no space-heaters back then.
Neanderthal didn’t have dogs– and guess what -they didn’t survive the ice age.
Cro-Magnon continued to breed dogs.
Eventually Cro-Magnon became us, and that wolf relative became the dog.
This isn’t a fable. It’s all true. Google it – as the kids say. If it wasn’t for dogs, I don’t know any of us would be here.
Humans’ relationship with dogs is really quite extraordinary when you think about it. There are no two animals that have the relationship we do with dogs on the planet.
They risk their lives for us. Why?
We risk our lives for them.
We trust each other with one another’s off-spring.
I can’t explain why dogs understand us (as a species) so well. I suspect they’re hard-wired to do so because dogs have evolved alongside us.
Thank Dog we have them.