Social Studies

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Historic Relationships Between Dogs and Humans

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In this video segment from Nature, we learn that dogs were the first creatures to be domesticated. Ancient people thought of dogs as creatures of magic and as spiritual guardians. Dogs were often sacrificed and buried with people to protect them with their magical powers. In Mexico today, hairless Xolo (SHOW-low) dogs are believed to heal pain. Around the world dogs are useful to people for protection because of their bark, which acts as an alarm and can intimidate strangers. Barking dogs are a stronger deterrent for burglars than a burglar alarm.

The Sled Dogs of the Arctic Circle | Nature

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In this Nature video, we learn how the Inuits of the Arctic Circle rely on their dogs. Existing on a diet of snow and seal blubber (fat), these dogs pull the sleds of the Inuits and protect them from wild animals. Multiple dogs pull together to maintain the stability of the sled. Sled dogs sometimes run the equivalent of five marathons (5 x 26.2 miles = 131 miles) per day. They will be the first to fall through the ice if there is a crack, but they recover from the cold plunge quickly. The dogs have evolved to master the harsh environment.

The Hunting Dogs of Papua New Guinea

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This video from Nature describes the history and uses of the dogs of Papua New Guinea. Men from the Akepangi tribe set out to hunt at dawn. They believe the dogs they take with them have supernatural abilities to track down prey. The dogs are called the singing dogs because they howl but do not bark. In the hunt, the dogs find an opossum in the canopy (upper layer of vegetation). The dogs are more valuable to the hunters than their bows and arrows. The tribe believes the dogs tell them where the evil spirits lie in the jungle.

Social and Historical Perspectives of Dogs

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In this video segment from Nature, learn about the evolution of dogs. More than 750 million people share their lives with dogs today. This video explores theories of how dogs became a domestic pet. One theory is ancient people tamed wild wolves. This theory is challenged by the idea that wolves evolved themselves into a different species. Biologist Raymond Coppinger believes human garbage heaps may have caused wolves to be drawn to feed on them. Competition among the wolves may have caused them to transform into "dogs,” that were not frightened of humans who came to the dumps.