Although the exact origin of the dog is shrouded in that old and familiar refuge of the scientists, “the mists of antiquity,” their family history is easily traced back through the bronze age and the stone age to the geological drift that first evidenced the use of fire, which is ordinarily accepted as indicating the advent of man upon the earth. Further than this science say’s not. Statues and carvings exist which show there were dogs in the most ancient times resembling in important particulars the breeds of the present, but it has never been decided whether these dogs or those of today were descended from some dog-like ancestor or were relatives of the fox, the jackal, or the wolf. On this subject it may be said that there is a resemblance in appearance between some breeds of dogs and foxes. They are unlike, however, in character and habits, for the fox is not a social animal and does not hunt in packs, and foxes also have a peculiar odor that dogs have not. It may also be stated that despite the many cases referred to of crosses between foxes and dogs, there is not on record a duly authentic case of such a cross ever having occurred.
What has been said about the lack of relationship between dogs and foxes does not hold good in reference to wolves and jackals, for the latter so closely resemble many breeds of dogs in general appearance, structure, habits, instincts, and mental qualities that they may be regarded as of one stock. It is impossible to formulate a definition that will include all the varieties of the domestic dog that exclude all of the wild species. In addition to their marked similarity in size, appearance, and anatomical structure, both wolves and jackals can be and frequently are trained, while domesticated dogs frequently become wild, consorting and interbreeding with the former, assuming their habits and changing their characteristics back to a wolflike hound. The wolf and jackal when trained wag their tails, lick their masters’ hands, crouch or throw themselves on their back in submission, come when called, jump about when caressed, and in high spirits run around in circles or in figure eights, their plaintive howl changing to a businesslike bark.
There are so many breeds of dogs so unlike in size and appearance that it is difficult to reconcile their being derived from a common ancestry. The marked disparity in size, however, between the tiny toy Spaniel and the St. Bernard is no greater than the disparity between the Percheron horse and the Shetland pony, the Patagonian and the pigmy.
In the origin of species Darwin reports several interesting experiments, one being the breeding together promiscuously of a large number of fancy pigeons of totally different sizes, varieties, and types. The result was one uniform type, the common wild wood pigeon. In the face of these experiments it is probable that the breeding together of several varieties of horses would revert back to one uniform type, the wild horse, and the mating of all the different varieties of dogs would result in an animal in all respects similar to the wild dogs which are to be found in different parts of the world, particularly in Africa.
There is conclusive evidence to prove that the people who lived in the monolithic age, in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres, possessed dogs, living with them on the same terms of intimacy as exist today, and later the Chaldeans, the Assyrians, the Greeks, and the Romans owned dogs that were the progenitors of those of the present time.
In fact, the prehistoric drifts, the ashes of fires and mould in caves revealing man’s first presence on the globe also reveal the presence of the dog. The history of the dog is the history of man, their origin is coexistent, their lives have been lived together, and the extinction of the human race would likely be punctuated by the extinction of the dog.
In the last half century great care has been given to the breeding of dogs. Thanks to dog shows and their rigid rules of registration demanded by the Kennel Club, the various canine types have been brought to a high state of perfection and kept uncompromisingly distinct. The elimination of the nondescript cur is steadily progressing, and the meeting on the streets of dogs that do not bear resemblance to some recognized breed is becoming more and more uncommon, for within the last two years even the amateur dog owner is alive to the importance of keeping breeds distinct.