It is not incongruous to think that at the very beginning of man’s existence in this world, he made a friend and companion of a sort of native representative of our modern dog, and that in return for his help in protecting him from wilder animals, and in tending his sheep and goats, he gave him a share of his food, a corner in his home, and learned to trust and care for him. It is likely that the animal was originally nothing more than an unusually gentle jackal, or a sick wolf driven by his companions in the marauding wild pack to seek refuge in a foreign environment. It is quite conceivable that the partnership begins when some defenceless cubs are brought home by the first hunters to be cared for and raised by women and children. Dogs brought into the house as toys for the children would consider themselves and the children as family members.
In almost every region of the world there are traces of a family of indigenous dogs, the only exceptions being the West Indies, Madagascar, the eastern islands of the Malay Archipelago, New Zealand and the Polynesian Islands, where there is no sign that a dog, wolf or fox ever existed as a true Aboriginal animal. In ancient eastern lands, and generally among the early Mongols, the dog remained wild and neglected for centuries, prowling in packs, gaunt and wolf-like, as it prowls today in the streets and under the walls of all eastern cities. No attempt has been made to draw him into human company or to improve him in docility. It is only by examining the archives of the high civilizations of Assyria and Egypt that distinct varieties of canine form are discovered.
The dog was not much appreciated in Palestine, and in both the Old and New Testaments it is commonly referred to as an “unclean beast” with contempt and disdain.
The great multitude of different dog breeds and the great differences in size, points and general appearance are facts that make it difficult to believe that they could have a common ancestry. One thinks of the difference between the Mastiff and the Japanese Spaniel, the Deerhound and the fashionable Pomeranian, the St. Bernard and the Miniature Black and Tan Terrier, and one is perplexed by the possibility that they descend from a common ancestor. Yet the disparity is no greater than that between the County Horse and the Shetland Pony, the Shorthorn and the Kerry, or the Patagonian and the Pygmy; and all dog breeders know how easy it is to produce a variety of type and size by careful selection.
To fully understand this issue, one must first consider the structural identity in wolves and dogs. The best way to study this structural identity is to compare the bone system, or skeletal system, of the two animals, which resemble each other so closely that their transposition would not be easily detected.
The spine of the dog consists of seven vertebrae of the neck, thirteen of the back, seven of the kidneys, three sacral vertebrae and twenty to twenty-two of the tail. In the dog as in the wolf, there are thirteen pairs of ribs, nine true and four false. Each one has forty-two teeth. They both have five front toes and four back toes, while in appearance, the common wolf has so much of the appearance of a large naked dog that a popular description of one would serve for the other.
Nor are their habits any different. The natural voice of the wolf is a loud howl, but when confined with dogs, the wolf learns to bark. Although it is a carnivore, it also eats vegetables and, when it is sick, it nibbles on grass. When hunting, a pack of wolves is divided into several groups, one following the quarry track, the other trying to intercept its retreat with great strategy, a trait that many of our sports dogs and terriers display when they hunt as a team.
Another important similarity between Canis lupus and Canis familiaris is that the gestation period in both species is sixty-three days. A wolf’s litter consists of three to nine cubs, which are blind for 21 days. They are suckled for two months, but at the end of this period they are able to eat flesh that is half digested and disgorged for them by their mother or even their father.
The size, colour, shape and habits of the native dogs of all regions are very similar to those of the native wolf of those regions. Of this most important circumstance, there are far too many cases to consider it a mere coincidence.
It has been suggested that the only compelling argument against the dog’s lupine relationship is that all domestic dogs bark, whereas all wild canids express their feelings only by howling. But the difficulty is not as great as it seems, since we know that jackals, wild dogs and small wolves raised by bitches easily get used to it. On the other hand, domestic dogs that are allowed to run in the wild forget how to bark, while some have not yet learned how to express themselves.
The presence or absence of the habit of barking cannot therefore be considered as an argument to decide the question of the dog’s origin. This stumbling block therefore disappears, leaving us in the position of agreeing with Darwin, whose final hypothesis was that “it is highly probable that the domestic dogs of the world are descended from two good species of wolves (C. lupus and C. latrans) and two or three other dubious wolf species, namely the European, Indian and North African forms, at least one or two South American canine species, several breeds or species of jackals and possibly one or more extinct species” and that the blood of the latter, sometimes mixed, runs in the veins of our domestic breeds.