Journal Entry

2 June 2002 ... Essay: Domestication

I have been thinking about animals, lately. Wondering about stuff...

yes, I've updated the scientific names of the zebras... my dictionary of zoology sucks and I found the correct info on the 'Net...

  • The difference between "wild" and "domesticated"

You've got Zebra and you've got Horses.

Equus zebra is the Mountain zebra and Equus burchelli is the common African or Plains zebra, they both have wide stripes. Grevy's zebra, with thin strips, is Equus grevy. And the modern horse is Equus caballus.

What is it about horses that humans can take them and mould the horse's personality? Riding, jumping, pulling stuff. Nobody does any of that with any of the zebras. And I can't believe it's from a lack of trying, either...

After all, humans have bred hundreds of different breeds of horses, including several different color breeds. Like the Paint and Appaloosa. Humans are delighted with color. Why wouldn't we want to ride someone as flashy as a zebra?

But you don't see anyone riding zebras... because they are wild. Not domesticated.

The same thing goes for dogs and wolves. For the wild cat and your domesticated kitty. Birds, yep: chickens are domesticated, and we keep all manner of avian companion animals, some people use hawks or falcons for hunting. But no one keeps the larger raptors as pets because they are just too dangerous.

Wild versus Domesticated. But what is it that makes certain species tame? Is it a "flaw" in their genetic make-up? Are they less intelligent than their wild cousins? Or more intelligent, considering that our pets are going to survive right along with humans, and the wild species are more likely to go extinct because of humans?

In which case, being domesticated is an advantage for getting your genes passed on. On the other hand, humans tend to take domesticated animals and breed the crap out of them. For instance, when I say "Dog," what do you picture? A Lab? A German Shepard? A Bichon? A Chihuahua? Or a mixed breed? When I say "Horse" do you picture a Thoroughbred, an Arab, a Shetland pony or a Clydesdale? When I say "Turkey" do you see the bird whose pectoral muscles are so large that they can't even breed themselves anymore?

All this because of selective, human breeding. And the breeding is because these animals are domesticated.

And, meandering back to my point, what is it about these animals that makes them tame. And what is it about the wild animals that makes them unpredictable and dangerous?

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