• Finally understanding domestication

    Posted on February 9th, 2014 mollyo92 No comments

    I’m really glad we read Animals as Domesticates by Clutton-Brock this week. It seems we’re finally getting in to really discussing domestication and I’m starting to grasp the process. Unlike Bulliet, Clutton-Brock began her book with a basic background of domestication. In class it kept being mentioned that dogs were the first domesticated animals. This is something that seemed obvious to everyone but me, given that I really know nothing about domesticated animals. But this fact started to really make sense with this week’s readings. Strangely, the Bulliet book seemed to begin to discuss the actual process of domestication more this week than the introduction did. It’s confusing to me that Bulliet chose to begin his book with a lot of confusing, and dare I say nonsense, about the postdomestic era and an obsession with blood and sex, and then finally in the middle of the book he begins explaining the process of domestication. As someone with zero prior knowledge on the subject, I would have appreciated this discussion a lot earlier. His points in the beginning would probably have made a lot more sense as well.

    But moving away from Bulliet and back to Clutton-Brock, I’m also glad she is picking up on the question of whether humans are natural or artificial. This is something I’m very interested in exploring during the course, and it’s starting to come together. As I begin to read some of the theories of domestication, I can’t help but think of domestication as being similar to co-evolution. I’m definitely no scientist, but it seems to me that the way in which humans have changed the evolution of certain species, has also changed the evolution humans. We have changed our eating habits, hunting habits, we don’t need to run as fast, or work as hard because we have certain animals to assist us. Although people may call human activity, including domestication of animals “artificial,” it appears to me at this point to be very natural. Perhaps the development of certain animals species was also supposed to be affected by humans, just as some species of parasites and hosts have co-evolved and affected each other. I’ll end my rambling thoughts here, in the hopes that this is something we can further talk over in class, and perhaps someone with a lot more scientific knowledge than I have can offer me some clarity. I lastly wanted to share an article I came across the other day. I know in Clutton-Brock, it’s somewhat a question as to where and when dogs were first domesticated, and this article brings some new evidence to light. Given the class interest in dog domestication, it may be a good article to look over.



    4 responses to “Finally understanding domestication” RSS icon

    • Kara Van Scoyoc

      I agree with you that Bulliet has just now gotten into the process of domestication compared to the information he had in the introduction. I believe he included that bold intro as a means to capture the audience but it almost had the opposite reaction on me by making me question the relevance of his subject matter and actual level of expertise on the matter.

    • I can’t tell if you’re correct in calling our relationship with domesticated animals co-evolution, but I like the thought. Co-evolution is typically considered a process where two or more species share a bond during their evolution that causes them to change together. I would say humans and animals have changed together, but the changes to humans as a result of domestication are more social, behavioral, and economic than genetic like the changes in domesticated animals are. But if we don’t define “evolution” as being only a genetic process, I think you might be right in calling in co-evolution. How I’d say the changes to animals are more pronounced than the changes to humans.

    • Thinking about how humans co-evolved with other animals yields so many cool insights. I’m going to be interested to hear what you all think about the section of Dunn we’re reading that shows how cattle domesticated us just as much as we domesticated them! Molly, I’m glad you got so much out of these chapters of Bulliet. While it does seem odd to talk about periodization before discussing domestication itself, what I like about those early chapters is the way they encourage us to remember that our contemporary attitudes toward and treatment of different animals are partly a function of changing historical circumstances and relationships. The next step is to think about domestication as an ongoing evolutionary process rather than as an event. It’s complicated for sure!

    • I completely agree with you that domesticated animals have in a sense co-evolved with human society. It’s interesting to note, however, that this co-evolution is different from others we might find in the natural world. For one thing,(as tanneraustin has already pointed out), since humans were pretty much evolved physically and genetically by the time they got around to domesticating animals, the evolution on our side of the spectrum was mostly in terms of society and perhaps intelligence. Another important difference between this type of co-evolution and others is that usually co-evolution is a sort-of arms race between two competing species- either predator and prey, or parasite and host, etc. In this case, humans are augmenting the process of evolution in domestic animals by selectively diversifying their species and ensuring their continued existence. Not to say that co-evolution is never in other instances for the benefit of mutualistic relationships, it’s just more uncommon. It would be interesting to think about where some of these species might be had humans not had such a large hand in their evolution- it’s pretty obvious (at least according to Jared Diamond) where we would be without them!

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