Synopses & Reviews
From the time of our earliest childhood encounters with animals, we casually ascribe familiar emotions to them. But scientists have long cautioned against such anthropomorphizing, arguing that it limits our ability to truly comprehend the lives of other creatures. Recently, however, things have begun to shift in the other direction, and anthropologist Barbara J. King is at the forefront of that movement, arguing strenuously that we can — and should
— attend to animal emotions. With How Animals Grieve
, she draws our attention to the specific case of grief, and relates story after story — from fieldsites, farms, homes, and more — of animals mourning lost companions, mates, or friends.
King tells of elephants surrounding their matriarch as she weakens and dies, and, in the following days, attending to her corpse as if holding a vigil. A housecat loses her sister, from whom she's never before been parted, and spends weeks pacing the apartment, wailing plaintively. A baboon loses her daughter to a predator and sinks into grief. In each case, King uses her anthropological training to interpret and try to explain what we see — to help us understand this animal grief properly, as something neither the same as nor wholly different from the human experience of loss.
The resulting book is both daring and down-to-earth, strikingly ambitious even as its careful to acknowledge the limits of our understanding. Through the moving stories she chronicles and analyzes so beautifully, King brings us closer to the animals with whom we share a planet, and helps us see our own experiences, attachments, and emotions as part of a larger web of life, death, love, and loss.
For years, we have assumed that among the most fundamental lines between humans and other animals is the way we respond to death. But with videos of scrub jay funerals, accounts of elephant mourning, and baboon's carrying their dead, the science of animal grief has opened the proverbial floodgates. And there is no better guide to the kingdom of animal grief and mourning than Barbara King. In this book she takes us to the Serengeti, to duck farms, and sanctuaries, and into the homes and hearts of those who have watched their pets mourn loss. The stories and science she shares range from chimpanzees to sea turtles, to horses and dogs, and her compassion and curiosity bring to life a range of emotions, in the animals and in those who will read this book. The human experience of grief may still be unique, but this book shows that around loss lies yet another connection between us and the living world around us.
About the Author
Barbara J. King has taught Anthropology at the College of William and Mary since 1988. Originally focused on primate studies through her observations of wild monkeys in Kenya and captive apes, she now takes up intelligence and emotion in a wide variety of animals. She writes for NPRs 13.7 Cosmos and Culture blog and the TLS. In Gloucester County, Virginia, she lives with her husband and many cats. Besides cat rescue, she enjoys attending her daughters college choral concerts and reading as much fiction as possible.
Table of Contents
Prologue: On Grief and Love
1 Keening for Carson the Cat
2 A Dogs Best Friend
3 Mourning on the Farm
4 Why Bunnies Get Depressed
5 Elephant Bones
6 Do Monkeys Mourn?
7 Chimpanzees, Cruel to Be Kind
8 Bird Love
9 Sea of Emotion: Dolphins, Whales, and Turtles
10 No Boundaries: Cross-Species Grief
11 Animal Suicide?
12 Ape Grief
13 On Bison Death in Yellowstone and Obituaries of Animals
14 Writing Grief
15 The Prehistory of Grief
Readings and Resources