• Part Wild

    Posted on February 23rd, 2014 mollyo92 No comments

    I am extremely intrigued by Part Wild so far. It’s interesting to read about domestication in this way. Up to this point in class, I’ve pictured domestication as some far, distant process that occurred thousands of years ago. I didn’t imagine the struggle and complications that must have been involved with taking wild animals and turning them into domesticated companions. Sure, we’ve mentioned that it was difficult, but I never really imagined it. But Part Wild definitely paints that picture. I understand that Terrill’s journey with Inyo is not the same process that our ancestors endured in order to domesticate wild animals, but it does show some of the struggles that a person would face as they introduced a wild (in this case part wild) animal into human civilization.  At times, I feel a deep sadness for Inyo. It’s clear she just doesn’t belong in a human world. It made me wonder how could ancient humans have pushed and pushed through this struggle for generation after generation in order to domesticate the wolf all those thousands of years ago? Especially without the modern technology like locks and electric fences. On the other hand, perhaps it was easier then, given that human society was not yet so highly developed. Thousands of years ago, newly domesticated dogs wouldn’t have to refrain from howling, tearing up linoleum, or digging up a flowerbed and face a city citation as Inyo had to. I mean, it’s clear how much easier it is for Terrill and Inyo out in the wilderness, far away from other people. It’s definitely a perplexing thought process to try and imagine exactly how domestication took place.

    Aside from my thoughts on dog domestication, I have to admit that I thought about cats very often while reading Part Wild. I know, that probably goes against every intent that ultra dog-lover Ceiridwen Terrill had in mind when she wrote the book, but just like Inyo, I can’t help my nature. I’m a cat person, plain and simple. Don’t get me wrong, I do really like dogs as well, but deep down, I’ll always just be a cat person. Despite my interest in cats, I know about as little about the domestication of cats as I do about the domestication of dogs, which is very, very little. But just based on the reading and personal experience, I think I can see some major differences. At one point, Part Wild enters a discussion about the intelligence of wolves vs dogs. Are wolves smarter because they can more easily fend for themselves, communicate with other dogs, and overall adapt to the wild? Terrill offers a somewhat half hearted rebuttal to the argument by saying that dogs would be considered smarter if we judged them on their ability to fit into human society. Well in my opinion, this is complete rubbish. And I know, it’s only my opinion, but it seems to me that dogs have simply been dumbed down to the point of only existing with permission of humans. Struggling to live independently does not equal smart in my book. It seems that Inyo, even only part wolf, is MUCH smarter than all dogs she encounters. Just look at how she can easily escape any enclosure, find her own food, and avoid dangers such as snake bites and traffic. That, to me, makes her highly intelligent. Now it could just be the biased cat person in me, but in this comparison I believe that cats seem more similar to wolves than dogs. They’re unwillingness to be trained by humans gives them an independence which seems to me to translate to intelligence. For example, my cat, who is now going on two years old, hasn’t been outside since she was a kitten. But I’m almost positive that if I released her into the wild, she could survive. At least for a while. But would say, a Chihuahua, survive? I really don’t think so. Even though she hasn’t been outside for over a year and a half, my cat still can jump 3 feet in the air and grasp a moth between her paws, she still jumps to the top of a 5 foot shelf to try to reach our hamster in its cage almost every day, and she still sits by the window and cackles loudly, wide-eyed, at every passing bird. She seems to have held on to her wild instincts, something that I think many dogs have lost. Terrill constantly discusses the way that dog food brands appeal to the wolf ancestors of the dog, when in reality most domesticated dogs lost that part of them long ago. But why does cat food never appeal to the “wild cat inside your house cat” when it seems to me that the wild side is still much more present than it is in dogs? But I’m no expert, and once again, these are most likely the biased musing of a cat lover.


    1 responses to “Part Wild” RSS icon

    • Some really interesting ideas here re: cats and intelligence! I wonder if it would be helpful to think about the different contexts for domestication of dogs vs. cats? Dogs are the oldest domesticate by far. They scavenged from and hunted with humans long before the advent of agriculture. Cats became domesticated after humans settled down and started storing grain, which attracted rodents, and then cats. How do you think that what comes across as independence and intelligence in today’s house cats reflects the circumstances of their incorporation into human society? I was just reading the other day about some exciting new finds about cat domestication here:

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