Which species were domesticated

One of the main questions is why only a few species were domesticated from such a huge number of wild animal species. For example, only 14 species were domesticated from the large group of terrestrial mammalian herbivores and omnivores. The horse and the donkey were domesticated, but four zebra species and the Asiatic ass were not. There are many existing testimonies that people almost 20,000 years ago were keeping bears in captivity. The ancient Egyptians (in the Old Kingdom 2500 B.C.) were keeping tamed addax antelope, hartebeest, oryx, gazelle, and cheetahs (for hunting). The ancient Romans kept and bred dormice (for meat). None of these animals, however, was domesticated.

The answer is as follows. Wild animals must match several important conditions to be domesticated. If one of the conditions is not met, domestication will not occur. A candidate for domestication must not be a narrow food specialist (e.g., the anteater or panda) because nourishment must be easy to supply. It should also have a strong herd or pack instinct, which secures authority recognition and therefore simplifies comunication with a human. A social carnivore like a wolf is much easier to tame than a solitary hunter like a leopard. Likewise, sheep and goats, which have a social system based on a single dominant leader, are much easier to tame than deer and most antelopes, which live in herds without dominance hierarchies. And the candidate animal should be "in the right place at the right moment."

A distinctive barrier to successful domestication is food competition (one of the reasons why the bear was not domesticated was that humans were not able to feed both themselves and the bear). Other obstacles are nasty disposition, reluctance to reproduce in captivity (cheetah), and the tendency to panic in enclosures or when faced with predators (antelopes, deer), or a long reproductive cycle and slow growth rate (which obviously has prevented real elephant domestication). The reason why zebras were not domesticated, even though the colonists tried it in South Africa from the seventeenth century onwards, was due to their biting habits and dangerous behavior (they kick a rival until it is killed).

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