One Last Hoorah

Well, I guess my time as an domestic animal expert is coming to an end. So here are some of my final thoughts on the class as a whole as well as the ending projects:

In regards to the class:
If anyone is reading this and attends Virginia Tech (and enrolled in the honors program), I 100% recommend you take this class if you are looking for a colloquia class. What an experience this class was, learning about things I had no idea about. Some of the material was so intriguing that I couldn’t wait to read for the next week (and that’s saying something, I am not a huge fan of reading). I definitely would say Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers was my favorite title we read this semester (although I know Bill would disagree, due to Bulliet’s “lack of credibility”). Regardless, his words really got me thinking, and I agree one hundred percent how the world is transferring into a post-domestic society.

Projects and classmates:

Erica- so. much. information. I envy your work ethic and how you love putting in the time and effort, it definitely shows. Good luck at JMU.

Camilla- Your knowledge on the horse before the research for your project was noticeable, you had great arguments to back up your points.

Casey- Bold strategy, going with the goldfish. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do it. And you pulled it off, revealing a good project.

Bill- The honeybee, another bold move. You financial wit and input kept me entertained this year, good luck with law school.

Chris- Your cat project had me cracking up, as well as filling me with useful information on the feline. We should jam sometime dude, always down to play some music.

Ben- The reindeer was fun to read about, and I’m sure you enjoyed reading that book we had to get. I ended up saving that one too, I’m going to complete it over the summer, you persuaded me.

Connor- Dude your pigeon information was very detailed, I had no idea how much the pigeon did for the human!


Ms. Nelson, thank you so much for s great semester. This class wouldn’t have been what it was without you (obviously). Keep doing what you’re doing, because I guarantee that majority of your students have nothing negative to say about you, or your teaching style, etc. You kept discussions engaging, and were very lenient about blogging and all that. I hope to take another one of your classes before the end of my undergrad career.

A final farewell class, love you all,


The lab rat

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of animal testing is the rat; the white lab rat to be specific. There is no doubt that through television, word of mouth, and several case studies that this idea is stuck in my mind, and most likely many others too.

Lab animal testing = white lab rat

example: in the movie I Am Legend, starring Will Smith, in his basement laboratory he has a testing facility for his concoctions. What animal does he test them on? The lab rat, and they are ALL WHITE. It’s just a modern idea that the white lab rat came to be through many representations.

Rats have been a part of humans lives for thousands of years. Whether they be in our cities, sewers, manage to find their way onto our boats, or other scenarios, they are always in close contact with humans (obviously not by the human’s choice). Rats are considered filthy, disgusting creatures in most societies.  There is no doubt however that this is true due to their dwelling situations.

You can’t talk about rat history without bringing up the Plague. Carried by these nasty vermin, this disease wiped out millions of people. It got to the point where people were afraid to even bathe, claiming the disease was carried in water. (could you imagine living in a society where staying un-bathed was more helpful than cleaning yourself?)

Back to scientific testing on these bastards: I am a huge animal rights advocate. I believe in good treatment of all (ehem, most) animals. But for some reason I can’t find myself being in advocate for the rat? Personally, what benefits does a rat have, living in the wild, scavenging for food at all times of the day? At least in a scientific lab they are fed, watered, nurtured, etc. Yes, I know some of the testing is inhumane, or outrageous. But ladies and gentlemen, we live is an extremely modern world, where new products are being created EVERYDAY. So what would you rather have, a defective product that’s potentially harmful to humans because it was never tested, or a few dead lab rats that have lived a good life so far, never having to worry about food or water, and a safe product? I know this might sound like it goes against my other posts (I have an extreme post-domestic mindset, according to Bulliet), but this just seems like the right idea.


Oh yeah, did I mention I didn’t like rats at all?

Natural Selection & Variability

Darwin in this reading has really expressed his ideas thoroughly and clearly. It’s impressive to see someone not beat around the bush whatsoever, and stick right to the point. Before reading this, I had no idea what this idea of variability was, or that humans had a major impact on it. I  highly value scientists opinions and ideas, so this was an enjoyable read for me.

