Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Data Driven Journalism: Student Directed Research Study


I will be researching the domestication of animals. I will be researching this topic because I like 
animals and I am interested in the topic and the history of it and really any aspect of it. I am also 
interested in the history of animal domestication.

Literature Review Question

 "What does the literature reveal about the domestication of animals?"

Research for Literature Review

In literature review and synthesis table.

Literature Review

Laudan Pouremad
Mr. Kefor
Journalism E
December 15, 2014
Animal Domestication
“The exercise of dominion over plants and animals is arguably the most consequential event in human history” (Ratliff). Humans have been domesticating animals for thousands of years. The dog was the first animal to be domesticated, from approximately “13,000 to 30,000 years ago” (Beam). Following the dog, humans began domesticating other animals, such as horses and chickens. Humans have spent generations domesticating animals for things like food, hunting skills, and companionship. Domestication is not a simple thing. It is a very long and complicated process, one that is done over generations. Domesticating on a genetic level is not quite the same as taming. It is not conditioning in animal to tolerate human contact, it is completely removing the animal’s wild instincts, so that the animal is dependent on humans to care for it. “The most significant impact of this intense selection for reduced wariness and low reactivity to external stimuli is seen in the size, organization, and function of the brains of domesticated animals” (Zeder). When an animal is domesticated, it is very different from its ancestors, even inside its brain.
Very far away from here, in the south of Siberia outside the city of Novosibirsk, (Ratliff) an experiment began over forty years ago. The goal of the experiment was to domesticate foxes. “And by "domesticated" I don't mean captured and tamed, or raised by humans and conditioned by food to tolerate the occasional petting. I mean bred for domestication, as tame as your tabby cat or your Labrador” (Ratliff). A biologist by the name of Dmitry Belyaev was the leader of a group of researchers at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics. They acquired 130 foxes from fur farms. “They then began breeding them with the goal of recreating the evolution of wolves into dogs” (Ratliff). They would keep producing generations of the foxes, and they would test the foxes to see how well they reacted to humans, and they would select “those most approachable to breed for the next generation.” Very quickly, they had produced foxes that were not only unafraid of humans, but were “actively seeking to bond with them” (Ratliff). “Domesticated animals are known to share a common set of characteristics. They tend to be smaller, with floppier ears and curlier tails than their untamed progenitors” (Ratliff). This makes them more “appealing” to humans. Traits like these are “sometimes referred to as the domestication phenotype” (Ratliff).
As the foxes were domesticated, they would begin to display aspects of the domestication phenotype. “Selecting which foxes to breed based solely on how well they got along with humans seemed to alter their physical appearance along with their dispositions. After only nine generations, the researchers recorded fox kits born with floppier ears” (Ratliff). Belyaev believed that these changes in the foxes were from a genotype that the foxes might share with species that could be domesticated. (Ratliff).
In order to study the “biology of tameness,” the scientists created a group of foxes opposite to that of the domesticated group. They would only breed the most “aggressive” foxes for the next generation. The new head of the experiment, Trut, uses a specific fox as an example. “You can see how aggressive she is. She was born to an aggressive mother but brought up by a tame mother” (Ratliff). This proved the point that the foxes’ behavior towards humans was “more nature” then it was “nurture.” (Ratliff). 
The first animal to be domesticated was the dog, although no one really knows exactly when it happened first. “No one can pinpoint exactly when humans first started keeping dogs as pets, but estimates range from roughly 13,000 to 30,000 years ago” (Beam). Archaeologists were able to tell dogs and wolves apart because of differences in the skeletons. “Dogs had smaller teeth, for example, and a reduced “Sagittal Crest,”-the bone ridge that runs down the forehead and connects to the jaw” (Beam). The earliest dog bones were discovered in Belgium, however, “ancient dog bones have also been unearthed in western Russia, near its border with Ukraine, and elsewhere across Europe, Asia, and Australia,” suggesting that the domestication of dogs was a “widespread Phenomenon” (Beam). Researchers believe that wolves were attracted to the early human settlements because of the garbage. “Those canines brave enough to approach humans, yet not so aggressive to attack, got fed” (Beam). These animals would get fed by the humans and become almost tame, and they would reproduce, and eventually, because of being fed by the humans instead of hunting and killing their own food, they did not need the “strong jaws and sharp teeth” of their “feral counterparts” (Beam). After this first step, humans began to breed them to help with things like hunting, helping with physical labor, herding, and even to be guard dogs. (Beam).
Other animals came after the dog. “Sheep and goats were first domesticated roughly 11,000 years ago” (Beam). Cats were domesticated a while after that, because the grain that people stored would attract mice, who would attract cats. (Beam). Around that time, people began to keep cows for food. “Several thousand years later, humans began using oxen, donkeys, and camels to transport goods. Horses were eventually domesticated for both riding and carrying goods” (Beam).
The “teaming up” of wolves and humans, for hunting, has benefits for the wolves, and benefits for the humans. “For the wolf, human ingenuity and the use of weapons mean a share in a greater number of skills. For humans, the wolf’s speed and ferocity is equivalent to a new weapon” (History world). Domestication was possibly unintentional on the human’s part, rather than purposefully breeding animals to be domesticated. “A particular puppy in the litter is favored because it has an attractive coat, barks well, is unusually friendly or obedient, noticeably large or small” (History world). That puppy that is favored will be more likely to be kept, and therefore will have puppies, and its likeable characteristics will be passed on. Works of art from Egypt, Assyria and Rome such as paintings, sculptures, and mosaics suggest that at the time of these civilizations there were already “many different shapes and sizes of dog” (History world.)
Sheep are the first animal known to have been domesticated for consumption, in the Middle East. “The proof is the high proportion of bones of one-year-old sheep discarded in a settlement at Shanidar” (History world). People would herd sheep and keep cattle for a constant supply of fresh meat. If they had to hunt it and more meat was brought back than could be eaten, the meat would go bad.
In conclusion, the domestication of animals is a very important part of humanity’s past, and knowledge on how it was done and if it can be done again are important to our future. Dogs made a huge contribution to humans, helping them as hunting dogs, watching over them, and definitely they were and are a wonderful source of companionship. Many other animals helped us in many different ways. They provided early humans with food, and provide us with it still, and they helped get us places in ancient times when we had no cars. Domestication is a very complicated process. “Domestication is attained by some combination of genetic changes occurring over generations and developmental mechanisms ( e.g., physical maturation, learning) triggered by recurring environmental events or management practices in captivity that influence specific biological traits” (Price). It takes a lot of hard work and time. Take the farm-fox experiment for example, that took many years to get going and although it showed results more quickly than expected, the process was still a hard one. Animal domestication is important because it shaped our society today in many ways, providing us with food, providing us with transportation, and providing us with protection. Its effects on our society today can be similar, depending on where you live or what type of animal you have, but for the most part, animals such as dogs, cats, and horses are kept because they are an excellent source of companionship and they bring people joy. 

