Wolf Evolution: Wolves and Humans
The history of wolves and humans is very long and mostly in theory as we do not know for sure what happened. As science becomes better at being able to answer some of these questions, one of them is when did man and wolf develop their relationship? While there are many theories, there are some that would make sense about early humans and our behavior about animals. Early mankind were nomads, traveling from place to place, hunting and gathering, going where the food was, similar to the wolf. We were social carnivores that hunted by day, something we had in common with the wolf. As we ran across each other’s path from time to time, we learned things from one another. One of them is that man tended to be messy when it came to killing and eating, so there was a new food source that the wolves could exploit. As they learned they could get an easy meal by cleaning up our scraps, those wolves began following us. These were the wolves that stayed close, and we eventually grew used to seeing.
As they would clean up the scraps we left, this would keep other predators away. Also, if any other animals came around, the wolves would alert each other which would let us know. These interactions became the beginning of a very incredible relationship. Eventually, the wolves would help us in our hunting endeavors. They could smell and hear the herds of animals we would use for food from miles away. We learned they could become a fantastic asset in a hunt as well as teaching us how to hunt more efficiently. As a reward, the wolves got to clean up the leftovers because together we could take down larger prey which meant more meat. With more meat, the relationship took a turn for being more beneficial, and humans were able to start changing their habits, and their traveling needs grew less and less. As breeding took place between these wolves that stayed with us, the friendliness was becoming a genetic trait, different from the wolves that had stayed away from the humans. There would also be a special companionship that came out of man and wolves working together.
One of the things we do know for sure is that the “dog” was our first domesticated animal. Gravesites point this out with pretty regular clarity. People buried canines just as they did other humans. These animals were laid to rest, some with special objects in the graves with them. And this wasn’t just a few, this was time after time, again and again, that this was found, more than any other animal, even cats. The time period for this seems to start about 17,000 years ago. But some signs point to our relationship with wolves happening much earlier, about 30,000 years ago. While theories abound and trying to narrow something down earlier seems to be very difficult to do, there is one thing that seems to be gaining some relevance. The wolf that befriended us was not the grey wolf, but the larger, huskier (and now extinct) Dire Wolf. The theory is that this is the animal we befriended and as other wolves adapted and changed because they didn’t have contact with humans, the lines were split off. The wolves evolved with man and became dogs. Wolves that weren’t with humans evolved and became the grey wolf we have today, leaner, lighter, better adapted at hunting the much-evolved prey that was also leaner and lighter.
As migration patterns took place, the theories are that the domestications took place in different locations, one in Asia and the other in Europe. And as man and wolves traveled, breeding took place between these two different species so trying to find any point of origination is what makes narrowing down this information so difficult. The tests run on wolf and dog DNA points to this as being a more reasonable outcome than some other theories that dogs came from the gray wolves of today. The fact is that by working with the wolf, we both benefited greatly and were able to usher in the considerable change in our world today. Those changes either would not have happened or would have happened much, much later in our course of evolution. Wolf and Man – what an unstoppable force.
For now, reach for the stars, believe in yourself, and howl at the moon for the sheer joy of it. Forever Follow the Wolf.
Links I gained information from:
Mankind The Story of All of Us: Domesticating the Dog | History
The Origin of Dogs
The ancient relationship between human and dog
The evolution of Dogs from Wolves
Human Evolution Aided by Dogs - Horizon: The Secret Life of the Dog - BBC Two
When Did Wild Wolves Become Pet Dogs?
How Did Wolves Evolve? | National Geographic
How DOGS came from WOLVES - Wolf Girl Anneka Explains