Is there a human /animal bond? Is there a special psychological thread that connects humans and animals together? Why do so many of us insist that we need a pet to love and care for. That pet is usually a furry, cuddly cat or dog.
Or, why is it that a person will stop their car in the middle of a busy highway and grab a turtle, that is obviously going to be smashed by an oncoming car, to put it safely on the other side?
When my 10th grade high School class started in the fall of 1947, most of us had to take a course in Basic Biology- the scientific construction of plants and animals. We learned the Kingdom, Phyla, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species of all plants and animals. That entailed a ton of memory work. After all these years, very little has remained in the forefront of my brain.
But studying all the kingdoms of plants and animals is not my intention . We are going to concentrate on one Species of animals- mammals to be exact. Mammals cover a huge class of animals and we are going to further concentrate on the placental species-the most common and diverse mammal species.
By definition, mammals are warm blooded animals with fur that nourish their young with milk.
There are a number of different mammal species but all have these 3 basic traits. In addition, Placental Mammals carry their young in a sac inside the mother’s body until birth.
There are 20 orders of placental mammals–the largest include rats, bats, dogs and whales. The most common mammals in this particular group are, humans, domesticated pets, livestock and rodents. Scientists consider placental mammals to be the most advanced species and the most recently evolved.
What are Human animal Characteristics?
People have differing opinions about putting homo sapiens (scientific name for the human animal) into the same categories with other creatures that exhibit similar characteristics. Humans can walk upright. Over the centuries, our skeletons have adjusted- more growth here, less growth there, to be perfectly balanced to walk, stand, sit and lay down altogether differently than our animal brothers and sisters.
Humans have an opposable thumb. So do the monkeys- they can pick up, throw, hold, and make elementary tools that give them an advantage over other animals. Human hands have developed, with that opposable thumb, the ability to pick-up, hold, mold, and handle tools to make all sorts of things for human benefit. With two hands humans can build everything from skyscrapers to toys, to the most intricate machines.
Humans have learned languages. All animals make noises- meows, barks, squeaks, gutturals, grunts, wails, tweets, and more. Humans have taken sounds- which must have sounded somewhat like the sounds of other animal relatives- and began to form words, that could be repeated until they became a language.
Humans learned to put marks on leather, bark and eventually paper that became a written equivalent of a spoken language. Now humans could record history, as well as the present, and forecast the future.
Humans are not completely covered with fur, as were our animal cousins. Humans had to figure out a way to keep cool when the glaciers receded, and also keep warm when the glaciers covered much of our earth.
Humans learned to make clothes from the fur of animals they killed for food, and to build houses that could be heated, in order to live through extreme cold. Humans also learned to make light clothing and open shelters for comfort in extreme heat.
Humans wanted to travel everywhere, so horses were domesticated and taught to carry humans on their backs, then they were harnessed to pull carriages. As human learning expanded, humans built cars, trains, planes and ships. We even designed ships that could take us to outer space.
Humans have a brain that goes beyond instinct and basic learning skills. The human brain is remarkable. It’s doubtful any human being has used the brain to its full potential. The brain never stops- it works just as hard whether we are sleeping or daydreaming. The brain is our most valuable organ. It makes up for any degree of the senses and instinct that we may have given up as we evolved into a super animal.
The human animal gave up or exchanged some attributes with our animal counterparts. Most animals walk on all fours- which does give them remarkable speed. Their hearing, seeing and sense of smell is elevated beyond that of the human. They rely on instinct to figure out where they are and what to do in times of stress.
They learn simple commands and tricks because they want to please us and there usually is a food reward after they do what we ask.
But is there more to the human animal? What about the Divine nature of humans? Most Humans believe in a Divine being that has made the earth, the animals and all things on and in the earth. Most also believe that human beings were created separately and in the image of the Divine and that humans were given charge of the earth and all things in it.
I’m not qualified to go into all things theological, but it seems to me that the qualities of love, care, kindness, concern and delight might be part of our divine inheritance, even though we sometimes exhibit anger and hatred – a part of us that is anything but divine.
These qualities along with the physical characteristics, make the complete human being. All these things together go into developing that special human bond that exhibits itself between the human animal and all the rest of creation.
When and where did Homo Sapiens Evolve?
Scientists who study mammals have concluded that there have been several species of man that evolved over a long time period. Like any other species of animals over the centuries, the early Homo Sapiens struggled for dominance of one group over another.
It’s the old Darwinian “survival of the fittest” theory. The stronger, the smarter, the more cunning, even the better looking, eventually vanquished their competitors until there was only one species of Homo Sapiens left.
Early Homo Sapiens evolved between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago. Modern Humans, the only and last homo sapiens to survive, originated in Africa, sometime between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago. Of all the animal species, this species had a highly developed brain and the capacity for speech and abstract reasoning.
As the species grew in number, they began to gather into small communities and then expanded into human settlements. When men started to live in more permanent gatherings, the domestication of certain animals emerged.
What was the first domesticated animal?
And which was the first of the domesticated animals to step out of the dim secluded wilderness into what would become our modern world? Many of you have guessed it .
