Dogs by Mike Loades

I received this book on Saturday and I started reading it straight away. I finished it today, so I can share my thoughts on Dogs by Mike Loades: Working Origins and Traditional Tasks*. In one word I can describe the book as: amazing. No worries, I am going to say more than that.

If you love dogs, you need to buy this book. In the introduction Loades talks about his views on hunting and sled races. These can be controversial topics. He does a very good job of presenting the situation as it is, without judgements, which is what historians should do. I haven’t ate meat in over a decade due to ethical reasons, but I think hunting for food is much less cruel than factory farming, from caged animals to the horrors of transporting animals on the hoof. No animals were killed for producing this book. Loades also talks about pedigree and how breeding for “beauty” made life miserable for some breeds. I agree with that and I wouldn’t get a dog that looks “cute” but has health issues due to how the breed was changed in recent times. At the same time, from my experience, pedigree is a must if you want to have a proper dog with the breed’s characteristics. My Rottweiler is pure breed and it is obvious, not only on how his ears look, but also as temperament. His parents and grandparents (I know 2 of his grandparents) were showed, but also tested for hip dysplasia and went to obedience trials such as BH and IPO.

Dogs by Mike Loades

The books is fantastic. It has over 250 photos, most of them taken by the author or with the author. He experienced first hand how dogs were worked, from sledding to herding to game dogs. I found all the different aspects fascinating, as I was not aware of many of the things he mentions in the book, for example Dalmatians and their history. Besides the gorgeous photos and his hands-on approach, this is a history book too, so there are plenty of primary sources starting from the 16th century. He presents how things changed and why. Also, he went to many different countries to see the dogs, the stories about the Kangals are great. Saluki are mentioned too, with lots of pictures and details about them used for hunting in the Jordanian desert.

Chapters, hence topics, in the book include herding and droving dogs, with details on how these two are so different. He talks about flock guardians, in which Kangals have a very special role. Sled and cart dogs are talked about in quite detail and it contains some gorgeous pictures of Rottweilers (cart dogs), which I loved. Next are carriage dogs, something I was not aware of and the personal story is funny and interesting. Water dogs and game finders are very well presented. Other chapters are about sighthounds, scenthounds, mastiffs, terriers, and, of course, companion dogs. The writing style is great, making it a delight to read.

There are two things that would have made this book better: having 700 pages instead of 350 and a short chapter on modern sports. I am biased about the second issue as I love Mondioring. If you don’t know what is that, check this video on youtube with the Mondioring Belgian Championships 2019. It is a spectacular sport. My dog had a bit of training as a puppy with someone who trains police dogs and does Mondioring for fun. The dog in that video is exceptional, well worth a watch. The book has the subtitle of “traditional tasks”, so this is not something that is actually missing from the book, I just wished I could read more about dogs.

dog with book
oopsie moment

Dogs by Mike Loades

Details about the picture: My dog kindly agreed to model for me. He is 11 and a half.
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: White Owl
Year it was published: 2020
Format: Hardcover
Genre(s): History – Broad subject
Pages: 352

About the author: Mike Loades is a television host and presenter, making his appearances as a historical weapons specialist and military historian in over one hundred TV documentaries. He works as a TV director, a writer, and as a consultant and film-maker for the video games industry.
He is a practising horse archer and the founder of the first horse-archery club in California – the California Centaurs.
Loades wrote many interesting books, including: Dogs, Swords and Swordsmen, War Bows.
Website & Social Media Links: mikeloades & Pen and Sword

*I was sent a copy of Dogs by Mike Loades for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

5 thoughts on “Dogs by Mike Loades”

  • Well you know how I feel about this post, including the wonderful photos of Festus. Our Rotties were all pure-bred, along with a Labrador Retriever and a Schnauzer we once had. Otherwise, all of our dogs have been mixed-breed strays we’ve taken in.

    Despite no longer eating meat (and the fact we raise beef cattle), I’ve done my share of hunting and agree that it’s more humane than factory slaughterhouses. Hunting with dogs in my part of the world is a far cry from fox hunting, so I’d be interested to know what types of hunting he discusses. There are a number of ways to hunt with dogs.

    I definitely need to track down this book. I know I’d enjoy it.
    Kelly recently posted…Lawn Mower RaceMy Profile

    • That’s my view on breeds too. Either pure breed from a reputable breeder or strays. My first dog was a mix breed, bought as a puppy, and he had a few issues, but I wasn’t aware of that before getting him, hence my strong views now on breeds. And not only dogs, I would do the same even with a small animal, like a bunny (I’d love to have, but we can’t get more pets).

      I think you would definitely enjoy this book. He talks about things I never heard of, including hunting in a way that the birds are caught alive and it can be used for conservation. He did a caught & release session instead of hunting, and that took place in US.

  • Aww, Festus makes a great model! He is very dignified. I don’t know if I would read a whole book on dogs, though history parts might be interesting. I think the book raises intersting topics for discussion. Fox-hunting is an abomination, and is only done for the so called fun. But hunting for food in general is essential for survival for many communities. With the farming, again, there are different aspects. I am not in favour of the intensive type of farming.
    My grandfather was a forester, and they had what you might call a small holding, kept cows and pigs, etc. The cows walked to and back to the pastures every day, and were taken care of, but ultimately they were raised as a source of food.

  • I have to admit right away, that I am not a huge animal fan, so this definitely wouldn’t be a book for me. As you know, I am by no means a vegetarian and never will be, but as much as I despise factory farming of animals (I only ever buy free-range meat and fish – so long as the labelling can be trusted obviously), I also take exception to hunting dogs chasing down their prey then ripping them to bits, just for sport! I also agree with good pedigree breeding places, but don’t agree with such fine breeding that an animal’s shape and personality is all but destroyed and neither do I agree with cross-breeding – For example, a labrador and a poodle are two entirely different animals in make-up and personality and it can’t be good for either to be mixed, just for ‘designer’ purposes. Okay, rant over, thanks for allowing me air time to voice my opinions and I am truly pleased that you enjoyed the book. Festus is certainly a distinguished gentleman 🙂

    • I agree with you on fox hunting and the author does too. I mentioned the factory farming because I heard many meat-eating people being horrified of hunting deer for example. For me, the deer has a better quality of life before she is killed and she might die instantly, also she doesn’t have to go through the pain and suffering of being transported in a cramped lorry to the slaughterhouse. Each to their own, of course, I’m not judging.

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