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Man's Best Friend

Man's Best Friend

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The Story Behind Man's Best Friend

There are around 400 million dogs in the world, the majority of which are pets. While the animals know a surprisingly large amount about their human companions, there’s plenty we still don’t know about them. In celebration of National Dog Week, here’s all kinds of information that you probably never knew about your best friend.

A Brief History of Inter-Species Love

While the exact time that humans and dogs started to socialize together is unknown, most researchers agree that the pairing occurred at least 15,000 years ago. There is evidence dogs were domesticated by 12,000 BC, as archaeologists have discovered an Israeli grave site from this time period where an old man had been buried with a puppy.

While early researchers argued whether dogs were most closely related to coyotes, dingoes or wolves, DNA evidence has proven conclusively that our four-legged friends are most closely related to gray wolves. The means that the animals became domesticated is contested, but one common theory says that wolves started to scavenge around human campsites where they could get meals with minimal effort and that wolves that were less frightened by humans soon saw an advantage in aligning themselves with paleolithic man.

In the beginning, both species would gain significant benefits from one another.

Dogs would be safer, have a more reliable food source and benefit from humans' ability to see predators and prey from a long distance. Humans would benefit as dogs increased sanitation by cleaning waste and food scraps dogs also would have used their excellent hearing to warn humans of approaching animals. On the hunt, dogs would be able to use their strong sense of smell to track prey, as man used his tools to bring down large animals with less effort. Both species would also benefit from the increased body warmth during cold nights. It is very likely that humans not only shaped the future of dogs, but that dogs changed our evolutionary course as well.

As the years wore on, dogs continued to play an important role in human history. Many people believe that humans could not have successfully traveled across the Bering Straight without the help of sled dogs. After crossing, dogs continued to be important to Native Americans and served as their only domesticated animal until the Spanish introduced the horse. Many cultures even continued to use dogs as pack animals long after horses were introduced to the continent.

Selective breeding allowed certain dogs to excel at certain tasks, such as herding, ratting, hunting or carrying weight. The idea of pets solely for the sake of companionship wasn’t such a major part of the average person’s life until the suburbanization of Western culture after World War II. While dog training existed long before this, the idea of breaking the animals of their natural digging, barking and jumping instincts only really took off after this point and it seems we may be on the cusp of a new evolutionary mark for dogs as they are increasingly bred for companionship skills rather than working skills.

Cross-Species Benefits

Most people can immediately see the benefit modern dogs get from humans (food, shelter, water and affection), but the benefits our pets bring to us is equally impressive. Modern service dogs can be trained to not only help those with external physical disabilities, but also to help warn epileptics and diabetics about upcoming attacks while they still have time to do something about it. The animals can also be useful in treating anxiety, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Dogs can even be used to detect oncoming conditions such as cancer. When a control group of dogs were trained to smell out lung or breast cancer in the breath of test subjects, their accuracy stayed between 88 and 97 percent. It sure is a whole lot less invasive than a biopsy.

People who own pets, whether dogs or cats, have been shown to be healthier and happier than those who do not own an animal. In fact, one study showed pet owners had a major reduction in minor health problems during their first month of ownership and dog owners continued to show these improvements through the duration of the study.

What’s Breed Got To Do With It?

Dogs have more variations in size, appearance and behavior than any other animal on earth because they have been targets of artificial selection through human interference, rather than natural selection. Scientists have even recognized 155 distinct genetic locations that account for all of these differences.

Dog sizes vary from the world’s smallest dog, a 2.5 inch tall Yorkshire Terrier that weighed 4 ounces, to the world’s tallest dog, a Great Dane that stands at 43 inches (that's him above), to the 343 pound English Mastif that was named the world’s largest dog. Similarly, dog lifespans, which are around 11 years on average, vary greatly by breed. In fact, the Dogue de Bordeaux has a notably short lifespan that averages just over five years. Many other breeds, including Toy Poodles, Japanese Spitz and others have an average lifespan of fourteen and a half years. Strikingly, the world’s oldest dog, an Australian Cattle Dog named Bluey, lived to be almost 30.

Breeding can also affect the level of energy and muscle a particular dog has. Some of the best athletic dogs are the Siberian Huskies used in the Iditarod sled race. Scientists fount that these animals burned 11,000 calories the day, which is eight times the proportional calories burned by a Tour de France cyclist. They also take in three times the oxygen of human athletes.

Another famed animal athlete is the Greyhound, which is one of the fastest accelerating animals in the world, second only to the cheetah. Greyhounds have an incredible heart, the same size as a human, but that beats at twice the speed of a human when exercising.

