The history of domesticated animals

This is a guest post written by Jennifer Smith on behalf of Hungry Pets.

The history of domesticated animals

For a great many years now – far more than we can comprehend, in fact – human beings have kept some animals as pets, as domestication has taken place and the implementation into homes has proven successful. It’s not really something we’d think about now, but there was a time at which dogs and cats weren’t part of our households, nor were other forms of animals for that matter. The domestication process takes time, and of course some animals are more suited to it than others. Even now, there are many animals which have not been domesticated and probably never will be. One is the fox – to look at it you would think that it would suit domestication rather well, but it has never seemed to happen. So, exactly what was it that made the human species begin to keep animals such as dogs and cats as pets?

In this blog post, we aim to take a closer look at the two most popular domestic animals, which probably don’t need any introduction. We will touch upon the approximate point in history at which they became domesticated, and also the reasons for this. We will also discuss whether or not the reasons we initially began to keep these animals as pets are still prevalent.


There’s no better place to start than the most popular domestic animal throughout the world: the canine. It seems like a cliched expression, but the dog is referred to as “man’s best friend” for good reason – we really do seem to take to dogs like no other animal. With a great many different species to choose from, we can all find the perfect dog for us.

Dogs are said to have been initially domesticated tens of thousand of years or so ago. This is supported by evidence of a dog’s jawbone which was found in an Iraqi cave, which dated back 12,000 years, but it is believed that domestication began much further back than that. This is perhaps quite surprising when you try to comprehend exactly how long ago that is, but if you think about it, it’s not that surprising at all. Man and dog go together so well that it’s hard to imagine a time at which we weren’t extremely close.

It is believed that the first domesticated canine was the timber wolf, which is of course well-known for its predatory instincts. It is what’s referred to as an ‘apex’ predator, which means that they have very few (or often no) animals preying on them.

Throughout history, domesticated dogs have served as guard animals because of their physical prowess and impressive loyalty. They also of course served as beasts of burden for this very same reason – their power and perseverance qualities mean that they can engage in a lot of physical activity.

Of course, further back in history, dogs unfortunately were used as a source of food when there was no other option, but thankfully this is no longer the case, as the bond is so strong now that eating canines of any sort is not the done thing in many societies. Of course, as well as being used for food, early dogs were also used for fur, but again, this is something which has gladly died out now.

Art from throughout history also indicates that domestic dogs have long been commonplace. Both Egyptian painting and Roman mosaics portray dogs of numerous breeds and sizes.



Of course, cats have also been a highly popular domestic animal for a great many years now, all over the world. As with anything which spans back so far, researchers and scientists have found it rather hard to pinpoint the exact point in history at which humans began to keep cats as pets.

As with dogs, the domestication of cats is said to have happened tens of thousands of years ago. Continuing the theme of jawbones, a cat’s was found by an archeologist in Cyprus in the early 1980s, and they ascertained that this dated back around 8,000 years ago. Of course, many researchers believe that it happened much earlier than this.

Unlike dogs, cats are actually very little use to human beings other than company, as they don’t make good guardians or beasts of burden. Some people will tell you that people own dogs, but no-one can really ever own a cat. Instead, cats seem to attach themselves to humans, or accept the domestication and use it to their advantage.

One use of the cat during the early stage of domestication was their penchant for hunting mice. Cats proved extremely useful for those who made their living in agriculture, as they would in essence act as nature’s pest control service. Naturally, this caused people to take to cats incredibly well – of course, many people in these civilisations grew their own food to feed themselves.

Which is more popular?

Though many people would argue that dogs are more popular and were more useful to human beings when they were first domesticated, it is very arguable that neither one is more popular in terms of modern domestic animals. Some people are dog lovers, whilst others are cat lovers. Some are both.

As we don’t tend to keep a dog or a cat for their traditional purposes anymore, it could be said that the reason we keep domestic animals has changed somewhat considerably. Now we keep both dogs and cats for companionship more than we do for anything else – they’re also, of course, very good for teaching children about life and the world, and how to interact.

Do you have a preference one way or the other, or do you have both dogs and cats in your home? If you’d like to, why not leave a comment in the section below to start off some discussion.

This blog post was written by Jennifer Smith on behalf of Hungry Pets, the one-stop shop for all of your pet foods and supplies.

For more cat blogging visit the catblogosphere.

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