Wild Horses at the National Zoo

The so-called wild mustangs who roam the American West are actually descended from domestic animals, and are thus technically feral mustangs. In fact, most of the world’s free-ranging horses are feral, though there is one famous exception. The horses who roam the Mongolian highlands, known to science and history as Przewalski horses, have never consented to Read More …

Basket of Adorables

One of the benefits of studying the history of animals is that you occasionally come across images like this one in the archives. Vermont studio H.C. White and Co. photographed this basket of puppies for the stereoscope in 1906, and the stereo card is now housed at the Library of Congress. In fact, the Library contains Read More …

Panikpah the Survivor

Dogs played a critically important role in late-nineteenth-century polar exploration, but they often paid a steep price for their participation. During one especially treacherous expedition across the “Great Ice” of northern Greenland in 1895, the famed explorer Robert Peary lost 41 out of the 42 dogs he brought with him. The lone survivor, a dog named Panikpah, Read More …

Porcineograph, 1875

Sometimes you discover treasures in the archives on your own, and sometimes it’s through word of mouth. I first learned about this map, titled “Porcineograph (1875),” from Slate Vault, one of my favorite historical resources on the web. The map was commissioned by William Emerson Baker to help promote his belief in hygienic farming. It’s a Read More …

Window to the Soul

In the early nineteenth century, naturalists spent considerable time drawing animal eyes in exquisite detail. My favorite example is featured below (and sampled above). Titian Ramsay Peale drew these “Indian dogs” in the spring of 1820, and his illustration is housed at the American Philosophical Society (link here). If you’d like to learn more about the artist, you’ll be happy to Read More …

Native American dog, 1585

In  1585, approximately 600 prospective colonists left England en route for the New World. Though stormy seas forced them into a brief layover on Puerto Rico, the colonists eventually arrived in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and started building a fort on Roanoke Island. Within five years, the colony and all of its colonists had vanished. The Read More …

Extreme Varieties

Now that Feral Animals in the American South has finally gone to press, I thought I’d make good on my promise to share goodies from the cutting-room floor, and to promote the book with shameless abandon. This magnificent photograph first appeared in Charles Henry Lane’s Dogs Shows and Doggy People (London: Hutchinson & Company, 1902). The Read More …

Sounding the Old Wolf Cry

NOTE: This post first appeared on the Smithsonian Institution Archives’ official blog, The Bigger Picture, on September 14, 2013. Click here to visit the original post. While researching my last blog post on the “mad wolf” who escaped from the National Zoo, I came across an old black-and-white photograph in the Smithsonian Institution Archives that Read More …

Time 100 Animals

In case you missed it, Time magazine recently published its first-ever list of the year’s 100 most influential animals. Absurd? Maybe. Probably. But that doesn’t mean it’s not awesome. As one who studies the history of animals for a living, I welcome any effort to shed light on our complicated relationship with other creatures. Especially since those efforts Read More …

“Wild Horses on Core Island” (1946)

Title: “Wild horses fighting on Core Island” Date: 1946 Photographer: Thomas D. McAvoy Source: Life Magazine URL: http://images.google.com/hosted/life/09a92ae45d639b26.html Notes: This photograph was taken in the Outer Banks of North Carolina during the summer of 1946. Despite the photograph’s title, the horse in this image is technically feral rather than wild.

Mountain Gorillas

Few megafaunal species are more iconic than mountain gorillas, and few are now more threatened. According to our best estimates, there are fewer than 900 mountain gorillas left in their home range, the Virunga Mountains of central Africa. Although scientists have monitored these primates for more than fifty years, they have performed surprisingly few genetic Read More …

Desert Canaries

If you find yourself anywhere near the nation’s capital this weekend, you’re free to join me at the annual meeting of the American Society for Environmental History, where I’ll be giving a talk on the history of feral burros in the American West. If that somehow fails to persuade you, then you can learn about Read More …

Vaccinating Wild Chimpanzees

The world’s chimpanzee population is shrinking. There are now barely 150,000 chimpanzees left on Earth, fifty-percent fewer than there were just fifty years ago. By comparison, there are now more than 7,181,650,000 humans roaming the planet. There are both scientific and ethical reasons why we should try to save the species with whom we share Read More …