I think your idea that humans would have cared for garbage and waste eating wolves interesting because I am inclined to agree with you. I think that, for most of us, if we saw an animal eating garbage, we would probably at least feel bad for it, even if we didn’t actually do anything to help it. I do not think its such a leap to imagine that some humans may have felt bad for wolves they saw eating their garbage. Probably not every early human, but at least some. But, like you, I am also inclined to believe that this idea is probably the result of current cultural feelings towards present day dogs. Things may have been much different with early wolves, no matter how nurturing people are.
I think that your comments on the diseases like cancer and diabetes are very interesting. I definitely agree that we are outpacing evolution with our scientific breakthroughs and that each new generation is getting one step closer to developing natural mechanisms to combat the diseases of today, namely diabetes and cancer. However, I feel that diseases like these are a response to overpopulation to some extent. I agree with you that it isn’t really a natural process, whereby our genes can sense overpopulation and are developing cancers to deal with the problem, but I think that overpopulation may be having indirect effects on disease. I think that the sheer number of people that are consuming resources has increased so dramatically that is has forced us to consume and make use of things that have the potential to cause diseases like cancer, or heart attacks, or diabetes. So, in this sense, I think these diseases could be tied back to overpopulation, but in reality it is likely due to a variety of sources. I think that sort of makes sense but if not we can talk about it more on Tuesday.
I found the whole idea of animal culture to be very interesting as well. I think one of the major ideas that is developing in this class is that topics like culture and domestication that we normally attribute only to humans are actually universal among the whole animal kingdom. One may be able to make an argument that humans exhibit culture to a larger extent than most other animal species but as Camilla pointed out in her comment, there are plenty of examples of animals showing their culture through cultural transmission, among many other things. It would be interesting to be able to view this whole idea from the mind of some other animal just to get a different perspective because it is often hard to see the whole picture from just one angle.
Who ever would’ve thought, or begun to have thought, of the idea of culture shaping dogs? Usually our prime suspects for the differences in dog species is human interaction, but the social/cultural side that Derr brought up was very interesting. At what point do we decide “oh it’s just where the dog’s from is why it looks, acts, and seems that way?” I would love to dig a little deeper into this idea during discussion.
Humans nonetheless show love an affection to dogs/wolves, mainly to larger mammals in general (says Bulliet). I know for a fact I do, I can hardly stand driving past a stray dog or watching any animal of the sort die. But you’re right, why are wolves the 100% starting ground for the domestication of dogs? Where did the cat originate? Did it come from a wild being in the forest that through domestication, changed genetically?
Animals absolutely have culture. In ethology, cultural transmission is thought to account for many of the behaviors that animals perform–basically the young learn certain things from the adult population (tool use, etc). This can vary from population to population (chimpanzees in one region may use a tool differently than chimpanzees in another region, because the two cultures, in two different regions, have developed tool use differently). They may not have culture in the complex way that we (humans) do, but I think that many (if not all) species of birds and mammals have some sort of culture that from simple to complex at a level appropriate to their level of intelligence.
In response to the other portion of your blog post, our readings do keep returning to this idea that domestication took place because it was beneficial to everyone involved, humans and animals. It is becoming increasing clear to me that domestication originated almost entirely as a mutualistic relationship and only recently developed into the mostly exploitative relationship that it is today.
Your logical deduction that the dog was always in the wolf allowing for easy emergence of our friend makes excellent sense. I agree that we were naturally compatible with wolves before they were dogs. I wonder how this natural compatibility extends to the ancestors of other domesticated animals. We are not as similar in intelligence or social structure to other domesticated animals as we are to dogs. It does not seem enough to argue that we were not naturally compatible with other to-be-domesticated animals, perhaps because they were able to be domesticated in the first place.
I find the second folktale especially intriguing as well. It suggests that the first reindeer came into the world with human assistance — as domesticates — and that their offspring chose to become wild — an interesting inversion of the more common trajectory of domestication.
My attempt at answering Question 1):
I would bet the reindeer became some sort of religious symbol far before they were domesticated. I’m reminded of two things: the Native Americans that hunted and relied on the bison of the great plains, and Bulliet’s attempt at explaining an order to how domestication began in deep history. My theory: Native people in deep history initially began using, and relying on a few select resources. In some environments, this meant relying on a single species as a source of sustenance for virtually every aspect of life. Such an extreme dependency combined with a lack of scientific knowledge about the world creates a religious importance surrounding said animal. And who can blame these people? The abundance and availability of the species literally determines a people’s survival. The closer this relationship became, the more ‘domesticated’ humanity and their animal were to each other. Such a close relationship sometimes resulted in total domestication, depending on the genetic potential in the species for such a thing. In our example, the Bison were not domesticated by the Native Americans (although certain members of surviving tribes have gotten around to doing that, probably with Western influence). While reading, I didn’t understand whether the Eveny domesticated reindeer before or after the demand of the Soviets. Regardless, I conclude that both the plains Indians’ and Eveny’s ability to domesticate their respective animals was the main determinate in their survival. If the Eveny did not domesticate their reindeer until forced to by the Soviets, then we may simply amend our conclusion to say that the Eveny adapted to the foreign idea of domestication, while the North American Indian did not.
I’m going to have to agree with you completely on your ancient astronaut theory. The Eveny were clearly a slave worker force for Soviets who had harnessed alien technology. The flying reindeer were just one of the many tools the Eveny had to use to complete their work.
I really appreciate your mention of the Eveny’s domestication myth. I’m almost reminded of Bulliet’s distinction between the various animal-human worldviews that came out of the enlightenment. The implicit idea in foreign cultures that animals share a close kinship with humans always makes me pause. I think it would be extremely interesting to spend a class brainstorming how our culture would change if we were to hold some of those similar beliefs. Even if we never live in a such a culture, I’m inclined to believe that adopting some of those foreign principles might really change how we approach daily life, even during experiences not explicitly related to animal-human relations.