The Origin Of The Modern Dog

The origin of the modern dog

So what is the origin of the modern dog? Did they really come from wolves? The modern dog, also known as the domestic dog, has a mysterious origin. Many scientists believe the modern dogs of today evolved between 9,000 and 32,000 years ago from a group of wolves that came into contact with European hunter-gatherers. Exploring new found evidence and scientific testing will help make the truth come out and determine if the modern dog really came from wolves.

Genomes of Modern Dogs and Wolves

Research conducted at the University of Chicago Medical Center in January 2014, has concluded that wolves and dogs evolved from a common ancestor.

In addition, the study showed that dogs are more closely related to each other than to wolves. This is due to genetic overlapping between wolves and modern dogs and is a result of interbreeding after the domestication of dogs. The research has also proven that dog domestication is complex and that modern dogs seem to be descendents from a wolf-like ancestor that is common to both species.

According to Adam Freedman, lead author on the study and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California in Los Angeles, states that the gene flow across canid species appear to be more pervasive than previously thought. Recent studies found that dogs living near humans had to adapt to an agricultural diet and therefore has the genes to aid in the digestion of starch.

In addition, the same gene was also found in wolves. This complex picture of early domestication of dogs has encouraged further and more detailed research.

Descendants of Wolves that Exist Today

While it has been believed for a while that the wolf is the closest relative and ancestor to the modern dog, an analysis in 1995 of the Canidea species confirmed that the domestic dog and wolf are genetically similar, indicating that the wolf is the ancestor of the modern dog. Further evidence was indicated in 1999, when genetic research supported the claim that the modern dog emerged from a variety of wolf populations.

Soon afterwards the wolf population that is believed to be the ancestor of the modern dog was narrowed down to five separate female lines. Due to the genetic indications of this study the modern dog was reclassified a subspecies of the Gray Wolf.

WolfdogArchaeological Evidence

Dog-like skulls and teeth have been discovered in places such as Russia, Belgium, Germany, Ukraine, France, Israel and Western Europe. In the United States the oldest remains discovered of a domesticated dog date back 9,400 years ago and were found in Texas. The fact that burials for wolves and dogs that date back 8,000 years were similar to human burials proves that they were domesticated.

Another Possibility

An earlier study came to differing conclusions regarding the origin of modern dogs. The study focused on genetic signatures of modern dogs. The results of the study revealed that during the Agricultural Revolution about 10,000 years ago and when wolves began to scavenge through heaps of scraps provided by humans, domestication began. Further research was conducted and fossil canids were analyzed for their DNA which was used to compare 77 modern dogs against 49 modern wolves.

The results showed that Europe was the major area where dogs were domesticated and four clades of modern dogs were related to ancient European canids rather than the wolves from Asia.

This proves that the wolf population in Europe that is the ancestor of modern dogs has become extinct. It also proves that the last time domesticated dogs and wolves shared a common ancestor was more than 18,000 years ago. The research puts doubt in the minds of researchers who originally thought that dogs were domesticated during the time of the Agricultural Revolution, because it actually took place millennia later. It is now believed that they first associated with European hunter-gatherers and became assistants to humans by helping to capture large prey. Due to this close working relationship they eventually became domestic dogs.

Scientists and researchers are still conducting investigations and testing ancient canid samples from East Asia. Some researchers are cautious to jump to the conclusion that dogs were domesticated only in Europe, without following through with more research of fossils that have been collected worldwide.

For this reason the answer to the question, “Did the modern dog really come from wolves?” will have to be responded to at a later date once all of the scientific testing of genomes and DNA has been completed and thoroughly researched.


Pet parents and dog enthusiasts who find the history of the modern dog interesting, usually come to their own conclusion. Dog owners commonly base their conclusion on whether or not their dog is related to wolves by the obvious behavior and traits of the specific breed. Dog enthusiasts may go another route in finding the answer to the question by carefully reading through the scientific evidence, such as reviewing the information provided above.

Dog breeds that often get mistaken as a wolf is Siberian Huskies
Dog breeds that often get mistaken as a wolf is Siberian Huskies

Look-a-Like Confusion

One of the dog breeds that often get mistaken as a wolf is Siberian Huskies. Mostly it is due to the similar outer appearance that confuses many people. However, Siberian huskies are Arctic dogs that are purebred, domesticated dogs that herd other animals and pull sleds.

Their physical traits such as their adult size, strength and powerful legs resemble wolves, but according to the Siberian Husky Club of America they are not related to wolves. The Chukchi tribe located in Siberia bred the Siberian huskies centuries ago, according to the American Kennel Club. In the early part of the 1900’s Siberian huskies were known to travel through deep snow to deliver medication that treats diphtheria to Nome, Alaska.

Today there is a mix breed between a domestic dog and a wolf, which is often referred to as a “wolfdog.” This is the result of a modern dog and a wolf mating, and creating what many refer to as a Wolf Hybrid. Since there are two specific characters for each breed, it is common for the wolfdog to have a unique personality. This combination is surely directly related to the wolf, while the truth behind if modern dogs really come from wolves is still under investigation.

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