Dingoes and domestication

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Brumm, A
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2021
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Abstract

Aboriginal Australians are known to have routinely taken dingo pups from wild dens to rear as companion animals, with the mature canids typically returning to the bush to mate. Available accounts emphasise the strong emotional bonds between Indigenous people and “camp dingoes”, which were essentially raised as though they were human. Yet despite the closeness of human–canine relations in Australia, it is widely contended that Aboriginal people did not domesticate dingoes. The accepted thinking is that while the dingoes lived part of their lives with humans, they were ultimately “free agents” that foraged and reproduced independently. Here, I propose that the Aboriginal practice of raising wild-caught dingo pups generated a distinct population of free-roaming adult dingoes that were socialised to interact with humans and may have remained loosely associated with them. I suggest that this hitherto unrecognised dingo ecotype, which should not be thought of as truly wild, yielded most of the pups taken from the bush by humans. Contrary to received wisdom, therefore, Aboriginal peoples’ interactions with dingoes involved management and domestication processes, but not as conventionally defined (i.e., controlled breeding, artificial selection).

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Archaeology in Oceania
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56
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1
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, language and history
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Brumm, A, Dingoes and domestication, Archaeology in Oceania, 2021, 56 (1), pp. 17-31
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