Historical and Religious/Ideological background of Pet ownership

To talk about the historical, religious and Ideological background of pet ownership we must first look at the process of taming and domestication of animals by humanity. According to an article named ‘The Evolution of Pet Ownership’ on the Pedigree website and the article ‘Evolutionary genomics of dog domestication’ (Wayne, vonHoldt) the first domesticated animals were dogs, descended from wolves, over 10,000 years ago. Wayne and vonHoldt note that “the archaeological record suggests dogs first appeared 15,000 – 33,000 years ago in Europe and eastern Siberia” (3).  It is suggested by Wayne and vonHoldt that early association between humans and wolves involved packs of wolves that followed the hunter and gatherers around. The Pedigree article as well as the article ‘The Taming of the Cat’ state that dogs first held positions associated with specific tasks like herding, hunting, and guarding (Driscoll, et al). According to both the Pedigree article and a blog post on Jason Goldman’s blog ‘The Thoughtful Animal’ The first evidence of a dog as companion animal was found at an archeological site named Ein Mallaha in Northern Israel. In this location an elderly human and a young puppy or wolf were buried together. The human’s hand resting on the puppy. Around 8,000 years ago as humans began to settle into an agrarian lifestyle around the Fertile Crescent dogs were joined by other animals such as sheep, goats, and of course cats.

Cat domestication may have followed a similar yet unique path to that of dogs. According to Driscoll, et al in “The Taming of the Cat” the first signs “that people had a special, intentional relationship with cats” was found close to 10,000 years ago. (68) A human grave was found in close approximation to a cat’s grave on the island of Cyprus (Driscoll, et al). Driscoll and others suggest that while early humans began to settle the Fertile Crescent earley mice were also attracted to the settlements. The early ancestors of domestic cats which may have relied on these mice for food also began to frequent the settlements. At first being tolerated for helping to keep the mouse population under control and later being accepted based possibly upon their cute appearance (Driscoll, et al). The process of domestication however probably took quite some time and the earliest evidence of domestication comes from around 3,700 years ago in the form of an ivory cat statue found Israel (Driscoll, et al).

As far as religion and ideology cats at one point were worshiped as goddesses. Dogs at one point were considered to have control over the underworld. When someone would die they would be given to the dogs in order to get to the afterlife. This belief evolved over time into the idea that having a dog could ward off death.

Very little is known about the origins and evolution of the domestication and breeding of wild wolves into the dogs. However, the result has created a diverse variety of dog breeds in the U.S and beyond.


“The Evolution of Pet Ownership” Pedigree <http://www.pedigree.com/All-Things-Dog/Article-Library/The-Evolution-of-Pet-Ownership.aspx>

Jason G. Goldman. “Monday Pets: Biological Evidence That Dog is Man’s Best Friend” The thoughtful Animal. scienceblogs.com, National Geographic, 12 April 2010. Web. 28 April 2013

O’Brien, Stephen J., Johnson, Warren E. “The Evolution of CATS” Scientific American. Vol. 297 Issue 1 (Jul2007): p68-75. 8p.

Driscoll, Carlos A., Clutton-Brock, Juliet, Kitchener, Andrew C., O’Brien, Stephen J. “The Taming of the Cat.” Scientific American. Vol. 300 Issue 6 (Jun2009): p68-75. 8p.

Robert K. Wayne, Bridgett M. vonHoldt “Evolutionary genomics of dog domestication” Mammalian Genome. vol 23 Issue 1/2 (Feb2012): p3-18. 16p.

Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, et al. “The Genomic Signature Of Dog Domestication Reveals Adaptation To A Starch-Rich Diet.” Nature 495.7441 (2013): 360-364. Academic Search Complete. Web. 10 June 2013.



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