On August 26, owners of furry friends around the world will gather to celebrate National Dog Day. Our loyal companions have helped us for thousands of years from herding sheep to protecting families, serving as guide dogs and being a best friend. So where exactly did it all begin?
The first domesticated dogs
Initial research suggests that wolves were first domesticated around 15,000 years ago in the Middle East, but later findings showed Siberian wolf bones from 35,000 years ago. Wolves first started courting human company when they showed up to their habitats looking for food, a practice which took place amongst the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks, as well as in China, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Fast forwarding thousands of years, pet-keeping became commonplace in 17th Century Europe, before Victorians established the tradition and began breeding dogs. In 1873, The Kennel Club was founded to protect the welfare of dogs, while Crufts was inaugurated in 1891.
The evolution of dog breeds
In 2017, researchers mapped the evolution of dog breeds throughout the world. They discovered that, throughout history, dogs have been bred for different functions and have moved around the world with humans. These dogs have been categorised into 23 different ‘clades’, and were bred for herding and agriculture. Breeders would focus on certain attributes to help them with multiple functions from guarding to dog fights.
Today, according to The Kennel Club, French bulldogs are now the UK’s favourite breed. The French bulldog has beaten the humble Labrador for the first time since 1990, before which the Yorkshire Terrier was one of the most popular breeds.
Dogs in society today
Far from serving as family members, dogs have also had a significant role to play in the day-to-day functioning of our farms, police force and even transport.
Sheep dogs date back to 8,000 BC during the ‘Neolithic Revolution’. However, the traditional ‘Old English Sheepdog’ or Shepherd’s Dog first appeared in Birmingham in the late 19th Century. Today’s sheepdogs love human company and can compete in trials, occasionally even playfully herding children!
Huskies and other sledding dogs have been helping humans get around in colder environments for thousands of years – in Siberia, this practice dates back some nine millennia. In other parts of the world including North America and Antarctica, the practice dates back to the 19th and 20th Centuries, with endurance races still taking place in Alaska today. Sled dogs can run up to 28mph!
Service dogs, from police dogs to guide dogs, play a vital role in our society today. Modern police dogs originated in 19th Century London to tackle high crime rates, though their involvement in law enforcement technically dates back to the Middle Ages. Today, police dogs’ efforts are definitely recognised – in March this year, German Shepherd Finn even won a George Cross for bravery!
Guide dogs have been helping us for over 80 years. In 1931, Muriel Crooke and Rosamund Bond trained four guide dogs, and today, over 29,000 people have benefited from this training. We even have therapy dogs to help us through anxiety and loneliness, a practice which dates back to the 19th Century, when Florence Nightingale noticed the benefits of animal-assisted therapy.
Fun facts about dogs
We’re now bonding with our dogs more than ever. We’re taking them on holiday, bringing them into the office, buying them gift sets and entering them into shows. There are more than 400 dog breeds today – here are our favourite facts about dogs:
- Dogs’ whiskers help them “see” in the dark!
- Puppies are born blind, deaf and toothless.
- All dogs descend from wolves.
- Petting dogs can lower your blood pressure.
- Wet noses help to absorb scent chemicals.
- Basenji dogs cannot bark, but they can yodel!
- 72% of dog owners think their dogs can detect bad weather.
- Dogs only sweat through the pads of their feet.
- Dogs have 1,700 taste buds – humans have 9,000.
- Dogs can see in grey, blue, green and yellow.
Why not celebrate this National Dog Day with a browse of our gifts and accessories? Don’t forget to share your snaps on our Facebook page!