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Domesticated cows in a green field (By fir0002 (Own work) [GFDL 1.2 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Domestication is defined as the keeping of animals in captivity by a human community that maintains total control over their breeding, organization of territory, and food supply. True domestication involves a combination of biological and cultural processes. The biological process begins with the separation of a few animals from the wild species and their taming by humans; if these animals breed, a founder group is formed, which is changed over future generations both in response to natural selection under the control of humans and the animal's environment and by artificial selection for economic, cultural, or aesthetic goals. In the cultural process, animals are incorporated into the social structure of a human community and become objects of ownership, inheritance, purchase, and exchange.

caption Figure caption: Different domesticated mammals as part of the cattle and livestock industry. Source: Saikat Basu, own work

Further Reading

  • Clutton-Brock, Juliet. 1999. A Natural History of Domesticated Mammals. Second Edition. Cambridge University Press/The Natural History Museum.
  • Clutton-Brock, Juliet. 2007. How Domestic Animals Have Shaped the Development of Human Societies, In Linda Kalof (ed.), A Cultural History of Animals in Antiquity. Oxford: Berg Publishers, Forthcoming.


Clutton-Brock, J. (2014). Domestication. Retrieved from


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