26 March 2016

RESEARCH - Siberian Dog Burial Ground Holds Clues to Evolution of Human-Dog Bond

That special look goes a lot further than a little tickle or talk when it comes to bonding with your dog.

In fact, that gaze of so-called puppy-dog eyes dates back thousands of years and speaks to an enduring kindredship between canines and humans, says University of Alberta anthropologist, Robert Losey.

Last year, a research team in Japan found scientific evidence backing the claim that the shared 'look' underscores a very real connection given both species release the oxytocin hormone when they gaze into one another’s eyes – the same hormone released when a woman looks at her baby.

And while petting or talking to your pooch is undeniably a common form of communication, researchers found dogs respond more than anything to the look of love from its human cohort.

"It's a very compelling study, that even on a chemical basis we get this kind of biological impulse to bond, and animals have the same impulse to bond with us," Losey tells phys.org.

He says the biochemical bonding impulse is one thing but there are also thousands of years of cultural bonding between the species, too.

While many dote on their dogs today, Losey found evidence dating back long, long ago to illustrate that to be the case.

Just a dog? Nope.

Looking at an excavation of dog remains between 5,000 and 8,000 years old at Lake Baikal, Siberia, Losey says it appears dogs were “being treated just like people when they died,” and found dogs and humans were often buried side by side, even discovering a man in a grave with two dogs at his side.

"They were being carefully placed in a grave, some of them wearing decorative collars, or next to other items like spoons, with the idea being potentially that they had souls and an afterlife,” Losey says.

"Globally, you can see there are more dog burials in prehistory than any other animals, including cats or horses. Dogs seem to have a very special place in human communities in the past. As soon as we see skeletal remains that look like the modern dog - say 14,000 years ago - we see dogs being buried."

Evidence also shows how important dogs were to humans in life, too.

It is believed dogs evolved from the Eurasian grey wolf which began interacting, or dare we say befriending, humans about 30,000 to 40,000 years ago.

It likely began with wolves lured to human campsites in search of food, growing less inhibited and thus starting the evolution towards the modern dog with humans tapping into their potential as companions and workmates by domesticating and selectively breeding them.

"Early on there's evidence to suggest people loved and cared for their dogs in much the same way we do now, but they were also working companions, involved in all of our daily tasks," Losey says. "Thousands of years ago there were even lapdogs - the Romans had them. Clearly, people long ago began breeding dogs for specific purposes."

Currently, working at a Siberian Arctic site of dog burials with more than 100 dog specimens (the largest archeological collection of dogs in the Arctic region) his focus is on how the past can shed light on present relationships people have with dogs.

And while Losey went looking to the deepest freshwater lake in the world to make impressive findings - many dog owners already know the bond with their four-legged friend is certainly something special.

By Nadia Moharib
Nadia Moharib is an animal lover who has adopted everything from birds to hamsters, salamanders, rabbits, fish and felines. She has written about all-things-pets for years and was a long-time editor of a pet magazine in a daily newspaper which featured a Q & A column, Ask Whit, penned by her pooch (ghost written, of course.) The serial dog owner lives in Calgary, Alberta and most days can be found at a dog park picking up after her rescue pooch, Scoots.

No comments:

Post a Comment