Monday, February 06, 2006

Animal of the Week Feb 06, 2006 -- Man's best friend

This week's animal of the week is man's best friend Canis familiaris (dog, chien, hund, and so on). Why dogs? I hear you ask. Why dogs and why now? Well, I'll to tell you why. Last night, in conversation with one of my sisters and her fiancé, talk turned to Russia and the story of a boy raised by dogs! Apparently, a four-year-old boy was found in the Russian district of Stavropol running around with feral dogs. I say running around, but according to the report in The Sun, Arthur Zverev crawled on all fours and barked. Dressed in nothing but a sweater, the boy had been living with the band of strays for two years since being abandoned by his alcoholic mother -- according to premiere russian news source, Pravda, these "Mowgli" cases are commonly the children of alcoholic parents. There are stories stretching back into antiquity of children being raised by dogs and wolves (Canis lupus). Romulus (founder of Rome) and Remus (founder of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) were famously suckled by a she wolf and fed by a woodpecker after their uncle ordered them killed by exposure; however, lupa was a Latin term not just for wolf but also for a lady of the night, so there is the theory that they were not raised by wolves at all, but by a lady of ill repute who hung out with woodpeckers. Wolves were likely domesticated by humans about 15 000 years ago, whether there was only one domestication is uncertain, it seems most likely that it happened several times and from distinct populations or subspecies of wolves. The similar structures of wolf and human groups with extended families living with a social hierarchy probably helped smooth the domestication process. Perhaps this story from Russia and other examples of fostering by wolves and dogs is simply an attempt to return the favour. Romulus was obviously very successful, the outlook for other people raised by animals may not be so rosy; for example, a child fostered by the dogs in this week's picture would likely have a whole heap of issues. For information about people raised by animals, monkeys, wolves, sheep, gazelles, even ostriches this site is a must Although it does have the rather doubtful boast "There is a complete list of all the children".


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