Scientists Say: Domestication

This is the process that brings organisms out of the wild and into our lives


It may not look like this Czechoslovakian wolfdog and the smaller Chihuahua have much in common, but they were both domesticated from wolves.


Domestication (noun, “Doh-MESS-tih-CAY-shun”, verb, “domesticate”)

This is the process of taking a wild organism and taming it or otherwise making it useful to people. An animal can be domesticated to be a pet — such as a dog or hamster — or to provide food or work, like with a cow, horse or chicken. Domesticated animals are bred in captivity, have to be fed by humans and are usually comfortable around people. Getting from wild to domesticated isn’t a fast process. Turning a wild wolf into a Chihuahua took thousands of years of breeding and selection.

Plants have also been domesticated. Like with animals, the process takes a long while. But it has produced many of the plants we eat, from corn to cabbage.

In a sentence

More than 9,000 years ago, African wildcats took up chasing house mice — and started their own domestication.

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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