In Guns, Germs, and Steel, what is the "Anna Karenina principle"?

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Anna Karenina, a novel by nineteenth-century Russian author Leo Tolstoy, begins with the statement:

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Jared Diamond, in the ninth chapter of Guns, Germs, and Steel, applies this statement to the domestication of animals. 

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Anna Karenina, a novel by nineteenth-century Russian author Leo Tolstoy, begins with the statement:

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Jared Diamond, in the ninth chapter of Guns, Germs, and Steel, applies this statement to the domestication of animals. 

Just as happy families are all similar in that they share many of the same characteristics, such as mutual love and respect, so too animals which can be domesticated share several characteristics in common. 

First, domestic animals should have some sort of herd or social structure and be able to tolerate other members of their species in close proximity. Next, they need to have relatively placid dispositions and not be prone to panic or stampeding. They should be able to forage on a wide range of foods (rather than being limited to a very narrow habitat or type of food) and thrive, producing milk, eggs, or meat on readily available foodstuffs. They should breed readily in captivity. They should also not be prone to attacking humans. 

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The Anna Karenina principle is the idea that "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." In Chapter 9 of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond applies this principle to the domestication of animals. He says, "success actually requires avoiding many separate possible causes of failure" (page 157). In other words, for animals to be domesticated, the process had to avoid many potential pitfalls. As Diamond says, "Lack of any single required characteristic dooms efforts at domestication, just as it dooms efforts at building a happy marriage" (page 169). Animals had to have all the required characteristics to be domesticated, and if they missed even one, they were failures at domestication. Successful domestication mainly occurred in Eurasia and failed elsewhere, and this outcome had a significant effect on human history.

Domestication of animals provides a reliable source of meat, milk, transportation, leather, and other goods and services. However, the ancient fourteen big herbivorous domestic mammals (page 160) were all located in Eurasia, which meant that Eurasian countries benefited from having animals that could provide services such as transportation while other areas of the world did not. Diamond states that this meant that Eurasia was the area of the world that acquired guns, germs, and steel.

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The answer to this can be found at the beginning of Chapter 9.  The Anna Karenina principle holds that all happy families are alike while all unhappy families are unhappy in different ways.  What this means, is that everything has to go right for a family to be happy while there are many different things that can go wrong and make the family unhappy.

Diamond applies this principle to explain why so few animals are domesticated.  There are many things that have to go right before an animal can be domesticated.  But if any one of these things goes wrong, the animal will not be domesticable.

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