Monday, November 14, 2011

HOW THE DOG BECAME THE DOG author Mark Derr in the Wall Street Journal, Interviews with and Fresh Air

Whether they are stealing scenes on the silver screen or reppin' the 99% in Denver, CO, everyone can agree that dogs occupy a special place in the hearts and minds of humans the world over. But how much do we actually know about our four-legged friends? Dog expert Mark Derr, author of How the Dog Became the Dog (available now) has made a career out of exploring the dog/human relationship, debunking myths through scientific research and canine journalism. In recent essays and interviews with the Wall Street Journal, Salon, and NPR, Derr sheds light on the evolutionary history of man's best friend.

In the WSJ, Derr brings a fresh perspective to an ancient artifact: 26,000 year old paw prints left behind in the Chauvet Cave of southern France. "Attributing that paw print to a dog or even to a socialized wolf has been controversial since it was first proposed a decade ago. It would push back by some 12,000 years the oldest dog on record. More than that: Along with a cascade of other new scientific findings, it could totally rewrite the story of man and dog and what they mean to each other." Below, Derr discusses the latest scientific findings that challenge the consensus model of dog domestication with WSJ's Christina Tsuei.

In a recent interview with's Emma Mustich, Derr delves into the co-evolutionary development shared between humans and dogs and reveals some unexpected similarities, from pack behavior to language. "I sometimes think dogs understand us better than we understand them. But the remarkable thing is that [dogs and humans] do understand each other to such a degree. We can understand a dog’s bark, and what his or her body language means, probably better in some cases than we can understand the behavior of other people."

Few understand how the relationship between animals and humans can have an effect on physical evolution, but on NPR's Fresh Air, Derr looks at this process through the lens of hunting game on the trail. "The wolf could say, 'These people are far more profligate hunters than we are. When they go out, they always leave a surplus. It's easier for us to take the scraps that they have than to hunt ... Hunting is a highly energetic activity. And they could learn from each other, just by observing each other." Listen to the full interview with Dave Davies below.

How the Dog Became the Dog combines the most recent genetic and archaeological research to create a unique insight into the joint history of humans and their closest animal companions. Derr sheds light on a question that may never be fully answered: Did humans shape the development of dogs, or did dogs create an environment that allowed human societies to flourish? For the latest from Mark Derr, be sure to check out his blog, Dog Bytes.

Praise for How the Dog Became the Dog

"Derr's affinity for canines comes through strongly, and the book appeals to dog lovers with a curiousity about the origins of their favorite companion." -Publisher's Weekly

"An essential read for dog lovers." -Booklist

"A transporting slice of dog/wolf thinking that will pique the interest of anyone with a dog in their orbit." -Kirkus

1 comment:

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