Author : Clive Roots
Publisher : Greenwood Press; 2007
Pages : 256
This book talks that until the last century domesticated animals were restricted to our familiar pet and farm animals, such as dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, horses, chickens, and rabbits, plus a few lesser-known creatures like the ferret and guineafowl. These animals have been domesticated for millennia.
Domestication was begun, at least in its original, prehistoric form, for it began when cavemen tamed the wolf. It is the controlled breeding of wild animals by man, known as domestication. Domesticated animals are therefore man’s creations, and the process has produced many new animals, adapted to artificial conditions, and reliant on man for their food, shelter, and mates. The controlled animals eventually changed genetically, and this produced detectable differences between them and their wild ancestors.
When animals are continually controlled by man, most aspects of their life are artificial. Many can no longer select their own mates, guard a territory, or battle with conspecifics for the control of the herd. Their movements are restricted; they cannot migrate and usually cannot hibernate. They cannot hunt, and their food selection is limited, often unvarying, and may not be suitable for their teeth and digestive systems. They become domesticated and change occurs, compounded by contrived mating arrangements, especially artificial selection, inbreeding, and hybridization. The changes that occurred in the original domesticates millennia ago are now being repeated in the recent ones.
In his book, Roots also argues that there were several reasons for the accelerated reproduction and domestication of wild animals in the twentieth century. Many new species were available and accessible, and shipping by air simplified their acquisition. Prior to the introduction of conservation and animal health legislation, animals could be freely exported from many countries, and species traditionally considered zoo animals were available to private breeders. Improved nutrition and husbandry resulted in increased breeding— the first and most essential step in the domestication process. This recent phase of wild animal control also benefited from a number of artificial breeding practices, especially planned inbreeding, line-breeding, hybridizing, artificial insemination, and the deliberate production and perpetuation of mutants.
The process of domestication varies in speed according to the species and the extent of its control and reproduction, but it is certainly aided by a short breeding cycle. The female golden hamster, for example, is sexually mature when she is 10 weeks old, and has a gestation period of just 16 days, which can result in three generations in one year. More generations annually means quicker domestication, and quicker change. It is also aided by the small size of the founder population, such as the single family of golden hamsters captured in Syria, and the consequences of inbreeding and genetic drift. Inbreeding is encouraged by commerce, for the mutants that sooner or later appear are usually valuable and are perpetuated, leading to the production of strains with new colors and patterns. The race to mutate has new mutants of some species, such as corn snakes and leopard geckos, appearing almost monthly.
The whole book consists of seven chapters, plus Preface; Introduction part; Glossary; Bibliography and Index. Each chapter examines a particular type of domestication, and includes accounts of of exemplary species that examines their biology, their domestication history, the results of domestication on their shape, size, color and physiology, and their comparative behavior - before and after domestication. Domestication is highly illustrated with both color and black and white illustrations. Domestication examines a wide variety of domesticated animals.
This fascinating view of animal development will serve high school, public and academic libraries.
Summary by: Cut Mita