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The domestication of animals took place shortly after the beginning of agriculture in about 9000 BC. As animals evolved from wild to domesticated species, they gradually changed. Zooarchaeologists can distinguish wild from domestic varities from bone analysis. Bones can also show changes in the proportion of different species, another sign of domestication. Not all wild species can be domesticated, but, by 7000 BC, several Near Eastern animals had evolved from their wild ancestors, including the dog, goat, sheep, pig, cow and cat, which were descended from the wolf, Bezoar goat, Asiatic moufflon, wild boar, auroch, and wild cat, respectfully. The donkey and horse were domesticated by 4000 BC.

The earliest farmers continued to hunt even after they had begun to herd and breed livestock. Because of their suitability for hunting, dogs were already domesticated by about 10,000 BC, slightly before plant cultivation. The herding of animals such as the goat provided a further source of food from milking. Goats were popular because they grazed widely and needed little fodder. Sheep were valued for their fleeces, and cattle and donkeys proved more than their worth to their owners as draft animals.

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