Facts about dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)

   The dog was the first wild animal to be tamed. Cave men had tame dogs many thousands of years ago.
Dogs and wolves are very close relatives. In fact, scientists believe that the wild ancestors of dogs were wolves.
   Probably the taming of dogs began when some cave man brought home a wolf cub he had found. The cub grew up in the cave and was friendly. It was helpful, too. The wolf dog could drive away cave bears and other wild animals. This story, of course, is only a guess.
   In dog shows today dogs of more than a hundred kinds, or breeds, are shown. A cave man would certainly be surprised if he could see them. Some still show their relationship to the wolf. Siberian huskies and German shepherds, for instance, do. But many of our dogs of today do not look at all like wolves. If a cave man could see a poodle or a Skye terrier or a Chihuahua, he might not even guess that it was a dog.
   But there is a reason back of every kind of dog we have. Over the centuries people found many ways in which dogs could be helpful. They could help hunt. They could pull loads. Dogs could help herd cattle and sheep. They could guard their masters and their masters' property. Most important of all, they are good companions. It is easy to see that some breeds are better for helping in one way and other breeds for helping in another way. A Chihuahua, for instance, would not be very helpful at pulling loads.
   So we now have big dogs and little dogs, smooth-haired dogs and shaggy ones, fast dogs and slow ones, playful dogs and dignified ones. Even the bark has been bred out of certain dogs. The reasons for developing some kinds of dogs are rather odd. The Greeks developed tiny lapdogs. They were meant to be held in a lady's lap to help keep her stomach warm. Bulldogs with huge jaws and short noses were developed so that they could hang on to the throat of a bull and still be able to breathe.
At shows dogs are divided into six groups: sporting, non-sporting, working, hound, terrier, and toy. Many breeds belong to each group.
   There are fashions in dogs just as there are fashions in clothes. Every kind of dog has many good points. But for one reason or another, a breed that has been popular for years may become less popular and some other breed may take its place. In the United States these dogs have been the most popular at one time or another since 1900: St. Bernard, English setter, collie, Boston terrier, Airedale, German shepherd, and cocker spaniel. Recently the boxer, the beagle, and the Chihuahua have become very popular. The dachshund, the poodle, and the Pekingese are now well liked, too.
   Not many years ago people found a new way in which dogs can be helpful. "Seeing eye" dogs are trained to guide blind people. These dogs give us one more reason for calling the dog "man's best friend."