Zebra vs Horses: Animal Domestication


Sheep… weren’t always this fluffy. We fluffy-fied them by breeding the fluffiest in each generation. This is domestication: sculpting wild animals for better human use. As we saw in Part 1, for early man, animals were powerful tools …food, clothing, transportation, tractors. Yet, though there were animals everywhere, only a handful were domesticated in the pre-modern world. What made these different? Let’s make a domestication checklist, shall we? First up: Feedable A cow is a machine that turns grass into steaks And a tiger a machine that turns steaks into… tiger. Ten pounds of grass make a pound of steak. And ten pounds of steak make a pound of tiger. … but these have the same number of calories — so you might as well just eat the cow and save yourself a lot of work. So pure carnivores: you’re not going to domesticate, just because of thermodynamics. You’re looking for herbivores that aren’t picky. They should eat something that’s everywhere that you can’t eat. Any omnivores better be happy eating whatever and better be super worth it. We are, however, putting the pig before the pen here because first we need to catch something that’s… Friendly OK, obviously catching a carnivore is a bad idea anyway because their day job is murder. But plenty of omnivores like grizzleys moonlight in murder. No safety in vegetarians either: buffalo are terrifying tanks for all the reasons mentioned before… …hippos hold the murder high-score in Africa, …giraffes look real dorky until you consider their striking range — lions mostly leave them alone. Animals it would be awesome to domesticate are, not coincidentally, super dangerous. War bears would be a hell of an advantage for your tribe, but it’s not going to happen. And if it’s big and not dangerous, it’s a nervous wreck. Try sneaking up on a gazelle? Rhymes with “LOL”. Sure, you and a team of buddies could spend the whole day marathon jogging it down to exhaustion… …but if it doesn’t break it’s own neck as you try to drag it back home, …then it’s going to casually leap out of whatever pen you built for it. Ok, next up: some animals have reproductive -ah- preferences… …that make them incompatible with captivity. Looking at you, Pandas. The time and energy humans have spent to get pandas to get on with it is comical. Hunter-Gatherers need an animal so eager to breed, it gets it wrong sometimes. … not an animal whose mating seasons they have to keep careful track of. So: Friendly, Feedable and — Fecund. It also needs to grow up fast. This gets us to the heart of domestication versus taming. Again: to domesticate a species is to change it to make it better for us. And side note here: we domesticate plants as well. We’ve bred them to be monstrous versions of their wild selves. So when hippies talk about going back to nature, they forget that these plants are just as man made as this pop-tart. Anyway, back to the animals… The pig porkification project succeeded because pig generations are shorter than human generations. A single, clever human can make porky progress in their lifetime. Compare and contrast: Elephants. Two years to make a calf, five years in between calves, nine years until female maturity, fifteen years for males? You’ve got to be kidding, Elephants. There’s no time for this. But humans can still tame elephants. You can catch an elephant, and train it not to freak out around humans. Then, put it to work. But elephant domestication would require accurate records over several human lives… …never mind that keeping one or two tamed elephants around is incredibly costly …which is why war elephants only happened on occasion in already complex societies. Tame elephants are a luxury, hence this rule of thumb: if it’s on farm, it’s domesticated, if it’s in a circus, it’s tame. Finally: families. OK: zebra vs horses. Horses are civilization game-changers — it’s remarkable to think that from thousands BC until the telegraph… …a dude on a horse was the best internet available. Horses were domesticated in Eurasia, but humans started in Africa which has Zebra … …why didn’t the first humans ride out of Africa on the backs of zebra to conquer the world? Because zebra are bastards. They live to kick and bite: dangerous in a pre-penicillin world. …and zebra also have a ducking reflex making them very frustrating to lasso. In addition to being a real pain in the ass animal, Zebra lack a family structure. Horse herds hierarchy — you can see it when they travel in a line: the male, top female, her foals, second female, her foals, and so on. Humans, by capturing and taming the lead male, become head horse. Lots of barnyard animals are barnyard animals because they have family values humans exploit — …they just grow up with the idea that this human is a funny sort of take-charge cow or whatever. No big deal. Chickens will peck, peck, peck until they’ve worked out who’s top chicken. But you know whose really top chicken? We’re top chicken. Dogs and cats: this is what makes them different. Dogs will love you and defend you and hunt with you because you’re part of the pack. Dogs live to be useful to us — which in the modern world means falling over to play dead — but they love it “Bang! …. Good girl. Good girl!” [laughing] … whereas a cat is a tiny tiger that lives in your house. Ok, back to these guys. For zebra, there’s no such thing as society. They hang out in groups because it’s a good survival strategy but they don’t really care. Catch a zebra and his family won’t follow, try to ride him and you’ll be lucky to keep your fingers. Zebra look like horses on the outside, but not on the inside. So that’s the checklist:
Friendly – Feedable – Fecund – Family Friendly It’s not a long checklist, but for Hunter-Gatherers, any animal they wanted to domesticate needed everything,… …which is why in early human history only a bakers dozen of big animals were domesticated the world over. [music] This video has been brought to you by audible.com. And if you like checklists as much as I do,… I’m going to recommend to you the book “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande. Yes! There’s an entire book about how important and life-changing checklists can be… …and what makes a good checklist and what makes a bad checklist, … with examples from the airline industry to war time, to just your regular daily life. I highly recommend it. Go to audible.com/grey for a free trial in Audible and give “The Checklist Manifesto”a listen. Audible has have over 180,000 things for you to listen to and I listen to audiobooks all the time to improve my life. Why not get started today by going to Audible.com/grey? [music]




Comments
  1. There is no equivalent between domesticated plants and processed “food.” This is a false comparison. Therefore, I see you and your channel as extremely suspect.

