Photo of a dog skeleton.
A piece of remains of a 9,400-year-old dog was found in Texas. CC by Wilhelm Ellenberger and Hermann Baum/Wikimedia Commons

Evidence of a 9,400-year-old dog domesticated by prehistoric North Americans has been found by a graduate student. However, the 9,400-year-old dog wasn’t exactly man’s best friend. Fido’s remains, just a fragment of bone, were discovered in the contents of excrement left behind by an ancient person.

Carbon dating/DNA analysis helped 9,400 year old dog get found

The 9,400-year-old dog bone fragment was identified by Samuel Belknap III, a graduate student at the University of Maine. He was studying diets of ancient humans in the Lower Pecos region of Texas. Belknap came across something interesting while analyzing the contents of stool from an archeological site. In it was a bone fragment. It was tiny. Carbon dating placed the fragment at 9,400 years old. The bone came from a dog instead of a coyote, according to DNA analysis. Security, utility and meat is what is theorized to be the reason for dogs then. Belknap’s finding support this.

Dogs in the past

Scientists suggest that humans domesticated dogs starting up to 40,000 years ago with gray wolves, according to DNA evidence. A site in Belgium yielded dog remains up to 31,000 years old. In what is now the Czech Republic, there were also dog remains found. They were 26,000 years old though. There are dogs up to 15,000 years old that have been found by archaeological records in Siberia. Ancient settlers are believed to have brought dogs with them to North America. This would have been 10,000 years ago over the Bering land bridge from Asia. Before the 9,400-year-old dog was found, other digs on the continent dated dogs at about 8,000 years old.

Dog eaten to survive by many

Belknap’s research on the 9,400 year old dog will be published in the Journal of Physical Anthropology. He estimated this 9,400-year-old dog weighed in at about 25 to 30 pounds. Indians used dogs to haul goods, much the way humans use modern sled dogs. In times when finding food was difficult, dogs could be eaten by the tribe.

Information from

Associated Press: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_early_dog

National Geographic: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/01/110118-oldest-domestic-dogs-north-america-eaten-texas-cave-science-animals/

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog

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