Learning from Dogs

Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.

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A return to the topic of rewilding.

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Lessons from the wild

At the end of 2013, I published a post under the title of We must rewild. The core of that post was an essay from Patrice Aymes called Rewilding Us. Here’s a small extract from that essay:

In Africa, there are about 500,000 elephants. 25,000 to 30,000 are killed, a year, to send the ivory to east Asia (China, Vietnam). So African elephants may disappear. This is beyond tragic, it’s irreplaceable. Elephants understand people’s gestures, without any learning (they apparently learn to use trunk gestures among themselves). One is talking about extremely intelligent animals here. (In contrast, chimpanzees have great difficulties understanding human gestures.)

My post also included this photograph of young Cleo, just five months old, showing that her innate skills of being in the wild were alive and well, despite thousands of years of dogs being domesticated animals. Ergo, humans could manage just as well.

Photograph taken 25th April, 2012.

Photograph taken 25th April, 2012.

Last Friday, George Monbiot published an essay in The Guardian newspaper that stays with the theme of loving the wild.  It is republished here with Mr. Monbiot’s very kind permission.

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Falling in Love Again

17th July 2015

Rebuilding our relationship with the natural world can re-animate our own lives, as well as the ecosystem.

When the robin was voted the UK’s national bird last month, we chose to celebrate half of a broken relationship. The robin is to the wild boar what the oxpecker is to the Cape buffalo: it has evolved to catch the worms and insects exposed by their grubbing. But boar are mostly absent from the UK, so its survival often depends on finding the next best thing: human gardeners. This is why the robin is so tame in this country. As far as the bird is concerned, you and I are just fake pigs.

We are surrounded by such broken relationships, truncated natural processes, cauterised ecologies. In Britain we lack almost all large keystone species: ecological engineers that drive the fascinating dynamics which allow other lifeforms to flourish. Boar, beavers, lynx, wolves, whales, large sharks, pelicans, sturgeon: all used to be abundant here, all, but for a few small populations or rare visitors, are missing.

The living systems that conservationists seek to protect in some parts of this country are a parody of the natural world, kept, through intensive management, in suspended animation, like a collection in a museum. An ecosystem is not just a place. It is also a process.

I believe their diminished state also restricts the scope of human life. We head for the hills to escape the order and control that sometimes seem to crush the breath out of us. When we get there, we discover that the same forces prevail. Even our national parks are little better than wet deserts.

Our seas were once among the richest on earth. A few centuries ago, you could have watched fin whales and sperm whales hammering the herring within sight of the shore. Shoals of bluefin tuna thundered up the North Sea. Reefs of oysters and other sessile animals covered the seabed, over which giant cod, skate and halibut cruised. But today, industrial fishing rips up the living fabric of all but 0.01% of our territorial waters. To walk or dive in rich environments we must go abroad.

Though not, I hope, for long. On Wednesday, a new organisation, Rewilding Britain, was launched. (It was inspired by my book Feral and I helped to found it, but I don’t have a position there). Its aim is to try to catalyse the mass restoration of the living world, bring trees back to bare hills, allow reefs to form once more on the seabed and to return to these shores the magnificent, entrancing animals of which we have so long been deprived. Above all it seeks to enhance and enrich the lives of the people of this nation. I hope that it might help to change the face of Britain.

Already, local projects hint at what could be achieved. In the southern uplands of Scotland, the Borders Forest Trust has bought 3000 hectares of bare mountainside and planted hundreds of thousands of native trees. The community of Arran seabed trust in the Firth of Clyde managed, after 13 years of campaigning, to persuade the government to exclude trawlers and scallop dredgers from one square mile of seabed. The result, in this tiny reserve, is an explosion of lobsters, crabs, scallops and fish. It’s now trying to extend the project to a larger area.

In Sussex, the Knepp Castle estate gave up its unprofitable wheat farming, released a few cattle and pigs and let natural processes take over. Now it hosts some of Britain’s highest populations of nightingales, purple emperor butterflies and turtle doves. Partly through ecotourism and accommodation and selling high-grade meat, it has become profitable. In south London, the Wandle Trust has turned a mangled and polluted urban river back into a beautiful chalkstream, supporting kingfishers and wild trout. Wonderful as these projects are, until now they have lacked a national voice. Britain remains in a state of extreme depletion.

