Could there be a more loyal bestie than a dog? Probably not. Calm down, cat people. We love kitties as much as anyone (obviously) but cats have only been domesticated for around 5,300 years. Dogs, on the other hand, have been man’s best friend for A LOT of years. At least 15,000 of them, according to a new study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
For a while now, scientists have speculated that dogs were originally descended from wolves. The idea was that wolves were lured to areas populated by humans by the scent of their food, or possibly leftover carcasses from hunting expeditions. This newest study, though, is by far the most in-depth look into where exactly dogs came from. It was conducted by Laura M. Shannon and Adam R. Boyko at Cornell University, along with a whole team of other scientists from all over the world. They studied every type of dog imaginable, from fancy pure breeds to strays to scavengers (which are estimated to make-up about 75% of the world’s population of 1 billion dogs . . . 1 billion, guys!).
After studying DNA from 4,500 dogs from 161 different breeds and 549 village dogs from 38 countries around the world, the researchers were able to identify the most central place of genetic origin to be Central Asia, including Mongolia and Nepal. According to Dr. Boyko, this is the place where “all dogs alive today” originally come from.
Of course this doesn’t paint an entire picture of doggy history. A lot can happen in 15,000 years. Different populations of domesticated dogs could have sprung up in other parts of the world and died out long ago. Dr. Boyko even says they could have originated elsewhere before migrating to Central Asia and then evolving into the doggies we know and love today. Basically, we’ll never know for sure. And the dogs aren’t talking, so scientists just have to give it their best shot.
The dogs in the study may not have been much help with providing an oral history of their canine family tree, but apparently they were more than willing to give up some DNA so long as they were compensated. In this case, “compensation” meant food. Natch. These are dogs we’re talking about, after all. Dr. Boyko, who travelled to many of the countries where strays and village dogs were having blood drawn, said, “The great thing about working with dogs is that if you show up with food you don’t usually have trouble recruiting subjects. Usually.”
It seems all dogs have something in common, no matter where they come from — they love themselves some food. Oh, and also they’re adorbs. Every single one of them.
[Image via Shutterstock.]