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Dog History

December 26, 2007

A listener asks when dogs were first domesticated.


The dog days of pre-history. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Jeff Seldomridge from Wellington, Nevada emailed us for a fact check: He heard that dogs were first domesticated 100,000 years ago. Well, Jeff, evolutionary biologist Carles Vila at Uppsala University in Sweden was on the team that made that estimate back in 1997. They analyzed DNA from the oldest known dog fossils, and calculated how many years of breeding it must have taken to produce that level of genetic diversity. But since then, other genetic studies have dated dogs back a mere 40,000 years.

CARLES VILA (Uppsala University, Sweden):
And for that reason, it’s now more like an open question.

At the very least, he suspects domesticated dogs diverged from wolves well before 14,000 years ago. That means humans were breeding dogs long before farm animals like cows, sheep and goats. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.