How Celts Used Their Resources To Survive

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Pablo Edronkin

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The way in which Celts took advantage of animals after their domestication in ancient Europe should be taken into account in every survival course.

The Celts that populated a good portion of central Europe since the iron Age and until they were wiped out by the Romans already had domestic animals as well as a good variety of cattle. Most Celts were farmers, and society was organised around agriculture and war; these farmers kept domestic animals like today, that is, dogs and cats.

Their rural society imposed the rhythm of the day and of all activities; agricultural labour was intensive and reached some degree of sophistication. Women were in charge of the house while men worked in the fields, were artisans or in some cases, belonged to the warrior elite and fought.

Farmers had a variety of animals which were not exactly what we would see today at any modern farm: the had wild pigs somewhat smaller than what we see today, also a variety of cows known as Celtic Shorthorn, which is already extinct, and some kind of sheep of an unknown variety which seems similar to Soay sheep. Sometimes it has been argued that Soay sheep serve as a model for what the Celts had; however, these sheep are not exactly the same, for they were already raised in farms and actually returned to a wild state: they may even attack dogs.

Cats and humans are the only animals that have domesticated themselves.
Cats and humans are the only animals that have domesticated themselves.

So, it is not exactly known what kind of sheep did they have, but what is for certain is that they used the wool. Also, they kept their animals for long before butchering them; it seems that they did not use their cattle for meat, but for milking and hard labour.

According to Roman descriptions, Celts liked horses very much; they had ponies but no big horses, so they grew quite enthusiastic when some were imported from elsewhere and used to pay very high prices. It is almost certain that some sort of commercial activity was developed around horses.

But they did not use them for hard labour; on one hand, they were pricey, and owners would have a bad time deciding whether to use or not their precious horses in such a way; however, they did use them at war. Another probable reason is that at that time, the harness that is used today in conjunction with horses, which enables the animal to use its full force while dragging a thing such as a cart, had not been invented yet, so it was simply not possible to use horses in such a way.

Celts seemed to be fairly good with they animals; they did not mistreat them, and in the event some were butchered, it was at an old age when clearly, they were of no more use for farmers. Probably they realised that mistreating animals would have been a very silly way of keeping their assets, and being theirs a rural society, the only way they had to save and keep their savings was by raising stock.

But they had to care for their survival, so they made use of everything they had at hand: they even used the furs of their dead dogs and cats.

Cattle has been around us for quite a while.
Cattle has been around us for quite a while.

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