Some people argue that we should not seek to re-establish missing species until we’ve protected existing wildlife. But nothing better protects our ecosystems than keystone species. Beaver dams provide habitats for fish, invertebrates, amphibians and waterbirds. In Ireland, resurgent pine martens appear to have pushed back the grey squirrel, allowing red squirrels to recolonise. One study suggests that our woodland ecology cannot recover unless half the country’s deer are culled every year. Lynx could do it for nothing. Functional ecosystems, in which dynamic living processes prevail once more, are likely to be more resistant to climate change than stagnant collections in virtual glass cases.

Over the past two years, there has been a surge of enthusiasm for change. A poll in Scotland found that 60% support the reintroduction of beavers, with only 5% opposed. 91% of respondents to a survey by the Lynx UK Trust supported a trial reintroduction. Researchers at the University of Cumbria digitally altered photographs of Borrowdale in the Lake District, adding or subtracting trees. 69% of the people who saw them favoured the images with extra trees. A video extracted from my TED talk, about the relationship between wolves and other wildlife, has been watched 18 million times.

But the interests of local people must never be overruled. Rewilding must take place only with active consent. Already, landowners are coming forward, proposing to rewild their own property. Community groups, such as Cambrian Wildwood in mid-Wales, are seeking to buy and restore surrounding land. What rewilding offers is a new set of options in places where traditional industries can no longer keep communities alive, where schools and shops and chapels and pubs are closing and young people are leaving the land to find work elsewhere.

In the hills of southern Norway, the return of trees has been accompanied by a diversification and enrichment of the local economy. There, the small income from farming is supplemented with eco-tourism, forest products, rough hunting, fishing, outdoor education, skiing and hiking. The governments of Britain now claim to be willing to pay for the protection of soils and watersheds. These are likely to be more resilient sources of income than the current farm subsidy system upon which all hill farming in this country depends, whose gross injustice – transferring vast sums from the poor to the rich simply for owning land – is as unsustainable politically as it is ecologically.

Perhaps most importantly, rewilding offers hope. It offers the hope of recovery, of the enhancement of wonder and enchantment and delight in a world that often seems crushingly bleak. My involvement with rewilding, to my own amazement, has made me much happier and more optimistic than I was before. I feel an almost evangelical sense of excitement about the prospects for change. I want other people to be able to experience it too.

In 2009, the rewilding pioneers Trees for Life released some wild boar into an enclosure at Dundreggan, in the Scottish Highlands. Within twenty minutes, robins came down from the trees and started following them. Their ecological memory was intact. When I’ve accompanied children from deprived London boroughs to the woods and rockpools for the first time in their lives, I have seen something similar: an immediate, instinctive re-engagement, the restoration of a broken ecological relationship. Once we have richer wild places to explore, we won’t need much prompting to discover their enchantments.

www.monbiot.com

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In the copy of George Monbiot’s essay that was published on his blogsite there were 25 links to other materials. I feel very bad that I just didn’t have the time to copy across all those links so my strong recommendation is that if you enjoyed reading this here then you go across to the essay on his blogsite and check out all the additional material available to you. My only exception was to insert the link to the organisation Rewilding Britain that was referred to in the sixth paragraph.

A chance in life

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The second of two beautiful videos

As I explained yesterday, Jean and I are taking part in a local garage sale that isn’t leaving much time for the usual things each day.

I’m very embarrassed in not recalling if someone sent me the link to the following video or whether I saw it on one of the general blogs that I subscribe to.

Written by Paul Handover

July 18, 2015 at 00:00

A chance in love.

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Our neighbourhood watch garage sale has Jean and me fully occupied for these next two days.

Plus much of yesterday afternoon was spent getting our ‘site’ all set up ready for today.

I have taken the opportunity of showing you two videos, one today and one tomorrow.

This was sent to me by Suzann and will melt your heart in a very big way.

►If watching the flowering of love could inspire love, then “The Story Of The Weeping Camel” would forever alter the world…

►The Story of the Weeping Camel.
Mongolian: Ингэн нулимс, Ingen nulims, “Tears of the Camel” is a 2003 German docudrama released internationally in 2004.

►During Spring, a family of nomadic shepherds in the Gobi Desert, South Mongolia, assists the births of their camel herd. The last camel to calve this season has a protracted labor that persists for two days. With the assistance and intervention of the family, a rare white bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) calf is born.
This is the mother camel’s first calving. Despite the efforts of the shepherds, the mother rejects the newborn, refusing it her milk and failing to establish a care-bond with it. The family resolve to secure the services of an indigenous ‘violinist’ to play the music for a Mongolian ‘Hoos’ ritual.

