Monthly Wild Cat News
A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World
A while back, I was watching a show about dogs and how they developed from wolves into the sometimes wildly different breeds that now exist. The show postulated that people bred the tamest of the ‘tamed’ wolves to each other, until they became other than wolves – dogs. Then they bred the dogs – a tamed wolf – and got all sorts of different looks. The show claimed that breeding for a ‘tame’ gene is what caused the canine genome to become elastic enough to create all the new subspecies of dog.
Keep in mind, however, all the stories about how many breeds of purebred dogs are now showing major genetic issues; hip dysplasia, sterility, and more.
People have been doing this with cats for some time. Humans have seen the change from domesticated wild cats to just ‘cats’; and now, to all sorts of special breeds like Siamese, Burman, Ragdoll, Spinx, etc. And most of these ‘new’ breeds are just that – relatively new (1 – 2 centuries old), although I know some like the Siamese are older. But does the recent proliferation of domestic cat breeds mean that cats are starting to show the same sort of genetic elasticity that dogs have already gone through? Some species of domestic cats even demonstrate positive anti-survival instincts (like the Ragdoll). Have we bred for tameness? And have we bred wisely?
It’s all very recent and due to human intervention in feline breeding. Most of these new breeds are accidental (a genetic abnormality, like curly hair – or no hair at all) which humans then breed to become dominant – or at least, recurring. If breeding for tameness leads to new breeds, but over time inbreeding of these new breeds causes the development of genetic issues, are all the new types of domestic cats good or bad for the species? I’ll grant you that this takes time, probably centuries, but still….
It shows how humans are, or have chosen to become, an evolutionary effect/cause. Goodness knows, the dodo would certainly think so – that is, if they were still around. So would most breeds of modern food animals. The question that disturbs me is “Are we a good effect” or “Are we a bad effect”, especially when you consider all the new diseases and abnormalities showing up in our food animals (swine flu, mad cow, etc.)
It’s just something I think about sometimes.