Domestication - Degrees

Degrees

The boundaries between surviving wild populations and domestic clades can be vague. A classification system that can help solve this confusion surrounding animal populations might be set up on a spectrum of increasing domestication:

  • Wild: These populations experience their full life cycles without deliberate human intervention.
  • Raised in Captivity/Captured from Wild (in zoos, botanical gardens, or for human gain): These populations are nurtured by humans but (except in zoos) not normally bred under human control. They remain as a group essentially indistinguishable in appearance or behaviour from their wild counterparts. Examples include Asian elephants, animals such as sloth bears and cobras used by showmen in India, and animals such as Asian black bears (farmed for their bile), and zoo animals, kept in captivity as examples of their species. (It should be noted that zoos and botanical gardens sometimes exhibit domesticated or feral animals and plants such as camels, mustangs, and some orchids)
  • Raised commercially (captive or semidomesticated): These populations are ranched or farmed in large numbers for food, commodities, or the pet trade, commonly breed in captivity, but as a group are not substantially altered in appearance or behavior from their wild cousins. Examples include the ostrich, various deer, alligator, cricket, pearl oyster, raptors used in falconry and ball python. (These species are sometimes referred to as partially domesticated.)
  • Domesticated: These populations are bred and raised under animal control for many generations and are substantially altered as a group in appearance or behaviour. Examples include sweet potato, garlic, pigs, ferrets, turkeys, canaries, domestic pigeons, budgerigars, goldfish, koi carp, silkworms, dogs, cats, sheep, cattle, chickens, llamas, guinea pigs, laboratory mice, horses, goats and (silver) foxes.

This classification system does not account for several complicating factors: genetically modified organisms, feral populations, and hybridization. Many species that are farmed or ranched are now being genetically modified. This creates a unique category because it alters the organisms as a group but in ways unlike traditional domestication. Feral organisms are members of a population that was once raised under human control, but is now living and multiplying outside of human control. Examples include mustangs. Hybrids can be wild, domesticated, or both: a liger is a hybrid of two wild animals, a mule is a hybrid of two domesticated animals, and a beefalo is a cross between a wild and a domestic animal.

A great difference exists between a tame animal and a domesticated animal. The term "domesticated" refers to an entire species or variety while the term "tame" can refer to just one individual within a species or variety. Humans have tamed many thousands of animals that have never been truly domesticated. These include the elephant, giraffes, and bears. There is debate over whether some species have been domesticated or just tamed. Some state that the elephant has been domesticated, while others argue the cat has never been. Dividing lines include whether a specimen born to wild parents would differ in appearance or behavior from one born to domesticated parents. For instance a dog is certainly domesticated because even a wolf (genetically the origin of all dogs) raised from a pup would be very different from a dog, in both appearance and behaviour. Similar problems of definition arise when domesticated cats go feral.

Read more about this topic:  Domestication

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