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190 × 135 × 16 mm
208 pages
105 illustrations, 46 in colour
01 Jun 2007
  • £12.95

Cow Hannah Velten

From the milk we drink at breakfast to the leather shoes we wear, or the steaks or burgers we eat at dinner, our daily lives are bound up with the cow. This has been so for millennia, beginning with the domestication of the aurochs – wild cattle – around 6000 BC. In Cow Hannah Velten unravels the complex story of the cow, bull and ox, and the ever-changing social relationship between humans and cattle. Her engaging account ranges from the oxen-plowed fields of the ancient Near East to India’s temples, and from Spain’s bull-rings to America’s rodeos and cattle drives.

Early civilizations regarded cattle as their chief wealth, for in addition to supplying brute strength for the plow, they provided meat, milk, cheese, butter, leather, horn and other valuable commodities. Cults and mythologies developed that deified cows and bulls in cultures as various as those of early Egypt, Greece and India. But today, while Hinduism continues to venerate the cow as one of the most sacred members of the animal kingdom, in the West, where beef is a prized diet staple, cattle are seen as little more than a commodity involving a production process. By exploring their purpose, meaning and fate in mythology, folklore, farming, bloodsports and art, Hannah Velten restores to these oft-overlooked creatures something of the respect they deserve.

‘the books design and illustrations are beautiful . . . Velten has a passion for her subject and it comes across. Her account is sweeping but precisely detailed, and subtly persuasive. You come to believe her theme isnt odd at all: this kind of study and awareness should be mainstream. Look hard at cows and you learn about humans. Fascinating and delightful.’ — Financial Times Magazine

‘a great book . . . a fascinating mix of history, myth and record prices paid for top breeding animals.’ — Eastern Daily Press

‘[an] enjoyable read . . . Cow deserves a place on the bookshelf of everyone concerned for the welfare of animals.’ — Outrage

‘once you have read this book you wont look at cows or beef in the same way again.’ — Anthrozoos

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Hannah Velten is a freelance writer who has worked extensively with cows and oxen on Australian cattle stations and British dairy farms. She lives in Fletching, Sussex, and is the the author of Cow (Animal series, 2007) and Milk (Edible series, 2010), both published by Reaktion Books.

Introduction: Reintroducing the Cow, Bull and Ox
1. Wild Ox to Domesticates
2. Bull-Gods, Bull-Kings
3. Cow Mysticism and a Rural Idyll
4. Toiling the Fields and a ‘Cattle Complex’
5. Cattle Stars and Romantic Associations
6. Poor Cow: Pushing the Boundaries
Epilogue: Out of Sight, Out of Mind?
Associations and Websites
Photo Acknowledgements