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The Intimate Bond

Most histories dwell on individuals, on monarchs and rulers, nobles and generals, but also on common folk and such issues as gender relations and social inequality. The Intimate Bond attempts something different. I describe how animals and our ever-changing relationship with them, changed history. The story begins with the close relationships between hunters and their prey, relationships based on respect. Eight animals changed this relationship with the advent of food production and animal domestication about twelve thousand years ago, beginning with the dog, and then herd animals like cattle, goats, pigs, and sheep. Many animals now became servants, beasts to be exploited in the fields. By 2500 BC, they were playing a new, but inconspicuous, role in a slowly globalizing world, in what one might call a pack animal revolution. Donkeys were the first of the caravan animals, linking broad areas of the eastern Mediterranean world by trekking across arid landscapes. They were the pickup trucks of history, inconspicuous players in the turbulent story of the first civilizations. Then there were horses, initially tamed on the Eurasian steppes, the animals that when ridden annihilated distance and revolutionized warfare, both through chariotry and then cavalry. They were animals of power and prestige as well as weapons of war. The close relationship between horse and human culminated in the conquests of Genghis Khan and the mass cavalry charges at Waterloo and in the Crimea. Finally, there was the camel, a history changer once desert nomads designed saddles that enabled them to carry loads across deserts. They are said to have been so useful that wheeled carts went out of fashion throughout Southwestern Asia for centuries. Finally, The Intimate Bond examines the impact of the Industrial Revolution and growing cities on our relationship with working beasts, and the 19th-century campaigns against cruelty to animals, as well as the growing middle class obsession with pets that began in Victorian times. All of this raised complex issues that still confront us. The dilemma is simply put. Are most animals our servants, to be eaten or otherwise exploited? History provides the background, but alas, no ready solutions. The Intimate Bond is a unique journey through little known, but fascinating, chapters of human history.