Anthropology Anthrozoology
Molly Mullin, Dafna Shir-Vertesh
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 April 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 19 March 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0072


Anthrozoology examines humans’ relationships with animals. As an interdisciplinary field, anthrozoology connects with many other disciplines, including sociology, psychology, and veterinary medicine. Additional subdivisions within anthropology include ethnoprimatology, multispecies ethnography, and zooarchaeology. The ways people perceive and interact with animals varies radically, and they have undergone tremendous change over time. For anthropologists working in anthrozoology, this diversity and change over time is of central importance. Although the scholarly study of humans’ relationships with animals has a long history, it has become more prominent in recent years as animals have emerged as the focus of a wide variety of political concerns and as the human–animal boundary has been recognized as important in understanding humans and in understanding, even rethinking, the underlying premises of modern knowledge. Anthrozoologists, positioned between the sciences and the humanities, are making important contributions to the interdisciplinary field of human–animal studies, or critical animal studies. They are also responding to practical and political issues pertaining to biodiversity conservation, the welfare of “companion animals,” and the roles of animals in food systems, science, and entertainment.

Introductory Works

Anthrozoology is a topic of interest to the general public and to people who, for a wide variety of reasons, desire to understand or influence how people interact with and think about other species. These individuals include veterinarians, teachers, activists, people working in industries that produce relevant products, conservationists, and environmental educators. The following sources are based on scholarship and are of interest to scholars, but they are written in language accessible to nonspecialists. Bulliet 2007 provides the most controversial depiction of the long history of humans with animals, dividing eras among “predomesticity,” “domesticity,” and—the present stage—“postdomesticity.” The latter stage, Bulliet 2007 argues, is one in which humans still consume and exploit animals but without direct contact with animals other than pets. King 2010 and Shipman 2011 find more continuity between past and present. Kalof and Resl 2011 emphasizes diversity of views and practices within particular historical contexts. Animals have become extremely popular media fare. Herzog 2010, offering the perspective of a psychologist interested in promoting the well-being of humans and animals, promotes skepticism and scientific research to balance the hype. Hurn 2012 provides a concise introduction to relevant scholarship in social anthropology.

  • Bulliet, Richard. 2007. Hunters, herders, and hamburgers: The past and future of human–animal relationships. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

    A historian, Bulliet draws on much archaeology and paleoanthropology in his provocative consideration of the human past and future with animals. Argues that current preoccupations and issues should be understood as part of a specific historical context.

  • Herzog, Hal. 2010. Some we love, some we hate, some we eat: Why it’s so hard to think straight about animals. New York: Harper.

    A psychologist and animal behaviorist who writes a blog for Psychology Today (Animals and Us) provides a humorous and entertaining consideration of humans’ relationships with animals. Filled with many engaging anecdotes but emphasizes how scientific research can overturn popular assumptions. Herzog’s book inspires compassion for humans and other animals.

  • Hurn, Samantha. 2012. Humans and other animals: Cross-cultural perspectives on human–animal interactions. London: Pluto.

    A clear and concise introduction by a social anthropologist. Focuses on mammals and addresses the history of anthropological contributions to anthrozoology as well as recent developments, including the rise of “human–animal studies” and anthropology’s somewhat uneasy relationship with animal advocacy and animal rights movements.

  • Kalof, Linda, and Brigitte Resl, eds. 2011. A cultural history of animals. Vols. 1–6. Oxford: Berg.

    In a series that begins with Antiquity to the Dark Ages and ends with The Modern Age, each volume contains an overview of the period as well as chapters that focus on particular topics. Available as a set and as individual volumes.

  • King, Barbara J. 2010. Being with animals: Why we are obsessed with the furry, feathered, and scaly creatures who populate our world. New York: Doubleday.

    Drawing on anthropology, archaeology, and primatology, as well as King’s experiences studying monkeys and great apes, King emphasizes the emotional power of animals in human lives. King provides a weekly contribution, usually concerning animals, to National Public Radio’s “13.7” science blog available online.

  • Shipman, Pat. 2011. The animal connection: A new perspective on what makes us human. New York: W. W. Norton.

    Paleoanthropologist Shipman synthesizes much scholarly research regarding the key role of animals in human evolutionary history for a general audience and explores continuities and discontinuities between past and current trends.

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