Why don't we domesticate other animals?

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by spidergoat, Jun 18, 2004.

  1. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    Why don't we domesticate other animals? Like the monkey or gorilla. They are smart, we could use them to do manual labor, or just for house pets. People would not trust their children with a wolf, but most dogs are fine. So, why not a gorilla with fluffy fur, floppy ears, and a docile personality?

    Why not the elephant? They have been used this way for a long time, but has there ever been a breeding program to enhance their intelligence or friendliness? Seems like elephants would be great for public transportation, and environmentally friendly.
     
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  3. eddymrsci Beware of the dark side Registered Senior Member

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    I guess we are too lazy to do so, we started domesticating dogs and cats so long ago. Now, we FEEL that we are somewhat superior than all the rest of the animals, and we don't consider their current physical characteristics as "cute", therefore most of us, except zoologists, do not want to start taming animals now, because they think pet dogs and cats are good enough for them. That's my hypothesis.

    however, different people have different views and tastes, that's why some people have indeed domesticated a number of other species like snakes, turtles, tigers, and monkeys and elephants too. but that's still rarity
     
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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Be patient. We have domesticated dozens of species.

    Dogs and cats were very easy. They were "self-domesticated." They came into our world voluntarily, attracted by the nice lives we had and facilitated by the fact that we made a good team. I've gone into this at great length on other threads, suffice it to say that wolves appreciated our weapons that could bring down gigantic game animals, and we appreciated their ability to smell game miles away and run fast enough to keep them from escaping.

    A few other species wandered in on their own because of our habit of leaving perfectly delectable morsels of food lying on the ground. Pigs and goats, for starters. Unfortunately what we appreciated most about them was the way their meat tasted.

    We've domesticated a huge number of food animals besides the hapless pigs and goats: rabbits, many species of sheep and cattle, poultry and waterfowl. And quite a few draft animals: horses, asses, camels, llamas, reindeer, elephants. (No, no one has yet established captive breeding programs for elephants, but give us time. They are awfully hard to handle during mating season, even worse than camels.)

    We've even domesticated a lot of species for no other reason except that we enjoy having them around: hamsters and several other rodents (even ones like mice and rats that are still pests in the wild), toucans, and virtually every species of psittacine (thats dozens and dozens of different kinds of parrots, macaws, cockatoos, conures, parakeets, lories, budgies. . . .).

    That's a whole lot of species.

    As for simians, well, people have brought smaller monkeys into their homes with some success. But the apes are going to be tougher. They're not just bigger and stronger and more difficult to deal with. They're smarter than every other species we've dealt with -- with the possible exception of parrots, who are pushovers once you "imprint" the babies by hand-feeding them, a trick that only works with birds. Gorillas, gibbons, orangutans, and the various species of chimpanzees are so intelligent that they can't see any reason to join our multi-species community. They're not impressed with our hunting ability or the garbage in our streets or the warmth of our fires. They're the rulers of their domain and they're not interested in trading that for being cute pets or strong servants -- second- or third-class citizens in our perhaps unnecessarily complicated civilization.

    I think the key to "domestication" of apes will be when they learn human language: American Sign Language. Let a few generations of them be raised fully able to speak with humans and learn so much more about our rich, complex, interesting, tempting environment. Their natural curiosity, coupled with their intelligence, will seduce them into joining our multi-species community. But be warned: They will not join us as pets, they'll probably expect to be equals.
     
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  7. invert_nexus Ze do caixao Valued Senior Member

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    As Fraggle has been want to say (and no doubt he will arrive in this thread in the fullness of time), we didn't really domesticate the dog or cat, they domesticated themselves. The dog was a camp follower and the cat took advantage of our granaries to get an easy meal. They were domesticated by their natural affinity for whatever phase of existance we dwelt in at that time.

    It's funny that you only mention dogs and cats as domesticated animals. Don't forget about the other animals, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, how many others? These are animals we have domesticated, but not made into our friends. The Laplanders that follow the migration of the caribou are an interesting study in this regard. They never domesticated their herd animal, instead they have been almost domesticated themselves. They follow the herd, obeying the will of the herd in it's migrations.

    The buffalo has been domesticated somewhat. It is a recent animal that has been introduced into the "domecile". Good thing too, otherwise they'd most likely be dead.

