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The History of Human-Animal Relations (August 2017): Hunting—Actual and Photographic

By J. Wendel Cox

Hunting—Actual and Photographic

No history of human-animal relations can neglect hunting, a human endeavor with a deep history. (And, yet, consider what comes naturally to many paleoanthropologists and primatologists: humans and other primates not as predator, but as prey; see, for example, Donna Hart and Robert W. Sussman’s provocative Man the Hunted: Primates, Prey, and Human Evolution.) One of the most insightful studies of the history of human hunting is Matt Cartmill’s A View to a Death in the Morning: Hunting and Nature through History, an anthropologist’s examination of humanity’s long, complex, and ambivalent relationship with hunting. There are numerous histories of hunting, hunting traditions, and the social, cultural, and political symbolism of hunting. Killing Animals, a collection of essays offered by the Animal Studies Group, a circle of scholars that includes Steve Baker, Jonathan Burt, Diana Donald, Erica Fudge, Garry Marvin, Robert McKay, Clare Palmer, and Chris Wilbert, emphasizes killing as humanity’s principal form of interaction with animals, including hunting, slaughter, and euthanasia in animal shelters. The book concludes with a roundtable reflecting the volume’s diverse perspectives.

Few works have explored the relationship between predator and prey as evocatively as Thad Sitton’s extraordinary Gray Ghosts and Red Rangers: American Hilltop Fox Chasing. Drawing on the letters and observations of devoted fox hunters in the pages of American periodicals serving this passionate pursuit, Sitton presents a remarkable account of the relationships among men, foxes, and hounds, which rarely ended in death. Sitton’s work is a tour-de-force by a master oral historian. Rick Bass, one of the most accomplished of today’s American essayists, draws wonderfully the close tie between hunting, place, and identity in A Thousand Deer: Four Generations of Hunting and the Hill Country, which provides an entrance into a world increasingly unknown, or even alien, for many readers.

Photography holds a curious place in the human documentation of the animal, as well as a conjunction with hunting. As Karen R. Jones notes in her exceptional Epiphany in the Wilderness: Hunting, Nature, and Performance in the Nineteenth-Century American West, photography became a means of possessing animals for many former hunters. Matthew Brower’s Developing Animals invites readers to consider how the lens changed forever how people view animals. Arnold Arluke and Robert Bogdan assemble an excellent selection of images and offer a valuable analysis of animals in postcards in their gorgeous volume Beauty and the Beast: Human-Animal Relations as Revealed in Real Photo Postcards, 1905–1935. Finally, Linda Kalof’s Looking at Animals in Human History considers animal depiction and representation across human history in both image and word, while editors Joan Landes, Paula Young Lee, and Paul Youngquist explore the representation of animals as physical beings and objects in art and everyday life over the last five centuries in Gorgeous Beasts: Animal Bodies in Historical Perspective.