There’s no question humans played a major — you could even say heavy-handed — role in the evolution of dogs.
But might dogs and their predecessors have played an equally significant role in our’s?
A new book by Pennsylvania State University anthropologist Pat Shipman, “The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction,” suggests that having wolves/dogs on our side allowed humans to survive while Neanderthals went extinct.
(Well, maybe not totally extinct; I know at least two.)
In reality, most humans today — thanks to long-ago couplings between humans and Neanderthals — have anywhere from one to four percent of Neanderthal genes in their systems. (Those genes, I suspect, are responsible for making us tailgate, become bodybuilders and cut in line.)
Neanderthals lived, evolved and pretty much ruled for about 250,000 years. After humans came along, about 40,000 years ago, the numbers of Neanderthals declined, then vanished, falling victim, some think, to the superior intellect, skills and weapons of early humans.
Shipman agrees with that theory, but argues humans having wolves on their side was a critical factor.
Neanderthals, the author says, never buddied up with the wolf, while humans would go on to form an alliance with them, tame them, breed them and assign them the kind of tasks that helped with survival — like hunting, guarding and chasing away enemies.
Given dogs were once thought to have been domesticated only 10,000 to 15,000 years ago — long after Neanderthals and humans had it out — little attention was paid to what, if any role, they might have played in the conflict.
But newer evidence, suggesting the domestication of dog goes back 25,000, 35,000, or even more than 100,000 years ago, lends credence to the conclusion dogs were a factor in the survival of our species.
It’s all pretty fascinating stuff — from whence we came, from whence dog came, and how, when and why we seemingly became allies.
But, other than the fact that knowing how our species has managed to survive this long might help it continue to do so, I’m not sure how relevant it is to modern times — unless, as one writer semi-playfully suggests in a piece for WBUR, Boston’s NPR station, how much an individual likes or dislikes dogs is related to the amount of Neanderthal within.
“Depending on the individual, you might just wonder if dog loving might be an indicator of the ratio of Neanderthal genes you’ve got,” Vicki Croke wrote on the WBUR blog, “The Wild Life.” She quotes Lauren Slater, author of “The $60,000 Dog:”
“What this may mean: all those ‘not dog’ people, the ones who push away the paws and straighten their skirts after being sniffed, well, they may have one foot in the chromosomally compromised Neanderthal pool,” Slater wrote, while dog lovers “may be displaying not idiocy or short-sighted sentimentality, as our critics would call it, but a sign of our superior genetic lineage.”
So the next time some small foreheaded, prim and proper, club-carrying type asks that you keep your dog away from them, by all means comply, but feel free to mutter under your breath as you walk away:
“What a Neanderthal!”
Posted by John Woestendiek March 27th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alliances, allies, animals, anthropology, book, books on dogs, dog, dog books, dogs, evolution, human, humans, neanderthal, neanderthals, pat shipman, pets, survival, the invaders, wolves
Landing on the moon may have been a giant step for mankind, but, before man deemed it safe enough to venture into outer space, four-legged creatures paved the way.
And, while the race to space heated up, with the U.S. opting to use mice and monkeys to test the effects of zero gravity, dogs continued to be the hand-picked pioneers of choice for the Soviets.
They – Mishka, Belka, Strelka and more — were literally picked off the streets of Moscow as strays, trained and sent into space both before and after 1961, when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space.
The contribution of those dogs — both to the Soviet space program and, through that, to Soviet popular culture — is artfully depicted in ”Soviet Space Dogs,” a new book by Olesya Turkina, a research fellow at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.
“The Soviet public couldn’t get enough of photographs of their beloved dogs, in rockets, oxygen masks and space helmets,” a New York Times review of the book notes. “But even in that citadel of communism, quick-buck artists made money off Laika, Belka and Strelka, putting the dogs’ heroic images on anything that couldn’t move, including candy bars, postcards, stamps, pins and the inevitable commemorative plates.”
As the author of the book writes, “These dogs are the characters in a fairy tale that was created in the U.S.S.R.: They are the martyrs and saints of communism.” (You can sample the book here.)
