Where Dogs Originated From

Where Dogs Originated From: The Fascinating History

The beginnings of our four-legged friends have always captivated scientists. A new study suggests that about 20,000 to 40,000 years ago, wolves turned into dogs in one place. This is unlike the old theory that claimed dogs came from two distant wolf populations.

By investigating the DNA of ancient dog remains from Germany and Ireland, key discoveries were made. These dogs, who lived between 4,700 and 7,000 years ago, were related to today's European breeds. This study not only sheds light on dog domestication but also helps us understand the timeline, suggesting it happened 20,000 to 40,000 years ago.

Anthropologists believe dog domestication began when some wolves started to live near early human camps. Drawn by the easy food, these less wild wolves thrived. This set the stage for a beneficial friendship between people and wolves that eventually shaped into the bond we know with dogs today.

Key Takeaways

  • Dogs most likely evolved from wolves at a single location about 20,000 to 40,000 years ago.
  • Genetic analysis of ancient canine specimens revealed a common ancestry with modern European dogs.
  • The domestication of dogs is believed to have started when wolves began scavenging for leftovers near human settlements.
  • Tamer and less aggressive wolves were more successful at this, leading to a symbiotic relationship with humans.
  • The process of dog domestication took place over thousands of years, eventually evolving into the dogs we see today.

The Origins of Man's Best Friend

Dogs have a long history, evolving alongside humans for thousands of years. The start of this partnership is said to go back as far as 20,000 to 30,000 years. It is believed that the grey wolf, a dog's closest ancestor, began the journey towards domestication during the ice age.

Genetic Studies Unveil the Ancient Lineage

The link between man and dog was a result of dogs with friendly traits gaining an advantage. These less aggressive, more friendly wolves found they could access food around human camps.

This behaviour enabled a closer bond with humans, eventually leading to the domestic dog. These early dogs developed skills such as a sharp sense of smell and better communication with their new human friends.

The Domestication Process

One major change in human history was when people started to tame animals. This started over 30,000 years ago when wolves and humans started to live together. The dog was the first and biggest animal to be tamed this way.

Symbiotic Relationship with Early Hunter-Gatherers

The taming of dogs happened because some wolves were friendlier to people than others. This friendliness was useful to both the wolves and the people. It made the dogs we know today. Their hearing and smell got better, and they learnt how to talk to us in their way.

Social Selection: Taming the Wolf

At first, some wolves were bold enough to come close to human camps. They ate the scraps left over, forming a bond with the people over time. These clever and friendly wolves got to eat more, which was a big deal. This is how we think the friendship between dogs and humans started.

Timing the Divergence

The dog became a separate species from wolves 27,000–40,000 years ago. This was just before the Last Glacial Maximum. During this time, the area where mammoths roamed was cold and dry. The process of dogs becoming different from wolves happened quite quickly. This makes knowing the exact time of this change hard. Also, dogs and wolves have mixed a lot since becoming friends with people.

The Last Glacial Maximum and Ancestral Wolf Lineages

The Late Pleistocene era saw lots of ice, changes in weather, and humans moving into new lands. Wolves changed too, their bodies and size adapted during this time. While many big animals disappeared, the grey wolf managed to survive. However, the end of this era did bring a worldwide reduction in wolf numbers. This decline brought about extinctions and big moves in where different types of wolves lived.

Prehistoric Wolves: Ancestors of the Dog

The fossil record uncovers amazing facts about prehistoric grey wolves in the Late Pleistocene times. These ancient wolves showed a lot of differences in their skull and teeth shapes. Some were more powerful than today's wolves. For instance, some had shorter noses and strong jaw muscles for tearing up large animals they hunted or found dead.

The Bonn-Oberkassel Dog: Earliest Undisputed Domesticated Canine

Studies in archaeology and genetics point to the oldest known domesticated dog. This dog was found buried near human dwellings 14,200 years ago. Its discovery shows the earliest evidence of humans keeping dogs as friends. Yet, there are older finds, at about 36,000 years ago, that suggest dogs might have been with people even earlier.

Morphological Diversity in Pleistocene Wolves

From fossils, we find that Late Pleistocene grey wolves showed a big range in how they looked. Some were much stronger in the head and jaws compared to modern wolves. These unique features, like a shorter nose and powerful chewing teeth, help us understand how they handled big prey, eating even their bones.

Key Findings


Fossil evidence of morphological diversity in Late Pleistocene grey wolves

Indicates specialised adaptations for processing Pleistocene megafauna

Earliest undisputed dog remains found at Bonn-Oberkassel, dated to 14,200 years ago

Provides the earliest definitive evidence of dog domestication

Disputed dog-like remains dated to 36,000 years ago

Suggests an even earlier origin for the dog lineage

where dogs originated from

The domestication of the dog happened before farming. The exact place of this event is still debated by experts. Evidence points to Eurasia as the main area of domestication. Within Eurasia, locations in Central Asia, East Asia, and Western Europe are seen as the likely spots.

Eurasia: The Most Plausible Birthplace

When the last Ice Age ended about 11,700 years ago, dogs started to become different from each other. Dog ancestors have been found in places like the Levant (7,000 years ago), Karelia (10,900 years ago), and Lake Baikal (7,000 years ago). They also appear in ancient America (4,000 years ago) and in the New Guinea singing dog.

