Who is man’s best friend? Of course there are no points for guessing that one – the dog. The dog is the most popular domestic animal in the world. For more than 12,000 years the dog has been a companion, a protector and above all, an honest friend.

But different civilisations and cultures have treated the dog in different ways. In some countries, dogs are used as guards or beasts of burden, whereas in others they are even eaten as food. However, in most societies, dogs are protected and admired. Ancient Egyptians considered them sacred.

Did you know that all dogs were wolves some 12,000 years ago? How is this possible you would ask?

Some of the popular dog breeds
Some of the popular dog breeds

The dog story

Dogs were the first animals to be domesticated. About 12,000 years ago, humans gave up hunting, gathering and nomadic lifestyle and settled in small settlements.

These settlements attracted wolves and wild dogs, which would hang around the settlements to devour the leftovers. Humans in turn, began to rely on the dogs for warning of any approaching danger. Soon, humans found that not only were the dogs excellent hunting partners, but were equally reliable and intelligent.

They then started domesticating and breeding (the process of controlled reproduction) those dogs which showed certain useful characteristics. This form of breeding is also called selective breeding.

Paleontologists or scientists who study fossil remains, have found out that five distinct types of dogs existed by the beginning of the Bronze Age (about 4500 BC). They were the mastiffs, wolf-type dogs, sight hounds (such as the saluki or greyhound), pointing dogs, and herding dogs.

Through the centuries many breeds were developed for specific tasks such as hunting, herding, or guarding. Today, however, most dogs are kept chiefly for companionship.

Today there are approximately 400 different breeds of pure-bred dogs in the world. A pure-bred dog is considered to be one whose ancestry can be traced within the same breed for three generations.