Laika, who led the way, didn’t survive her space mission, dying from the heat. Other cosmonaut dogs died as well, and most of those who lived spent the rest of their lives in laboratories, suffering ill effects from space travel.
“The lucky ones lived out their days in the laboratory, where devoted attendants would chew bits of (hard-to-find) sausage before feeding it to the dogs who had lost their teeth in the battle to colonize space,” Turkina writes.
But they’d become revered in Soviet society, and served as symbols of patriotic sacrifice.
After Belka and Strelka returned alive from a day in orbit in 1960, they joined Laika as celebrities, appearing on radio and television. Their portraits were featured in newspapers, on stamps and in magazines, Turkina writes. One could smoke Laika cigarettes, or buy a Belka and Strelka storybook for their children.
“Soviet Space Dogs, while full of images, is a book for all ages — fascinating for its insights into early space travel, but also for what it says about popular culture and patriotism, and the mutts who, through no choice of their own, were catapulted first into space, then into lasting fame.
(Photos from “Soviet Space Dogs”)
Posted by John Woestendiek November 5th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: astronauts, belka, book, books on dogs, cosmonauts, dog books, dogs, laika, mishka, olelsya turkina, outer space, pioneers, race to space, russia, soviet, soviet space dogs, soviet union, space, space travel, strelka, u.s.
Hill, whose first book, “Where’s Spot?” was published in 1980, passed away after a short illness, according to Adele Minchin, a spokeswoman for his publisher, Penguin Children’s Group.
The book told the story of Spot’s mother, Sally, as she searched for him around the house, finding a hippo, a lion and other creatures along the way.
Hill was born in England. His career as an illustrator began when he became an errand boy at an illustration studio during World War II, which led to a position at an advertising agency, according to the Associated Press
While freelancing as a creative marketing designer in the late 1970s, he drew a picture of a puppy using his now-famous flap innovation, which fascinated his 3-year-old son, Christopher.
He was so pleased with his son’s reaction to his work that he invented a story to go along with it, which, eventually, became the highly successful “Spot the Dog.”
That came after countless rejections from publishers who were wary of his use of paper flaps to hide parts of his illustrations — such as a flap in the shape of a door that is lifted to reveal a grizzly bear.
“Familiar as we are today with a children’s book market where flaps, pop-ups and all kinds of novelty and interactivity are taken for granted, it is hard to recall what an extraordinarily innovative concept this was in the late 1970s,” Minchin said in a statement.
“At that time, Eric’s idea was so different that it took a long while before anyone was brave enough to consider publishing his first book about Spot,” she said.
“Where’s Spot?” was followed by “Spot’s First Walk,” “Spot Goes to the Beach” and many others.
Hill, who moved with his family to the United States in the 1980s, is survived by his wife, Gillian; his son, Christopher; and his daughter, Jane.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 13th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, author, book, books, books on dogs, children, childrens, death, died, dog, dog books, dogs, eric hill, good dog reads, illustrator, penguin, pets, spot, spot goes to the beach, spot's first walk, where's spot
With more than 500 canine clones now roaming the world, you wouldn’t think the fact that one has been produced for a pet owner in the UK would make such a big splash.
But it has, and a big splash is just what the cloners had in mind.
To introduce its unique service to Britain, Sooam Biotech, the South Korean laboratory that’s now the only company cloning dogs, borrowed from an earlier chapter in dog cloning’s bizarre history. It held a public contest, awarding a free cloning as the grand prize.
The winner: Rebecca Smith, 29, of London, who learned in late March that a clone of her 12-year-old dachshund Winnie had been born in a Seoul laboratory, BBC reported.
She named the dog Mini Winnie.
The competition saw dog owners submit videos of their dogs and compete for the chance to “immortalize” their pet for free. The bill for dog cloning normally runs around $100,000.
“Sooam Biotech is looking for one person with the most special and inspiring reason for cloning his/her beloved dog,” the company said in announcing the contest.
