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Happiness is a warm puppy. ~Charles M. Schulz
September 7, 2009 9:57 PM   Subscribe

Dogs were probably the first animals animals to be domesticated - because we wanted to eat them.
posted by bigmusic (50 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
History of the Hot Dog?
posted by gomichild at 10:01 PM on September 7, 2009


Dogs taste kind of like lamb, or so I've read.
posted by kenko at 10:20 PM on September 7, 2009


Wolves Beat Dogs on Logic Test
posted by homunculus at 10:23 PM on September 7, 2009


Wait, their argument is that dogs were first domesticated in southern China — and therefore it must have been for food? Seems pretty flimsy to me.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:28 PM on September 7, 2009


The argument is we know Neolithic inhabitants of China ate dogs, because they left dog bones with cut marks on the bones that are indicative of butchering (that is, cuts designed to remove meat from the bone).
posted by orthogonality at 10:33 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Happiness is a roasted puppy. The Hawaiians ate them. Why not.

I sometimes imagine eating my neighbor's growling, vicious dog.
posted by Surfurrus at 10:35 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the reason dogs are not commonly eaten around the world is not so much because they're cute (so are lambs) but because they don't taste very good. Popular food animals (apart from fish) are herbivores. Carnivores tend to have musky, rank flesh. A friend once cooked up a fox stew and said it looked delicious but was inedible.
posted by binturong at 10:36 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not totally surprised. The Aztecs bred
bred xoloitzcuintli dogs for meat and warmth
. Anybody know how to say "happiness is a warm puppy" in Nahuatl?
posted by chrchr at 10:37 PM on September 7, 2009


Wow. Please forgive the extra "bred" and the unintentional bold in the last sentence. I swear I previewed.
posted by chrchr at 10:50 PM on September 7, 2009


Hmm, I'm not biologist, or an anthropologist, but it seems a pretty big deductive jump: "Humans ate dogs", "Humans domesticate dogs" therefore --> "humans bred dogs to eat them".

I would be more inclined to think different humans bred different dogs for different reasons. The argument about who was "first" and what their motivations were seems a bit redundant to me, and also unlikely. We know that cattle were domesticated in more than one location, why should dogs be different?

What is interesting - at least from my layman's perspective is that the dog predates most of our other domestications by a couple of millenia at least. Given the ubiquity of other animals that provide both far more meat and a presumably more palatable taste without the pointy teeth, pack-mentality, I would be surprised if a dog would be selected for its qualities as a food material, when better candidates for such treatment existed at the time.
posted by smoke at 10:52 PM on September 7, 2009


we wanted to eat them.

You wouldn't be using the past tense if you hung out more with chocolate labs. C'mon, just a little ear nibble, like chocolate Easter bunnies. You know you wanna.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:11 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


We know that cattle were domesticated in more than one location, why should dogs be different?

Because of the article's contents suggesting otherwise?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:18 PM on September 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


I would be more inclined to think different humans bred different dogs for different reasons.... We know that cattle were domesticated in more than one location, why should dogs be different?

Does no one read the linked articles anymore? The new discovery that the article recounts, is that (according to this research's interpretation of dog mitochondrial DNA) dogs were domesticated only once, and that once was in China.

Only once. In China, which also happens to be where dog genetic diversity is greatest, which is additional evidence consistent with that being the origin of the dog. For food, because we already knew Neolithic Chinese ate dogs.
posted by orthogonality at 11:21 PM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dog tastes surprisingly like beef. But definitely a stronger, gamier flavor.

Mmm, 보신탕.
posted by bardic at 11:45 PM on September 7, 2009


How does this fit with wool dogs?
posted by hattifattener at 11:59 PM on September 7, 2009


The endless and maddening barking of neighborhood dogs would take on a whole new feel if it was a mouth watering reminder of delicious dog steak.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 12:14 AM on September 8, 2009


Only once. In China, which also happens to be where dog genetic diversity is greatest, which is additional evidence consistent with that being the origin of the dog. For food, because we already knew Neolithic Chinese ate dogs.

