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If it Happened | We Covered it

Ancient Dog Remains Suggest an Early Bond Between Humans and Pets

Remains of a dog have been discovered in Germany, which indicate that humans had dogs as pets as many as 15,000 years ago.


I am personally not a dog person.  No, it’s not that I dislike dogs, but I am not a huge fan of the animals. I’m not afraid of them, even though I experienced some childhood trauma.  That said, they are wonderful companions, which is why they are often referred to as “man’s best friend”.  You’re probably wondering why I’m starting this post in such a negative way, well a puppy’s skeleton was discovered at a burial site in Germany, which was thought to date back to around 14,000 years ago.  That’s insane!  This particular site was used for both humans and even pets.

This discovery is so fascinating because researchers are studying the remains of this young puppy and are discovering clues in relation to its early relationships with humans.  When I first heard about this, I thought it was kind of out there.  But I also questioned the fact that dogs were around then, in this kind of capacity.  Luc Janssens, a veterinarian, and archaeologist studied the bones and has discovered clues that point to the dog being quite sick in its final days.  By looking at the animal’s teeth closely, Janssens was able to discover that it had become ill several times prior to its death.  The dog suffered from distemper, which is a viral disease that is often fatal in dogs.  It can lead to dehydration and malnourishment as well as vomiting.  Poor animal! (I might not be a dog person, but I’m not heartless)


This kind of death is quite unpleasant as it can affect the nervous system, causing seizures.  The remains of the dog suggest that it had already fought through several bouts of the illness, but was able to come back.  Here’s what I find incredible though, it’s thought that dogs were pets, as much as 30,000 years ago:

“On the basis of current data, which is not fantastically copious, it’s clear we had domestic dogs by at least 15,000 years ago,” says Keith Dobney, an archaeologist at the University of Liverpool who was not involved in the study. “How much earlier domestic dogs existed is up for debate, with some people saying they might go back to 30,000 years ago.”


Even if that number is closer to 15,000 – it’s still an incredible number, don’t you think? Again, I go back to the idea that they were also pets during that time.  I’m not discrediting the fact that they were alive, but I am questioning their relationship with animals. Further, human motivation for domesticating dogs is not fully understood. Most theories revolve around the many uses humans have for dogs, like hunting, guarding, and herding.  Janssen says this puppy represents the earliest known evidence of dogs being regarded and treated as pets (a domesticated animal kept for pleasure rather than utility). The care it received while it was ill and of no use to people appears to have been driven by compassion or empathy; in other words, an emotional bond.

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