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Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home: Fully Updated and Revised (Anglais) Broché – 26 avril 2011

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Part I

Chapter 1
The Domestication of Animals

Many people love their pets and are loved by them. In this chapter I explore the evolution and the nature of human-animal bonds.
But first it is important to recognize that emotional bonds between people and animals are the exception rather than the rule. For every well-loved cat or dog, hundreds of domesticated animals are confined to intensive farming systems and research laboratories. In many Third World countries beasts of burden are often treated brutally. And traditional societies are not usually subscribers to modern ideals of animal welfare. Eskimos, for example, tend to treat their huskies harshly.

But in spite of all this exploitation, abuse, and neglect, many people form bonds with animals from childhood onward. Young children are commonly given teddy bears or other toy animals, and they like hearing stories about animals. Above all, most like keeping actual animals. The majority of pets live in households with children.

Hearing tales about frightening animals, including the wolf in "Little Red Riding Hood," and forming relationships with friendly ones seems to be a normal and fundamental aspect of human nature. Indeed our nature has been shaped throughout its evolutionary history by our interactions with animals, and all human cultures are enriched by songs, dances, rituals, myths, and stories about them.

The evolution of human-animal bonds
The earliest named hominid species, known from fossil remains, are Australopithecus ramidus and Australopithecus anamensis, dating back over 4 million years. The first stone tools were used about 2 1/2 million years ago, and signs of meat eating appear about a million years later, around the time that Homo erectus spread out of Africa into Eurasia (Figure 1.1). The use of fire may have begun around 700,000 years ago. Modern humans originated in Africa about 150,000 years ago. The first cave paintings, including many of animals, appeared about 30,000 years ago. The agricultural revolution began about 10,000 years ago, and the first civilizations and written scripts about 5,000 years ago.

Our ancestors lived as gatherers and hunters, with gathering far more important than hunting. The old image of man the hunter striding confidently out onto the African veldt is a myth. Only a small proportion of the food eaten by today's hunter-gatherers comes from animals hunted by the men; most comes from gathering done mainly by women. The exceptions are the hunter-gatherers of the plant-poor Arctic regions. Hominids and early Homo sapiens obtained small amounts of meat more by scavenging the kills left by more effective predators like big cats than by hunting for themselves. Big game hunting, as opposed to scavenging, may date back only some 70,000 to 90,000 years.
In hunter-gatherer cultures, human beings do not see themselves as separate from other animals but as intimately interconnected. The specialists in communication with the nonhuman world are shamans, and through their guardian spirits or power animals, shamans connect themselves with the powers of animals. There is a mysterious solidarity between people and animals. Shamans experience themselves as being guided by animals or as changing into animals, understanding their language, and sharing in their prescience and occult powers.

The earliest domesticated dogs
The first animals to be domesticated were dogs. Their ancestors, wolves, hunted in packs, just as men hunted, and from an early stage dogs were used in hunting as well as for guarding human settlements. Their domestication predated the development of agriculture.

The conventional view is the domestication of wolves began between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago. But recent evidence from the study of DNA in dogs and wolves points to a far earlier date for the first transformation of wolf to dog, over 100,000 years ago. This new evidence also suggests that wolves were domesticated several times, not just once, and that dogs have continued to crossbreed with wild wolves.

If this theory is confirmed, it means that our ancient companionship with dogs may have played an important part in human evolution. Dogs could have played a major role in the advances in human hunting techniques that occurred some 70,000 to 90,000 years ago.
The Australian veterinarian David Paxton goes so far as to suggest that people did not so much domesticate wolves as wolves domesticated people. Wolves may have started living around the periphery of human settlements as a kind of infestation. Some learned to live with human beings in a mutually helpful way and gradually evolved into dogs. At the very least, they would have protected human settlements, and given warnings by barking at anything approaching.

The wolves that evolved into dogs have been enormously successful in evolutionary terms. They are found everywhere in the inhabited world, hundreds of millions of them. The descendants of the wolves that remained wolves are now sparsely distributed, often in endangered populations.

From the Hardcover edition.

Revue de presse

"Delightful . . . this book will turn our understanding of animals inside out."
-- Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, author of When Elephants Weep

"Wonderful . . . splendid and thought-provoking."
-- Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.5 étoiles sur 5 78 commentaires
5.0 étoiles sur 5 I love animals, I love exploring what could be beyond ... 18 juillet 2016
Par emrm - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Really interesting. I love animals, I love exploring what could be beyond our knowing through 'regular' means. Rupert Sheldrake pushes the boundaries of science in a wonderful way. Recommended!
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Excellent! Hghly recommend 18 septembre 2016
Par Boone - Publié sur
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Excellent! Hghly recommend!
7 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Amazing, Enlightening, Thought-Provoking 14 mars 2006
Par Louis N. Gruber - Publié sur
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Some dogs seem to know when their owners are coming home. No, not when they are walking up the front steps, but when they are still at the office DECIDING to come home. Some animals know when their owners are in distress or dying, far away. Some animals know when their owners are about to have a seizure, or attempt suicide.

