Leaving the Wild (Ehringer)

Leaving the Wild: The Unnatural History of Dogs, Cats, Cows, and Horses
Gavin Ehringer, 2017
336 pp.

A thought-provoking and surprising book that explores the ever-evolving relationship between humans and domesticated animals.

The domestication of animals changed the course of human history. But what about the animals who abandoned their wild existence in exchange for our care and protection?

Domestication has proven to be a wildly successful survival strategy. But this success has not been without its drawbacks. A modern dairy cow’s daily energy output equals that of a Tour de France rider. Feral cats overpopulate urban areas. And our methods of breeding horses and dogs have resulted in debilitating and sometimes lethal genetic diseases.

But these problems and more can be addressed, if we have the will and the compassion.

Human values and choices determine an animal’s lot in life even before he or she is born. Just as a sculptor’s hands shape clay, so human values shape our animals—for good and or ill. The little-examined, yet omnipresent act of breeding lies at the core of Gavin Ehringer's eye-opening book.

You’ll meet cows cloned from steaks, a Quarter horse stallion valued at $7.5 million, Chinese dogs that glow in the dark, and visit a Denver cat show featuring naked cats and other cuddly mutants. Is this what the animals bargained for all those millennia ago, when they first joined us by the fire? (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Award-winning journalist Gavin Ehringer is a former cowboy, a horseman, and a dog trainer. He’s written for a wide range of animal publications, including Western Horseman, The Chronicle of the Horse, Dog Fancy, and Dogster. He is also the author of five animal-related books over a career that spans thirty years. Ehringer lives in Colorado Springs. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
Animal devotees will be eager to explore Ehringer’s interpretative research…. His engrossing study presents ways humans can set and maintain high ethical and moral standards for the breeding and care of our animal partners.
Shelf Awareness

Ehringer explores how dogs, cats, cows, and horses have fared under domestication and human association.… [R]ecommended for those interested in a casual read. —Cynthia Lee Knight, Hunterdon Cty. Historical Soc., Flemington, NJ
Library Journal

Ehringer writes about the different ways dairy cattle are maintained, the 1980s craze for Arabian horses, the problem of feral-cat colonies, and the ongoing issues surrounding the dog known as the pit bull, fodder for Ehringer’s tracing of the part humans have played in the unnatural history of domestic animals.

Ehringer chronicles our changing relations — changes mostly not for the better — with the world of familiar animals.… Solid, well-reported popular science for animal lovers.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discusion for Leaving the Wild … then take off on your own:

1. In what way does Gavin Ehringer see animal domestication as a double-edged sword?

2. What does the author suggest we can do to improve the lives of the animals in our care?

3. What do you see as the best and the worst cases in terms of how we have used science in our treatment of animals?

4. Talk about pitbulls. What are some of the ongoing controversies surrounding that breed? Have you known pitbulls — either a pure bred or a mixed breed?

5. How does Ehringer view the future of the cow?

(Resources by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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