August 7, 2012

Evolution in Inaction

From Gardiner Harris in the NYT:
Where Streets Are Thronged With Strays Baring Fangs 
No country has as many stray dogs as India, and no country suffers as much from them. Free-roaming dogs number in the tens of millions and bite millions of people annually, including vast numbers of children. An estimated 20,000 people die every year from rabies infections — more than a third of the global rabies toll. 
Packs of strays lurk in public parks, guard alleyways and street corners and howl nightly in neighborhoods and villages. Joggers carry bamboo rods to beat them away, and bicyclists fill their pockets with stones to throw at chasers. Walking a pet dog here can be akin to swimming with sharks. 
A 2001 law forbade the killing of dogs, and the stray population has increased so much that officials across the country have expressed alarm. … 

Is this a Hindu v. Muslim thing? The Muslims are anti-dog, so the Hindus are pro-dog? Or vice-versa?
With pointed ears, a wedge-shaped head and a tail that curls over its back, the pariah is similar in appearance to other prehistoric dogs like the Australian dingo. ... 

Short yellowish fur and medium size seems to be sort of the Platonic Essence of dogdom, what dogs evolve back to when you stop bothering to breed them.
“Dogs essentially started out as scavengers,” Dr. Bradshaw said. “They evolved to hang around people rather than to be useful to them.” 
While that relationship has largely disappeared in the developed world, it remains the dominant one in India, where strays survive on the ubiquitous mounds of garbage. Some are fed and collared by residents who value them as guards and as companions, albeit distant ones. Hindus oppose the killing of many kinds of animals.

When I was in Turkey, there were a fair number of dogs lolling about, sleeping on the sidewalks and streets, but they seemed peaceful and undangerous. I would imagine that troublemaking dogs get removed from the gene pool pretty quickly in Turkey, but what do I know?

58 comments:

AKarlin said...

Moscow stray dogs are evolving greater intelligence.

http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-01/moscows-stray-dogs-evolving-greater-intelligence-wolf-characteristics-and-mastery-subway

http://englishrussia.com/2009/04/07/smartest-dogs-moscow-stray-dogs/

Russian dogs are superior! :)

rec1man said...

In the Koran, dogs are unclean animals almost as unclean as pigs to muslims. So they kill any stray dog they can catch.

Stray dogs eat lots of rats. Eliminating dogs often leads to rat population explosion. Stray dogs do eat a lot of garbage

It is westernised people who petitioned to stop killing dogs.

North east Indians, such as Nagas, who are Oriental race, do eat dogs.

In kashmir, where an islamist insurgency is on-going, Indian army feeds stray dogs, and local muslims kill stray dogs. It so happens these stray dogs, bark when a muslim / terrorist approaches and it acts like a cheap early warning signal for the Indian army.

Periodically local towns hire untouchables as dog-catchers to kill street dogs. I do know a few decades ago, a noted heart surgeon paid untouchables to catch and give him stray dogs, and he practised heart surgery on them, and honed his skills

Anonymous said...

It's only a matter of time before the Indian canines evolve their own community leaders.

Kaz said...

@rec1man

Cats kill rats too and muslims love cats.

To be honest I've never met a muslim who hates dogs, although they elect to not keep one.

fnn said...

“Dogs essentially started out as scavengers,” Dr. Bradshaw said. “They evolved to hang around people rather than to be useful to them.”

That theory seems to be headed for the junk heap.:

...For decades, the story told by science has been that today's dogs are the offspring of scavenger wolves who wandered into the villages established by early humans at the end of the last ice age, about 15,000 years ago...

This account is now falling apart in the face of new genetic analyses and recently discovered fossils. The emerging story sees humans and proto-dogs evolving together: We chose them, to be sure, but they chose us too, and our shared characteristics may well account for our seemingly unshakable mutual intimacy.

Dogs and humans are social beings who depend on cooperation for their survival and have an uncanny ability to understand each other in order to work together. Both wolves and humans brought unique, complementary talents to a relationship that was based not on subservience and intimidation but on mutual respect.

It seems that wolves and humans met on the trail of the large grazing animals that they both hunted, and the most social members of both species gravitated toward each other...


The first major challenge to the consensus came in 1997, when an international team of biologists published a paper in the journal Science placing the origin of the dog as early as 135,000 years ago. Their date was based on analysis of mitochondrial DNA, which is passed on to offspring through females and is believed to change little from generation to generation; it allows scientists to calculate the time when populations or species separated genetically. This analysis suggested that wolves could have become dogs wherever in Eurasia they associated closely with early humans, and that even after the split was made, dogs and wolves continued to interbreed...

