Horses

The horses we see around us today are descended from the wild horse. In some zoos you can see Przewalski horses, which are very similar to the modern horse’s wild ancestor. Around 5500 years ago people started to tame wild horses. At first they were mainly kept for their meat, but people then discovered that horses were also good draught animals. Later people started riding horses too. It was not long before the speed and impressive stature of the horse led to the animals being used in wars.

Sheep

The domesticated sheep is descended from the wild sheep. A number of different types of this wild sheep live in an area that extends from the Middle East to Asia, as well as in the eastern parts of North America. Starting from the Middle East, domesticated sheep gradually spread out over large parts of the globe. In the Netherlands people started keeping sheep in around 5000 BC. These sheep may have looked something like our (horned) Drenthe heath sheep today.

Chicken

Chickens originate from warm regions of East Asia and are descended from the red junglefowl. These animals have long been kept by humans for their meat and eggs, and also because they are attractive creatures.
The Netherlands has a substantial number of old breeds, which appear on paintings dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. 
When, in the 19th century, people wanted chickens to produce more eggs and meat, almost all of the old Dutch breeds were replaced with more productive foreign breeds and crossbreeds. These crossbreeds are well suited to factory farming.

Cows

The cows we see around us today are descended from the aurochs, a type of cattle that is now extinct. It was dark brown to black brown in colour and much larger than our cows. Around 9000 years ago people in the Middle East started domesticating aurochs, as they wanted a supply of meat to hand. They quickly discovered that cows are useful for other things too. For example, they were later also used as draught animals and their milk was used to make products such as cheese and butter.

Pigs

Pigs belong to the genus Sus and are known to have lived in East Asia since the Miocene epoch (between 25 and 2 million years ago). There are many different types of wild pig and all domesticated pigs are descended from them.

In the early 19th century there were two types of pig in the Netherlands: a small, prick-eared pig and a large, lop-eared pig. The former had disappeared entirely by the mid-19th century. Over the course of that century a number of other breeds were introduced to turn the lop-eared pig into an early-maturing, faster-growing pig.

Goats

It is thought that our museum goat is descended from a wild goat species: the Bezoar goat. Goats and sheep were the first ruminants to be domesticated by humans. This was around 10,000 years ago in the region we now know as Iran and Iraq.