• Our Oldest Companions

  • The Story of the First Dogs
  • By: Pat Shipman
  • Narrated by: Kate Mulligan
  • Length: 6 hrs and 46 mins
  • 4.0 out of 5 stars (186 ratings)

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Our Oldest Companions

By: Pat Shipman
Narrated by: Kate Mulligan
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Publisher's Summary

How did the dog become man’s best friend? A celebrated anthropologist unearths the mysterious origins of the unique partnership that rewrote the history of both species.

Dogs and humans have been inseparable for more than 40,000 years. The relationship has proved to be a pivotal development in our evolutionary history. The same is also true for our canine friends; our connection with them has had much to do with their essential nature and survival. How and why did humans and dogs find their futures together, and how have these close companions (literally) shaped each other? Award-winning anthropologist Pat Shipman finds answers in prehistory and the present day.

In Our Oldest Companions, Shipman untangles the genetic and archaeological evidence of the first dogs. She follows the trail of the wolf-dog, neither prehistoric wolf nor modern dog, whose bones offer tantalizing clues about the earliest stages of domestication. She considers the enigma of the dingo, not quite domesticated yet not entirely wild, who has lived intimately with humans for thousands of years while actively resisting control or training. Shipman tells how scientists are shedding new light on the origins of the unique relationship between our two species, revealing how deep bonds formed between humans and canines as our guardians, playmates, shepherds, and hunters.

Along the journey together, dogs have changed physically, behaviorally, and emotionally, as humans too have been transformed. Dogs’ labor dramatically expanded the range of human capability, altering our diets and habitats and contributing to our very survival. Shipman proves that we cannot understand our own history as a species without recognizing the central role that dogs have played in it. 

©2021 by Pat Shipman (P)2021 by Blackstone Publishing

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What listeners say about Our Oldest Companions

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting, but not what I expected

this was described as a "story", so I expected a much more conversational, accessible narrative. Instead, Pat Shipman goes into excruiciating details around DNA, chromosomes and mutations among verious dog remains throughout the world. I'm pretty detail oriented but I got a bit lost sometimes, although maybe just bored with the details is more applicable. Mr. Shipman should have focused more on the human-dog relationships and what evidence remains as to what that relationship was like vs. the genetics.

5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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off topic, I think?

I'm going to ignore the false implication modern humans are a direct evolution from Neanderthals, just to keep this short. but the author went into great detail about how Australia had no wolves but still described the entire history of man on Australia. can we agree that Australia didn't have a place in the domestication because lack of wolves means they brought there dogs with them? maybe I got confused as the author tried to explain unessicary scientific facts and timeliness? I feel like this was supposed to be a books about man and dog. man left his dog home this day and this book is about man, from the authors interpretation

2 people found this helpful

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  • ds
  • 11-20-21

History of the Dingo

Decent listen but felt more like a book about dingos. would have liked to hear more examples of companionship.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

This book isn't what I was led to believe it was.

TL;DR at the bottom.

So the very first thing you need to know about this book is that it's not some heart-warming story about how dogs came to be. It's an extremely technical educational textbook on genomes, evolution, cultural anthropology, and a LITTLE bit (and I really mean very little) of layperson-friendly explanation of dogs sprinkled on top. After reading the title and description and even seeing the cover art, I was quite disappointed to realize about half an hour in that this was basically just an anthropology textbook and even more disappointed by the end of it to realize how little of it actually directly focused on dogs themselves. Now, I can fully appreciate that it would be impossible to tell an in-depth story about how modern dogs came to be without delving deeply into early Humanity, but the book's external presentation just seems a bit disingenuous to me. A more appropriate title for this book might've been something like "Early Humans and Their First Companions". It's been a minute since I listened to this, but if my memory serves me, there was an entire hour-long stretch in this audiobook where dogs literally weren't mentioned a single time, even indirectly! At its best, this book only ever allows dogs to share the spotlight with other topics like cultural anthropology or the study of gradual ecosystem/geography changes over time. At its worst, this book completely forgets about dogs and takes to overexplaining individual cultures and their histories without ever really justifying why it's necessary to know all of this information to understand dogs.

There were times in this book where Pat Shipman seems to expect that the reader is well-read and studied on all of these topics because there is an overwhelming amount of technical/scientific jargon, as well as references to studies without any further explanation used throughout. At the very same time, there are some brief moments where he seems like he thinks his audience is made up of middle-school children. I was particularly confused about what tone was intended when he poses the question, "So what is a dog?" and the answer essentially begins with "Well, look at your dog. That's a dog." I genuinely can't tell if certain parts of this book were meant to be humorous and whether it's the delivery that causes any semblance of humor to be lost in translation..