Pueeee said...

"...more than a third of the global rabies toll..."

That may be true, but they have more than a sixth of the global population. So its not THAT much more rabies than in most other places. Probably still rare enough that most 3rd worlders wouldn't notice the increase.

Anonymous said...

Short yellowish fur and medium size seems to be sort of the Platonic Essence of dogdom, what dogs evolve back to when you stop bothering to breed them.

Domestic animals tend to revert to type when you stop breading them (think of wild hogs in the US), so the fact that domestic dogs seem to revert to medium sized yellow dogs, rather than wolves, has been used to argue that dogs were not actually derived from wolves, but from an extinct medium sized yellow canid.

Anonymous said...

It is westernised people who petitioned to stop killing dogs.

And bleeding hearts of all religions....

Anonymous said...

Razib has discussed this topic here and here .

Anonymous said...

I wonder what you were up to in Turkey, Steve?

Anonymous said...

India is having a hard time finding things to export to far more developed China to balance its increasing trade deficit. Perhaps exporting dog meat to the Han should be considered?

Anonymous said...

There's the theory making the rounds that modern humans displaced Neanderthals because modern humans had dogs. Modern studies of primitive tribes show that (technology-primitive) humans hunting with dogs are significantly more effective then humans (or presumably Neanderthals) hunting without dogs. (The increase in efficiency is apparently due to the increased speed with which game can be located.) It's postulated that human/dog hunting is effective because both humans and dogs, hunting as groups, know how to communicate silently over some distance, using gaze and eye-tracking (as with soldiers on silent patrol). Presumably dogs and humans hunting the same game in effect learned they could "intercept each others communication" by "reading their eyes".

oip said...

I've been thinking that the US Army should take all of these shelter dogs in the US (most who are going to be euthanized anyway) and send them to Afghanistan and Iraq to clear the way of IED's. I know that they may not weigh enough to trigger all mines, but perhaps with an appropriate harness.
Maybe these Indian dogs could be put to use as well.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the theory about human/dog eye-tracking communication for hunting, another interesting possibility raised is that the reason humans have white sclera surrounding the iris of their eyes (unlike our chimp/ape relatives who have solid-colored eyes) is to enhance coordination with dogs, based on eye-tracking, during hunting. For whatever reason, humans have evolved so it's easy to see where they are looking.

rec1man said...

oip, In Kashmir, the stray dogs seem to do a good job of smelling out IEDs, without detonating them

Anonymous said...

This article is very interesting and also very germane to this topic.


http://www.vqronline.org/articles/2011/spring/subramanian-vultures/

Since the collapse of the vulture population, the number of feral dogs in India has risen by 30 percent.

wren said...

I was once chased by a pack of wild dogs up a hill on a very weak scooter at night.

It was absolutely terrifying.

Anonymous said...

Only north Europeans and those of north European descent seem to care a damn about the welfare of wild dogs, or any other animal for that matter.

Lugash said...

I am Lugash.

I read an account of feral Iraqi dogs during Gulf War II. The locals were trying their best to kill wild dogs, who IIRC had surged into the towns during the invasion. American troops weren't happy about this, until they saw the dogs feeding on human corpses. After that, they started shooting wild dogs on sight, to the delight of the locals.

I am Lugash.

Steve Sailer said...

Jerry Pournelle theorizes that dogs allowed human hunters to devote less of their brain to smell processing and more to higher order thinking. Are there any human populations that lived for a long time recently (such as on an island) without dogs?

Anonymous said...

The Andamanese?

Anonymous said...

Presumably dogs and humans hunting the same game in effect learned they could "intercept each others communication" by "reading their eyes".

Reading one's eyes can be put to good use for this game as well.

Simon in London said...

Romania when I taught there in 2004 (as part of Romanian efforts to gain EU membership) was also absolutely full of stray dogs. My government liaison had a Panglossian view:

"Those are not strays - those are *guard* dogs!"

Back in the Anglosphere, I noticed that driving in the Southern US, when approaching the borders of small towns, sometimes packs of stray/feral/pet dogs would run barking towards the car.

Anonymous said...


Back in the Anglosphere, I noticed that driving in the Southern US, when approaching the borders of small towns, sometimes packs of stray/feral/pet dogs would run barking towards the car.


Loose dogs have been acceptable in many towns down here. It seems more so in the deep South.

Anonymous said...

"Hindus oppose the killing of many kinds of animals."

