Why and how we domesticate animals

February 17, 2011

Claire O'Neill

I don't know how it got to this point, but in my small Tennessee hometown, deer are totally out of control. They wander front yards and side streets as if you are inconveniencing them. The temerity!

My guess is that they've just adapted to a growing human presence; that suburbanization has pushed them, sadly, out of their cozy Bambi coves and onto sidewalks. An article in National Geographic's March issue suggests that this could be how animals, over generations, become domestic — or desensitized to us.

"Did a few curious boar creep closer to human populations, feeding off their garbage and with each successive generation becoming a little more a part of our diet? Did humans capture red jungle fowl, the ancestor of the modern chicken, straight from the wild — or did the fowl make the first approach?"

The article explores the various ways humans have tried — and are still trying — to domesticate animals, as well as the ways animals seem to domesticate themselves. Scientists are approaching some strong theories on how a viscous fox could become man's best friend. As for why we would domesticate foxes and potbellied pigs ... the jury is still out.

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