Man's best friend gained that title in Europe, according to a new study that pinpoints the origin of dog domestication to between 18,800 and 32,100 years ago.
The study places the origin of dogs before the rise of agriculture, suggesting that human hunter-gatherers tamed the wolf. Whereas previous genetic studies had placed the origin of dogs in the Middle East or Asia, this research is the first to focus on the genetics of ancient dogs, rather than looking at modern dogs and trying to extrapolate back.
"All modern dogs analyzed in our study were closely related to either ancient dogs and wolves from Europe or modern wolves from there," study scientist Olaf Thalmann, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Turku in Finland, told LiveScience in an email.
The beginning of dogs Dogs are the only large carnivores that humans have ever domesticated, but when and where dangerous wolves became lovable pups has been hard to pin down.
That's because, genetically speaking, dogs are a mess. They've been moved around the world for centuries, mixing their genomes indiscriminately at far-flung ports of call, and even -- early in their evolution -- mating with their wild counterpart, the wolf. Adding to the confusion is the intensive period of selective dog breeding that started in the late 1880s and gave humans the wide variety of dog breeds known today. [What Your Dog's Breed Says About You]