How prehistoric dogs hunted – their hunting methods revealed
If you’re a fur-parent to a majestic Great Dane or big fluffy Newfoundland, you might think you know all there is to know about large dogs. But, imagine a pup the size of a grizzly bear bounding through your living room; no, seriously. Scientists are sure that one of the very first dog species, which lived 16-million years ago, was in fact just that big! Not quite the size of pooch you want jumping on your lap for a quick cuddle, right?! You’d probably need a pretty strong harness that’s for sure.
The science-y bit
Scottish and Austrian researchers have said that those big bear-like dogs from all those years ago actually hunted more like modern day foxes by pouncing on their prey. Just stop for a second and think about that. A 300-pound, bear-sized dog pouncing in the almost cute-like way a fox does. Scarily adorable, no?
It’s all to do with the inner ears apparently – it controls balance and hearing, so it does make sense. Scans of skulls from over 36 different species of carnivorans – like modern and prehistoric dogs, wolves, foxes, big cats and bears, amongst others – have shown some slight differences in the inner ear canals dependant on their hunting style.
Speedy predators like cheetah and big cats showed larger, wider ear canals. This helps stop their heads and vision from wobbling all over the place when chasing their dinner at top speeds. But they found that in the two species of prehistoric pooches, the ear canal was much more angled, same as what was found in the modern fox. This feature helps them pounce more accurately on their targets. All traits which seem to have developed and adapted throughout cat-and-dog-like species over millions of years.
So, I mean if you were unsure if you’re little fur-baby was a feline or pup, you could trim back their fluff and distinguish by their ears! But seriously though, these findings help determine if species are more “dog-like” or “cat-like” and who their likely ancestors were, and how they probably hunted while still alive.
Who were these prehistoric pups?
The prehistoric dogs featured in the study actually come from the VERY FIRST dog species, Hesperocyon gregarious, which lived 40 million years ago! As well as the world’s largest known dogs, Epicyon haydeni which lived around 16 million years ago and, as you guessed it, was the one the size of a grizzly bear. Do you think they were still as loveable as today’s playful goofs?
Whilst your pup might not be the size of a hulking great bear, or 40 million years old for that matter, it doesn’t mean they’ve lost their original hunting style. Whether you’ve got teeny teacup pooch or a loping Labrador you’ll recognise those ancient hunting instincts when they go into *playful* attack mode. Like when they’re eyeing up and getting ready to pounce on their well-worn stuffed animal.