Timeline: The Domestication of Animals
While dogs weren’t always our docile companions, research indicates that they were likely one of the first animals to be domesticated by humans. In fact, genetic evidence suggests that dogs split from their wild wolf ancestors around 33,000 years ago.
When did humans domesticate other animals, and why? This timeline highlights the domestication period of 15 different animals, based on archeological findings.
Because exact timing is tricky to pinpoint and research on the topic is ongoing, these estimates may vary by thousands of years.
The domestication of animals is a particular process that’s done through selective breeding. Generally speaking, domestic animals follow most of these criteria:
- Genetically distinct from their wild ancestors and more human-friendly as a genetic trait.
- Dependent on humans for food and reproduction.
- They’re extremely difficult or impossible to breed with wild counterparts.
- Show the physical traits of domestication syndrome, such as smaller skulls, floppy ears, or coat color variations.
Domestication is not the same as taming an animal, which is when humans condition wild animals to live in captivity.
While some research suggests that domestic animals can prosper in the wild, domestic animals are typically more susceptible to predators since they lack some of the advantages, instincts, or traits that help their wild counterparts survive in nature.
Key Reasons for the Domestication of Animals
Humans domesticate animals for a number of reasons: some have been domesticated for food, work, companionship, or a combination of all three.
After dogs, livestock animals such as sheep, cows, and pigs are thought to have been some of the first animals to become domesticated by humans. This was around the same time that humanity shifted from a hunter-gathering lifestyle to an agricultural society.
|Domesticated Animal||Primary Type||Estimated Domestication Period||Origin|
|Sheep||Livestock||9,000 BCE||Middle East|
|Goat||Livestock||8,500 BCE||Middle East|
|Pig||Livestock||8,300 BCE||Middle East|
|Cow||Livestock||8,300 BCE||Middle East|
|Cat||Pet||7,500 BCE||Middle East|
|Zebu (Humped Cow)||Livestock||6,000 BCE||South Asia|
|Llama||Livestock||4,000 BCE||South America|
|Horse||Work||3,500 BCE||Central Asia|
|Alpaca||Livestock||3,000 BCE||South America|
|Bactrian Camel (two-humped)||Work||2,500 BCE||Central Asia|
|Chicken||Livestock||2,000 BCE||East Asia/Middle East|
|Arabian Camel (one-humped)||Work||1,000 BCE||Middle East|
|Turkey||Livestock||0 CE||North America|
|Duck||Livestock||1,000 CE||East Asia/Middle East|
Horses are thought to be some of the first animals domesticated for work. Scientific research suggests that the modern horse originated in Central Asia, and were selectively bred for their exceptional back strength and overall resilience.
When it comes to domesticating animals, herbivores (like cows) are generally the easiest to convert because they’re easier to feed than animals that rely on meats or grains, which need to be sourced or domesticated themselves.
Domestication Has Shaped Modern Humanity
The domestication of species has helped create our modern society. Domesticating plants and animals created a world with stable food production, which enabled the human population to boom worldwide.
This is because agriculture meant fewer people could provide more food to humans on a mass scale, so people had more time to focus on other things like creative pursuits, scientific research, etc. This gave us time to create tools that helped boost efficiencies in farming and agriculture, leading to the world as we know it today.
Ranked: The World’s Top Cotton Producers
As the most-used natural fiber, cotton has become the most important non-food agricultural product.
Ranked: The World’s Top Cotton Producers
Cotton is present in our everyday life, from clothes to coffee strainers, and more recently in masks to control the spread of COVID-19.
As the most-used natural fiber, cotton has become the most important non-food agricultural product. Currently, approximately half of all textiles require cotton fibers.
The above infographic lists the world’s top cotton producers, using data from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Originating from the Arabic word “quton,” meaning fancy fabric, cotton is a staple fiber made up of short fibers twisted together to form yarn.
The earliest production of cotton was around 5,000 B.C. in India, and today, around 25 million tons of cotton are produced each year.