  2. You explained virtually nothing about the difference between horses and zebras…outside similar, inside different…great job guys

  3. Felis Catus actually DOES have a family structure. They see us as fellow cats, which is why they can leave kittens with us while they go out hunting to help feed the group: which they accomplish by bringing us dead mice or birds.
    They bring us wounded prey to teach us to hunt and kill, since we're great at providing kibble, but we're lousy at getting live meat.

  4. for the last time cats do have packs and we are part of theres! donasticated cats RATHER live in a pack than alone BUT the way the terretorie systems work [nearly the same as before domestication] most likely prevent that accept a kinda overpopulated region than they are able to build a pack herachie also its proven that the "nice gift of a dead mouse or bird" is meant to help us in there eyes we are bad hunters and they even bring them to us when they are not feed by us for example proper barn cats that still have enough contakt with there owner // sry for spelling issues not a native speaker

  5. What about camels, donkeys and elephants ? They have been widely domesticated actoss the middle east, however have not been used as a main source of food there despite there being an abundance of them

  6. Irrefutable proof that evolution exists and can be harnessed to benefit humankind. If only we could figure out how to manipulate our own evolution.

  7. Nah man, cats have been domesticated. I have a Norwegian Forest Cat (essentially a wildcat) and I never knew he was one until recently.
    He's so sweet, and I'm not just saying that as a cat person. He has real empathy, and he feels emotions just like humans – upset, anger, love, happiness and jealousy. He's honestly really clever and I think he proves that cats are changing from the wild mini tigers to nicer domesticated creatures.
    Then my second cat – Oreo. Oreo is just a normal cat, not a Norwegian Forest or anything, but he is the sweetest child in existence. He isn't very bright or clever, but he also feels emotions. He has never attackd anything except rival cats in his life. He's a total bean and he's adorable.

    Cats aren't as bad these days. Only dog people still refuse to like cats.

  8. So basically every animal can be donesticated it just that our ancestors didnt do it…this kinds of demolishes evolution

  9. 3:49 Because the humans there didn't know how to do so.
    Horses used to be shorter, hyper-aggressive, and even had stripes like zebras until a few daring humans decided to domesticate and use these wild beasts to great effect (See the Indo-European expansion and the rest of Eurasian history for that matter).
    However, despite a 60,000-year head start, the people living around zebras never thought of such a thing and any taming of them had to be done by foreigners like the Germans (who tamed them and used them extensively as a replacement for horses in Namibia during WWI when horses were hard to come by).
    If a group of animals can be contained, their reproductive behavior can be controlled. If their reproductive behavior can be controlled, then a domesticated version of that animal can be bred into existence. This is how humans domesticate animals (and how we could get war bears if we really wanted to despite how impractical and difficult it would be)

    I sure wonder why you would leave out this information. Does it not fit into a certain narrative?
    🤔

    EDIT: However, I do agree if an animal doesn't want to reproduce in captivity, it can be difficult to domesticate them (or you could breed the few fertile ones to make a more fertile animal breed/species).

  10. There are a few examples of domesticate-able animals in North America you didn't mention, such as bighorn sheep and mountain goats. Heck, caribou were domesticated in Eurasia, but not in North America.

  11. I just realized this. Why weren't rabbits ever domisticated? They breed fast, they're herbivores, they're small enough to catch…

  12. 2:34 – Dissing hippies to score a point with a stupid claim ("domesticated plants are just as man made as pop=tart") – A pity.
    I liked the video so far, but that spoiled it. Reconsider your attitude, dude …

  13. I don't think so … because wild oxen were dangerous also wild horses like gazelles ibex also jumpy….but it has to be that lots of domestication of plants and animals happened in the middle east and china and mesoamerica.they almost domesticate every thing even trying to use cheetahs.and thats because of agriculture…and now people lost the interests of that…for example there are lots of bovine and antelopes in subsaharan africa that could be domesticated…like Eland

  14. False dichotomy, at one point the Horse was more like the Zebra than today and the only way it changed is due to Human interference and the pressures placed on it that changed how it reacts said pressures.

    The Zebra not being domesticated has a far simpler answer than anything you are suggesting.

    it never was a thought for the peoples who lived in Africa – or still live in Africa come to think of it.

    Where that realisation leads you might be considered racist but when the world and facts are considered racist, then there's not much hope left is there.

  15. @cgp grey +cgp grey + cgp grey what animal that hasn't been domesticated do you think could be domesticated now with modern technology, specifically large ones. Like could people better domesticate elephants now?

  16. Narrator: This is domestication, sculpting wild animals for better human use.

    Alan Grant: No… this is how you play God.

    In all seriousness, that is how we got multiple breeds of horses, dogs, and cats; taming whatever ancestor they had, and then breeding for ideal traits and purposes.

  17. but Europeans went to Africa and domesticated the zebra…
    there's videos of people riding zebras here on youtube, videos from yesterday and from 10 years ago

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