Domesticated animals and plants are those species whose breeding and living conditions are under human control for the purposes of using them for food, as an aid to work, or as a pet.

Table of contents
1 Domestication of Animals
2 Limits on Domestication
3 Categories of Domesticated Organisms
4 See also
5 Reference
6 External links

Domestication of Animals

According to physiologist Jared Diamond, animal species must meet six criteria, in order to be considered for domestication (see also Guns, Germs and Steel).

  1. flexible diet (not too cumbersome or expensive)
  2. growing up reasonably fast (see growth rate)
  3. breeding in captivity
  4. pleasant disposition
  5. unlikely to panic
  6. modifiable social hierarchy (recognise a human as its chief).

The boundaries between surviving wild populations and domestic clades of elephants, for example, can become vague. This is due to the slow growth. Similar problems of definition arise when, say, cats go feral. A classification that can help solve this confusion is, in order of increasing domestication,
  • wild animals,
  • zoo animals, and
  • domesticated or tame animals.

The first domestic animal was probably the dog, possibly as early as 11000 BCE. The next three - the goat, sheep and pig - were domesticated around 8000 BCE, all in western Asia. The cow followed around 6000 BCE The horse was domesticated first in northern Russia, around 4000 BCE. Local equivalents and smaller species were domesticated from the 2500s BCE.

Petting is the act of a human stroking an animal for mutual pleasure.

Limits on Domestication

Despite long enthusiasm about revolutionary progress in farming, few crops and probably even fewer animals ever became domesticated. While the process continues with plants (berryfruits, for example), it appears to have ceased with animals.

Domesticated species, when bred for tractability, companionship or ornamentation rather than for survival, can often fall prey to disease: several sub-species of apples or cattle, for example, face extinction; and many dogs with very respectable pedigrees appear prone to genetic problems.

One side-effect of domestication has been disease. For example, cattle have given humanity various viral poxes, measles, and tuberculosis; pigs gave influenza; and horses the rhinoviruses. Humans share over sixty diseases with dogs. Many parasites also have their origins in domestic animals.

Categories of Domesticated Organisms

Domesticated organisms and formal or informal biological categories that include domesticated individuals are the subjects of the following Wikipedia articles:

See also

See also:
agriculture, feral, animal husbandry


Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel; a short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years, Jonathan Cape, London: 1979.

External links