When repeatedly intoned the calming sounds and beautiful melody of the violin, the mother camel starts to weep, tears visibly streaming from her eyes. Immediately after the rite the mother and calf are reconciled and the calf draws milk from her teat.

►Added music: Sad Romance – Thao Nguyen Xanh

The core subject of integrity.

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Integrity really is at the heart of all that we are – or it should be.

The fundamental premise behind this blog is my discovery back in 2007, when I was living in South Devon, England with Pharaoh, that dogs are creatures of integrity. As is written elsewhere in this place:

Dogs are part of the Canidae, a family including wolves, coyotes and foxes, thought to have evolved 60 million years ago.  There is no hard evidence about when dogs and man came together but dogs were certainly around when man developed speech and set out from Africa, about 50,000 years ago.  See an interesting article by Dr. George Johnson.

Because of this closeness between dogs and man, we (as in man!) have the ability to observe the way they live.  Now I’m sure that scientists would cringe with the idea that the way that a dog lives his life sets an example for us humans, well cringe in the scientific sense.  But man seems to be at one of those defining stages in mankind’s evolution where the forces bearing down on the species homo sapiens have the potential to cause very great harm.  If the example of dogs can provide a beacon of hope, an incentive to change at a deep cultural level, then the quicker we ‘get the message’, the better it will be.

Dogs:

  • are integrous ( a score of 210) according to Dr David Hawkins
  • don’t cheat or lie
  • don’t have hidden agendas
  • are loyal and faithful
  • forgive
  • love unconditionally
  • value and cherish the ‘present’ in a way that humans can only dream of achieving
  • are, by eons of time, a more successful species than man.

And have poetry written for them:

Inner Peace

If you can start the day without caffeine,

If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,

If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,

If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,

If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,

If you can conquer tension without medical help,

If you can relax without liquor,

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

You are probably the family dog!

So an essay that I came across in undertaking research for ‘the book’ really struck a chord. An essay written by Stephanie Staples (see footnote), and you can learn more about her at this place.  Her essay was entitled Reflections On The Value of Integrity and is republished here with Stephanie’s very kind permission.

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Your Life, Unlimited

Stephanie Staples

Reflections on The Value of Integrity?

Integrity comes into play in everything we do.
In fact, it’s more than everything we do,
it’s everything we are.

Having a high level of integrity is one of the most important characteristics we can possess. It is a core value, a choice, and something we can nurture. Integrity is modeled all around us, yet its value in our society seems to be underrated.

Coming from a place of integrity means being truthful and honest. It means being reliable. It means trying to build rather than break, help rather than hurt, connect rather than crumble. Coming from a place of integrity means being authentic—the same you, whether people are watching or not.

We will not always be right or do right, but when we have integrity, we step up; we accept responsibility for our actions, we feel remorse, we have an understanding of what went wrong and why it happened so that we can put a plan in place to ensure it won’t happen again.

You know how a bad reputation follows you around? Well, the fabulous thing about living life brimming with integrity is that it actually precedes you. If you tell the truth even when you don’t have to, do the right thing even when nobody is around to notice, honestly do your best, keep your promises, etc., then that is what people will assume of you. Your actions define your character. This comes in handy so when you do make a mistake, people tend to give you the benefit of the doubt, and perhaps forgive more easily. You see how the reputation comes first? Can you see how it could work in reverse as well? If you lack integrity, people will not trust, value or respect you.

Think about how integrity plays a role in your life, in the life of your family, and in your career. Think about what sort of values you are modeling, how you are modeling them, and how you can live a life of integrity.

This could mean being honest and saying your son is 12, even if he looks 11, and 12 years olds have to pay. This may mean answering a call light of a patient who is not ‘yours.’ It might mean accommodating a request even if you don’t want to. Perhaps it is giving credit where credit is due? What might it mean to you?

If you are not getting what you want out of your life, then look inside and see exactly what’s going on in your life. I know if you focus on being a person of integrity, your character will be strengthened, your relationships at home and at work will be strengthened, and your life will be strengthened. Start by being honest and true to yourself, and the rest will follow.

One final point—it is not just the big things that count, it is the hundreds of little things we do every day that mould our character, that develop our integrity, and that help us live our lives, unlimited!

 

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Of all the qualities that we have to learn from dogs, the one of integrity is the most important, by a mile. Stephanie’s essay gets to the heart of what integrity really means in a way that I have not previously come across. I am very grateful to have been given her permission to republish it.

Footnote

Stephanie Staples New Picture

Stephanie Staples is a member of Rockford Kingsley’s Advisory Board

and is a proud Canadian coach and speaker who helps audiences

around North America shift their perspective and kick up the quality of their life!