Monkeys being the nastiest of them all, especially if the alpha males take a liking to you. Doggies are a much milder presence compared to them. A sneer and a gesture to pick a rock from the ground will scatter most of them, that is if they are being nasty at all.
And that is nothing compared to the hungry hungry piggies.

Anonymous said...

"Razib has discussed this topic here and here"

Those links don't work. Sadly. Oh so sadly.

James_G said...

Baboons adopting feral dogs:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2lSZPTa3ho

Anonymous said...

in islam dogs are unclean. but they are useful in hunting, guarding, and shepherding. they just cannot be kept in house.

In turkey feeding stray dogs is traditionally thought to be a charitable act.

Kai Carver said...

Nice title :-) In Taiwan, there are a lot of stray dogs, even in a very developed city like Taipei. Jogging around, I noticed that, wherever there aren't too many people, there are a lot of dogs hanging around. Dogs in Taiwan also seemed more peaceful. I've almost never had any dogs growl or bark at me. At most they might tentatively follow me a bit, to see if I will adopt them. But usually they stay clear.

Hapalong Cassidy said...

I remember this incident involving a female Indian student I was working with on a group project in graduate school. Another member of our group brought his dog into the building (a dachshund, I think). Upon seeing the dog, the Indian student screamed as though she had seen someone being murdered. Only until later did I find out that people in India have a genuine reason to be fearful of dogs.

CC said...

"I wonder what you were up to in Turkey, Steve?"

- Catching a Derb talk


"Reading one's eyes can be put to good use for this game as well."

- So if straight chicks get as aroused by female masturbation as straight men, then if you get busted watching porn by your girlfriend, you can just tell her you put it on to get her in the mood...

Anonymous said...

Agreed. I was in Romania in '04, '05 and '06 and noticed that each year the number of strays dwindled more and more. Romania was also making strong efforts to put street children in shelters at that time. It was much easier to find sewers full of street children in '04 than it was in '06.

- Anonymous Johnson

Andrew said...

I noticed stray dogs everywhere while traveling in Chile. Sometimes they follow people around, but I was told that they rarely bite. Once I lay down on the beach and suddenly noticed a huge black dog looming over me, just waiting.

Kylie said...

"For whatever reason, humans have evolved so it's easy to see where they are looking."

So have dogs. My two dogs most often hang out in the dining room with the water bowl and back door in one direction and the treat jar in the other. They'll race into the dining room as though they're about to expire from thirst or piddle on the floor. When I ask if they want fresh water or to go outside, they cut their eyes toward the treat jar without moving their heads at all.

Outdoors, I can spot squirrels, birds and people way off in the distance just by looking where my dogs are looking.

beowulf said...

Reading one's eyes can be put to good use for this game as well.

"You asked with your eyes, Trent, you asked with your eyes."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqkgRkHY_FU

Anonymous said...

Much of India's backwardness can be attributed to the silly beliefs of Hinduism. Hundreds of people in India die of rabies from dog bites but Hindus refuse to cull the stray dog population.

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

The idea that hunting with dogs may have helped speed up our cognitive evolution (to include both general intelligence and communication capabilities) is really fascinating.

I was once chased by a pack of wild dogs up a hill on a very weak scooter at night.

It was absolutely terrifying.


I still have nightmares about being chased up trees by the local wild dogs.

NOTA said...

In the US (and I imagine many other rich countries), not only do we exert some control over stray dogs and require rabies vaccinations for pets, we spread rabies-vaccine-bearing baits to decrease the amount of rabies circulating in wild animals. This is part of a broader pattern, where all kinds of really important things that make the world a little nicer (flood control projects, mosquito control, building standards that ensure that buildings seldom fall down in earthquakes and that fires don't spread easily through a whole neighborhood, widespread vaccination against common contagious diseases, laws restricting pollution and improper disposal of sewage) happen entirely below the surface of most peoples' notice. It's easy to somehow imagine that the lack of malaria or whooping cough or cholera outbreaks in the US, or the lack of packs of often-rabid stray dogs in big cities, or the single-digit fatalities from disasters that would kill a hundred thousand in a poor country, are some kind of divine gift, rather than the result of a big, rich, well-run civilization making things better.

pat said...

At first I reacted to the reference to dingoes as wild dogs. Until just ten minutes ago when I checked Wikipedia I had always assumed that dingoes were marsupials. My dumb.

