Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Grayson from Broomfield, CO. Grayson Wonders, “Why are dogs man's best friend?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Grayson!

The phrase “a dog is a man’s best friend” has been around for a long, long time. We doubt that anyone who has ever owned a dog would argue with the truth of it. Just how did the dog come to earn that title, though?

If you study the history of dogs, you wouldn’t expect them to be thought of as man’s best friend. Dogs trace their lineage back to wolves. In fact, dogs share 99% of their DNA with wolves, who are hardly warm and cuddly creatures.

A long time ago, humans domesticated dogs. The goal wasn’t to make pets. Instead, they used dogs mostly for hunting and guarding land.

Over time, thoughts toward dogs shifted. Hunting hounds became loyal friends. Guard dogs became friendly companions. The dog became a pet that was loved even if it could not provide services.

Today, all you have to do is ask most dog owners and you’ll get a long list of qualities that would make any species proud. Here are just a few of the adjectives you’ll hear used about dogs: loyal, kind, playful, and unconditionally loving.

When you’re happy, your dog is ready to help you celebrate. On your worst day, your dog will greet you with a wag of the tail and a lick of the hand. Even when you are grumpy, a dog will look at you with love.

When it comes to animals, a dog really is man’s best friend. They have a blend of qualities that other species simply do not. It’s no WONDER then, that people thought of them as a best friend. But when did the friendship start?

Historians have found several old examples of the phrase. For example, the town of Warrensburg, Missouri, claims that the phrase was born in a court case in that town in 1870. A farmer sued after someone shot and killed his dog. His lawyer’s closing speech included the following words: “The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.”

The phrase is at least 50 years older than that case, though. A poem published in The New-York Literary Journal, Volume 4 in 1821 reads:

The faithful dog—why would I strive

To speak his merits, while they live

In every breast, and man’s best friend

Does often at his heels attend.

Even older examples are from the late 1700s, including Voltaire, who wrote in 1764: “It seems that nature has given the dog to man for his defense and for his pleasure. Of all the animals, it is the most faithful; it is the best friend man can have.” Some even give credit to Frederick, King of Prussia, who some historians claim referred to his beloved Italian Greyhounds as his best friends.

Standards: CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.4, CCRA.L.5, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.SL.4, CCRA.W.2

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