Yesterday’s post about the loyalty of dogs brought to mind a post that I published way back in 2013. Let me take an extract from yesterday’s post:
It’s no secret that domesticated dogs are descendants of wolves. Even today, modern dogs continue to share similar genes to wolves that live in the wild. The idea of “the loyal dog” is both a cultural and biological construct, as humans have created the dog over years of selective breeding and domestication to be this way. Essentially, humans picked and chose the wolf characteristics that would best serve their own benefit, transforming a wolf’s hierarchical structure and social bond to their packs into obedience and loyalty to humans.
The fact that is key is that dog packs are hierarchical. They have three status roles and the rest of the pack are all pack members. The three roles are Alpha dog, always a female, the Beta dog, always a male, and the Omega dog that could be either male or female.
The role of the alpha dog is to have first pick of the eligible males and to move the whole pack if in her analysis the territory becomes unsuitable for the pack. The role of the beta dog is to keep the pack under control and not to let fights get out of hand. The omega dog is to keep the pack happy and playful.
So to the post that was first published on the 10th April, 2013.
Yearnings for a new start!
You may wonder about the title of this post? Stay with me for a moment.
As has been written before on Learning from Dogs, when dogs were living in the wild just three animals had pack roles. The leader of the pack, always a female animal, was the alpha dog. Second in command was the beta dog, always a dominant male, and the third role was the omega or clown dog. The wild dog pack was thought to have consisted, typically, of about 50 animals.
As leader of her pack an alpha dog had two primary functions . One was having first choice as to the male dog she was going to mate with – thus demonstrating how women always choose! 😉
Her second important duty was deciding that her pack’s home range was insufficient for the needs of her ‘family’. As wolves still do, wild dogs lived within small, well-defined territories when food was abundant. When food became less abundant then it was time to move to more fertile grounds. As an aside, research in South Africa as to the area requirements for a small pack of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) shows they require from 65 square kilometers (25 square miles) to 150 sq. km. (58 sq. mi.). (See footnote.)
Dogs, like all wild animals, instinctively live in harmony with nature. So the call from the alpha dog to find a new range didn’t mean they left their old one as a barren disaster area. You can see where this is heading!
Wild dogs were in contact with early man at least 50,000 years ago. (Just reflect for a moment on the length of that relationship between man and dog.) So each specie has had plenty of time to learn from the other.
Thus, as mankind is on the verge of discovering that our existing ‘territory’ is becoming unsustainable for the healthy life of the species, one fundamental learning point from dogs appears to have escaped us: Mankind doesn’t have a new range available to our species.
This preamble came to mind when I recently read a short but powerful essay on Alex Jones’ blog The Liberated Way. The essay was called A global leaky bucket. Alex has very kindly given me permission to republish it.
A global leaky bucket
Global weather extremes will force people to hard choices.
I write this in despair, it is snowing again here in Colchester UK. I admit envy for those of you who live in California or Hong Kong area, I see your photographs where the seasons always seem to be warm and sunny. The northern Jet Stream refuses to move, Greenland enjoys growing strawberries as the lambs die in the fields of Britain from the winter that refuses to let go.
The extremes of weather are noted in the South of the world as well as the North. Argentina has had the worst floods in decades last week. The cause is that the systems such as the Jet Stream are paralysed in one place, thus everyone suffers flood, drought or winter in excess. Nobody is sure why this paralysis is going on with systems like the Jet Stream, some say it is climate change, the point is that we are experiencing this, and it appears to be more than a temporary issue.
My opinion is that these weather extremes are here to stay for the long duration. One is then left with a harsh reality of does one seek to control the weather or adapt to the weather? How does one control the weather, a chaotic energy system where even a small change can have great consequences? Perhaps adaptation is the better option, but does one know how huge those adaptations will have to be where drought and flood could be lasting decades?
Lets say food, water and energy are all contained in a bucket. We take a jug and scoop out from the bucket what we need. There is a tap that is constantly running filling the bucket with the food, water and energy. We waste those resources so the bucket leaks. We disrupt or destroy the renewal systems in the ecosystems so the tap is no longer running as fast as it should. We are greedy consumers so we take more than we need from the bucket with our jug. How will the bucket look now? Is this a sustainable future to you?
If our global weather extremes continue as they are it will be like a storm rocking the bucket spilling its contents, will our bucket future look even less sustainable? Extreme weather destroys harvests, kills animals, sends already distressed ecosystems into the abyss. What happens when the bucket is so empty that people can no longer enjoy their lifestyle of wasteful excess, or worse that people grow cold, hungry and thirsty? Do they sit there and do nothing but die? Will they fight? Who will fight who? As the bucket contents get ever smaller, who will win in the fighting for what is left?
Copyright (c) Alex Jones 2011-2013.
Colchester has a place in my past as I started and ran a business there between the years of 1978 to 1986. More about that some other day.
Back to Alex’s essay. It strongly resonated with a recent item on Peter Sinclair’s excellent blog Climate Denial Crock of the Week which I will refer to tomorrow.
So I will leave you with this tragic, emotional thought – where, oh where, is our alpha dog?
Footnote: The figures for the ranges of wild dogs were taken from a fascinating paper published by Lindsay, du Toit and Mills that may be read here.
One thing that has become clearer over the years and with the advent of DNA analysis is that the process of wolf and man coming together, and wolf becoming dog, was in the timeframe of 25,000 to 40,000 years ago. It’s a very wide band of time but there’s no scientific method, certainly at the moment, to refine the years down to a shorter number.
But even taking the lower limit, 25,000 years ago, it is still an indescribably long time back in the past.
They are such precious animals.
4 thoughts on “Returning to the history of dogs.”
The history of the domesticated dog is always fascinating.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Fascinating and beautiful, Susan. Thank you!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Interesting that the Alpha is always female! We are lucky to have dogs in our lives to help us forget the mundane for a bit!
Welcome to this place and we hope to see you again soon. Yes, dog and wolf packs offer a surprisingly stable group of animals.