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HERDING. Domestication of animals for food began about 10,000 years ago in the Near East, in the western part of the Fertile Crescent. This coincided with a period of climatic warming following the last retreat of the Pleistocene glaciation in Europe and Asia. Livestock provided a more regular supply of food that tended to mitigate, but not entirely eliminate, the seasonal patterns of resource availability that faced the hunter and gatherer. The Neolithic pattern of keeping animals for food followed shortly after the earliest domestication of plants in the same area of the Near East. Since that time other grazing and browsing animals were domesticated and their origins have been found at different sites around the globe. Table 1 lists major domestic species with earliest dates and places of domestication. All of these species can provide food in the form of meat, organs, marrow, blood, milk, or fat, although some function as draught, pack, or riding animals, and provide wool, hides, skins, hooves, and dung. When the earliest animals were domesticated, they were reserved for slaughter and their meat was used for food. Today, the livestock species listed in Table 1 constitute more than 3,000 breeds or domestic subspecies and provide a variety of foods and materials.

About 6,000 to 7,000 years ago, domestic animals began to be used for milking, wool production, and other purposes in addition to meat in what Andrew Sherratt (1981) has called the "secondary products revolution." Milk production or dairying may have been practiced more than 7,000 years ago in the Near East since there is evidence for milking cattle and ovicaprids (sheep/goats) in Neolithic Europe that dates back to 6,000 years ago. A significant problem in the cultural development of dairying was the biological evolution of tolerance to milk sugarlactosethrough production of the digestive enzymelactasebeyond infancy by children and adults. Almost certainly the ability to utilize lactose by breaking down this disaccharide sugar into its digestible monosaccharides occurred by natural selection. The picture of adult lactose tolerance is a complex one of relationships among genetics, digestive physiology, and digestive enzyme adaptation. However, this is one of the best examples that we have of culture change (pastoralism to dairying) actually producing biological change (in genetics of populations) through natural selection.

Animal domestication and herding spread from centers in Eurasia to Europe, South and East Asia, and Africa. The pig was dispersed from Southeast Asia to New Guinea by least 3,000 years ago, and then later to the Pacific Islands. Much later, following Columbus's discovery, European domesticated animals were transported to the New World. In the indigenous New World, the Andean llama and alpaca were the only animals herded throughout North and South America.

Traditions of agro-pastoralism arose in moist areas or areas capable of irrigation: in marginal, semiarid, or arid lands, transhumant (seasonal migrations) and nomadic herding predominated. David Harris (1996) noted

Earliest Domestication of Major Livestock Species
Dates are in approximate years before the present
Common Name Species Date Place Reference
Goats Capra sp. 10,000 Near East (SW Asia) 1
Sheep Ovis sp. 9,000 Near East 1
Pigs Sus sp. 9,000 Near East, China 2
Cattle Bos sp. 8,000 Near East, India 3
Horses Equus caballus 6,000 Eurasian steppes 4
Water Buffalo Babalus babalis 6,000 China 5
Camelids Llama sp. 6,000 Central Andes 6
Donkeys Equus asinus 5,000 NE Africa 4
Camels Camelus sp. 5,000 Arabia (dromedary) Central Asia (bactrian) 7
Yak Bos grunniens >2,000 Tibetan Plateau 8
Reindeer Rangifer tarandus <2,000 Northern Eurasia 9
References: 1Legge (1996), 2Clutton-Brock (1979), 3Clutton-Brock (1989), 4Clutton-Brock (1992), 5Olsen (1993), 6Novoa and Wheeler (1984), 7Köhler-Rollefson (1996), 8Olsen (1990), 9Aikio (1989).

that the early Near East Neolithic (about 8,000 years ago) a "package" of foods that included cereals, pulses, goats, and sheep was particularly effective in providing a diet that contributed to population growth and expansion, and the spread of new subsistence practices.

Today, non-Western herding practices range from nomadic pastoralism in Africa, the Near East, and Asia to agro-pastoralism in the Mediterranean, Near East, Africa, and Asia. Diets are highly variable: some populations consume large amounts of animal products, whereas others trade animal products for cereals and sugar, and still others use animal products only to supplement a largely vegetarian diet. Since the earliest period of domestication, livestock have always contributed foods that are high in energy, balanced in nutrients, and both high and balanced in amino acids and the quality of protein. The cultural selection for a balanced diet became crucial to human health when the predominance of cereal and root crops in intensive agriculture contributed to dramatic population increases.

