Animals have been a central part of human history throughout all time. Animals have been a major source of food, clothing, and transportation for humankind. Animals were the centre of religious worship in many cultures and times.
While animals are still used for many traditional purposes, their role in society has changed. Over the past several hundred years, there has been an increase in the number of animals that are kept for companionship or pleasure.
This fascinating infographic shows how relationships between humans and animals have changed over time.
Prehistoric humans and animals had a relationship of hunter-prey. Animals were primarily viewed as food sources and clothing material.
The wolf was the first animal to go from wild to domesticated. It is the common ancestor to all modern-day dogs. This transition occurred between 12,000 and 14,000. Years ago, when humans discovered that young wolf cubs could be trained to become adults.
Dogs have been used for practical purposes since the beginning of domestication. Dogs were kept for their ability to perform tasks like guarding, hunting, and herding. While domesticated dogs were likely treated with respect by primitive societies, evidence suggests that at least some of them were considered companions as far back as 12,000 years old. This point is illustrated by the discovery of a Paleolithic grave in Northern Israel in which a human was buried alongside a dog or puppy wolf. As a sign of deep affection, the hand of the deceased person was placed on the shoulder of the animal.
Around 8,000 years ago, the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East witnessed a gradual shift in human life from nomadic hunter and settled farmer. In this environment, working dogs were more valuable than ever. However, the cat was also becoming loosely associated with humans around this time. The new environment created by houses, barns, grain stores was quickly exploited and favored by small wild felids. Because of their ability to get rid of pests, cats that followed these rodents into human settlements might have been allowed and encouraged.
Dogs may have been culturally significant in some ancient civilizations. This was usually related to death practices. Some cases involved the death of a person who was deliberately left out for dogs to eat. This was because it was believed that the soul of the deceased would pass through a dog in order to enter the afterlife. This early association between dogs and death led to the belief that dogs could prevent or avoid death. Dogs were used as co-therapists in ancient Greece’s healing temples because of their ability to heal illness. This is what led to the modern practice of using therapy dogs for people with a variety of conditions.
The history of pet ownership by the ruling or noble classes dates back to at least ancient Egyptian times. This era’s murals show pharaohs caring for companion animals. Numerous generations of Chinese emperors had dogs. As puppies, they were often suckled and cared for by human wet nurses. Adults were cared for by their own servants. Roman and Greek nobility were avid pet owners.
Human-animal relationships became less important to human life as civilizations advanced. This led to the belief that all animals were under human control. Although animals have lost much of its cultural and religious significance, some animals remain closely related to humans but in the role as companions.
The Middle Ages
Pet keeping was popular in medieval Europe between the 13th-15th century AD. It was also popular among senior clergy and the aristocracy. Noble ladies were fond of keeping lap dogs, while men nobility preferred to spend their time on “useful” animals like falcons and hunting hounds. The aristocracy considered hunting or “venery” a powerful symbol of power, status, and wealth during this time. Different types of dog breeds were created to chase different quarry.
However, the Christian church disapproves of pet ownership. The Church leaders recommended that these animals be fed to the hungry. The Church was more concerned that animals could be closely associated with pagan worship. The Inquisition was a time when prejudice against pets reached its peak. Evidence against heretics often included references that animals were closely associated with them.
Many innocent people were convicted of witchcraft during the 16th and 17th century barbaric witch trials. As evidence of their guilt, the possession of an “animal familiar”, considered a symbol for Satan, was used. Most of the accused were elderly, socially isolated women who kept pets for companionship. However, as witchcraft became less popular, companion animals gained popularity and were even used to signify good fortune.
Most likely, the reason there were negative attitudes towards companion animals in history is because affectionate relationships with animals were seen as immoral and against nature. The Western world held until recently that animals were not capable of feeling and were made to serve humanity.
The rise in pet ownership
Pet keeping was not accepted in Europe before the 17th century. It wasn’t even common in the middle class until the 18th century. The Victorian invention of pet keeping is the 19th century. It was seen as a link to the natural world at that time. This was not considered to be threatening. It was also a visible manifestation of man’s dominance over nature.
Britain was a hub for dog breeding from Roman times. In 1859, a formal competition for Setter and Pointer breeds was held in Newcastle. Until Charles Darwin’s 1859 publication The Origin of the Species, very little was known about the inheritance of different characteristics. Dog breeding has been formalized since then with strict breed standards.
Victorian pet-keeping was also reflective of other social attitudes. Because pet keeping encouraged neglect of other social duties, it was considered inappropriate for the “lower” classes.
Pet ownership in modern society
Dogs play many roles in modern society, including as status symbols, companions, helpers and ornaments. Dogs can be used as a medium for personal expression, as people express themselves through the breeds they own. Rare breeds, for example, are often used to indicate status. As helpers, guide dogs for the blind and hearing dogs for the deaf are two examples of pets that are kept.
Companionship is the main reason Western societies have pets. There has been an increase in awareness over the positive effects that companion animals can have on our psychological and physical health, as well as a recognition of their therapeutic value.