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 The taming of the shrew...or rabbit...or deer

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Caro
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PostSubject: The taming of the shrew...or rabbit...or deer   Fri 29 May 2015, 01:52

While on holiday recently we went to the Warbirds on Wheels museum and there was an exhibition of its founder, Sir Tim Wallis.  He is one of those people with huge energy and ideas.  The Warbirds over Wanaka is a big event of planes which has developed from his earlier interest in hunting.  New Zealand has only one native mammal, the bat, so Europeans brought over deer for hunting (and of course, sheep, cows, dogs, cats, rabbits, etc.).  They got out of hand and bounties were given for their tails, but there were (and are) still too many.  Later helicopters were used to hunt them. In 1969 the law was changed to allow deer to be farmed, and venison has appeared in our restaurants and for export, and deer farming has had its ups and downs (might be a downs phase at the moment).  The exhibition commented that perhaps this meant they were the first animals to be domesticated in thousands of years.  I thought of rabbits and my husband wondered about hamsters.  Surely there have been numerous other examples of animals being domesticated in the last 5000 years.  Haven't there? And weren't deer domesticated in other countries before 1969? They are not all that tame yet - fairly regularly we hear of people on farms attacked by stags in the rutting season.
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PostSubject: Re: The taming of the shrew...or rabbit...or deer   Fri 29 May 2015, 09:02

Hmmm interesting.

Reindeer have of course been domesticated by the Lapps and Sami for a long time, and I too feel that red deer were farmed before 1969. But were they really domesticated? They are a herd animal after all and so presumably the hinds are resonably content living together in an enclosure when given food.

Rabbits seem a good candidate ... I don't think they were domesticated before the Romans, and also what about dormice which the Romans raised and fattened in special pottery containers. Ostriches and emus, peacocks ... also hawks and falcons for hunting, or don't birds count?

And what about mink and silver fox? Originally just hunted, they are now farmed and I believe there have been concerted efforts through selective breeding to make them more docile and less aggressive than their wild cousins. And cheetahs were used for hunting in Murghal India and Persia but I don't know when they were first tamed.

Actually I'm not at all sure what are the dates for the domestication of all the usual farmyard animals - pigs, sheep, cows and the rest, though it was certainly before 5000 years ago.


Last edited by Meles meles on Fri 29 May 2015, 11:40; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : dormice not doormice - dozy as opposed to draught excluding mice)
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PostSubject: Re: The taming of the shrew...or rabbit...or deer   Fri 29 May 2015, 09:54

I suppose it depends on whether we differentiate between farming and domesticating. Without checking, I believe the first animals which are thought to have been farmed or at least herded (in the west of course, my knowledge of what happened in India and China being embarrassingly scant) were gazelles by natufian people in the Fertile Crescent around 12, 000 BP although I have seen suggestions that it may have been snails which seems like a particularly practical choice.
The original domesticates as opposed to just kept and bred for food were, as discussed elsewhere, dogs and then the cats made a good damn job of domesticating us once we settled down. Horses may been domesticated for transport around 4000 BCE in Eurasia and may have been farmed before that.
I must have a look at birds of prey, they must have been used early on but I believe that we may still have the only extant pack of hunting meerkats. Speaking of which, has anyone seen them recently?
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PostSubject: Re: The taming of the shrew...or rabbit...or deer   Fri 29 May 2015, 10:03

Reminds me of a history lecturer one time who was trying to impress on us all just how radically different society was in Gaelic Ireland before Norse and English led influences took hold. Cattle, the be-all and end-all regarding wealth and power, were not so much herded as allowed to amass themselves into giant herds and then followed, with almost all recorded territorial disputes originating in changing bovine grazing preferences over time rather than in any individual's requirement to hold dominion over actual land within actual borders.

The infrastructural development of the followers reflected this system, becoming over time a quite complex but well-defined oligarchy which had no parallels in contemporary Europe at the time, a system that could never integrate with imposed Norse or English norms later but which proved incredibly efficient, despite it not being patriarchal, dynastic in the European sense, or beholden to any in-built institution based on law or religion in the European sense either.

Ireland, the lecturer maintained, was a case of what one gets in a society when it is the humans who are domesticated by the cows. And by all accounts it was just as good (if not in some senses better) than the opposite arrangement.
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PostSubject: Re: The taming of the shrew...or rabbit...or deer   Fri 29 May 2015, 12:01

ferval wrote:
I suppose it depends on whether we differentiate between farming and domesticating.

Yes indeed, there are crocodile and alligator farms raising the beasts for meat and leather, but I don't think anyone would claim crocs are domesticated!

nordmann wrote:
[In Gaelic Ireland] Cattle, the be-all and end-all regarding wealth and power, were not so much herded as allowed to amass themselves into giant herds and then followed.....

Isn't that very much like the Maasai in Kenya/Tanzania (at least up until fairly recently) who have little concept of the private ownership of land since as semi-nomadic pasturalists they all had to follow their animals as the herds moved around the semi-desert following the seasonal rains and grazing. Territory was held in commonwealth but it was completely impractical to enclose land into separate individually owned parcels which would only be green for a very limited time in each year.
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PostSubject: Re: The taming of the shrew...or rabbit...or deer   Fri 29 May 2015, 12:29

Talking about dormice ... these are a couple of Roman gliraria, pots for the raising of edible dormice (Glis glis) at home, like hamster cages, complete with ventilation holes and internal ledges for the dormice to sleep on:



There were also dormice farms, where dormice were raised on mass in underground rooms and pits (to keep them in the cool and dark) so to encourage them to fatten up on a diet of acorns in preparation for their hibernation ... and the pot!


Last edited by Meles meles on Fri 29 May 2015, 14:03; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: The taming of the shrew...or rabbit...or deer   Fri 29 May 2015, 13:33

Meles meles wrote:

nordmann wrote:
[In Gaelic Ireland] Cattle, the be-all and end-all regarding wealth and power, were not so much herded as allowed to amass themselves into giant herds and then followed.....

Isn't that very much like the Maasai in Kenya/Tanzania (at least up until fairly recently) who have little concept of the private ownership of land since as semi-nomadic pasturalists they all had to follow their animals as the herds moved around the semi-desert following the seasonal rains and grazing. Territory was held in commonwealth but it was completely impractical to enclose land into separate individually owned parcels which would only be green for a very limited time in each year.

A parallel with which one is made very familiar when studying pre-Anglo/Norse colonialism in Ireland, as is one with North American plains Indians before European expansionism into their world too. The key to the formation of such societies, it seems, has less to do with pasture availability or quality and more to do with human population sizes. In areas where there is no great reason for mass-migration of humans and little impact from such movement from elsewhere then it makes sense from a labour-return point of view to adopt a "follow the herd" model of agriculture, with all the resultant societal formation that this then leads to. Once large numbers of people move en masse with a view to pressuring local populations, even if not overtly aggressive in their manner, then that system breaks down quite quickly - and quite catastrophically too for the locals. But while they last then the concepts of identity attached to people being defined by the strictly delimited territory in which they reside are almost incomprehensible to their members.

The mistake often made is in assuming this leads to more peaceful co-existence amongst the practitioners within such systems.
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