[ExI] Domestication

Pat Fallon patrickfallon at gmail.com
Sat Sep 18 14:52:34 UTC 2010

Jared Diamond, in Guns, Germs, and Steel, has a nice chapter on why
some mammals were not suitable for domestication. Regarding elephants,
he writes:

"To be worth keeping, domesticates must also grow quickly. That
eliminates gorillas and elephants, even though they are vegetarians
with admirably nonfinicky food preferences and represent a lot of
meat. What would-be gorilla or elephant rancher would wait 15 years
for his herd to reach adult size? Modern Asians who want work
elephants find it much cheaper to capture them in the wild and tame

Pat Fallon

2010/9/17 The Avantguardian <avantguardian2020 at yahoo.com>:
> From: John Clark <jonkc at bellsouth.net>
> To: ExI chat list <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
> Sent: Fri, September 17, 2010 9:30:02 AM
> Subject: [ExI] Domestication
> Anybody have a theory why the asian elephant has been domesticated but not
> the African elephant? And it's not just animals, with all the millions of
> species to work with why have so few new domesticated plants come on the
> scene in the last few centuries?
>   John K Clark
>  I am just speculating here but I think it could simply be lack of sustained
> effort amongst Afican cultures. The habitat of the African elephant is
> mostly restricted to Sub-Saharan Africa which has historically hosted
> primarily hunter-gatherer tribesman until recent times and colonialism. The
> high civilizations of ancient Africa such as Egypt, Carthage, Numidia, Kush,
> etc. were mostly in Northern Africa along the mediterrenean and it would
> have probably been very difficult for them to move elephants across the
> Sahara.
> Despite, it is a known historical fact that Carthage domesticated
> elephants for use as war elephants  (c.f. Hannibal and Punic War) and these
> would have had to have been the African variety although some think it was a
> subs-species of African Elephant called the North African Elephant. In any
> case, the complete genocide of Carthage by the Romans probably set the art
> of taming elephants in Africa back by several hundred years.
> It is a widely believed myth that the African elephants can't be
> tamed. During colonization of the Belgian Congo the Belgians used Indian
> Mahouts, who simply applied the ages old Indian techniques, to successfully
> train African elephants. These days you can even go on safari in Africa from
> the back of an African elephant for the right price:
> http://www.thesafaricompany.co.za/Elephant_Back_Safaris.htm
> So in short, I blame the Romans.
> Stuart LaForge
> "Old men read the lesson in the setting sun.
> Beat the cymbal and sing in this life, or wail away the hours fearing death.
> Their choice is their fortune." - I Ching
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