Dogs Helped Humans Eradicate Neanderthal Rivals And Take Over Europe


Early humans in Europe eradicated their caveman rivals, the Neanderthals, with a little help from early dogs. Man’s best friend, bred from wolves, played a major role in the modern human takeover of Europe 40,000 years ago, Professor Pat Shipman of Pennsylvania State University suggests.

“At that time, modern humans, Neanderthals and wolves were all top predators and competed to kill mammoths and other huge herbivores. But then we formed an alliance with the wolf and that would have been the end for the Neanderthal.”

If Shipman is right and modern humans indeed tamed dogs soon after entering Europe, her claim seriously challenges the conventional theory that wolves were domesticated only 10,000 years ago. Instead of domesticating them around the time of the rise of agriculture, Shipman believes that humans started breeding dogs 40,000 years ago when they reached Europe.

Her theory would explain why the dominant Neanderthals in Europe completely disappeared within a few thousand years of the arrival of the modern man. Shipman argues that dogs enabled humans to outsmart Neanderthals and take over Europe.

“Early wolf-dogs would have tracked and harassed animals like elk and bison and would have hounded them until they tired. Then humans would have killed them with spears or bows and arrows. This meant the dogs did not need to approach these large cornered animals to finish them off – often the most dangerous part of a hunt – while humans didn’t have to expend energy in tracking and wearing down prey. Dogs would have done that. Then we shared the meat. It was a win-win situation.”

Basically, Shipman claims that dogs were domesticated before the last Ice Age and points out that 33,000-year-old dog fossils were discovered in Siberia and Belgium. Even though they look like wolves, the remains show clear signs of domestication. Humans started changing the wolf’s appearance and over time turned them into all the modern dog breeds we know today.

“I would see this as the beginning of the humans’ long invasion of the world. We took dogs with us wherever we went after our alliance formed in the palaeolithic. We took them to America and to the Pacific Islands. They made hunting easy and helped guard our food. It has been a very powerful alliance.”

Related: Better Late Than Never: Dogs Arrived In Americas Only 10,000 Years Ago

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