Saturday, August 28, 2010
My hiatus is temporarily over, now that one book is complete. That is Made for Each Other: How Wolf Became Dog for Overlook Press. It's been an eventful year for people interested in the origins of the dog, not least because of the battle between geneticists allied with Robert K Wayne at UCLA and those in the camp of Pier Savolainen in Sweden. Wayne favors Middle Eastern wolves as the most likely progenitor, while Savolainen argues alternately for Southeastern and Eastern China. For now, I'll just say that what I propose closes the geographic gap between them and accommodates nearly the entire range of dates proposed for the "split" between dogs and wolves. I put "split" in quotes because genetically, there is less difference between dog and wolf than between races of human. The differences that do exist are cultural and environmental. More than a few were captured by human breeders when other animals were domesticated in an effort to distinguish dog from wolf, or new domesticates from their wild cousins. Some, like the black coat for big home guard dogs, were sought in order to intimidate unwanted visitors. Still, others represent the animal's adaptation to its changed circumstances and diet--e.g., its new found sexual freedom and a more omnivorous diet. More on that later.