I sometimes try to put myself in Darwin’s shoes, just to try and understand how society was… “accepting” his ideas on evolution. In the 1800′s, the religious creation idea was widely, commonly accepted. But regardless everyone can agree that human impacts on animals has caused variability. Without humans moving crops, animals, etc. from one location to another, and those animals or crops adapting to their new location, the variety of species of such would be a lot less as it is now. Natural selection some may call it, but is human involvement with nature really that “natural”?

I just don’t see how we can consider humans directly genetically modifying crops and animals as natural. Sure if you consider humans to be just another species in the Animal Kingdom, which we are. But we are so much more developed, both physically AND mentally. If you think about it, we can outsmart any other species, whether its distraction, kill tactics, defense, etc. So the “natural selection” of this genetically, mentally dominant species is considered legitimate to how nature is? I’m not so sure about that, although I do not disagree with Darwin that our selection has shaped nature, I just don’t like the term natural in front of selection.

It goes without saying that this selection process is exclusively involved with domesticated animals, in specific ones that provide use to humans. Whether for meat, furs, travel, etc. we will as humans weed out the small weak ones in exchange for the strong, meaty, colorful, exotic ones, or basically whatever the demand is at that time. We have been able to specifically modify domesticated animals into basically anything we want. Again, the term natural selection shows up in this scenario, but what is so natural of this genetic modification?

Horses and Donkeys, oh my

I think Camilla, being the first to post between us two, hit most of the key topics that I was hoping to discuss in this week’s discussion. So I’m going to keep this short, and have some open ended questions to talk about for this week.

I’ll start with this:

Who was the first to understand that putting a bit in the mouth of the horse was instrumental to domesticating, and to go further, riding horses? What kind of adaptations have horses had with the introduction to such?

There was a lot of discussion on the differences in the domestication of the female vs. the male horse. Could there have been a dominant stallion (male) that was domesticated, as the readings mentioned? Why is there such a greater diversity of mares than stallions?

How long did it take people to realize that horses were beneficial not only for meat, but for riding and transportation as well? Could there have been an anxious look about getting on top of an animal twice or three times your size, and kicking it, telling it to go? What other factors contributed to the riding portion of horse usefulness?

When horses were introduced to aid in herding, how might that have changed the process? What kind of reactions might the herded animal (or the horse) have towards each other?

Most of what I was going to talk about was covered in Camilla’s post, but I’d like to reiterate some of her key points:

I like the idea of categorizing with respect to materials used (bronze age, iron, etc). But would this be too broad of a categorization? What “age”, depending on materials, would you consider us to be in now? Why?

In my vernacular, I use the term “dumb ass” quite frequently. Yet back in the day, the ass was respected and praised, as Camilla said. Besides the flow of the saying, why did it maintain a position as an insult for these last hundred or so years? What did Shakespeare have to do with that terminology?

Ah, the penis, what a topic to discuss. The donkey and horse penis was, I guess you could say, a well respected symbol, yet why? What gave it such a unique vibe? And why the horse and donkey?

The Goat Ballad

As a newbie to the goat milking scene, I didn’t realize how much of an art it is to have and own goats. But we’ll get into that later. Brad Kessler’s book The Goat Song is quite touching, and he really makes you feel his emotions as you read through it, as well as gaining some very interesting knowledge on goat etiquette. Digging deep into the roots of goat domestication, as well as giving background knowledge on things related to goats (such as “scapegoats”), and how goats tie into religion and spiritual values is just the start of it. But wow, does he go in depth on the goat owning process.

To start, just choosing which goats to have is a process itself. You need to decide what color, attitudes, age, gender, size, etc. that’ll fit your needs. Not to mention if you do decide to milk it, you don’t know how its going to react (talking about that b**** Hannah who was a tussle to milk). Once you’ve made your selection, you also have to prepare an area for them, with pastures, a barn, stalls, the whole 9 yards. Finally, the part that would get me everytime, taking the chosen goats away from their friends and family (goats).

