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The American Dingo/Carolina Dog...Linking us to Prehistory

The Encyclopedia of the Dog
by Bruce Fogle, D.V.M.

Introduction
Migrations of the Dog's Ancestors
Primitive Dogs
First Migrations
Early Evolution

INTRODUCTION
   For thousands of years the dog's closest relative, the wolf, followed human groups and scavenged from the remains of their kills. However, when our distant ancestors settled into semipermanent homesites, something unique in the history of evolution occurred. One intelligent social carnivore actively chose to live in close proximity to another. So began a fruitful relationship that still exists today. It is so frequently written that it has become cliche, but it is true — the dog is our best friend. Without its help in protecting campsites, assisting on the hunt, guarding our flocks, and pulling our loads, we probably would not have evolved in the way that we have. It is also unlikely that we would have survived in many parts of the world.

   As the most dominant and powerful species in the world, we naturally assume that our ancestors actively chose to domesticate the wolf and create the obedient canine. It is more likely that, like the domestic cat, the dog is self-domesticated, that 1,000 generations ago, its ancestors were adaptable enough to see the advantages of living in the territory that surrounded semipermanent human campsites. The dog invaded this new ecological niche, and with time its fear and distrust of humans diminished. The relationship began well over 15,000 years ago, and by 12,000 years ago the modified wolf — what we now call the dog — had evolved. Smaller than the wolf, the primitive dog also had a head that was more domed and more puppy-like than that of the wolf, and teeth that were smaller and more crowded. it was more playful, more obedient, and even had a shorter intestinal tract than the wolf.

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MIGRATIONS OF THE DOG'S ANCESTORS

   While the ancestors of today's carnivores were evolving in North America, similar carnivore evolution was occurring in Eurasia. A group of carnivores called Amphicyon dominated Eurasia for millions of years — the Cynodictis was once thought to be an ancestor of the dog, but the Amphicyon probably died out, leaving the Hesperocyon, a member of another family, to develop into today's carnivores. A canine (Canis davisi) evolved from this genus 10 million years ago, and migrated across the Bering land bridge, radiating throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa. During the next eight million years, it spread throughout Eurasia, diverging into the ancestors of today's canines. Having completed this evolution, several of the new species returned to North America.

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PRIMITIVE DOGS
   The label "primitive" is an arbitrary one applied to a small group of dogs that are descended from the Indian Plains Wolf, Canis lupus pallipes. Some members of this group, such as the Dingo, the Carolina Dog and New Guinea Singing Dog, are genuinely primitive, in that they are at an early or at least an arrested stage of domestication. others, such as the Mexican Hairless and Basenji, although they are descended from the same root stock, have been dramatically affected by human intervention in their breeding.

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FIRST MIGRATIONS
   Experts are quite certain that wandering humans spread out of southwestern Asia between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago, accompanied by pariah dogs The dog had reached the Middle East and North Africa at least 5,000 years ago, through migration and trade. Images of the oldest recorded breed, the Pharaoh Hound, grace the tombs of ancient Egyptian pharaohs. This dog was probably a, descendant of the breed known as the Phoenician Hound the Phoenicians traded dogs throughout the Mediterranean, introducing the breeds that are today known as the Canaan Dog, Cirneco dell'Etna, and Ibizan Hound.

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EARLY EVOLUTION
   Dogs eventually spread into the heart of Africa, and although the Basenji is the only primitive African breed commonly recognized today, there were until recently many other similar breeds. The Liberian Dog, a terrier-like, neat, small, reddish brown dog evolved in West Africa. In Kenya, the East African Dog, a larger, more powerfully muzzled dog, found a niche as a scavenger and hunter's companion. The Bagirmi Dog was of similar size and shape to the East African Dog; the Bantu Dog, which was used for hunting and as a watchdog, was much more slender, with a pointed muzzle. In South Africa, the small, powerful, fawn-colored, square-muzzled Zulu Dog also acted as a guard and hunter. In Zaire, the pygmies kept the long-headed, prick-eared Bush Dog, and the Hottentots owned a bushy tailed, spitz-like breed. The fox-like Kabyle, or Douar Dog, acted as a herder and guard, while the ring-tailed, longer limbed Baganda Dog functioned as a pack dog. All of these related breeds existed in pure form until this century. While some pariah dogs migrated westward, others accompanied people as they journeyed eastward. Many accompanied humans as they traversed the land bridge to the Americas, across what are now the Bering Straits. A number of these Asian pariah dogs interbred with North American Wolves, but fossil records indicate that unsullied, distinctly Dingo-like dogs spread first to the southwest of North America, to what is now Arizona, and then on to the southeast, to what are now the states of Georgia and South Carolina. The Canadian Tahltan Bear Dog, which became extinct only recently, might be part of that chain.

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