Colorado-based writer Ehringer (100 Best Ranch Vacations in North America, 2007, etc.) chronicles our changing relations—changes mostly not for the better—with the world of familiar animals.
The author’s travels among everyday animal species and their histories opens a touch sluggishly, with a story that has become commonplace: namely, the domestication of the dog out of the wolf, the latter a smart predator that found a new way of exploiting its environment by moving, with humans, into the newfangled villages of newfound agriculturalism. From there, however, the narrative picks up both speed and interest. Ehringer writes capably, for example, of the development of dog species, hinting at some political resistance in the mix as “royal kennel keepers smuggled puppies out of the castles to sell to commoners rather than give the inferior ones the blade or bludgeon.” Inferior, perhaps; who knows how much better the queen of England’s corgis are than your next-door neighbor’s? One such species is the mixed-bag creation called the pit bull, more properly the bull & terrier, “less a breed than a type of dog,” in this case bred to nefarious purposes for fighting—and that for human entertainment. Ehringer reports that, thanks to good education, the numbers of unwanted dogs in pounds and shelters are declining relative to the past; the challenge for future dog owners will be to find animals that have been humanely bred. Not necessarily so the cat population, cats being critters that evolved, writes the author, quite against their types, since cats in the wild “profoundly dislike and distrust people.” Ehringer moves from cats to cows, writing that, though it’s not their fault, there are too many cows to be sustainable. In the future, they’re likely to be scarcer; indeed, after considering the fortunes of horses, he imagines a time “when grandparents fondly recall the days when animal food products were common.”
Solid, well-reported popular science for animal lovers.