Goats were most likely the first animals to be domesticated in ancient Mesopotamia. Sheep and chickens came next, followed by larger animals like oxen and horses, which were used for hard labor like plowing.
The easiest types of animals to domesticate are herbivores because they are the easiest to feed. Cows, for instance, are easy to domesticate because they don’t require a special kind of grain or plant to feed them.
Horses have played a pretty important role for us humans over the ages. Before the invention of the steam engine, they were the fastest way to travel, for example. It is believed that they were originally captured and used as pets, but humans soon realized that they could be put to work.
You can see the size difference between the wild and domesticated horse in this photo.
Dogs have been man’s best friends for quite some time now...between 13,000 to 30,000 years to be precise. The earliest dogs were essentially just tame wolves who would venture over to human settlements for food. Over time, humans bred dogs to assist with things like hunting and herding. Not to mention, they were also deliberately bred to be cute.
Chickens were first domesticated between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago from the red jungle fowl, primarily for their eggs and meat. However, they were actually originally bred for cockfighting. You can see that the jungle fowl (left) appears to be a bit smaller than the chicken, probably because it has been bred for its meat over the years.
Chickens have been kept in less-than-humane conditions in factory farms in order to mass produce their meat in a cost-effective way.
The cute, pink, oinking pigs that we think of today originally descended from wild boars in Asia. Researchers have found evidence that pigs’ genetic diversity is decreasing due to cross-breeding of commercial lines threatening indigenous breeds.
A lot of modern cow breeds look vastly different from their ancestors. One example of this is the Belgian Blue, which was bred to have twice the amount of muscle as its ancestor in order to yield more meat.
Modern-day sheep are descendants of the wild mouflon from Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria. Evidence suggests that humans began domesticating the mouflon after its population in western Asia began to dwindle sharply approximately 10,000 years ago. Eventually they were bred for their milk, meat, hide and wool.
Here’s one that you probably didn’t know: Salmon have also been domesticated! Fish farming plays a big part in animal agriculture, so it’s not too shocking that salmon have been bred for specific traits. The Atlantic salmon, for example, has been bred to be much larger and feed faster than its wild cousin.
We’ve even come up with a genetically modified salmon that grows much faster than its wild counterparts!
It should come as no surprise that turkeys have been bred specifically for their meat, given that a large portion of Americans eat turkey for Thanksgiving every year. In the 1930s, the average turkey weighed 13.2 pounds, whereas in 2014 the average turkey weighed 29.8 pounds.