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Second dog with a bone.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom Information
Domain Eukaryota
Kingdom Animalia
Subkingdom Bilateria
Branch Deuterostomia
Phylum Information
Phylum Chordata
Sub-phylum Vertebrata
Infraphylum Gnathostomata
Class Information
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Mammalia
Sub-class Theriiformes
Infra-class Holotheria
Order Information
Superorder Preptotheria
Order Carnivora
Sub-order Caniformia
Infraorder Cynoidea
Family Information
Family Canidae
Sub-family Caninae
Genus Information
Genus Canis
Species Information
Species C. lupus
Subspecies C. l. familiaris
Population statistics
Population 525 million (2012 est.)

The dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is a mammal of the family Canidae, order Carnivora, and the principal animal companion to mankind. With domestication many breeds have been created, from small to very-large, bearing coats of hair either short or long, shaggy or soft, smooth or curly, in colors either solid or mixed from white to brown to black. In addition, breeds have been specifically created to hunt game, act as guards, shepherd flocks of livestock, hunt for missing persons, or act as service animals in preventing anxiety, aiding in seizures, or as guides for the blind.

There are dozens of references to "dog" in the Bible, including both the Old and New Testaments.

The domestication of the dog by man has ancient origins. The oldest dog fossil remains in a human settlement have been found in a Natufian tomb,[1] and date back to 11,000-12,000 years ago, but it is assumed that the origin of the relationship between the two species lies far behind time, claimed to be between 19,000 and 36,000 years ago. The study of a skull of "dog-like canine" found in the Altai mountains in Siberia has led to the hypothesis that the various modern dog breeds do not have a single common progenitor, but derive from different distinct processes of domestication of wolves in different areas of the world.[2]

In 2012 a “best guess” estimate of the worldwide population of dogs was 525 million.[3]


The word "dog" has an uncertain origin; it has its roots in the Middle English word docga sometime prior to the 12th century.[4] The German word hund (“hound”), which means the same animal, has a slightly better provenance, as it may be derived from the Greek root “kýon” (κύων, σκύλος);[5] this root is common to all Indo-European languages including Sanskrit and Vedic (çuan), and gave rise to the Latin canis.

Scientific details

Golden Retriever

Dogs (scientific name Canis lupus familiaris) are a subspecies of wolves, divided into a multitude of different breeds all in principle capable of interbreeding (though in some cases, physical relations between representatives of two breeds are unlikely or problematic - Chihuahuas and Great Danes, for example).

Fossils of canine skulls smaller than those of wolves have been found with human artifacts, with dates based on evolutionary assumptions estimated to between 130,000 and 190,000 years ago.[6] whilst DNA evidence has been used to suggest that dogs diverged from wolves between 100,000 and 135,000 years ago.[6] [7] Secular archeology has placed the earliest known domestication at potentially 12,000 BC-10,000 BC and with certainty at 7,000 BC.[8]

Chow Chow

Dogs are also viewed as being the single most genetically diverse species on Earth - largely thanks to human-imposed selective breeding, the vast array of dog breeds surpasses any other creature on the planet. Due to selective breeding by man, however, many breeds of dog have significant genetic disorders. These include hip dysplasia (particularly common in German Shepherds, although common in most big breeds), and respiratory problems caused by shortening of the face, as seen with Boxer dogs and the Bulldog's lip and Pugs smashed faces with wrinkles that collect dirt that must be washed out regularly or may become infected. To overcome the prevalence of genetic disorders rendered common by inbreeding, many breeders regularly practice outcrossing, or introducing new material into a breed line via mating with other kinds of dog. This restores vigor to a breed and can decrease the likelihood of genetic disorders manifesting.


Despite being colloquially known as "man's best friend", every 40 seconds, someone in the United States seeks medical help for a dog bite, with approximately 800,000 such bites per year requiring medical attention.[9] Due to the high cost of dog bite liability claims, some insurance companies have blacklisted certain breeds and refuse to provide homeowners insurance to those who own these dog breeds.[10] American Pit Bull Terriers are commonly thought of as one such dog, as they account for a small percent of the population, but over half of fatal attacks, although the majority of them are sweet and gentle, but all have powerful jaw muscles (they were bred for the cruel sport of dog fighting). Rottweilers are also strong and considered dangerous due to a disproportionately high number of attacks, but can also (like most dogs with nice responsible owners) be nice and friendly.


Dogs are used for many purposes:

Divot was a therapy dog at Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte, Florida
  • Being a companion for the old or lonely (or for anyone)
  • Guarding property and livestock
  • Herding sheep, goats, and cattle
  • Tracking by scent, carrying messages, and mountain and water rescue
  • Pursuing, flushing and retrieving game, and killing vermin
  • Providing assistance to people with disabilities
  • Military and police duties including guarding, tracking, interrogation, and attacking. In World War II, the Soviet Union attempted to train dogs to place explosive charges under German tanks, which commonly resulted in the dogs returning to their handlers just as the bombs went off.
  • For certain jobs in the military that involve things humans are not able to do, such as smelling bombs crawling or through tight spaces easily
  • To detect cadavers, explosives, or illegal drugs
  • For fire/search and rescue missions (German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers, among others, were used at the World Trade Center to help find survivors buried in the rubble)
  • To protect people and their homes from burglars/break ins

(German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers and other dogs are popular for these roles due to their intelligence, trainability, strength, loyalty, and intimidating size, appearance, and bark which can deter criminals and can potentially take them down or subdue them without causing serious harm e.g. shooting them)

  • As a beast of burden, or for drawing sledges, sleighs, and dogcarts (Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes are used for these jobs a lot, due to their strength, speed, energy, endurance, intelligence, ability to work in a group, and their ability to live (and be comfortable) in extremely cold temperatures)
  • As a performing animal. Circus dogs have been trained to dance, ride bicycles, speak, and walk the tightrope (this is not necessarily cruel, as long as they are treated well and not forced to do things their bodies are not designed to do)
  • For fighting, which is cruel and is now illegal in most places, e.g. everywhere in USA and most of the civilized world (Pit bulls were bred for this, which is why their jaws are so strong)
  • As food. Dog is still considered a delicacy in China, Korea and parts of Africa today (although many people in those places are now beginning to see it as uncivilized)

Today most dogs in western countries are kept for companionship only. Stray and feral dogs cause many problems, spreading diseases such as rabies, and attacking people and livestock. Muslims see dogs as unclean, and often kill dogs found as pets.[11]

A Jack Russell/Fox Terrier cross

Religion/irreligion and views/treatment dogs

Further reading


  6. 6.0 6.1 Kingsley, Danny, Humans live a dog's life
  7. Vila, Carles; Carles Vila, Peter Savolainen, Jesus E. Maldonado, Isabel R. Amorim, John E. Rice, Rodney L. Honeycutt, Keith A. Crandall, Joakim Lundeberg, Wayne, Robert F. (1997-01-30; accepted 1997-04-14). Multiple and ancient origins of the domestic dog, Science 276: 1687-1689. Retrieved on 2006-12-09.
  8. Scott, John Paul (1965), Dog behavior: The genetic basis, University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-74338-1.