The Wild History of Pets
A Brief History Of Pets!
Pets have a long and complex history with humans. We wanted to share a few stories that tell us about part of the history that pets and people have shared- it's been a long and committed relationship!
We really don't know an exact date of when animals (in this case, dogs) came into the equation for people. A dog jawbone found in Iraq was discovered to be over 14,000 years old. Although this timeline tells us that dogs have been around in our lives for a while, they have certainly gone through a lot of changes. Most “dogs” in early years were wolves that slowly domesticated as time went on.
In lots of early civilizations in places such as Egypt, Rome, and China, selective breeding shaped the dogs and cats we know and love into the snuggly faces we see today.
Although they are the most popular throughout history, dogs aren't the only companions who have walked with us over the years! Check out these other animals, weird and cute, who have been companions for humans for thousands of years - and the strange and unusual ones that used to be our friends.
Pets Kept In Ancient Egypt
Although it’s believed that cats come from somewhere in the Middle East, or possibly Cyprus, Ancient Egypt and it's culture tells us a lot about how important cats were in their lives and beliefs.
Cats started off in Egypt, and most other places in the world, as pest control. Chasing mice, bugs, and snakes away in homes and crops, humans realized the benefit - and companionship, of the cat. The cat, being a cat, saw humans as an opportunity for free food and shade (and maybe a few scratches).
As time went on, the convenience of companionship and protection that cats brought was something humans began cementing into their cultures. This was reflected heavily in the walls of Egyptian tombs, where wealthy people would depict important moments in their life and people who they wanted to bring into the afterlife. Cats adorned walls in tombs, hinting that they truly were more than lowly mouse catchers in life. Along with many gods and goddesses depicted as wild cats and even domestic cats at times, they were also seen as companions to the gods. Cats were certainly seen as special in Egypt!
Pets Kept In Ancient Rome
Besides dogs, birds were a strangely popular pet kept during the rule of the Roman Empire! Birds were not only considered a companion and entertainment, but they were also a way to portray wealth and luxury. By owning more exotic birds, or birds with precious and decorative cages, Roman birds were considered to be the pinnacle of a fine and wealthy family or individual.
Some of the most popular birds were the most exotic, or the ones that could talk. Surprisingly (for the time), Parrots were a popular bird in Rome. Nightingales, starlings, and ravens were other popular choices for birds at the time.
Less wealthy individuals also had birds! These birds were usually outdoor ones, and could typically be used as livestock: geese, quails, and chickens.
Pets In The Victorian Era
During the Victorian era, dogs and cats were considered to be the most popular pets (no surprises there!). In particular, smaller lap dogs. These dogs were higher maintenance and less common, and typically were only seen with wealthier women who had the attention, or could afford a maid.
A popular Victorian era story is that of Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye Terrier from Edinburgh, Scotland. Bobby belonged to a nightwatchman named John Gray, who died and was buried in a churchyard in town. Bobby, the adorable companion, spent the next 14 years of his life sitting and guarding John’s grave.
People in the town looked after Bobby, even getting him a license to keep him in the city. After Bobby’s death 14 years later, and after being buried at the site of John’s grave, an English philanthropist commissioned a water fountain statue of Bobby across from George IV Bridge in Edinburgh. Bobby will forever be remembered as the loyal and adorable Edinburgh pup.
Exotic Pets In The 40's and 50's
Exotic and strange pets were hugely popular, especially through the 40’s and 50’s. Since the push against the exotic animal trade began in the 70’s, and continues to be fought for, exotic animals being kept as private pets have been in decline (at least their prominence in public, exotic animal trade continues to be an issue even today).
Check out these wild and weird exotic animals and their families - but remember, you do NOT want to adopt any of these crazy creatures.