Dogs and Humans: Evolutionary Friends


In this lesson , we examine the close friendship between humans and dogs. It was often assumed that humans long ago domesticated wild canines, like wolves, to help them hunt. Researchers now, however, are claiming that it wasn’t humans who domesticated wolves, but rather it was the wolves who first approached humans.

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Topher Brophy described himself as a self-absorbed narcissist. He played competitive sports obsessively to keep his mind off of his empty life. Then one day, Brophy hurt his back. Suddenly, he was forced to slow down and take a good hard look at his life.

That is when it dawned on him – he only cared about himself. He decided he needed something to care for. He got himself a shaggy brown dog named Rosenberg. Suddenly, his focus shifted from himself to Rosenberg and his life began to take on new meaning. He brought Rosenberg with him everywhere. People often said that the two had an uncanny resemblance. Brophy thought it would be funny to see people’s reactions if he dressed Rosenberg in an outfit that matched his own.

People loved seeing the two of them dressed like twins. And Brophy loved seeing that he was making other people happy. He took a few photos of himself and Rosenberg in matching outfits and posted them on the Internet. People went wild for the photos. He has nearly 200,000 followers on Instagram and he’s made a career out of posting photos of himself and his dog dressed alike.

Brophy and Rosenberg aren’t the only human/dog couple that looks alike. Psychologists say that people are naturally drawn toward things that are similar to them. For this reason, many choose dogs that look like they do.

The close bond between people and dogs originally started with wolves. The common belief is that one day, a hunter-gatherer found some wolf puppies and adopted them. Over time, humans used the wolves to help them hunt. So, humans kept the wolves around until they eventually evolved into dogs.

However, some researchers now argue that humans didn’t domesticate wolves. Rather, it was the wolves who first approached humans. Bold and aggressive wolves who came close to humans would have been killed. But, the ones that were bold and friendly were tolerated. Over time, these friendly wolves started to look and act differently from their wild cousins. They became skillful at reading human gestures. And of course, living with humans gave the wolves a more constant food supply, something wild wolves had to work much harder to get.

For humans, their new canine companions proved valuable. The wolves gave them a leg up during a hunt. They also served as a warning system, barking at strangers from other tribes. And they defended humans from large predators, like bears and mountain lions. It was a win-win situation for both species.

So rather than humans adopting wolf puppies, perhaps it was the wolves that adopted us. And that makes us wonder: was it Brophy that adopted Rosenberg, or the other way around?

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