Gap Identification/ Research Question

I found a lot of literature surrounding the domestication of animals about the process, its history, and
even an article that talks about a specific example of an animal domestication experiment. There was
definitely a lot of information about how it happened, why it is important and how it has affected us,
but i still wondered if anyone ever thought about it or knew anything about it and if so, what did they
think or know? My research question is: "What does the average teenager know/think about animal
domestication and its history?"


    I will be collecting quantitative data for the study I conducted. According to, quantitative data is “data that can be quantified and verified, and is 
amendable to statistical manipulation.” I will use percentages to convey my data. Percentages are an 
example of quantitative data because they are numbers. Quantitative data is “information that can be 
measured and written down with numbers” ( This makes sense for me because I 
surveyed a lot of people.

Research Methods

Data collection process and instrument

I created a survey to answer my research question. I distributed the survey to students at Norton High 
School, then collected them. My study instrument:


Laudan Pouremad

Animal Domestication survey

Strongly Disagree      Disagree      Neutral/No Opinion   Agree   Strongly Agree

  1.  I think animal domestication is an important part of history. ____________________
 2. I am aware of the process of domestication when it first began. ____________________
3.   I do not know what the first animal to be domesticated was. ____________________
4.   I do not think people should do more work/research with animal domestication in the future. 
5.   I think people should try to domesticate more animals. ____________________

Sample population

My sample population were students at Norton High School. I surveyed twenty three of them.

Data analysis

For question 1, 4% disagreed, 22% were neutral, 52% agreed, and 22% strongly agreed. For question 
2, 4% strongly disagreed, 48% disagreed, 30% were neutral and 18% agreed. For question 3, 
4%strongly disagreed, 35% disagreed, 4% were neutral, 39% agreed and 18% strongly agreed. For 
question 4, 9% strongly disagreed, 43% disagreed, 30% were neutral, 13% agreed and 4% strongly 
agreed. For question 5, 26% disagreed, 35% were neutral, 13% agreed and 26% strongly agreed. 


  After analyzing my data, I found that the majority of the students I surveyed thought animal domestication was an important part of history. This helps answer my research question because it gives me an idea of what the students think about animal domestication, and for the most part they think it was an important part of history. I found that the majority of students disagreed or were neutral to question 2, and only a small number agreed. This tells me that the majority of high school students do not know a lot about animal domestication.  For question 3, do they know what the first animal to be domesticated was, it was almost even, but for the most part, they did not know what the first animal to be domesticated was. I found for question 4 that a lot of the students that I surveyed thought that people should do more work and research with animal domestication in the future. For question 5, the question of whether people should try to domesticate more animals, a lot of people had no opinion. As for those who did have opinions, more agreed than disagreed. That is what I found in my research.


Throughout this research endeavor, I have learned a lot about animal domestication. I have learned 
about its history, about its importance and what it has done for humans, and about how it is done. In my literature review, I wrote a lot about the farm-fox experiment in Siberia. That was a very interesting article. It told the story of an experiment to domesticate foxes in Russia, which was not easy when it first started. The people running the experiment got results very fast, with foxes seeking human attention instead of shying away. I also read and wrote about the history of domestication. The dog was the first animal to be domesticated, a very long time ago. Researchers believe that it was because wolves were attracted to the garbage the humans made, and they began to become more dependant on humans as time went by. Animal domestication has done a lot for humans in history and now. It provided humans with food when they began domesticating sheep and oxen, and it still provides us with food today. Dogs are a very important part of our society today; they provide us with love and companionship. In history, dogs used to help humans hunt. Having learned all that, I still needed my research question. My research question was “what does the average teenager know/think about animal domestication and its history?” I had certainly gained a lot of knowledge on the subject, and so I created a survey to see if other people knew anything about it or what they thought about it or even if they cared. Before this research project, I had really never put much thought into the subject, but now that I know more about it, I find it interesting how much of an impact it had on our lives and society. 


 Beam, Christopher. "Mans First Friend." the slate group, 6 Mar. 2009. Web. 12 Dec. 2014

"History Of The Domestication Of Animals." History World. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2014

Ratliff, Evan. "Animal Domestication." : Taming the Wild. National Geographic, Mar. 2011. Web. 21 Jan. 2015.

"What Is Quantitative Data? Definition and Meaning." WebFinance, n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2015.

Shmoop Editorial Team. "Qualitative v. Quantitative Data." Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 09 Jan. 2015.