Domestic Animals

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Domestic Animals


species of animals bred by man. The economic benefits derived from breeding animals have been of decisive significance in their domestication. Tamed animals were a more reliable source of food than wild ones, whose numbers near human settlements rapidly diminished as hunting techniques improved. All domestic animals are descendants of wild ancestors, differing from them in behavior, external appearance, internal organization, and productivity as a result of man’s influence. With the exception of silkworms and bees, all domestic animals are vertebrates. Of the large number of wild animal species, a certain portion belonging to various phyla, classes, orders, families, and genera has been domesticated.

Domestic animals include cattle, sheep, goats, reindeers, camels, llamas, buffalo, yaks, bantengs, gayals, horses, pigs, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea fowls, pigeons, bees, and Asiatic silkworms. Close to domestic animals are certain fish raised in ponds and aquariums, the “decorative” birds (canaries and peacocks), and laboratory animals. The marals and sikas constitute a transitional stage between wild and domestic animals; the foxes, arctic foxes, sables, mink, and coypus raised in cages also fall into this category. These animals are at the stage of domestication.

Science has not yet clarified the question of the wild ancestors of domestic animals. It is presumed that the ancestors of the pig were the various species of wild boars (European, Indian, and Mediterranean) and of the domestic sheep, the wild species of sheep found in Europe (Corsica and Sardinia), Asia Minor, and Middle and Central Asia. The bezoar goat and markhor are thought to be the ancestors of the domestic goat, and the urus is believed to be the ancestor of cattle.

Regarding the origin of horses, many scientists agree that the principal ancestors of the horse were the tarpan and Przhevalski’s horse. The wild red jungle fowls are considered to be the ancestors of many breeds of chickens.

The time and place of the domestication of the first animals are judged primarily from excavations of the settlements of primitive man. Excavations show that the dog was domesticated earlier than other animals, in the Mesolithic; the pig, sheep, goat, and cattle were domesticated in the Neolithic; and the horse was domesticated later. Since the Mesolithic and Neolithic did not begin simultaneously in different parts of the world, there was a process in the Neolithic cultures of not only the primary domestication of animals but also of breeding the already domesticated ones. The supposed areas of the origin of domestic animals are determined to a significant degree by the zoogeographic areas of distribution of their wild ancestors. However, it is easier to establish the places of origin and domestication of those animals whose ancestors had small areas of distribution during the period of domestication (for example, the yak, banteng, and chicken). It is more difficult to establish the supposed areas of origin of such animals as cattle, dogs, and pigs, the wild ancestors of which were widely distributed in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Evidently, the ancient areas of origin of domestic animals were the regions of the Near East and Asia Minor, and then the regions of the ancient cultures in the basins of the Nile, Tigris, Euphrates, Ganges, Indus, Amu Darya, and Huang Ho rivers and in the upper reaches of the Enisei and elsewhere where farming arose first.

The taming of domestic animals probably occurred through various ways: natural contact between man and the animals and the forced taming of the young and then of the adult animals.

Various breeds have been developed from the many species of domestic animals, and these have formed under the influence of socioeconomic and natural historical conditions and have been adapted to satisfy a variety of man’s needs. The domestication of wild animals bred in captivity and the development of various breeds were carried out gradually under the influence of new environmental conditions and artificial selection. At first unconsciously and then purposefully, man strove for greater productivity from the domestic animals. Thus, while a wild hen lays approximately 15 eggs a year, some chickens of modern improved breeds lay approximately 300 eggs a year. A female of wild cattle produces only several hundred kilograms of milk (per one lactation), while the best modern cows of improved breeds produce approximately 10,000-15,000 kg of milk. A wild swine that breeds once a year will produce five-six young, while modern pigs of improved stock breed twice a year, producing 25-30 young annually. Much work has been done to improve the existing breeds of domestic animals as well as to develop new ones. Livestock raisers are developing new breeds to meet the needs of agriculture and industry by crossbreeding local, historically formed breeds with pedigreed ones, by selecting and breeding the better animals, and by directed raising of the young (for example, improving the breed by means of special feeding).


Bogoliubskii, S. N. Proiskhozhdenie domashnikh zhivotnykh. Moscow, 1956.
Bogoliubskii, S. N. Proiskhozhdenie i preobrazovanie domashnikh zhivotnykh. Moscow, 1959.
Herre, W. “Proiskhozhdenie domashnikh zhivotnykh i ikh dome-stikatsiia.” In Rukovodstvo po razvedeniiu zhivotnykh, vol. 1. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from German.)
Tsalkin, V. I. “Proiskhozhdenie domashnikh zhivotnykh v svete dannykh sovremennoi arkheologii.” In Soveshchanie, posviashchennoe 100-letiiu vykhoda v svet knigi Ch. Darvina “Izmenenie zhivotnykh i rasteniy pod vliianiem odomashnivaniia” (1868), 18-20 dek. 1968 g. Tezisy dokladov. Moscow, 1968.
Klatt, B. Entstehung der Haustiere, vol. 3. Berlin, 1927.


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