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How Dogs Became Man’s Best Friend – Twice Over | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Arthur Ward stands with his Pyrenean Mountain Dog Cody during the first day of the Crufts Dog Show in Birmingham, central England, March 5, 2015. REUTERS/Darren Staples/File Photo

Scientists concluded that ancient humans made dogs their best friend twice by domesticating two separate populations of wolves thousands of miles apart in Europe and Asia.

Scientists said they had used modern genetics to unravel canine evolutionary history, revealing a deep internal split between dogs from opposite ends of the Eurasian continent.

People and hounds have a long history; they were living together at least 15,000 years ago, or 5,000 years before other animals arrived, such as cows, goats and pigs.

In regard how and when did this relationship develop, it was widely believed that dogs were tamed just once, with some experts claiming this happened in Europe and others favoring central Asia or China.

However, a new division made its path into the story when researchers used the inner ear bone from a 4,800-year-old dog unearthed in Ireland to sequence its full genome, and then compared it to both modern animals and DNA traces from 59 ancient dogs.

“Our data suggests that dogs were domesticated twice, on both sides of the Old World,” said Laurent Frantz, a geneticist at the University of Oxford, whose work was published in the journal Science.

“This suggests that at least two group of humans independently came to the same conclusion: dogs can be domesticated. It also suggests that the process of domestication, while mostly rare, may be replicated more often than we think.”

Thus, scientists concluded there were very old domesticated animals in both the east and west of Eurasia but not in the middle, after constructing a family tree for dogs based on the genetic data.

What remains unclear is how grey wolves started down the long road that has ended up with today’s kaleidoscope of dog breeds from Afghan hounds to Yorkshire terriers.

The idea that it began with a hunter-gatherer picking up a wolf pup and breeding tamer and tamer offspring is probably too simple, according to Greger Larson, a genetics expert in Oxford’s archaeology department.

“It’s likely to have been co-evolution. At first a pack of wolves got close to humans, then humans got used to the wolves and, finally, there would have been something more intentional on the part of people,” he said.