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When Did Mankind Tame Dogs and Cats?

May 18, 2018


Although many people mistakenly think "tame" and "domesticate" are interchangeable words, they are not. A wild animal raised in captivity can be very accepting when in the presence of people, even allowing someone to touch or feed them by hand. However, it is still a wild animal that was tamed by a trainer. Unfortunately, there have been numerous instances in the past where something triggered an innate or instinctive behavior and the animal suddenly attacked their trainer. Taming is a behavioral modification where an animal has become reliant upon people for resources, such as food and water.

Domesticated, on the other hand, refers to a genetic modification where man has assumed a significant role in creating a predictable reproductive response. Charles Darwin was one of the first scientists to discuss the difference between selective breeding of domesticated traits as compared to the process of natural selection. Archaeologists do agree that the dog was the first domesticated animal and genetic data suggest this transformation from the wolf occurred across Eurasia near the end of the Pleistocene era around 20,000 years ago. This even preceded cultivation of domesticated plants grown as a food source.

It was the cultivation of grains and the domestication of other wild animals raised for food (livestock) that prompted the need for another domesticated animal, the cat. The feline was needed to rid the encampment of rodents that were attracted to food stores. The cat has since evolved as an animal for companionship, otherwise known as a pet. Researchers believe goats, sheep, pigs and oxen were domesticates that also preceded the cat. However, the breeding of animals for desired traits did not happen without undesired consequences. Zoonotic diseases like viral poxes, measles, and tuberculosis came from cows, whereas pigs and ducks were responsible for influenza and horses passed along the rhinoviruses.

Ironically, humanity's earliest need was for companionship, which explains why so many dog owners consider their pet to be "man's best friend". At PrimeVET animal hospital, our caring veterinarians are dedicated to providing the best medical care possible for your dog, cat, or exotics. Call today to schedule an appointment and let us care for your companion's health and wellness.

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