This story originally aired on KLAS-TV in Las Vegas on November 18, 1999.
MYSTERY WIRE — It’s been said many times that humans don’t deserve dogs. The partnership between the two species dates back thousands of years.
It’s a fact that can be proven by what was found stored away in the Nevada State Museum in Carson City back in 1999.
The bones were actually found in the 1950s, but it took decades for scientists to figure out how special they are.
Some of the earliest humans in north america lived in the great basin more than 10,000 years ago, and one of those clans had a large canine who became part of the family.
Amie Dansie/Nevada State Museum:
“This was a fairly large dog,” according to Amie Dansie of the Nevada State Museum. “Not a great big wolf dog, but he was of a pretty good size. He could have been a hunting companion for running down moderate size game.”
The bones date back at least 6,300 years and were found in a place called Crypt Cave. They were discovered along with the remains of early humans.
The lifestyle of the people who lived in what would become Nevada remains a mystery. But researchers know one thing for sure, they had domesticated dogs living with them.
This period was considered the harshest in the history of the Great Basin (central and northern Nevada).
Although parts of northern Nevada were marshlands at the time, the area as a whole was living through a very long drought.
The people might have appeared much as we do today. Food in these regions was comparatively plentiful and the humans, and seemingly the dog, lived in a cave.
Dogs at the time were mainly used for hunting, they were another tool the humans could use to survive. Which makes how the dog was treated after death even more strange.
The dog was found wrapped carefully in a fishing net. A net to these people was a valuable thing to have, so using it for an animal burial appears to have meant something, possibly a strong bond or relationship between the dog and human.
Researchers say this is comparable to how early people would have buried one of their children.
Another anomaly are the dog’s bones. Researchers can see the dog had received a compound fracture to one of its hind legs. They say it survived this because humans cared for the fracture and helped the dog heal.
The break meant the dog could no longer hunt or take care of itself, but it lived on for a few more years and was well fed by its family.
The dog was found well preserved in the dry Nevada cave. It even had bits of skin and yellow fur. Researchers say it resembles a modern feral species known as the Carolina dog.
Only five other dogs ever found in North America are as old as the Crip Cave dog and none of the others came close to revealing as much about the human dog relationship.
In that same cave where the dog was found, scientists also discovered the oldest remains of an American cheetah.