Ancient dogs had stronger bite, jaw for mostly meat diet - study

A new study published by Murdoch University in Australia described the shape of 525 ancient dogs from archeological sites in Europe and found that the ancient dogs’ cutting tooth was stronger.

Major, one of the family dogs of US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden, explores the South Lawn after on his arrival from Delaware at the White House in Washington, US January 24, 2021. (photo credit: ADAM SCHULTZ/WHITE HOUSE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS/FILE PHOTO)
Major, one of the family dogs of US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden, explores the South Lawn after on his arrival from Delaware at the White House in Washington, US January 24, 2021.
(photo credit: ADAM SCHULTZ/WHITE HOUSE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS/FILE PHOTO)

Ever get something stuck in your dog’s jaw? Or have difficulty extracting it?

 Well, take some comfort in knowing that the jaw of your pet dog today is very different than the jaws of ancient dogs. A new study published by Murdoch University in Australia described the shape of 525 ancient dogs from archeological sites in Europe and found that the ancient dogs’ cutting tooth was stronger than their modern offspring.

Dr. Colline Brassard studied the lower jaws of more European dogs who lived between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago and compared their structure with the jaws of modern dogs and wolves. 

The university said that the lower jaw was robust to survive fossilization and served as a valuable tool to understand the diets of animals that have been dead for millennia. 

A member of kibbutz plays with his dogs in a field near the border between Israel and Gaza, outside Kibbutz Beeri, Israel November 16, 2018 (credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)A member of kibbutz plays with his dogs in a field near the border between Israel and Gaza, outside Kibbutz Beeri, Israel November 16, 2018 (credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

The study found that the ancient European dogs’ jaws shape proved they ate harder foods than modern dogs and had a stronger biting force that was likely useful for hunting and to protect themselves. 

“Ancient dogs are physically distinctive from those of modern dogs, with the main differences in the curvature of the body under the carnassial (cutting) tooth, suggesting they fed on more tough and hard foods than most modern dogs.’’ said Brassard. 

The Murdoch University said that modern dogs have an omnivorous diet and eat both plants and meat. Ancient dogs almost exclusively had a carnivorous diet which required them to have a stronger jaw and bite. The shift over time is what led, the study showed, to the evolution of the dog jaw.