When Did Humans Start Domesticating Animals?

By Antonia Čirjak on May 11 2020 in Answer

The process of domesticating animals has been going on for longer than many of you might suspect.
  • Some scientists argue that the very first dogs were domesticated some 13,000 years ago.
  • The main reasons people started domesticating animals were climatic and environmental changes that occurred around 21,000 years ago.
  • The first livestock was domesticated during the Neolithic transition.

The process of domesticating animals has been going on for longer than many of you might suspect. We rarely consider how long we have been doing it and the impact it had on our society. The process of domestication changed human society and history. It is an extremely important process that happened in many different places with many different species.

Although the majority of sources agree that it originated in Mesopotamia, around 10,000 years ago, it is hard to pinpoint the start exactly. Some scientists claim that the first dogs were domesticated 13,000 years ago, which might also be true. We will attempt to explore the origins of animal domestication in this article.

The History Of Domestication

It is commonly believed that the reason people started domesticating animals was climatic and environmental changes that occurred around 21,000 years ago. This was during the Last Glacial Maximum period. These changes continue even today. The effect of these changes was that they made obtaining food extremely difficult for people, so they needed to develop new methods of hunting. This was when the first domesticated animals started to appear, and it is strongly believed that the first domesticated animal was the wolf, some 15,000 years ago. 

There was a period of intense cold during that time, around 12,900 years ago, called the Younger Dryas, which made humans create new strategies of hunting and finding food. The cold put immense pressure on the entire human species. Favorable climatic conditions started appearing after 1,000 years, and that is when people began domesticating plants and animals more than before. The population was growing, and people were searching for new ways of getting food.

The Domestication Of Livestock

Once the Neolithic transition happened, many agricultural societies started appearing throughout the continents. This was when the first livestock was domesticated. It included sheep, goats, pigs, and taurine cattle. Two thousand years after that, 9,000 years ago, humped zebu cattle were domesticated in the area that became Pakistan. Pigs had also domesticated in Asia 8,000 years ago. An interesting thing to note is that they were domesticated from wild boar.

The first horses were domesticated 5,500 years ago, which is surprising, considering we expected them to be one of the first animals to be domesticated. This also happened in Central Asia. This brings us to the cat and the chicken that were both domesticated 4,000 years ago. The chicken was in Southeast Asia, and the cat in Egypt, which absolutely makes sense—seeing as how their deities were often portrayed as cats.

Around this time is the first actual mention of the domestic dog, although it is suspected that it happened much earlier. This was when massive changes began happening in the ecology and evolution of humans and various animal and plant species. This led to intense livestock domestication, and humans started moving to different parts of the planet to engage in farming and breeding animals. Humans started to exploit plants and animals, which led to new ways of life and the development of urban societies.

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