THE WOLVES WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD
The dog, Canis familiaris, is a direct descendant of the gray wolf, Canis lupus. In other words, dogs as we know them are domesticated wolves.
Or: humans as we know them are domesticated hominids. Wolves seem to have taken the initiative, leading to today’s dogs and their humans.
Darwin was wrong about dogs. He thought their remarkable diversity must reflect interbreeding with several types of wild dogs. But the DNA findings say differently. All modern dogs are descendants of wolves, though this domestication may have happened twice, producing groups of dogs descended from two unique common ancestors.
How and when this domestication happened has been a matter of speculation. It was thought until the end of the 20th century that dogs were wild until about 12,000 years ago. But DNA analysis suggests a possible date of about 100,000 years ago for the transformation of wolves to dogs. This means that wolves began to adapt to human society long before humans settled down and began practicing agriculture.
This casts doubt on the long-held belief that humans domesticated dogs to serve as guards or companions. Rather, say some experts, dogs [i.e., wolves] may have exploited a niche they discovered in early human society and got humans to take them in out of the cold.