When the Wild Wolf was Tamed

When the Wild Wolf was Tamed

By Rocky Ordoñez, Digital Marketing & Operations Coordinator

Part of Jaguar’s staff contribution series

The domestic dog is one of the most genetically diverse species on the planet, but how and when and where they evolved has been up for debate amongst canine geneticists, perhaps until very recently. In early 2016, Peter Savolainen, a molecular biologist at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, and his colleagues published1 the results of one of the largest studies in canine genomics, which revealed that our faithful furry companions have been at our side for 33,000 years. Fifty-eight canine genomes from around the world were sequenced, from wolves to wild dogs to huskies. Southeast Asian dogs had the most diverse genome compared to other dog populations and were the most genetically similar to grey wolves, indicating that they were the most ancient evolutionary branch of the domesticated dog. They evolved from wolves who, like cats, ate our scraps, before we even learned to grow our own food 10,000 years ago. They continued to follow our scraps and then joined in our hunt. As we developed relationships with wolves, we preferred those that were more docile and obedient. This selection process led to the domestication of man’s best friend. However, while some domesticated dogs followed us to the Middle East and Europe about 15,000 years ago, it is thought that they may have begun migrating out of southeast Asia on their own before that time, due to environmental changes.

“The dog’s story thus appears to have begun 33,000 years ago, but the exact path to the fully domesticated dogs that spread throughout the world 15,000 years ago is not yet clear,” Svaolainen said.2

1Wang GD, Zhai W, Yang HC, et al. (2016). Out of southern East Asia: the natural history of domestic dogs across the world. Cell Research, 26(1), 21–33.

2Arnold C. (2017, December 17) New Clues on How and When Wolves Became Dogs. National Geographic.