Following on from the Future Animals project and its focus on wolf domestication Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales has developed a new exhibtion called the Wolf Inside.
Ever wondered about the ancestors of your pet dog? Ever wondered why cows are different colours or why there are so many different kinds of sheep? A brand new natural history exhibition at National Museum Cardiff aims to answer some of these every day questions and tells the history of domesticated farm animals and pets.
From meat and dairy products to faithful companionship, domesticated animals have provided us innumerable products, services and hours of labor that have had profound effect on the history of humanity. At first, humans used animals merely for food but eventually saw that animals could be useful for work, clothes, protection and transportation.
In the wild, animals are protective of themselves and suspicious of other animals. But humans have been able to change this behavior. Over time, some animals become gentler and submit to human instruction — what’s called domestication. In this process, an entire animal species evolves to become naturally accustomed to living among and interacting with humans.
This exhibition at in the natural history galleries of National Museum Cardiff explains the process of domestication through focusing on pets and familiar farm animals and demonstrates how domestication has changed, sometimes dramatically, in the following three groups, The Dog – the first animal to become domesticated, The Sheep – which was domesticated a long time ago and there are now in the region of 1,000 different breeds and The Chicken – a comparatively recent addition to the list of domesticated animals. As well as a complete horse skeleton and a complete cow skeleton there will be skulls and stuffed animals of various other domesticated animals including pigs, goats and more cows in the exhibition.
Domestication can alter the appearance of animals, sometimes to extraordinary degrees. Scientists have compared the genes from dogs and wolves and found they are very closely related. So much so that scientists treat the dog as a subspecies of the wolf rather than a species in its own right. For animals in the agricultural environment, breeders are looking to improve traits such as milk yields, the amount of wool on the animal, the rate at which it grows, its hardiness and its tolerance to disease.
Dogs have traditionally been bred for hunting, guarding or working with livestock. Their shape and temperament would have been selected for these different tasks.
It is only within the last 200 years that dogs have been bred for the way they look, rather than the way they behave.
Pete Howlett said, “In today’s world, we take animal domestication for granted. But domestication has been vital to the evolution of human society and without it, we would not have the food security we now enjoy and neither would we have the pleasure that pets bring to millions. It is a fascinating subject and we think our visitors will be able to relate to this display and will very much enjoy it. It’s a chance to answer some of those tricky questions about animals and pets!”