Did Humans and Their Dogs Drive Neanderthals to Extinction?


Dogs are among the most intelligent domesticated animals, which could be argued by the fact that they are apparently the creatures that have the prowess and capacity to comprehend human communicative and social behaviors. The cooperation between these animals and man was beneficial to all of them. In general, it is true that people viewed them as the “living tools” because they were used for hunting. Studies have indisputably proven that dogs have more intelligence than some of the primates that are the closest to humans based on evolutionary history (Gilbert et al., 2011). A clear example is that dogs can understand simple demonstrative communication, for instance, when a finger is pointed towards a particular direction. Moreover, they comprehend the capacity of people in doing certain things; namely, they know that a man has worse eyesight than they do (Gilbert et al., 2011). All these characteristics of a dog make it a highly skilled friend to an individual compared to any other animal. It is documented in historical sources that man first domesticated dogs (Gilbert et al., 2011; Hare & Tomasello, 2005). Thus, a dog has had a great history of interaction with people than any other domestic animal.

In her book The Invaders, Pat Shipman (2015) has described her hypotheses about how the closeness between man and dogs, in this context referred to as wolf-dogs, contributed immensely to the extinction of the once existent Neanderthals. A keen examination of the assumptions postulated by Shipman (2015) clearly indicates that the whole theory of Neanderthal extinction from the earth’s surface was based on the man-dog alliance. Over the years, no scientific evidence has been presented to shed light on their drastic disappearance. However, through her theories and postulations, Shipman (2015) relies on the paleontological and archeological evidence, which makes it clear what exactly transpired to cause the extinction.

Q1. What Were the Environmental Conditions That Could Have Led to the Relationship Between Man and the Dog?

Shipman (2015) argues that there were several predators when the modern man arrived in Europe from Africa tens of thousands of years ago. It has to be remembered that by this time, man had already had a “companion” – the dog. Indeed, there was no domestication of animals taking place. However, Shipman (2015) hypothesizes that wolves and man started cooperating and hunting together by accident because it was of mutual benefit to them. The animals were faster in speed, had a good sense of smell, sight, and hearing compared to the human, who was slower and had blunt teeth but possessed more superior weapons that they could use to kill. The two advantages were combined and yielded mutual benefits for both people and wolf-dogs (Shipman, 2015). Upon uniting with the animals, hunting became easy, and the relationships between the two types of organisms improved. However, it is not clear whether men liked the skills of hunting that the dogs possessed or these were the wolves that developed a beneficial relationship with them. Arguing about the skills, Hare and Tomasello (2005) suggest that the dogs gained the skills after they had been “civilized” by man, thereby disqualifying the possibility of people using their capabilities.

Q2. How Long Could It Have Taken Man to Associate with the Wolves Again in Europe After Migrating from Africa?

Based on archeological and carbon dating evidence, wolf-dogs were present in the Northern part of Africa even before people made their migratory journey to Europe. The earliest man in Europe is believed to have lived about 42,000 years ago. However, carbon dating records and results about the existence of wolf-dogs in Europe indicate that apparently, the earliest animals were living between 34,000 to 37,000 years ago. They were faster in speed, had a good sense of smell, sight, and hearing compared to men. Therefore, people are older than wolves based on the carbon dating results (Shipman, 2015). In this way, the relationship and alliance between man and the wolf-dog could have begun almost 6,000 years later after humans had entered Europe.

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Q3. Were Proto-Dogs Living Tools to Man? Was It a Mutual Arrangement Such That Each of the Two Had to Benefit?

Proto-dogs were the first dogs known to have been domesticated tens of thousands of years before man tamed any other animal (Hare & Tomasello, 2005). They were used mainly for the purpose of hunting because they possessed various skills and capabilities that people could not develop, for example, high speed and courage (Shipman, 2015). The cooperation between these animals and men was beneficial to them. During this period, the humans had no superior weapons that they could use for hunting, which means that they had to rely fully on the wolves to survive in their quest for food.

Q4. Wolves Normally Kill Themselves, Especially When They Invade Territories Which Are Not Theirs. Could It Be That Man Offered Protection to Wolf-Dogs Against Attack from Other “Stray Wolves”?

It is the question that highlights how the relationship between men and wolf-dogs was for mutual benefit. Both of them are known to be distant travelers, especially when looking for the animals of prey. During their wandering, they obviously had to go long distances and most likely passed through the territories which were not theirs. For the two to survive, they must have cooperated to fight together with the “enemies” (Shipman, 2015). The main reason why man was so cruel with wild wolves was to protect the wolf-dog that they were using to hunt for other animals which could kill it and secure the remains of their prey from scavengers.

Q5. Why Was It Impossible for the Neanderthals to Have Wolf-Dogs Themselves?

