"Intriguing . . . Derr's book seeks to get at the existential mystery of that ancient link between people and dogs." --Los Angeles Times
"Derr's richly detailed, well-sourced research, however, offers a full plate of choices and razor-sharp analysis to help you connect the dots while not undermining the authenticity of the big picture." --Seattle Kennel Club
"An accessible and informative history that's sympathetic and illuminating." --Salon.com
Reaching back into murky prehistory to determine just when, where, and how the wolf joined forces with early man to become the domesticated dog we know today has long proven difficult. With this informative account, Derr (Dog's Best Friend) takes on the challenge of untangling the limited, often contradictory findings available from archeological digs and genetic studies to seek the dog's origins. Rejecting the argument once prevalent among biologists, that dogs evolved from wolves that hung around prehistoric villages to scavenge, Derr delineates instead a past in which wolves and humans teamed up to bring down more game and to reap other advantages from each other's company, in a process made inevitable by the similarity of their social natures and pack hunting techniques. Sadly, Derr's envisioning of this ancient friendship falls prey to sentimentality: "I can almost see through the occluded lens of time three wolves lazing outside the cave mouth," begins one hazy scene. And the book's catalogue of prehistory and Neanderthal stomping grounds could do with a bit more focus: some chapters jump around desultorily or lose focus. Still, Derr's real affinity for canines comes through strongly, and the book should appeal to dog lovers with a curiosity about the origins of their favorite companion. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"A transporting slice of dog/wolf thinking that will pique the interest of anyone with a dog in their orbit." Kirkus
Derr (A Dog's History of America,2004, etc.) explores various scenarios on the road to the long, fruitful relationship between dogs and humans.
"Among the broader population of Pleistocene wolves and human were individuals who by virtue of extreme sociability and curiosity, or both, became best friends and compatriots after encountering each other on the trail," writes the author in this rangy, critically stimulating and warm book. Derr begins with an overview of behavioral and biological experiments and models and theories, which becomes a dirge-like march, perhaps because readers know that he is going to pick many of them apart. So much new information comes in daily regarding dog studies that the ground is always shaky. But there are a number of ideas, backed by research and evidence, which Derr unfolds in a quietly stirring manner. The first is that wolves and humans were drawn together by their mutual sociability and curiosity, and that they stayed together thanks to mutual utility. All evidence places the first dogs at the camps of hunters, so the old notion that humans and dogwolves first made acquaintance around the local dumpster can be laid to rest. "Rather it was an animal capable of forming an active friendship with a creature from another species," and, absent proof otherwise, likely consensual, in response to the needs and desires of both. Indeed, being able to manage anger and fear, control assertiveness and restraint and moderate one's appetite is more wolf than primate behavior. Derr also provides a striking geographical analysis of mixing grounds ("a biological and a cultural process involving two highly mobile species") and enjoyable illustrative scenarios as he imagines specific events taking place.
A transporting slice of dog/wolf thinking that will pique the interest of anyone with a dog in their orbit.