Domestic Animal Behavior


Understanding domestic animals’ behavior is a crucial lesson in improving the quality of life for animals and their coexistence with humans. Domestic animals assume a characteristically special status for biological scientists. Aristotle is one particular character that possesses a wide view regarding the adaptation of domestic animals. Also, Darwin’s took a lot of interest in the evolution process of the domestic animals. Today, it is rather obvious that animal knowledge is a subject of natural selection as well as the evolution in a similar way like their physiology and morphology.


Domestic animal behavior is a genre of animal science that is concerned about the change of adaption concept of behavior and more so in the captive environment usually triggered by genetic and development changes. The domestic animals evolution is reviewed by putting emphasis on the effects of early steps of domestication. An illustration of the first domesticated species which is a dog (Canis familiaris) is used in defining the specificities of the evolution of historical domestication which include a wide range and high level of diversity. The earliest domestication process whereby the human defined behavioral characters are selected unconsciously and then consciously may lead to an acceleration of phenotypic variations. This research paper, therefore, focuses discussing the various changes in the genre of domestic animal behavior through time and the effects of these changes in the field of animal science.


Evolution of Animal Behavior Over Time

The genre of domesticated animals has undergone a lot of changes over the years in response to the changing uses of domestic animals and hence the shift in exigence. In a bid to become fully domesticated, animals such as the dog and the horse (Equus caballus) have subjected to change of genre in three aspects including genetics, behavioral and morphological. Studying behavioral genetics gives an explanation for the calm temperament of selection with its relation to neurochemical and physical changes over time as evident in the dog and horse. For instance, the dog was originally selected for breed behavior variations but in the latter years its for appearance. Majority of the morphological, physiological and behavioral changes in the domestic animals were seen through correlation with the side effects of taming and could be because of the pleiotropic impacts of the genes that affect their behavior.

Morphological and behavioral genetistics are focused on analyzing the impacts on change of behaviors caused by altering the genetic composition as well as due to environmentally induced factors. These differences are evident when compared to their ancestors after thousands of years due after undergoing selective breeding. Descartes in the 17th century explained animals were like machines that obeyed the mechanical laws. Scientists in the nest centuries attributed animals behaviors to chemical, physical and mechanical reactions but were perceived as ‘automatous’ objects that moved through life without self-awareness or consciousness unlike human beings. Through the works of Darwin’s in “on the Origin of the Species” of 1859 different perceptions began to be raised concerning animal behavior by indicating variations in appearance and behavior.

Natural selection is a concept of 1859 by Darwin that described the origin of species. Through this concept, there has been a rise in agricultural food production especially with animal husbandry and hence the rise of human population during the Neolithic period from approximately 10 million to 7 billion today. During the Neolithic Revolution, there was growth in the agricultural economy and hence the change of domestic animal behavior which was now seen as the source of nutrients and calories. Here, there are various interrelated concepts and characteristics of behavior change including morphology and physiology aspects that come as a result of domestication. In essence, all domesticates show some characteristic tolerance towards proximity to humans. For instance, there is a change in reproductive cycles like the polyestrous as well as exposure to poor diet.

On the other hand, cases of physiological changes today include animals with floppy hair, shorter tails, dwarfs and fewer vertebrae among others. For this and other reasons, domesticated animals have evidently manifested some behavioral changes in a suite of traits that focus on factors that affect their emotions, mood, social communication and general affiliate behavior. Indeed, the target audience for the study in domestic animal behavior is the professional animal behavior consultants and companions animal trainers. Understanding the behavior in such animals has been effective with studies on captive animals with effects of domestication studied in the farms, laboratory and alongside other animals. According to Price with this, changes in behaviors have been observed in relation to their feeding habits and also their changes in adaption with respect to their environment. An example of environmental based changes is evident in the behavior of domestic animals as seen in changes in their interaction with human beings, major stimuli agents, and intraspecific aggression factors.

However, King and Price argue that the behaviors of domesticated animals are spelled through the evolutionary process that involves genotypic adaptations of the animals. Also, the degree upon which a wild animal gets adapted for domestication is to a large extent dependent on development plasticity for that specific animal species and the influence of the environment towards expressing the typical behavior patterns that match with husbandry guidelines. Amidst the numerous differences between domesticated and wild animals, there isn’t any substantial proof that as a result of domestication, there is a change in behavior patterns. The differences in behaviors can be explained through diversity in response threshold. The social structure of an animal changes relative to the space available. In a case study involving house mice (Mus musculus), it was found that its social organization changes to a dominance kind of hierarchy from the former territoriality after altering the space available.

