Top 8 Effects of Human Domestication on Animals

If we compare the size differences between prehistoric animals and those of today and look carefully at the differences between today’s animals and their prehistoric version, we realize that a good little long way has been travelled. But not necessarily a nice little stone path in a field of flowers. Rather a path full of roots and rocks a little steep in the rain. Because human domestication has had quite a few negative effects on our animal friends (not so much our friends as that apparently). So that’s a little insight into the uncool consequences that domestication has had.

1. Cats’ brains have shrunk

If your cat is completely stubbed, don’t blame him because it’s only the result of his domestication by ourselves (the human species, eh, not Topito’s editorial staff). Researchers compared skulls of wild cats and domestic cats and found that our pet cats have smaller brains than their wild namesakes, but also their ancestors. Domestication by docility would indeed have caused a drop in cell production in the neural crest of cats, which explains the shrinkage of their brains. Yes it is awful.

2. The hens have stopped molting

Who would have thought that the hen was molting? Today, the hen (which is part of the gallinaceous family, unlike the swan, as you will know), no longer loses its feathers while its ancestor changed coat twice a year. Amazing nature, right?

3. Dogs face flattened

Domestication often changes the physical appearance of animals whose bones, muscles and abilities adapt to our needs (which is not really natural, in case you were wondering). In dogs, this translates, among other things, into a flattening of their face so that they can meet their master’s gaze and follow their gestures. And like cats, dogs’ brains have also shrunk with domestication (yes, yes, even yours that you think is smarter than your neighbor’s).

4. Dogs are more susceptible to disease

With domestication, it is the poor poti dogs who toast. Because of our desire to have purebred dogs, the genetics of dogs have changed, causing serious illnesses. Indeed, inbreeding has increased in breedings (which are becoming less and less numerous) because the dogs have reproduced among themselves, and the genetic heritage has therefore been impoverished. This is how certain morphological problems and genetic anomalies in dogs have appeared, as can be seen in particular in bulldogs, King Charles or sheepdogs. These diseases can even lead to death as a reaction to taking certain medications. To stop this spiral, promote dogs from crosses that do not have these problems.

5. Sheep are less agile and slower

Several differences distinguish the current sheep from its ancestor. The latter, for example, had a much more uniform coat than his current cousin and lost his hair every year. Another difference, the current sheep is larger and heavier than its ancestor because of the choices made by breeders in terms of reproduction. They are therefore much less agile and slower than mouflons, a wild species.

6. Foxes have completely changed their physique

It’s not common to have a fox as a pet you tell me. Yet, tests by scientists in 1959 revealed that foxes could easily fall victim to domestication syndrome. That year (hin hin, hin hin), Soviet scientific biologists conducted an experiment on silver foxes, selecting the sweetest (behavioural speaking) foxes possible for domestication. A few generations later, they noticed that the physique of the foxes had changed and that their muzzle had become shorter, their ears more drooping and their tail more curved. Characteristics very similar to dogs which made them very different from their ancestors.

7. The DNA of rabbits has changed

A team of international researchers has shown that the domestication of rabbits has caused an alteration of genes involved in the development of the brain and nervous system. It is because of this modification that domestic rabbits have lost their ability to stay alert and take flight as quickly as possible. You’d think we couldn’t care less knowing that house rabbits don’t have a vital need for this ability, yet it would come in very handy when your buddies threaten to make a stew out of them.

8. There are only two lines of horses left

Hundreds of researchers conducted a study on the origin of horses and their research showed that due to domestication, the genetic diversity of horses collapsed in record time. As with dogs, the selection of certain species by humans to meet our needs has led to species interbreeding, putting the health of horses at risk. Many lines of horses have therefore disappeared and today, there are only two left: the domestic horse and the massive horse of Przewalski.

Top 8 effects of human domestication on animals
Photo credits (CC BY-SA 2.5): The author could not be identified automatically. It is assumed to be: Pbicalho (given the copyright claim).

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