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DOMESTICATION OF THE CHICKEN, you’d think, would have been an historically defined deal. But, indeed, research published only recently has upset traditional thoughts on the matter. Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are the latest on this.

Other Animals. It’s generally agreed that dogs were the earliest of human domestication efforts; these, evolving from wolves around 12,000 B.C. Sheep came a millennium or two later to nomadic people, perhaps 11,000 to 9000 B.C. Goats, around 8000 B.C. 

As civilizations became more settled, domestication of swine and cattle followed. I’m not surprised that the domesticated cat is more recent, perhaps around 7500 B.C. It’s thought that a symbiosis developed as raisers of grain trained wild cats as rat-catchers.

What About Chickens? Wikipedia says, “The traditional view is that chickens were first domesticated for cockfighting in Asia, Africa, and Europe…. Exactly when and where the chicken was domesticated remains a controversial issue.”

The Latest Word. Ann Gibbons describes in Science magazine, June 6, 2022, How the Wild Jungle Fowl Became the Chicken.” 

“From chicken biryani to khao mun gai,” Gibbons writes, “chicken and rice is a winning combo worldwide. But the two are more inextricably linked than even chefs realized. A pair of new archaeological studies suggest that without rice, chickens may have never existed.”

“Wild red jungle fowl of Thailand were lured by rice grains into a life of domestication.” Image from Science, June 6, 2022.

Gibbons continues, “The work reveals that chickens may have been domesticated thousands of years later than scientists thought, and only after humans began cultivating rice within range of the wild red jungle fowl, in Thailand or nearby in peninsular Southeast Asia….”

“Charles Darwin,” Gibbons says, “proposed that chickens descended from the red jungle fowl—a colorful tropical bird in the pheasant family—because the two look so much alike. But proving him right has been difficult. Five varieties of jungle fowl range from India to northern China, and small chicken bones are rare in fossil sites.”

Chicken and Rice. Gibbons cites work performed by Joris Peters, Ophélie Lebrasseur, Evan K. Irvine-Pease, and Greger Larson: “The Biocultural Origins and Dispersal of Domestic Chickens,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 6, 2022.

“Although previous studies have made claims for an early origin of chickens,” the researchers note, “our results suggest that unambiguous chickens were not present until ∼1650 to 1250 BCE in central Thailand.”

The researchers continue: “A correlation between early chickens and the first appearance of rice and millet cultivation suggests that the production and storage of these cereals may have acted as a magnet, thus initiating the chicken domestication process.”

Tomorrow in Part 2, the researchers’ methodology is discussed. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022 

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