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Domesticated animals are those that have changed over time at the genetic level, frequently by breeding, in a manner that allows them to live among human beings.

One of the attendant consequences of domestication is that the animal becomes dependent on humans and lose their ability to live in their own habitat, by their own instincts.

Examples of domesticated animals include alpacas, cats, cattle, chickens, dogs, ferrets, goats, horses, pigs, rabbits, and sheep, although there are feral examples of these species, as well.

Pets are types of domesticated animals. They are tamed animals that are kept for companionship or protection, and which give and are given affection by the pet owner, as opposed to livestock, working animals, and laboratory animals.

Of course, there is a high degree of overlap. Some dogs are working animals, while others are pets, and there are those which serve as both. Horses often enjoy a relationship with their owners that includes aspects of a pet and a riding or working animal.

Although some species of insects, particularly ants, have well-developed habits of subjugating creatures of their own family, human beings are the only vertebrates that have made a practice of domesticating other animals.

The first animal to have been domesticated was the dog, and, while dogs have been used for protection and as working animals, it seems that dogs were first taken in for the sake of companionship. Dogs have been domesticated for so long that it's difficult to determine how this came about. Common conjecture is that wolf pups had been taken in and raised by primitive human beings and that these pups were later bred with other tamed wolves. Interestingly, among American Indian tribes, the dog is the only animal known to have been domesticated.

While there are several examples of cat and dog species in the wild, they are only distantly related to the domesticated versions, and other animals, such as horses and camels, have no closely related wild forms. What we know of as wild horses are, in fact, descendants of horses that were once domesticated and then allowed to return to the wilderness, either by plan or calamity.

Dogs are not closely related to wolves or other currently known canine species. However, fossil remains of extinct species have been found that more closely resemble domesticated dogs. As recently as a few centuries ago, a species of American canine lived in the Southern Appalachians, which were of moderate size and may represent a closer ancestor of the domesticated dog. It is possible that there were species of canines, now extinct, that were more domesticatable than wolves, foxes, jackals, or hyenas.

I grew up in a rural area in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My dad came home with a fox pup one day after the mother had been killed. That fox was raised with a couple of dogs that we had, and, in every way that I can think of, that fox acted very much like a dog while she was young. She would greet me when I got off the school bus and seemed to give and enjoy affection. She didn't eat the chickens or kill any of our cats. She was with us for close to two years. She was not confined, so as she grew older, she began wandering, particularly at not, but would usually return before we woke. Over time, she began spending more time in the woods and became less friendly, although never hostile. Eventually, she became what she was intended to be: a wild animal. She still came around sometimes for free food from the dog bowl. Our dogs accepted her as belonging there, and I am not aware that she ever killed any of our chickens. She was raised to be tame but not domesticated.

We don't know when cats first found their way into human homes, but cats have been domesticated for much less time than dogs. Perhaps this accounts for their comparative independence and retention of hunting and survival instincts.

Historically, the domestication of horses remarkably transformed societies. Among American Indian tribes, those who acquired horses had a distinct advantage against those who hadn't. On horseback, they could follow the buffalo herds, and horses enabled them to be far more efficient at warfare. In other parts of the world, camels have served a similar purpose.

The domestication of cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, and other barnyard animals has enabled hunters and gatherers to create permanent homes and villages since they no longer had to travel seasonally to hunt or gather edible plants.

Topics related to pets and other domesticated animals are the focus of this portion of our web guide. Some of these resources will be found below, while others are contained in various subcategories.

Pet product sites would be more appropriately listed in the Pets section of our Shopping & eCommerce category, however.


Animal Rescue & Welfare




Fish & Aquaria






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