man's best friend
February 18, 2007 4:57am CST
Dogs have managed to work themselves into our hearts and homes.That may be because they seem to possess one particular survival skill that other animals never acquired. They came in all shapes,sizes and temperaments.But scientists believe all the dogs in the world evolve from just a handful of wolves living in Asia less than 15,000 years ago.In fact,DNA test indicated 95% of all dogs living today are descendants of just three original females.Harvard anthropologist Brian Hare studies evolution and dogs. It is not konwn exactly how or why humans domesticated the first dogs.But once tamed,people found them useful and they learned how to selectively breed for certain traits to create animals fit for specific task.Most likely,the first dogs were used for hunting and protection.Some were bred to chase down prey, others to herd livestock.Today's most popular breed,the Labrador,was originally bred by fishermen to haul nets and retrieve fish.But at some point,humans also started to breed dogs for looks and for companionship.Brian has wondered why of all domesticated animals,dogs seem closest to their owners. Somehow during the long relationship together,dogs learn how to communicate with humans.And they passed the skill down to each succeeding generation.It turns out puppies can understand human gestures even if they've been raised in the wild while wolves raised in captivity just don't get it.It's a unique skill that perhaps only dogs possess.