Do you think goats have emotional feelings about being separated from their mothers, fathers, goatly friends, and so on? Or for any animal of that nature, just talking about goats here because of he relevancy. But seriously, is there torment to a goat’s psyche when taking it away from the goats they have been with all their (short) lives? Kessler kind of made it seem so, talking about how the goats and kids shrieked and screamed when leaving, as well as when the sisters were separated while the one was dealing with the serious infection. Food for thought.

Kessler’s description of the inseminating of the goats was, well, remarkable. Not in a “woah dude, that’s weird” way, but a “wow, that’s interesting” way. Female goats, while in heat, put off an odor strong enough that made any male goat, well, stiffen up at  the slightest scent of it. And again, humans have a big decision as to what goat they want to impregnate their females, based on similar traits as listed off previously. Finally, once the choice is made, it doesn’t take hardly a push at all for the two to mate whatsoever.

But the real art to this masterpiece, is the milk. Oh what time and precision is put into the milking of the goat. After the birthing of the babies, the goats are almost immediately ready to go. Although I do kind of have a problem with the separation of the kid from its mother’s milk. I know, I know, I’m a hypocrite because I drink dairy milk, and that’s the same thing, But as Bulliet would say, I am a post-domestic thinker, whose been carefully separated from this part of the milk process, and I prefer to buy the gallons of milk from the store, versus watching the babies fight to gain access to their mother’s udders, and being denied every time at the hands of a human.


Gosh, all this reading is starting to mix with one another.

From W2D to D2D

In Mark Derr’s book, How the Dog Became the Dog, he brings up some very interesting points about how it’s not so much the dog evolving from the wolf, but how the dog slowly transcended from itself, into different species, looks, etc. All these byproducts of domestication created a somewhat perverted want for different traits in dogs: size reduction, shortening of jaws and nose, coat color changes, etc. This desire was mainly of the uniqueness and utility of the dogs themselves.

I loved his idea of “socialized” (versus tamed) wolves, as socialization was key to the process of the domestication of the wolf. That really puts it in a perspective that I’ve been thinking about since I’ve started learning about domesticates. I really like social interaction as a basis to all domesticated life humans have created. From the first encounters, to the multiple visits, to the co-evolving of these species, social interaction was a key part in all aspects of domestication.

I wish I could sit at the table with the theorists of the different ideas about when the dog domestication actually occurred, and just listen to all the different arguments they would have. Basically it boils down to 2 (or 3) groups: first being that dog domestication occurred some 40-50 thousand years ago, saying dogs came about it multiple, different locations and cross-bred with wild wolves (and they say this process still goes on). The second view states that this process started around 12-16 thousand years ago,having to do with the Last Glacial maximum. The third group dates around 27 thousand years ago, based on some DNA evidence of a dog genome.

His argument about the cultural differences that influenced different dogs was impressive as well. One of his examples was WWII, when dogs went\ unfed, and started scavenging, thus creating vicious “canine gangs” as he put it. Mirror that with the Canaan dog, which was a very inbred dog from the Bedouin dog, that was so vicious (and possibly ugly, unwanted) that Israeli officers would told “shoot to kill” when in sight of one. All of this culturally different social interaction caused different domestication styles, perhaps?

Reindeer rejuiced

This week’s readings on Vitbsky’s The Reindeer People had some very interesting things to say. The book as a whole was much unlike what we’ve been reading, as this was more of a story than a non-fiction, yet it was both, and made for an interesting read. The story is along the lines of this: A scholar is interested in the domesticated reindeer, and the people that came about it. He then visits, and ends up staying in a remote village, where literally the entire economy is centered around reindeer. Everyone who’s anyone works with the reindeer, or indirectly with the people that do.

The book starts off with some touching, essential details giving background information on the Eveny people, or these people that live in Siberia. He tells about the stories of the first following herds of wild reindeer, as well as domesticating them. The reindeer were so important to the Eveny people, as they had many stories on them, tattooed images of powerful reindeer on their bodies, and even dressed up horses as reindeer for sacrificial events. This comes to my first question I’ll be asking, as a co-leader of this week’s discussion: 1)What do you think made the reindeer so… immediate in the Eveny lifestyles?

