How are animals like people

Animal helpers

From prey to pet

The relationship between humans and animals has changed again and again over the millennia - sometimes for the better, sometimes for the negative. However, there has always been one constant: the dependence of humans on animals, which was already evident among the hunters of the Stone Age. Early humans would have found it difficult to nourish themselves adequately only from collected plants.

Around the 10th century BC, the human-animal relationship began to radically change for the first time. Because around the same period in which man first began to specifically cultivate plants, he also tamed the first animals.

Early domestic animals included aurochs, wild sheep, goats, chickens, and even wolves. Now, not only did people have meat and other animal products available on demand, but they could even keep animals for their own protection. So it seemed clear that they were superior to the animals. But that didn't make them less dependent - on the contrary.

Unjustified arrogance

The US biologist Jared Diamond focused his research on early human history. In his book "Poor and Rich - Fates of Human Societies" he describes a surprising connection: It was no coincidence that agriculture and culture in Europe and Asia developed much faster than elsewhere.

The reason: Many different large animals lived here that could be tamed and then bred. In Australia, for example, there was not a single breed that was suitable as a riding, draft, pack or breeding animal.

So it was much more difficult for the native Australians to eat. And if you spend most of your day foraging for food, there is less time to develop economic structures further.

Despite the intensive cooperation, little changed in the relationship between humans and animals for a long time. Proof of this are various myths and stories from around the world.

The image of ruler (human) and ruled (animal) often appears here. In the story of Prometheus, for example, Greek mythology aptly reports: "People learned to subjugate animals and use them for their own purposes."

Faster, stronger, more subtle

Humans quickly realized that tame animals were not only suitable for securing food supplies. Around the 9th millennium BC, people also learned to appreciate the power of their pets. The cattle became the first draft animal in history - and that was just the beginning.

More and more often people use animals to compensate for their own physical inadequacies. An example: Even a strong man would collapse quickly if he tried to transport a weight of 100 kilograms over a long distance. For a tough camel, on the other hand, that's no big deal.

But animals not only had to carry loads, they soon also had to carry people. The first image of a rider comes from the Orient and was made around 2800 BC. Thanks to the animals, you were not only stronger, but also faster.

In addition, the finer senses of some animals were soon used profitably. People chased pigs, who turned out to be masterful truffle hunters, or got their dogs to keep herds of sheep or goats together, to hunt rabbits and to protect the house.

Almost every work task that an animal that could be tamed at the time was quickly discovered in antiquity.

Helper or annoyance?

In the Middle Ages there were new areas of application for new animal helpers. Due to urbanization, more and more people lived together in a small area. Trash and bugs were the biggest problems for city dwellers.

Fortunately, dogs and pigs in particular proved to be effective garbage chutes - a circumstance that should cause the French King Ludwig the Fat some grief. When his son rode through Paris in 1131, his horse shied away from a pig that was feeding on the garbage. The young man fell and broke his neck.

In grief, Ludwig then announced that pigs were not allowed to dispose of rubbish from now on. The result: The rubbish piled up in the streets and epidemics spread.

But not only diseases, but also animals became a plague. In the early cities, the streets began to be teeming with rats and mice. The house cat was an extremely useful and valued helper in pest control.

This changed in the middle of the 13th century when church officials increasingly referred to cats as messengers of the devil. Until the end of the Reformation movement in the 17th century, there were even regular legal processes against cats, which often ended with a death sentence.

A positive development for the rodent population, but not for the city dwellers: Regular plagues of rats and the diseases they transmit made it clear once again how much humans were dependent on their animal helpers.

Technology versus animals

Only with the beginning of the Enlightenment in the 18th century and the associated abandonment of religious dogmas did the relationship between humans and animals change.

The blossoming natural sciences promoted not only an increased interest but also a new respect for the abilities of animals. And that, although at that time industrialization made some animals such as the riding horse step by step unemployed.

Nevertheless, even in the technological age, new areas of application for animal helpers were created again and again. Mining was one of the first in modern times.

As early as the beginning of the 19th century, miners took animals into the tunnels to warn of poisonous gas or a lack of oxygen. Mice and pigeons also performed this task reliably, but one animal helper was unbeatable in this job: the canary.

This little songbird turned out to be extremely sensitive to poor air conditions. If he stopped singing or fell off his bar, something was wrong.

How many buddy lives canaries saved in this way cannot be counted. What is certain, however, is that the miners were very grateful to their feathered helpers. In the small town of St. Andreasberg in the Harz Mountains, a small museum has even been dedicated to the "underground birds".

Helpers today - animal therapists

The 20th century saw the greatest change in the human-animal relationship since the Stone Age. In no epoch have animals been so excessively exploited and yet so highly valued.

On the one hand, the mass production of meat is constantly reaching new records, on the other hand, there has never been a time before when people used and appreciated the potential of animal helpers so happily.

From medical riding therapy to the use of police dogs: after centuries of ignorance, gratitude for animal helpers has almost become a matter of course.