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和猫のはなし(2)和猫の祖先はいつ日本にやってきた?


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和猫(わねこ)とは、日本猫とも呼ばれる日本特有の猫です。しかし、長い間、日本人にとっては“あたり前”の猫であったため、逆に多くの“なぞ”に包まれているところがあります。

今回は、「和猫」の祖先について取り上げてみます。

 

 

猫(イエネコ)はリビアヤマネコを祖先とし、人類が農耕を始めた1万年くらい前からメソポタミアやエジプトで次第に家畜化されたと考えられています。

 

日本列島にはもともと猫はおらず、以前は仏教の経典などをネズミの害から守るため、奈良時代から平安時代(1200〜1300年前)に大陸から渡来したとの説が有力でした。

 

近年はもっと古くからいたのではないかと言われます。

例えば、2007年には、兵庫県姫路市の見野古墳から、猫の足跡がついた須恵器が発見されました。この古墳は1400年ほど前、古墳時代後期から飛鳥時代につくられたものとされます。

 

また、長崎県壱岐市のカラカミ遺跡で日本最古とみられるイエネコの骨が見つかっています。この遺跡は2100年ほど前の弥生時代の集落跡で、本当にイエネコの骨であれば、和猫の歴史は大幅に遡ることになります。

 

日本に持ち込まれた猫は当初、さほど数は多くなく、奈良時代には貴族の愛玩動物として紐につないで飼われていました。

 

その後、少しずつ繁殖で増えていく中で、前回とりあげたような「和猫」の体型や毛色の特徴が定着していったと考えられます。

 

さらに江戸時代の初めころ、南蛮貿易の窓口であった長崎には中国や東南アジアから猫が持ち込まれており、それが当時の和猫と交配する中で、鍵状に曲がった尻尾を持つ猫が増えたとする説があります。

 

「尾曲がりネコ」はインドネシアのジャカルタ周辺が原産地と考えられており、現在も長崎では野良猫の約8割が、尻尾の曲がる遺伝子を持っているといわれます。

 

「和猫」の大きな特徴である短尾も、この「尾曲がりネコ」がもとになっている可能性が高いとか。

http://www.omagarinekogakkai.com/about_omagarineko/

 

「和猫」には奥深い歴史があるようです。

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