first four-legged friend may have been the goat.
It joined forces with humans about 10,000 years
ago in the upland region of Iran and is, so far,
the front-runner in the domestication stakes,
according to Melinda Zeder of the Smithsonian
goat had several attributes which made it an ideal
candidate for domestication by tribes of
hunter-gatherers in the Fertile Crescent that
stretches from Turkey through the Lebanon and
Syria to Iraq and Iran, said Dr Zeder, who sifted
the archaeological evidence to arrive at the
earliest date for goatherding so far.
the gazelle - auditioned by human hunters as a
possible domestic animal at around the same time -
the goat did not run away at great speed. Goats
did not panic, she told the American Association
for the Advancement of Science, and they did not
mind living in a crowd. They had a social
structure - a tendency to follow a dominant leader
- that humans could use.
would eat anything, and were not too choosy about
sexual partners either. And there was something in
it for the goats too, she said.
chose the most docile billygoats to breed from,
which meant that for the first time in their lives
the weediest ones got all the females, rather than
their aggressive, high-testosterone companions in
the wild. "It's sort of like the revenge of
the nerds," she said. Domestication tended to
suit the interests of both humans and the
creatures they tamed.
animals and plants get out of colluding with
humans is the ability to outcompete wild
competitors that don't enter this relationship and
also to spread their distributions way beyond what
they could do on their own," she said.
analysed a huge collection of goat bones from Iran
and Iraq, sorting the skeletal material according
to age of death and sex. "That allows us to
distinguish between hunters killing animals and
herders raising animals," she said.
birth of agriculture is a mystery slowly being
solved by both genetic research and archaeology.
As crops became domesticated, seeds got bigger and
seed coats thinned, signs that plants were being
tended rather than simply picked. Goat horns
changed shape and became smaller, a sign that
mating was decided by humans rather than by herd
and barley were first sown in the Fertile Crescent
about 10,000 years ago. In the New World, the
first crop was probably squash, 10,000 years ago,
with maize being sown about 6,300 years ago.
were probably first domesticated in both the
Fertile Crescent and in the Indus Valley, sheep in
the Fertile Crescent and the Indo-Pakistan region
and the pig in China.
goat so far emerges as the first animal to be bred
and used by humans. The dog however remains a
candidate for the first companion, said Dr Zeder.
not a livestock animal, it's more of a
collaboration between dogs that hunt in packs and
humans that hunt in packs," she said.