Doggone it! How an 18,000-year-old puppy could change everything we know about dogs

Dogor was two months old when he died and has been well preserved in the Siberian ice. But is he an early modern wolf – or one of the world’s very oldest domesticated dogs?

Name: Dogor.

Appearance: Sharp teeth, soft nose, fluffy all over, cute as hell.

Age: 18,000 years and two months.

That’s very precise. How do we know all this? Dogor was found by tusk hunters in the summer of 2018, buried in the permafrost near the Indigirka River, north-east of Yakutsk, Siberia.

Ah yes. I know it well. Radiocarbon dating shows that Dogor is 18,000 years old, but he was so well preserved that even his eyelashes and whiskers are in good condition. On close inspection, scientists were able to tell that he was a puppy aged two months when he died.

Poor Dogor! I hope he didn’t suffer? From the position of his body, it seems that he was not in distress.

That’s a relief. Genome analysis at the Centre for Palaeogenetics in Sweden confirmed that he was male. He feels like a “very recently dead animal”, according to Love Dalén, one of the researchers.

Ah … I can just imagine him gambolling at the heels of some cave family, hunting dinosaurs for lunch, gnawing on a triceratops bone … The last non-avian dinosaurs died out about 65m years ago. That’s 64.9m years before Dogor existed.

Oh. Still, he could have been some cave family’s beloved pet, right? That is the key question here.

I completely knew that. So far, DNA analysis has not been able to establish Dogor’s species. He might have been a very early modern wolf. He might have been a very late ice-age wolf. He might even have been be a very early domesticated dog.

Is that why he’s called Dogor, because he’s either a dog or a wolf? No. It’s because dogor means “friend” in Yakutian.

Ah yes. Of course. It’s pretty cool though, being the oldest dog in the world. Maybe the oldest dog, maybe not. The scientists want to do more tests.

That’s what scientists always say. Well, this is a tricky case because Dogor might turn out to be a halfway creature, from the time when some wolves were turning into dogs.

So he’s a weredog! Um, kind of.

What does it matter anyway? They should just stick a collar on him, put him in a museum and charge visitors per stroke. He’s a rare and priceless specimen! He needs to be stored with great care.

I don’t know. Stroking’s what Dogor would have wanted. I expect he just wanted a bit of mammoth to chew on.

Do say: “Who’s the oldest dog in the world? You might be! Yes, you might be!”

Don’t say: “Shouldn’t we call him Dogand?”

The GuardianTramp

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