Startling K-9 Psychology

Image courtesy of PKMousie's Flickr stream.

While people like to think we have more in common with our primate ancestors than any other animal, when it comes to communication and social dynamics, we actually have more in common with dogs. Researchers have said that while dogs are only as smart as two-year old humans, they have the social skills of teenagers. In fact, dogs are the only animals that understand pointing. They understand human languages better than other primates and the average dog can be taught as many as 165 words, more than an ape can learn. Particularly smart dogs have even been taught over 300 words.

Dogs understand deception, which chimps cannot grasp as clearly. Researchers tested this by placing two covered buckets, one with a treat and one without, in front of the dog. Half of the dogs would be directed to the wrong bucket by a person in the room, while the others would be given correct signals. While all of the dogs would start out listening to the human, those that were being lied to soon started going to the opposite bucket.

Dogs also know how to deceive humans without getting caught. To test this, dogs were left in a room with two containers with bells, one of which was muted and one of which was not. Researchers observed that when the animals were being watched, they would go to either of the containers, but when the observer looked away, the animals would always go for the quiet container.

If you’ve ever had a dog get in trouble, you probably know that dogs can show guilt, but it is worth noting that researcher Frans de Waal has proven that their expression of guilt applies whenever the dog thinks he or she will get in trouble, regardless of whether or not he or she actually did something bad. So if you have more than one dog, you might not want to blame the one who looks guilty automatically he or she might just be worried they’ll get in trouble for the actions of their co-habitant.

I learned my dog is the jealous type when I came home and greeted my roommate’s dog before him. He immediately tried to fight her. Apparently, I was on to something here, because Vienna researchers studied whether dogs can get jealous of one another a little while ago by rewarding one dog with a treat for doing a trick and then asking the other to do the trick without a reward. The unrewarded dog soon got annoyed and stopped performing the trick, which did not happen when the same animal went unrewarded without another dog around. Up until that time, primates were the only animals known to show signs of jealousy.

Irish Wolfhound History

Information on the Irish Wolfhound comes as part of several chapters throughout the book:

Book IV Technology of the Dog

Again, the oldest Irish institution was the Irish wolfhound, looked upon as the aristocrat's dog, because for countless centuries (before the Christian era) he had been the constant companion of (Irish) kings. These dogs were of gigantic stature, standing over four feet at the shoulder, and were famed for their courage, endurance and immense speed. They were, in historic times, spoken of by Silanus and Pliny and described as canes graii Hibernici. Pliny, indeed, states that it was from these dogs that the famous Epirot dogs were descended.

The inference and possibility is that these Irish wolfhounds were perhaps the ancestors of the Babylonian greyhound it not, then the obverse must be the truth, since it is clear that about the year 3500 B.C. a giant breed of speed dog existed both in Ireland and in Babylonia. In the latter country, as befitted the climate, they were smooth-haired like the greyhound, while in Ireland they possessed the same coat as does the Irish wolfhund of to-day. One thing is certain, the Irish wolfhound was very highly prized and his breeding was a monopoly and prerogative of the Irish kins. Pliny describes how one of them defeated a lion, and later tired out and secured victory over an elephant. On several occasions, these dogs were pitted against the English mastiff, which they invariably defeated. It was said of them that they consorted only with kings or people of royal descent with the commonalty they were fierce and intractable, but, apparently, being endowed with a capacity to scent blue blood, they instinctively made friends with any scion of a royal house.

The tale is told of Bran, the famous wolfhound owned by King Fingal, that on one occasion when the King was walking abroad accompanied, as ever, by his hound, a stranger approached. The hound rushed upon the man, but instead of killing him, as was expected, he fawned upon him and licked his hand, falling into step at the stranger's heels. "Who then are you?" demanded Fingal, "for of a surety you must be a descendant of kings, else had Bran destroyed you, and yet I know not your face." The stranger explained that he was Fingal's cousin, who had been stolen in childhood and held in captivity.

When the Irish colonized Northern Scotland (between 1000 B.C and A.D. 600) these hounds accompanied the first chieftains who went over and are the ancestors of the Scotch Deerhounds of to-day. In later times (A.D. 1615) Sir Thomas Rue presented a couple of these hounds to the Great Mogul of India, with which that potentate was greatly delighted, so we are told while Roderick, King of Connaught, made a gift of a couple to Henry II, King of England. It is even said that Prince Llewellyn's famous hound Gelert was descended from a couple of Irish wolfhounds presented to his father by one of the Irish kings, circa 960, but this is doubtful. When in 1710 the wolf became extinct in Ireland the King of Poland bought up as many of the wolfhounds as he could find in Ireland, and it is said that it is from this stock that are descended the (smaller) borzois of to-day. Other authorities, however, contend that it was Peter the Great who originated the Russian borzoi by importing wolfhounds from Ireland.

