British scientists have set out to find out exactly when wolves were domesticated into dogs and became man's best friend.
They will study DNA and bones from ancient remains of wolves as well as dogs, which could show domestication took place 35,000 years ago, two and a half times longer ago than can now be proved.
Experts are split on how the process began, with some insisting dogs were domesticated once in east Asia and spread from there, while others suggest it happened in several places at different times.
The project, funded by Britain's Natural Environment Research Council, will enable researchers from Durham and Aberdeen Universities to use the latest DNA techniques on bones, teeth and remains found across Asia and Europe.
Lead researcher Dr Greger Larson, a reader and ancient DNA expert at Durham's Department of Archaeology, said: "It is remarkable that despite the fact we have a good feel for the times and places of when cows, sheep, goats, and pigs were domesticated, we still don't have the first clue about dogs.
"Using a combination of state-of-the-art techniques we hope to change that."