In this chapter, I present and discuss the general nature of human–animal relationships as understood by my Bebelibe interviewees from the Commune of Cobly and how these shape the way they perceive and practice hunting and domestication. I start by briefly describing how people think about humans and animals ontologically, before examining what distinguishes wild animals from family animals, given that people did not keep and intentionally breed animals for meat until recently.

People have an intersubjective relationship with their family animals, which is rather one of guardianship and does not fit the classic ideas of domination and domestication elaborated by scholars such as Ingold and Clutton-Brock. I explicate why and look at Armstrong Oma’s proposition that relationships between humans and domestic animals should be understood as social contracts. I explore whether this adequately explains the way people in Cobly relate to their family animals.

I then examine if, how and why people’s relationships with animals are changing, for example, as a result of introducing oxen as draught animals, the resulting ontological penumbras such changes generate, and how people negotiate these and redefine their relationships accordingly.