This is not a cosy dog-lover's book for casual reading.
It’s tough going, with facts from archaeological to zoological packed tighter than sardines in a tin, and some of it – the stuff about DNA in particular – is almost incomprehensible. But if you can get past the dense argument and the author’s over-wordy academic style, it’s a fascinating read. Basically, everyone is agreed that the domesticated pooch evolved from the wolf, but it isn’t clear how this happened or when - was it tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of years ago? One school of thought is that humans reared orphaned wolf cubs which became domesticated and as they mated with each other they gradually produced a new strain of animal which became the dog. The other opinion seems to be that some wolves recognised that being around humans had advantages and they pretty much domesticated themselves, evolving into the dog.
Naturalist and dog expert Mark Derr is the author of several books about dogs, including A Dog's History of America, which travels through time and across continents in his attempt to unravel the mystery of the origins of man’s best friend . There’s a distinct American bias and some of the arguments are heavyweight and scientific, but Derr's passion for dogs shines through.