So there’s this thesis that the only reasons Europeans developed domesticated animals and the whole rise of agrarian culture, and thus cities and empires (and their diseases and guns…) was due to an accident of nature. That all the animals “suitable” for domestication just happened to be in Eurasia. Cows, pigs, sheep, goats, camels, chickens, etc.
It is particularly key to the workings of this video, which claims that the only reason we Europeans brought a plague to the Americas, and there was not American Pox to take back to Europe, was that we lived in cities full of animals, allowed by our “lucky accident” of living where the only animals suited to domestication just happened to be located.
To which, I say “Bull Shit”, but that comes after the video (11 minutes):
IMHO there are 2 major flaws in that thesis. One, and IMHO, most obvious, is the presence in the Americas of many animals suited to domestication, often first cousins (and capable of interbreeding with) the stocks that gave rise to the European / Asian domesticated breeds.
The other is a more difficult to prove thing. It is just a suspicion of mine, really. Civilization has been around in Eurasia for at least 12,000 years. (See Gobekli Tepi) and likely closer to 30,000 years if you can believe the report of Solon per the assertions of the Egyptian “Priests” about their written archives. Eurasia had a very long time to “get it right” and work on domestication. After a few HUNDRED THOUSAND years of continuous occupation and untold thousands of years of civilization.
Compare the Americas. It looks like people only got here about 20,000 to at most about 50,000 years ago, and in very sparse groups until relatively recently. About the time they would have started up the road to modernity, there was a bolide impact into the ice sheet over Canada (with some impacts in South America as well) that wiped out almost all the larger land animals (including people like the Clovis people, over much of North America). A giant “reset” on any development and a big middle finger to the notion of a settled civilization and stability. Basically “blasted back to the stone age”.
But since that second point is subject to a lot of speculation and not so much proof, I’d like to spend most of my time pointing out some species of animals well suited to domestication in the Americas.
Domestication & Animals
First off, the dog. Reputed to be derived of the wolf, and able to easily cross with the wolf. So are there native wolves of similar animals in the Americas that could have been domesticated (even if, as for domestic dogs, it took 10,000 years…)?
The grey wolf (Canis lupus), also known as the “timber wolf”, and often simply known as the “wolf'”, is a canine native to the wilderness and remote areas of Eurasia and North America.
The grey wolf, its highly-unique subspecies, and other wolf species are nonetheless closely related enough to smaller Canis species, such as the coyote and golden jackal, to produce fertile hybrids. The grey wolf is the only species of Canis to have a range encompassing both Eurasia and North America, and originated in Eurasia during the Pleistocene, colonizing North America on at least three separate occasions during the Rancholabrean.
The “Rancho La Brea” era is the era with bones in the La Brea Tar Pits. About 1/4 million years ago to about 11,000 years ago. So wolves have been here a long time. Note they can cross with the coyote:
The coyote (from Nahuatl coyōtl About this soundpronunciation (help·info)), prairie wolf or brush wolf, Canis latrans, is a canine native to North America. It is smaller than its close relative, the gray wolf, and slightly smaller than the closely related eastern wolf and red wolf. It fills much of the same ecological niche as the golden jackal does in Eurasia, though it is larger and more predatory, and is sometimes called the American jackal by zoologists.
And with the arrival of Europeans, it looks like we’ve started the path to domestication on both of them. There are well known cases of folks with domestic wolves (and at lest one is a TV series co-star… maybe two…). But a quick search on Coyote Pet showed that’s happening too:
So how are Coyotes as pets?
Postby Wolf67 » Fri Aug 05, 2011 9:15 pm
I was looking at some Fox breeders websites and some of them also raise Coyotes as well and sell them as pets. From what I researched online there as sly as a Fox and they like to get into everything and they like to play games with their owners if they trust you enough. I don’t plan on getting a Coyote anyway since there illegal in my state alongside Wolves and Wolf Hybrids. I’m just curious if anyone here owns a Coyote I hear of more Fox and Wolf and Wolf Hybrid owners and hardly any Coyote owners are they any different than raising a Wolf or Fox?
And, as noted, foxes too… It would seem we European sorts just love getting animals to live with us. Perhaps it’s those Neanderthal genes ;-) The answer goes on to say that they are OK as pets, but can be trouble at times as they are not far down the trail of domestication. Yet it does work.
