Source: Nature: "Dogs That Changed the World"
Funding for the VITAL/Ready to Teach collection was secured through the United States Department of Education under the Ready to Teach Program.
In this video segment from Nature, we learn that dogs were the first creatures to be domesticated. Ancient people thought of dogs as creatures of magic and as spiritual guardians. Dogs were often sacrificed and buried with people to protect them with their magical powers. In Mexico today, hairless Xolo (SHOW-low) dogs are believed to heal pain. A woman holds a Xolo puppy against her joints to relieve arthritis pain. Dogs are useful to people for protection because of their bark, which acts as an alarm and can intimidate strangers. Barking dogs are a stronger deterrent for burglars than a burglar alarm.
Animal science, culture, world history, biology
The following Frame, Focus and Follow-up suggestions are best suited for elementary or middle school students using this video in an English language arts or social studies lesson. Be sure to modify the questions to meet your students' instructional needs.
What is Frame, Focus and Follow-up?
Frame (ELA) What do you know about dogs? What do you know about dogs in ancient times and in other countries? Think about your feelings about dogs, different jobs a dog might be used for, how dogs protect people, and different breeds of dogs.
Focus (ELA) As you watch the video think about how what you already know about dogs helps you understand something new you will learn about dogs today.
Follow Up (ELA) What connections did you make between what you already knew about dogs and something new you learned? How did that connection help you understand the new information? How can activating your prior knowledge about a topic help you understand new information? Discuss how you could activate prior knowledge before reading something new in social studies or science.
Frame (SS) How does knowing the history of something help us understand it better? For example, how does knowing about the history of America help us understand our beliefs about freedom and oppression?
Focus (SS) Learn about the history of the relationships between humans and dogs that are described in this video.
Follow Up (SS) Discuss how activating prior knowledge about the history of a topic can help us understand the topic better. For example, how does knowing some history of the relationships between dogs and ancient people help us understand our relationships with them today? What does this tell you about learning about the history of countries, people and so on? Why is an awareness of history important in shaping our future?
NARRATOR: Here was an animal from the wilderness that actively sought out our presence and our friendship, an animal that followed us and understood our intentions. The dog was the very first creature to be domesticated and live amongst us.
NARRATOR: How did ancient people respond to the new creature that mysteriously had a foot in the animal world and a foot in our own?
NARRATOR: On the temple walls of this 15-hundred-year-old pyramid the dog takes its place amongst the sacred animals.
NARRATOR: The dog had become a creature of magic. This is the dog believed to feature in the mural, known as the Xoloitzcuintli (Show-low-eetz-queent-lee), the dog of the God Xolotl (Show-LOW-tl), believed to have been used in ritual practices by the Chichimeca (Chih-chih-MECK-ah) people. The Xoloitzcuintli, though very rare, still exists in Mexico. Its unique hairless skin is believed to have given these dogs special significance for the Chichimecas.
NARRATOR: The genetic mutation that causes these dogs to be born without hair also results in them missing certain teeth, making it unusually easy for archaeologists to identify the dogs at their sacred burial sites.
NARRATOR: The Xolo is not alone in its use as a ritual dog. Humans have been sacrificing dogs for as long as 12 thousand years.
NARRATOR: On virtually every landmass and in every major culture dogs have been buried with people. In Israel, archaeologists have unearthed the 12-thousand-year-old remains of a woman holding a puppy.
NARRATOR: In Kazakhstan, dog skeletons have been discovered buried in the foundations of houses 6 thousand years old, apparently as spiritual guardians of the homes.
NARRATOR: What was it that first drew ancient people to bury their dead with dogs?
SUSAN CROCKFORD: I think if we are right and that that, this process of a wolf turning into a dog happened very quickly, it seems to me that it probably happened within a human lifespan. And if you can imagine being someone living in one of these first early settlements and actually seeing with your own eyes this wolf turn into a dog. It really seems likely to me that you might think that a dog really had some kind of magical power, so that being able to include a dog with a burial, especially of a revered person, an important person in the community, would have given this added protection to guard that spirit as they move along into the after life.
NARRATOR: Dogs are still believed to have magical powers in the far reaches of Mexico.
NARRATOR: Gudelia Mendiata (goo-DAYLEEAH MEN-dee-atta) keeps Xolo dogs because she believes they have the power to heal illness and pain.
NARRATOR: After a lifetime of hard work as a clothes washer, Gudelia has severe rheumatism in many of her joints.
NARRATOR: Her solution is the healing power of her dogs, whose skin is hot to the touch, especially the puppies.
GUDELIA: When they are small I wash them really well and then I place them so that they can get rid of my cramps. You put them here like this and then they burn, burn from how hot they get. If you have rheumatism you put them wherever it hurts.
NARRATOR: We can begin to understand why the ancient Chichimeca might have felt these hairless dogs possessed something unique when we look at a Xolo puppy litter.
NARRATOR: Many of the pups in the litter of a hairless dog will be born with fur because the genetic mutation that causes the bare skin will only be passed on to a few of her litter.
NARRATOR: The hairless pups are very special.
NARRATOR: When dogs joined our community thousands of years ago it seems that we quickly embraced them as magical and spiritual companions. But people were to discover that dogs could also offer us something else unique that could make or break the survival of our communities, their bark.
NARRATOR: In Staffordshire, England, a man approaches an isolated country home. With nobody around for miles, it’s a perfect target for an intruder. But this house has 24-hour protection.
JAMES SERPELL: It’s a very intimidating kind of display seeing these large dogs rushing up to the gate like that, producing these deafening barks, it’s the ultimate deterrent if you like. My stealth has gone, now everyone knows I am here.
NARRATOR: With the permission of their owner, the guards allow Zoologist James Serpell (SIR-pel) to enter their territory.
JAMES: Hi dogs, hello dogs, hello dogs.
NARRATOR: A recent study in the United Kingdom showed that a barking dog is a stronger deterrent against burglars than a burglar alarm.
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