Written by Paul Handover

July 16, 2015 at 00:00

A posh night out!

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Mustn’t let life get too serious!

Sent in to me by Cynthia Gomez, and it’s just gorgeous.

Marieles Dinner – Funny dog eats elegant at table

Published on Nov 22, 2013

Mariele, the German Shorthaired Pointer is the top model. She likes to eat in high-class places.

This little show took place in summer 2013. Mariele is sitting at the table and is looking forward to getting served. It took just a few training lessons for Mariele to get used to the situation because there is nothing further to do for her as to sit quite comfortable on a cushion and wait patiently for the food to come. Mariele is 12 years old and in younger years she worked as a rescue dog. She loves to make new experiences and she is very gentle. The temptation to wolf down sausages and meat would have been too strong to her. So we decided to serve carrots and potatoes which she likes too — but not too much…

We got inspired by TWO DOGS DINING — thank you very much.

Written by Paul Handover

July 15, 2015 at 00:00

Consequences.

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I can’t resist this essay from George Monbiot.

As regular followers of Learning from Dogs will know, I frequently republish essays written by George Monbiot. I do so because there is only so much one can write about dogs, Mr. Monbiot is a great writer, and the gentleman has generously given me blanket permission to republish his essays! ;-)

Plus, while many of my posts are directly about dogs, the underlying theme of this blog is to use the qualities of dogs as emblems, or metaphors, for how mankind has to behave if we are to have any chance of survival into the longterm. Or in the words of my essay on Dogs and integrity:

Because of this closeness between dogs and man, we (as in man!) have the ability to observe the way they live.  Now I’m sure that scientists would cringe with the idea that the way that a dog lives his life sets an example for us humans, well cringe in the scientific sense.  But man seems to be at one of those defining stages in mankind’s evolution where the forces bearing down on the species homo sapiens have the potential to cause very great harm.  If the example of dogs can provide a beacon of hope, an incentive to change at a deep cultural level, then the quicker we ‘get the message’, the better it will be.

All of which is my way of introducing Mr. Monbiot’s latest essay on the recent shenanigans involving Greece, in particular, and the EU, in general.

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Breaking Faith

13th July 2015

The European Union is becoming ever harder for progressives to love. Is it time to get out?

By George Monbiot, published on the Guardian’s website, 10th July 2015

Had I been asked a couple of years ago how I would vote in the referendum on whether or not the UK should stay in the European Union, my answer would have been unequivocal.

The EU seemed to me to be a civilising force, restraining the cruel and destructive tendencies of certain member governments (including our own), setting standards that prevented them from destroying the natural world or trashing workers rights, creating a buffer between them and the corporate lobby groups that present an urgent threat to democracy.

Now I’m not so sure. Everything good about the European Union is in retreat; everything bad is on the rampage.

I accept the principle of sharing sovereignty over issues of common concern. I do not accept the idea of the rich nations combining to crush the democratic will of the poorer nations, as they are seeking to do to Greece.

I accept the principle that the European Union should represent our joint interests in creating treaties for the betterment of humankind. I do not accept that it has a right to go behind our backs and quietly negotiate a treaty with the United States – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – that transfers power from parliaments to corporations.

I accept the principle that the EU could distribute money to the poor and marginalised. I do not accept that, as essential public services are cut, €57bn a year should be sloshed into the pockets of farmers, with the biggest, richest landowners receiving the largest payments. The EU’s utter failure to stop this scandal should be a source of disillusionment even to its most enthusiastic supporters.

While these injustices, highly damaging to the reputation of the European Union among people who might otherwise be inclined to defend it, are taking place, at the same time the EU’s restraints on unaccountable power are in danger of being ripped away.

The slippage began with the disastrous abandonment last year of the Soil Framework Directive, at the behest of agricultural lobbyists and the British government. It’s the first time a directive has been derailed.

The directive would have obliged the member states to minimise soil erosion and compaction, maintain the organic matter contained in the soil, prevent landslides and prevent soil from being contaminated with toxic substances. Could any sentient person object to these aims? And can anyone who has studied the complete failure of current soil protection measures in countries like the United Kingdom, where even Farmer’s Weekly admits that “British soils are reaching crisis point” fail to see that further measures are required?

The National Farmers Union, who appear to regard it as their mission to vandalise the fabric of the nation, took credit for the decision.

