Prof. Pat Shipman

Pat Shipman showing how animals were intimately involved in the development of early humans.

Yesterday’s fascinating post was predominately taken up by a long and deeply interesting essay by Prof. Pat Shipman, The Woof at the Door.

Today, I want to report further on Pat Shipman primarily by looking at her book The Animal Connection.

What makes us human?

Let me do no more than quote from page 259,

Domesticating animals provided a new sort of benefit.  They were living tools first and meat sources later, only when their useful lives were over or circumstances required.  The crucial importance of animal domestication in modern life shows that our relationship with animals selected for a set of communication skills and abilities to observe, draw conclusions and make connections among different observations that had been increasingly important since at least 2.6 million years ago.  The relationship between such skills and modern behaviors that characterize humanity is clear.

Prof. Shipman also confirms that the first domestication was of the dog at 32,000 years ago and goes on to say,

Other types of domestic animals provide enhanced protection for people, dwellings, stored crops, and other livestock.  Dogs and cats are the obvious examples, but herders have recently started touting llamas as guardians for flocks of sheep.

The domesticated carnivores also provide important assistance in hunting.  Dogs are better trackers than humans; they are faster runners, take larger prey, and will hunt with humans.  Cats hunt solitarily and are far superior to humans at catching rodents that can decimate crops or carry disease.  Dogs hunt with you; cats hunt for you; but both offer an advantage. (p.254)

As I said, it’s a fascinating book and one that is already reshaping my knowledge about the early evolution of man.  And in terms of reshaping knowledge about early man, do go across to Pat Shipman’s Blog, The Animal Connection.

You can read a full review with links to a number of book sellers here.  Let me close by using this praise for the book by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson.  (Masson’s book Dogs Never Lie About Love is just a few feet from me as I write this, a deeply moving book for all dog lovers.)

This is what Jeffrey Masson wrote about The Animal Connection,

Pat Shipman has written one of the most important books on the human-animal connection ever.  One might even say it is the single most important book, possibly the only one, to look at our deep connection to animals over the entire evolutionary history of our species.

The oldest bond in the world!

8 thoughts on “Prof. Pat Shipman

  1. Doing a bit of a catch-up on Pat Shipman posts, Paul. Sorry for taking my eye off the ball. Even though I do not have a dog, both posts are very interesting; and make me wonder what happened 32k years ago to make humans start domesticating dogs. Without checking, that sounds like it would have been in the depths of the last Ice Age – with woolly mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers on the prowl…


    1. Martin, we’re back in Payson tomorrow so I can run with stuff now. I’m about a third of the way into Pat’s book and I’m hoping she will explore that early bonding between the grey wolf and man.


  2. I have seen all sorts of numbers for domestication of wolves, from 12K to 100K… I am dubious about all theories beyond the hard facts in paleontology… This being said, I have come up with my own, sometimes…


      1. The point is that we need facts and datation. I have seen articles about domestication of cattle going back 22,000 years ago (!!) It’s also possible species were domesticated then lost (as happened in Middle Ages, as 2 African species, cheetah and genettes were domesticated).
        Related and incontrovertible, it seems: neanderthals exterminated cave bears, circa 55,000 BCE…. Neanderthals not HSS…


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