As for Kate Mulligan's performance, I'm quite torn. I've never listened to an educational textbook for entertainment, so this was new territory for me as far as audiobooks go. She speaks very clearly and with an almost suspicious level of enthusiasm. I suppose her performance is perfectly apt if you're looking at this from the perspective of using this book for college studies or something of the like. But from a perspective of a layperson who just wants to listen to a story or even just a conversational explanation about dogs, Kate's performance is somewhat obnoxious and becomes grating after a short while of listening. Her performance makes a lot more sense to me if this book was intended to be consumed only in short excerpts over a much longer period of time than it's sub-7 hour running time (as you might expect if a college course used this audiobook as reading material).

The last reason I have a bone to pick with this book is that it seems a bit messy in the way it presents the information to you. Many of the topics and even the specific details of those topics are repeated numerous times throughout the book. Again, I'm not used to reading scholarly texts for entertainment, so I'm not sure if this structure is a necessity for some reason, but it seems to me that even with light-handed editing, it would be possible to shave off at least an hour of the running time of this audiobook and it could still get the same amount of information across. There are so many obvious redundancies in this book, even to my relatively uneducated ears, that listening to it for hours at a time can become a bit disorienting, making me wonder whether I was actually hearing the same information again, or if I had just mentally checked out and imagined that I've heard it before.


TL;DR - There's a wealth of knowledge to be found in this book, but it's not a "story" in a traditional sense; it's an educational cultural anthropology textbook. If you're not caught up on some basic education on genomes/evolution/cultural anthropology/geography AND/OR you don't find textbooks on these things entertaining, you'll probably find this to be quite an excruciating listen. I did learn a bit from this book and certain parts were very interesting, but it has almost no entertainment value whatsoever, and since they didn't do a good job of explaining that in the title or description, people who don't read these reviews will have to find that out the hard way.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Great until……

It started out so promising but devolved into highly scientific study of areas that had little to do with what the layman would understand about dogs of today. I really wanted to love this, but ended up being WAY too technical.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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FROM WOLF TO DINGO

The writer stated her beliefs and backed them up with facts. Lassie would be proud.

1 person found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Too many gross generalities

Too many gross generalities. Sounded like she picked a topic, read about it, and wrote a book without a depth of knowledge. Meh.

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The title doesn’t match to the book

I had a high hope for the book, I was looking forward for a storyline of the co-evolution of dogs and humans. The book doesn’t talk about it, the author is focused on the scientific opponents and using the book to explain why they are wrong. I am gladly would read this in a review in a scientific journal but not in the book. I found the book quite repetitive. The lion’s share of the book is devoted to colonization of Australia by humans, which happened without dogs. I wouldn’t recommend this book for broad audience.

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great story, but…

You must be somewhat of a geek to get through the thick parts.
My main criticism as a listener is that the narrator does not sound engaged or interested. She sounds like someone who is being paid to read a script for a paycheck.
That being said, I will listen to it again, and most likely a third time, to completely absorb the material offered.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Not about dogs

This is a dry, convoluted book that mentions dogs, but is really a treatise on human migration. It is neither interesting, engaging, or on topic with the title. If your interest is in the migration and adaptations of ancient humans in Australia and how it had nothing to do with our earliest companions, this is probably still not the book for you, despite spending multiple chapters to address just that. It is both boring and wordy, like this review.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-01-22

Amazing in parts

Amazing in parts. But goes to far off topics for to long of a time.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Bill McPherson
  • 01-15-22

highly informative

the book was much wider in scope than I had initially expected. it was very insightful.
Kate did a wonderful narration

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • starsunderwater
  • 12-22-21

A little tedious with some interesting facts

The history of dogs and dingoes in Australia as well as their relationship to first nations people were an unexpected and interesting history lesson. The author is exploring the topic, and if this is kept in mind there are many interesting points. I got too far into it to quit, but am relieved I finished!

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Cheryl
  • 12-06-21

dogs

really enjoyed the journey of dog evolution and their bonding with humans. good read, sometimes rather heavy on the jargon.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Justin
  • 11-19-21

Great for anyone interested in the development of the canine human bond.

This is the follow up to The Invaders I was hoping for.

Great for anyone interested in the development of the canine human bond.