Central Asia, East Asia, and Western Europe: Contested Origins

In 2021, a study suggested dog domestication began in Siberia, about 26,000 to 19,700 years ago. The group responsible, the Ancient North Eurasians, spread dogs to the Americas and across Eurasia. However, exact places are hard to know due to the lack of ancient dog remains in some areas.

Ancient Dog Lineages and Global Dispersal

The story of the domestic dog is a fascinating one. It's about ancient roots and far-reaching travels. As the last Ice Age ended 11,700 years ago, dogs had already formed five distinct groups. These ancestral dogs were found in lands stretching from Eurasia to the Americas.

The Five Ancestral Lineages

The five ancestral groups were from various places like the Neolithic Levantine and Mesolithic Karelian. Among them were also predecessors of the New Guinea Singing Dog and the Dingo. Today, research on these ancient dogs helps us understand more about dog history, their relationship with humans, and how they became our companions.

Siberian Domestication and Subsequent Migrations

Recent studies, like one in 2021, point to Siberia as possibly the first home of the dog, over 26,000 years ago. During this time, the Earth was very cold, known as the Last Glacial Maximum. It is suggested that from Siberia, dogs travelled both east to the Americas and west across Europe and Asia.

However, solid proof from this particular time and place is missing. This makes confirming the exact spot and date of dog domestication difficult. The puzzle of where and when dogs became our friends is still being solved by scientists. They’re finding out more about the special bond between humans and dogs, which has lasted for thousands of years.

Genetic Divergence from Modern Wolves

Trying to figure out where dogs come from is tricky. Scientists look at the DNA of dogs and wolves to do this. It's not an easy task. They found that a wolf from a long time ago might really be the first dog's ancestor. Modern wolves may not be as closely related to dogs as originally thought.

This is because the time when dogs and wolves started being different is not clear. They call this issue 'incomplete lineage sorting'. It means scientists can't pin down exactly when dogs became separate from their wolf cousins.

Incomplete Lineage Sorting and Post-Domestication Gene Flow

Things get even more muddled when we talk about dogs and wolves breeding back and forth since they first became friends with humans. This mix-up is called 'post-domestication gene flow'. It's like a big twist in this already complicated story.

Also, dogs haven't been around for that many generations if we look at it in evolutionary terms. So, there haven't been a lot of changes between dogs and wolves yet. It makes figuring out the exact time when dogs started being not wolves hard for the scientists.

Evolving with Humans: Dietary Adaptations

As dogs lived with humans, their intestines grew longer. This helped them digest starches and plants better. Early humans shared their food scraps, which had grains and vegetables. Dogs developed a gene for digesting starch different from wolves, thanks to this diet change.

Longer Intestines and Starch Digestion

This change let dogs eat many kinds of food, like veggies. They became able to live well on things other than meat, unlike wolves. The way humans eat and live affected dogs’ diets and bodies. They now process carbs better because of this.

Plant-Based Diets and Modern Dog Food

In all dogs looked at, a genetic shift for a diet rich in starch is clear. This change happened at least a few thousand years ago. It shows that very early in their time with humans, dogs learned to eat starchy food. This was due to natural selection, helping dogs get food around human areas.

Our ability to study animal genes more deeply has led to more looks into this. Cats, for example, have been studied too. The way dogs eat and what they can eat has been heavily influenced by us, humans. This shows how much our partnership with dogs has changed them, even physically.


The story starts with a group of wolves that no longer exist. They branched off and became our first dogs between 27,000 and 40,000 years ago. It was a win-win situation. Wolves got food while humans got protection. The ones that got along better with humans were more successful.

It's hard to pin one place for this special bond. But, the evidence mostly points to areas like Central Asia, East Asia, and Western Europe. Dogs evolved not only in behaviour but also in how they eat. Their ability to eat more plants than their wolf ancestors helped them survive better with humans.

The discovery of where dogs came from is still ongoing. New findings and technology are giving us more clues. With each puzzle piece found, we understand more about our bond with dogs. It's a tale that proves how both humans and dogs have grown together over the ages.


Where do dogs originate from?

Dogs most likely came from wolves in a single place around 20,000 to 40,000 years ago. A study showed this. Early humans and wolves formed a close bond that helped both groups. The friendlier wolves were better at surviving by getting extra food from human hunters.

What is the closest living relative of the dog?

Scientists found through genetic studies that the grey wolf is the dog's closest living relative. The dog's ancestor split genetically from modern wolves around 40,000 to 30,000 years ago. This was just before or during the Last Glacial Maximum.

When did the domestication of dogs begin?

More than 30,000 years ago, something interesting happened among wolves. Variations in their behaviour, favouring those friendlier to humans, helped in the long run. This led to the dogs we know today, through choices made by both wolves and humans.

Where did the domestication of dogs take place?

The exact place of dog domestication in Eurasia is still under debate. Ideas point to Central Asia, East Asia, or Western Europe. Scientists keep looking for more clues to solve this mystery.

What is the evidence for the earliest domesticated dog?

Evidence from digging up old sites and studying genes points us towards the Bonn-Oberkassel dog as the first real dog. It was buried with humans 14,200 years ago. There are also older findings, but these are more uncertain, dating back to 36,000 years ago.

How did the dog's diet evolve during domestication?

Dogs developed longer intestines, which was handy for digesting starches and plants. Early humans sharing their food scraps with dogs could be the reason. These shared meals included grains and vegetables, which dogs eventually got better at eating.

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