    As for gorillas, monkey, elephants, all these animals are too smart to be domesticated. The partnership that would have to be entered in order to have a true union would be too much for the people involved. We control the animals, not the other way around. Elephants are known for becoming mean in captivity. Gorillas, while mostly peaceful, are know for bouts of violence that would leave shattered bodies in their wakes. Chimpanzees also become violent after adolescence. These animals are smart enough to realize that they are not in their proper social context. Our ways are not their ways.

    But, if you want to look at it this way, elephants are used for manual labor in some parts of the world. Who knows what these creatures will develop into in a few thousand years.

    I've also read an article about a Russian scientist who has been selectively breeding fur foxes for docility over the past 40 years or so. They're not quite tame, but not quite wild. They have acquired many traits that are associated with domesticated animals, floppy ears, splotchy coloration, short legs. They handle people well. They allow themselves to be petted and pampered. But, once they go back to the wild, they revert to wild ways very quickly. I'm sure there are other examples of this going on. I have heard many stories of people trying to raise raccoons as pets. There's no breeding program though.

    I guess that may be what it comes down to. People don't want to expend effort to domesticate an animal that they themselves will not see the happy results. People want monkeys for themselves, not their great-great-grandchildren.

    Edit: Heh, Fraggle beat me to it...

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  8. Enigma'07 Who turned out the lights?!?! Registered Senior Member

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    Planet of the Apes is real!
     
  9. Saith Registered Senior Member

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    Did you get that impression too from Fraggle Rocker's post? Maybe if we genetically engineer giant bananas the apes will come and join our community. They'll have to get jobs though and learn how to drive first.
     
  10. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    I mean, it might be a way to save species that are going extinct. Dogs will revert back to a wild state after a few generations. Orangutans or gorillas might survive extinction as housepets, retaining the ability to revert back to their natural state if and when the environment allows it. Imagine a gorilla the size of a small dog, and shorthaired, wouldn't that be cool?
     
  11. StarOfEight A Man of Taste and Decency Registered Senior Member

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  12. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    I heard about that. But, wolves are just as fearsome, and some have become Lahpsa Alpsas. I'm suggesting domestication as a technique to preserve the genetic material of species that would otherwise go extinct as long as they have no useful purpose for people. (Of course, it would be preferable to preserve their habitat.)
     
  13. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    It occured to me that bees and silkworms have also been domesticated.
     
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    That's exactly what we're doing with parrots. I've posted this elsewhere, but take the giant hyacinth macaw, the poster child for the endangered species religon. The only reason it counts as "endangered" is that ornithologists never look inside buildings. There are more breeding pairs of hyacinths in commercial and hobbyist aviaries in the United States alone, than in the entire rain forest. And they're being bred in other countries too. Not only is the population at a nice sustainable level, but it's spread widely around the globe. No plague or famine or tribal war could wipe them all out the way it could wipe out the population in Brazil.

    The same is true of the black palm cockatoo, another poster child. They're really in trouble in New Guinea because some disease is running rampant. But some guy in Minnesota figured out the secret to breeding them domestically (as well as a cure for the disease that's not easy to administer to wild birds), and now there are so many of them in North America that you can buy one for a few thousand dollars even if you don't intend to breed them.

    Ever stop and wonder how many horses are left in the wild? Just a few hundred, and the only reason they're there (rather here, in the U.S., which is not the place that the species came from) is that a few domestic ones wandered off and started a feral colony.

    Even that is happening with parrots. The subtropical regions of the USA have lately become home to thriving colonies of tropical birds. The San Gabriel Valley in eastern Los Angeles County has a huge flock of Amazon parrots living in the trees (I don't know which species, perhaps they've hybridized) and several large, noisy flocks of cherry-headed conures. There's a flock of blue-and-gold macaws in San Diego. The same is happening in Florida. A few pet birds get lost and discover that mankind has transplanted their traditional sources of food into civilized America. We've got so many cultivated tropical plants that they feel right at home feeding by instinct.

    Thanks to domestication, even if they pave over South America or destroy it in the War on Drugs, we've got parrots aplenty, even wild ones, right here.
     
  15. Closet Philosopher Off to Laurentian University Registered Senior Member

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    I want to buy a snake. they can be trained and domesticated. You only have to feed them once every week or two, they don't make noise and they almost have no smell. They can be cuddly too, in my opinion.

    I heard of people that have the smell sacks in skunks removed and they keep one for a pet. You can have almost any kind of bird, small mammal or lizard as a pet. For bogger animals like elephants, there is plainly just not enough room.