Several examples of pastoral diets can be drawn from Africa. There is considerable variation in food intake, where animal products constituted between 80 percent (Turkana) and 21 percent (Fulani and Baggara) of dietary intakes as a proportion of caloric intake. Moreover, in all these dairying populations milk is said to be a staple food. Other sources of human dietary variation are: (1) animal productivity, (2) seasonal changes, (3) the mix of animal species, breeds, and herd composition, (4) the patterns of animal use, and (5) trade practices. Animal productivity depends on the breeds of livestock, the forage productivity of the environment, and the patterns of herd managementsuch as ranching, sedentary, transhumant, or nomadic (Little et al. 1999). Well-fed stock will be larger and have more muscle mass and greater body fat deposits. Seasonal changes in semiarid ecosystems lead to loss of body fat and muscle mass in livestock, reduced milk production in lactating females, and lower fat content of milk (Galvin and Little 1999). Different livestock species, breeds, and age/sex groups show variable food productivity; for example, dairy herds will have high proportions of females and high reproductive rates (population increase). Patterns of livestock use vary from largely food production (meat, milk, blood), to use of animals for traction, packing, or riding. In the case of Andean camelids, llamas are principally pack animals, while alpacas provide wool and meat. Trade of animal products for cultivated foods can substantially enrich diets. The concept of "verticality" in highland pastoral peoples entails exchanging of animal products for cultivated food from lowland populations. This is practiced by Indian Bakkarwal sheep and goat herders and by Peruvian Quechua llama and alpaca herders. Pastoralists depending principally on livestock products for food often will have very high protein intakes but low energy (calorie) intakes. Conversely, pastoralists who trade some of their animal products for cereal foods are likely to have adequate protein and higher energy intakes.

Herding of livestock is practiced today on all continents from tropical grasslands to Arctic tundra. More than 75 percent of world meat production in grassland-based ecosystems is from North America, South America, Western Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. Residents of these major Western livestock producing nations (especially the United States, Argentina, and Australia) consume substantial amounts of animal protein and fat calories. Such dietary practices, when combined with sedentary physical activities, have contributed to high rates of cardiovascular disease in many of these Western nations. Another liability resulting from the close contact of humans and livestock are "zoonoses," that is, diseases that originate in animal populations but are transmitted to humans. Examples are bacterial cattle diseases such as anthrax and brucellosis that are widespread around the world. Scrapie in sheep and mad cow disease are neurological degenerative diseases produced by pathogens called prions. When contracted by humans, they are almost always fatal.

Livestock productivity as food is low when compared to agricultural productivity, and requires either vast grazing lands or substantial importation and use of feed (Jordan 1993). Increasing demand for animal protein has certainly contributed to deforestation through cutting and burning of forests to maintain grasslands. And livestock manure is one of the major pollutants of bodies of water in the United States (Cincotta and Engelman, 2000). An estimate of the global livestock body mass in 1950 was about 340 million metric tons (3.4 × 1011 kg). This biomass of livestock nearly doubled to an estimated 600 million metric tons (6.0 × 1011 kg) in the year 2000 (Cincotta and Engelman, 2000). In contrast, non-Western livestock production in marginal lands that are unsuitable for agriculture (transhumant or nomadic herding) is an efficient system of animal food production that is not environmentally degrading. However, this system of keeping herds represents an exceedingly small proportion of worldwide livestock productivity.

See also Goat; Mammals; Meat; Sheep .


Aikio, P. "The Changing Role of the Reindeer in the Life of the Sámi." In The Walking Larder: Patterns of Domestication, Pastoralism, and Predation, edited by Juliet Clutton-Brock, pp.169-184. London: Unwin Hyman, 1989.

Cincotta, Richard P., and Robert Engelman. Nature's Place: Human Population and the Future of Biological Diversity. Washington, D.C.: Population Action International, 2000.

Clutton-Brock, Juliet. "The Mammalian Remains from the Jericho Tell." Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 45 (1979): 135158.

