The Evolution of Pet Ownership
Animals have always played an important role in the human experience. Animals have become a vital part of human life. They provide food, clothing, and transportation. Animals were worshipped in many cultures and times throughout history.
Animals still have many traditional uses in the world, but their role has changed. Over the past several centuries, the number of companion animals and pets has increased dramatically.
Discover fascinating facts about the evolution of human-animal relationships over time.
In prehistoric times, the relationship between primitive men and animals was one of hunter-prey. Animals were primarily seen as food sources and for skins to be used for clothing.
It was the wolf that first domesticated dogs from their wild state. It was at least 12,000-14,000 ago that people learned that wolf cubs who remained under the control of humans as adults were able to be trained.
Dogs were used for practical purposes from the very beginning of domestication. The dogs were kept to perform various tasks, such as guarding, hunting, and herding. There is evidence to suggest that domesticated dogs in primitive societies were treated with respect, but there are also indications they were considered companions even as far back as 12,000 BC. This is illustrated by the discovery of a Paleolithic grave in Northern Israel in which a person was buried alongside a puppy or dog. This is explained by the fact that a human hand was placed on a dog or wolf puppy’s shoulder in a Paleolithic tomb found in Northern Israel.
Around 8,000 years ago, the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East began to see a gradual shift in human life from that of a nomadic hunter to settling farmers. In this environment, working dogs were valued more and more. Around this time, the cat was also loosely associated with people. Mice and other small mammal prey, which small wild felids prefer, quickly exploited the new niche created by houses, barns, and grain stores. The cats that chased these rodents to human settlements were tolerated and even encouraged. This was because they helped eliminate these pests.
Dogs may have also had cultural significance in some ancient cultures, especially when it came to death rituals. In some cases, the dead were intentionally left out for dogs to eat because it was believed that the soul of the dead had to pass through the dog in order to reach the other side. The early associations between death and dogs gradually evolved into the belief that dogs can prevent or ward off death. Ancient Greece kept dogs in healing temples because of their alleged ability to cure illnesses. It is possible to see this as a precursor to our modern practice of using dogs for therapy in order to help people suffering from a variety of conditions.
Pet ownership among the ruling classes or nobles has a rich history that dates back to ancient Egypt. In murals from that time, pharaohs are shown with companion animals. Many Chinese emperors raised dogs, which were often nursed by humans as puppies and then cared for by their servants as adults. Greek and Roman nobles were also passionate pet owners.
Human-animal relations became less central and more symbolic as civilizations evolved. With this shift came the idea that humans were in control of all animals. Animals lost their religious and cultural significance, but some animals remained close to humans in the form of companions.
Pet keeping was very popular in medieval Europe between the 13th and 15th centuries AD amongst the aristocracy, as well as some of the senior clergy. The lap dogs were popular among noble women, while the male nobility preferred to focus their attention on more useful animals, like hunting hounds or falcons. Hunting, or “venery,” was a powerful symbol of status and power for the aristocracy during this time. As different types of hounds were developed to chase other prey, dog breeds spread across Europe.
The Christian Church was not a fan of pet ownership. Church leaders recommended that the food for these animals be donated to the poor. The Church was more concerned that animal worship and close association with animals were strongly associated with pagan religion. The Church’s prejudice against pets peaked during the Inquisition when the evidence against heretics included frequent references to animal close associations.
In the brutal witch trials that took place in the 16th and 17th centuries, many innocent people were falsely accused of witchcraft. They were then condemned to death. The possession of an “animal familiar,” which was considered a Satanic symbol, was used to prove their guilt. Most often, the accused were older women who lived in social isolation and kept animals as companions. Companion animals became popular again as interest in witchcraft decreased. They even began to be a symbol of good luck.
Most likely, the reason behind negative attitudes towards companion animals in history was that loving relationships with animals were viewed as immoral and contrary to nature. Westerners believed that animals had no feelings and were only created to serve humans until relatively recently.
Pet keeping is on the rise.
Pet-keeping was not widely accepted in Europe until after the 17th century. It wasn’t popular among the middle class until the 18th century. In its current form, pet keeping is likely a Victorian invention. It was seen at this time as a way to connect with nature, which was no longer viewed as a threat. This allowed for a visual demonstration of the dominance of man over nature.
Since Roman times, Britain has been a breeding center for dogs. In 1859, one of the first official dog shows for the Pointer-Setter breeds was held in Newcastle. Charles Darwin’s 1859 publication The Origin of the Species revealed little about the inheritance of different characteristics. Since then, dog breeding has become more formalized through the creation of breed standards.
Pet keeping was a Victorian practice that reflected other social attitudes. The ‘lower class’ was deemed unsuitable for pet keeping, as it encouraged the neglect of social duties.
Modern society and pet-keeping
Dogs play many roles in modern society, from status symbols to helpers and companions. Dogs are also a way to express one’s personality, as people often choose a breed that reflects their own. Rare species, for example, are often used to indicate status. As an example, guide dogs and hearing dogs are used to help the blind or deaf.
In Western societies, the main reason people own pets is to have a companion. Recently, people have become more aware of the positive impact that companion animals can have on their health and well-being.