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The Evolution of Domestication: From Opportunistic Hunting to Animal Husbandry

In the journey of human evolution, opportunism has played a crucial role, leading to our strength and adaptability as a species. This opportunistic nature is evident not only in Homo sapiens but also in other hominids. From prehistoric hunters in tundras to those dwelling in Mediterranean regions, dietary choices were shaped by available resources. The shift from a predatory relationship with animals to domestication marked a significant turning point in human history, altering not only how we procure and consume food but also the structure of society.

The Early Domestication : Dogs and Cats 

Approximately 15,000 years ago, humans embarked on the path of domestication by taming the dog. Wolves, the ancestors of dogs, were initially chosen for their hunting prowess, defense, and companionship. Later, the cat followed suit around 12,000 to 10,000 years ago, drawn to the first agrarian settlements due to the presence of mice attracted by food scraps. The domestication process also affected the size and characteristics of these animals, influenced by stress, limited mobility, and altered diet.

The Agricultural Revolution and Beyond

The transition to agriculture around 8,500 years ago marked the domestication of various animals like goats, sheep, pigs, and cattle in the Near East. Over time, domesticated animals underwent further changes due to human control, resulting in increased productivity and specific behavioral traits. The advent of animal husbandry allowed for a more consistent and stable food supply, including the access to dairy products, which became advantageous for early human populations.

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The Impact of Captivity

The process of domestication had a profound impact on wild animals, reducing their seasonal movements and altering their dietary habits. While they faced stress from human interaction, they were protected from other natural predators. Moreover, captivity altered the dynamics between male and female animals, leading to noticeable differences between domesticated and wild species.


The story of domestication is a testament to humanity's opportunistic nature and adaptability. From the early days of hunting and gathering to the development of animal husbandry, the way humans procured and consumed food has been shaped by changing circumstances. Domestication not only revolutionized our relationship with animals but also impacted our dietary choices and social structures. Understanding this historical evolution sheds light on the complexity of human civilization and its enduring connection with the animal kingdom.

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Read more : Jean-Denis Vigne, an archaeologist and biologist at the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle in Paris, has extensively explored the origins of domestication. His book "Les débuts de l’élevage" delves into the fascinating journey of early animal husbandry and its significance in human history.

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The Multi-Faceted Significance of Livestock in Agriculture and Poverty Reduction

Livestock farming plays a crucial role in global agriculture, contributing to 40% of agricultural production and supporting the livelihoods and food security of nearly one billion people. The sector experiences rapid growth due to rising incomes, technological advancements, and structural changes, presenting opportunities for agricultural development, poverty reduction, and food security. However, while these transformations are promising, there are potential risks to small-scale farmers, and addressing systemic environmental and human health concerns is essential for sustainable development.

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