First Dogs May Have Been European


Man’s best friends may have started off as European wolves, according to scientists whose research is challenging earlier thinking around how dogs became domestic animals. (National Geographic News, New York Times)

Use our resources to better understand domestication and its discontents.

Photograph by Jodi Cobb, National Geographic
Photograph by Jodi Cobb, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

  • How did researchers conduct the study? What data did they use?
    • Researchers used DNA. They collected and compared DNA from four related species of canids, a family of mammals that includes dogs, wolves, and foxes. The DNA studied came from modern dogs, modern wolves, modern coyotes, and fossils of ancient European canids.
  • What is the leading criticism of the study? (The last several paragraphs of the NY Times article might give you a good idea.)
    • “[I]t’s geographically biased,” says one scientist. The study only uses DNA from ancient European canids, not fossils from East Asia or the Middle East, where earlier research had found evidence for wolf domestication. “You just need to have samples from everywhere” for such a survey to be complete, the scientist says.

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