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A Perfect Harmony: The Intertwining Lives of Animals and Humans Throughout History

Overview

What would today's world be like if man had not domesticated animals? This is the question that celebrated animal expert Roger Caras explores in A Perfect Harmony. A fascinating and colorful combination of history, anthropology, and personal experience, the book examines animal species both familiar and exotic in order to illustrate their monumental impact on the development of civilization. Accessible, absorbing, and wonderfully appealing, A Perfect Harmony illuminates a vital but virtually ignored aspect of ...
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Overview

What would today's world be like if man had not domesticated animals? This is the question that celebrated animal expert Roger Caras explores in A Perfect Harmony. A fascinating and colorful combination of history, anthropology, and personal experience, the book examines animal species both familiar and exotic in order to illustrate their monumental impact on the development of civilization. Accessible, absorbing, and wonderfully appealing, A Perfect Harmony illuminates a vital but virtually ignored aspect of human history: the partnership between man and domestic animals through the ages. At the dawn of civilization, Caras asserts, man alone was unable to take the giant steps necessary to achieve our current levels of technology and sophistication. But at each stage in our cultural evolution, he writes, domesticated animals enabled us to move on to the next level. The extent of our dependence upon these animals - which have provided us with food, clothes, shelter, and means of transport - is beyond calculation. By turns wicked and wry, passionate and poignant, Caras illustrates how every domesticated animal from the reindeer to the silkworm has provided some valuable service to its human masters and has, in many cases, altered the course of history.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Caras views humanity's ascent from Stone Age hunter-gatherers to modern apartment-dwelling cat- and dog-owners as inextricably woven with animals. As beasts of burden, means of transport, protein source, animals made possible agricultural surpluses, triggered cultural cross-pollination, facilitated the invention of wheeled vehicles, roads, languages. Moreover, our intense personal interaction with animals refined human emotions. Sheep breeding in Mesopotamia, reindeer as spiritual companions to Norse shamans, pet dogs in ancient Greece and Japan, swan-keeping in 10th-century Britain and diverse cultures' relationships with birds, horses, camels, cows, goats, fish, bees, elephants, ferrets and other creatures are elucidated as bestselling animal authority Caras, president of the ASPCA, skillfully blends history, zoology, folklore and anecdote. He writes with deep reverence for the animal kingdom, and this delightful, enlightening book, beautifully illustrated with sensitive, detailed drawings, will enhance one's perception of history, the human species and the sentient creatures with whom we share the planet. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Humanity's relationship with animals both domestic and wild is a topic not often discussed as a part of history. It is a vital aspect of human history, however, as the domestication of animals had a monumental impact on human affairs, making much of human progress possible-exploration, travel, agriculture, and the birth of industry. Caras is the current president of the ASPCA as well as a prolific author of articles and books on pets and wildlife. Here he offers a unique, and sometimes surprising, discussion of our continuing life with animals. Devoting each chapter to a particular species-goats, sheep, dogs, cattle, elephants, etc.-he introduces the reader to the unique characteristics of each species and gives a brief history of its development. The book is well written and researched and is logically organized. As there is little literature on this topic, A Perfect Harmony will be of interest both to curious lay readers and scholars in the field.-Deborah Emerson, Monroe Community Coll., Rochester, N.Y.
Kirkus Reviews
An informative, insightful, though also rather dry history of animal domestication through the ages, by ASPCA president Caras, author of numerous fine works on pets and wildlife (The Cats of Thistle Hill, 1994, etc.).

As Caras defines it, domestication is "the shaping of a species by man, using selective breeding to replace natural selection." In studiously reviewing the origins and probable methods of domestication, as well as the ancestry of all manner of animals, from goats and horses in the Stone Age to camels and elephants around 4000 b.c., to ferrets and cats in more recent years, Caras explains how "animals have played a vital role in man's evolutionary course." For example, having a ready supply of goats at hand allowed humans to travel in desert and mountain areas for the first time, and also enabled the once-nomadic human race "to feed ever-growing concentrations of people, allowing towns and later cities to grow." And the Industrial Revolution was spawned at least in part, says Caras, by the huge flocks of sheep that grazed in Europe at the beginning of the 18th century, providing both wealth and wool to fuel the change. Along the way, though, there have been numerous downsides to domestication. The very goat that "led man out of the darkness of the cave . . . has today, by the billions, stripped the vegetation off the land and changed the face of continents." And feral animals—domesticated species that have wound up back in the wild—have wreaked havoc on wildlife in many areas of the world. Throughout, Caras is steadfast in repeating a specific moral message: that domesticated animals are generally treated cruelly though they give us much, and that we need to be more caring and compassionate toward them.

A conglomeration of fact, lore, and speculation, of primary interest to the natural history buff rather than the usual Caras followers.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641014239
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/14/1997
  • Edition description: First Fireside Edition
  • Pages: 271

Table of Contents

Foreword 13
Time Line: 100,000 Years of Human History 15
Preface: What If? 19
1 The Other Scenario 23
2 The Goat: The Animal That Changed the History of Man 45
3 The Sheep: From Fiber to Factory 55
4 Reindeer: The Only Domestic Deer in the World 67
5 The Dog: The Animal That Forever Changed the Emotions of Man 74
6 Cattle: A Fierce Giant Subdued 91
7 The Buffalo, the Banteng and the Yak: Icons of Other Cultures 103
8 Swine: Meat for the Table of Everyman 111
9 The Elephant: Man's Most Powerful Servant 123
10 The Camel Family: Reluctant Facilitators 130
11 The Horse: Energy and the Servant of Man 140
12 The Ass, the Donkey and the Mule: The Priceless Plodders 151
13 The Cat: Goddess or Devil? 159
14 The Mongoose and the Ferret: On Silent Patrol 166
15 The Cavy and the Dormouse: Small Feasts 173
16 The Rat, the Mouse and "Shelf Pets": Lesser Accomplishments 178
17 The Rabbit: Food for All 185
18 Fur-Bearers: In the Name of Vanity 190
19 The Chicken: At Every Table, in Every Pot 199
20 The Turkey: For Special Occasions 204
21 The Duck, the Goose and the Swan: Fine-Feathered Friends 211
22 The Pigeon, the Falcon and Other Birds: Special Niches 218
23 Companion Birds: Connections to the Wild 225
24 Fish, the Silkworm and the Bee: Finery and Food 230
25 Past Failures and Future Hopes 241
An Afterword 247
Glossary 249
Bibliography 253
Index 259
About the Author 272
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