Several factors may have played a role in building the mutually beneficial relationship between humans and dogs, including temperature, hunting, and surprisingly gender.
“We found that dogs’ relationships with women may have had a greater impact on the dog-human bond than relationships with men,” said Jaime Chambers, a Ph.D. in anthropology at Washington State University, first author of an analysis. on this issue published in the Journal of Ethnobiology.
“Humans were more likely to view dogs as a type of person if dogs had a special relationship with women. They were more likely to be included in family life, treated as subjects of affection, and generally , people appreciated them more. “
While dogs are the oldest and most widespread domesticated animal, very few anthropological studies have directly focused on the human relationship with canines. However, when WSU researchers searched the extensive collection of ethnographic documents in the Human Relations Area Files database, they found thousands of mentions of dogs.
Ultimately, they located data from more than 844 ethnographers who wrote on 144 traditional subsistence-level societies from around the world. Looking at these cultures can provide insight into how the dog-human relationship developed, Chambers said.
“Our modern society is like a flash on the timeline of human history,” he said in a statement. “The truth is that human-dog relationships have not been seen the way they have been in Western industrialized societies for most of human history, and looking at traditional societies can offer a broader view.”
The researchers looked at specific cases showing the usefulness or usefulness of dogs to humans, and the usefulness of humans to dogs, as well as the “personality” of dogs, when canines were treated as people, such as when they were treated. they gave names, they were allowed to sleep in the same beds, or they cried when they died.
A pattern emerged showing that when women were more involved with dogs, the usefulness of humans towards dogs increased, as did the personality of dogs.
Another prevalent trend involved the environment: the warmer the general climate, the less useful dogs tended to humans.
“Relative to humans, dogs really aren’t particularly energy efficient,” said Robert Quinlan, WSU professor of anthropology and corresponding author on the paper. “Their body temperature is higher than that of humans, and just a little exercise can cause them to overheat on a hot day. We saw this trend that they were less useful to humans in warmer environments.”
Quinlan noted that there were some exceptions to this with some dog-loving cultures in the tropics, but it was a fairly consistent trend.
Hunting also seemed to strengthen the dog-human connection. In cultures that hunted with dogs, their human companions valued them more: their consideration was higher in measures of the usefulness of dogs to humans and to personality. However, those values decreased when food production increased, whether by planting crops or raising livestock. This finding seemed to go against the common perception that sheepdogs work in tandem with humans, but Quinlan noted that in many cultures, sheepdogs often work alone, while hunting requires more intense cooperation.
This study adds evidence to the evolutionary theory that dogs and humans chose each other, rather than the older theory that humans intentionally sought out wolf cubs to breed on their own. Either way, there have been clear benefits for the dogs, Chambers said.
“Dogs are everywhere humans are,” she said. “If we think dogs are successful as a species if there are many, then they have been able to thrive. They have joined us and followed us around the world. It has been a very successful relationship.”