Domestication of The Horse - Methods of Domestication

Methods of Domestication

Equidae died out in the Western Hemisphere at the end of the last Ice Age. A question raised is why and how horses avoided this fate on the Eurasian continent. It has been theorized that domestication saved the species. While the environmental conditions for equine survival in Europe were somewhat more favorable in Eurasia than in the Americas, the same stressors that led to extinction for the Mammoth did have an impact on horses. Thus, some time after 8000 BCE, the approximate date of extinction in the Americas, humans in Eurasia may have begun to keep horses as a livestock food source, and by keeping them in captivity, may have helped to preserve the species. Horses also fit the six core criteria for livestock domestication, and thus, it could be argued, "chose" to live in close proximity to humans.

One model of horse domestication starts with individual foals being kept as pets while the adult horses were slaughtered for meat. Foals are relatively small and easy to handle. Horses behave as herd animals and need companionship to thrive. Both historic and modern data shows that foals can and will bond to humans and other domestic animals to meet their social needs. Thus domestication may have started with young horses being repeatedly made into pets over time, preceding the great discovery that these pets could be ridden or otherwise put to work.

However, there is a dispute over what domesticated means. One theory suggests that domestication must include physiological changes associated with being selectively bred in captivity, and not merely "tamed." It has been noted that traditional peoples worldwide (both hunter-gatherers and horticulturists) routinely tame individuals from wild species, typically by hand-rearing infants whose parents have been killed, and these animals are not necessarily "domesticated."

On the other hand, some researchers look to examples from historical times in order to hypothesize how domestication occurred. For example, while Native American cultures captured and rode horses from the 16th century on, most tribes did not exert significant control over their breeding, thus their horses developed a genotype and phenotype adapted to the uses and climatological conditions in which they were kept, making them more of a landrace than a planned breed as defined by modern standards, but nonetheless "domesticated".

Read more about this topic:  Domestication Of The Horse

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