CLASS III Sight Hounds

(I) Irish Wolfhound, (2) Scottish Deerhound. The history and origin of these two ancient and royal breeds has already been discussed in Chapter I. It was shown how the Irish wolfhound dated back to remotest antiquity and was associated almost exclusively with royalty, and how at the time when the Scots left Ireland to colonize and conquer Scotland their chieftains probably took their royal hounds with them and used them to chase the deer since wolves were practically non-existent in Scotland. Even the deerhound, or "buckhound" as he was then called, was an extremely valuable animal, being rated at the equivalent price of a stallion ( i.e. ٟ) if fully trained and half that price ( i.e. the price of a palfrey) if untrained. At twelve months he was valued at sixty pence, and as a puppy at thirty pence, whilst until his eyes opened his value was fifteen pence, the price of a full-grown sheep. This was in the Sixth Century. The Irish wolfhound was not to be purchased for money. He belonged exclusively to royalty who did not, in those days, traffic in sale or barter, though they sometimes presented a brace of hounds to another monarch as a royal gift.

In connection with the high value set on dogs at this far distant day it may be mentioned that a greyhound was valued at half the price of a deerhound. Six hundred years later a spaniell (sic) was commonly deemed to be worth ٟ and a "curre dog" fourpence, whilst a sheepdog was equivalent in value to that of a "best ox".

The history of dogs and humans is extensive, in which each has felt the influence of the other strongly. We sometimes forget that dogs are all one species, but their relationship with humans is what caused dogs to evolve into such a wide variety of different shapes and sizes, creating the breeds we know today. Due to this ability to adapt to our needs and their unwavering patience, devotion and loyalty, dogs earned their title “man’s best friend”.

In this article, James Wellbeloved investigates the history of dog and man, finding out how each has influenced the other throughout time.


Domestic dogs are part of the mammal family Canidae, being from the same wolf-like canine as modern wolves. It is difficult to estimate when our pets evolved from their wild ancestor, due to the large amount of time that has passed since. However, this evolution is known to have occurred at least 15,000 years ago and some estimates places it as far ago as 40,000 years!


Similarly to determining the age of the species, knowing the geographical origins of dogs is difficult. Humans were far more nomadic in this time, travelling more freely to live, which makes establishing a specific location hard. Nevertheless, scientists generally believe that domestic canines developed in eastern Europe or central Asia. Some believe that development may have occurred simultaneously in these places.


Dogs and humans first began working together whilst humans were still living in hunter-gatherer societies. It is believed that wolves would have been living close to human settlements, with the intention of scavenging. This is where the bond began thousands of years ago the wolves could scavenge from the humans and the humans could benefit from their sharp canine senses and hunting instinct.

It is thought that the proximity of these humans and early dogs allowed both species to recognise the value of a partnership, and so wolves began travelling with nomadic human tribes. In this travelling, a natural selection occurred in which the dogs with domestic traits were more successful and so reproduced, passing on these traits.


The next stage in the history of dogs occurred due to a change in the way humans lived. As human societies developed, more sophisticated technology and techniques came into usage.

Crucial for the development of dogs was livestock keeping. It is estimated this change occurred between 7,000 and 9,000 years ago. Where dogs had previously been used for their keen hunting sense, they were then used to herd and guard livestock, such as sheep or cows.

This also meant changing the way dogs were bred, and humans began to breed dogs with traits better suited to this new purpose. This produced diversification of the species, bringing it closer to the great range of dogs we know and love today.


As previously stated, the development of human societies brought diversification of the canine species. As societies became more complex, so did the things humans asked of their dogs. As new requirements arose, humans would change the characteristics they focused on when it came to breeding their dogs. These changes led to the creation of new breeds, as particular physical and behavioural traits were emphasised.

It is estimated that, by the start of the Bronze Age, there were five types of dog in existence. These were wolf-like dogs, sight hounds (like a modern-day greyhound), pointing dogs, and herding dogs. These arose from human breeding of dogs. For example, quick sight hounds were bred in the Middle East for noblemen, while Europeans bred powerful mastiffs for protection of their property.

Throughout the history of dogs, the number of purposes societies have found for canines has increased, moving beyond merely functional needs. Rulers in China bred small dogs, such as chihuahuas, as companions for wealthy families. In ancient Egypt, dogs were even invested with religious beliefs, coming to be considered god-like. Only royals were allowed to own purebred dogs, usually dressing them in bejewelled collars – which is not something we would recommend – and lavishing them with expensive foods and servants. Dogs became sources of emotional support for humans, as well as practical.


