History of Scientific Agriculture: Animals

Abstract

Domestication of agricultural animals began 10 000 years ago. From a wide array of wild animals, only a small number were and, for specifiable reasons, could be domesticated. Trait selection and breeding has been the principal mechanism of animal improvement until the late twentieth century. As with much of early science, enhancing beneficial traits was a trial and error process. An understanding of the genetic mechanisms and environmental factors in that process was a twentieth‐century triumph. Drawing on physiological, behavioural, genetic, evolutionary and ecological knowledge significantly enhanced selection and breeding efforts. In the twentieth century, scientific advancements were numerous. Of special significance were the introduction of artificial insemination, and the nature, prevention and treatment of pathogenic diseases. Late twentieth‐century agricultural biology began to employ techniques of molecular genetic manipulation (transgenic animals), initially using farm animals as bioreactors. Improvements in cloning, pronuclear injection and use of stem cells can be expected to dominate research and development in twenty‐first‐century animal agriculture.

Key Concepts

  • The early evolution of animal domestication was trial and error.
  • Human and agricultural animals coevolved.
  • The mechanisms of speciation were important processes in the early period but only well understood in the twentieth century.
  • The quantitative genetics of farm animal makes trait improvement challenging.
  • Critical variables in the trait farm animals are understood but difficult to manipulate.
  • The importance of multiple trait selection is now well understood.
  • Artificial insemination and cryopreservation of sperm have significantly improved trait manipulation and preservation.
  • Knowledge of pathogens has allowed antibiotics and sanitation to be effectively employed.
  • Animals as pharmaceutical and material bioreactors has been recent and expanded the genetic modification of animals.
  • There are challenges and promises of cloning, pronuclear injection and stem cell use in animal agriculture emerging in the twenty‐first century.

Keywords: animal domestication; selective breeding; quantitative genetics; transgenic animals; animal bioreactors

References

Anthony D (1996) Bridling horse power: the domestication of the horse. In: Olsen SL (ed) Horses Through Time. Bolder, CO: Roberts Rinehart Publishers.

Beers MH and Berkow R (eds) (1999) The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories.

Boessneck J and von den Driesch A (1982) Studien an Subfossilen Tierknochen aus Ägypten. München: Deutscher Kunstverlag.

Bökönyi S (1974) Przevalsky Horse. Plymouth: Souvenir Press (translated by L Halapy).

Brunner K (1995) Continuity and discontinuity of Roman agricultural knowledge in the early Middle Ages. In: Sweeney D (ed) Agriculture in the Middle Ages: Technology, Practices and Representation. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Clark AJ (1998) Animal Breeding: Technology for the 21st Century. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic.

Clutton‐Brock J (1999) A Natural History of Domesticated Mammal, 2nd edn. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Diamond J (1997) Guns, Germs, and Steel. New York: Norton.

Diamond J (2002) Evolution, consequences and future of plant and animal domestication. Nature 418: 700–707.

Durrant BS (2009) The importance and potential of artificial insemination in CANDES (companion animals, non‐domesticated, endangered species). Theriogenology 71: 113–122.

Ehret C (2001) Sudanic civilization. In: Adas M (ed) Agricultural and Pastoral Societies in Ancient and Classical History. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Eyestone WH (1998) Techniques for the production of transgenic livestock. In: Clack AJ (ed) Animal Breeding: Technology for the 21st Century. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers.

Fisher RA (1930) The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Foote RH (2002) The history of artificial insemination: selected notes and notables. Journal of Animal Science 80: 1–10.

Galton F (1865) The first steps towards the domestication of animals. Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London 3: 122–138.

Gao D, Mazur P and Critser JK (1997) Fundamental cryobiology of mammalian spermatozoa. In: Karow AM and Critser JK (eds) Reproductive Tissue Banking: Scientific Principles, pp. 263–313. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Gautier A (1990) La Domestication et l'homme créa ses animaux. Paris: Errance.

Götherström A, Anderung C, Hellborg L, et al. (2005) Cattle domestication in the Near East was followed by hybridization with aurochs bulls in Europe. Proceedings. Biological Sciences/The Royal Society 272 (1579): 2345–2350.

Mayr E (1942) Systematics and the Origin of Species. New York: Columbia University Press.

Mazoyer M and Roudart L (2006) A History of Agriculture from the Neolithic Age to the Current Crisis. New York: Monthly Review Press (translated by James H. Membrez).

McNeill W (1976) Plagues and Peoples. Garden City: Doubleday.

Mendel G (1865) Versuche über Pflanzenhybriden. Verhandlungen des Naturforschenden Vereins in Brün 4: 3–47.

Polge C, Smith AU and Parkes AS (1949) Revival of spermatozoa after vitrification and dehydration at low temperatures. Nature 164: 666.

Sauer CO (1952) Agricultural Origins and Dispersals. New York: The American Geographic Society.

Smith BD (1995) The Emergence of Agriculture. New York: Scientific American Library (distributed by W.H. Freeman).

Smith C (1998) Introduction: current animal breeding. In: Clark AJ (ed) Animal Breeding: Technology for the 21st Century. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers.

Thurston LM, Watson PF and Holt WV (2002) Semen cryopreservation: a genetic explanation for species and individual variation? Cryo Letters 23: 255–262.

Walters EM, Men H, Agca Y, et al. (2005) Osmotic tolerance of mouse spermatozoa from various genetic backgrounds: acrosome integrity, membrane integrity, and maintenance of motility. Cryobiology 50: 193–205.

Walters EM, Benson JD, Woods EJ and Critser JK (2009) The history of sperm cryopreservation. In: Pacey AA and Tomlinson MJ (eds) Sperm Banking: Theory and Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Watson AM (1995) Arab and European agriculture in the Middle Ages: a case of restricted diffusion. In: Sweeney D (ed) Agriculture in the Middle Ages: Technology, Practices and Representation. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Webb DW (1992) Artificial Insemination in Dairy Cattle. Animal Science Department Series, DS58, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.

Further Reading

Foote RH (2002) The history of artificial insemination: selected notes and notables. Journal of Animal Science 80 (E‐Suppl_2): 1–10.

Frederico G (2005) Feeding the World: An Economic History of Agriculture 1800–2000. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Grandin T (1998) Genetics and the Behavior of Domestic Animals. San Diego: Academic Press.

Hartl DL and Clark AG (1989) Principles of Population Genetics. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates Inc.

Hutt FB (1982) Animal Genetics. New York: Ronald Press Co.

Jensen P (2002) The Ethology of Domestic Animals: An Introductory Text. Oxford: CABI Publication.

Zeder MA, Bradley DG, Emshwiller E and Smith BD (2006) Documenting Domestication: New Genetic and Archaeological Paradigms. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Zeuner FE (1963) History of Domesticated Animals. New York: Harper and Row.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Thompson, R Paul(Sep 2016) History of Scientific Agriculture: Animals. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0020136.pub2]