Tuesday, October 28, 2008

World's first known dog?

Interesting news from ABC Science...

Earliest dog dined on big game

By Jennifer Viegas
Discovery News
The world's first known dog was a large and toothy canine that lived over 31,000 years ago on a diet of horse, musk ox and reindeer, says an international team of scientists.

Their research, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Archaeological Science, could push back the date for the earliest dog by 17,700 years, since the second oldest known dog, found in Russia, dates to 14,000 years ago.

Remains for the older prehistoric dog, which were excavated at Goyet Cave in Belgium, suggest to the researchers that the Aurignacian people of Europe from the Upper Palaeolithic period first domesticated dogs. Fine jewellery and tools, often decorated with depictions of big game animals, characterise this culture.

If Palaeolithic dogs still existed as a breed today, they would surely win best in show for strength and biting ability.

"The most remarkable difference between these dogs and recent dog breeds is the size of the teeth," says lead author Dr Mietje Germonpré, comparing the tooth size more to wolves than dogs.

"In shape, the Palaeolithic dogs most resemble the Siberian husky, but in size, however, they were somewhat larger, probably comparable to large shepherd dogs," adds Germonpré, a palaeontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

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