Saturday, May 28, 2011

Steve Jones om hundens evolusjon fra ulv

For our favourite pet, to become housebroken led to a dramatic increase in the quality of life. It was, however, a journey down a one-way street.
Dogs have paid a price for easy living. To become domestic stifles the world of the senses. Wolves are fierce, fearful and filled with stress; dogs calm, docile and, for most of the time, carfree. Pets are by their nature a parody of a wild animal. What made the wolf an emblem of dread has been much diluted. Its ears, once pricked, are floppy and the sounds of the world are dulled. Its sharp eyes are blurred by a fringe of hair and can no longer stare an opponent into submission. The lupine tail, an expression of rage or delight, is in many breeds so curled as to bear no message at all. Most pets cannot even raise their hackles in anger as their hair is too long. All this comes from an unconscious preference by man for an animal that knows its place.
What was once done without thought has been echoed by science. In 1950s Russia, silver foxes were farmed for fur. They were savage, suspicious and liable to die from anxiety. On a certain collective, in an attempt to improve matters, only those willing to accept human company were chosen as parents. Within twenty years and a mere ten thousand foxes, the farmers saw a great shift in their charges. The ranch was filled with well-behaved animals that looked more like dogs than foxes, with a lowered tail and drooping ears. Many had piebald coats, quite unlike their unrestrained kin, and the females reproduced - like dogs – twice rather than once each year. To breed for tameness was enough to make the change. The other characters followed.

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