The Anthropik Network » Rewilding Humans

Certainly, as mentioned before, the relationship between wolves and humans took a dramatic change in the Holocene. The academic discussion of domestication often involves terms that serve to white-wash its effects, such as “neoteny.” Neoteny is defined as the retention of juvenile characteristics in adult animals, and it does occur in the animal kingdom naturally, where it offers an ecological advantage. But neoteny is also a trait almost universally found in domesticated animals. It is selected for by human breeders to create greater docility. Such is the normal terminology, which makes the process seem benign enough. But if we strip away the white-wash, then we can also say that domestication was a eugenics program to warp animal bodies, to retard their growth, and to trap them in ever more childlike bodies. Wild wolf cubs wag their tails and bark often, but they outgrow this behavior as they grow older into mature adults. Any dog owner can recognize the “neoteny” in that comparison. A dog is an eternal cub, incapable of ever fully growing up. A dog’s floppy ears are another neotenous trait. Particularly in behavior, such neoteny has been observed in wolves—but only among captive wolf packs, as signs of abject submission, where the normal egalitarianism of the wild pack is replaced with patterns of hierarchy and constant struggles for dominance. To strip away the academic white-wash, the behavior of the domesticated dog reveals a life of groveling submission. The least neotenous breed of dog, the basenji, is bred in Africa as a hunting companion—as an equal, “neither needing nor appreciating a great deal of human attention or nurturing,” as Wikipedia puts it.
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