The contest was similar to one held in the U.S. when dog cloning first hit the market. It was called the “Golden Clone Giveaway,” and the winner was TrakR, a search and rescue dog whose owner said the German shepherd found the last survivor in the rubble of 9/11.
The weird and wacky story of how dog cloning was achieved, how it was marketed, and the first customers to sign up for it can be found in my book, “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”
The UK’s first canine clone — who won’t arrive in the country until after a 6-month quarantine period — was cloned at Sooam Biotech, a laboratory run by Hwang Woo Suk, who was a member of the Seoul National University team that produced the world’s first canine clone, Snuppy, in 2005.
That research began after an earlier effort to clone a dog in the U.S., at Texas A&M University, was unsuccessful.
The Texas A&M research was funded by John Sperling, founder of the University of Phoenix. After cloning a cat, and assorted farm animals, the Texas A&M efforts to clone a dog were called off, but Sperling’s front man, who had established a company to store the cells of dead and dying dogs (Genetic Savings & Clone), even before dog cloning was achieved, later teamed up Hwang and Sooam to offer an online auction, with the highest bidders receiving clones of their dogs.
Hwang founded his lab after getting fired from Seoul National University when his claim to have produced the world’s first cloned human embryos was deemed fraudulent. He was later convicted of embezzling research funds and illegally buying human eggs, but his 18-month sentence was suspended.
Hwang has more recently has embarked on trying to clone a woolly mammoth from 10,00-year-old remains found frozen in Siberia.
Meanwhile, he’s churning out laboratory-created dogs, more than 500 of which have been born to surrogate mother dogs at his lab and kennel.
To create Mini Winnie, a piece of skin was taken from Winnie and transported to Seoul. Cells from the sample were placed inside an anonymous donor dog’s egg cell and, with a jolt of electricity, they merged.
Then the embryo was implanted inside a surrogate dog that gave birth, via Caesarean, to Winnie on March 30.
“The world would be a better place with more Winnies in it,” Smith, 29, says in a Channel 4 documentary, “The £60,000 Puppy: Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”
Smith received the original Winnie as a present on her 18th birthday, and she says the dog helped her overcome “lots of demons,” including an eating disorder. Smith says Mini Winnie looks identical to the original, who is old and arthritic, but still alive.
Hundreds of pet owners have had dogs cloned since the first customer, a California woman who received five copies of her dead pit bull, Booger.
Critics of the process say cloning doesn’t result in the resurrection of an animal, but a laboratory-made twin, whose creation requires the involvement of numerous other dogs, and who might not act like the original at all.
Initially, two South Korean companies were cloning dogs for pet owners (and even more for research purposes), but one of the, RNL Bio, has pulled out of the dog-cloning business.
While the cloning process has grown more efficient, some animal welfare groups say risks are still high.
Dr Katy Taylor, Head of Science at The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, said: “Cloning is a very unpredictable and extremely wasteful process … In order to produce just one ‘perfect’ clone, many puppies with the same genes as a loved animal will be born … Some of these puppies will be aborted or will die soon after birth from unpredictable health complications and severe birth defects.”
Defective pups, and the South Korean laboratory’s failure to follow animal welfare protocols, were among the reasons cited by the American company that teamed up with Hwang for pulling out of its dog cloning arrangement.
The documentary, while it mostly follows the judges as they visit with contestants and their dogs, does go some interesting places, including Edinburg, for an interview with Sir Ian Wilmut, cloner of Dolly the sheep. Wilmut doesn’t endorse pet cloning, and says he remains skeptical of it, saying it will lead to lots of disappointed customers who, despite their hopes, won’t get an animal with the same personality as the original.
There’s also an interview with a pet owner, not a contestant, who views dog cloning as a Hitleresque pursuit, and there are several allusions to the fact that some Koreans eat dog meat.
“The £60,000 Puppy: Cloning Man’s Best Friend” was made by the same independent production company that produced “I Cloned My Pet,” several episodes of which appeared on TLC.
“The £60,000 Puppy” is an improvement over those productions, which brushed aside most ethical questions and animal welfare concerns about pet cloning. While the new documentary doesn’t delve too deeply into them either, it does present something more than a one-sided view.
