On the Origin of Dogs

Overall, there are more dogs than children in American and British households.1 Dogs have become a huge part of humans’ lives. How and when did they get here?

Chromosomes show that “the domestic dog, Canislupus familiaris, is a grey wolf.”2 Additional DNA studies provide “strong evidence” that all dog breeds descended from a wolf population that was domesticated in southern East Asia.3 Dogs, wolves, coyotes, and foxes can interbreed, so they represent the created dog kind. Over 230 dog breeds have been defined in the 4,300 or so years of post-Flood history.4

In his 300 B.C. book Historiae Animalium, Aristotle listed the dog separately from the wolf and fox. But University of Otago archaeologist Helen Leach wrote that “systematic breeding only emerged within the past 300 years.”5

Over 200 breeds were produced in only 300 years? That doesn’t fit with evolution’s theory of gradual change, in which new features are supposedly favored by natural selection over vast time periods. A recent experiment proved that dogs most likely changed in just a few generations through pre-designed genetic programming and intentional breeding.

In a study published in Bioessays in 2009, Russian researchers selected foxes for “tameability.” The experiment began “about 50 years ago” and has produced scores of foxes that look very different from their ancestors.6

Researchers selected foxes that were the least aggressive and then bred them. They chose 100 females and 30 males “as the initial parental generation.” Then, they carried forward the tamest approximately 10 percent into each successive generation. “As a result of such a rigorous selection, the offspring exhibiting the aggressive and fear avoidance responses were eliminated from the experimental population in just two-three generations of selection,” the study authors wrote.6

They didn’t need thousands of years to produce these changes, just three generations. And at the sixth generation, fox pups eagerly sought human contact, complete with wagging tails, “whining, whimpering, and licking in a dog-like manner.”6

Quite unexpectedly, however, the newly tamed foxes displayed standard mammalian traits of domestication. Wild horses, cows, sheep, pigs, dogs, and rabbits have stable traits like erect ears, straight tails, uniform coat colors, restricted breeding seasons, and similar body sizes. However, the tame varieties often have floppy ears, curled tails, spotted coat colors, variations in coat textures and lengths, no set breeding seasons, and marked skeletal size and proportion differences.

Natural selection was supposed to have “fixed” the stable traits into the wild animals over their supposedly countless past generations. But the researchers watched their recently wild fox population rapidly unfold new trait variations that looked just like those of domesticated dogs, cows, and rabbits. Clearly, natural selection has not been filling its billing.

Also, chance-based genetic mutations could not produce the same trait variations in so many different mammals. For this reason, the authors wrote, “Finally, it is difficult to interpret the changes in the domesticated foxes as a result of randomly arisen new mutations.”6

Instead, changes in gene regulation must have caused the trait variations. Differing gene activity during development resulted in multiple simultaneous physical changes. That’s not evolution by mutations, but variations by design. According to the biological evidence, dogs could have developed from a wolf ancestor into “man’s best friend” in only three dog generations by selective breeding in the recent past.

References

  1. Haveman, H. Dogs take a lead over children. CNN International. Posted on cnn.com March 5, 2004, accessed November 15, 2011.
  2. Pendragon, B. 2011. A review of selected features of the family Canidae with reference to its fundamental taxonomic status. Journal of Creation. 25 (3): 79-88.
  3. Ahlfort, K. Genetic Study Confirms: First Dogs Came from East Asia. Royal Institute of Technology news release, November 23, 2011.
  4. The American Kennel Club lists over 235 breeds, 173 of which are eligible to compete at AKC events. See the Complete Breed List posted on akc.org.
  5. Leach, H. R. 2007. Selection and the Unforeseen Consequences of Domestication. In Cassidy, R. and M. H. Mullin, eds. Where the wild things are now: domestication reconsidered. Oxford, UK: Berg, 72-73.
  6. Trut, L., I. Oskina and A. Kharlamova. 2009. Animal evolution during domestication: the domesticated fox as a model. Bioessays. 31 (3): 349-360.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: Thomas, B. 2012. On the Origin of Dogs. Acts & Facts. 41 (1): 16.


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