Across the millennia that have passed since ancient Egyptians considered dogs gods, thousands of different dog breeds have come into existence. Furthermore, societies around the world have changed their relationships with their dogs countless times.

There are some societies, such as in East Asia, where dogs are no longer held in high-esteem and are instead considered in practical rather than emotional terms. Western societies, on the other hand, place great importance in the relationships between dogs and humans. In the United Kingdom, dogs have remained one of the most popular domestic animals for hundreds of years, although the most popular breed does change over the years. For example, in the 1800s the Saint Bernard was the most commonly owned dog, but today the most popular breed is Labradors.


Science means that humans now have a better understanding of our emotions and relationships than ever before, and this includes the bonds between dogs and humans.

Studies have shown that when dogs and humans look into each other’s eyes, a chemical called oxytocin is released in both animals’ brains. This also occurs when two humans gaze into each other’s eyes. This chemical makes us feel happy and tells us to form a positive connection with the eyes we are looking into.

This increased understanding of the emotional bond between humans and dogs mean we now value them enormously – although maybe still not as much as the ancient Egyptians. Dogs are even used in Western countries as therapy dogs and to relieve stress in the workplace.

So, there we have James Wellbeloved’s guide to the history of dogs and humans. As we can see, the relationship between our two species has been created by a long journey, but the saying ‘man’s best friend’ has never been truer than it is today.

Man's Best Friend: A Brief History of Robots

Few concepts capture the human imagination more than robots, undoubtedly because they are often designed to mimic us. Even their technological development seems to parallel our advances.

We can judge the progress of our ability to harness scientific achievement simply by looking at a robot and asking this question: Exactly how much is this machine like a human? Or as Matt Mason, head of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, says, "In studying robotics we're really just studying ourselves." To take a measure of our progress, Discover offers a look in that mirror as we analyze the 25 greatest stepping-stones in robotics, points in time where science fiction meshes with science fact.

1956: Robby the Robot The term robot comes from Karel Capek's 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots). Robot is derived from the Czech word robota, meaning "forced labor," but it didn't creep into common usage until 1956, when MGM released the film Forbidden Planet, featuring Robby the Robot. So complicated was his design that engineers spent two months thermoforming plastics into shapes previously thought impossible. They then added 2,600 feet of electrical wiring to make Robby's parts whirl and blink. Because MGM spent $1.9 million on the film, a blockbuster budget then, Robby became the iconic face of a burgeoning field. He even earned a spot as an inductee in Carnegie Mellon's Robot Hall of Fame.

In 1956 inventors Joe Engelberger and George Devol met to discuss the writings of Isaac Asimov. Their desire to realize his futuristic vision led to a five-year-long collaboration that spawned Unimation, the world's first robotics company, and Unimate, the world's first industrial robot. Capable of following step-by-step instructions, the jointed, telescopic, 4,000-pound hydraulic arm was introduced at the General Motors plant in Ewing, New Jersey, where it sequenced and stacked pieces of die-cast metal. Before long its repertoire had expanded to dangerous work, such as welding. Robotic arms have since become so ubiquitous that Engelberger is often called the father of robotics. The original Unimate is housed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

1966: Shakey Developed by the Stanford Research Institute, Shakey was the first mobile robot to plot its own path. Armed with a television camera, a triangulating range finder, and a series of bump sensors—all connected to computers via radio and video links—Shakey was built to navigate controlled indoor environments. Although Shakey moved at a snail's pace, its skills were amazing for the time, recalls Greg Brown, vice president of operations and technology at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California.

1966: Stanford Cart Robotics pioneer Hans Moravec, now at Carnegie Mellon University, designed the Stanford Cart as a model for a remote-controlled moon rover. Like Shakey, it was supposed to maneuver on its own, but the Cart whisked along at one meter every 15 minutes, four times faster than Shakey.

1968: HAL 9000 Stanley Kubrick's movie 2001: A Space Odyssey offered a disturbing vision of artificial intelligence in HAL, a computer that could understand speech, read lips, play chess, pilot a spaceship, and kill off astronauts as if it were swatting flies. Of course, HAL was neither real nor a robot, but as Rodney Brooks, head of the artificial intelligence laboratory at MIT and the creator of a number of machines on this list, said, "HAL inspired me and inspired most everyone else I knew as well."