In today’s science, there is a great recognition of modern neuroscience in support of Darwin’s work regarding animal behavior. Both mammals and birds have undergone evolution and have closely related basic designs including the limbic system, cerebral cortex and brain. Domestication has offered a broad framework upon which evolutionary changes are based as defined by the critically defined selection. Indeed, behavioral genetics is mainly concerned with identification of DNA polymorphisms affecting their behavioral variations. As a result, a big difference can be observed between the past and the present genre of genetic, behavioral and morphological composition can be seen due the complex interaction in the environmental factors. According to Price and King artificial selection is deemed the most fundamental aspect of the domestication process and furthermore it is characteristically the sole selective technique. Artificial selection can be adopted consciously or unconsciously though with massive influence from personal biases. For instance, due to artificial selection, the preference for large breast domesticated turkey has compromised the natural mating ability and thereby necessitating the application of artificial insemination. Also, the Institute of Cytology initiated a process for selecting a non-aggressive behavior among the silver foxes all their species. This exercise has given rise to foxes that are tamed, and generally, behaviors are like those of a domestic dog.

The major exigence for the behavior of these domesticated animals is that it can be used to monitor certain aspects of the animals. For instance, scientist and researcher Sloan indicated that behavioral study of the Norway rats could be used to predict the reproductive success. In a test involving laboratory raised rats and wild rats, it was evident that behavioral test came out positive on matters of differentiating their behaviors as well as reproductive performance. It was concluded that the hypothesis supporting higher levels of reproductive success among the domesticated rats was true. On the contrary, some behaviors are lost when they don’t them to survive under domesticated environment especially in matters of avoiding predators and locating foods. This could result in increased phenotypic and genetic variability. The domestic house mice were found to have adapted the saccharin-flavored water as opposed to their fellow companions in the wild. The reason for such behaviors could be attributed the wild rats being largely exposed to poison baits and hence are more hesitant to consume elements that have a trace of weird smell or taste. This could serve as a similar explanation for the fact that domestic dog has inferior skills in observational learning as compared to wolves. Naturally, fitness is a function of the animal's capability to learn promptly the consequence of their own behaviors as well as that of others.

Contributing Factors for Domestic Phenotypic Behaviors

The first and major contributing issues are the availability or non-availability of the essential stimuli within the environment of the domesticated animals. A study on the Norway rat indicated a difference between the burrows made by domestic and wild rats with regard to the fact that domestic rats are dependent on burrowing stimulators such as stones. However, animal behaviors do not necessary become attenuated by domestication alone but rather the threshold could be reduced or heightened the frequency of expression. In matters of sexual behavior, domesticated animals such as boll weevils have shown the capability to very competitive and have increased frequencies of mating with the females.

Secondly, the intraspecific aggression is a key factor for consideration. This is to mean that despite the reduction of defensive aggressiveness by the domestic animals towards their human guardians, the same has not been reflected in their relationship with each other. Also, the domestic laboratory rats when brought up in an outdoor environment, they duly develop dominant-subordinate interactions and by becoming aggressive. An associated factor with these changes in aggressive behaviors is the reduced intensity of submissive behaviors as well as lost social inhibition. Consequently, some domestic animals have been reserved due to their aggression such as fighting cocks and bulls

Thirdly, the interaction with human beings is of great contribution. Unless in situations animals have been instilled with domestication abilities, they will always avoid contact with humans. The whole process of taming is a crucial lesson and a major determining factor for the behavior of animals. While tameness is a fundamental behavioral genre, it is observed that the domestic pig has an inheritable fear of humans. In cases of acquired tameness, habituation is realized through conscious efforts by the human responsible for handling them. While providing necessities such as food and shelter people are largely associated with positive stimuli. In fact for the domestic dog, humans have assumed the duty of a companion. Other scientists argue that domesticated silver foxes have their tameness associated with brain chemistry.

Fourth, response to environmental changes combined with other factors like the genetic changes and intraspecific aggressiveness play a crucial role in developing particular traits for domestic phenotypic behaviors. It also argued that domestication has an effect on behavioral change of the animals by reducing their degree of response to the changes in the environment. Such characteristic is evident among all levels of domestic animal and creates a leeway for various behaviors and reactions. When there is a reduction in responsiveness towards changes in the environment, this is perceived an adaptation for living in a biologically secure environment. This environment is then bestowed with high frequency invasions of individual space, constant association with humans and limitations on the opportunities for perceptual locomotors.

