Some scientists believe that the earliest wild dog originated in North America fifteen to thirty-five million years ago, long before any men lived there. No one really knows which animals were the ancestors of this first dog in the world. They think that he probably had a wolf father and a jackal mother. And the descendants of this puppy were the very first wild animals that primitive man ever tamed.
Now, man might have tried to tame many other small animals. Why did he choose the primitive dog to be his first animal friend? Perhaps it happened this way.
Food and shelter were the biggest problems of life for both Man and Wild Dog in those difficult long-ago days. The only way they could keep alive was to hunt animals for their food, kill them with their stone hatchets or teeth, and bring some of the flesh back to their families to eat, too. Man and his family lived in a cave. Wild Dog and his family lived either in a cave or in a hollow tree trunk. When winter came and food was harder to find, maybe Wild Dog became so hungry that he grew bold. He crept close to Man’s campfire. Maybe he found some bones there that Man had thrown away because he couldn’t chew them. But Wild Dog could chew them, and did! And one bitter, snowy night, maybe he brought his family to the campfire, too, so they could get warm and eat bones.
Then perhaps Man noticed when he was out hunting that Wild Dog caught his food animals more easily than Man could. He watched Wild Dog run, nose to ground, right to the hiding place of a fat rabbit. And he saw that the reason Wild Dog caught his game more easily than Man was because Wild Dog had a much sharper sense of smell. Thinking about this, Man may have gotten the idea of catching one of Wild Dog’s puppies and training it to hunt for him.
This puppy soon learned that all he had to do in order to be warm and well-fed was to help Man catch his food. And when he had puppies of his own, they stayed with Man’s children to help them hunt. When other men saw how Man’s dogs tracked down the food he needed, they began to bring up little wild-dog puppies, too. Finally, there were almost as many tame dogs as there were human families in the world.
Over these thousands of years, dogs changed in their appearance as much as Man did. They no longer howled, like wolves. They barked. And they came to depend upon Man as much as Man depended upon them.
By the time Man had learned to keep flocks of sheep for his food, he also discovered a new way in which his dog could help him. He thought it would be a good idea to teach Dog to guard his flocks from wild animals while he was busy hunting or fishing.
First he had to teach Dog not to eat the sheepl But once Dog learned this difficult lesson, he became very skilled at protecting his charges. From watching sheep, it was an easy step to learn how to watch Man’s family, home, and property. And then Dog learned how to fight for his master against other men who wanted to steal his flocks. Little by little, in these ways, Dog became “Man’s best friend.”
As long ago as 1500 B.C., when Man began to write down his history, he left records in words and pictures that told about his dog. In Ethiopia, people thought the dog was so valuable that they actually elected him their King. And in Egypt, about a thousand years later, the Egyptians made the dog one of their gods!
All through Greek and Roman history, and even in the Bible, the dog is mentioned as man’s hunter, shepherd, watchdog, or warrior. There are pictures of the dog in the tombs of the ancient kings of Egypt, in the ruins of Pompeii, in the tapestries of medieval France and England, on the pottery of American Indians. These pictures show many different kinds of dogs. How did so many different dogs evolve from man’s first primitive pet?