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NATURE: Dogs That Changed The World, Parts One & Two

Airs Wednesdays, January 14 & 21, 2015 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Hunting dogs in Papua, New Guinea.

Credit: Courtesy of Colin Rogal ©EBC

Above: Hunting dogs in Papua, New Guinea.

"Dogs That Changed The World" tells the epic story of one of the most amazing evolutionary journeys ever taken by a species. Thousands of years ago, as humans began to settle in villages, the wolf emerged from the wild and made the startling leap to “man’s best friend.” Once domesticated, dogs would accompany human cultures down through the centuries and to the far corners of the world. Much more recently, the Victorian Age transformed them into the most varied species, and one of the most common pets, on the planet. In the 21st century, dogs are once more changing our world by their use in cutting-edge scientific research and lifesaving medical care.

Discover Ancient Breeds

Rollover the breed names on this interactive map to find out where those dogs originated from. Click on the names to get more information.

Part One: "The Rise of the Dog" airs on Wednesday, January 14 at 8 p.m. - In this episode, you’ll learn about how the domestication of dogs might have taken place, including the theory of biologist Raymond Coppinger that it was the animals themselves — and human trash — that inspired the transformation. The genetic analysis of Peter Savolainen of the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden has placed the origins of domesticated dogs — and those of the first dog — in East Asia. You’ll also discover 14 dog breeds that controversial genetic studies show are the most ancient — and the best living representatives of the ancestors to all living dogs.

Part Two: "Dogs By Design" airs Wednesday, January 21 at 8 p.m. - Over 400 breeds of dog are recognized around the world, each unique for its personality, habits, and form. Most of these breeds exploded onto the scene over the past 150 years, spurred by the Victorian-era passion for the “dog fancy” — the selective breeding of dogs to enhance particular characteristics.

By tinkering with its genetics, humans made the dog the most varied animal species on the planet — and also created a host of hereditary health problems. Despite the plethora of new shapes and sizes, dogs have retained the instincts bred into their ancestors by thousands of years of work: the urge to herd or hunt, to dig and to guard.

In “Dogs By Design,” you’ll discover how these hard-wired behaviors help different types of dogs, from hounds to herders, excel at different tasks (and why it can sometimes be so difficult to train them to do otherwise). You’ll also learn how dogs’ finely tuned senses are serving humans and saving lives.

NATURE is on Facebook, Tumblr and you can follow @PBSNature on Twitter. Past episodes of NATURE are available for online viewing.

Preview: Dogs That Changed The World (Part 1)

Dogs' roles as guard, hunter, herder, hauler and spiritual protector, as well as current theories about the wolf's evolutionary leap.

Dogs That Changed the World (Part 2) - Preview

Details the explosion of dog types into the roughly 400 breeds known today and outlines dogs' potential role in medical care for human beings.

Dogs That Changed The World: Hard-Wired?

Genetics and brain physiology can affect a dog’s personality and behavior.

Dogs That Changed The World: The Speedy Saluki

For 6,000 years, the Bedouin have bred Saluki from only the quickest dogs with the best eyesight.

Director Corinna Faith on "Dogs That Changed The World"

In this web exclusive video, producer and director Corinna Faith discusses the making of "Dogs That Changed The World," including how locations were selected, what her favorite sequence was, and why this miniseries was so important to her.

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