History of Cats and Dogs
Dogs and cats are the animals who most love living with humans and with whom humans most love to live. The first remains of a dog were found in Iraq thousands of years ago. Its jaws and teeth were smaller those of a wolf. Dogs were the first animal to be domesticated.
Domesticated dogs originated in China, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Egyptian, Roman and Assyrian art show clear images of dogs of many different shapes and sizes. There is evidence that reveals that even in the first century A.D. a dog much like a Pekingese existed in China.
When humans were hunters, dogs followed them to get a free meal. Humans realized that the dogs would bark if a predator was near so they fed them to keep them close. People found other good uses for dogs. They taught dogs to obey them, to hunt and to pull sleds. They found that they could guard sheep on a farm and help to herd them. Dogs have earned the nickname, 'man's best friend.' When humans look into each other's eyes and bond, a hormone called oxytocin is released. Scientific study shows the same hormone is released when a dog and a human bond through looking at each other's eyes.
Romans writers tell that women liked lap dogs to keep them warm. It was a good cure for a stomachache. During the Middle Ages, owning a dog or dogs was a status symbol. Dog owners started breeding dogs to form new types to focus on size, color, strength and behavior. We read of reasons to choose a certain color of dog. White dogs could be seen among the sheep as being different from a wolf that was attacking. A black dog could be used to frighten thieves on a farm.
Cats have remained much more like their wild ancestors than dogs. One main difference is that domestic cats can live in groups and wild cats don't. Domestic cats can be traced back to wild ancestors who lived in the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia between Egypt and the Tigris and Euphrates RIvers. They were first domesticated in that area. Cats really domesticated themselves. When men began to farm, the grain they grew attracted mice and rats that ate the grain. The rodents attracted cats. The cats killed the rodents. Humans liked the help that cats gave them so they fed them and took care of them.
In early civilization, cats seem to have been a kind of mystery animal. They are believed to have originated over 4000 years ago in Egypt. Cats were sacred to the Egyptians. They were associated with the Egyptian god of love, Bastet, who had the head of a cat.
Cats were even worshipped like gods. The Egyptians mummified cats after death. Cats were buried with the pharaohs to provide good luck in the afterlife. A cat cemetery was found in Beni Hasan in Egypt. It contained over 300,000 cat mummies.
At the end of the Egyptian empire, cats were sold to the Greeks and Persians and then to the Chinese. Egyptian traders also brought cats to Europe. They reached Britain in about 100 A.D. Cats were taken on board ships of exploration to control pests. Thus, they traveled west and were left in the new lands.
During the Middle Ages, cats became associated with evil. People tried to kill them off. Some say that because the cats were killed off, mice and rats reproduced more and carried the bubonic plague which killed thousands in Europe. In the 1800s, Queen Victoria of England introduced the cat again as a pet. In the 1990s, cats outranked dogs as the world's most common pet. Cats throughout history are often seen together with witches. Even today, black cats are considered to be bad luck.
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