Dogs have been around for thousands of years. Dog bones dated at approximately 8,300 B.C. were discovered in the United States and at 7,500 B.C. in the United Kingdom. There have also been similar discoveries in Czechoslovakia and the domestic dog was represented in early sculptures found in Iraq dating back to 6,500 B.C.
“Most likely, it was wolves that approached us, not the other way around, probably while they were scavenging around garbage dumps on the edge of human settlements. The wolves that were bold but aggressive would have been killed by humans, and so only the ones that were bold and friendly would have been tolerated.” According to Dr. Brian Hare of Duke University
Over the years because of their hunting instincts, dogs have been bred to specialize in hunting certain prey in different environments. This led to the creation of different groups of dogs and eventually to different breeds of dogs.
Dogs with large noses, well-opened nostrils and an exceptional sense of smell became the Scent Hounds, bred for stamina rather than speed. They were used to hunt and track pretty over periods of time and distance. This group includes the Basset Hound, Elkhound, Otterhound, and the Dachshund.
Dogs with a deep chest, keen sense of sight, and long legs were bred as the Sight or Gaze Hounds and used to sight prey from a distance and then silently and quickly run it down. They were used in the treeless, open countries and include the Saluki, Greyhound, and Afghan breeds.
There were also hunting breeds developed which specialized in digging and burrowing prey such as rabbit, foxes, and badgers. These breeds were energetic and feisty, unafraid to go right down the hole once they caught the scent of the prey. They were the Terriers and were developed mostly in Britain. Most of these breeds are descended from the White English Terrier and the Old English Black and Tan Terrier, both of which are now extinct.
Two distinct types of terriers developed over the years based on the types of prey they pursue: larger terriers for hunting water rats, otters, and other wildlife that lived near farms or around water and smaller earth terriers with short legs who go to ground after rabbits, badgers and foxes. A few of the terrier breeds that still exist today are the Airedale Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, Fox Terrier, and the Welsh Terrier.
Dogs with sensitive noses to locate prey, retrieve prey, and flush out prey became very popular after guns were invented and used for hunting food. This is when Retrievers and Pointers were developed.
Along with developing dogs for retrieving and locating prey, the invention of guns also resulted in dog breeds that helped protect, guard, and herd. These breeds include the German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Rottweiler, English Mastiff, Doberman Pinscher, Border Collie, Great Pyrenees, and Caucasian Sheepdog.
Other breeds were also developed to sled, guide and rescue, and toy or miniature which were often used as small companions. The sledding and guide and rescue breeds include the Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, St. Bernard, and Newfoundland. Toy or miniature breeds include the Chihuahua, orkshire Terrier, and Pomeranian.
The history of dogs and the diversity in the roles they have played resulted in a wide selection breeds, many with specific characteristics and skills for the work they were bred to do.