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IT is almost like a stern irony of fate, that man’s faithful, gentle friend, the dog, should have sprung from one of the most thoroughly hated and despised brutes in the animal kingdom, the wolf.
Yet this is a scientific fact. The wolf, with all his meanness and skulking cunning, is the progenitor of man’s friend, the dog.
They belong to the same family, their breeding habits are alike, and the wolf is as surely the father of the dog, as was brute man, the cave dweller, the ancestor of the highly civilized creature we now know.
In the case of the man it has taken untold ages to bring about the change, and so it has in the case of the dog. When in the dark ages the brute man crouched over his campfire, gazing fearfully into the darkness about him, encompassed by superstition and ignorance, the gray wolf hung upon the outskirts of his campfire.
This man creature, that ran upon two legs instead of four, who had such strange power over fire and water, and over the forces of nature and the wild kindred, fascinated and drew him with a terrible power.
Try as he would he could not keep away from him. Often this man creature wounded him with his sharp stick. He also poisoned the wolf pack, but still they could not be driven away, for it was an unwritten law of nature that some day they should be inseparable.
So the wolf skulked upon the trail of the primitive man, until the famine, or the cold, or some other stern necessity brought them together.
Indians, even now in the far north, often take the wolf whelps from the den and play with them, and they refer to the wolf as “Grandfather’s dog,” showing that they understand the gradual evolution of the dog. You can better understand this if you visit any of their villages where the dogs even now are little more than partly domesticated wolves, wolfish in habits, and looks. Such is the Husky, the famous team dog of the frozen north, without whose help the wealth of the Klondyke and other remote places could hardly have been brought to the outside world.
The collie, which is one of the most faithful and lovable of the dog kind, is not so far removed from a wolf, and it is very easy for him to slip back to his wolf ancestry. There are many instances on record where collies have gone back to the wild and mated and run with the gray pack. Put a collie pup into a wolf den with a litter of wolf whelps and the old wolf will suckle him as her own. He will be brought up as a young wolf; will learn to hunt in the pack, and to stalk his game like a veritable wolf. Of course he will not be as fierce as his wolf brother, and he will still retain certain dog characteristics, but he will pass for a wolf in most particulars, while in two or three generations he will be a veritable wolf.
When we consider all the varieties of dogs ranging from the great Dane of nearly two hundred pounds weight, to the smallest toy dog coming from Japan, this statement that all dogs are descended from wolves seems almost incredible, but all this change has been wrought by man himself. Breeding and selection for certain qualities have been the method by means of which he has attained such varied results.
Climate, and the use to which the dog has been put has also played its part. Nature always adapts her creatures to their surroundings, and the dog is no exception to this rule. He has been molded like all of nature’s other creatures. Where he needed long hair to shield him from the cold he has been given a long, thick coat, and where he could not bear a coat because of the heat it has been left off.
Certain types of dogs there are that have become famous all over the world, some for their beauty and others for their usefulness, but usually for both qualities.
Every child is familiar with the St. Bernard dogs and their work in the Alpine passes, saving lost travelers in the terrible storms of those great heights. Perhaps the most famous of all those great dogs was Barry, whose record as a life saver covered a long period of years, and who is credited with saving forty lives.