Through the filter of time … a repost that may still be interesting to you from two years ago.
The NYT is running a piece discussing the domestication of the cat.
I love watching wild cats. It is fairly easy to see them in the Kalahari, where the population of cats is almost certainly untouched by genetics of any domesticated form. Despite the kitty-osity shown in the photograph provided with the NYT article, the actual wild cats show themselves to be very different than the domesticated ones. They don’t look the same, they don’t act the same, they don’t have the same overall pattern of affect we see in domestic cats.
You look at them, they look at you, and you think “holy crap, if that cat was the size of a large dog, I’d be dead right now…”
Anyway, Nicholas Wade’s piece in the NYT discusses the usual theories … that cats domesticated themselves (parallel to the dog story) and that the likely ancestral population contributing to the modern domestic cat is from the Middle East.
I doubt this is true. I and some colleagues kept a couple of generations of female domestics (a mongrel of African breeds) in the Ituri Forest, and they had litter after litter after litter … obviously not virgin births (there were no halos, no angels announcing anything of import … so we figure there was a good local wild cat population. I saw them (it?) a couple of times … just eyes in the night. DId the resarchers looking at the cat genome test these cats? Very unlikely. The “African Cat” genome in this sample is almost certainly a Kalahari cat.
So you see, the “African Sample” would be from the opposite side of a Freekin’ Huge-Ass Continent, ignoring everything else in between. Indeed, the Central African Rain Forest is said to not contain wild cats. But there are indeed many things in that forest that are said to not be there….
What I’m saying is that the range of domestication of the cat may well have included the middle east, but more likely it was primarily in Africa, with only a little piece maybe, but probably not, extending over past the Jordon River.
But since Africa is full of black people and the Middle East is the home of Western Civilization, what with God living there and all, a drop of Middle East in a Soup of Africa will be called Middle Eastern Stew every time.