Now the same industries are trying to sink the directives protecting the natural world. In some European countries, the nature directives are just about all that prevent the eradication of the wildlife that belongs to everyone and no one. Thanks to the capture and cowardice of the European Commission, there is now a real danger that the industrial lobbyists who want to destroy our common heritage will get their way.

The European Union’s two nature directives – the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive – are often all that stand between our wildlife and the industries that would destroy them.

Look, for example, at what’s happening to our harbour porpoises. These beautiful creatures, that enhance the lives of everyone who has seen them leaping and playing the sea, are being caught and killed in fishing nets, starved to death by overfishing, mashed up by propellers and driven out of their feeding grounds by a cacophony of underwater noise from boats.

The only way in which they can be protected is through creating areas in which these activities are restricted, particularly in places such as the Hebrides, the outer Moray Firth and in parts of Cardigan Bay. But the only site the government has proposed is a tiny speck of sea off the coast of Northern Ireland.

The one defence this species has against the mailed fist of the fishing industry, which appears to be locked around the sensitive parts of the UK’s environment department, is an appeal under the Habitats Directive, of which this country is blatantly in breach.

Or look at the continued massacre of birds of prey by grouse shooting estates, which operate as black holes in which hen harriers, peregrines, eagles and other species disappear without trace: shot, trapped or poisoned by an industry that exists to serve the ultra-elite, while damaging the common heritage of humankind. There’s no point in asking nicely: representing the interests of the ultra-elite while damaging the common interests of humankind appears to be the government’s mission. So the only possible restraint is an appeal under the Birds Directive, which the UK government signed and still claims to uphold.

Badly and erratically as we protect our precious species and the places in which they live, they would be in a much worse state were it not for the restraining influence of European law.

I happen to think that there is quite a lot wrong with the Habitats Directive. Some of the places it protects, at the behest of national governments, are highly degraded ecosystems, and it locks them into their depleted state, ensuring that they can recover neither the wealth of species that might live there, nor much of the dynamism and ecological function that could otherwise have been restored.

The irrational way in which upland heather moors are protected is one example. Like the strikingly similar landscapes of low wiry vegetation that you can now see in some former rainforest areas in the tropics, these habitats have been created through repeated cycles of cutting and burning. This destruction is necessary to keep these wastelands in their current state, by preventing trees from returning.

While we decry these processes when we see them take place abroad, here we treat them as if they were essential conservation tools. It’s a form of madness which afflicts everyone from grouse moor owners to conservationist groups, and it reflects an astonishing loss of perspective on the part of those who should be protecting the natural world. The Habitats Directive is one of the legal instruments that has turned this continued destruction into a legal requirement.

But the European Commission’s proposals to “reform” the directives, are likely to make them worse, not better. The danger is that it will leave their irrational aspects intact, while stripping away the essential protections they offer to our wildlife.

No one is in any doubt that the “reform” being proposed is the kind that is usually enacted with a can of petrol and a box of matches. In November last year, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, instructed the Environment Commissioner to “overhaul” the directives and to examine the possibility of merging them. A reliable if sometimes eccentric set of protections is now at mortal risk.

A public consultation on these proposals is taking place at the moment, and it closes on July 24. I’ll repeat that because the only hope these directives possess is a huge public response calling for their defence. The consultation closes on July 24. Please send in your views. Already, 270,000 people have done so, prompted by campaigning organisations such as the RSPB. Let’s turn this into half a million.

The ostensible purpose of this proposed vandalism is to reduce the costs to business. But when the Conservative former president of Bavaria, Edmund Stoiber, was asked by the European Commission to conduct a review of all European legislation, with a view to deregulating it, he discovered that the combined impact of all seven of the EU’s environmental directives (of which birds and habitats are just two) is less than 1% of the total cost to business caused by European law. In other words it is utterly insignificant.

In fact, changing these directives could be costly for businesses, as they have already adapted their practices to meet them, and they would have to start all over again if the laws are changed.

The threat to the directives arises not from a demand by business as a whole, but from pressure by two of the most destructive industries in the European Union, Big Farmer and the construction lobby. That the European Commission should have chosen to listen to them while ignoring the views of everyone else cuts to the heart of what is going wrong there.

So when the referendum comes, I will find myself in a struggle I never anticipated. I am an internationalist. I think it’s essential that issues which transcend national borders are tackled together, rather than apart. I recognise the hideous history of conflict in Europe, and the extraordinary achievement of peace that the European Union represents. I feel nothing in common with the Eurosceptics of the right, who appear to see the EU as interfering with their god-given right to exploit other people and destroy their surroundings.