Yup, read the article, saw the argument, and it's that last step I'm puzzled by. How does domestication in China rule out the possibility that they were domesticated for work, with food coming second? Sure, eating dogs leaves a fossil trace, and hunting or pulling sleds with them or keeping them around to bark at danger doesn't — but that just means we can't tell which use came first, right?

Seems to me the single point of domestication is the real news here — it sounds like a nifty and thorough bit of science, and I'm not trying to scoff at it — and the bit about dog-eating is headline bait.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:22 AM on September 8, 2009


It's illegal to eat dogs here in Hong Kong, so locals who want a bit of Rover simply cross the border into Shenzhen.

Takes them all of 30 seconds to find a restaurant with pooch on the menu.
posted by bwg at 2:23 AM on September 8, 2009


That article is pretty consistent with bad science writing. Take the most controversial or eye catching claim, to present as the headline even though it is the least supported by the evidence. As nebulawindphone points out, just because Neolithic Chinese ate dog and that that may have been where they were first domesticated does not mean that is the reason they were domesticated. Correlation does not equal causation.

I think an interesting question not raised by the article is why is domestication assumed to have to have occurred at the same time as genetic isolation? If dogs where domesticated earlier by hunter gatherers, they might have been regular intermixing between the domestic and wild populations do to captures of wild pups or escaped domesticated dogs.

The origin of dogs is a very interesting question, but it is far from decided. For one thing, just because your MT DNA came from one place that doesn't mean that is where the rest of your DNA is from. The wiki article on this is OK and has links to lots of the competing theories.
posted by afu at 2:40 AM on September 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Believe it or not, I did RTFA, haters, and I even comprehended that it was arguing this only happened once. I disagree with its conclusions. I apologise if I was not clear enough with that.

The argument that domestication came from China only is far from set in stone.
posted by smoke at 3:09 AM on September 8, 2009


Dawkins on the Coppingers' dog domestication theory: a process driven by dogs through natural selection as much as by humans? Among other things it seems that many physical characteristics of domestic dogs are simply by-products of selection for tameness.
posted by Phanx at 4:28 AM on September 8, 2009


beagles taste nice but don't ever try a labrador.
oh, you think I'm kidding...
posted by krautland at 4:39 AM on September 8, 2009


I always felt the fact that we eat dogs contributes to the fact that they are insanely neurotic.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:45 AM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


This may explain why cats have domesticated us.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:50 AM on September 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Given the ubiquity of other animals that provide both far more meat and a presumably more palatable taste without the pointy teeth, pack-mentality, I would be surprised if a dog would be selected for its qualities as a food material, when better candidates for such treatment existed at the time.

Actually, a pack mentality appears to have been incredibly useful for domesticating animals - humans could simply take the place of the lead animal in the pack. Perhaps this quality in dogs is actually why they were domesticated first.
posted by Vectorcon Systems at 5:06 AM on September 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was also coming in here to mention the Coppingers. Human trash piles as a ready food supply would support wolves who were smaller, slinkier, and less aggressive than wolves who had to subsist by pack hunting. So in a sense the dogs probably did a lot of the domestication work for us.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 5:14 AM on September 8, 2009


Also, "pack mentality" is a lousy description of the social structure of the domestic dog.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 5:18 AM on September 8, 2009


Human trash piles as a ready food supply

Don't forget human feces, too. In places without toilets, both dogs and pigs can provide a quite useful public health function by eating human poop. Bonus: after a life cleaning up your neighborhood, both can be eaten (though you might want to pen them and feed them a clean diet for a while to clean them out).

