Gone to the dogs
The history of our best friend
The human relationship with dogs dates back 10,000 years. Most scientists agree that dogs, widely believed to be the first tamed animals, share a common descendent—the Eurasian subspecies of the gray wolf. From this subspecies, humans have selectively bred dogs for specific behaviors, abilities, and body types, creating over 400 distinct breeds. Organizations like the American Kennel Club and International Kennel Club have divided these breeds into groups based on certain specialties – hunting, herding, guarding, and companionship.
It’s a dog’s world
You may feel like you never know what your dog is thinking, but that doesn’t mean that dogs aren’t communicating. In fact, they communicate with one another in several different ways, with the primary method being through scent. The average canine olfactory bulb – the part of the brain used for scent – is 40 times bigger than that of a human.
Dogs also communicate through body position, movement, and even facial expressions. Humans are capable of interpreting some of these signals (think tail-wagging), however, we miss many more subtle communications.
The one part of dog communication we always hear is the bark. Vocally, dogs talk to each other and their human companions through a variety of sounds, including barks, growls, whines, and howls. Different breeds may use a variety of vocalizations—or just one. Basenjis, for example, never bark. They yodel.
From the tiny Chihuahua to massive Irish Wolfhounds and English Mastiffs, dogs come in a greater variety of weights and sizes than any other species.
Recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1904, the Chihuahua is the smallest dog breed in the world. Never weighing more than six pounds, the Chihuahua is often characterized as a “big dog” trapped in a small dog’s body. In fact, the AKC personality standard requires this toy breed to exude confidence and self-reliance.
Which breed is the biggest? It depends on whether you’re talking about height or weight. As for height, the Irish Wolfhound takes first place. Standing 32-34 inches – at the shoulder! – this big dog stands with the best. In fact, an old Irish proverb is often used when referring to this breed. “Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked.”
If a big dog to you depends on weight, look no further than the English mastiff. A smidgen shorter than the Irish Wolfhound, full grown mastiffs commonly weigh close to 200 pounds. The largest mastiff on record weighed almost double that at 383 pounds! Now, that’s a lot of dog.
Domestic Dogs at Brookfield Zoo
You can find domestic dogs at Children's Zoo, working closely with keepers to learn training and grooming demonstrations.