Clutton-Brock, Juliet. "Cattle in Ancient North Africa." In The Walking Larder: Patterns of Domestication, Pastoralism, and Predation, edited by Juliet Clutton-Brock, pp. 200206. London: Unwin Hyman, 1989.

Clutton-Brock, Juliet. Horse Power: A History of the Horse and the Donkey in Human Societies. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992.

Galvin, Kathleen A. "Nutritional Ecology of Pastoralists in Dry Tropical Africa." American Journal of Human Biology 4 (1992): 209221.

Harris, David R. "The Origins and Spread of Agriculture and Pastoralism in Eurasia: An Overview." In The Origins and Spread of Agriculture and Pastoralism in Eurasia, edited by David R. Harris, pp. 552573. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996.

Köhler-Rollefson, Ilse. "The One-Humped Camel in Asia: Origin, Utilization and Mechanisms of Dispersal." In The Origins and Spread of Agriculture and Pastoralism in Eurasia, edited by David R. Harris, pp. 282294. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996.

Legge, Tony. "The Beginning of Caprine Domestication in Southwest Asia." In The Origins and Spread of Agriculture and Pastoralism in Eurasia, edited by David R. Harris, pp. 238262. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996.

Little, Michael A., Rada Dyson-Hudson, and J. Terrence Mc-Cabe. "Ecology of South Turkana." In Turkana Herders of the Dry Savanna: Ecology and Biobehavioral Response of Nomads to an Uncertain Environment, edited by Michael A. Little and Paul W. Leslie, pp. 4365. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Novoa, C., and Jane C. Wheeler. "Llama and Alpaca." In Evolution of Domesticated Animals, edited by Ian Mason, pp. 116128. London: Longman, 1984.

Olsen, S. J. "Fossil Ancestry of the Yak: Its Cultural Significance and Domestication in Tibet." Proceedings of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences 142 (1990): 73100.

Olsen, S. J. "Evidence of Early Domestication of the Water Buffalo in China." In Skeletons in Her Cupboard: Festschrift for Juliet Clutton-Brock, edited by A. Clason, S. Payne, and H-P. Uerpmann, pp. 151156. Oxford: Oxbow Monograph 34, 1993.

Sherratt, Andrew. "Plough and Pastoralism: Aspects of the Secondary Products Revolution." In Pattern of the Past: Studies in Honor of David Clarke, edited by Ian Hodder, Glynn Isaac, and Norman Hammond, pp. 261305. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

Michael A. Little

Prions and Mad Cow Disease

Prion diseases are produced by infectious agents that are proteins. These prion proteins resist inactivation by normal procedures because they do not have a normal nucleic acid genetic makeup. Prion diseases are often referred to as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) because of the damage caused to the brain. The two livestock prion diseases that are known today are scrapie in sheep and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) in cattle. Mad cow disease is transmissible to humans, and another human prion disease, kuru, was probably originally transmitted to humans through a modified form of scrapie via another prion disease called Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease. Mad cow disease is an example of a domestic zoonosis, that is, a disease that is transmitted from a domestic animal to humans. Two other domestic zoonoses that can be transmitted from livestock to humans are brucellosis or ungulent fever (present in goats, sheep, cattle, and pigs) and anthrax (present largely in cattle).

Deforestation and Livestock Grazing

Deforestation dates back in antiquity to the first rise of cities in the Near East about 5,000 years ago. Yet 2,000 years ago, in Roman times, 90 percent of Europe was still forested. Today, there are many causes of deforestationliving space for an increasing human population, agriculture, charcoal production, use of wood for fuel, commercial logging, and others. However, deforestation for herding of livestock, especially cattle, is one of the least productive uses for land. Increasing demands for beef and increasing numbers of fast-food chains internationally have contributed to the growth of cattle ranches in North and South America. It is estimated that more than 10 million hectares (24.7 million acres) of tropical forest are lost each year, and of these losses, about 10 percent or one million hectares are lost to grazing lands.

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"Herding." Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. . 21 Aug. 2017 <>.

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herding The formation by mammals of groups of individuals that have a social organization. Usually the term is restricted to the behaviour of large herbivores.

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"herding." A Dictionary of Ecology. . 21 Aug. 2017 <>.

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herding The formation by mammals of groups of individuals that have a social organization. Usually the term is restricted to the behaviour of large herbivores.

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