The term “domesticated” is often heard, especially in discussions concerning animals and even plants. It is a word that goes beyond simply ‘taming’ an animal but involves a process that has shaped the course of human civilization in myriad ways. The term “domestication” comes from the Latin word “domus,” which means home. Therefore, when you hear the term “domesticated,” it refers to something or someone that has been adapted for life in close association with, and to the benefit of, humans.
Domestication is a process which takes place over generations, and it consists of manipulating an organism’s environment and breeding in a way that makes the species more beneficial or easier for humans to control. It is a mutual relationship where both humans and the species being domesticated meet each other’s needs. For instance, humans might provide protection and food, while the species provide work, companionship, or food sources, depending on the species.
Within the context of animals, domestication has transformed wild animals into familiar pets and livestock. Animals like dogs, cats, cows, horses, pigs, and chickens, among others, have all been domesticated by humans for various purposes ranging from companionship to work to food supply. A domesticated animal differs from a tamed animal, the latter referring to a wild animal that has grown accustomed to human presence but has not been selectively bred for particular human-determined traits over generations.
Similarly, numerous plants have been domesticated for human use over centuries. Crop domestication involves growing selective plants in specific conditions to selectively evolve them into more desired forms. The plants we know today – such as maize, wheat, potatoes, bananas, apples, and so forth – have been significantly transformed from their wild ancestors through the process of domestication.
All these transformations from wild to domestic versions did not happen quickly. They are the result of long-term relationships, often spanning thousands of years, involving strong human influence on the organisms’ breeding and living conditions.
Domestication is considered one of the most significant achievements in human history. It has not just enabled the development of civilization by providing a reliable source of food, but has also brought humans into a close relationship with a vast array of other species.