A Prologue to Farm Animals: Where Did They Really Come From?
Picture the planet before humans. No animal had ever been domesticated. The circle of life ruled over all of the creatures, not one particular species. Do you think that chickens walked around like they do today? The answer is actually no. Many of the farm animals that we see now descend from ancient beasts that are now extinct. They were selectively bred to create the iconic creatures that we know today. But what are those "ancient beasts"?
Modern cattle descend from an ancestor known as the auroch, thriving in Asia, Europe, and North Africa. They were very similar to bison, and on average were a bit bigger than cows are. They traveled in herds and often got into big fights. The auroch was certainly more beastly and wild than the modern cow, and it also probably produced less milk. Unfortunately, they no longer walk the earth anymore, having gone extinct in 1627. Aurochs were actually one of the first recorded examples of a species extinction. In a one on one battle with domesticated cows, the auroch would definitely win.
One might imagine that adorable little things like pigs might have had some difficulty holding their own in the wild. The thing was, that actually wasn't the case. Before pigs, there were... SUPER PIGS!! (a.k.a. boars. Wow, that got interesting.) The wild boar was the true "SUPER PIG", just with a much lamer name. Boars are not extinct; they're still thriving today. They are more aggressive than domesticated swine, and they also bear sharp tusks that will gore anyone who gets in their way. It looks like a lot of things changed during domestication between the piglets and their brutal ancestors.
Next up come the chickens. Chickens pay their homage to the red junglefowl, a species of, well, basically chickens (they really weren't that different). Still thriving today in the jungles of Asia, many red junglefowl were domesticated about 8,000 years ago to form the egg-laying cluckers we know today.
As you can tell, the more beastly counterparts of ancient "farm animals" greatly differed from the creatures that roam the earth now in the world's many livestock farms. Farming as we know it would not be the same if these "ancient beasts" hadn't come around to what they have today.