When did people first start having pets?

Humankind's relationship with cats, dogs and all the other animals we've had as pets goes back thousands of years.

When did people irst start having pets? © Alamy

It was generally thought that we started domesticating animals as pets about 12,000 years ago, but a canine skull dating to 31,700 years ago was recently discovered in Belgium’s Goyet Cave.

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It belonged to neither a wolf nor a modern dog – it was a hybrid hound, especially domesticated by our ancestors for hunting.

What’s more, at Uyun al-Hammam in Jordan, in a grave dating back 16,500 years, a man’s skeleton was found deliberately buried alongside fox remains, with both his corpse and the fox’s bones having been posthumously relocated from another grave.

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From this, it’s plausible to infer a special connection between person and animal, or why else were both bodies so carefully moved? The bond between people and pets goes back to the Stone Age, even if such animals were also working animals.

This article was first published in the July 2015 issue of History Revealed and answered by one of our Q&A experts, Greg Jenner.