During my last library visit I picked up an interesting book called Fifty Animals that Changed the Course of History by Eric Chaline. And as often happens this book inspired my TT topic for this week.
Thirteen Animals That Changed History
1. Mosquito – the tropical vampire! Hundreds of thousands of people die each year from malaria, a disease passed on by the mosquito. As someone who has had malaria, I can tell you that it’s no fun! I thought I was going to die.
2. Silkworm – Chinese legend says silk was discovered when Empress Leizu was drinking tea in her garden. A silkworm cocoon fell into her tea cup and started to unravel. This is probably untrue, but silk production has been around for over five thousand years in China. Silk reached the west when silkworm eggs were smuggled out of China.
3. Cow – the author puts the cow at the top of his list. It’s edible, providing us with meat, milk and cheese. We use hides for clothes. It’s important in some religions and they’re used in some forms of entertainment—rodeos and bull fighting.
4. Camel – the camel is also edible and used as a beast of burden. It’s a practical animal in desert areas because it is adapted to preserve water. Still used in Middle Eastern countries as transport and work animals.
5. Dog – man’s best friend. Dogs are used in the military. They’re used on farms to help with stock and in some societies they provide food. Our puppy is my day companion and gets me out exercising.
6. Pigeon – they’re both edible and practical. Their homing instincts have made them useful during times of war and to carry communications from one place to another.
7. Horse – another edible animal, the horse is used for commercial and practical reasons. Horses are used for transport (mostly before cars) and also as work animals. These days horses are mainly sports related e.g. horse racing, show jumping, rodeos. They are also used on farms. My father rides his horse around the stock several days a week. Horses were also used during war time from ancient to fairly recent times.
8. Cat – although the cat doesn’t provide any significant benefits, it’s highly regarded as a domestic animal. Cats are useful in keeping mice and rats under control. Many cats were killed during the 14th century in Britain because they were thought to bring bad luck and disease. There was also the witchcraft aspect. This led to an explosion in the rat population and many people died of the plague. (caused by the fleas on rats)
9. Chicken – chickens were domesticated around 10,000 years ago in Asia. Throughout history chickens and their eggs have been used for food. In some societies chickens are used as entertainment i.e. cock fighting. Chickens have been associated with avian flu virus (Spanish Flu which killed between 50 – 100 million people of all ages world wide)
10. Leech – medicinal. For a long time the leech was the most important tool for doctors. Personally I’d prefer to stay far away from leeches!
11. Earthworm – very important in agriculture and farming. They aerate the soil, recycle organic material into the soil and their excretions enrich the soil. Worms are also important as a food source for many birds.
12. Rabbit – used as a source of food and protein, often during economic depression. The fur is also used for clothing. Rabbits are often kept as pets, but in some areas they are responsible for complete destruction of habitat, especially in countries where rabbits have been introduced.
13. Sheep – used for food and their wool. Sheep have been around for centuries and are important to many cultures. We have a lot of sheep in New Zealand, although numbers have decreased in recent years. Popular animal for calf club days. When I was five I had a pet lamb called Belinda. Together, we were an unstoppable force and won many red ribbons!
This is only a small selection. What animal do you think is most important to humans?