Dog lovers are lucky: our canine companions come in an astonishing array of shapes and sizes. In recent decades small dogs have become quite popular. These diminutive pups tug at our heartstrings, fit in our purses, and sleep on our laps. The question is: why are they so small? And could they really be descended from wolves? We’ve got your answers.
The science behind small dogs
Scientifically speaking, canines have a “slippery genome” in their DNA that allows for faster mutation and adaptation.
This helps explain why we have both oversized Irish wolfhounds and tiny teacup Chihuahuas. Evidence suggests development of smaller dogs began 12,000 years ago in the Middle East when our dog-loving ancestors bred and domesticated four-legged friends.
These dogs trace their heritage to the smaller, Middle Eastern gray wolf. Before that, evidence suggests canines were predominantly Great Dane-sized to face their environment and survive.
How humans helped create small dogs
It’s not arrogant to say, then, that human interaction—domestication, loving care, and protection—is what’s led to many variations in size and cuteness.
Without the need to adapt body, mouth, or limbs to face the harsh rigors of the wild on their own, our dogs have adapted instead to companionship.
To fit the needs and desires of that relationship, smaller dogs were selectively bred together, or crossbred with smaller dogs, to achieve changes over time. As Discovery.com suggests, now it’s survival of the cutest.