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The History of Farm Dogs

Dogs aren’t just adorable fluffy companions—they are also loyal and hardworking which makes them a perfect partner for farmers. But long before the inception of agriculture, humans and dogs coexisted alongside one another for thousands of years. Some archaeological evidence suggests that this human-canine bond goes as far back as the Palaeolithic Age, otherwise known as the Stone Age.[1] This makes dogs our oldest domesticated companions!

Throughout history, dogs have worked alongside humans to hunt for food. Before agriculture, when hunting and gathering was the main source of food, dogs used their heightened sense of smell and hearing to help humans track their prey. Once they pinpointed a wild animal, humans and dogs worked together to take them down.[2] Their teamwork and cooperation enabled hunters and dogs to hunt even larger prey like mammoths.[3] While dogs were skilled hunters, they also helped in other ways, such as warning humans of incoming threats, pulling toboggans for transportation, and hauling resources back to encampments.

With the advent of agriculture, dogs accompanied farmers migrating from the Near East (the region that encompasses countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea) to Western Eurasia. During their migration to the West, farmers brought over crops and domesticated livestock, including sheep, goats, cows, and pigs. This agricultural expansion is known as the Neolithic Period.[4]

As farmers settled in Western Eurasia, the roles of dogs evolved; they weren’t just hunting anymore—they also began taking on other jobs. They worked day and night to fend off predators while also helping farmers herd livestock and locate lost animals. As a means of pest control, dogs also hunted mice and rats around the farm.[5]

These newfound responsibilities brought about different kinds of breeds. The Anatolian Shepherd Dog specialized in livestock guarding,[6] while Australian Cattle Dogs were skilled herders.[7] Some dog breeds like the Bernese Mountain Dog, were more versatile and fulfilled multiple farm roles.[8]

The farm dog’s role has carried over into modern times and has even become more sophisticated. Alongside hunting, herding, and guarding, some farm dogs are trained to detect clubroot diseases in canola fields,[9] while others can sniff out truffles.[10] Dogs have also become quite the wine connoisseurs, as their keen sense of smell can detect wine-tainting molecules in vineyards.[11] Not to mention their ability to support farmers with physical, cognitive, or illness-related disabilities by helping them with their day-to-day operations.[12]

Although they were working, dogs were eager to help their farmer companions. Farmers take good care of their canine friends, providing them with shelter and food. But the farm work assigned to dogs help with mental stimulation—this makes for a happy and healthy dog![13]

For thousands of years, dogs have proved that they have a hardworking attitude and many different talents. But we can’t forget the companionship that dogs offer. In agriculture, especially when times get tough, this is something that many farmers value deeply.[14] Farm dogs truly are valuable members of the agriculture community.


[1] National Geographic—Prehistoric Puppy May Be Earliest Evidence of Pet-Human Bonding [2] Human Relations Area Files—Dogs and the Hands That Feed: The Utility of Dogs in Hunter-Gatherer Societies [3] The Bark—Dogs Helped Humans Hunt Mammoths [4] The Royal Society—Dogs accompanied humans during the Neolithic expansion into Europe [5] Stacker—50 major milestones from the history of dogs [6] Modern Farmer—How to Choose a Livestock Guarding Dog [7] American Kennel Club—Australian Cattle Dog [8] American Kennel Club— Working Dogs: Meet 31 Purposely-Bred Dogs [9] The Western Producer — Two sniffer dogs pass in-field clubroot test in Alta. [10] American Kennel Club — 15 Unique Jobs Only Dogs Can Do [11] [12] P.H.A.R.M Dog USA — Home [13] Oakland Veterinary Referral Services — Doggone Satisfying: Dogs enjoy work, too! [14]


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