Where did dogs originate?

Dogs and humans have been partners for a long time. No one knows exactly how long, but there is a 12,000 year old burial site in Israel containing the body of a woman and her puppy.

Some scientists think the association between dogs/wolves and people might go back as far as 100,000 years. (“Multiple and ancient origins of the domestic dogs” by C Vila.)

Another intriguing question is: where did the dogs come from?

The oldest known doglike fossil comes from Europe. DNA studies have implicated that dogs would come from east Asia and the Middle East, but new DNA studies point towards Europe. This latest research indicates that dogs might have indeed have originated in Europe, and this would have happened some 32,000 years ago.

The study gathered DNA from fossils of 18 ancient wolflike and doglike creatures that lived up to 36,000 years ago in Argentina, Belgium, Germany, Russia, Switzerland, and the United States. They compared this genetic material with samples from wolves from North America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East along with 77 different dog breeds and four coyotes.

The DNA of modern dogs showed similarities to the DNA from ancient European specimens as well as modern day European wolves.

This doesn’t mean that Europe is the only place where dogs developed. The continent played a major part in the domestication process of dogs as we know them today, but a parallel development might have taken place in other parts of the world.

Cats at sea

Cats and humans have walked side by side on land for thousands of years. It is less known that cats have shared the seas with us. They have a great ability to adapt to their surroundings, and thrive on ships.

In today’s society many people consider black cats bad luck. At sea, it was the complete opposite. Cats, particularly black cats, were believed to protect ships from dangerous weather. Fishermen’s wives would keep black cats at home, hoping they would protect the men at sea.

The US Naval Institute writes, “It is likely that the ancient Egyptians were the first seafarers to realize the true value of having cats as shipmates.” The kitties protected the ships from rats and mice, served as company, and could to some extent warn for foul weather. Cats have sensitive inner ears, and low atmospheric pressure often make them nervous and restless.

Without the presence of cats, a crew might find their ship overrun with rats and mice that would eat into provisions, chew through ropes, and spread disease. It was also common to adopt cats from foreign lands to serve as souvenirs and remind the crew of their pets at home.

Who invented the pet door?

Plexidor pet door through glassCats and dogs have accompanied humans for millennia. Dog fossil records go back around 40 million years, and cat fossils around 12 million years. To the best of our knowledge, dogs have been domesticated for at least 12,000 years.

This is a long time walking side by side, and it makes sense that our ancestors did their best to accommodate their furry friends just like we do.

In the beginning, the cat door was a hole in the wall meant to invite feral cats to come in and hunt rodents. We know the people of Cyprus had pet cats 9,500 years ago. They might very well have had cat holes too.

In more recent history, 14th century writer Geoffrey Chaucer described a cat hole in his Canterbury Tales, where a servant knocks on a door, no one answers, and he peeks in through the cat hole.

Nowadays, Sir Isaac Newton is most often accredited with inventing the pet door. He allegedly cut two holes in the wall; one for his adult cat and a smaller one for the kittens. It sounds like an urban myth created to show how even an incredibly intelligent person can have moments of stupid and not realize the kitten would follow their mother through the big hole…

Anyway, according to legend, Newton covered the holes with felt to keep excess light from coming in and disturbing his experiments. This would have been a predecessor of the modern cat flap.