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EVOLUTION OF THE DOG

The dog traces its ancestry back to a five-toed, weasellike animal called Miacis, which lived in the Eocene epoch about 40 million years ago. This animal was the forebear of the cat, raccoon, bear, hyena, and civet, as well as of the wolf, fox, jackal, and dog. dog8.jpg (6578 bytes)Miacis, undoubtedly a tree climber, probably also lived in a den. Like all den dwellers, it no doubt left its quarters for toilet functions so that the den would remain clean. The ease of housebreaking a modern dog probably harks back to this instinct. Next in evolutionary line from Miacis was an Oligocene animal called Cynodictis, which somewhat resembled the modern dog. Cynodictis lived about 20 million years ago. Its fifth toe, which would eventually become the dewclaw, showed signs of shortening. Cynodictis had 42 teeth and probably the anal glands that a dog still has. Cynodictis was also developing feet and toes suited for running. The modern civet--a "living fossil"--resembles that ancient animal (see Civet). After a few more intermediate stages the evolution of the dog moved on to the extremely doglike animal called Tomarctus, which lived about 10 million years ago during the late Miocene epoch. Tomarctus probably developed the strong social instincts that still prevail in the dog and most of its close relatives, excluding the fox. The Canidae, the family that includes the true dog and its close relatives, stemmed directly from Tomarctus. Members of the genus Canis--which includes the dog, wolf, and jackal--developed into their present form about a million years ago during the Pleistocene epoch.

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