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Breast-Feeding of Animals by Women: Its Socio-Cultural Context and Geographic Occurrence

Frederick J. Simoons and James A. Baldwin
Anthropos
Bd. 77, H. 3./4. (1982), pp. 421-448
Published by: Anthropos Institut
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40460478
Page Count: 28
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Breast-Feeding of Animals by Women: Its Socio-Cultural Context and Geographic Occurrence
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Abstract

In this paper, the practice of women breast-feeding animals is viewed from a geographic and historical perspective. The principal aims are to establish where the practice has been commonplace, to determine its economic and socio-cultural context, to consider its possible role in animal domestication, and to weigh its significance in human ecology. — In many cases, the practice is an expression of affection for pets (among Polynesians, among forest peoples of tropical South America, and especially among aboriginal hunters and gatherers in Southeast Asia, Australia, and Tasmania). In other cases, affection is supplemented or supplanted by economic concerns, as among various Melanesian "pig complex" peoples. In some cases, breast-feeding of animals is linked to cult and ritual, an outstanding example being the nursing of cubs in connection with the Ainu bear cult. In a few cases, animals are breast-fed with the welfare of the human mother or child being of greatest concern. The conclusion is drawn that animal nursing may indeed have contributed to the domestication of such animals as the pig and dog, and that in some places, particularly lowland New Guinea, the practice can play an important role in human ecology.

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