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Did you know that there are an estimated one billion dogs living on the planet? That seems like a big number, but what’s even more surprising is the total number of dogs who are not an individual person’s or family’s pet, but rather so-called street dogs (or village dogs) who are free-roaming. 750 million of all the world’s billion dogs are nobody’s pet. A recent book sheds light on their lives.
What is a Dog? by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger takes an in-depth look at street dogs all over the world, and shows how these dogs are actually more fundamentally “dog-like” than any purebred show dog or pampered pet.
Like the first wolves who began to hang around human settlements, and the earliest versions of the domestic dog, today’s street dogs share many of the same key characteristics of ancient canines. Recognizing that being near humans can provide them with a good food source, village dogs are intelligent, independent, and opportunistic scavengers.
Many dog experts have noted over the years that free-breeding street dogs in all corners of the world tend to look and behave in very similar ways. Their uniform look, in particular, seems to be more a product of environment than genetics. DNA studies have shown that the genetic makeup of street dogs varies from population to population.
Studies have shown that village dogs in Mongolia have the most ancient lineage. Street dogs on some islands of the Pacific have mostly European DNA, while others on different islands have none. Today’s street dogs of Europe trace their origins to East Asia, most likely arriving as companions of human migrants thousands of years ago.
Want to learn more about the interesting history and hidden lives of street dogs? Check out this fascinating article profiling the book and the authors. And you can read an excerpt from the book about why all street dogs look so much alike HERE.
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