the Unnatural History of Dogs, Cats, Cows, and Horses
by Gavin Ehringer
I don’t like the cover at all. And I found the material interesting enough, but a bit uneven. The sections on dogs and cats are more than half the book, the part about cows a little shorter than the first two, and horses felt tacked on at the end with far less coverage. Honestly I almost put this one aside, because the first chapter on how dogs became domesticated, was boring. I’d either read most of it before elsewhere, or felt my eyes glazing over on the history details. There’s a lengthy chapter on how the Victorian craze for purebred dogs changed the course of dog breeding forever, and another on how rightfully pit bulls are vilified. Curiously, this book states that overpopulation is no longer a huge problem for dogs and cats in America, that in fact a lot of shelters now have to import homeless animals to keep their operations running. Another section looks into the ethtics of dog shows and breeders- stating that most people who breed dogs knows what they’re doing and look seriously into the genetics to ensure healthy animals, but the public knowledge about what goes on is woefully behind the reality. Hm. The part about cats has a lot of Egyptian history, and about how the popularity of cats waxed and waned over the centuries- I learned quite a bit of folklore and such I hadn’t known before. There’s a strong emphasis in here on the problem of stray and feral cats- firstly it states that cats are not wiping out birds (except on certain isolated islands where they are truly invasive) that statistics blaming domestic cats for falling bird numbers across America are exaggerated or wrongly extrapolated, there being so many other factors. And examples are given how trap-neuter-release programs can be extremely effective. When it comes to cows, I found myself reading about genetic cloning, dairy farm management, criticism of feedlot operations, and the plight of unwanted steer calves among other things. And organic milk production. And the debate on hormone injections. And so on. The horse chapters were very few. There is a bit of breed history, mostly about Mongolian horses under Ghenghis Khan, the beauty of Arabians, the inbreeding of famed quarter horses, and where it is all going. I skimmed much of the last chapter, just like I did the first.
So I learned a few new things, and I found a lot of it interesting, but much more was repetitive or simply felt off-topic. If I’d wanted to read about GMO tomatoes I would have picked a different book. Maybe the title gave me the wrong expectation, but I was alternately disappointed, bored and then intrigued again (when learning something new, or reading stuff that refuted things I thought I already knew).
Borrowed from the public library.
Rating: 2/5 356 pages, 2017
Shame that this wasn't more consistent, because it sounds like it could have been really interesting! I do think it's fascinating how animals became domesticated — what a weird thing for humans to think of to do.
Yep. But in the case of dogs and cats, there are strong theories that the animals essentially domesticated themselves- or at least started the process by hanging out around easy food sources, which the tamer/less fearful animals were able to exploit more . . .
It sounds like I'll be safe to skip this one.