Domestication of livestock and crops have vastly improved the lives of humans giving them access to a steady source of food supply. It can be described as a relationship between humans with plants and animals, but their differences lay in who was considered as the lead partner in the relationship. “Domestication has provided humans with resources that they could more predictably and securely control, move, and redistribute, which has been the advantage that had fueled a population explosion of the agro-pastoralists and their spread to all corners of the planet.

Domestication of animals is thousands of years old. Scythian warriors dating back 2,000 years were skillful domesticators. Horse DNA found recently provides “new insights into how people tamed the wild animals and bred them to their needs.” (Chang, 2017).  Researchers found 13 stallions buried in a mound in what is now Kazakhstan. They used the latest genetic tools with 13 male horses that were buried in a mound in what is now Kazakhstan.  Suggesting that the Scythians were more than warriors. Here we see them as breeders. From the DNA the scientists found that the Scythians bred for certain characteristics: stockier forelimbs that were thicker, they had genes for retaining water perhaps indicating that the  mares were milked for human consumption, some had genes associated with racing speed.

Unlike modern horses, the Scythian horses DNA showed no signs of inbreeding. In modern horses, the Y chromosomes in stallions are most identical, reflecting the breeding technique of using a single stallion with desired characteristics to father many offspring. This indicates that the Scythians maintained the natural herd structure of horses.

Narrow variation of domestic animals which sometimes leads of prevalent diseases is a recent development, not an inevitable consequence of domestication. The finds also point to the profound impact that humans have had on the environment and the evolution of other species for millenniums.

Chang, Kenneth. “Ancient Horse DNA Shows Scythian Warriors Were Adept Domesticators.” New York Times (New York, NY), April 27, 2017. Accessed August 5, 2017.

3 thoughts on “Humans Have Been Domesticating Animals for Millennia

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