It has been described before that the occurence of reindeers is strangely low, while this was the main food source. But isn't it even stranger for dogs? Recent genetic research suggest that dogs were domesticated a lot earlier than any other animal, which makes sense for hunters. The distinction between dog and wolf may become blurred over long times - and while e.g. chauvet cave pictures a wide variety of wild predators, even owls and hyenas, no wolf is pictured either.

Were dogs/wolves too 'ordinary' to be portrayed here, more so than reindeer?

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    I realize the question is over 5 years old, but a cursory google search fails to turn up any evidence that reindeer are underrepresented in cave paintings. Are dogs represented in cave paintings? has the topic been studied? What is the distribution of animals in cave paintings? How is it normalized by geography/climate? Is the gap statistically significant?
    – MCW
    Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 10:43

3 Answers 3


There are lots of dogs in paleolithic cave paintings. For example:

dogs in cave painting

Dogs can be used for hunting in the woods, like deer, but for hunting large herds in open areas like bison, they are not useful and are more of a nuisance than an aid. (Notice that in the above image the quarry is a deer, not an accident.) A recent journal article on the subject:

New evidence for Upper Palaeolithic small domestic dogs in South-Western Europe

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    I haven't found any - and your picture looks very much mesolithic or neolithic saharan rock art. Do you have any evidence of PALEOlithic pictures of dogs?
    – HannesH
    Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 9:31
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    I have added a reference to a recent paper on the subject. Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 10:08
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    Thank you. Since i dit not purchase the fulltext, i do not see any reference to cave paintings here. Are there any?
    – HannesH
    Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 18:28
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    I don't think a reference to a protected paper is helpful. Not everybody wants to purchase the paper. IMO the idea of stackexchange is to have as much as possible the information on this site.
    – stevenvh
    Commented Jun 11, 2014 at 14:42
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    Could you tell us in which cave the picture was taken?
    – stevenvh
    Commented Jun 11, 2014 at 14:43

From a technical taxonomical point of view, it is impossible to have domestic dogs depicted in a Paleolithic cave painting, simply because domestication of plants and animals is one of the features of the Neolithic.

So by definition, any art that depicts a canid is either Neolithic, or it is showing a wild relative such as a wolf.

Now this is a bit overly pedantic, as domestication of dogs appears to have begun in the northern parts of Asia well before the dates we associate with the full-blown Neolithic. However, the dates are close enough that it can still be a useful rule-of-thumb (considering the Paleolithic lasted upwards of 2.6 million years, and we are quibbling here over the last 5-20 thousand years of it)


I believe most answers above are pretty good, so I don't have much more to add.

On the missing part (in above answers) to cave art, from the question: "... paleolithic cave paintings?" and OP's comments asking for images.

This is from Aurignacian period (considered Upper Paleolithic), the specific site is Cave of Pont d’Arc (UNESCO). Wikipedia's entry on this site.

Description: Decorated cave of Pont d’Arc, known as Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc, Ardèche

Decorate cave art - known as Grotte Chauvet-Pont d'Arc

Some info on the Paleolithic dog.

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    Maybe this is a rude question, but how was it determinedl that the animals in the picture are intended to be dogs? They don't look like any breed (or mix) I've ever seen, and not at all like wolves. (Something that IMHO applies to a lot of cave paintings.)
    – jamesqf
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 17:55
  • @jamesqf - This is the Paleolithic period, "any breeds (or mix) that you might have seen" (paraphrasing your statement) didn't exist then.
    – J Asia
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 20:21
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    @J Asia: Sure, but "dog-ness" - that is, the common features of dogs - existed in the original wolf, no? So one would logically expect Paleolithic dogs to be closer to the wolf than to some of today's breeds, which have been selected for specific characteristics, But those creatures have nothing dog- or wolf-like about them that I can see. If anything, they look like female lions.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 23:20
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    These are well researched and known to be lions.
    – HannesH
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 19:58
  • @HannesH - Can you show the research? And I hope you are more than our "dog-ness" type of observer.
    – J Asia
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 1:43

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