The Part Two of a Canine History

A canine history part 2.....The dog was not greatly appreciated in Palestine, and in both the Old and New Testaments it is commonly spoken of with scorn and contempt as an "unclean beast."

Even the familiar reference to the Sheepdog in the Book of Job--"_But now they that are younger than I have me in derision, whose fathers I would have disdained to set with the dogs of my flock_"--is not without a suggestion of contempt, and it is significant that the only biblical allusion to the dog as a recognized companion of man occurs in the apocryphal Book of Tobit (v. 16), "_So they went forth both, and the young man's dog with them_."

In this canine history, the pagan Greeks and Romans had a kindlier feeling for dumb animals than had the Jews. Their hounds, like their horses, were selected with discrimination, bred with care, and held in high esteem, receiving pet names; and the literature's of Greece and Rome contain many tributes to the courage, obedience, sagacity, and affectionate fidelity of the dog.

The Phoenicians, too, were unquestionably lovers of the dog, quick to recognise the points of special breeds.

In their colony in Carthage, during the reign of Sardanapalus, they had already possessed themselves of the Assyrian Mastiff, which they probably exported to far-off Britain.

As they are said to have exported the Water Spaniel to Ireland and to Spain.

Canine History - Origin Of The Dog

It is a significant circumstance when we come to consider the probable origin of the dog, that there are indications of his domestication at such early periods by so many peoples in different parts of the world.

As we have seen, dogs were more or less subjugated and tamed by primitive man, by the Assyrians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans, as also by the ancient barbaric tribes of the western hemisphere. The important question now arises: Had all these dogs a common origin in a definite parent stock, or did they spring from separate and unrelated parents?

Half a century ago it was believed that all the evidence which could be brought to bear upon the problem pointed to an independent origin of the dog. Youatt, writing in 1845, argued that "this power of tracing back the dog to the very earliest periods of history, and the fact that he then seemed to be as sagacious, as faithful, and as valuable as at the present day, strongly favours the opinion that he was descended from no inferior and comparatively worthless animal; and that he was not the progeny of the wolf, the jackal, or the fox, but was originally created, somewhat as we now find him, the associate and friend of man."

When Youatt wrote, most people believed that the world was only six thousand years old, and that species were originally created and absolutely unchangeable. Lyell's discoveries in geology, however, overthrew the argument of the earth's chronology and of the antiquity of man, and Darwin's theory of evolution entirely transformed the accepted beliefs concerning the origin of species and the supposed invariability of animal types.

Canine History - From Fox, Wolf Or Jackal?

The general superficial resemblance between the fox and many of our dogs, might well excuse the belief in a relationship. Gamekeepers are often very positive that a cross can be obtained between a dog fox and a terrier bitch; but cases in which this connection is alleged must be accepted with extreme caution.

The late Mr. A. D. Bartlett, who was for years was the superintendent of the Zoological Gardens in London, studied this question with minute care, and as a result of experiments and observations he positively affirmed that he had never met with one well-authenticated instance of a hybrid dog and fox. Mr. Bartlett's conclusions are incontestable.

However much in appearance the supposed dog-fox may resemble the fox, there are certain opposing characteristics and structural differences which entirely dismiss the theory of relationship.

One thing is certain, that foxes do not breed in confinement, except in very rare instances. The silver fox of North America is the only species recorded to have bred in the Zoological Gardens of London; the European fox has never been known to breed in captivity. Then, again, the fox is not a sociable animal. We never hear of foxes uniting in a pack, as do the wolves, the jackals, and the wild dogs. Apart from other considerations, a fox may be distinguished from a dog, without being seen or touched, by its smell. No one can produce a dog that has half the odour of Reynard, and this odour the dog-fox would doubtless possess were its sire a fox-dog or its dam a vixen.

Whatever may be said concerning the difference existing between dogs and foxes will not hold good in reference to dogs, wolves, and jackals. The wolf and the jackal are so much alike that the only appreciable distinction is that of size, and so closely do they resemble many dogs in general appearance, structure, habits, instincts, and mental endowments that no difficulty presents itself in regarding them as being of one stock.

Wolves and jackals can be,and have repeatedly been, tamed. Domestic dogs can become, and again and again do become, wild, even consorting with wolves, interbreeding with them, assuming their gregarious habits, and changing the characteristic bark into a dismal wolf-like howl. The wolf and the jackal when tamed answer to their master's call, wag their tails, lick his hands, crouch, jump round him to be caressed, and throw themselves on their backs in submission.

When in high spirits they run round in circles or in a figure of eight, with their tails between their legs. Their howl becomes a business-like bark. They smell at the tails of other dogs and void their urine sideways, and lastly, like our domestic favourites, however refined and gentlemanly in other respects, they cannot be broken of the habit of rolling on carrion or on animals they have killed.

This last habit of the domestic dog is one of the surviving traits of his wild ancestry, which, like his habits of burying bones or superfluous food, and of turning round and round on a carpet as if to make a nest for himself before lying down, go far towards connecting him in direct relationship with the wolf and the jackal.

Related Articles to Canine History

Click Here For Part Three Of A Canine History 

Click Here To Return To Part One Of Dog History 

From Canine History To History Of The Labrador Retriever