• by Richard C. Francis
  • Narrated by Eric Martin
  • 13 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Without our domesticated plants and animals, human civilization as we know it would not exist.
We would still be living at subsistence level as hunter-gatherers if not for domestication. It is no accident that the cradle of civilization - the Middle East - is where sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, and cats commenced their fatefully intimate associations with humans.
Before the agricultural revolution, there were perhaps 10 million humans on Earth. Now there are more than seven billion of us. Our domesticated species have also thrived, in stark contrast to their wild ancestors. In a human-constructed environment - or manmade world - it pays to be domesticated.
Domestication is an evolutionary process first and foremost. What most distinguishes domesticated animals from their wild ancestors are genetic alterations resulting in tameness, the capacity to tolerate close human proximity. But selection for tameness often results in a host of seemingly unrelated by-products, including floppy ears, skeletal alterations, reduced aggression, increased sociality, and reduced brain size. It's a package deal known as the domestication syndrome.
Elements of the domestication syndrome can be found in every domesticated species - not only cats, dogs, pigs, sheep, cattle, and horses but also more recent human creations, such as domesticated camels, reindeer, and laboratory rats. That domestication results in this suite of changes in such a wide variety of mammals is a fascinating evolutionary story, one that sheds much light on the evolutionary process in general.
We humans, too, show signs of the domestication syndrome, which some believe was key to our evolutionary success. By this view human evolution parallels the evolution of dogs from wolves, in particular.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Well, what did you expect?

I bought this book mainly because I’m interested in the idea of how a formidable predator, a wolf, could gradually be transformed into the pathetic lovable modern domestic dog, in all its amazing different shapes, sizes and colours.

The book does provide this information. And then it goes on to discuss domesticated cats, sheep, cows, pigs, racoons, reindeer and so on, and on and on and on.

Parts of this were interesting, but other parts were challenging, in their use of some tricky genetic concepts. And of course it also became a bit repetitive, as the same domestication-related topics kept cropping up in relation to different species.

It’s not that he isn’t a good writer, or that it is badly narrated, neither of these are the case – but it’s significant that the two most interesting parts of the book were digressions – one was a discussion of the origins of the Santa Claus myth and the other was the author’s humorous description of a camel-ride he’d endured. These were telling, because they were evidence of a talented writer and perhaps this proved that this subject is just a bit too dry to provide the basis for a riveting listen, once you’ve heard how domestication happened in a couple of species.

It isn’t at all a bad book, IF you want to learn about the process of domestication in a WHOLE BUNCH of animals. I haven't given it a bad rating because the words on the cover describe perfectly accurately what the book is about – so what else did I expect?
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- Mark "I love listening to books when cycling, paddleboarding, etc but I press pause when I need to concentrate. Its safer & I don't lose the plot!"

Fantastic exploration of man and nature

Domesticated explains how man domesticated animals and himself. The ideas are presented well and he drives home important points many ways so that they really get into your head. I've been excitedly telling people about the ideas of the book already and I suspect I'll end up buying a few copies of this. The chapter on camels and cats were particularly amazing and it's clear the author was both knowledgeable of and having fun with them.

Eric Martin was competent, a couple times the audio got choppy and the pauses at the ends of sentences got distractingly long. I listened at 1.5 speed and the reader was still very articulate. He certainly isn't dry and manages to emphasize points well.

The chapter on humans was fairly weak and I wish he had just skipped it and done birds or something. It falls into tight scientific arguments and wanders in uninteresting ways. Also watch out there is an appendix that is not that well labelled a the end (last 45 minutes).

I'd strongly recommend this book to any biology lovers, anyone who has wondered how domestication has changed animals, or where all the breeds of dogs cats and horses come from. It might be one of the better and more thorough biology books written in the past few years.
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- Conor Cox

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-28-2015
  • Publisher: Audible Studios