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Publisher's Summary

How did the dog become man’s best friend? A celebrated anthropologist unearths the mysterious origins of the unique partnership that rewrote the history of both species.

Dogs and humans have been inseparable for more than 40,000 years. The relationship has proved to be a pivotal development in our evolutionary history. The same is also true for our canine friends; our connection with them has had much to do with their essential nature and survival. How and why did humans and dogs find their futures together, and how have these close companions (literally) shaped each other? Award-winning anthropologist Pat Shipman finds answers in prehistory and the present day.

In Our Oldest Companions, Shipman untangles the genetic and archaeological evidence of the first dogs. She follows the trail of the wolf-dog, neither prehistoric wolf nor modern dog, whose bones offer tantalizing clues about the earliest stages of domestication. She considers the enigma of the dingo, not quite domesticated yet not entirely wild, who has lived intimately with humans for thousands of years while actively resisting control or training. Shipman tells how scientists are shedding new light on the origins of the unique relationship between our two species, revealing how deep bonds formed between humans and canines as our guardians, playmates, shepherds, and hunters.

Along the journey together, dogs have changed physically, behaviorally, and emotionally, as humans too have been transformed. Dogs’ labor dramatically expanded the range of human capability, altering our diets and habitats and contributing to our very survival. Shipman proves that we cannot understand our own history as a species without recognizing the central role that dogs have played in it. 

©2021 by Pat Shipman (P)2021 by Blackstone Publishing

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What listeners say about Our Oldest Companions

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting, but not what I expected

this was described as a "story", so I expected a much more conversational, accessible narrative. Instead, Pat Shipman goes into excruiciating details around DNA, chromosomes and mutations among verious dog remains throughout the world. I'm pretty detail oriented but I got a bit lost sometimes, although maybe just bored with the details is more applicable. Mr. Shipman should have focused more on the human-dog relationships and what evidence remains as to what that relationship was like vs. the genetics.

4 people found this helpful

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  • ds
  • 11-20-21

History of the Dingo

Decent listen but felt more like a book about dingos. would have liked to hear more examples of companionship.

2 people found this helpful

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Great until……

It started out so promising but devolved into highly scientific study of areas that had little to do with what the layman would understand about dogs of today. I really wanted to love this, but ended up being WAY too technical.

1 person found this helpful

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FROM WOLF TO DINGO

The writer stated her beliefs and backed them up with facts. Lassie would be proud.

1 person found this helpful

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off topic, I think?

I'm going to ignore the false implication modern humans are a direct evolution from Neanderthals, just to keep this short. but the author went into great detail about how Australia had no wolves but still described the entire history of man on Australia. can we agree that Australia didn't have a place in the domestication because lack of wolves means they brought there dogs with them? maybe I got confused as the author tried to explain unessicary scientific facts and timeliness? I feel like this was supposed to be a books about man and dog. man left his dog home this day and this book is about man, from the authors interpretation

1 person found this helpful

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Dogs and Humans Forever

I’ve never been a big dog person, but since my niece got a puppy who stays with my family during the day so my mother-in-law can watch her, I have started to warm to our four-legged friends. This book examines what we know and can speculate about how humans and dogs began a friendship that has lasted tens of thousands of years. In doing so, it also looks quite a bit at our earliest forebearers.

There was a ton of information here that came as a surprise to me. For example, apparently many Neanderthal had blue eyes and freckles. (Not sure why that hasn’t come up in my previous readings.) By far the best part of the book for me was the many chapters spent on Australia, which has a very unique settlement pattern that notably didn’t include dogs in the beginning.

Overall, this is a great book to introduce you to the origins of humans interacting with dogs.

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very technical not an easy read or listen.

Reads like a thesis. Very technical and strays often into. human development and early man's migration than what I anticipated. Not an easy read or listen on man's best friend.

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great book

the narrator has a good voice, but the pronunciation was a little distracting. love the topic and author

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more about the companion?than the dog

wanted to learn something about dogs. could not get past the tedium about "man" DNA

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too far from topic

I usually finish books but could not make it through this one. I found the book to be more about her conception of human history than about human history related to dog history and I don't trust her insight particularly about that topic. Perhaps I am familiar with recent developments.

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  • Bill McPherson
  • 01-15-22

highly informative

the book was much wider in scope than I had initially expected. it was very insightful.
Kate did a wonderful narration

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  • starsunderwater
  • 12-22-21

A little tedious with some interesting facts

The history of dogs and dingoes in Australia as well as their relationship to first nations people were an unexpected and interesting history lesson. The author is exploring the topic, and if this is kept in mind there are many interesting points. I got too far into it to quit, but am relieved I finished!

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  • Cheryl
  • 12-06-21

dogs

really enjoyed the journey of dog evolution and their bonding with humans. good read, sometimes rather heavy on the jargon.

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  • Justin
  • 11-19-21

Great for anyone interested in the development of the canine human bond.

This is the follow up to The Invaders I was hoping for.

Great for anyone interested in the development of the canine human bond.