[UCP Books]: What Is a Dog? by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger

“If you thought you knew what a dog was, better check this book out. The Coppingers explore the domestic dog in relation to its wild relatives in a way only these authors can. You’ll visit such places as Istanbul, Mexico City, South Africa, and Baffin Island and also learn about such non-dogs as pigeons, vultures, codfish, and hummingbirds. Didn’t know about the dog’s ecological niche? Its behavioral ecology? Its symbiotic relationships? The Coppingers will fill you in and forever make you more appreciative of your pet’s complexity.”
L. David Mech, coauthor of
Wolves on the Hunt 

What Is a Dog?
Raymond and Lorna Coppinger

US Publication: April 25, 2016 / International Publication: May 30, 2016
Cloth ISBN-13: 978-0-226-12794-1 / $30.00 / £21.00

Is your dog or your neighbor’s dog—wearing its fashionable sweater and snow boots, dieting on organic kibble, and lounging on a cushy pouf—a real dog? Not at all, say Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, experts on dog behavior. Focusing on the ten million dogs roaming the planet as their own masters—neighborhood dogs, dump dogs, mountain dogs—the Coppingers reveal that these feral dogs are the true dogs of the world. They are dogs, not companions, and they are highly adapted scavengers who have evolved to fit particular niches in the vicinity of humans. In What Is a Dog? the Coppingers present an eye-opening analysis of the evolution and adaptations of these unleashed dogs and what they can reveal about the species as a whole.

The Coppingers explain how the village dogs of Vietnam, India, Africa, and Mexico are strikingly similar. These feral dogs, argue the Coppingers, are in fact the truly representative dogs, nearly uniform in size and shape and incredibly self-sufficient. They show how dogs actually domesticated themselves in order to become such efficient scavengers of human refuse. Providing a fascinating exploration of what it actually means—genetically and behaviorally—to be a dog, it will undoubtedly change the way any beagle or bulldog owner will reflect on their four-legged friend.


Raymond Coppinger is professor emeritus of biology at Hampshire College. Lorna Coppinger is a biologist and science writer. Their books together include Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior, and Evolution, also published by the University of Chicago Press. They are available for interviews. Please contact Carrie Olivia Adams at (773) 702-4216 or coa@press.uchicago.edu




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