Earlier this month, the timeline for the first known dogs was pushed back more than 15,000 years with the identification of a huge, probably domesticated dog in Belgium. The specimen, which subsisted on large game animals like musk ox and horses, places the first dates of domestic dogs into the Upper Paleolithic, though some evidence suggests that this may have ultimately been an early and not wholly successful attempt at domestication, thus explaining why domesticated dogs appear and vanish in the fossil record.

Meanwhile, it’s become clear that the future of the dog may not be the Brussels Griffon, as previously thought. It may not even be flesh and blood, if the mad thinker’s at the U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) have their way. In addition to changes in the BigDog project, a robotic pack mule designed to lighten soldiers loads on long humps in treacherous terrain, the big brains at DARPA have added another canid inspired robot to their wish list, which also includes a stimulant that can keep commando’s awake in the field for days on end without any unfortunate side effects.

The latest proposal calls for a series of smaller, ideally autonomous robots which would operate in packs of 3-5, carrying out search and rescue missions, doing reconnassaince work and pursuing the occasional “non-cooperative human subject.”
Those of you looking for a Christmas present that will blow poor AIBO out of the water, can see BigDog in action below.