1968: GE Quadruped Transporter The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency contracted General Electric in 1968 to build the Quadruped Transporter, known as the Walking Truck or the Giant Elephant. Designed by Ralph Mosher for the terrain of Vietnam, the vehicle had four giant hydraulic legs instead of wheels. The operator, strapped in the main cab, controlled the legs with the motion of his own arms and legs—one of the earliest examples of force-feedback design, which ultimately helped lead to the joystick. Although never deployed, the Quadruped influenced the design of the Imperial combat walkers in the 1980 movie The Empire Strikes Back.

1969: Stanford Arm Stanford engineering student Victor Scheinman designed one of the first successful electrically powered, computer-controlled robotic arms. It led directly to the Programmable Universal Machine for Assembly series of industrial robots, still an industry mainstay.

1976: Soft Gripper Designed by Shigeo Hirose at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, the Soft Gripper emerged from studies of elephant trunks and snakes. It was the first robot grip capable of conforming to the shape of any object. That helped lead to the anthropomorphic hands used by amputees.

1977: R2-D2/C3PO: The force was strong with these faux androids 30 years ago. They were astro-mechanics, translators, hackers, companions, and the most popular robots in the history of the world.

Based on the writings of Philip K. Dick, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner showed us a robot that didn't know it was a robot. The dilemma dramatized the slippery slope of morality technologists are likely to face.

1983: Raibert's Hopping Machine Marc Raibert, founder of the Carnegie Mellon Leg Laboratory—which he moved to MIT in 1986—radically altered ideas about robot locomotion. The Hopping Machine could bounce and bound, achieving the dynamic balance of a human. Performance artist Mark Pauline credits the Hopping Machine with influencing many of his own robotic designs.

1989: Genghis The most famous of MIT roboticist Rodney Brooks's insect bots, Genghis had six legs, compound eyes, and six motion sensors tuned to the infrared band emitted by warm bodies. When an animal walked in front of Genghis, sensors prompted the robot to move toward it. When the animal stopped, Genghis stopped. Brooks was experimenting with breaking complex behavior down into simple reactions. When combined, those actions produced behavior that seemed natural.

1990: Robodoc Physician William Bargar and veterinary surgeon Howard Paul of Integrated Surgical Systems made history when Robodoc became the first robot to assist in surgery—first a hip replacement on a dog and then, in 1992, on a human.

1992: Running Machine In 1978 Mark Pauline's futuristic performance art troupe, called Survival Research Laboratories, began staging colossal, noisy, and destructive matches between homemade robots. All Pauline's creations are dangerous by design—some wield knives, others shoot walls of fire, one even hurls wooden boards at 200 miles per hour—but none became more popular than the insectlike Running Machine. The robot was one of the first of Pauline's machines to use dynamic locomotion. Pauline's creations helped inspire TV shows like Battlebots and Junkyard Wars.

1993: Cog Rodney Brooks of MIT created Cog to see if it was possible to raise a robot like a human. Using a new computer language and operating system, Brooks and his team began training Cog via trial and error. It was a couple of years before Cog could even make eye contact with a human or track a moving object, but today it can recognize faces, point out desired objects, play catch, and even hear a simple beat and play it back on a drum.

1994: Dante II Built by NASA and Carnegie Mellon, Dante I became the first robot to walk inside a volcano—Mount Erebus in Antarctica—but after 20 feet of exploration, it failed due to the extreme cold. Two years later, Dante II spent five days semiautonomously gathering data in the crater of Mount Spurr in Alaska, while controllers hunkered down 31 miles away. The mission inspired hopes that robots could one day explore other planets.

1997: Sojourner The six-wheeled 25-pound robotic rover rolled onto the surface of Mars on July 5, 1997. It was designed to serve as a test bed for future robotic missions, like Spirit's in 2004.

1999: da Vinci Intuitive Surgical's da Vinci system allows a surgeon to guide robotic arms and wrists to perform operations. Robotic surgery's main advantage over conventional surgery is improved safety, says Joe Rosen, one of the system's designers. Da Vinci reduces surgical hand tremors and increases a surgeon's range of motion. Currently approved for some laparoscopic procedures, da Vinci is most commonly used for prostate removal.

1999: AIBO The most famous and successful of the robot pets.

2002: ASIMO Honda's humanoid robot was the first one capable of true dynamic walking. It could climb stairs, navigate uneven surfaces, change its gait midstep, and even change direction midstride.

2002: Centibots Stanford Research Institute's Centibots, each the size of a toy truck, work in teams of up to 100. Built from off-the-shelf parts, they were designed to coordinate with one another while searching hazardous areas.

