Nine thousand years ago the hunter-gatherers of the remote island Zhokhov were really tough folks. They survived under constant cold temperatures, they wore animal-skins and lived in tents made of the same materials and hunted polar bears. If this isn’t enough, the survival under cold temperatures while fighting polar bears, there is something that makes them much more remarkable. They may have been one of the first humans to ever breed dogs for a particular purpose. There have been analysis made from the bones of the dogs that suggest that they were bred to pull sleds. This is one rare archeological discovery.
Melinda Zeder is an arcaezoologist at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. She said that this is pretty convincing and it fills a missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to early human and dogs relationships and their use for work. Her co-workers are Angela Perri who is a zooarchaeologist from Germany.
Zhokhov is currently an island, but back in the Stone Age people lived there because it was connected to Siberia. The problem here is the cold, the polar bears were mostly hunted during the winter period and the people living there pursued their prey, the bears, reindeer, etc. for hundreds of kilometers across the plains. Here comes human innovation in play, it is believed that the dogs were used to pull sleds so they would chase their prey much faster and quicker. An archaeologist from Russia, Vladimir Pitulko previously found dog bones and the remains of wooden sleds on the island, but now it should be considered that the dogs were bred for that purpose.
Now Pitulko has evidence that they were indeed dogs, they even compared them to the skulls with those of wolves and Siberian Huskies from the region. By those measures, their samples were truly dogs.
“If this is indeed a breeding program, it would be the earliest evidence of dog breeding for any purpose,” Perry said. Note that there might have been different breeds of dogs that went extinct or with breeding changed over time. It isn’t something new to breed the stronger species, or the ones you got more use of. Early humans did this on many animal species and even in agriculture.