Joshua J. Mark
published on 27 July 2010
Animal Husbandry is a branch of agriculture concerned with the domestication of, care for and breeding of animals such as dogs, cattle, horses, sheep, goats, pigs and other like creatures. Animal husbandry began in the so-called Neolithic ('new stone’) Revolution around 10,000 years ago but may have begun much earlier. It has been speculated that human beings used fire to cook food 1.5 million years ago but the only archaelogical evidence obtained thus far sets the date of the use of fire for cooking at 12,500 years ago (as indicated by the discovery of clay cooking pots in East Asia and Mesopotamia) and, shortly after this date, evidence of domesticated animal bones left over from human social gatherings such as dinners emerges (said bones having been discovered in excavations of fire pits in ancient 'kitchens’). Wheat was domesticated and in wide use by 7700 BCE, goats by 7000, sheep by 6700, and pigs by 6500 BCE. By the time of the settlement of the first Mesopotamian city of Eridu in 5400 BCE, animal husbandry was widely practiced and domesticated animals used in the work force (such as in ploughing) as pets and as a food source. Horses, in time, became an important component in warfare in drawing the great chariots of the various nation-states as, eventually, were elephants and lions used on the battlefield (particularly in the latter cases of the Persian campaigns and, most famously, by Hannibal of Carthage against the Romans).
Excavations of refuse dumps outside of the towns and cities in the region of Mesopotamia show a gradual decline in the number of wild gazelle bones after 7000 BCE (which, it has been suggested, shows a depletion of wild game) while the number of domesticated sheep and goat bones grows in number after the same year. Scholars have determined that these sheep and goats were domesticated, and not wild, based upon the condition of the bones and, of course, the writings and art work of the culture. It is thought likely that wild sheep and goats came to graze around human settlements in an attempt to escape from natural predators who would have avoided contact with humans. In time, these animals grew increasingly tame and became an easily accessible source of food. This same process of the gradual taming of a wild animal by close association with human beings is also thought to have been the means by which dogs were domesticated and, initially, cats as well.
Animal husbandry reached its height, in the ancient world, in Egypt where cats and dogs were cared for as though they were part of the human family in which they lived. Mummies of cats and dogs have been discovered in tombs in Egypt and so deeply did the Egyptians feel for their cats, Herodotus tells us, that they would shave their eyebrows and form a funeral procession of mourning upon the death of one of these pets. A more dramatic illustration of the importance of cats, especially, but of other animals as well, is the famous battle of Pelusium in 525 BCE in which Cambyses II of Persia defeated the forces of Egypt by having his soldiers paint the image of the great cat goddess Bastet (a very popular and important goddess of the home and patroness of cats) on their shields and, further, by driving the animals loved by the Egyptians before their front lines. The Egyptians, afraid of offending their gods by hurting the animals, surrendered their position and fled in a rout, during which most were massacred. In this way Cambyses II of Persia conquered Egypt and was so contemptuous of the Egyptians for preferring the safety of animals to their own freedom that he hurled cats into the faces of the Egyptians during his triumphal march after the battle.
The care for and breeding of animals continued on, of course, and is still an important part of every culture in the world in the present day.
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Animal Husbandry Books
White Star Publishers (07 September 2010)Price: $54.00
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12000 BCEDomestication of dogs and cats.
7700 BCEFirst domesticated wheats in the Fertile Crescent.
7000 BCEDomestication of goats.
7000 BCEA decline in the finds of gazelle bones suggest that domesticated animals were eaten more frequently due to a depletion of wild game.
6700 BCEDomestication of sheep.
6500 BCEDomestication of pigs.