As thousands of years and life progressed onward, we come to a time (in the book, that is) of communism in these lands. The Eveny ways are being “liberated” from Russian lifestyle, as they deemed these people as “backward” citizens. The even went as far as  arrest Vitebsky for reading a book on Shamanism! They literally took over the herding of the reindeer, and conformed it to meet the needs of the controlling government, leaving very little to the inhabitants of the land (except for the able-bodied who worked on hearding these reindeer, they were offered decent pay, vacations, etc). It almost seemed, no, it DID seem that the government was almost forcing the entire labor force of that area to partake in herding the reindeer, strictly for the benefits.

Reading this striked up a few questions, which I would encourage anyone to comment on now, but we will be going over in class as well (since I am a discussion leader):

  1. Already said, but here I will expand: 1)What do you think made the reindeer so… immediate in the Eveny lifestyles? Could it have been another animal, should reindeer have never existed? Do you think the sacredness  came before or after the domestication of the reindeer?
  2. What were some of the reasons the communist party wanted to rid the nomad way of life? Did classifying reindeer herding as strictly an “economic activity” have anything to do with this?
  3. What is the difference between the Eveny and the Sakha? (I honestly don’t know, so that’s why I’m asking, not as much as a discussion question, more for my benefit)
  4. Why do you think the Soviets were investing so much into reindeer herding in these areas? Why would they give benefits to these workers they deemed backwards, and gave prizes, cash, vacations, etc. to them?
  5. Could anyone explain the reasoning behind why the Eveny believe the animals were spiritually and psychologically more complex? What changes their views on reindeer to bears, birds, or other animals, including…
  6. Wolves!?! The Eveny own dogs, love and cherish them, as they do most animals, but when it comes to wolves, they have little to no sympathy. Why? Is it because of their ancestors who literally made it seem that wolves were competing with humans for meat?
  7. More about wolves: Many wolf metaphors came about this previously stated topic. One being the wolf who profits on you drinking their vodka, fighting, and doing dumb things. Who are the “wolves” of today’s world, more importantly, of our culture?
  8. Give me insights on the Bayanay, and how the Eveny people viewed him. Everything from accidental kill, to hunting, to killing for protection, what do you think the Eveny believe about his presence in all these situations?
  9. Dreams and animals seem to go hand in hand with this culture. What kind of ties with a person’s subconscious dream world about animals and their outside lives can you think of? I guess it’s all about how sacred the animals are in their culture, but would you go far enough to say that animals have domesticated these people as well, by basing their religion and culture around them?

There are plenty of things to talk about here, and I’m sure my co-leader will have many other points to bring up as well in class.

Come on, VT

not domesticate related, but take a look at this picture of “to-go” containers piled high at west end (obviously not taken to go, as they were returned on the dish roundabout)

oh, did I mention this picture was taken BEFORE NOON?!?!

Erica, I know you wouldn’t approve

“Taming” Animals, or Dominating Them?

Are humans above nature?

Bulliet begins the second part of his book by talking about the taming of wild animals as part of the domestication process. This entire chapter dealt with keeping the captured/breeding population seperate from the wild and feral animals of the wilderness. He begins with his rats and foxes example, where after decades of testing and “natural selection” -I say that sarcastically, as the testing and breeding of certain selected rats was very unnatural in itself- led to the creation of the “white lab rat” as people attempted to breed the albinos together, and successfully had. He also talks about how through so many generations of breeding and being held in captivity, this tameness gene kept elevating and more and more with each offspring. However, the experimenter was actually selecting the tamest of all the offspring, and thus practically determined the future generations of the captive foxes.

So, to what extent is the domestication of animals deemed useful? Bulliet would argue that people think “domestic animal means ‘useful animal.’” He separates usage of animals into primary & secondary uses: primary being meat , and secondary meaning the extras involved in the domestication of the animal. These could range anywhere from wool from sheep, to riding of horses and camels, to even the plowing of fields. The primary use, however is always meat, as it is a driving force for humans to hunt, herd, and “hamburgize,”(see what I did there?) for their own survival.