As a matter of fact, modern people enjoy a well-established communication with dogs, which is an achievement that the Neanderthals possibly did not have. Moreover, the close relationship between men and wolf-dogs could be attributed to the theory of convergent evolution. When two different species, for example Homo sapiens (man) and Cannis familiaris (dog), exhibit certain traits, which can imply inference to evolution, they could be exposed to the likelihood of convergent evolution, where different organisms undergo changes in the genetic and phenotypic characteristics. Thus, at a certain point of their existence, they start showing similarities observed in the humans. These possibilities were not observed between the wolf-dog and the Neanderthals; hence, there was no possibility for them to interact freely (Hare & Tomasello, 2005). Additionally, Shipman (2015) hypothesized that people did everything to protect their wolf-dogs from being stolen and alluded that the Neanderthals did not have the ability to properly communicate with them.

Q6. What Led to the Drastic Disappearance of the Neanderthals Immediately After Modern Man Arrived?

The answer to the question is not known because even Shipman (2015) herself just made hypotheses about the extinction of Neanderthals upon the arrival of men. Indeed, the competition for food and other necessities coupled with the fear of strangers could have driven Neanderthals to extinction. People were more superior than Neanderthal with regards to searching for supplies as had wolf-dogs to use as a living tool to hunt. Going by the Darwinian theory of survival for the fittest, Neanderthals had to succumb to the prowess of modern men and escape (Shipman, 2015). It is believed they went to Eurasia but due to drastic climatic changes could have died, which led to their extinction.

Q7. Is There Any Relationship Between the Deaths of Mammoths after the Arrival of the Modern Man with the Extinction of Neanderthals?

It is documented in scientific and historical books that after the arrival of man, mammoths’ sites started becoming extinct just like in the case of Neanderthals. Men’s behavior even in the modern times is known to be characterized by indiscriminate destabilization of the entire ecosystem (Shipman, 2015). Therefore, they have caused one of the greatest extinctions of life on the earth’s surface. On the other side, the mammoths could have become extinct as a result of nutritional deficiencies, which emanated from climate change, although it is not clear why it was only after modern man’s arrival (Shipman, 2015). The occurrence could also be linked to the reason behind the extinction of Neanderthals. The modern humans introduced new techniques of hunting, which led to their efficiency in this activity.

Q8. Besides Modern Man’s Arrival in Europe, Could There Be Other Factors Which Led to the Extinction of Neanderthals?

In her book, Shipman (2015) notes that the main cause of Neanderthals’ extinction was the arrival of men with their fierce wolf-dogs. Competition for food and other basic necessities coupled with the fear of strangers made Neanderthals escape to look for other more peaceful grounds where they could live comfortably. However, it could not be the only reason why Neanderthals decided to leave their habitat and later become wiped from the earth’s surface. In fact, Shipman (2015) admits that there is no proof that there was men-Neanderthals conflict. Therefore, the claim that climatic changes were responsible for the extinction of Neanderthals is, to some extent, a valid explanation. Unfavorable environmental conditions do not support life, and only the fittest can survive under such circumstances.

Q9. Is the Theory of Neanderthal Extinction Is, Therefore, Grounded on the Fact That Man Domesticated Wolf-Dogs?

It is true that most claims about the extinction of Neanderthals are based on the men-wolf-dog alliance. The animals could run faster and for longer hours, while the humans had lower speed for smaller duration. On balance, Neanderthals had crooked tools, meaning that they had to stab the prey from a close distance (Shipman, 2015). On the contrary, men had superior tools that could be used while being far to kill animals. It appears that people made the hunting for prey harder for Neanderthals, who most likely had no food and became extinct due to starvation.

Q10. Could Modern Man Have Outdone Neanderthals Without Wolf-Dogs?

It is believed that Neanderthals could still be living if the mutual relationship between men and wolf-dogs did not exist. Thus, men could have struggled to hunt, and the competition for food could not have escalated to the levels which led to the extinction of Neanderthals.


In conclusion, dogs are able to understand the capacity of men in doing certain things. All characteristics of this animal make it a highly skilled and close friend to the humans. It is documented in historical sources that they first domesticated dogs before any other creatures. A keen examination of the hypotheses postulated by Shipman clearly indicates that the whole theory of Neanderthals’ extinction from the earth’s surface was based on the man-dog alliance. Over the years, no scientific evidence has been presented to shed light on the drastic disappearance of Neanderthals. The cooperation between dogs and people was beneficial to both of them. The animals were the “living tools” used for hunting as men had no superior weapons and had to rely fully on the wolves to survive in their quest for food. Close relationship between people and dogs could be attributed to the theory of convergent evolution. When two different species, for example, Homo sapiens (man) and Cannis familiaris (dog), exhibit certain traits which can be the inference to evolution, they could exhibit the likelihood of developing similar habits.



Gilbert, F., Quignon, P., Hitte, C., & Andre, C. (2011). Toward understanding dog evolutionary and domestication history. Comptes Rendus Biologies, 334(2011), 190–196.

Hare, B., & Tomasello, M. (2005). Human-like social skills in dogs? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 9(9), 439-443.

Shipman, P. (2015). The invaders: How humans and their dogs drove Neanderthals to extinction. Harvard University Press.

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