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The Variation of Animals and Plants

Chapter I: Domestic Dogs And Cats
ANCIENT VARIETIES OF THE DOG — RESEMBLANCE OF DOMESTIC DOGS IN VARIOUS
COUNTRIES TO NATIVE CANINE SPECIES — ANIMALS NOT ACQUAINTED WITH MAN AT
FIRST FEARLESS — DOGS RESEMBLING WOLVES AND JACKALS — HABIT OF BARKING
ACQUIRED AND LOST — FERAL DOGS — TAN-COLOURED EYE-SPOTS — PERIOD OF
GESTATION — OFFENSIVE ODOUR — FERTILITY OF THE RACES WHEN CROSSED —
DIFFERENCES IN THE SEVERAL RACES IN PART DUE TO DESCENT FROM DISTINCT SPECIES
— DIFFERENCES IN THE SKULL AND TEETH — DIFFERENCES IN THE BODY, IN
CONSTITUTION — FEW IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES HAVE BEEN FIXED BY SELECTION —
DIRECT ACTION OF CLIMATE — WATER-DOGS WITH PALMATED FEET — HISTORY OF THE
CHANGES WHICH CERTAIN ENGLISH RACES OF THE DOG HAVE GRADUALLY UNDERGONE
THROUGH SELECTION — EXTINCTION OF THE LESS IMPROVED SUB-BREEDS.
CATS, CROSSED WITH SEVERAL SPECIES — DIFFERENT BREEDS FOUND ONLY IN
SEPARATED COUNTRIES — DIRECT EFFECTS OF THE CONDITIONS OF LIFE — FERAL CATS
— INDIVIDUAL VARIABILITY.
The first and chief point of interest in this chapter is, whether the numerous domesticated
varieties of the dog have descended from a single wild species, or from several. Some
authors believe that all have descended from the wolf, or from the jackal, or from an
unknown and extinct species. Others again believe, and this of late has been the favourite
tenet, that they have descended from several species, extinct and recent, more or less
commingled together. We shall probably never be able to ascertain their origin with
certainty. Palæontology does not throw much light on the question, owing, on the one
hand, to the close similarity of the skulls of extinct as well as living wolves and jackals,
and owing, on the other hand, to the great dissimilarity of the skulls of the several breeds
of the domestic dogs. It seems, however, that remains have been found in the later tertiary
deposits more like those of a large dog than of a wolf, which favours the belief of De
Blainville that our dogs are the descendants of a single extinct species. On the other hand,
some authors go so far as to assert that every chief domestic breed must have had its wild
prototype. This latter view is extremely improbable: it allows nothing for variation; it
passes over the almost monstrous character of some of the breeds; and it almost
necessarily assumes that a large number of species have become extinct since man
domesticated the dog; whereas we plainly see that wild members of the dog-family are
extirpated by human agency with much difficulty; even so recently as 1710 the wolf
existed in so small an island as Ireland.
The reasons which have led various authors to infer that our dogs have descended from
more than one wild species are as follows. Firstly, the great difference between the
several breeds; but this will appear of comparatively little weight, after we shall have
seen how great are the differences between the several races of various domesticated
animals which certainly have descended from a single parent-form. Secondly, the more
important fact, that, at the most anciently known historical periods, several breeds of the
 
 
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