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The Lost History of the Canine Race by Mary Elizabeth Thurston

May 21st, 2008 · · Book Reviews

“The Lost History of the Canine Race” by Mary Elizabeth Thurston is a scholarly book much enriched by a great deal of very detailed research that traces both the known history of dogs and speculates about dogs in the time before recorded history. The histories of humankind and canines are inextricably interwoven. Thurston illustrates this point by citing sources as diverse as aboriginal legends, archaeological scholarship, and a history of the development of commercial dog food. A very wide ranging survey of the subject matter it is a fascinating examination of the human/canine relationship from its inception to the present time.

There is much in this book that is not common knowledge. For example, the fact that dogs were immune,by virtue of an innate resistance, to the plague that swept Europe in feudal times resulting in their becoming the objects of fearful superstitions by a terrified populace. Consequently, they were shunned by most people and left to form scavenging feral bands.

How did kibble come into existence? Apparently, a young lightning conductor salesman named James Spratt saw a large pack of homeless dogs on a London dock ravenously eating the discarded spoiled hardtack and this gave him the idea of manufacturing a biscuit for dogs. His recipe was composed of wheat, beetroot, various vegetables and beef blood.

Queen Victoria’s well known passion for her large and various collection of purebred dogs gave rise to a desire on the part of the burgeoning middle class to express their desire for upward social mobility by acquiring pure bred dogs for themselves. Needless to say that this had a significant effect on the genetic future of the dog.

For dog lovers with a historical bent this book will inform and entertain.

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