Jonathan Balcombe

Not Just for Christmas

The Animals Among Us: The New Science of Anthrozoology


Allen Lane 357pp £20 order from our bookshop

Earlier this year I acquired a stuffed toy, a fluffy foot-long sea otter that I named Athena. I usually fall asleep with her tucked under my chin. Living alone, and with a travel schedule that keeps me from getting a real companion animal, I welcome the ‘company’ and ‘affection’ provided by this surrogate pet. Although I know Athena is inanimate and has no feelings, I believe I benefit from having her around.

Is this eccentric behaviour – anthropomorphism run amok? If so, I’m not alone: witness the popularity of teddy bears and Tamagotchis. But caring about a pseudo-pet is a widespread extension of the emotional bonds humans have with domesticated animals, especially dogs and cats. The study of such bonds falls within the realm of anthrozoology, a young field concerned with the personal relationships that people have with animals and, to a lesser degree, that animals have with us. John Bradshaw, who directs the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol, is a father of the field, having coined the term ‘anthrozoology’ with colleagues on the day he turned forty.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Something of an 'eccentric billionaire’s hobby': reviews 'The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and… ,
    • "At the age of fifteen, drunk on stolen Chardonnay or stoned on pot at a swimming party, the thoughts that come imm… ,
    • For the latest Bookends, here's Alan Taylor musing on his stint as an assistant librarian. ,
    • A ‘pretentious ass and impotent arriviste’ who surrounded himself with ‘degenerates, hooligans, childish layabouts,… ,
    • . reviews 'Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life' by ,
    • "As Beevor shows, it was one of the most daring, dangerous and fiercely fought operations of the whole war. It was… ,
    • "The characters are very rich and very male, with astronomical ambitions. The potted biographies in this book sugge… ,