A Dog's History of the World: Canines and the Domestication of Humans

By Varnon-Hughes, Stephanie | Anglican Theological Review, Fall 2015 | Go to article overview

A Dog's History of the World: Canines and the Domestication of Humans


Varnon-Hughes, Stephanie, Anglican Theological Review


A Dogs History of the World: Canines and the Domestication of Humans. By Laura Hobgood-Oster. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2014. vii + 188 pp. $29.95 (cloth).

Many of us have had our lives made more enjoyable, more fulfilling, and more whole with the companionship of a dog. Sometimes we admit this sheepishly, purchasing holiday or birthday gifts for our pets, but with a selfeffacing sense of humor. And sometimes, when a working animal saves a loved one from isolating disability, or when we lose a beloved pet, we are absolutely earnest about the power of an animals love.

In A Dogs History of the World: Canines and the Domestication of Humans, Laura Hobgood-Oster traces how human history intersects-and grew to be intertwined with-the history of domesticated dogs. Not only did we become socialized and domesticated together, alongside our working and pet animals, our dogs have served us in a range of relationships as varied as human vocations and needs. For example, fifteen thousand years ago, dogs were our partners in hunting and herding. Rock carvings dating from the third to the first millennium in Armenia reveal that dogs were already helping humans guard and herd animals, and were even serving as household companions. Burial sites of dogs ranging from the Iron Age in Rome, to Japan between 8,500 and 8,000 years ago, to the Victorian age in England, and to North American pet cemeteries in the early twentieth century document the ways we humans have mourned and buried our workmates and companions.

Details about burial sites reveal that sometimes dogs were intended to help us enter the afterlife, or protect us in the next world. Some dogs- across centuries and in every place where canines lived with humans-were buried with food, with pillows or blankets, or with little glass bowls of water. Dogs were often buried with their human companions; Hobgood-Oster shares poignant details of such burial sites that remind contemporary readers that we have had dog-loving kindred spirits in eveiy generation.

Not all of our interactions have been as heart-warming or simple, however. For example, Hobgood-Oster identifies painful histories of puppies serving as ritual sacrifices, controversies surrounding working dogs in the military, and how war and trauma often leave dogs unable to work or seen as war materials to euthanize and be discarded. In addition to being used as tools of war, dogs have been used to incite fear and facilitate colonizing empires in the Americas and wherever oppression and horror have sought to conquer peoples. …

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