Science | March 27, 2022 5:36 pm

Scientists Discover Evidence that Humans Domesticated Geese Before Chickens

Not bad at all, geese

A mighty goose
There's a saying here about counting chickens before they've hatched that might work.
Eric Brehm/Unsplash

What was the first type of bird to be domesticated by humans? Given the ubiquity of it in diets all around the world, most people would likely answer, “chicken.” And — if the findings of a new scientific study prove accurate — they’d be wrong.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focuses on a number of goose bones found in the village of Tianluoshan, which was settled 7,000 years ago in China’s Yangtze River Valley. The scientists believe that their findings reveal “an early stage of goose domestication at Tianluoshan.”

The key to their conclusion of domesticated geese comes from the discovery that “one of the bones was derived from a locally bred chick.” This is significant because wild geese don’t flock — no pun intended — to Tianluoshan, suggesting that the chick was from a population of geese managed by humans.

That said, there’s still plenty of debate over which birds were the first to be domesticated. A study published last year in Nature offers evidence that chickens were indeed the first to be domesticated, with their history with humans dating back 8,000 years. And it’s entirely possible that somewhere below the earth is evidence of domesticated turkeys or ducks that go back even further.