1. Explain the main idea/write a summary of Diamond's main points in Chapter 9 of Guns, Germs, and Steel.
2.Cite two pieces of evidence from Chapter 9 that support the main ideas that you claim. (include page numbers)
In Chapter 8 of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond talked about the fact that farming arose first in areas of the world that had a lot of species of plants and animals that could be domesticated. In Chapter 9, Diamond addresses animals and domestication. His main thesis in this chapter is that very few animals can be domesticated and that people domesticated all of the animals that really could be domesticated. Therefore, we should not think that people were “backward” if they did not domesticate animals in their area. Instead, we should realize that the animals in their area simply could not be domesticated.
Diamond says on p. 168 that only 14 of the 148 large herbivorous mammals in the world can be domesticated. The rest cannot be domesticated for one reason or another. There are a number of factors that can make an animal impossible or useless to domesticate. They are
- Diet. Only herbivores can be domesticated to any great degree.
- Growth rate. If an animal does not grow up quickly, it is not worth domesticating because you will have to feed it for a long time before it is useful to you. As evidence, Diamond cites the fact (p. 169) that it takes 15 years for an elephant to reach full growth and that modern people who want to have elephants work for them simply capture them when they are already mature.
- Problems of captive breeding. Some animals don’t breed well in captivity.
- Nasty disposition. As evidence for this, Diamond discusses the African buffalo on p. 171. He says that it is much too mean to be domesticated because it would kill people who tried to do so. He also points out that many Europeans tried unsuccessfully to domesticate zebras. They failed because they zebras were too aggressive.
- Tendency to panic. If animals get scared and stampede easily, they cannot be domesticated.
- Social Structure. Only herd animals are good to domesticate. They are more likely to allow themselves to be kept in a group of domesticated animals.
For these reasons, only a very few animals can be domesticated. We should realize that people who failed to domesticate animals failed because of the characteristics of the animals in their regions and not because they, the people, were inferior.