Magazine article The New Yorker

Life as a Dog

Magazine article The New Yorker

Life as a Dog

Article excerpt

In the U.S., we keep more than fifty million dogs as pets, but in many ways our relationship to them remains mysterious. In DOGS: A STARTLING NEW UNDERSTANDING OF CANINE ORIGIN, BEHAVIOR, AND EVOLUTION (Scribner), Raymond and Lorna Coppinger discredit the popular belief that humans created dogs by artificial selection. They suggest that wolves may have evolved into scavengers around early Mesolithic settlements--in other words, dogs may have become our best friends by accident rather than by design. The authors studied the behavior of contemporary village dogs, including the "singing" dogs of New Guinea, who mark their territory with a "musical repertoire" of "modulated yodels and, best of all, a high-pitched trill."

When the 2nd and 3rd War Dog Platoons arrived at Camp Pendleton in the fall of 1943, the elite Marines stationed there were skeptical. But as Captain William W. Putney recounts in ALWAYS FAITHFUL (Free Press), a history of the canine Marines, the other troops soon recognized the dogs' potential. …

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