As an animal lover, I see the true value of animals and their important place at our side: the dog that was my best friend as a teenager; the horses I rode (or more accurately sat on and held on, for dear life!) whenever I could, to see the countryside from a different viewpoint; watching the animals at the zoo where I was a keeper for a short time – I was fascinated by all, but especially the chimpanzee and the wolf.

Helpful animals often means ‘beasts of burden’ such as donkey and horse, or ‘guide’ like the seeing-eye dog. Fagan covers these and many, many more – in fact this is an extensive history of a massive raft of creatures working for and with humans to aid activity and adventure, without which some elements would not have happened as they did. So animals helped shape our past, and of course we theirs.

Through an in-depth analysis of six truly transformative animal-human relationships, Fagan shows how our habits and our very way of life were considerably and irreversibly altered by our intimate bond with animals. Fagan explores how herding changed human behaviour, how the humble donkey helped launch the process of globalization, and how the horse helped to open up many lands including toppling the Emperor of China. Fagan’s writing is revealing and humorous – in the chapter ‘Animals Designed by God’ he describes camels as “horses created by committee” – so no wonder he is a LA Times bestseller.

The book dedication reads: “Our beasts, numerous and ever changing as they are. This history is for them.” We should, as people ‘for’ the environment’, aim to not ever take the ‘beasts’ for granted!

Henricus Peters


The Intimate Bond: How Animals Shaped Human History. Brian Fagan. Bloomsbury Press ISBN 9781620405727. 307 pages

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