like wildfire, and there is no evidence for dogs for another 26,000 years.) It's a considerable puzzle to understand how the process of domesticating wolves into dogs got under way. Some species can't be domesticated at all and with others, many generations of selective breeding are required to produce any results. The difficulties were demonstrated in a remarkable experiment by a Soviet scientist, Dmitri K. Belyaev, who set out to domesticate silver foxes. His theory was that all or most domestic animals had been derived from their wild forebears by the same straightforward criterion, that of tameability. The set of genes required to bring about this profound change of behavior in a wild animal, he believed, also induced the distinctive physical characteristics found in many species of domesticated animal. These include white patches on the pelt, curly hair, shorter tails and floppy ears.

Belyaev and his successor, Lyudmila N. Trut, selected silver fox puppies on the sole criterion of tameness, choosing only those least hostile to human contact as the parents of the next generation. After 40 years, 45,000 foxes, and 30 to 35 generations of breeding, Trut now has a population of 100 docile, eager-to-please silver foxes, many carrying the white patches that Belyaev had 131


In the case of dogs, domestication has another ingredient besides tameability, which is the capacity to read human body language. Brian Hare of Harvard University has tested the ability of dogs, wolves and chimps to pick up on cues as to which container holds hidden food. The experimenter would give broad hints, such as tapping the right container, or staring at it. Chimpanzees have a lot more intellectual wattage than dogs, yet very few got the message because they paid no particular attention to what the experimenter was doing. Wolves too are very smart, but did not take the hint. But dogs, and even puppies,

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Micro Expression Master

Micro Expression Master

If You Could Read Everyone Life A Book You Can Have Better Career, Great Relationships And Become Successful. This Book Is One Of The Most Valuable Resources In The World When It Comes To Reading the smallest and tiniest body Language and know what people are thinking about.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment