The Goyet wolfdog is over 30,000 years old doubling the possible length of time for domestic dogs to have occurred. It was described as the size and shape of a Samoyed, but with wolf sized teeth. I doubt it had the Samoyed tail. It could be a wolf; it could be a dog. It could be an example of ‘camp wolves’ or dogwolves as Derr calls them. It seems rather small, so to me it sounds like a dingo type dog, something closer to wolves than present day dogs are in general.
There is evidence of dogs in settlements which started about 14,000 years ago and come straight to the present. We know, man was a hunter-gatherer first, from even before he became modern man, but upon gaining the use of dogwolves, some peoples became “herders” of non-domestic animals. Some herders never became agriculturists. I think the herding lifestyle could be at least as old as the Goyet dog and maybe quite a bit older. My speculation is that wolves became domestic animals when they would herd and control under orders, but not kill. Man could not have herded goats, sheep, cows, and more, without dogs. If there weren’t already dogs, man would surely have invented them and probably saw the raw promise in wolves as their hunting became more cooperative. I presume this happened at a very early stage of human culture. (For another topic: I think this happened in Africa in the Sahara area and or Ethiopia.)
The Razboinichya canid. A) aerial view, B) profile(scale on ruler in cm). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022821.g001
The first thing that occurs to me about the domestication of wolves is the plasticity of their genes. It is the wolves who have all the buried recessives that make different breeds of dogs. Some mutations have occurred in dogs, but not much. Most of the plasticity of dogs comes from alleles in the wolf genome. Wolves have a lot of genetic diversity and dogs have less. It is as though domestication itself removes some of the diversity. Not to mention, the inbreeding that goes on in closed registries, which removes more and more of the original diversity.
For some years the idea reigned that the Asian wolf was the ancestor of all dogs because they were the most genetically diverse dogs studied, but that is now explained by the fact Asian dogs are bred for food, thus are bred to any other dog handy, which increases and keeps genetic diversity. Recently, evidence has been found that indicates that Middle Eastern wolves are the ancestors of Middle Eastern dogs. It is also apparent that Inuit dogs may have been based on the Asian dogs when they first arrived, but breeding to Northern wolves occurred enough to give the dogs a wolfy look and type from North American wolves. There could be many separate occurrences of wolves morphing into dogs. Once is coincidence, twice is a pattern, and three is practically proof that dogs can be morphed out of wolves any old time they are needed. Now we also know that there were small wolves in the Middle East about 20 pounders, so it is possible that smaller dogs have been with us since the beginning.
Strangely enough, the animal on the edge of the morph each time is a Dingo type wolfdog. “Dingoes R morph-dogs” The dingo type embraces a continuum of dogs. The ones on Frasier Island, Australia, are considered to be the purest line of dingoes left in Australia. They look very wolfy, only smaller. The Carolina Dogs of SEAmerica fit the same archetype. Other dingoes can be more compact than the Frasier Island ones, but over all, they fit a type of dog found all over Asia, Australia, Turkey, and practically all over North and South America. Some dingo types are practically wolves in temperament, some have pet quality temperaments. The dingo type persists in dog populations all over the world including the Americas. They are often described as husky crosses or husky lab crosses, but they have a combination of genes that adds up to a dingo look. Some are more doggy, some are more wolfy, just as in the feral population in Australia. I am thinking the Goyet dog was a Dingo type animal, who was genetically closer to the wolf than dogs.
(Korean meat dogs of the dingo type)
The yellow dog of a dingo type is found all over the globe. I found internet photos of street dogs of this type in Turkey, Bulgaria, India, Korea, the US, Mexico. Enough to say the yellow dog is ubiquitous. If you actually include dingoes then we add Australia to the list. I am including dingoes because they range from very wolfy to very doggy.
The mechanism that shaped dogs out of wolves, was probably man. I postulated that, at first, men mooched in on wolf kills. They followed the wolves and “helped” in the kill, or maybe chased the wolves away from the kill after the wolves had done the work. I am sure every permutation of that scenario occurred including humans feeding the wolves from their own kills. Or perhaps, dragging the kill home and leaving whatever remained in or near camp. Since wolves are territorial, people and packs learned things about each other as they crossed paths. Packs don’t often change territory, so no doubt they recognized certain people and their patterns and vice versa. Also since women have a long history of adopting animals and raising them, baby wolves were raised by people. When the pups reached sexual maturity, males and/or females could leave the camp if so inclined. Females might go off and have babies in a “wild” situation. Or get pregnant and come back to the camp. They could start new packs, but they would always be habituated to humans. If they just weren’t dominant enough start a pack, they probably followed the pack they already knew both for their own protection and the refuse that they could eat, including human wastes.And to participate in hunts.
