Humans and dogs – Best friends for over 26,000 years

Goran Blazeski
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Dogs may have been man’s best friend for thousands of years longer than we realized. It’s commonly accepted view that dogs first became domesticated around 15,000 years ago, but new evidence shows that the unique relationship between humans and dogs dates way back in human history.

There are many examples of inter-species collaboration but there is no other relationship similar to the one between human and dogs.

At Chauvet Cave in France, that is a site of some of the earliest cave paintings in the world, canine footprints have been found next to those a child, dated 26,000 years ago.

Cave paintings at Chauvet Cave in France. Photo Credit

Cave paintings at Chauvet Cave in France. Photo Credit

The cave is located near the commune Vallon-Pont-d’Arc in south France. It was discovered in 1994 and it’s one of the most significant prehistoric art sites in the world.

Created some 32,000 years ago, there are hundreds of paintings of large grazing animals and the predators who hunted them, that form a multi-chambered Paleolithic bestiary.

A Group of Rhinos

A Group of Rhinos

For decades before scientist thought that today’s dogs are the offspring of scavenger wolves who wandered into the villages established by early humans at the end of the last ice age, about 15,000 years ago.

New evidence shows that dogs first emerged around 40,000 years ago, at the peak of the last ice age. But the ancestors of dogs have been around with humans much longer than that.

Watercolor tracing made by archaeologist Henri Breuil from a cave painting of a wolf-like canid, Font-de-Gaume, France dated 19,000 years ago.

Watercolor tracing made by archaeologist Henri Breuil from a cave painting of a wolf-like canid, Font-de-Gaume, France dated 19,000 years ago.

Wolves and humans have hunted and lived in the same areas for hundreds of thousands of years so there is probably a possibility for eventual cohabitation and cooperation between humans and wolves.

Around 27–40 thousand years ago the modern gray wolf and the dog evolved from a now extinct ancient wolf. However, there is evidence to say that dogs were dogs before they hooked up with humans. For example, a skull found in Russia belongs to an ancient dog ancestor called the Altai Dog and it’s believed to be 33,000 years old.

33,000-year-old skull of a dog-like canid found in the Altai Mountains. It has no direct descendants today. Photo Credit

A 33,000-year-old skull of a dog-like canid found in the Altai Mountains. It has no direct descendants today. Photo Credit

There is no better evidence of the relationship between humans and dogs than footprints found in France’s famous Chauvet cave.

Around 26,000 years ago a child around 10 years old walked through the cave and what is more important that child wasn’t alone –  next to the small tracks left by that child there are unmistakable paw prints of a large, ancient dog.

Replica of Paintings in the Chauvet Cave

Replica of Paintings in the Chauvet Cave

But why would humans make this prehistoric alliance with ancient dogs? It was because they both lived in the same areas and hunted the same prey. Both groups realized the benefits of being near one another.

This cooperation and cohabitation between humans and dogs was built over thousands of years. Dogs are the best when it comes to reading human body language. They know what a man is thinking or feeling at any moment.

The partnership between dogs and humans is one of the oldest in the history of mankind. It all began tens of thousands of years ago and since then humans are living, hunting, and playing with dogs.

We have another dog-man story for you-Greyfriars Bobby: the dog that spent 14 years guarding the grave of his owner

Dogs are our oldest and best friends and they deserve respect for that.