|King of France Louis XV is seen with two dogs in this portrait drawn by Pierre Gobert in the early 18th century. Photo from Papier Publishing House|
Author says world history without companion animals is incomplete
By Kang Hyun-kyung
In the past decade, dogs and cats have become an inseparable part of the Korean lifestyle. Dogs are Koreans' favorite companion animal and one out of four Korean households lives with them.
The booming days for companion animals has prodded money-savvy people to invest their capital in pet-related businesses_ such as veterinary clinics and pet shops selling gifts, clothes, necklets and other fashionable items that people can put on their pets.
In Europe, businesses related to companion animals became a niche market that thrived in the 19th century, according to Lee Ju-eun, author of "A Small World History of Dogs and Cats."
Back then, she says, Paris was the global canine fashion capital.
"Paris was second to none when it came to dog fashion," she says. "In Paris in the 19th century, there were plenty of shops selling dog clothing. Couple fashion was booming and dogs and their owners, mostly upper-class women, wore the same styles of clothes. Various types of outerwear were on sale. Owners had their dogs wear hats, boots, handkerchiefs, jackets and even underwear."
The pet business boom in 19th century Europe reflects the status of companion animals there.
European royals treated their animals like their family members. They paid lots of attention to making their animals look fashionable. Their dogs ate gourmet meals served in sophisticated bowls and some royals assigned servants to exclusively take care of their dogs.
The "upper-class dogs" slept on couches covered with silky, soft fabric, such as silk or velvet, and some kings even allowed their dogs sleep on their beds.
Even though the title specifically refers to dogs and cats, the book also covers the history of companion animals overall, including giraffes, parrots, guinea pigs and others, and how Europeans and Africans, mostly ancient Egyptians, treasured those animals. It also discusses the abuse of companion animals and other lesser-known stories about owners having eccentric hobbies.
|"A Small World History of Dogs and Cats" by Lee Ju-eun|
Romans paid emotional tributes to their deceased dogs which were engraved in their tomb stones. They grieved when their animals died, praising posthumously their courage and valor to protect their owners from danger.
Ancient Egyptians were cat lovers.
"Egyptians shaved their eyebrows when their cats died," the book reads. "It was part of the ritual ancient Egyptians performed to pay their tributes to their cats and hoped their animals to rest in peace and go to heaven. They held funeral services for their cats, mummifying them and placing them in small caskets."
Egyptians' love for cats made them vulnerable to their enemies during the Battle of Pelusium that occurred in 525 between the Persian Empire of Achaemenid and Egypt.
Pharaoh Cambyses II of Persia used cats for his military operation to defeat the Egyptians. The Persian king ordered his soldiers to collect all animals, particularly cats, before he attacked Pelusium. As the battle began, the Egyptians panicked because they couldn't attack the Persian soldiers because of the thousands of animals, including cats that were captured by them. The Persian king was able to win the battle, conquering Pelusium.
Some ambitious politicians used exotic animals to achieve certain diplomatic goals. Muhammad Ali (1769-1849), who served as Ottoman governor of Egypt from 1805 to 1848, gave African giraffes to English, French and Austrian royals to curry favor with the powerful leaders and strengthen their diplomatic relations. The Ottoman governor heeded a French diplomat's advice to send a "fascinating, new and rare" animal to the French king to get what he wanted.
"Small World History" also deals with eccentricities of pet lovers. William Buckland (1784-1856), an English theologian who later became Dean of Westminster, is a multi-talented man well known for his grotesque eating habits and eccentric behavior. He was a zoologist, geologist and also paleontologist who wrote the first full account of a fossil dinosaur. He occasionally lectured on horseback. He loved animals but at the same time enjoyed various types of meats, such as crocodile steak and dog stew.
According to the author, due to their unique status as European royals' beloved pets, companion animals have been a critical part of world history but few historical documents remember them.
Author Lee describes herself as a history storyteller. She said existing history books are difficult for ordinary readers to read from start to finish. "I was wondering if ordinary readers feel history is boring or if history itself is boring," she said.
She created her blog and began to upload posts about lesser-known parts of history.
"A Small World History of Dogs and Cats" was released last week.