When is a cow not a cow? – Harriet Ritvo (MIT)

May 6, 2019 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Seminar Room 1
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Laura Brassington

When we think about animals in the 19th and 20th centuries, we notice two conflicting themes. Nineteenth-century breeders carefully policed the behaviour of their animals, in the interests of maintaining and enhancing quality. On the other hand, like many of their contemporaries, breeders were also attracted by quality of a very different, inconsistent kind: the Romantic cachet associated with wildness. The tension between these conflicting attractions produced divergent experiences for cattle and contrasting agendas for their proprietors; they also fuelled arguments in taxonomy about the degree of difference required for the recognition of separate species. These tensions continue to shape and inspire efforts to restore lost landscapes and their vanished inhabitants. This talk will explore these themes, considering the relationship between the constraints of domestication and an increasing appreciation for wildness.