A very interesting story appeared in New Scientist recently regarding the domestication of dogs. We’re going to take a look at that story today, as well as the broader topic of animal domestication as that is something we’ve never touched on before and it had tangential bearing on the flood and its aftermath. With all that in mind, let’s look at what New Scientist tells us.
The argument presented in New Scientist is that, during the Ice Age, humans were being such successful hunters that they had extra meat. The proposal is that some humans found abandoned, sick, or injured wolf pups and, being much like humans today, thought they were cute and decided to keep them. The newly found pups would have been raised on excess lean meat that the humans acquired through hunting and, potentially, the pups would have developed into guard dogs and hunting partners for the humans over time.
First of all, let me say, other than their presumed timescale for the Ice Age, this scenario is completely plausible. Humans back then were not much different than humans today. A cute puppy will win people over today and undoubtedly would have done so in the past. While I’m not sure this idea can be considered scientific, certainly not in the empirical sense of the word, from the standpoint of history, this makes plausible logical sense.
This leads me to ask about the domestication of other animals in the post flood world. What about cattle, sheep/goats, horses, cats and other animals we commonly think of as house and/or farm animals? How did they get domesticated in a post-flood environment. In the case of the clean animals, I think there is a clue in how Genesis describes their numbers. “
“And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.” Genesis 7:1-2
I think it is possible that many of the clean domesticated animals (oxen, sheep/goats etc) were already domesticated prior to the flood. Thus taking multiple pairs as Genesis describes would have accomplished several goals. First, there would have been readily available sacrifices The Bible describes Noah sacrificing animals after he got off the Ark. They would have undoubtedly come from among the clean animal population. (As an aside, may clean animals have relatively short gestation periods. Even cows are under a year. So it is possible there were more clean animals coming off the Ark, than went on, thereby eliminating the cost to the population that sacrifices entailed.)
Second, the additional clean animals would have allowed for multiple varieties of the same kind to be brought. This would mean that both a domesticated and wild variety of say cattle could have been brought. So a domesticated cow breed and a water buffalo type breed could both have been on the Ark at the same time. This would serve both to provide ready-made domesticated animals in the post-flood world, as well as maintain high genetic diversity for the non-domesticated breeds.
Obviously what I just postulated is not in Scripture, nor can it be tested empirically. However, it does make a certain amount of sense for the clean animals. However, it does not work as an explanation for the unclean domesticated animals, like pigs. While it is possible they too were domesticated pre-flood, it seems less likely than the clean animals. So cats, dogs, pigs and the like probably did get domesticated (or potentially re-domesticated), post-flood, rather than coming off the Ark domesticated as was likely the case with at least some of the clean animals. This makes the New Scientist story plausible. Again, nothing written in this article can be tested empirically, nor can it be verified Biblically. However, it does make a certain amount of sense. If someone knows of a better proposal for the domestication of animals from a Biblical perspective, I’d love to see it.
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New Scientist article
Though I don’t know that the Scripture specifically addresses the idea of “domestication” as we understand it, Genesis 9:2 quotes God as saying to Noah after the Flood, “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand” NKJV. This lack of fear prior to the Flood may be one reason why Noah had no trouble getting animals to board the Ark.
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