What is a Dog? Origin, Scientific Name, Difference Between Dog and Wolf, and More

What is a dog? A dog a cute, furry, 4 legged animal – but you already knew that! Dogs of all breeds and ages (puppies, we’re looking at you) are loved by people all over the globe. Throughout history, they’ve been considered man’s best friend – and for good reason! When you think about dogs though, your mind also wonders about a lot of things that are not common knowledge about our furry friends. Things like:

  • What is a dog?
  • Where do dogs come from?
  • What’s their ‘real’ name?
  • How popular are dogs as pets?
  • What’s the difference between dogs and wolves?
  • What’s the smartest dog breed?

Where do domesticated dogs come from?

Domestic dogs originate from wolves, with ongoing debate on whether dogs are their own species or a sub species of wolf. Genetics indicate that dogs broke away from wolves somewhere between 15,000 – 30,000 years ago.

Have dogs been tamed or domesticated?

Domesticating an animal is different to taming an animal. An animal is considered domesticated when it’s breeding, care and containment is under the control of humans. Domestication takes many generations and is a very gradual process, it involves changes in behaviour and even the physical shape of an animal. Taming on the other hand is simply making a wild animal get used to humans, and generally happens are an individual level.

You may, for example, tame a wild horse, but the horse, a species as a whole hasn’t been domesticated. In the same way, wild dogs still exist in the world, but it would also be correct to say that humans have by and large domesticated dogs. If you were to find a wild dog, bring it home and train it to exist with you like a pet, then you would have tamed that specific dog.

What’s the scientific name for dog?

The scientific name for dog is Canis familiaris.

The taxonomical classification is how scientists classify organisms. This classification gives us an idea of not just the scientific name for dog, but also about where they fit in with all other animals.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Genus: Canis
Species: C. lupus
Subspecies: C. l. familiaris

Animalia indicates that dogs are a member of the animal kingdom, Chordata means they have cordates or vertebrates, Mammalia means they are mammals. They are then further classified into the Carnivora order and the Canidae family. Dog’s genus, Canis, and species lupus are identical to that of the wolf. Then finally, dog is classified as a subspecies of wolf – familiaris. There is also, however, a discussion that dogs should be in their own family – Canis familiaris.

How popular are dogs as pets?

Dogs are the most popular pet in the world with 33% of all the households having a pet dog according to a study conducted in 2016. In comparison, 23% have a cat, 12% have a fish, and 6% have a bird. So it is clear that dog’s are the most popular pet in the world, with almost a 50% lead on cats!

What’s the difference between dogs and wolves?

The difference between dogs and wolves depends on which school of thought you agree with – dogs are either a subspecies of wolf, or their own species. So you can consider dogs to be either a descendent of the wolf, or a relative of the wolf.

What’s the smartest dog breed?

The Border Collie is considered to be the smartest dog breed in the world. Originally known as the ‘Scotch sheepdog’, the Border Collie originates from the highland border of England and Scotland.

As their nickname suggests, Border Collies were originally used by shepherds and a sheepdog, and they were bred to be able to think for themselves, without needing a human’s assistance. A famous Border Collie called Chaser knew over 1,000 words.