cover image First Friends: A History of Dogs and Humans

First Friends: A History of Dogs and Humans

Katharine M. Rogers, . . St. Martin's, $24.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-312-33188-7

This graceful and charming study by the author of The Cat and the Human Imagination should please social historians as much as dog lovers. Rogers has researched the role dogs have played in society from ancient civilizations to the present. Her careful analysis is buttressed by literary references throughout the centuries, such as Jack London's White Fang, Virginia Woolf's Flush and excerpts from Shakespeare. It wasn't until the 19th century, she notes, that dogs became thought of primarily as companions. Before then, they were hunters, herders and guarders whose job it was to protect houses and property (although early Egyptian wall paintings depict dogs as both hunters and beloved family members). Rogers documents how working dogs were forced to pull heavy carts beyond their abilities and subjected to other cruel treatment. For instance, bullbaiting (for which the original bulldog was bred) was a form of entertainment for 16th-century crowds that maimed and killed many animals. With dogs seen more as companions in the 19th century, systematic classification of breeds became popular, leading at mid-19th century to the development of the competitive show. Rogers well understands and portrays the symbiotic relationship between people and their dogs. Photos not seen by PW . (Aug.)