Author Rupert Sheldrake has compiled a database of hundreds of fascinating anecdotal reports, supplemented by simple but clever research studies. He challenges us to consider these unusual but intriguing phenomena, that do not depend on physical distance or any known sensory pathways. He has a healthy respect for scientific method (and uses it when he can) but none at all for scientific dogmatism. To skeptics who discount these remarkable observations as mere "selective recall," he says, do the research and prove it.

This is a fascinating and well-written book. It was hard to put down, and in fact, I may read it again. To be sure, Sheldrake can't explain the phenomena he describes. He invokes the concept of morphic fields but can't really tell us what they are. Further research is needed, and, to his credit, Sheldrake is attempting to recruit people all over the world, to participate in just such research. Why, even you could participate. I recommend this book highly. Run out and buy it today. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
13 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Dogs That Know When Science is Changing... 29 septembre 1999
Par Un client - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Rarely do scientists break ranks to go out on their own. If they do, they are usually viewed as radicals ... not to be trusted. Rupert Sheldrake studied natural sciences at Cambridge and philosophy at Harvard. He took a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Cambridge University, was Director of Studies in biochemistry and cell biology and was also a Research Fellow of the Royal Society.
His latest book, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, is the latest in a long list of ground-breaking books that follow in the tradition of those scientists that are brave enough to ask the really difficult questions. Sheldrake is a first-rate observer and a gifted scientist. After reading his latest book, I come away with a sense, not that science has just about figured it all out, but just the opposite: we have only just begun to understand what's going on...
11 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 questions which are rarely asked - and an attempt to answer 5 juillet 2007
Par Aleksandra Nita-Lazar - Publié sur
Format: Broché
In "Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home" Rupert Sheldrake continues his quest for acknowledgement of phenomena neglected, forgotten or brushed aside by modern science. This time he focuses on the unexplained powers of animals.
Starting with the observations of pets, through behavior of wild animals, to humans, Sheldrake examines the connections and bonds between living creatures, which lead them to feel each other's emotional and physical state.

Probably all pet owners and people fond of animals have observed that some animals demonstrate behaviors that cannot be explained by genes or instinct (or, that would be too much simplified by such explanation). Wondering, how the pets know, when their owners are coming home, when some accident or death occurred, how to find a way home from an unfamiliar place even far away, when the owner intends to give them food or go for a walk, or how to recognize an attack of an illness such as diabetic coma or epileptic seizure, or even the natural disasters, like storm or earthquake, probably happened to all pet owners some time or another - and most of the time these thoughts were probably bagatelized and quickly forgotten in the face of more important everyday events.

The book is very well ordered and organized, very much like a scientific publication. After a short, introductory chapter, summarizing the history of animal domestication, Rupert Sheldrake presents the data gathered during his systematic studies, mostly through surveys in different parts of United States and Europe. The data consists of examples of pets, which exhibited behaviors described above, collected and analyzed in impressive amounts (even with statistics). Not only does he report accounts from the owners of dogs and cats, but also gives examples of horses, rabbits, birds and fish, and negative examples of pet reptiles and insects. He proceeds from these examples to the flocking and migratory behaviors of the wild animals (the linking behavior is the return home) and compares the findings to the human abilities, which, in the contemporary, civilized world, seem ridiculously meager.

The main body of the book consists of these examples and this is its strength (as a scientific argument) and weakness (as a popular book, because the lengthy lists of examples can be boring). The conclusions, however, are not very strong. Sheldrake applies here his famous hypothesis of morphic fields, which, in analogy to magnetic and electrical fields, are created by forces - yet undescribed -which are, in turn, created by social influence between individuals. The existence of morphic fields is an interesting hypothesis, but only a hypothesis. Luckily, Sheldrake admits it himself and does not push his hypothesis as a theory or as a universal truth, like some gurus of fashionable, popular "science" books. I have to give him great credit for being a scientist even though what he does is beyond the scope of contemporary science. The same goes for his explanations of animal behaviors by their ability to precognize certain events or by telepathy. Telepathy, or mind-to-mind-communication, seems especially plausible as an explanation of pets knowing their owners intentions before the owner can communicate them in any other way (body language, any sensory signal). Although telepathy is obviously his favorite explanation of communication between pets and owners, between animals in the group, and, almost lost, between humans, Sheldrake does not give it as the only explanation. He always tries to show other ones and, giving arguments for and against each one (sometimes, admittedly, not very strong) dismisses them or not. His approach reminds me very strongly of the approach of psychologists, which very often are vague as well. That is perhaps why I liked the chapters on the migratory birds most, maybe, because, as a biologist, I see most of the ecological and "harder science" in it?

At the end of the book, the methods for investigation of pet behavior are presented, so that the interested readers can try their own experiments, which are very simple and do not require much skill - only perseverance.

I like Sheldrake for pursuing his goal of presenting to the non-scientific crowd of readers the alternative or once studies, but today neglected, scientific questions, without cheap trick or want for fame. He is doing his job and I admire his work, even though I have my doubts about it. I don't think this book was supposed to convince anybody of anything (as some previous reviews suggest), it rather intends to puzzle and ask questions, making the reader realize they cannot be unequivocally answered with the current state of knowledge. This book is not his best (some are really great), mainly because of endless lists of examples, but it is good and solid.
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