What Is a Dog offers important evidence for both sides of the debate on street dogs from one of the world’s foremost canine researchers
Dog lovers and dog haters on both sides of India’s fight over the culling of street dogs would do well to read Raymond and Lorna Coppinger’s fascinating and entertaining new book, What Is a Dog? Based on the husband-and-wife team’s decades of research, as well as a long study of the street dogs that live in Mexico City’s garbage dumps, the book offers convincing evidence that the lowly ‘stray dog’ is actually the truest exemplar of canine familiaris.
They also note two points that India cannot afford to ignore. The number of street dogs waxes and wanes based primarily on the amount of garbage and human faeces they have
to eat. Moreover, even in the United States, where street dogs are rare, only about half of the canine population is under what they call ‘reproductive control’. That suggests that it’s naïve to hope to curb canine population growth through sterilisations alone. But the Coppingers also hint that protecting ‘purebreds’ while killing street dogs is like breeding white tigers in captivity while wiping out the ‘ordinary’ kind.
That’s only the beginning of the book’s charms. A dog person’s version of Jared Diamond’s bestselling Guns, Germs and Steel, it also offers near-irrefutable arguments in favour of the theory that dogs ‘domesticated themselves’ and convincingly answers many other hotly debated questions about the origin of the species.
What Is a Dog? By Raymond Coppinger & Lorna Coppinger University of Chicago Press 240 pages Rs 1,590