Site author Richard Steane
The BioTopics website gives access to interactive resource material, developed to support the learning and teaching of Biology at a variety of levels.

Domestication of animals by Man

Domestication involves taking animals from the wild and controlling them in some way.
It does not automatically mean making pets of them, or bringing them into the home!
For instance:


Dogs are derived from wolves, so it is not surprising that some of their aggressive instincts are retained in some breeds!
Different varieties have been selectively bred for a variety of functions:
Some functions cross over naturally between breeds, e.g.
sheepdogs used for guarding,
gundogs for rescue (in water?), searching and scenting for drugs/explosives/buried people/bodies, truffles!
hunting dogs for racing
attack dogs derived from guard dogs: bulldogs for bull baiting/pit bull terriers for fighting in pits (now illegal)
Hunting (Pack hounds): fox hounds, deer hounds, otter hounds, elk hounds, wolf hounds
(Individual chasing): greyhounds, whippets, lurchers
Gundogs: pointers, setters, retrievers, poodles!
Vermin control (ratting)
Terriers (many varieties)
Stock control (herding flocks)
sheepdogs, cowdogs?
Companionship: Lap dogs were once used instead of hot water bottles!

Cats have been domesticated for vermin control (mice/rats etc) , and as objects of worship!
Herd animals as a source of meat and other products such as leather from hides, wool/hair and horn.
Sustainable food products not involving slaughter (killing animals): milk [blood taken by Masai tribesmen from living cattle]
Sheep, goats, cattle, pigs
Elsewhere: reindeer, water buffalo, yaks, llamas, alpacas
Horses, donkeys etc as above, but almost special case
Ridden for personal transport/war animals
Harnessed for draught purposes (pulling carts, ploughs etc)
Pack animals (carry load on back)
Source of milk [Mongols]
Also for entertainment (racing, jumping, circus performance, etc)

It must be stated that with the domestication of animals came the growing of crops like cereals for grain, and that animals were used for the laborious tasks connected with this. This is tied up with Man's movement from hunter-gatherer to settling in villages/towns/cities.


Chickens are domesticated jungle fowl
Uses: when killed:
supply of meat for food
plucked to give feathers for pillows (but originally eiderdown came from nest lining of eider duck - from breast feathers) and for writing (before present day pens)
when alive:
supply eggs for food
as alarm clock!

Ducks and geese - similar uses , including guarding
Cormorants fishing (noose prevents swallowing of catch)

See if you can add your own in these categories



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