When it comes to livestock domestication and how it began, whilst it’s probably not entirely ignored it’s been overshadowed by studies on dog domestication which makes it harder to understand and pinpoint where these creatures evolved from. I feel as if whatever attempts at saying dogs have a closer bond with humans than any other animal are way too biased towards dogs to make a good objective statement, given there are people who aren’t always too close to their own dogs whether if it’s their mental state or their cultural upbringing.
Conversely speaking, this ignores the possibility of people forming close emotional relationships with animals considered livestock such as sheep and goats as well as their attitudes to them in kind. It even ignores the odd possibility that certain theories about dog domestication such as the active social domestication model would be better applied to livestock. In the sense that livestock would’ve benefitted far more from it than dogs have.
While dogs are the first animals to be domesticated, if hunter-gatherer societies** are any indication the dog’s path to domestication as we know it isn’t that smooth and straightforward. These dogs may not always be reliable hunting partners, given there are instances where they’d hunt something else. They may not always be fed, either socialised to other dogs in order to hunt or even drugged to hunt game. They’re also even allowed to roam freely on their own, something shepherds and farmers would never do to their livestock.
Dog populations wouldn’t explode significantly until the advent of intensive agriculture, which would’ve coincided with gaining the gene to process starch. However even today some dogs can’t process starch, so the ability to process starch isn’t universal for all dogs. If the dog’s road to domestication’s convoluted, given the repeated occurrence of semi-feral stray and owned dogs then livestock animals’ road to domestication would be far smoother.
This should be obvious as they’re more commonly and widely used for food and clothing, until recently it can be said and argued that livestock animals would be more closely monitored and taken care of more rigorously than what’s been done to cats and dogs. In some of the stuff I recall reading, cats and dogs would even be starved in order to hunt something. Not to mention that they stray often proves my point that dog domestication’s convoluted.
While dog breeding did exist, it didn’t exist on such a big scale as you have within the past three centuries (from the 19th to 21st centuries) and historically the only people who could have pedigree dogs were rich. Even today in non-Western countries like the Philippines and Nigeria, it’s still the case not just with the rich but also status seeking individuals. Livestock don’t get this treatment.
Instead of getting a fancy breed of sheep/goat/cattle, status would be measured in how much livestock they can raise and take care of. This is the case with the Maasai where cattle are even used as bride price when it comes to marriages and that the Bible’s Job was prosperous because he had a lot of sheep. I might be wrong about the Maasai, but as it stands wealth was and still is measured by how much livestock one owns for some communities.
Especially pastoralists, which the words pastor and pasture are related to. Livestock like sheep and goats have a lot of use to pastoralists and farmers, not just because they’re used for meat but because they’re also used for leather, dairy, wool and parchment. I’m not saying that dogs are entirely useless, they do have use in farming and pastoralism but sometimes in some pastoral communities they’re ancillary creatures. Especially if the major feature of such economies are goats, sheep or any other livestock.
Same thing with cats especially for some African pastoralists like the Fulani and Tuareg. It would be easy to overlook goats, sheep and other livestock animals, even if they’re capable of forming close emotional bonds with humans and vice versa. Ironically, they fit certain domestication theories better, due to the nature of horticulturalism, pastoralism and intensive agriculture.
If dogs are in some regards not the best exemplars of domestication, given that there’s still a lot of feral and semi-feral dogs* out there in the world perhaps sheep would be a far better example as there’s not a lot of feral and semi-feral sheep out there. Most people allow their dogs to roam on their own, most people who have sheep won’t allow them to. In a dark irony, the active social domestication model fits sheep better than with dogs.
The pariah dog exists in a liminal state between wild and domesticated, in fact in far larger numbers than you get with sheep. Not that semi-feral sheep don’t exist, but given the nature of farming and herding they’re unlikely to exist in large numbers the way you do with dogs. So it stands that livestock animals aren’t just the elephants in the room when it comes to animal domestication, they’re also a far better fit for the active social domestication model.
*Let’s not also forget that even with livestock guarding dogs, they still hunt animals from time to time. At other times, the actual answers to animal domestication lie in the social sciences when it comes to the way people use and interact with animals.
**In some places and communities like parts of South America and much of Africa, dogs would’ve been introduced rather recently which means people would’ve spent centuries without using dogs while hunting. In the case with Africa, dogs would only arrive with the coming of Levantine Afro-Asiatic speakers and this is a good argument for dogs being an invasive species.