So much for dogs.
Dogs heard sheep.
Any North American Sheep?
The bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) is a species of sheep native to North America. The species is named for its large horns. A pair of horns might weigh up to 14 kg (30 lb); the sheep weigh up to 140 kg (300 lb). Recent genetic testing indicates three distinct subspecies of Ovis canadensis, one of which is endangered: O. c. sierrae. Sheep originally crossed to North America over the Bering land bridge from Siberia; the population in North America peaked in the millions, and the bighorn sheep entered into the mythology of Native Americans. By 1900, the population had crashed to several thousand, due to diseases introduced through European livestock and overhunting.
So yeah, came over from Eurasia with the Native Americans…
Now yes, it’s a mountain sort of animal and would take some time to domesticate. More on this just down below a little.
Then the video makes the case that it’s not possible to domesticate deer and that Bison are just too big and nasty to domesticate. Well, we are presently in the process of domesticating Bison and there are herds kept for food. Yes, right now it is more “captive range” than docile animal, but since part of the goal has been to raise them for release into the wild, the effort has gone into NOT domesticating them in many cases. More importantly, about those deer:
The reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), also known as the caribou in North America, is a species of deer with circumpolar distribution, native to Arctic, sub-Arctic, tundra, boreal, and mountainous regions of northern Europe, Siberia, and North America. This includes both sedentary and migratory populations. Rangifer herd size varies greatly in different geographic regions. The Taimyr herd of migrating Siberian tundra reindeer (R. t. sibiricus) in Russia is the largest wild reindeer herd in the world, varying between 400,000 and 1,000,000. What was once the second largest herd is the migratory boreal woodland caribou (R. t. caribou) George River herd in Canada, with former variations between 28,000 and 385,000. As of January 2018, there are fewer than 9,000 animals estimated to be left in the George River herd, as reported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The New York Times reported in April 2018 of the disappearance of the only herd of southern mountain caribou in the lower 48 states, with an expert calling it “functionally extinct” after the herd’s size dwindled to a mere three animals.
Caribou are widely domesticated.
The Reindeer, known as caribou when wild in North America, is an Arctic and Sub arctic deer. Domesticated reindeer are mostly found in Northern Scandinavia and Russia, and wild reindeer are mostly found in North America, Greenland and Iceland. Its natural occurrence is north of the 62nd latitude. In 1952, reindeer were re-introduced to Scotland, as the natural stock had become extinct in the 10th century. About 1 million reindeer live in Alaska and a comparable number live in northern Canada. There are an estimated 5 million in Eurasia, mainly semi-domesticated.
The Sami people of Lapland have herded reindeer for centuries. They are raised for their meat, hides, antlers, milk and for transportation. Reindeer are not considered fully domesticated, as they generally roam free on pasture grounds. Traditional nomadic herders migrated with their herds between coast and inland areas and herds were keenly tended.
The use of reindeer as semi domesticated livestock in Alaska was introduced in the late 1800s by Sheldon Jackson as a means of providing a livelihood for Native peoples there. A regular mail run in Wales, Alaska used a sleigh drawn by reindeer. Wild caribou are still-hunted in North America as a source of food, clothing, shelter and tools in the traditional lifestyle of the Inuit people and Alaska Natives.
Then there are the folks presently raising all manner of interesting deer, goats, elk, etc.
All of our animals are managed for maximum body size and horn growth. Only the best males with superior genetic traits are used for breeding. The males that don’t make the cut are place into our hunting program. Males and females with any undesirable traits are removed from the breeding program. Genetic lines are carefully monitored and new blood lines are added each year. From time to time we will offer surplus males and female for sale.
We are now raising Mule Deer at our new ranch in Kansas. Hunts will be available next Fall.
We are also taking deposits for Transcaspain Urials, European Bison, Nubian Ibex, Persian Ibex, Red Sheep and Bighorn Hybrids babies. We have the following animals for sale:
It goes on to list, and show pictures of, all manner of animals in the process of learning to love the farm (the hunt not so much…) including European Bison, White Elk, Nubian Ibex, Stone Sheep, Mt. Goats, Bighorn Sheep (with a delightful picture of a baby drinking from a bottle…), Markhor, Tur, Urial, and more.
I would assert that “domestication of animals” is a cultural trait that was stronger in the Eurasian area, and fostered more by a much longer era without catastrophic destruction from the sky. It clearly has arrived in the Americas now, and we’ve set about domesticating all sorts of new species.
Moving on to The Pig. An Asian animal originally. Is there NO North American equivalent? I have the advantage here having grown up in an area where it is necessary to remind folks NOT to call these guys “pigs”, even though for all intents and purposes they function the same in the wild:
A peccary (also javelina or skunk pig) is a medium-sized pig-like hoofed mammal of the family Tayassuidae (New World pigs). They are found throughout Central and South America and in the southwestern area of North America. Peccaries usually measure between 90 and 130 cm (3.0 and 4.3 ft) in length, and a full-grown adult usually weighs about 20 to 40 kg (44 to 88 lb).
Peccaries, native to the Americas, are often confused with the pig family that originated in Afro-Eurasia, since some domestic pigs brought by European settlers have escaped over the years and their descendants are now feral “razorback” hogs in many parts of the US.
Herds of peccaries were maintained by the ancient Maya to be used ritually and for food. In many countries, especially in the developing world, they are kept as pets, in addition to being raised on farms as a source of food.
Oh, so they WERE already domesticated and raised on farms…
Similarly the Native Americans had stocks of the local camelid.
Camelids are members of the biological family Camelidae, the only currently living family in the suborder Tylopoda. The extant members of this group are: dromedary camels, Bactrian camels, wild Bactrian camels, llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos.
Is there anyone who hasn’t heard about raising Llamas or Alpacas?
Then there’s the chicken. Nobody ever hear of the Turkey?
The domestic turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is a large fowl, one of the two species in the genus Meleagris and the same as the wild turkey. Although turkey domestication was thought to have occurred in central Mesoamerica at least 2,000 years ago, recent research suggests a possible second domestication event in the Southwestern United States between 200 BC and AD 500. However, all of the main domestic turkey varieties today descend from the turkey raised in central Mexico that was subsequently imported into Europe by the Spanish in the 16th century.
Not to mention the ubiquitous nature of Quail Eggs in Asian and Fru-Fru cuisine.
The California quail (Callipepla californica), also known as the California valley quail, valley quail or Tonys, is a small ground-dwelling bird in the New World quail family. These birds have a curving crest or plume, made of six feathers, that droops forward: black in males and brown in females; the flanks are brown with white streaks. Males have a dark brown cap and a black face with a brown back, a grey-blue chest and a light brown belly. Females and immature birds are mainly grey-brown with a light-colored belly. Their closest relative is Gambel’s quail which has a more southerly distribution and, a longer crest at 2.5 in (6.4 cm), a brighter head and a scalier appearance. The two species separated about 1–2 million years ago, during the Late Pliocene or Early Pleistocene. It is the state bird of California.
These guys are all over the place. But there are more. “Prairie Chickens” for example.
The greater prairie chicken or pinnated grouse (Tympanuchus cupido), sometimes called a boomer, is a large bird in the grouse family. This North American species was once abundant, but has become extremely rare and extirpated over much of its range due to hunting and habitat loss. Conservation measures are underway to ensure the sustainability of existing small populations. One of the most famous aspects of these creatures is the mating ritual called booming.
There are three subspecies;
The heath hen, Tympanuchus cupido cupido, which was historically found along the Atlantic coast, is extinct. It was possibly a distinct species; in this case the two other forms would be T. pinnatus pinnatus and T. p. attwateri.
Attwater’s prairie chicken, T. c. attwateri is endangered and restricted to coastal Texas.
The greater prairie chicken, T. c. pinnatus, is now restricted to a small section of its former range.
I’m pretty sure I’ve seen folks raising them for sale. This “simple wiki” page lists them as domesticated:
There’s also a smaller version:
The lesser prairie chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) is a species in the grouse family. It is a medium to large bird, striped white and brown, slightly smaller and paler than its near relative the greater prairie chicken. Adults range from 15.0-16.1 in (38-41 cm) in length and 22.1-28.7 oz (628-813 g) in weight.
About half of its current population lives in western Kansas, with the other half in the sandhills and prairies of western Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle including the Llano Estacado, eastern New Mexico, and southeastern Colorado.
IMHO there’s no shortage of birds suited to domestication in the Americas. Just the duck species alone are legion. The South American Perching Duck is already raised in captivity. (It likes to perch in trees… something about fish with big teeth in the water ;-)
Then there’s all the geese that fly by every year.
Oh, and some interesting local animals also subject to domestication. Lots of folks raise guinea pigs, but there’s also their giant cousin:
The guinea pig or domestic guinea pig (Cavia porcellus), also known as cavy or domestic cavy, is a species of rodent belonging to the family Caviidae and the genus Cavia. Despite their common name, guinea pigs are not native to Guinea, nor are they biologically related to pigs, and the origin of the name is still unclear. They originated in the Andes of South America, and studies based on biochemistry and hybridization suggest they are domesticated descendants of a closely related species of cavy such as C. tschudii, and therefore do not exist naturally in the wild.
In Western society, the domestic guinea pig has enjoyed widespread popularity as a pocket pet, a type of household pet, since its introduction by European traders in the 16th century. Their docile nature, friendly responsiveness to handling and feeding, and the relative ease of caring for them have made and continue to make guinea pigs a popular choice of pet. Organizations devoted to the competitive breeding of guinea pigs have been formed worldwide, and many specialized breeds with varying coat colors and textures are selected by breeders.
The domestic guinea pig plays an important role in folk culture for many indigenous Andean groups, especially as a food source, but also in folk medicine and in community religious ceremonies. The animals are used for meat and are a culinary staple in the Andes Mountains, where they are known as cuy. A modern breeding program was started in the 1960s in Peru that resulted in large breeds known as cuy mejorados (improved cuy) and prompted efforts to increase consumption of the animal outside South America.
he capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) is a mammal native to South America. It is the largest living rodent in the world. Also called chigüire, chigüiro (in Colombia and Venezuela) and carpincho, it is a member of the genus Hydrochoerus, of which the only other extant member is the lesser capybara (Hydrochoerus isthmius). Its close relatives include guinea pigs and rock cavies, and it is more distantly related to the agouti, the chinchilla, and the coypu. The capybara inhabits savannas and dense forests and lives near bodies of water. It is a highly social species and can be found in groups as large as 100 individuals, but usually lives in groups of 10–20 individuals. The capybara is not a threatened species but it is hunted for its meat and hide and also for grease from its thick fatty skin, which is used in the pharmaceutical trade.
Capybaras have adapted well to urbanization in South America. They can be found in many areas in zoos and parks, and may live for 12 years in captivity.
Capybaras are farmed for meat and skins in South America. The meat is considered unsuitable to eat in some areas, while in other areas it is considered an important source of protein. In parts of South America, especially in Venezuela, capybara meat is popular during Lent and Holy Week as the Catholic Church previously issued special dispensation to allow it to be eaten while other meats are generally forbidden.
Although it is illegal in some states, capybaras are occasionally kept as pets in the United States.
There are plenty of alternative animals suited to domestication running around the Americas. Heck, we have Alligator Farms now.
There were a LOT of alternatives available, and with the arrival of Europeans, many more species are starting down the domestication route. Yet do not forget that the natives of the Americas DID domesticate some animals. Turkey & guinea pigs at a minimum.
What was different, IMHO, was just that game animals were so plentiful that there was little need to domesticate and farm most animals. After the impact event, animals recovered first and most, and the human population had a lot of choices. In some cases they had large gardens with waterways intertwined and “kept fish” in them in an aquaculture operation of sorts.
To assert that there were “no suitable animals” is just flat out wrong. Demonstrably so. To not realize that the iconic bird of our National Day Of Thanksgiving was a NATIVE domesticated animal is just rank stupidity.
So does that negate the rest of the thesis? That it was the mingling of domestic animals and people over long periods of time that led to the evolution of plagues in Eurasia, and none such in the Americas? I think it weakens it, but doesn’t end it. There’s a case to be made for the incredibly unsanitary way Europeans lived in their squalid cities until fairly recently as a “germ factory”.
Yet even there, some evidence exists that syphilis originated from the Americas. Either as a local organism, or as a mutation once the local (milder) strain jumped to Europe. Related to yaws, there’s evidence for both an origin in the Americas, and for the American version of yaws to have evolved when mixed with the European type and European populations / conditions. IMHO this is a stronger case against the assertion in the video that there was no “Ameripox”.
Folks like to “talk up” the notion of the Evil Europeans arriving and destroying the place, and that it was all just because they started in the Lucky Spot. IMHO that’s crap. IF the native Americans had sailed to Europe and found the locals, started to haul some of them back to America for “Show & Tell” et. al. there would STILL have been a massive die off and plague in the Americas. It is my opinion that he is right in the thesis that it was the prolonged close association of animals and people in squalid conditions that let the disease organisms find new hosts and make new virulent diseases. Yet there are also many “Tropical Diseases” and parasites of the jungles of America, and things like Lyme Disease even if you discount the American Origin Of Syphilis theory.
In some ways, the Europeans simply “benefited” from having had their massive die-off from plague first. The survivors had better immune systems and lots of new antibodies. (They’ve identified a gene in post-plague Europeans that improves resistance to a lot of diseases, even HIV to some extent. Not everyone has it, though.) So having been “selected” for those who survived the massive die off of The Black Death, we’d already had our plague destruction.
No matter HOW that germ crossed the oceans, from a European Invasion or had it been from a Native American Arrival in Europe, the result would have been the same. Just like it had been in an older Europe.
So I take some offense at the “Talking Dirt” about the European Arrival. It is more about the relative arrival times of the diseases than about any character of the participants. Similarly, all those who had the disaster of syphilis prior to antibiotics can also complain about the “First Contact” consequences.
In like manner, today, we are looking at Ebola. It is trying to make the leap from an inconsequential disease in an animal species into Humans as a favored host. So far, it’s just still too lethal to survive long term. BUT that will change. Evolution finds a way.
In that process, it is likely millions will die. If not soon, eventually. (Unless, of course, we find a way to cut short the evolutionary path with wide use of vaccines). It will not be the fault of Africans that they hunted meat from the source animals. It is just nature and evolution at work.
What is left of the thesis from the video? Mostly that Europeans created great sized cities first. Yet the ancient ruins in the Americas are even showing that is wrong. There were large urban complexes. Now mostly overgrown with vines and sometimes mistaken for mountains. Those large urban areas collapsed when their populations collapsed after the arrival of European diseases. Yet even there, some translated monuments speak of similar collapses prior to European arrival, based on local wars. It seems everyone likes to have wars of Empire once they get big cities. Just the Europeans were a bit further down that road to Empire and Modernity.
It is my opinion they were further down the road as they had less of a “reset” from the Younger Dryas impact event. They DID have a big setback, and the Indus Valley civilization (among others) collapsed in the process (that city on the ocean floor off of the entry point of the river…). The ancient Egyptians stated they had taken a “reset” of sorts “Many have been the destructions of mankind”; they just recovered from it faster and better.
My conclusion is just that it was more the “luck of the draw” on where the impact event happened, and what the consequences were for the “first mover” advantage as some area reach the level of technology needed to “move about the planet” AND that this happened AFTER the arrival of The Black Death in Europe, peaking in the mid 1300s.
New Zealand as Counterpoint
FWIW, there is evidence for a “White Tribe” with red and blond hair throughout the Pacific Islands. There’s an interesting video out of New Zealand that lays out the evidence, including finding living members who recount their oral history. That says they originated in India, traveled by boat to South America, and eventually on to New Zealand. This supposedly happened about 4000 years ago when a “Great War” was going on in that part of India. Long after the domestication of animals, BTW. As this was prior to the Black Death, they, too, died in droves when it arrived in the Islands. (They were also hunted by the Polynesians and slaughtered in the thousands, but that’s history everyone is trying to hide…) About 1 hour:
To the extent that can be shown to be historical fact, then it is clearly not the case that the arrival of “Whites” caused the horrors. But the arrival of Post Plague folks. That is, the diseases themselves, regardless of carrier.
There’s a very long history of every race and tribe on the planet trying to kill off the others. Nobody is particularly “special” in that regard. The presence of animals or not, and where diseases start and end, don’t change that. Similarly, plagues don’t care if you are in a European City in the 1200s as it arrived from Asia, or a Native American in the 1500s. Or a European medical team in the Congo in the 2000s. New blood is new blood.