Finally, the concept of neoteny which involves retaining juvenile behaviors in adult life such as shortening of jaws has a major impact on the domestication behaviors. Behavioral neoteny is considered a prerequisite for domestication attributes and is an idea that is based on animal management and in which retention of juvenile behaviors have come to effect and had an effect in gathering the essential resources. For instance close study of the domestic dog reveals that its behavior is juvenile in relation to the wolves. The behavior of the domestic dog in performing various tasks provides a platform for instilling behavioral neotemy as an accompanying factor for the domestication.


A major constraint in the study of behavior of species is that there is great temptation for ascribing to specific forms of thinking with an intent of the animal in consideration. Domesticated animals have been accorded massive attention with regard to problem such as anxiety and aggression which in advanced levels leads to human property destruction. This results in mental health complications and consequently affecting the welfare of the animals as well as their quality of life alongside that of the humans. However, these behavioral constraints are not as a result of poor training techniques or non-assertiveness from the owner but rather because of neurochemical issues in the animal’s brain. According to a study on domestic cats, it is evident that their constraints in behavior results from two major factors: first and foremost it is due to constraints that come along with domestic life that have not fully adopted the domesticated kind of life.

Second, it is because of human poor understanding of natural feline behaviors. However, according to a study in North America, aggression is the profound constraint in domestic animal behaviors. The various types of aggression-related behaviors are triggered by certain motivational aspects such as conflict, genetic composition, and abnormal responses. For example dogs are prone to aggression. Development of aggression is propelled by early prenatal and post natal exposure as well as socialization within the environment of upbringing. Before any endeavors to mitigate aggression behaviors, it is imperative to assess the risks of potential injury. The behavioral impacts have a severe result in impairing the human-animal relationship, and this can be seen in dogs and cats. It is essential to consider profound behavior issues with equal magnitude as ordinary medical conditions since there does not exist automatic treatment for behavior problems.


From the discussion, it is evident that there has been a genetic change of animals during domestication relating to their ancestors, therefore, affecting some aspects of their adaptive characters which may include their behaviors. Where domestic animals are compared with their ancestors, their behaviors are mainly are affected in a very limited way. In general, there are no new behaviors that have developed, and there is no any behavior that has disappeared completely from the gene pool. Therefore, these are known as altered release thresholds, in other words, the changes are said to have been modified. The optimal behavior of animals may be different when there is scarce food, and there is the high pressure of predation as domestication provides the animals with protection and food involving specific characters selection.

When domestic poultry and pigs are compared with jungle fowl and wild boars, it is found that domestic pigs and poultry use different strategies during searching of food where the difference reflect a strategic adaptations to conditions given during domestication. There is no any difference detected when the maternal behavior of the wild boars and the domestic pigs are compared, therefore indicating that domestication virtual does not affect some fundamental behaviors. Clearly, it is seen that domestic animals still have the motivational systems and the natural behaviors that they inherited from their ancestors and by their domestication; they have not changed so much. To further understand how these systems work, one has to assume that they were developed to function in an environment that is completely different.

Process Memo

To: xxxx

From: xxxxx

Date: July 24, 2016

Subject: Learning update

My research process has systematically focused on being objective by analyzing all relevant information as pertaining to my area of study, that is, animal science and hence the choice of the topic; domestic animal behavior. In a short break down, the entire process of research entails a number of aspects from start to finish. These are; choice of topic, gathering background information, developing instrumentation plan, finding relevant articles with needed concept and then data, evaluation and citing the sources.

The most challenging aspect of this research project is identifying with precision about the area to conduct the research about and why. This is because I have a broad area upon which I have an interest in conducting research and therefore narrowing down to one was very challenging. After settling on the topic of choice, the easiest part of the research process has been composing the background information. This I believe is attributed to the fact that I chose a topic that I had a lot of prior knowledge about.

The discourse community in this research involves the target audience especially the professional trainers and behavior consultants who duly review the evolution of domestic animals and design a course for their domestication process.

The most surprising aspect of this study is with regard to the ‘nature and nurture debate’ and its effect on animal and especially concerning the role of genetics in animal behavior. The genetic role in shaping the behavior of animals is well brought out and a necessary resource for veterinary science with an objective of capturing the practical applications for companion animals.

While I have always understood good writing to involve good content, grammar and maintain a well-selected language, I have also appreciated the aspect that good writing is linear. This is to mean that effective communication is attained when words and ideas are well aligned and in a manner that makes sense to the reader. Besides, with linear wiring techniques it becomes easier to explore new connections between these ideas.

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