Pet Timeline

circa 12,000 BC: The Asian wolf is domesticated for use in
tracking game, creating the first known ‘dog,’ though it bore
little resemblance to today’s household dogs.

circa 7,300 — 7,000 BC: The trend continues almost five
thousand years later when tribes in the British Isles, and later
the Greeks, begin to keep dogs.

circa 3,500 BC: The domestication of animals, including
goats, sheep, asses, cattle, pigs, horses, and dogs — combined
with the invention of the wheel and the development of irrigation
— has streamlined food production enough to allow a few people to
engage in scholarly, spiritual, aesthetic, and economic

circa 3,000 BC: Following the invention of granaries in
Egypt, wild cats are allowed indoors to hunt mice, beginning the
evolution of the large, ferocious feline into our much smaller, yet
ever willful, houseguests.

circa 2,850 BC: The Great Sphinx is created.

circa 2,000 BC: Egyptian hieroglyphics depicting exotic
menageries of birds — including doves, parrots, and ducks —
chronicle the beginnings of birdkeeping.

circa 0 AD: Jesus Christ is, reportedly, born in a
manger, surrounded by humble animals.

circa AD 500 — AD 1800: Pets were not uncommon in Europe
during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, but they were kept for
the most part by courtiers, members of privileged religious orders,
and the upper classes.

circa 1500 AD: The word pet, which is probably related to
petty (small), is introduced into English as a reference to ‘an
animal kept as a favorite.’

19th century: As human dependence on animals decreases,
Victorians become increasingly sentimental about horses and dogs.
Intelligence, character, and even human forms of morality are
attributed to them.

1851: The word ‘doggone’ first appears in print in the
novel Scalp Hunt. It is generally taken as a deformation of
the profanity ‘God damn,’ though its original form is thought to be
‘dog on it,’ to be used like ‘pox on it.’

1865: Lewis Carroll publishes Alice’s Adventures in
, and no one ever again looks at cats, mice, and
rabbits without a touch of uneasiness.

circa 1870: Actress Sarah Bernhardt loses both her pet
tortoise Chrysag?re and its ‘servant,’ a smaller tortoise named
Zerbinette, to a devastating fire in her Paris flat.

1877: English author Anna Sewell writes Black
. She is paid a flat 20 pounds for the manuscript and
receives no royalties from what is to become a worldwide

1884: Ten sportsmen in the United States form the
American Kennel Club, an offshoot of England’s Kennel Club, which
was founded in 1873 to regulate the growing ‘dog show’

1894: The Robinson-Danforth Commission Co. is founded. In
1902 the company changes its name to Ralston Purina, makers of dog,
cat, horse, and parrot ‘chow.’

1926: Christopher Robin befriends his stuffed bear in the
Winnie the Pooh stories, the forerunners of many commercially
successful stuffed-animal fantasies. Pet historian Paul Shepard,
identifies Winnie the Pooh with the advent of a new
imaginative wilderness for children growing up in isolated suburban
homes with few neighbor children to play with and little ‘wild’ to

1928: Buddy, a German shepherd, becomes the first Seeing
Eye dog.

1931: Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat premiere in comic

1939: A raggedy mutt named Toto charms the world as
Dorothy’s companion in MGM’s film version of The Wizard of

1943: The first Lassie, played by a dog named Pal,
co-stars with Elizabeth Taylor in the film Lassie Come Home
— the beginning of America’s obsession with collies.

1945: George Orwell’s Animal Farm and E.B. White’s
Stuart Little offer extremely different takes on
anthropomorphized animals. White hits again in 1952 with
Charlotte’s Web, an animal story loved by children

1949:The Lone Ranger airs on U.S. television.
Central to the story is the uncanny connection between the Lone
Ranger and his horse, Silver .

1951: Ronald Reagan raises a chimpanzee in Bedtime for

1956: Fred Gibson’s Old Yeller tells the tale of a
boy and his dog one year before the Russians shoot the dog Laika
into space.

1961: Disney’s 101 Dalmatians is filmed.
(Thirty-plus years later, it will be the seventh-highest grossing
film of all time.)

1963: Inventor Samuel Andrisani patents his Animal Toilet
Garment to eliminate deposits of animal waste in public places. A
secondary benefit as a birth control device should have guaranteed
its place in the market, but somehow the garment never really takes

1968: The band Three Dog Night is formed and subsequently
makes 21 trips to the charts between 1969 and 1975. The name refers
to an Australian aborigine description of a night so cold that you
have to sleep with three dogs to keep warm.

1969:Sesame Street, the home of ‘Big Bird’ and
other puppet animals, goes on the air.

1976: Sylvester and Tweety finally get their own TV show,
giving viewers a close look at what their pets do when no one is

1981: Minosch, a German cat, reportedly travels 1,500
miles in 61 days to get home after being separated from its
vacationing family.

1988: The Potbellied Pig Registry is created to track the
bloodlines of the new ‘yuppie puppy.’ By 1995 the registry has
tracked 23,000 pigs, but experts estimate that there could be as
many as 1 million pet pigs living in the U.S. Many humans find
these large pets hard to live with.

1993: Americans spend $17 billion on pet food, supplies,
and care.

1994: 2,132 people — two-thirds women and one-third men
— graduate from schools of veterinary medicine in the U.S. By 1995
there will be approximately 40,300 vets in private practice in the

1995: Cats officially become the most popular and
populous pet in the U.S., outnumbering dogs 63 million to 54
million. Despite work by animal rights groups, an estimated 20
million cats and dogs are euthanized.

1996: Estimates predict that 25 million animals will die
in publicly funded experiments during the year.

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