I'm sure dogs were eaten from very early -- they are still eaten in many places, including quite recently by Europeans (they were a mainstay of the diet of the Lewis and Clark expedition, for example). But they have so many other functions that it's hard to say what came first or were more important -- cargo carrying, guarding, trash clean up, working, hunting, etc. All that, and you can eat them, too! (Similarly, domesticating cattle means you get skin, leather, milk, blood, fertilizer, a mobile asset for trading, and a tool for transforming landscapes, all in addition to the meat.) Dogs can perform all those functions, and at the same time represent a mobile food reserve -- these aren't contradictory at all.

So I think the "where were dogs domesticated?" is a really fascinating question, but the question of "why were dogs first domesticated?" is unlikely to be answered clearly and definitively from the archeological record.
posted by Forktine at 5:51 AM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


You wouldn't be using the past tense if you hung out more with chocolate labs. C'mon, just a little ear nibble, like chocolate Easter bunnies. You know you wanna.

Some of us have more refined tastes, you peasant.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:57 AM on September 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


I was all excited by this:
southern China, where the dogs have greater genetic diversity than those elsewhere.
because I thought "greater genetic diversity" might offer the possibility of greater breed diversity-- the Chinese could start coming up with all sorts of new breeds. However:
a conclusion that was challenged last month by a team at Cornell University. The Cornell team said genetic diversity was as high in African village dogs as in those in China.
so perhaps African Villagers could start work on that. Specifically I am looking for a dog with the size and intelligence of a Maltese combined with the sweet stoicism of a bulldog. Also with toenails that don't need clipping. Thank you.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:18 AM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


The skinny pig.
posted by snofoam at 7:03 AM on September 8, 2009


I wonder if the reason dogs are not commonly eaten around the world is not so much because they're cute (so are lambs) but because they don't taste very good. Popular food animals (apart from fish) are herbivores. Carnivores tend to have musky, rank flesh. A friend once cooked up a fox stew and said it looked delicious but was inedible.


I thought there was some hand-wavey explanation for Why We Don't Eat Carnivores, like meat-eaters taste bad and there is a bigger risk for horrifying diseases than with herbivores, or did I just make that up?
posted by The Whelk at 7:44 AM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


because I thought "greater genetic diversity" might offer the possibility of greater breed diversity-- the Chinese could start coming up with all sorts of new breeds.

Remember, genetic diversity does not equal breed diversity. Quite the contrary, in fact.
posted by killdevil at 8:00 AM on September 8, 2009


I thought there was some hand-wavey explanation for Why We Don't Eat Carnivores

Oh I can give you more. They are less abundant than herbivores, generally less gregarious, and generally harder to catch.
posted by binturong at 8:07 AM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


So will someone explain to me how a wolf gets bred into a chihuahua over time?
posted by John Presley at 8:18 AM on September 8, 2009


Many carnivores are also territorial unlike herbivores and so have strong scent glands -- which does affect the taste of their flesh. You may have smelt tom-cat scent. Would you like to eat cat? Domestication reduced the smelliness of dogs and their diet is also different from wild dogs, which also would improve their taste. And snark is generally easier than reasoned responses.
posted by binturong at 8:19 AM on September 8, 2009


The traditional economy and politics of Highland New Guinea is based around pigs. I used to think that meant pigs were domesticated long long ago, because that's a society which has been in place a long time. But I read that it was originally based around fattening and eating dogs, and pigs were substituted relatively recently (I mean, in the last thousand years or so). I'm thinking there might have been some widespread Neolithic cultural trope, which is now retained only patchily.
posted by communicator at 8:20 AM on September 8, 2009


So will someone explain to me how a wolf gets bred into a chihuahua over time?