My feelings towards the EU are now similar to my feelings towards the BBC: a sense that I ought to join the defence of this institution against reactionary forces, but that it has succumbed so catastrophically to those forces that there is little left to defend. If the nature directives go down, while TTIP and the fiscal waterboarding of countries like Greece proceed, it will not be obvious what continued membership has to offer us.

http://www.monbiot.com

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 Difficult to add anything of value to these powerful words from GM other than to remind everyone, both in the EU and outside (for the survey accepts non-EU resident contributions), to complete the survey highlighted by George Monbiot. The link is here.

Written by Paul Handover

July 14, 2015 at 00:00

The origins of the dog

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Dogs and humans go back even further than previously thought.

Humans and dogs were constant companions well before our ancestors settled in villages and started growing crops 10,000 years ago

I have no doubt that thousands of dog owners all around the world must be enthralled by the way that dogs relate to us and, in turn, how we humans relate to dogs. More than once a day, one of our dogs will do something that has me and Jean marvelling at their way of living so close to us.

Then when one starts to reflect on how long dogs and humans have been together, perhaps it could be seen as the direct result of that length of relationship.

Now there’s nothing new in me writing this, after all the home page of Learning from Dogs states:

Yet they have been part of man’s world for an unimaginable time, at least 30,000 years. That makes the domesticated dog the longest animal companion to man, by far!

Back in May the website Livescience published an article that revealed more about the length of our relationship with dogs. This is how it opened:

Ancient Wolf DNA Could Solve Dog Origin Mystery

by Becky Oskin, Senior Writer

Humans and dogs were constant companions well before our ancestors settled in villages and started growing crops 10,000 years ago, a new study suggests.

Genetic evidence from an ancient wolf bone discovered lying on the tundra in Siberia’s Taimyr Peninsula reveals that wolves and dogs split from their common ancestor at least 27,000 years ago. “Although separation isn’t the same as domestication, this opens up the possibility that domestication occurred much earlier than we thought before,” said lead study author Pontus Skoglund, who studies ancient DNA at Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute in Massachusetts. Previously, scientists had pegged the wolf-dog split at no earlier than 16,000 years ago.

The Livescience article referred to results that were published in the journal Current Biology on May 21st this year. One needs a subscription to read the full report but here is their summary:

The origin of domestic dogs is poorly understood [ 1–15 ], with suggested evidence of dog-like features in fossils that predate the Last Glacial Maximum [ 6, 9, 10, 14, 16 ] conflicting with genetic estimates of a more recent divergence between dogs and worldwide wolf populations [ 13, 15, 17–19 ]. Here, we present a draft genome sequence from a 35,000-year-old wolf from the Taimyr Peninsula in northern Siberia. We find that this individual belonged to a population that diverged from the common ancestor of present-day wolves and dogs very close in time to the appearance of the domestic dog lineage. We use the directly dated ancient wolf genome to recalibrate the molecular timescale of wolves and dogs and find that the mutation rate is substantially slower than assumed by most previous studies, suggesting that the ancestors of dogs were separated from present-day wolves before the Last Glacial Maximum. We also find evidence of introgression from the archaic Taimyr wolf lineage into present-day dog breeds from northeast Siberia and Greenland, contributing between 1.4% and 27.3% of their ancestry. This demonstrates that the ancestry of present-day dogs is derived from multiple regional wolf populations.

That summary page also includes the following Graphical Abstract:

fx1

I don’t have permission to republish the Livescience article in full but would like to offer the closing paragraphs of this fascinating report.

“It is a very well-done paper,” Perry [George Perry, an expert in ancient DNA at Pennsylvania State University] told Live Science. “This topic is a critical one for our understanding of human evolution and human-environment interactions in the Paleolithic. Partnership with early dogs may have facilitated more efficient hunting strategies.”

If dogs first befriended hunter-gatherers, rather than farmers, then perhaps the animals helped with hunting or keeping other carnivores away. For instance, an author of a new book claims humans and dogs teamed up to drive Neanderthals to extinction. Skoglund also suggested the Siberian husky followed nomads across the Bering Land Bridge, picking up wolf DNA along the way.

“It might have been beneficial for them to absorb genes that were adapted to this high Arctic environment,” Skoglund said.

This is the first wolf genome from the Pleistocene, and more ancient DNA from prehistoric fossils could provide further insights into the relationship between wolves, dogs and humans, the researchers said.

Yes, our dogs have been part of man’s world for an unimaginable time – and Jean and I, as with tens of thousands of others, can’t imagine a world without dogs.

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