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The earliest evidence of a human and a pet can be traced as far back as 26,000 BC in France where a boy and his 'canid' took a walk through a cave. Their foot and paw prints were preserved together on the muddy cave floor, and smoke from the torch the boy carried was left on the walls, allowing archaeologists to carbon-date their journey. And so, the story unfolds, from these prehistoric days all the way up to the present, of humans' innate and undeniable need to live in the close company of animals.
In The Animal's Companion, acclaimed social anthropologist and author of Red: A History of the Redhead, Jacky Colliss Harvey turns her keen eye for cultural investigation and compelling storytelling skills to the history of animals as our companions in the everyday and in adversity. She explores the development of our interest in breeding and accessorising our pets; the connection, in the early nineteenth century, of animals and childhood (from Black Beauty to Lassie); our desire to mourn our pets and send them to the afterlife; and the when, how, and why all of these attitudes have developed over time.
Along the way Colliss Harvey regales us with wonderful stories of famous, endearing, and sometimes eccentric pet owners throughout history.
Jacky Colliss Harvey is a writer and editor. She studied English at Cambridge University and History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She has worked in museum publishing for the last 20 years and is a commentator and reviewer who speaks in both the UK and abroad on the arts and popular culture. She divides her time between London and New York. Her last book was Red: A History of the Redhead.
"[A] lively exploration [...] Colliss Harvey has an eye for surprising details and a lovely way with description."
– Sunday Times
"An engaging, insightful consideration of how anthropomorphism, cruelty, egocentrism, empathy, realism and sentimentality have blended and blurred across centuries – teaching us a vast amount about animals, and even more about ourselves."
– Irish Times
"Both erudite and entertaining [...] Anyone who has ever loved an animal, which is surely most of us, will find it to be a profound, witty and moving account of that bond."
– Glasgow Herald
"Tremendously erudite [...] beautifully illustrated [...] for all its research into deeper matters, the real pleasure of The Animal's Companion lies in its stories. And they come thick and fast."
– The Spectator
"Informative, irresistible, quirky and deeply perceptive. Anyone who has ever loved a creature should read this book."
– Sir Roy Strong