THE ROLE OF ANIMALS IN OUR LIVES
Throughout human history there have been great changes to human cultures and civilizations because of animals. All sorts of animals impact our lives daily. . . like the cows that give us milk, dogs that are friends and protect us, mosquitoes, rodents and many more. All these animals are part of a complex web of systems that influences our lives for better or for worse. Some we may respect and understand their importance in our lives but others impact us in less obvious ways. Animals have appeared in our art, our stories, our food and our homes for thousands of years! In France you can see cave paintings of ancient hunting, of wild horses and cattle and other animals that were important to the people who lived there.
Even in the United States you may have learned of traditions and stories linked to different animals especially in Native American culture. Animals like the eagle, the buffalo, the turtle and the deer have become common symbols people associate with different tribes, but these animals were more than just symbols some even transformed their livelihood. One such animal was the horse. As a result of the horse being reintroduced to the United States by the Spanish. . . (ancient horses had once lived in the USA but had since died out) certain Native American tribes were more successful than others because they had horses. With a horse people could go further faster and for longer than they could on foot. Horses carry things and pull things and can be trained. Horses changed the dynamics of wars and even changed the roles of men and women in formerly locally hunter gatherer societies.
Another game-changing and life changing animal that we still love today is the dog. Dogs have had a very long and ancient history of relating to humans. Many of the different breeds of dogs are newer, but the funny thing about dogs being “man’s best friend” is that through wars, through changing cultures, across the globe these tail wagging animals have saved our lives. In fact many archaeologists (people who study ancient people) and zooarchaeologists (people who study the relationship between ancient people and animals) debate whether or not the humans domesticated the dog (or trained it to relate to humans) or whether the dog chose to be domesticated (or chose to relate to humans)— or perhaps a bit of both. But modern day dogs are linked to wolves or other wild dogs that chose to stay close to humans either for scraps of food or protection and humans have also benefited in getting a “best friend,” a hunter and added protection from other animals or people.
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