A secret history of pets: Why humans have kept animals as pets since ancient times
HUMANS have kept animals as pets since ancient times and now, a new book charts some of the extraordinary facts about our reverence and affection for all kinds of creatures – furry, fishy, feline, equine and canine in all societies and throughout history.
07:28, Thu, Jul 25, 2013
Humans have kept animals as pets since ancient times
In what is now Israel, a puppy is buried cradled in the hand of a human. It’s the earliest clear evidence we have that humans and dogs, which 2,000 years earlier had been domesticated Asian wolves, share a special bond.
A cat resembling an African wildcat is buried with ahuman on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. This early evidence suggests that cats were first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent (where the African and Eurasian continents meet) and later brought as petsto Cyprus and Egypt.
Ancient Egyptian paintings depict house cats which were first allowed into homes to hunt mice after the Egyptians invented the idea of storing grain indoors. Cats, which were sacred in Egypt, are depicted in many statues.
Chinese Emperor Ling Ti falls so in love with his dogs that he gives them the rank of senior court officials. This allows them to eat the finest food available, sleep on oriental rugs and have special bodyguards.
Pets are not uncommon in Europe during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance but they are kept for the most part by wealthy households. Near the end of this period the word “pet” (from “petty” as in small) is introduced into English.
Zhu Yuanzhang, known as China’s Hongwu Emperor, establishes a porcelain company that produces tubs for goldfish. The shape of the modern goldfish bowl evolved from these tubs but they weren’t healthy environments for fish.
On his return from South America the explorer Christopher Columbus brings Queen Isabella of Spain apair of Cuban Amazon parrots.
Before she is forced to abdicate her throne Mary Stuart (Queen of Scots) surrounds herself with an entourage oftiny dogs dressed in blue velvet suits. According to legend, when she was beheaded in 1587 a tiny pet dog was hiding inside Mary’s dress.
The royal governor of Britain’s Virginia colony keeps 28 red birds (most likely cardinals) in cages. By the late 1800s, birds are the most popular indoor pet in America. Canaries won’t achieve most–favoured cage–bird status until the Thirties.
British chemist Robert Warington announces his discovery that plants added to a large container of water give off enough oxygen for fish to survive. A few years later the English naturalist Philip Henry Gosse starts the aquarium craze by creating a seawater aquarium for the London zoo; he also coined the word aquarium.
The first commercially prepared dog food is introduced in England.
World famous actress Sarah Bernhardt loses her pettortoises in a fire.
English author Anna Sewell publishes Black Beauty, oneof the best–selling books of all time. Her sympathy for working animals led to kinder treatment.
The first pigeon race takes place in the UK. The birds fly from Exeter, Plymouth and Penzance to London.
Country Life magazine tells readers that it’s more affordable to get around by car than horse. However miniature horses, including the stubborn Shetland pony, will go on to become popular pets for rich kids in the Twenties.
German Shepherds Judy, Meta and Folly become the first dogs for the blind in Britain. Their new owners are veterans who were blinded during the First World War.
Susan, a Pembroke corgi, is given to our future Queen asa gift for her 18th birthday from her father King George VI. Even today all of the Queen’s many corgis and dorgis (which are a cross between corgis and dachshunds) are descended from Susan.
Sylvester and Tweety, who will become one of the most notable comedy duos in animation history, make their first appearance together in the Warner Brothers cartoon Tweetie Pie.
Humans and dogs have shared a special bond since c.10000 BC
Women go nuts for tiny dogs. Some even dye their miniature poodles to match their clothes.
British author Dodie Smith’s novel The Hundred And One Dalmatians turns the spotted breed into a sensation. Sadly many new owners later abandon their dogs at animal shelters.
The Soviet Union fires a dog, Laika, into space on the Sputnik 2.
The TV show Star Trek airs an episode called The Trouble With Tribbles, starring fuzzy guineapig–like rodents who make trilling noises that irritate Klingons. The Tribbles begin having babies like mad and they eat nearly all the ship’s supplies. The episode makes a point about the dangers of introducing non–native species, such as when rabbits were released in Australia in 1859.
Jason, the first Blue Peter cat, plays the part of the Cheshire Cat in the Christmas production of Alice In Blue Peter Land. He sounds strangely similar to the show’s presenter John Noakes.
The animated film Watership Down spurs an interest in keeping rabbits as pets.
The European Union bans the sale of wild–caught Mediterranean tortoises, stamping down on the tortoise–as–pet fad.
Australian Wally Cochran breeds the first Labradoodle –a cross between a poodle and a Labrador retriever – asa way to create a dog that won’t aggravate its owner’s allergies.
The first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is released, sparking a terrapin boom.
The city of Rome bans the giving away of goldfish and other animals as prizes at carnivals.
New Zealand passes a law to ensure that all licensed dogs have a microchip inserted into the skin around their neck so they can be identified if they get lost.
In the US, Pet Airways takes flight, upgrading cats and dogs (the airline calls them Pawsengers) from the cargo hold to the main cabin.
Lupo, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s cocker spaniel is born.