Monday, 24 September 2007

the evolution of dogs

I stayed up late last night, unable to stop reading a fascinating article about the genetic origin of dogs. It was published in July 1999 in The Atlantic Monthly.
The reference to the article came from a comment made on A Dog Blog.
The particular post is called 'Dog Genetics - The truth About Dogs'.

The writer of the article in The Atlantic Monthly begins with a discussion of whether humans domesticated dogs or whether dogs adapted to hanging around human settlements because of the survival advantage.

His general thesis is that dogs have found humans to be incredibly useful because we are gullible enough to believe in our anthropomorphic view of them as loving, protective, obedient, amongst other traits.

I must say, it doesn't seem important to me to discover why Penny lives agreeably alongside the human inhabitants of the household. If she's got totally alien thought processes, who cares? After all, she's a canine and I'm just a slightly evolved Great Ape.

The discussion in the article moves into a lengthy look at the results of a century or more of breeding from limited gene pools.

As the owner of a 'mutt', I liked the concluding paragraph!
We can take some reassurance, too, from the fact that mutts, owned and unowned, will always be with us. Despite the efforts of neo-eugenicists to ostracize them, mutts constitute a vibrant reservoir of canine genetic diversity. Mutts tend to be healthy dogs, because of hybrid vigor. They also tend to be good dogs. And in a very real sense mutts today embody the evolutionary heritage of the True Dog—that animal that evolved with us, that adapted to and exploited our society, and did so largely on his own terms. Defiant of human fashion and whim, selected only in accordance with the ancient evolutionary dictate that demands nothing more than an ability to get along with rather gullible human beings, mutts are really what dogs are about. If worst comes to worst, perhaps they will set us straight, just as their ancestors so ably did—at least for 99,900 of the past 100,000 years.

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