Dogs Became Our Best Friends Much Earlier Than We Thought

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A new Swedish study claims that dogs may have been domesticated thousands of years earlier that other studies have suggested.

New evidence shows that the ancestors of modern wolves and dogs actually split into different lineages between 27,000 to 40,000 years ago, much earlier than the 11,000 to 16,000 years ago that a 2014 study concluded.

The research, led by Dr. Love Dalen of the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, based these findings on a bone fragment discovered on the Taimyr Peninsula in Siberia several years ago. Apart from realizing the fragment belonged to a different species of wolf that lived 35,000 years ago, scientists believe the study might also explain the deep bond that exists between us and our four-legged friends.

Here’s what Dalen said:

“One scenario is that wolves started following humans around and domesticated themselves. Another is that early humans simply caught wolf cubs and kept them as pets and this gradually led to these wild wolves being domesticated. If this model is correct then dogs were domesticated by hunter-gatherers that led a fairly nomadic lifestyle.”

Peter Smith, chief executive of the Wildwood Trust in Kent, UK, and a former conservation biologist, says that this might have been the start of a beautiful friendship. Here’s what he said:

“[The study] is showing that the deep, deep connection has existed between man and wolves – now our dogs – for many tens of thousands of years and that is why we love dogs so much. They are part of our own evolution into a modern society.”

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