A passionate little blog started by a deerhound dog in Scotland called Rogue ‘Brylach’ MacAllister and Passed to Rascal ‘Logan’ Dorrator Heath

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Natural History Museum and Dogs.

Today I thought it important to get the detail of this little exhibition at the Natural History Museum in Tring. You don’t have much time if you wish to visit, but click on the link to find out the details. And below I have lifted a little copy from the NHMs website to whet your appetite - I hope they do not mind, but hey! I’m a dog - I don’t know any better. And would you believe they open their copy with Deerhounds.

Dog Exhibition

From deerhounds to dachshunds and wolfhounds to whippets, no other species has the amazing diversity of shape and size that we see in dogs.

For thousands of years mankind has used dogs for hunting, guarding, herding, and companionship. In China, dogs have been bred as pets for more than 2,000 years.

Skeleton of an Early Bronze Age dog from Tell Duweir, near Israel © The Natural History Museum, London 2005.

Archaeological evidence suggests the domestic dog appeared around 15,000 years ago and on display for the first time is a skeleton of a dog from the Early Bronze Age (around 4,500 years ago) excavated from Tell ed-Duweir, part of the ancient city of Lachish, 40 kilometres south west of Jerusalem, Israel.

Selective breeding

Over time, man selectively bred dogs to encourage particular characteristics, for example large dogs with long shaggy coats were bred for their fur to make warm clothing.

'Today's domestic dogs are man-made friends,' said Alice Dowswell, exhibition curator at the Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum. 'Humans have altered their shape, size, coat, colouring and, to an extent, their behaviour to create hundreds of very different breeds'.

An interesting example is the unusual bulldog, Spike, who was bred 'backwards' to achieve a longer-legged, more active version of the breed. This is illustrated in the exhibition by a display of different sized bulldog skulls from different time periods.

Dowswell explains how some characteristics of modern pedigree dogs haven't proved practical, 'Certain breeds experience difficulties with seeing, breathing, movement or even giving birth, because they've been bred to have heads, legs or bottoms of a certain shape and size.'

The exhibition examines the results of selective breeding using mounted dogs, skeletal material, and fun interactives.

DNA almost identical

It has long been thought that the domestic dog, Canis familiaris , evolved from wolves, but this has been hard to prove. Recently though, scientists have studied the genetic code of dogs and have found their DNA to be almost identical to the wolf - only 0.2 per cent of their DNA is different - compare this to the difference between a wolf and coyote which is four per cent. The domestic dog is therefore essentially a descendant of the grey wolf.

Dogs: Man-Made Friends? is a free exhibition on until 9 July at the Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum, the Natural History Museum's sister museum in Tring, Hertfordshire.


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