Hug A Pit Bull Today

New science on why we love dogs

Philadelphians seem to be quaking in fear of packs of wild dogs (see the comments especially!), but maybe we should be letting them feel the love instead.

A recent article in the New York Times on the origins of dogs makes it clear just how much we owe to our fine furry friends. Seems that scientists have studied wolf and dog genes and determined that wolves were first domesticated in the Middle East and not in Eastern Asia. (Researchers came to this conclusion by comparing the DNA of wolves and dogs and figuring out where they overlapped the most. In my favorite part of the Times story, and I really must quote, “Elaine Ostrander … gathered much of the dog DNA by persuading owners at dog shows to let her take a scraping of cells from inside the cheek.”) [SIGNUP]

Anyhow, the findings are important because the Middle East is also where plants were first domesticated, some 10,000 years ago, and where evidence of the first settled human societies exists. One of the scientists in charge of the study, Robert K. Wayne of UCLA, postulates that sometime long, long ago, packs of wolves began to trail after packs of human hunter-gatherers to scavenge off our leftovers. Over time, with humans selecting for particular traits (i.e., small size, lack of bloodthirstiness), the wolf-dogs traveled with, rather than after, the humans. And the humans noticed that their wolfy dogs, or doggy wolves, were awfully good at letting out howls when danger was nearby. With the wolf-dog warning system, humans could stop moving from place to place to avoid enemies and predators and could instead settle down and proceed to domesticate those crops and invent really important things like beer and La-Z-Boy recliners.

So as you sit in yours, cold one in hand, and watch the NCAA tournament, remember to raise your glass in grateful thanks to all dogs everywhere. Even pit bulls.