I also learned from one of the gang who posts under the title Annymous that the dog glut in India is probably the result of a paucity of buzzards. This suggests to me that the whole problem is lack of Chistain burial (or cremation). It's a dung beetle effect. In civilized lands we pick up our dog's poop when we walk them. Or we bury it. The poop still re-enters the biosphere but through the undergrond dung beetle rather than the fly. Flies eat the dog shit and then land on you picnic potato salad. If the beetle eat that shit it gets into smaller and smaller creatures all outside of the human sphere of activity.

Vultures are like flies. They eat waste products (dead bodies) and then fly around in human space. Dogs are even worse. Just bury the bodies (or burn them) and the problem disappears.

Or am I missing something? My self confidence has been shaken by my discovery that dingoes are placentals.

Wasn't there a recent blog here about why India was unlikely to keep up with China in terms of modernization because India is so filthy?

Albertosaurus

Ray Sawhill said...

I second Steve's observation about dogs in Turkey. I was in Istanbul for a week a few years ago. The city was amazingly full of free-ranging unowned dogs. But they were all -- without an exception -- sweet-natured, unthreatening, lazy pooches. And, weirdly, there was less dogshit to be accidentally trod on than in cities like Paris or NYC. FWIW, I got the impression that the dogs are sort of owned and taken care of by the neighborhood communally, but I could be wrong about that.

James_G said...

Dogs have evolved to look at the right-hand side of a human's face in order to read his emotions.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/3354028/Dogs-can-read-emotion-in-human-faces.html

Humans also have this "left gaze bias" when looking at human faces. The right-hand side of a human's face expresses his emotions more accurately than the left-hand side.

Svigor said...

When I ask if they want fresh water or to go outside, they cut their eyes toward the treat jar without moving their heads at all.

Reminds me of that Carlin skit about how dogs are superior to cats because dogs got eyebrows, but cats just got this shit stickin outta their heads.

Svigor said...

There's the theory making the rounds that modern humans displaced Neanderthals because modern humans had dogs. Modern studies of primitive tribes show that (technology-primitive) humans hunting with dogs are significantly more effective then humans (or presumably Neanderthals) hunting without dogs. (The increase in efficiency is apparently due to the increased speed with which game can be located.) It's postulated that human/dog hunting is effective because both humans and dogs, hunting as groups, know how to communicate silently over some distance, using gaze and eye-tracking (as with soldiers on silent patrol). Presumably dogs and humans hunting the same game in effect learned they could "intercept each others communication" by "reading their eyes".

I wouldn't be surprised if, along these lines, humans were exploiting canine mobility and sense of smell, while canines were exploiting human intelligence and tool-use. Say, the dogs get rations when game is scarce and warmth when its cold, and humans get the benefits well-known to hunters. And the dogs can corner dangerous prey until the heavy artillery arrives.

It's kinda funny that anyone would need a study to "prove" that dogs improve hunting efficacy.

Anonymous said...

I also learned from one of the gang who posts under the title Annymous that the dog glut in India is probably the result of a paucity of buzzards. This suggests to me that the whole problem is lack of Chistain burial (or cremation).

I thought that Hindus would be very keen on cremating their dead. Aren't they? Or is it some other factor?

Anonymous said...

In Kashmir, the stray dogs seem to do a good job of smelling out IEDs, without detonating them

I mistakenly read "IEDs" as "IUDs" - and finally stopped laughing.

Anonymous said...

I second Steve's observation about dogs in Turkey.

Keep in mind that Turkey is not exactly a hot-spot of Islamic zealotry, and is essentially southern European in terrain and climate.

Anyone have any reports about dogs in Arab countries and Iran?

TGGP said...

There is an illegal market for dogs in Iran.

Anonymous said...

"It's kinda funny that anyone would need a study to "prove" that dogs improve hunting efficacy."

Modern anthropology research---Only some 15K to 150K years behind the times! ;)

Anonymous said...

http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2011/01/kubrick_peckinp.php

tnr said...

A"Anonymous said...
It is westernised people who petitioned to stop killing dogs.

And bleeding hearts of all religions...".


Just killing them does not help, unless you have committed total cano-cide, and that's impossible even if you want to.
The American movement to trap-neuter-release feral cats is the only practice that genuinely reduces the number of feral cats in a given area. If you try to kill them all, survivors soon repopulate.
Killing our pet animals--mostly dogs and cats--is extremely stressful for most people. Even in the "third" world, there are those who have made pets of dogs and cats. Nobody really wants to engage in a constant policy of kill, kill, kill. In the old days there was no option--I wouldn't want a feral animal chasing me either and I'd probably kill of necessity. But nowadays there are options. I'm not saying it's an option for a poor country, but if it were done it would benefit them more in the long run.

sn said...