Now the question at hand is, when did the sacrificing of animals come about? There has always been a huge request for animal sacrifice throughout all religions and all races of the world. A more personal example, when attending a family gathering dinner, my cousin’s chickens were raised and killed for the meal, and they told me before the killing of the chickens, they would say a prayer to thank God for the wonderful creatures that he put on his earth. Now, I’m not very religious, but that right there almost sounds like sacrifice itself! Bulliet would go on to say that domestication could have been for the purpose of sacrifice, because in case of a sacrificial event, there would ALWAYS be an animal on hand. Versus hoping the hunter of the group found game, they could always rely on the domesticates.

I’ve described three scenarios here, in which it seems like humans have distinguished themselves above nature: taming and selective breeding by humans, claiming animals as being useful for humans, and claiming animals lives in human sacrificial usage. Are we starting to exploit the benefits of domesticated animals? Are we dominating their lives in an unfair manor? Ingold would argue that, saying that humans, “have risen above, and have sought to bring under control, a world of nature that includes their own animality.” To what reason do we assume the right to slaughter animals for our own religious pleasing? Who deemed animal meat as a primary use for humans? Why do we, as humans, think we can genetically change a species to suit our quest for knowledge?

I am starting to increasingly understand the world through a vegetarian’s eyes.

Post-Domesticates in a Domestic World

First of all, what a read.

This book, Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers is so interesting, and just after a week of reading it I am already finding myself either quoting it or introducing it’s logic in my conversation.  There are so many different things to talk about, so I’m going to go right into it. I consider myself to be a post-domestic type of person. I definitely feel the guilt for the mass onslaught of animals born and raised on factory farms to live for one purpose: get nice and fat, then sold for a high price and killed for human gain. The thing is, however, I can’t stop myself from eating the meat, milk, eggs, and other products they provide us with. It’s too damn good.

To put the idea of domestic vs. post-domestic societies in a different perspective, consider this: I have an Indian roommate, who is of Hindu decent. Another roommate of mine is of Irish decent. One day we got on the topic of vegetarian diets and my Irish roommate said simply, “that’s stupid.” My Indian roommate (who eats all types of meat), was slightly offended by it, being that many Hindus do not eat meat. Could this, itself, be an almost spot on representation of domestic vs. post domestic living styles?

The world is slowly shifting to a more “post-domestic” way of life. I love the movie examples Bulliet used when talking about it, such as the 1970′s remake of the 1930′s original King Kong showed the girl showing affection towards the beast that abducted her (before she hated the kidnapper). Humans are slowly but surely shifting their mindsets of domestic societies to post domestic societies, mainly by showing their ever growing for animals, and as Bulliet pointed out, mammals especially. Its’s just a proven fact that a person might get more teary eyed over a lost dog, versus a lost gold fish (although my sister cried her eyes out when her Beta fish died?)

I like how Bulliet separated all known life into the stages dealing with the domestication of animals. You got your pre-domestic age: before the domestication of animals, generating the hunter/gatherer tribes Diamond told us about. Then we have Domestication: when we started harboring animals, breeding and feeding, and so on. Finally, the unreached, yet not unobtainable stage of post-domestication. But this all had to come about after humans realized they were smarter and more adept than animals, and had to separate themselves.

Bulliet denotes 3 main points as to how humans seperated themselves from the rest of the animal kingdom. One point was that human sexual awareness played a key role. We could control who we wanted to breed with, and that like. Another point was the meat intake humans have. In particular, our hunting and use of tools that allowed us to obtain meat. Finally, speech was the 3rd point. Humans have the ability to connect with one another in ways animals cannot. We mimic other animals, sing songs, and form different shapes with our mouths to produce sounds animals couldn’t imagine producing.

I’m ending this blog on a quote in this book I found quite interesting about vegetarianism and veganism, and it had me pondering:
“The human digestive system and physiology cannot be fooled by squeezing a diet from a moral. We are omnivores: our intestines and teeth attest to this fact.”

More importantly, our taste buds attest as well.