7 Interesting Dog Facts You’ve Never Heard Of
Dogs have been beloved animals and friends of humans throughout history, and this age-old relationship between man and dog has led some amazing stories and interesting dog facts to emerge. At different points in time, dogs have been warriors, gods and even werewolves! Here are just 7 of the many interesting dog facts that will truly blow your mind and make you think twice about man’s best friend.
1. Dogs’ ancestors can be traced back 40 MILLION years
All dogs can be traced back 40 million years ago to a weasel-like animal called the Miacis, which dwelled in trees and dens. The Miacis later evolved into the Tomarctus, a direct forbear of the genus Canis, which includes the wolf and jackal as well as the dog. Domesticated dogs likely surfaced around 30000 years ago, as a domesticated form of the Grey Wolf.
The idea of domesticating wolves was a widespread one, as wolves were domesticated across Europe and Asia during this period. Wolf cubs taken from their families are easy to domesticate and can become social creatures, but it was only after thousands of years of wolf domestication that dogs began to specialise and separate into the species and breeds we know today.
2. The Ancient Egyptians loved dogs as well as cats
While we often associate the Ancient Egyptians as cat people, one of the interesting dogs facts that is most often forgotten is that the Ancient Egyptians revered their dogs as well. The Ancient Egyptians were likely the first civilization to keep dogs as pets, not for hunting or farming purposes.
When a pet dog would die, the owners shaved off their eyebrows, smeared mud in their hair, and mourned aloud for days. Dogs can often be found in Ancient Egyptian burial chambers, mummified along with their family members so that they could be taken into the afterlife.
3. Dogs were warriors in the Middle Ages
During the Middle Ages, Great Danes and Mastiffs were sometimes suited with armor and spiked collars to enter a battle or to defend supply caravans. Dogs were also used to sniff out enemy positions and to guard prisoners of war.
Dogs have often been trained for multiple uses in wartime, which continues to this day with dogs that work to sniff out bombs and enemy combatants. Some dogs have even been awards medals of honor for their bravery and service.
4. Dogs were worshiped in ancient East Asia
Pekingese and Japanese Chins were so important in the ancient East Asia that they had their own servants and were carried around trade routes as gifts for kings and emperors. Pekingese were even worshipped in the temples of China for centuries. Dogs are still seen in East Asia, particularly Japan, as symbols of prosperity.
5. Abandoned dogs gave rise to the legend of Werewolves
The Ancient Romans too were fond of dogs, but many were abandoned after the fall of Rome. Human survival often became more important than breeding and training dogs, and many dogs were abandoned to the streets.
Some anthropologists think that this may be the source of legends of werewolves, as dogs abandoned by Romans became feral once more and commonly roamed streets and terrified villagers.
6. Interesting dog facts: Purebred snobbery is historical
Perhaps one of the most interesting dog facts is that the obsession of purebred dogs has its roots in historical class relations. During the Middle Ages, the mixed breed dogs that belonged to peasants were required to wear blocks around their necks to keep them from breeding with noble hunting dogs.
Purebred dogs were very expensive, as their hunting finesse was valued greatly by the rich and powerful. It was in this way that hunting became the province of the rich.
7. Dogs were beloved in Ancient Greece
The Ancient Greeks probably picked up on the Egyptian’s love of dogs, and dog iconography was common in Ancient Greek culture. Dogs were often depicted as companions of the gods, especially of hunter gods and goddesses like Artemis.
Dogs have a special place in Ancient Greek literature too: in the famous story of Odysseus from the Odyssey, only Odysseus beloved dog Argos recognizes him when he returns from being away for twenty years. Even famed philosopher Plato was fond of dogs, nothing that ”a dog has the soul of a philosopher”.
Why do dogs eat their own poop?
Why do dogs eat poop? You are not alone in asking that question. But many animals eat poop on a regular basis. These include rabbits, rodents, gorillas, many insects such as dung beetles and flies, and yes...even dogs. (Keep that in mind the next time a dog wants to lick you!).
Herbivores such as rabbits and rodents eat their own poop because their diet of plants is hard to digest efficiently, and they have to make two passes at it to get everything out of the meal. This is equivalent to a cow chewing its cud, only cows are able to re-eat their food without having to poop it out first.
Another reason why animals eat poop is that poop contains vitamins produced by their intestinal bacteria. The animal is unable to absorb the vitamins through the intestinal wall, but can get at them by eating the poop. Poop also contains a certain amount of protein.
A dog’s guts have a powerful immune response to bacteria. The modern dog’s diet can be so sterile that they may even seek out bacteria in order to address the balance and keep their immune system working effectively.
So, it is important to point out that your dog will not suffer many ill effects as a result of eating poop; at least not in the way that humans would. Dogs are particularly fond of cat poop because cat poop is high in protein. So don’t be surprised – as an owner of a cat and a dog - if you never have to clean the kitty litter!
Bonus Fact 2
The Evolution of Dogs
Dogs (and wolves and foxes) are descended from a small, weasel-like mammal called Miacis which was a tree-dwelling creature and existed about 40 million years ago.
Dogs, as we know them today, first appeared in Eurasia about 13,000 years ago, and were probably a direct descendant of a small, grey wolf (not from the type of jackal or jackal/wolf as previously thought).
Dogs were first domesticated by cavemen in the Paleolithic age and gradually developed (or were bred) into the breeds known today.
All dogs, from the German Shepherd to the tiny Poodle, are direct descendants of wolves. They can all breed together and produce fertile offspring. Technically they are of the same species. But before that, wolves descended from a species knows as the Tomarctus - a creature that roamed the earth over 15 million years ago. This is what a Tomarctus looked like. Not much of a Poodle, but certain canine features are indeed noticeable...
Bonus Fact 3
The Pekingese is Sacred!
The Pekingese is one of the most famous dogs in China. Apparently, this is due to it's resemblance to the Chinese Guardian Lions.
According to ancient Chinese tradition, these lions were held to have magical protective properties that made them common figures in front of temples and palaces.
The Pekingese, with it's fur coat and unique fact bears a resemblance to the lions, and thus the lion's properties were transferred on to the dog as well. Also called "Foo Dogs" or Lion dogs, they were said to be guardian spirits.
For over 2000 years, they were held to be sacred by the Chinese emperors and were thus accorded special privileges.