Currently, five countries make up around 75% of global cotton production, with China being the world’s biggest producer. The country is responsible for over 23% of global production, with approximately 89 million cotton farmers and part-time workers. Cotton’s importance cannot be understated, as it is the primary input for the Chinese textile industry along with many other nations’ textile industries.
|Top Cotton Producers||2020/2021 (metric tons)||2021/2022 (metric tons)|
|🇺🇸 United States||3,181,000||3,815,000|
The United States is the leading global exporter of cotton, exporting three-fourths of its crop with China as the top buyer.
Despite its importance for the global economy, cotton production faces significant sustainability challenges.
The Controversy Over Cotton
Cotton is one of the largest users of water among all agricultural commodities, and production often involves applying pesticides that threaten soil and water quality.
Along with this, production often involves forced and child labor. According to the European Commission, child labor in the cotton supply chain is most common in Africa and Asia, where it comes from small-holder farmers.
In 2020, U.S. apparel maker Patagonia stopped sourcing cotton from the autonomous territory of Xinjiang because of reports about forced labor and other human rights abuses against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities.
L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, has also committed to eliminating Chinese cotton from its supply chain. Whether these changes in supply chains impact China’s cotton production and its practices, cotton remains essential to materials found across our daily lives.
Mapped: Where Does Our Food Come From?
Did you know that over two-thirds of national crops originated from somewhere else? Over time the food that built national diets has evolved.
Where Does Our Food Come From?
Did you know that over two-thirds of national crops originated from somewhere else?
Humans have been selecting and growing crops for specific traits since the origins of agriculture some 10,000 years ago, shaping where and what crops are grown today.
Now our food system is completely global and many of the world’s top producers of staple crops are in countries far from their historical origin. For example, Brazil is now the largest soybean producer in the world, though the crop is originally from East Asia.
The above infographic by Brazil Potash shows the historical origins of crops before they were domesticated across the globe and the main producers of our staple crops today.
Producers Of Staple Crops Today
Staple crops are those that are the most routinely grown and consumed. These can vary between countries depending on availability.
In 2020, sugarcane, maize, wheat, and rice made up around 50% of global crop production.
But when the production and distribution of staple crops are threatened, the consequences can be felt globally. Let’s take a look at the countries that were the top three producers of some of our staple crops in 2020.
|Crop||Country||Percentage of Global Production|
As you can see from the data above, Brazil is the world’s largest producer of sugarcane and one of the top three producers of maize.
The Future of Food Security
Global food security depends on staple crops and the countries that produce them. As the global population increases, so does the need to grow more crops.
The FAO estimates that by 2050 the world will need to increase its food output by around 70% in order to feed an ever-growing population.
Early food security solutions were transplanting crops from other regions to supplement diets. Now crop yields must increase as the next evolution in strengthening our food security. Fertilizers are a vital step in this process and are an essential ingredient in the future of global food security. They provide vital nutrients that increase crop production and strengthen nutrition security.
Brazil Potash extracts vital potash ore from the earth for it to return to the earth as fertilizer, fortifying food and helping to maintain continuous growth in the agricultural sector.
Click here to learn more about fertilizer and food production in Brazil.
You may also like
Misc22 hours ago
Every Song With Over 1 Billion Spotify Streams
Spotify’s ‘Billions Club’ playlist tracks every song with over 1 billion streams. We took the data and broke it down by decade and artist.
Misc4 days ago
Countries with the Highest (and Lowest) Proportion of Immigrants
Here, we highlight countries that are magnets for immigration, such as UAE and Qatar, as well as nations with very few foreign born residents.
Datastream5 days ago
Visualizing the Five Drivers of Forest Loss
Approximately 15 billion trees are cut down annually across the world. Here’s a look at the five major drivers of forest loss. (Sponsored)
Personal Finance5 days ago
Ranked: The Best Countries to Retire In
Demographics3 weeks ago
Ranked: Gen Z’s Favorite Brands, Compared with Older Generations
Misc4 weeks ago
Visualized: Who Americans Spend Their Time With
Technology3 weeks ago
The Shrinking Trillion Dollar Market Cap Club
Markets2 weeks ago
Visualized: FTX’s Leaked Balance Sheet
Technology1 week ago
Visualizing the World’s Top Social Media and Messaging Apps
Politics3 weeks ago
Visualized: The Biggest Donors of the 2022 U.S. Midterm Elections
Misc3 weeks ago
Visualizing the Evolution of Vision and the Eye