Like the earlier documentaries, it reinforces that most customers of dog cloning are, shall we say, eccentric sorts, and that their attachment to their dogs — as with all of us — is a powerful one.
Perhaps the most telling moment, though, comes as the judges debate — American Idol style — the public relations benefits of each contestant.
After that, the winner is … after a long, long pause … announced.
Cloning, it seems, is no longer some futuristic pipedream. It has become a reality, and apparently an entertainment form.
My view? Cloning is no game show, or at least it shouldn’t be.
(Photos: Top, Mini Winnie / Channel 4; middle, Hwang in his lab / John Woestendiek; bottom; Smith and the original Winnie / Channel 4)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 11th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, biotech, book, canine, cells, clone, cloned, clones, cloning, contest, customers, dog cloning, dog cloning book, dog inc., dogs, free cloning, great britain, hwang woo suk, laboratory, marketing, pets, science, seoul, seoul national university, snuppy, sooam, technology, uk
This video loses its audio about two-thirds of the way through, but it’s enough for you to get the point.
Which is either (A) Miley Cyrus misses her dog, or (B) Miley Cyrus wants to be sure everyone knows how much she misses her dog.
Floyd, an Alaskan Klee Kai that Cyrus had owned since 2011, died April 1. While repeatedly tweeting about the pain that has caused her, Cyrus has been hesitant to describe what caused the dog’s death. It is now believed to have been a coyote attack.
Afterwards, Cyrus told the audience, “That was the hardest song of the night to do … as y’all know, because I lost my Floydie this week … Sometimes I just can’t stop from breaking down crying.”
It was the second appearance Cyrus has made with the statue, the first coming in a performance in Boston last week.
I sympathize with the singer, and offer my condolences, but I can’t help but notice in her all the same traits I noticed in customers of dog cloning, when I wrote a book on the subject.
She has yet to seek to bring back a laboratory-created copy of a dead dog, as far as I know. But, like most of the early customers who did, she’s wealthy, eccentric, perhaps a tad selfish, wants to control the uncontrollable, and seems to think her grief is somehow larger than anyone else’s.
I can’t help being turned off by those who need to shine a spotlight on their mourning. Call me old fashioned, but I think that should mostly be done in private. Cyrus, it seems, has decided to take her grief — like her navel and tongue and other body parts — public.
In recent years, the singer has gone through dogs at a rapid pace.
In 2012, Cyrus rescued a dog she found abandoned outside a Walmart, and named him Happy. He joined her other three dogs, Floyd, Lila and Ziggy.
A few months later, Lila died of initially undisclosed causes, though Cyrus’ mother later revealed Lila died of injuries received when she was attacked by Ziggy, and that Ziggy had been gotten rid of.
The facts behind the dog’s death weren’t revealed until one of her backup dancers posted some photos on Instagram, along with the explanation that Floyd had been the victim of a coyote attack at home while Cyrus was on tour.
Since Floyd’s death, her mother has given her a new puppy, named Moonie.
(Photos: Top, Miley in concert in Brooklyn; bottom, Miley with Floyd; via Twitter)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 8th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, attack, book, cause of death, clones, cloning, concert, coyote, dead, death, died, dog, dogs, floyd, grief, happy, lila, miley, miley cyrus, mourning, pets, public, social media, statue, tweets, ziggy
We humans, with our vastly superior intellects, and being the far more evolved and civilized species, don’t need no stinkin’ animals to show us how to live life.
You’d think not — especially with Christmas approaching. Between all the peace, good will and fellowship the season supposedly brings, and all the attention, with his death, on Nelson Mandela’s legacy of kindness and forgiveness, we shouldn’t be needing, right now, any furry creatures reminding us bigger-brained, two-legged types how to get along with each other.
Yet, in the past month, they seem to keep doing so — almost as if they think the message has failed to get through.
First, it’s a goose and a dog partnering up in the UK. Then it’s an elk and a dog becoming backyard playmates in Washington state. Both pairs were shown at play, raising the question, at least in some heads, if animals of different sizes and species — like elephants and dogs, or cats and crows – can get along with each other, why can’t we?
