Friday, February 4, 2011

Man's Most-Ancientest Best Friend?

Vulpes Vulples Arabica (Photo by Nepenthes)


So, if the Montreal Gazette is to be believed, it looks like mankind may have been domesticating foxes before dogs:

A Canadian-led team of researchers that discovered the oldest cemetery in the Middle East has also unearthed the remains of a red fox — buried alongside a human at the site in northern Jordan — that appears to be the world's earliest-known pet.

The site, by the way, is 16,500 years old.

Of course, it's by no means proven that these foxes were pets. It's possible, for instance, that the foxes were buried with humans for some ritual or religious reason. However, the "pet" deduction does make some sense: foxes are distantly related to dogs, which were almost certainly the first non-livestock critters to be domesticated (there is some neurological proof for this, in that the area of the brain given over to being a domestic is far larger comparatively in dogs than it is in cats). And while it's tricky to domesticate foxes, it's not impossible. It's a bit difficult to imagine foxes being used as hunting animals, but it's possible (and this is mentioned by the researchers in the above article) that they were camp scavengers who simply eventually "moved in."

In any case, it's interesting stuff, and it will become even more intriguing if more human-animal burials are discovered in the area!

2 comments:

Crimson Rambler said...

was it actually a red fox, or one of those little "fennec" big-eared desert foxes???
fascinating stuff.

Chunklets said...

My understanding is that it was an Arabian Red Fox, which is basically the same critter as the red foxes we have here.