Man’s best friend has been on Earth almost as long as we have, evolving alongside us, and becoming a recognizable part of our history – like the horse. Both were originally used as a tool for thousands of years before becoming a beloved house pet. Although a more symbiotic relationship than their equid counterparts, dogs have also featured heavily in different phases of our development as a civilization.
Early partnerships between humans and dogs were based mostly off of hunting and defensive needs for us, and shelter and food for them. Whilst they were essentially only wolves when our relationship started, dogs distinctively split away from them genetically over 100,000 years ago – the reason for the split is under contention though. A lack of clarity on a genetic and historic level has led many to believe the split happened as a result of human interference and control over breeding, whilst others believe it was a natural split, as seen in many other species.
Nonetheless, as the dogs became more domesticated, they were easier to control and more docile that their ancestors, making it easier to use them for specific tasks, however, they weren’t fully domesticated until roughly 9,000 years ago. From then on, their roles, as well as their subspecies, multiplied. Today, we count 900 million dogs on Earth, both wild and domesticated – they are the most abundant carnivores on the planet. Dogs continue the roles they originally occupied, serving in modern armed forces, herding and companionship.
However, many wonder what may have happened to them had they not been domesticated by our ancestors so many thousand years ago. In a world devoid of humans, it would stand to reason that dogs may have not separated as distinctively from wolves as they have today – odds are a Chihuahua would never have existed, much less been able to survive, but a German Shepherd may have. It is unclear as to what the distribution of dogs across the world would be, as human development and exploration helped spread them across the continents.
That being said, species such as the Tasmanian Tiger or the Yellowstone Wolf would probably still have a healthy population, as would others who were hunted to extinction – there is no saying what our world would look like without us on it. What can be said though, is that dogs, like so many other species would have a much different history – but they might’ve been someone else’s best friend!