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Dogs are a domestic subspecies of the wolf, a mammal of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term encompasses both feral and pet variants. It is also sometimes used to describe wild canids of other subspecies or species. The domestic dog has been and continues to be one of the most widely-kept working and companion animals in human history, as well as being a food source in some cultures.

Over time, the dog has developed into hundreds of breeds with a great degree of variation. For example, heights at the withers range from just a few inches (such as the Chihuahua); to roughly three feet (such as the Irish Wolfhound);; colors vary from white through grays (usually called blue); to black, and browns from light (tan); to dark ("red" or "chocolate"); in a tremendous variation of patterns; and coats can be anything from very short to several centimeters long, from coarse hair to something akin to wool, straight or curly, or smooth.

Some research appears to show that dogs were domesticated from wolves as recently as 15,000 years a;, or perhaps as early as 100,000 years a; based upon recent genetic, fossil and DNA evidence.Other research suggests that dogs have only been domesticated for a much shorter amount of time and were domesticated from populations of wild dogs, which had previously diverged from wolves.

New evidence suggests that dogs were first domesticated in East Asia, possibly China, and the first peoples to enter North America took dogs with them from Asia. Genetic research has identified 14 ancient dog breeds, with the oldest being the Chow Chow, Shar Pei, Akita Inu, Shiba Inu and Basenji. Because many of the 14 breeds are associated with China and Japan, the theory that the dog originated in Asia seems to be likely.

As humans migrated around the planet a variety of dog forms migrated with them. The agricultural revolution and subsequent urban revolution led to an increase in the dog population and a demand for specialization. These circumstances would provide the opportunity for selective breeding to create specialized working dogs and pets.

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