The only thing I can think of in favor of the “dogs domesticated for food” theory is that dogs can eat a lot of scraps and leftovers that people prefer not to. As recycling animals they are at least partially useful. I would think though, that pigs would be more versatile and easily consumable than dogs.
I hope everyone checked out the video about how essential wolves (and apex predators) are to the health of the broader ecosystem — it’s such an important message.
I like your musings about the tame vs. domestic distinction, which is super important, and this discussion of cats is really helpful. As I mentioned elsewhere, it’s hard to keep our own biases in perspective when we evaluate the “intelligence” of another species. And thanks so much for questioning the “dogs domesticated as food” in China theory. I think most scientists agree that it is extremely unlikely that a predator was domesticated primarily as a food animal. Sounds like way too much work. Eating dogs is (still) common in many parts of Asia, but it still seems unlikely that eating dogs was the primary impetus for domestication. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/09/090904-dogs-tamed-china-food.html
It’s interesting how each new piece of the puzzle enriches (and complicates) the broader picture. I think it will take a while (and more research) before this new view of the common ancestor displaces the consensus about the ancestral linkages between dogs and wolves. Even the authors of this study were surprised that the wolf lineages from the hypothesized domestication centers did not seem to be the source lineage for the dogs. Much of the talk for the last couple of years has been about the development of starch digestion (in dogs especially, but also in people), and this study offers some new insight there as well – confirming the long-held view that dogs pre-date agriculture.
Some really interesting ideas here re: cats and intelligence! I wonder if it would be helpful to think about the different contexts for domestication of dogs vs. cats? Dogs are the oldest domesticate by far. They scavenged from and hunted with humans long before the advent of agriculture. Cats became domesticated after humans settled down and started storing grain, which attracted rodents, and then cats. How do you think that what comes across as independence and intelligence in today’s house cats reflects the circumstances of their incorporation into human society? I was just reading the other day about some exciting new finds about cat domestication here:
It’s so hard for us humans to keep our own anthropocentric preferences in perspective and this discussion of wolf-dog “intelligence” really brings that out! Kara does a good job of reminding us that intelligence is situational and in the eye of the beholder. Inyo (and wolves, and wolf-dogs) do have more “smarts” in terms of their resourcefulness and perception of the environment (i.e. moving cars), while dogs have evolved to communicate with humans and in many situations to rely on them for direction. In some contexts we think the dogs are smarter because they display a higher level of social-interspecies intelligence. And yet the wolves clearly prevail in other settings. It’s complicated!
Your post definitely gave me a lot to think about. I have to admit I’m not much of a dog person, so I’m glad I read your post and started thinking more about all different types of dogs. I did somewhat think about these differences while reading, however, in the context that I can imagine many dogs that act differently between breeds. The behavior of Inyo doesn’t really seem too far off from an untrained black lab I once knew, for example. Like you, thinking about the vast differences between breeds really makes me questions how domestication happened. I like your thought that it’s similar to the fox experiment in that some animals were selected for their natural inclination towards human companionship. Perhaps this happened at varying degrees and led to the behavioral differences between dog breeds? I’m no scientist, but it seems to make sense.
I’m actually really glad you brought up your comparison to cats. That’s exactly what I was thinking. I do understand, as Kelly mentioned, that the reading doesn’t necessarily support this idea, but that fact aside, I did still have this thought while reading, and I obviously wasn’t the only one. It’s not a scientific theory or anything, it’s just an interesting idea to ponder when considering the different ways that dogs and cats were domesticated. Obviously, dogs and cats each have an extremely different demeanor, and although cats aren’t as large or destructive as a wolfdog, I can still see some of the similarities between Inyo’s behavior and many cats. It’s just an intriguing thought.
I agree completely about the intelligence of the dog being underplayed in the story. I think it goes back to our last class discussion about what environment and personal strengths have in relation to success. We mentioned the quote Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein to This relates to the dog/wolf intelligence comparison and how it is the environment that determines who is more or less intelligent. Like you said the wolf wins in the wild but the dog wins in the domesticated world.
I do believe there is a fine line between the hybrid serving as a pet and being dangerous to others. The novel constantly mentioned others having a harsh reaction to the breed and the laws being very strict about putting the animals down if they were to hurt another human. The author portrays these are overly strict and irrational but at the same time is this another instance of humans trying to make an animal that is wild domesticated which will lead to preventable consequences?