Dogs are part of the Canidae, a family including wolves, coyotes and foxes, thought to have evolved 60 million years ago.
Domestic dogs are derived directly from wolves which entered villages in the Northern Hemisphere in search of food about 12,000 years ago. People exploited them for their own needs, such as to guard, herd and hunt. Particular characteristics were selected, which has resulted in the huge diversity of breeds today.
A breed of dog called the Saluki appears on the ancient tombs of Egypt from around 2100 BC and is thought to be the dog mentioned in the Bible. Its body has often been found mummified along with the Egyptian Pharaohs in Pyramids. The ancient Greeks and Romans developed a number of breeds including the greyhound, mastiff and bloodhound. The Romans made sacrifices to the dog-like god Procyon.
Dalmatians were trained to run along with horse and carriages in the mid 1800s, and became known as carriage dogs. Their job was to guard from other dogs which would chase the carriage and frighten the horses. Fire departments also used dalmatians to guard their carriages and the dalmatian became mascot of the fire service.
Ranges from 7-18 years, but the average lifespan is 12-14 years.
Distribution and Habitat in the wild
Canids are widely distributed and occur on all the continents except Antarctica. They occupy a variety of habitats including grassland, temperate forest, rainforest, desert, mountain regions and tundra.
Behaviour in the wild
Grey wolves (Canis lupus) are the ancestor of all domestic dogs. They are carnivores and hunt large prey, such as moose, reindeer, elk and bison, using their strong sense of smell. Wolves tend to hunt in packs and will also take smaller prey such as rabbits, rodents and other small mammals. They guard a large territory from other wolves and can travel long distances in their search for food.
There are usually about 6-10 wolves in a pack, and the more food available, the larger the pack. There is a dominance system in which the higher ranking individuals get to eat first.
Only the Alpha (dominant) male and female will breed in the pack. They breed in January and after 60-65 days, the female gives birth to 5-9 cubs. Other members of the pack contribute to the feeding of the pups after they have been weaned.