Conditions for Animal Domestication by Humans

Author Jared Diamond (in his book Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies) proposed that for humans to domesticate an animal species, the species normally meets the following criteria:

  • Diet: Humans can only domesticate animal species that live on cheap and accessible food. Sustaining animals that require specific and expensive dietary needs not only can be a problematic, but also easily interrupt and hamper domestication efforts.
  • Growth rate: The intended animal species for domestication should grow at a sufficiently fast rate for domesticators to generate a prompt return on the investment of rearing it.
  • Disposition: Animals must be at least sufficiently friendly for humans to go near them and therefore bring them into captivity. Vicious animals generally and naturally do not allow for human handling.
  • Ease of breeding: If the animal refuses to breed under the conditions as provided by domesticators, its period of being under human control would be short and hence not sufficient enough to facilitate for successful domestication.
  • Social hierarchy: If the intended type of animal for domestication forms social hierarchies in the wild to which they follow a leader, then humans would similarly be able to establish themselves as the dominant of that species. This is important because it meant that the animal would heed instructions from that people.
  • Tendency to panic: Many animals panic when restrained, contained in limited spaces or have perceived a threat. Animals, such as cows, that are more agreeable and serene despite being put under such conditions are easier to manage thus be domesticated.

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