I've been traveling in India for the past month or so.. The stray dogs generally seem to hang out in places (outside small shops) where they'll be taken care of by the people.. For the most part, they are peaceful looking, dont bark much, and sleep a lot (even on the side of highways). Occasionally one might encounter one that seems curious, but they aren't threatening, at least not in the city areas.

The reason that dogs are not mass-culled is because India is a functioning democracy and there are many dog lovers (westernized elites) who oppose (wrongly, IMO) culling of dangerous strays and get high court injunctions against culling. I don't see many strays in residential areas though. And hardly any cats (in the US, stray cats are all over).

google "stray dogs india" to find out about various interest groups. This has very little do with religion.

Anonymous said...

A little off topic, geographically, but, De Bernieres, in his book "Birds without wings", touches on the difference in attitude towards dogs amongst Christians and Muslims in late Ottoman era Turkey.

No preview on Google Books, so no paste and click. But the passage is long and worthwhile. I'm not going to do it justice, but here goes:

According to De Bernieres, the Muslims were not allowed to keep dogs in their homes for religious reasons, but they developed affection for street mutts, seeing them as objects of charity. Conversely, the "Greeks", who did keep guard dogs, and had not religious sanction against dogs, hated the street mutts and poisoned them.

Anonymous said...

Just killing them does not help, unless you have committed total cano-cide, and that's impossible even if you want to.

I was the author of the "bleeding heart" comment, and I for one don't have a kill-kill-kill attitude. Like you said, selective culling and neutering of unwanted animals.

The bleeding hearts are the ones who oppose aggressive measures out of misguided love. They don't want "needless" death, but somehow prefer the living animals to be miserable and hungry.

tnr said...

'I was the author of the "bleeding heart" comment, and I for one don't have a kill-kill-kill attitude. Like you said, selective culling and neutering of unwanted animals.'

Yes, it's the only way. They reproduce with alarmling speed and quantity. Doesn't seem fair. The only solution is to neuter as a matter of course. One cat can produce hundreds of thousands of descendants in a very few years. Mind boggling and frightening even to me, who loves the critters. I don't know why this over-breeding exists in cats & dogs. It's caused such trouble for both humans and animals over the centuries. Only in the past 50 or 60 yrs has neutering female cats & dogs become safe enough to be routine.

NOTA said...

tnr: Isnt it pretty obvious why? Hint: who are the ancestors of the existing population of pet dogs and cats?

Anonymous said...

"There's the theory making the rounds that modern humans displaced Neanderthals because modern humans had dogs."

It seems recent genetic work is suggesting that the total size of the Neanderthal population was really, really small. About 1,500 reproductive Neanderthal females on average in Europe. A maximum population size obtained of only 3,500 reproductive females. Perhaps the total Neanderthal population in Europe never exceeded 10,000 to 20,000.

So maybe Neanderthals were always really thin on the ground; during maximum glaciation Europe probably just wasn't able to support large populations. A few significant diseases carried in by modern humans could have pushed Neanderthals over the edge.

mados said...

Apparently killing stray does is ineffective as a means to remove rabid stray dog populations. It works only very short term unless you can kill ALL dogs, which is completely unrealistic especially in a country like India. An alternative method is discussed in below video with Charmaine Cham:

http://talentsearch.ted.com/video/Charmaine-Tham-Recruit-dogs-to;TEDSydney

In short, she proposes to fight rabies by establishing stable local populations of non-rabid, vaccinated dogs. They will defend their territories against rabid dogs and work as a stable long term buffer against them.

Charmaine is presented as follows:

"Charmaine Tham, the Vice President of Vets Beyond Borders, has worked as a veterinarian and educator on several dog health programs. She has worked on a project to reduce human rabies deaths in India." so her creds seem to have some authority (at least more than some random news reporters).

tnr said...

"NOTA said...
tnr: Isnt it pretty obvious why? Hint: who are the ancestors of the existing population of pet dogs and cats?"

not really to me. In the wild I thought that the big cats, and wolves, usually only have twins, or triplets at most, and many, many of these pups do not survive. Wolves might have bigger litters but normally less than dogs. Nature keeps a lid on them.
Domestic cats, otoh, typically have 6 kittens. Sometimes less, sometimes more. One Golden Retriever next door had nine puppies, more or less as expected. The Big Cats never have sextuplets, and they breed less often than domestic cats. I would think that safer conditions for domestic cats & dogs would result in smaller litters, but the opposite is true. But then maybe it's because humans want them more, up to a point? If ind the ways of nature do not always correspond to the scientific theory in vogue.