A history of pig domestication: New ways of exploring a complex process

Allowen Evin, Keith Dobney, Thomas Cucchi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The domestic pig is among the first animal to have been domesticated. Its domestication dates from the beginning of the Holocene - when so-called Neolithic cultures across the Old World began to farm and a period that saw the domestication of the principal farmyard animals (i.e. sheep, goat and cattle). Domestic pigs have a peculiar place among domestic animals. First, its wild ancestor, the wild boar (Sus scrofa), possesses a very large natural range from Island South East Asia (where genetic evidence shows it first originated) to western Europe - contrary to the wild ancestors of sheep and goat that live in a very restricted area. Second, wild boar still exist in abundance in the wild - unlike, for example, the wild ancestor of cattle (the aurochs), the last of which was killed in Poland in 1627. Today, the history of pig domestication is certainly one of the most studied of all domestic animals. They are without doubt one of the most important global food sources - their meat being the most consumed of all terrestrial animals (www.fao.org/ag/againfo/themes/en/pigs/home.html, accessed 9 March 2016). Evidence from the archaeozoological record shows the presence of at least two independent pig domestication centres: one in western Asia, at the eastern fringe of Anatolia dated around 8500 BC (Ervynck et al. 2001; Conolly et al. 2011); the second in China, along the Yellow River valley around 6500 BC (Jing & Flad 2002; Cucchi et al. 2011b). More recent genetic studies of modern wild and domestic populations suggested several additional geographical regions where pig domestication could have also occurred (Larson et al. 2005). This study, based on analysis of a neutral genetic marker, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA, which is maternally inherited), found a strong phylogeographic signal for both wild and domestic Sus initially suggesting several wild boar populations must have contributed to the genetic make-up of modern domestic pig stocks. Surprisingly, it appeared that all modern European and Near Eastern domestic pigs possessed a genetic signature similar to those of modern European wild boar, and not similar to those found in Near Eastern wild boar where the archaeological evidence suggested early pig domestication had occurred.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEcology, Conservation and Management of Wild Pigs and Peccaries
EditorsMario Melletti
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages39-48
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781316941232
ISBN (Print)9781107187313
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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