If they started a new pack, they would not be afraid of the humans joining their pack in the kill. If they became camp followers, they were probably the more beta types. They probably hunted with the hunters from a young age, so even if a human raised cub, left and went out on his/her own, he already had some co-operative hunting skills. If he/she stayed with the human pack, their nature would lend itself to cooperative hunting skills. Communication could easily be established with familiar wolves, who could naturally chase and surround an animal. Communication could just be the words or perhaps whistles men used when the wolves were already doing something. ( I am sure whistling dogs is almost as ancient a skill as knapping stones for fancy spearheads). I fancy there were wolf packs who lived independently from people, but the mixture of hand raised pups, maybe some kind of female exchanges happening muddied it right up. A female forming a “wild pack” would raise her pups to share the mutual hunting culture already established. If a wounded “wild” pregnant female might tolerate being helped by people, all her puppies, whether they went wild or became camp wolves, would learn how to hunt with humans. They would be familiar with hunting with humans whether from the “wild side” or the “camp side”. Each litter probably produced a range of temperaments from more to less wolfy. The less dominant by nature camp dogs probably got eaten a lot less than ones who got pushy with children.
I could devote a lot more imagination to this scenario of wolves and men interacting in more and more complex ways. The social life of wolves and how they keep track of their aunts and nephews, perhaps cousins and grandchildren hasn’t really been explored. Packs are adaptable and they are fluid. They do have a sense of relationships, we just don’t know how far it goes.
Since I am not an academic with a reputation to keep up, I can answer the mystery of the Goyet dog being a super rare archaeological find. Hunters using wolf-morphs would not leave many more archaeological traces than any other hunter-gatherers. From its surroundings, one can guess this particular Goyet dog might have been one of the ones who got eaten.
If the major human culture started out as Hunter-Gatherers, when they started keeping cooperative wolf morphs, new things could be done. The skills the hunters had named by whistle when the wolf-morphs performed the skill, now served as a communication to perform the skill. Dogs are very associative. So are wolves and so would be their descendants in various forms of morphing into dogs. A human in charge of a group of wolf-morphs who would do skills by whistle are ready for the last step, the no-kill command. When that skill is in place, the hunter can use the dogs to shepherd a pack of sheep or goats, until they get to the one to be killed. Or form a protective shield from other predators. I am sure there were lots of hand raised sheep and goats going on too. It is human nature to want to nurture cute little critters. They would all be released and they would now have more complex communication with humans. I am thinking of raising crows who can live independently, but will still have a special relationship with the human who raised them. I had a friend who did just that from childhood and the hand raised ones will still visit him- or at lest their “homie” tree.
Now if you take it as a fact that all the animals can communicate with each other, including humans, you can understand that all these people and critters have relationships in the wild. The camp is a place with rules very different than the hunt. The camp is run by women, who build it, and do all the activities a camp requires. They are the ones who hand raise the wild animals. They didn’t build fences in the early days so critters were always free to go and return. Perhaps if a camp was raising a goat, they might also have a camp dog who would be taught not to use prey behaviors- or driven out of camp, if they do. So long before goats and sheep were fenced, camp dogs did not kill them. Groups of herd animals were worked by people with wolf-morphs who would allow the human to pick which animal to go after and eventually, for whatever purpose.
I dare say this Goyet type dog could develop out of wolf in a few generations, once humans started interfering with their wolf- culture by joining or taking kills, to the time of leading kills with cooperative wolf-morphs. They would only have to breed the most friendly hand raised wolves to each other as the Russian fox experimenthas proved.The intervention of picking for friendliness and submissiveness seems to unlock a major clock that determines developmental speed of the pups. This produces slow downs in maturity called neotony, that in some cases never reach adult forms. The second major mechanism for cracking open the wolf gene bank to produce dogs is using a closed population to breed, in short, inbreeding, however slight. The dingo- type dogs tend to be yellow, compared to the agouti of the wolves. They are extraordinarily healthy and have no known genetic problems. Inbreeding a dingo-type-morph will release spots, bent tails, crumpled ears, blue eyes and a variety of other recessives. These traits will breed true as long as they are bred to others with the same recessives. The only way to release recessives out of morphed dogs is to continue to inbreed. Some of the recessives are very deleterious in the highly genetically attenuated AKC dogs.
There is a lot of information the Victorians did not know about breeding dogs and the top kennel clubs are still locked into Victorian ideas including the closed breeding populations, forever, even though it hasn’t worked out very well.
Frasier Island Dingo