Dogs have a huge amount of genetic plasticity in size for some reason. Domesticated cats, by contrast have remained very conservative in size range. Anyway the rest is just artificial selection that produces all domestic varieties of everything. Pick the ones from the litter with the characteristics you want and abandon the rest. Size, hair type, ear type, temperament, coat colour, coat type, etc. etc. Just takes several generations of consistent selection for the trait you want. Feral dogs that breed indiscriminately quickly produce a standard type mongrel of average size and limited variety, but the genes for other traits are still there.
posted by binturong at 8:30 AM on September 8, 2009


About the "We Don't Eat Carnivores" discussion: dogs are omnivores, not carnivores. Pigs and chickens are also omnivores, and remain popular food animals. I don't think you can really rule out eating dog based on their not tasting good because of their diet.
posted by rusty at 9:13 AM on September 8, 2009


Actually, on further reading -- it appears that wolves are mostly carnivorous, but will eat berries and stuff if necessary. Dogs appear to be an open question. They seem to do best on a high-protein diet, but anyone who has observed dog behavior must have noticed that they will eat almost anything if they get half a chance. Cats, on the other hand, will turn their noses up at anything that isn't meat or extremely meat-like.
posted by rusty at 9:20 AM on September 8, 2009


So, "roll over" was an attempt to get them to self-baste?
posted by Smedleyman at 9:29 AM on September 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


There's good eatin' on a collie.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:39 AM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have eaten
The dogs
That were in
The kennel

And which
You were probably
trying
to domesticate

Forgive me
They were delicious
So sweet
And so cold
posted by NoraReed at 12:40 PM on September 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Uhh, Hmmm.
posted by NoEatingdogs at 12:44 PM on September 8, 2009


Much like a fine wine cellar, dog crating is an excellent technique for storing certain rare, vintage species. Only last week did Muffy and I bring old friends over to the country manor for a feast. We uncrated several old dogs, but the highlight of the meal was without a doubt a 1954 Bichon Frise that our chef had paired with a wonderfully earthy roux de terriere. The bite was delicate, yet impetuous, with raspberry bark overtones. We cannot recommend dog crating enough.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:50 PM on September 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have eaten dog soup (Bosintang) and can confirm that dog meat is DELICIOUS.
Really.
posted by smartypantz at 6:49 PM on September 8, 2009


I have eaten dog on several occasions. I always thought it tasted a bit like a cross between venison and beef - in other words, delicious.
posted by bradth27 at 8:54 PM on September 8, 2009


they were a mainstay of the diet of the Lewis and Clark expedition, for example
Not just a necessity in their diet, either. Lewis in particular actually preferred dog meat over many other things they ate: "… the dog now constitutes a considerable part of our subsistence and with most of the party has become a favorite food." Apparently when they reached the West Coast, Lewis and some others tired of eating fish and would buy puppies from the locals (who did not eat dog and some disapproved).

Living in Montana during the Lewis & Clark Expedition's Bicentennial meant I heard way too much about it.
posted by amarie at 10:30 PM on September 8, 2009


Dogs should be the last thing you eat, and only under the most extreme of conditions. These are animals that eat shit, after all, and while some will argue that it is in their nature to do so, and for biologically valid reasons, I can only say that it is in my own nature to find many of the habits of dogs utterly fucking disgusting. Did people in China suffer from a lack of better things to eat? I doubt it, and would sooner eat a rat.

The idea that dogs are man's best friend is a typically delusional human conceit. Dogs are the brown nosers of the animal kingdom, and like all brown nosers will easily turn on you. I've come to this conclusion by being a pedestrian/cyclist for most of my life. Dogs are beloved by people who rarely go anywhere without a car. To me they are an everpresent threat and I would be quite happy to have their numbers reduced by a good 90 percent or so.

This is a very unpopular opinion to hold in any forum. Those big brown eyes that look upon you as a god? Well, I've been attacked by the fuckers too many times to count. I'm more than a little sick of it, to be honest, and I am a person who loves animals. People will call me to take venemous snakes or snapping turtles out of their yards and I'm always happy to do it. Dogs, though. I starve before I'd eat one.
posted by metagnathous at 1:04 PM on September 9, 2009


To me they are an everpresent threat and I would be quite happy to have their numbers reduced by a good 90 percent or so.

I kind of agree in the sense that I want to see the population of dog owners who make no effort to restrain, monitor or control their dogs reduced by 90 percent (or 100).
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:40 PM on September 9, 2009


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