A crucial part of human history is the development of taming animals to help in daily life, rather than as prey to be hunted or a predator to be avoided. While the topic is not heavily focused on, domestication of animals was just as important as the domestication and farming of plants, because the animals were needed to be able to work the land and were a more reliable source of food than the harvest that may not come.
Domestication happened at different points in all corners of the world, but animals were all domesticated for a reason, even if that is not their purpose now. Dogs were domesticated to assist in hunting, oxen to pull heavy loads, and farm animals like cows, horses, goats, and sheep for food and milk. While some roles are the same, dogs are no longer primarily used for hunting, horses developed into a means of transportation, and goats have recently been used to eat unwanted plants! Why wasn’t every animal domesticated? The animals that were domesticated usually had flexible diets that didn’t require much work on the human’s part, manageable temperaments, changeable social hierarchy, and would be easily bred in captivity. For example, it wouldn’t be very helpful to domesticate meerkats who have a strict social hierarchy and a specific diet along with a lack of purpose under human control.
Domesticating a species involves human interference in the animals’ breeding patterns. Dogs were domesticated from wolves by selecting the wolf pups that were likely the least aggressive, most obedient, had smaller jaws, or a certain coloring depending on the culture that was domesticating them. This select breading has created the entirely new species of dog, separate from wolf. Domestication also affects the animals brought into human life. Archeologists can usually tell if certain animals are domesticated based on their bones Domesticated horses and cattle used to pull heavily loads for farm work often have osteoarthritis or leg strain that would not be there otherwise.
Animal domestication changed a great deal of human society. It allowed for more permanent settlement as cattle provided a reliable food and supply source. With settlement and supplies came population growth and density and a development of communities that worked to provide everything needed for the people around, even if they weren’t of direct relation as was the previous custom. A downside to domestication was the spread of diseases between humans and animals that would have otherwise jumped between species. Pig flu and transfer of parasites are just a few examples of humans and animals getting a little too close. But without domestication humans may well still be wandering hunter-gatherers.
History of the Domestication of Animals
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