Evolution History of the Dog

Narrated from: Dog History

The dog has evolved to become a popular companion, trusted guardian, hunting partner and family member. There are more dogs in the United States at the present time as there have ever been in history. They are also treated better than ever and considered to be a member of the family in many cases. There are Kennel Clubs and Kennel Associations as well as a rescue site for nearly every breed of dog.

Long known as man’s best friend, it is widely agreed that they are in fact evolved from the gray wolf. As the needs of man changed through the course of history so did the place of the dog in his life. Man developed many hundreds of breeds which can be broken down into different groups, classifications and standards. 
Dogs that specialized in using their sight to hunt instead of using scent were commonly called sight hounds or gazehounds. These dogs had unique characteristics, features and qualities making them the perfect choice for the functions they perform. Naturally they had very good vision as well as a long jaw and neck to help them see their prey. The body was muscular and lean with a deep chest and they had long, strong legs allowing them to follow any speedy victim who attempted to get away. The greyhound is a good example.

Naturally, scent hounds used their nose to follow their prey. They didn't need to be quite as quick as a gazehound because they followed a scent and could go quite a distance even tracking through water. These dogs had a large nose with moist and loose lips which helped them pick up scents and follow an animal trail. Their long ears helped to focus the scent to the nose and they had a lot of stamina, thus enabling them to follow their prey for long distances. Bloodhounds are a good example.

Working breeds performed a lot of duties such as herding, assisting in the hunt, guarding the home and animals, pulling large items, and rescuing. Naturally these dogs are large and strong and have actually, in some instances, performed the job of horses when none were available.

The sporting breeds include dog such as retrievers, setters and pointers who use their sense of smell for hunting but, rather than smelling the ground to get the prey’s scent, they smell the air. They are able to locate and bring the prey, such as waterfowl, back to the hunter. Retrievers have a coat designed to repel water and webbed feet for retrieving the prey from water. The pointer stands in front of the prey holding its body stiffly and pointing with its nose to the location of the kill. Setters sit or crouch in front of the prey ensuring it cannot escape so the hunter can capture it. As man progressed and guns came into being, the use of nets to capture the prey became obsolete and sporting dogs were then referred to as gundogs.

Then we come to the terrier breeds which hunted and killed pests around the home and farm. These included mice, rats, foxes and any other predatory animals that attempted to raid the livestock and produce of the farmer. These dogs had, and still have, a lot of energy, determination and bravery.

Non-sporting breeds have widespread characteristics because they were established and then made stronger by breeding with animals already possessing preferred qualities.

The toy breeds, from the time they came into being, were possessions of the wealthy and looked upon as a status symbol serving little purpose. This is an opinion that has generally continued up to today.

Dog shows came about in the mid-19th century and led to the organization of Kennel Clubs. Dogs and their uses are still evolving today with new breeds appearing each year.

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