Cats and their history. How desert cats turned into sandwiches

Cats have their own secrets. And they protect them very carefully. A few years ago we didn’t even know where they came from or who they were. Only in the 21st century, thanks to the latest research technologies, have they been able to unravel the mysteries of their origins.

Until the beginning of this century, scientists had at least five candidates for the direct ancestor of domestic cats. There were five wild cats, actually different species wild catlives in very remote areas.

These were the African wild cat called the Nubian cat, the European wild cat, the South African Kafrik cat, the Central Asian wild cat, and the Tibetan cat. Since none of them wanted to accept the paternity of domestic cats, scientists decided to use it DNA tests.

Finally, in 2006, Science published a one-off work identifying the close ancestor of the domestic cat. It turned out that only one of these species is the ancestor of all domestic cats living today, regardless of sex, shape and character. This nubian catLiving in the Middle East and Africa.

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About 4,000 cats have long been domesticated in Egypt. years ago. The Egyptians no doubt loved these animals, and they too played an important role in their religion and mythology. They were usually associated with the goddess Bast, mummified with great devotion, and historical records state that the family in which the cat died was mourned. forty eyebrows.

But the history of cats and humans living together is much older. Wild cats are known to live near groups of up to 100,000 people. Years ago in Mesopotamia. Most likely, they were domesticated there, about 12-9 thousand. years ago (another less likely place for their initial domestication is Ethiopia). Or rather – they domesticated themselves.

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DNA research Dr. Andrew Kirchener of the National Museum of Scotland showed that the mitochondrial DNA of modern feral and domestic cats clearly shows that Mesopotamia is their common homeland. The last common ancestor of feral cats and domesticated cats was to live More than 100 thousand years ago.

This does not mean that they have been lying on the sofas of our ancestors for more than 100,000 years. Most likely, the ancestors of cats, like the ancestors of dogs, learned to follow groups of people to eat our waste and hunt the rodents that accompanied us. As humans learned to farm and settle, cats settled with them. First as wild neighbors, and then as even closer friends. The reason was simple: people had grains, mice loved grains, people didn’t like mice. Cats allowed me to control their population. They may not have been very good neighbors, but they were tolerant of us because they were saved for us. serious problem.

Another study of cat DNA, published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution five years ago, found that cats lived with humans for thousands of years before being domesticated. During this time, their genes did not change much from those of the wild cat, with the exception of a relatively new correction: a characteristic color with stripes and dots.

“Recently” tabby cats were rare in ancient times. This coat became a more common sight only in the Middle Ages – genes Those responsible for the stripes first appeared in Southwest Asia, then in parts of the Ottoman Empire, and only later spread to Europe and Asia.

The cats were with us before. And they came to Europe surprisingly early. Initially, it was thought that Roman legions were behind the spread of cats in Europe: these animals ended up in Rome and Greece, along with merchants who took them on board to destroy their prey, rats and rats. They may not have been a favorite of the local elite – it has been occupied by dogs for centuries – but they had their own fans. The tombstone, which depicts a young girl holding a cat in the first century AD, is one of the earliest depictions of this animal by the playwright Aristophanes, who lived in Rome and Greece in the 4th-5th centuries BC. often reminds them in plays for a comic effect. It was he who invented the guilt for harm. “made the cat“.

But it turns out that the cats went deeper Europe even earlier. Even 4,000 years ago.

Because cats existed in present-day Poland hundreds of years before the Romans. One of the oldest remains of the Nubian cat in Europe comes from our country. They date back to Celtic times in present-day Poland. Nubian cat’s jaw, found on Krakow-Częstochowa mountainous area is the oldest such find on the continent among ceramic prints.

This cat was no one’s pet, all signs indicate that it was hunted and skinned. But he lived close to the people. Dra Magdalena Krajcarz from the University of Nicolaus Copernicus in Torun conducted isotopic studies on the bones of this and other ancestors of cats found in our country, which showed that these cats are certainly not domesticated, because their diet consists mainly of wild, forest animals. but most of their food came from us – they fed us grain-eating rodents. They probably spread throughout Europe under the leadership of the first farmers.

European cats, on the other hand, remained semi-wild for a long time – farmers defended their fields more often than mice with domesticated mustelids or even using them. adsmore than cats. Only in the 2nd and 5th centuries AD were these animals gradually replaced by cats, although in Poland ferrets and snakes were still kept firmly in the Middle Ages.

That’s when it became clear that cats are not the ones who bring misfortune to people, on the contrary – humans are cats. Their shining eyes at night connected them in many parts of the continent Satan and in destroyed places. This usually resulted in mouse invasion and starvation, which was often seen as a satanic revenge, rather than a normal ecosystem reaction to the extinction of predators.

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Despite the difficulties, they succeeded. During the Enlightenment, they took on a whole new position: spoiled pets.

However, the fashion of owning cats did not begin until the nineteenth century, thanks to Queen Victoria. It is true that the legendary ruler of Great Britain spent most of his life as a dog lover, but thanks to the stories of archeological finds in Egypt, he became interested in cats. Curiosity led him to take two under the roof of the modest palace the Persianshe acted as a member of his own court. The depictions of beautiful animals caused a sensation among the British who wanted to move to the upper classes. Everyone wanted a cat.

But the search for the local murmurs of wild grandparents also yielded some surprising results. A study published by JDVigne in 2016 showed that the Nubian cat is not the only wild cat species. domesticated.

Research on the remains of cat skeletons in China has shown that the ancient Chinese … could falsify leopards. However, there is no genetic evidence that leopard DNA is preserved in domestic cats. And just an attempt to tame leopards ended quickly enough and was not repeated.

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