What wild animals were easily domesticated

theme - animals

People began to keep wild goats, pigs and sheep as farm animals and pets. It is not clear how this process began, but it is closely related to the formation of the first settlements that drove the wildlife to these locations. The hunters had to keep moving to find prey. Bringing in and feeding or raising young animals is a possible response to this. It is also possible that the people of the Neolithic Age drove their prey animals into large enclosures secured by fences so that they could be killed comfortably there - or to keep them away from the fields. Archaeological traces suggest such fences. Perhaps humans have noticed that their prey multiplied in captivity - and then switched to not just hunting the animals, but caring for them and making sure that other predators would stay away from them. And finally, it was also easier to process the animals' products: fur and leather did not have to be dragged away from the hunting ground; milk and wool were added later as raw materials. All in all, domestication made life safer, if no less of a chore. Above all, however, it changed people's self-image: From then on they were not only part of nature, but ruler over plants and animals, which they made subject to.

The process of domestication, which has lasted for many thousands of years, has occurred independently of one another in different places and at different times. The Middle East is decisive for Europe, but the people living there domesticated animals in Asia, Africa and on the American continents as well: the chicken and the water buffalo, for example, come from Asia, llamas and alpacas were tamed in South America, donkeys originally come from Africa, Horses were first tamed in the Central Asian steppes.

The proximity to humans didn't exactly make the animals smarter

Based on bone finds and genetic analyzes, the first domesticated animal is considered to be the dog, which is said to have joined humans 20,000 to 40,000 years ago. Even back then, dogs were used as hunting companions and, in difficult times, as meat suppliers. How exactly the domestication of dogs began, however, can only be speculated: Wolves probably ate the rubbish in the vicinity of human camps or followed hunting parties to prey on carrion. In any case, humans and dogs were very close, maybe a few less shy animals were finally fed, or a hunter brought puppies to the camp as souvenirs.

In addition to the dog, humans developed a special relationship with another animal at an early age: the cat is an example of what is known as self-domestication. As a subspecies of the wildcat, the Libyan black cat apparently adapted its behavior in such a way that people wanted to keep it with them. Wildcats may have been drawn to human settlements because they could live relatively easily on the residents' debris and leftover food. They also hunted vermin such as rats and mice, which made them useful to humans. After all, cats developed behaviors that their wild counterparts do not exhibit: normally only young cats meow in the presence of their mothers. Domestic cats, however, still show this behavior in adulthood, probably because it helps communication with humans.

As a result of domestication, animals also behave like young animals as adults and have, for example, larger eyes and floppy ears - characteristics of the so-called child schema. People often find this cute, and it also arouses the protective instinct, which gives these animals an evolutionary advantage. In addition, domesticated animals are usually smaller than their wild relatives and have less brain mass. So you could say: Being close to people kept animals young, but not exactly made them smarter.

Cover picture: Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek