Ideas that add up #51

Shipman believes [dogs] were domesticated from wolves more than 30,000 years ago as they “helped hunters find or track prey and protected their home territory and their social group (which included humans).” It is well understood how we have shaped those wolves: our ancestors would have favoured those that were friendly and useful to humans, so eventually creating the domestic dog of today. But less well studied is how this relationship changed us. Shipman argues that those humans who showed the right skills and sensitivity to manage wolves outlived and out-bred those who tried to go it alone; the result is a world of dog-lovers. Domestication runs two ways.

Stephen Cave in the FT, August 27th, 2011

The bovines too have been breeding humans to spec. As our ancestors turned aurochs into cattle, selecting for domestication, dairy and draft, the animals were in turn selecting their keepers for compatibility. 10,000 years ago the vast majority of humans are likely to have been lactose intolerant, according to the DNA record, whereas today around 95% of  people in cow-rearing Europe are lactose tolerant. In other words, humans with the ability to digest milk spread at the expense of those with more delicate tummies. Meanwhile cows have multiplied and prospered thanks to their blood-and-milk pact with our species. There are over one billion of them on the planet already, and we’re still bulldozing virgin rainforest to create the pastures they demand.

Tangentially related: there are more bacteria in the bodies of humans, dogs and cows, than there are individual cells. We’re vehicles for the monstrous regiment of microbes! So who’s hosting who?

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