    My friends and I were talking about how cool it would be if we could genetically engineer animals to be a fraction of their natural size. Imagine having a giraffe the size of a small dog in your house, a pockey-sized monkey or an elephant that campares to a guinea pig. That would be cool. you can have mini sharks, squid and tropical fish in your fishtank, tiny monkeys, small alligators and mini horses. I we could do that, I think we could domesticate more animals.
     
  16. RonVolk Registered Senior Member

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    I want a couple pet cheetahs, they used to be trained as hunting animal so I think they'd be great fun to take to park and let loose on some poodles. to bad there illegal to own because there going extinct.
     
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Yes, skunks make very good pets. Most scavengers do because they immediately recognize the soft life that awaits any animal who is willing to merely hang out with humans in return for a lifetime supply of food.
    It's easy to domesticate birds. Take the chicks from the nest when their eyes open and feed them by hand. They do what is called "imprinting", which is they believe they are whatever kind of animal raises them. It doesn't work very well with raptors. They're not social and don't hang out with their parents once they grow up. Wounded owls who were nursed and raised by humans and imprinted on them eventually go back out into the wild, but they haven't been taught how to hunt. One was captured simply dive-bombing people on their heads in a parking lot, because he couldn't figure out any other way to get fed. He ended up in a sanctuary. I knew a lady who hand-fed a clutch of baby hummingbirds. (Talk about patient and dextrous.) She turned them loose when they were old enough. For about two years they would come up and try to feed from the printed flowers on her dress.

    It's not so easy with mammals. Any baby will be nice to a foster parent, they're not stupid. But non-social mammals have no instinct to remain attached to a real or foster parent. You can do it with a herd/pack animal like a deer or a wolf, but not so easily with a solitary hunter or gatherer. Most of the people who have "pet" tigers and cougars have had them defanged, declawed, and neutered. Siegfried and Roy are really special, they don't do that because they want to breed the cats. Some species of cats can't mate without their claws because clawing each other is part of the mating ritual. And I thought Klingons were tough.

    Stick with scavengers. I have heard of people successfully raising baby hyenas as pets.
    That's not far fetched at all. Remember that the Chihuahua was originally a wolf. Size seems to be a rather easy trait to manipulate genetically. They've already got miniature horses, about the size of a St. Bernard, that people keep in their houses.

    The problem with elephants is that in fact no one has actually succeeded in establishing a breeding program at all for them. When elephants come in heat you just get the hell out of that province until they're finished. That's why the working elephants they use in the Orient are not quite as docile as oxen and horses, or even camels, which some people from the Middle East admit privately are only barely domesticated. But there was a race of pygmy mammoths (if that's not an oxymoron) on Santa Barbara Island when it got separated from the mainland during a warm spell. As I said, size seems to be easy to modify, both in nature and in captive breeding.
     
  18. invert_nexus Ze do caixao Valued Senior Member

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    Supposedly, there is a miniature elephant that roams around the jungles of Thailand. It's only a few inches tall and is deadly. I don't know much about them, just saw a blurb on some discovery channel show or something. They have mummified bodies that they've cat-scanned (or MRI or something...) and it shows a complex bone structure inside and whatnot. Probably fake though, anyway.
     
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Elephants are ungulates: grazers with hooves. Their only weapons are their tusks and their sheer mass. How could one a few inches tall be "deadly"? It does sound like a suspicious story.

    Nonetheless, if we ever master the art of selective breeding of elephants, I'm sure that within a few generations we will have miniatures. It's one of the very first things we did with dogs. The Lhasa Apso is one of the original batch of breeds from our first successful attempts at selective breeding of wolves. A hundred pounds down to twenty.
     
  20. invert_nexus Ze do caixao Valued Senior Member

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    I didn't fill in the details because I only caught part of the story. And it was just a blurb to begin with. I think the premise is that they are venomous or something. Most likely a folk tale. It's being studied at their universities though.
     
  21. invert_nexus Ze do caixao Valued Senior Member

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    Did a little search. Couldn't find much. All I could find was <a href="http://www.nationmultimedia.com/page.arcview.php3?clid=3&id=78061&usrsess=1">this</a>. It seems that it's called a water elephant by locals. It doesn't mention anything about it being deadly.
     
  22. Facial Valued Senior Member

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    I've domesticated a duck before. Quack quack
     
  23. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    Pocket-Monkey™.

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