About 13,000 BC, the first domesticated dog, supposed to have evolved from the ancestor of the Grey Wolf, became, probably, man’s first animal buddy. So, man and dog have lived together for thousands of years, cementing an unbroken bond of companionship.
The dog could be very helpful in tracking and finding animals for food. As man spread in to Europe, the dog may have become more of a herder as man had belongings; a family and perhaps a herd of animals to move.
When did the domestication of animals important to man begin?
Quite a few years passed before we begin to see the emergence of other domesticated animals. Goats, whose ancestor was the Ibex, was domesticated around 10,000 B. C., in Iran. Pigs were domesticated in China around 9,000 B.C. The pig’s wild ancestor was the Anatolian Boar. Sheep, with no known ancestor, were domesticated in Iran in about 9,000 B.C.
Cattle, both European and Brahman, appeared on the domestic scene in 8,000 B. C in China, western Asia, and India. The cat, springing from the North African wildcat, was domesticated in 8,000-7,500 B.C. in the near East.
Chickens, whose ancestor was the Indian Red Junglefowl, was domesticated in 6,000 B.C. in India and S.E. Asia. Ducks, springing from the common Mallard, were domesticated in China in 4,000 B.C. Donkeys were domesticated in Egypt about 5,000 B.C. Horses, from an extinct wild horse population, were domesticated in Kazakhstan in 3,500 B.C.
All of these animals became extremely important to man as he began to develop his lands, his property, his home. They supplied food, clothing, bedding for his house, transportation, etc. He also learned that he had to produce shelter and food in return.
Service for service, man learned more and more about his animal cousins. Some animals became more important to him than others.
The dog became his fireside companion. In battle, his horse saved his life and often gave his life for his master. The cat kept the rodents out of the barn and the feed he had set aside for the cattle. It was a good reciprocal relationship between species.
One big difference between man and domesticated animals is caused by the reproductive cycle.
Humans usually have one offspring any time of the year. The child grows for nine months inside the mother and is born completely helpless. This helpless child will grow into adulthood in about 16 to 18 years.
Farm animals usually have a reproductive cycle of one year. Cattlemen look for a lot of new calves every spring. These young ones are born ready to follow their mothers on sturdy legs within minutes of birth. Pigs give birth to several piglets at one time, usually in the Spring.
All of these cycles can be managed in order to provide new animals to replace those sold or used for food or other products.
People have learned to manage animals for production of food and other uses so that, hopefully, waste is minimized.
Animals that we consider pets, that is, cats and dogs, haven’t fared so well. All over the world, in cities and towns where humans gather, there are numerous cats and dogs, puppies and kittens, apparently homeless and scrounging for food, living wherever and however they can. In some countries, these poor animals are even collected and sold for food .
Cats are solitary creatures. Mother cat goes off to find an isolated place for her brood. Dogs, however, run in packs and can be dangerous to humans. They are usually just hungry-and feeding them will calm them down but, if they are agitated or frightened, they can cause harm.
Mother dogs also find an isolated place to hide her pups. Cats and dogs can have two or even three litters a year.
The homeless pet situation is pitiful. Most of these animals are wild, frightened and starving. And still, a lot of pet owners will not have their pets spayed or neutered. This is not the complete answer, but it’s a good start.
There are pet shelters and people who offer their time in rescue efforts, but not all strays and throwaways can be saved. Time is always the enemy.
Pet owners must take full responsibility for their pets . Pets are not garbage. They can’t just be tossed in the landfill.
I’m Barbara Nelson and I hope you liked today’s post. It’s different . The bond between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom has been a topic I have wanted to explore. There will be more on this subject and more on pets other than cats and dogs. Share this with your friends.
2 thoughts on “1. What is the Human animal Bond”
I really enjoyed reading about the history of domestication here. I did not know the relative timeline of domestication of various animals. I knew about dogs and cats but not the goats, pigs, sheep, horses etc. It is interesting that horses where a more modern addition while animals such as goats have been domesticated for 12,000 years.
The cause of millions of unwanted, uncared for pets is largely a problem of perception and values. Many people only want a pet that can “do” something for them. They don’t want a pet just to love it and take care of it but rather want to have it as a status symbol or a temporary diversion. When it is no longer convenient (it gets sick, old, has puppies or kittens, has a problem or the owner moves or simply gets bored and wants a different one) they simply dump it by abandoning it or putting it in the closest shelter which is often overfilled.
I dearly wish people could see the amazing love these pets can give. They can truly be members of our family if they are treated with love, patience and loyalty. We expect loyalty of them so why don’t we expect that we need to be loyal TO them as well?
You were diplomatic to avoid the theological discussion of man’s dominion over animals. I am not so diplomatic. I think there is a reason that certain faiths treat animals differently. Faiths such as Buddhism treat all living things with respect. I am not a Buddhist but greatly appreciate how they treat animals. Monasteries are safe havens for dogs and cats as they get food and a safe place to live if they happen to show up there. These faiths value all life, not just human life.
I agree that spaying and neutering dogs and cats is one of the best things we can do to prevent unwanted strays.
I look forward to your upcoming posts on the human animal bond!
Thanks Jessica. You have a deep perception of the love and loyalty animals give us.
I have been around animals all my life and yet , after I wrote that, I looked at my old cat and
realized how much she put up with me and my rantings.