Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Domesticated Animals

When an animal species is domesticated, it is changed in many ways from its wild ancestors. it may become bigger, stronger and more fecund than the ancestral form. Remaining wild animals are regarded as weeds to be intractable and may have characteristics that have been bred out over generations.

Camel: Date of first domestication uncertain, perhaps by 4000BC. Dromedary, one humped camel unknown as a wild animal. Bactrian camels endangered.

Cat: First domesticated before 1500 BC. Now greatly reduced in the wild.

Cow: Firstly domesticated about 400BC. The wild ancestor, the aurochs, became extinct before 1630.

Donkey: First domesticated about 3500BC. Now extinct over almost all of its former range. Remaining wild asses endangered.

Goat: First domesticated about 7000BC. Now found only in the most remote mountainous areas.

Horse: First domesticated about 3500 BC. Now extinct in the wild: several hundred przewalski’s horses survive in zoos round the world.
Pig: First domesticated about 7000BC. Almost, the only domestic animal that still survives in significant number in the wild.

Sheep: First domesticated about 8000BC. In Europe reduced to wild populations in Corsica and Sardinia. Elsewhere found in remote mountain areas.

Wolf: The first animal to be domesticated, before 10,000 BC. Once the most widespread mammal now reduced to strongholds in remote places. No longer found in most of Europe; numbered in tens in those western European countries where it survives.

Domesticated animals would seem to be in the least danger of extinction. However, in a world where efficiency of production rules supreme, many domestic breeds, slower in growth or less productive in the amounts of meat or milk they provide, have disappeared in recent years. Attempts are now being made to rescue the genetic heritage they represent, for they may be of use in the development of future breeds.