The first affordable fully automatic floor vacuum and the first robot to sell a million units.

2004: Spirit and Opportunity

Built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the remote-controlled rovers have been exploring the Martian surface for more than a year.

This joint project between BAE Systems and Carnegie Mellon will soon become the first semiautonomous tactical unmanned ground vehicle. Designed to replace a Marine during the first wave of an attack, Gladiator can withstand small-arms fire, grenades, and antipersonnel mines. The robotic soldier is equipped with thermal imaging, GPS and laser range finders, day and night cameras, an acoustic and chemical detection system, a light-vehicle obscuration smoke system, and a mounted weapons system.

Nowadays, it seems that humans rarely agree on anything, and we are constantly divided and somehow find a million reasons to argue about pretty much everything. If there is one thing most people agree on, though, it is dogs. How can you not love them? Their loyalty and unconditional love towards their owners is unlike any you could ever experience –– even a parent’s affection is conditional for the most part. You are their whole world, and if you feed and love them, they will never stop caring as long as they live. There is a reason why they are called ‘man’s best friend,’ but when exactly did we start calling them that?

Digging Deeper

Early favorable mentions

Although the term itself was coined several centuries later, the dogs were favorably mentioned a long time ago, specifically in Homer’s epic The Odyssey. Odysseus –– King of Ithaca –– returns home after 10 years of being lost at sea. He had gone through a lot and his appearance had significantly changed, and no one recognized him, except his faithful dog , Argos. The dog was over 20 years old and was neglected and left for dead, yet he recognized his long lost master and wagged his weak tail to welcome him back.

King Frederick of Prussia

The first recorded usage of the term ‘man’s best friend’ came a few centuries after Homer wrote his legendary poem. It is attributed to King Frederick of Prussia, who lived in the 1700s, and he used it to refer to one of his Italian greyhounds –– he called him his best friend. Dogs were not known to be loyal pets at that time, and they were mostly used to perform several functions like hunting, protection, tracking, and guarding. This is why the usage of that term was out of place at that time as they were not known to be the loyal and loving creatures they are now, and people did not use to think of them in that context. They were merely there to help them do certain tasks.

First US mention

Fast forward a few decades later, and the term ‘man’s best friend’ was first mentioned in the US in 1821. It was in a poem written by C.S. Winkle and published in the New-York Literary Journal. It also referred to dogs with that expression and it was the first time people began using it in the United States.

Old Drum

The sad story of Old Drum is one of the most popular and enduring mentions of dogs as man’s best friend in American history. A farmer in the late 1800s had his shot, killed because he wandered off to a neighbor’s yard. The farmer looked for his dog’s body and eventually found him, so he sued his murderous neighbor for damages in a case that actually went to the Supreme Court eventually. Famed politician and lawyer George Graham Vest represented the farmer and gave a very articulate speech that won them the case. In that speech, he referred to Old Drum and dogs as man’s best friend, and this enduring reference has lived on ever since. No matter what dog you have, you naturally sympathize with the old farmer, especially if you have a gentle breed like a Westie or a Chihuahua. As you can see on WestieVibes.com , our dogs deserve the best possible treatment, whether it is to get them their favorite toy as a Christmas gift or to properly care for them when we are on the road. It is the least we could do for them for their endless love and loyalty.

Other notable mentions

Despite certain occasions, notably featuring dogs as man’s best friend, there are other occasions in history in which they were referred to as such. For instance, French Enlightenment writer and philosopher Voltaire had written in his famed Dictionnaire philosophique of dogs, referring to them as “the best friend a man can have.” American poet Ogden Nash also referred to them in his “An Introduction to Dogs,” referring to dogs as man’s best friend.

There is no denying the fact that they are truly man’s best friend. It does not matter if you are rich, poor, happy, sad, fat, thin, or anything really. A dog will always be there, and they will love you no matter what happens. People can often disappoint, and betrayal often comes from the person you least expect. But that never happens with those furry creatures that like to nap and eat all day. Their presence makes our lives just a little bit easier, and without them, life would be much more difficult to bear. They truly are your perfect companion for your journey, whatever it entails.

Question for students (and subscribers): Is your dog your best friend? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Devin Edwards, is licensed under the Unsplash License.

“Okay, but how did those first dogs evolve from one breed to many?”

…we hear you ask. The truth is, the techniques that sculpted the Saint Bernard or the British Bulldog also birthed the first dog breeds. While all dogs may have hailed from one breed, each dog would have possessed different traits. For example, some of the first dogs may have been large, and some may have been small. If they lived in a region swarming with predators, humans would have exclusively bred the larger dogs. Of these, the dogs who displayed a protective bond towards their humans would have kept siring puppies. This would have spawned a breed of dog like the Boxer: quick, powerful, and able to tangle with large creatures.

In other regions, though, predators may not have been a problem. Instead, perhaps rodents were the issue: small, insidious creatures that pilfered food stores and spread sickness. Here, big dogs wouldn’t have been of much use. They wouldn’t be nimble enough to catch a rat, nor compact enough to chase them into their holes. As a result, humans in these areas would focus on breeding the smaller, wily dogs. From this nascent breeding programme, the dogs that proved the most adept at killing rats would breed further. Before you knew it, breeders were shaping the early moulds for breeds like the Jack Russell and the Scottish Terrier.

Within a short time, humans would have found a dog type for every problem. A sharp, nimble, mid-sized dog with an urge to run all day? You have the earliest form of the Border Collie. A big dog with a bite too soft to injure predators or prey? You have the first guise of the Golden Retriever – capable of fetching felled birds on the hunt without damaging them. Even small, gentle pooches like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel would have served a purpose. By acting as companion dogs to children, they would have introduced the youngsters to the concept of a canine bond. In short, man’s best friend was quick to take many forms.

Yes, the countless breeds we see today are the result of refined and scientific breeding efforts. However, the principles haven’t much changes since the dawn of the human-canine rapport.

Man's Best Friend

During two world wars dogs were given many duties including carrying messages, laying communication wires and helping to locate mines.

Man’s best friend has been by our side for some 14,000 years, playing a part in some of the most significant human conflicts of our history. The dog’s devotion to man, its intelligence and heightened sense of smell has seen it carry out a variety of roles in warfare.

The Romans made good use of their loyalty and fearsome image to deter and detect any marauding bandits by placing them near camps or on patrols as sentries. Attila the Hun used giant Molosser dogs on the front line, sending them in packs to face his European enemies. Mastiffs and Great Danes were used in England during the Middles Ages, exploiting their size to scare enemy horses into throwing off the knight they were carrying.

During two world wars dogs were given many duties including carrying messages, laying communication wires and helping to locate mines. Due to their widespread roles, many stories of heroism and dedication have arisen from these two conflicts alone.

A bulldog terrier with a short tail, aptly named Stubby, became the first dog in U.S. military history to be awarded a rank. Connected with the U.S. 102nd Infantry Regiment, who found him whilst training on Yale University campus, Stubby was given his name and smuggled on board the SS Minnesota by Private John Robert Conroy and headed for the trenches in 1918. Endearing himself to the whole Regiment with his antics, Stubby would go on to save the lives of these men time and time again. Armed with an acute sense of smell and hearing, Stubby could alert the troops to incoming shells or gas long before they themselves could detect them. He would also locate wounded soldiers in No Man’s Land, standing by their side and barking until a medic arrived. He even detained a German spy who was mapping out the American trenches. Stubby bit him on the leg the German tripped over and was subsequently captured. When he was awarded the rank of Sergeant, Stubby found himself outranking his own owner. After participating in 17 battles and being wounded twice, Stubby returned home a national hero, participating in frequent parades before his death in 1926.

And then there was Smoky, a Yorkshire Terrier who served as a mascot in WWII with the US 5th Air Force in the Pacific. Adopted by Corporal William Wynne in the jungle of New Guinea, Smoky helped to divert the minds of those around her from the stresses and horrors of war. Surviving a parachute jump, air raids, living in primitive conditions and through combat missions, Smoky was awarded eight battle stars for her bravery and devotion. She has six memorials dedicated in her honour.

In more modern times, dogs have played a crucial role in sniffing out and locating explosive devices. Subsequently 4 dogs have been awarded the Dickin award since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began in 2003 including Treo the Labrador who in August 2008, located an IED (“improvised explosive device”) on a road about to be passed by 7 Platoon, undoubtedly saving the lives of many soldiers.

Did you know?

Between the years 1964 and 1973 America deployed an estimated 4,000 war dogs to Vietnam to aid in the fight against the North. The dogs and their handlers helped to reduce the enemy’s ability for surprise attacks to such an extent that the Viet Cong placed a price tag on their heads.

Man's Best Friend: The long history of the Irish Wolfhound

As many of you know, one of the more interesting artefacts in Reginald's Tower (at least when it isn't closed up for important renovations) is the 12th century dog collar on the 2nd floor. This extremely rare object is, in fact, the oldest dog collar in Ireland, and proves that Waterfordians have been keeping dogs as beloved family pets for centuries.

