How did it all start? The science seems to be convinced that the evolution of man’s best friend and all wild dogs can be traced back to the origins of the gray wolf. Even to this day the gray wolf holds the strongest genetic makeup in characteristics, strength and immunity to disease. The gray wolf is still the top dog. It could be understandable that other wild species such as the jackal, the dingo, coyote, fox, etc. could all be traced back to the gray wolf, but what about the evolution of man’s best friend? Is your little Maltese’s related to the gray wolf? How did the gray wolf evolve into man’s best friend?
We know the evolution of man’s best friend started with the gray wolf. The data leads scientists to believe that all dog species originate with the gray wolf. Many thousands of years ago cross breeding of two or more species, such a wolf and a jackal, a dingo and a jackal accrued. While some members of the genus Canis families can interbreed some can not. Scientist believe this process of cross breeding in the wild, also known as natural selection, may have happened a few times but it was not a typical occurrence. Scientific data seems to collaborate with molecular evidence that wolves, jackals, and dingoes are more closely related than other dog species.
The evolution of mans best friend was then heavily manipulated by man using artificial selection; however not on purpose in the first cluster of species expansion. The very first cross between species happened when the wild dog first became domesticated. Domestication for pack animals into the family or community of early man was probably initiated by the wolf. Wolfs are smart and if they can scavenge food without a fight, and that food supply is readily available, they will return. Eventually the dogs that were better adapted to the community environment would be left behind to mix breed with other species that desired to co-habitat with others. This generation cross breeding should genetically create a more docile temperament. This was ancient mans first dabble in breeding, even though he probably didn’t know he was mixing species. Not sure if this would be considered natural selection because it wasn't natural for so many species to live amongst each other, but this is where early man came into the evolution of the dog.
The last push in the spread of the wild dog species was fast approaching a massive expansion, modern day man started to manipulate breeds for sport, for leisure, and for prestige. Changing the characteristics of a dog can happen within just three generations. This is a very fast process in a species and therefore enabled humans to make many species with many different characteristics, behaviors, physical size differences and many body shapes. Even though it is believed that all dogs trace back to the gray wolf, it becomes near impossible to establish the origins of any given breed because they have been manipulated so many times.
So there you have it, your little Maltese, Shih Tzu, Labrador, and all other breeds can be traced back to the ancient and great gray wolf some 20 to 40 thousand years ago. Once wild dogs started to blend into human existence species had more opportunities to breed within communities with species unlike their own. Lastly the human hand played a part in the fastest most manipulated breed expansion of any other animal on the planet. The evolution of mans best friend was that of an ancient gray wolf into a slow evolution of a few small splits in genetics through natural selection, ending in a massive breed spilt that was heavily manipulated by man.