Domestic Cat
30 April 2017

Not classified by the IUCN.

Domestic Dog

Canis lupus familiaris

The domestic dog, Canis lupus familiaris, truly is man’s best friend. A direct descendant of the gray wolf, Canis lupus, the domestic dog is one of 38 described subspecies of gray wolf and is, possibly, the best example of domestication on the planet. Selectively bred for purposes ranging from herding to guarding and from hunting to purely show, the domestic dog is an evolutionary experiment humans have been running for thousands of years.

Canine skeletal anatomy, lateral view.

Originating in the late Pleistocene, the domestic dog is one of the most ubiquitous mammals on Earth. Today they are found on six out of the seven continents, having been banned from scientific expeditions to Antarctica since 1993.

Adapted to life with humans, domestic dogs are able to survive as opportunistic omnivores and can tolerate a diet much higher in starch and other plant proteins than other members of their genus. This has allowed them to make the most of an environment dominated by human agriculture. Feral dogs will often resort to scavenging for food through trash left unsecured by humans, as will those kept as pets. This ability to digest starches sets them apart from the obligate carnivores they are descended from.

Dogs are also one of the most heavily studied animals within the realm of modern science. Filling roles as laboratory animals as well as primary research subjects, dogs have contributed to almost every field of study from space exploration to psychology. We know, from studies with domestic dogs, for example, that animals with higher orders of thinking can experience emotions similar to humans, exhibit theory of mind, and can learn simple abstract concepts.

Meet the Conservators Center's Domestic Dog