But which dog is the best known Irish breed? For some it might be Bus Éireann's mascot, the Red Setter, for others the fluffy little Wheaten Terrier, but for most of us, it's the Irish Wolfhound, a breed that has been around for at least 2000 years, and often described as the tallest dog breed in the world. Our dog collar is almost certainly for a smaller breed, such as a greyhound, but by the time this dog collar was made, wolfhounds had ready been roaming our forests for at least a millennium.

Our first definite mention of wolfhounds comes in 391 AD when a Roman consul named Quintus Aurelius writes of receiving a gift of seven from the 'Scoiti' - A Roman word for the Gaelic Irish. After this, we know that many more were brought to Rome to impress and to entertain, with several fighting and dying in the Circus Maximus.

Due to their value, here in Ireland, only Kings and noblemen were allowed to own them. In fact, the ownership of these dogs was so important that an entire section of the ancient Brehon laws was written to deal with ɼú', or hounds, covering every issue from ownership to compensation for damage incurred to land by your hound trespassing on your neighbour's field.

The word Cú is of course familiar to us all because of the great heroes like Cú Chulainn, whose names were prefixed with the Irish word for hound to represent their courage, ferocity and loyalty. Cú Chulainn of course gained his name as a young man (when he was known as Sétanta) by replacing the great guard dog of Culann. They were effective guard dogs, but almost too effective as their owners had to ensure that all guests were inside before they were released, or they would be mauled to death. Sétanta in this well-known story, had of course stayed out hurling, and when he returned had no choice but to fight for his life and killed the dog with his sliotar. Culann was devastated by the loss of his loyal pet and to apologise, Sétanta took its place as a guard while raising a successor, becoming himself the 'hound of Culann'.

Aside from being given as diplomatic gifts to impress and intimidate foreign allies, here in Ireland they were used mainly for three purposes: as terrifying war dogs as hunting dogs for wolves (the name is a dead giveaway here), deer and bears and also as guard dogs for castles and settlements. So impressive was their size and appearance, that they wore collars of only the finest materials, like precious metals and decorative stones.

According to the old stories, they were used as war dogs in the time of the Fianna, who fought on foot and with their formidable wolfhounds as allies and to see one run today is to understand how terrifying they could be on the battlefield. Another great Irish hero, Fionn Mac Chumhaill, was said at one point to have had 300 fully grown wolfhounds and 200 pups. In battle his favourite dog, Bran, killed twice as many enemies in battle as Fionn himself could.

Divine Companions and Protectors: Dogs in Ancient Times

Dogs remained valued companions even as ancient civilizations rose around the world. Aside from being faithful companions, dogs became important cultural figures.

In Europe, the Middle East, and North America, walls, tombs, and scrolls bore depictions of dogs hunting game. Dogs were buried with their masters as early as 14,000 years ago, and statues of the canines stood guard at crypts.

The Chinese have always placed great importance on dogs, the first animals they domesticated. As gifts from heaven, dogs were thought to have sacred blood, so canine blood was essential in oaths and allegiances. Dogs were also sacrificed to prevent bad luck and keep disease at bay. Furthermore, dog amulets were carved from jade and worn for personal protection. (6)

Dog collars and pendants depicting dogs were also found in Ancient Sumer as well as Ancient Egypt, where they were considered companions to the gods. Allowed to roam freely in these societies, dogs also protected their masters’ herds and property. (6)

Amulets of the canines were carried for protection, and dog figurines made of clay were buried under buildings as well. The Sumerians also thought dog saliva was a medicinal substance that promoted healing.

In Ancient Greece, dogs were highly regarded as protectors and hunters as well. The Greeks invented the spiked collar to protect their dogs’ necks from predators (6). The ancient Greek school of philosophy Cynicism derives its name from kunikos, which means ‘dog-like’ in Greek. (7)

Four types of dog can be distinguished from Greek writings and art: the Laconian (a hound used for hunting deer and hares), Molossian, the Cretan (most likely a cross between the Laconian and Molossian), and the Melitan, a small, long-haired lap dog.

Furthermore, Ancient Roman law mentions dogs as guardians of the home and flock, and it prized canines over other pets such as cats. Dogs were also thought to provide protection against supernatural threats a dog barking at thin air is said to be warning its owners of the presence of spirits. (6)

Like in China and Greece, the Mayans and Aztecs also associated dogs with divinity, and they used canines in religious rituals and ceremonies. For these cultures, dogs served as guides for deceased souls in the afterlife and deserved to be respected in the same way as elders.

Watch the video: Mans Best Friend 1993 - Clip: Mailman With A Side Of Pepper Spray HD (May 2022).