Now comes this latest pair, a fox and a dog in Norway who met in the woods last summer and became fast friends.
Norwegian photographer Torgeir Berge was out for a walk with his four-year-old German shepherd, Tinni, when they encountered an abandoned baby fox. Since then the fox, which Berge named Sniffer, has regularly met up with them on their trips through the woods, and Berge has been taking pictures of the get-togethers.
Now he’s working on a book about the unlikely friendship with writer Berit Helberg, who told TODAY.com that the fox was probably an orphan whose mother had died, and was probably seeking food, help and company.
“Not many people are privileged to see and enjoy a friendship like this, but Torgeir Berge has both seen them in action and gotten the opportunity to catch this in images that don’t need words,” Helberg wrote in post. They hope the story will raise awareness for animal rights and the conditions that some animals are forced live in as a result of the fur trade, Helberg said.
Yes, animals of different species far more often kill and eat each other to survive. And these unlikely interspecies friendships, seemingly choreographed from the grave (or wherever he is) of Walt Disney, are the exception. It’s not like animals got together and said ”Let’s rethink this whole survival of the fittest thing, and live together in harmony, eating wild berries.”
It was from animals, after all, that we most likely learned that mindset — that the world belongs to the fittest, richest or whoever roars the loudest.
Heartwarming as these unlikely friendship stories are, they’re not messages being sent to humans by animals.
But, particularly at Christmas, they are messages worth receiving, and learning from.
(Photos by Torgeir Berge, via Today.com)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 10th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, book, cat and crow, christmas, dog, dog and elephant, dog and elk, dog and fox, dog and goose, elephant, elk, fox, fox and dog, friends, goose, humans, interspecies, kindness, love, man, mandela, norway, pets, photographer, photography, relationships, society, torgeir berge, unlikely friendships, wildlife
As stunning as Carli Davidson’s photographs are in “SHAKE” — a new book featuring dogs caught in the middle of letting the fur (and drool) fly — this video produced in conjunction with her may be even more breathtaking.
SHAKE, the book, was released today by HarperCollins. Inspired by Davidson’s own dog, a mastiff named Norbert, who regularly flings drool at her home, it presents more than 130 full-page portraits of dogs shaking off water. The photos began showing up on the Internet in 2012, went viral, and were shaped into a book.
As a side project, Davidson worked with Variable, a New York production company, to produce the video.
The still photos are magnificent, capturing dogs in a millisecond – their heads caught in mid-swivel, their ears in mid flap, their jowls contorted, their fur frozen in flight, and their slung streams of drool stopped in mid-air.
The slow-motion video, though, shows the whole intricate dance – and how the simple act of a dog shaking is really pretty complex. Exactly how many different muscles, going in how many different directions, does doing that take? And how is it possible to be so grossly contorted and amazingly elegant at the same time?
The answer is you have to be a dog.
You, as a human, can dance with stars, dance with the devil, or dance ’til you drop, but I don’t think your moves will ever parallel what a dog is able to pull off in the simple — or not so simple — act of shaking off.
Davidson, a native of Portland, Oregon, began experimenting with taking high-speed photos of dogs shaking off water in 2011. The next year she began posting them online, and they received millions of views.
In 2012, members of the team at Variable saw Davidson’s photo series online and contacted her about making a video.
“Fortunately for us, Carli responded to our enthusiastic e-mail with an even more enthusiastic e-mail stating that she was totally down to collaborate and had a very similar vision! After months and many meetings of trying to figure out how we could even afford to make this film, we all just decided to empty our pockets, pull some serious strings, and make the video purely for the fun of it.”
Posted by John Woestendiek October 22nd, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, book, books on dogs, carli davidson, dog, dog books, dogs, dogs shaking, drool, flapping, fur, high speed photography, jowls, mastiff, norbert, pets, photographer, photography, photos, shake, shaking dogs, shaking dogs book, shaking dogs photos, shaking dogs video, slow motion, variable, video, water