Lesser Beasts Book Summary - Lesser Beasts Book explained in key points
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Lesser Beasts summary

Mark Essig

A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig

15 mins

Brief summary

'Lesser Beasts' by Mark Essig is a detailed history of pigs and their evolution. This entertaining book explores the many ways that humans have interacted with and utilized pigs throughout history, from food to religious traditions.

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    Lesser Beasts
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    Of all domesticated animals, pigs are the most similar to us and we share a long history.

    At first glance, pigs and humans don’t seem to have a lot in common. But take a closer look and the similarities are hard to miss.

    For starters, let’s look at our similar digestive systems.

    Pigs and humans are both omnivores, meaning we can both basically eat anything. We share a stomach that breaks down proteins, a small intestine that absorbs sugar and a colon that absorbs all the water. But the similarities don’t end there.

    Just consider our teeth.

    In 1922, a fossil hunter dug up a 10-million-year-old tooth in Nebraska. It eventually found its way to Henry Fairfield Osborn, former director of New York’s Natural History Museum. Upon analysis, Osborn concluded that it was a human tooth from the first human-like ape, which he dubbed the Nebraska Man. But Osborn was mistaken: the tooth actually came from an ancient and extinct pig-like creature.

    And when we look back to ancient times, we find that, as humans started settling down in around 10,000 BC, they brought domesticated pigs along with them.

    Humans and pigs have always had a strong relationship and settling into communities made it even stronger. At the sites of several ancient villages around the world, remains of both human and pig bones have been found.

    At Hallan Cemi, a famous site in Turkey, researchers discovered that the bones all came from pigs less than one year old, suggesting that they were slaughtered for food.

    But a closer look at early domesticated pigs suggests that they weren’t just a source of meat but were also used to keep the villages clean by eating leftovers and garbage.

    Evidence shows that early humans would normally leave a site when the garbage levels reached a critical mass. With pigs functioning as ambulant garbage-disposal units, however, settlements became more permanent.

    As we’ll see, though, pigs were both valued and avoided for the same reason.

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    What is Lesser Beasts about?

    Lesser Beasts (2015) relates the long and fascinating history of the pig. Often considered an inferior creature, the pig is actually the sole animal that has stayed connected to us since the beginning of our existence. The pig’s reputation has taken plenty of blows over the years – and today, due to modern farming practices, its welfare may be suffering more than ever.

    Lesser Beasts Review

    Lesser Beasts (2015) by Mark Essig offers a captivating exploration of our complex relationship with pigs throughout history. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With fascinating insights into the cultural, social, and economic significance of pigs, it sheds light on a fascinating aspect of human history.
    • By examining various aspects of pig farming and consumption, the book challenges our assumptions and invites reflection on our modern relationship with animals.
    • Through vivid storytelling and meticulous research, Essig brings the history of pigs to life, ensuring the book is anything but boring.

    Best quote from Lesser Beasts

    Pigs became domestic through their relationship not with humans as hunters but rather with humans as villagers.

    —Mark Essig
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    Who should read Lesser Beasts?

    • Farmers who want to learn more about hog history
    • Anthropologists interested in our relationship with food over the ages
    • Foodies curious about the development of human dietary habits

    About the Author

    Mark Essig has a PhD in history and is the author of Edison and the Electric Chair. He has also written for The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times.

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    Lesser Beasts FAQs 

    What is the main message of Lesser Beasts?

    The main message of Lesser Beasts is the complex and intertwined history of humans and animals.

    How long does it take to read Lesser Beasts?

    The reading time for Lesser Beasts varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Lesser Beasts a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Lesser Beasts is a fascinating read that provides insights into our relationship with animals throughout history.

    Who is the author of Lesser Beasts?

    The author of Lesser Beasts is Mark Essig.

    What to read after Lesser Beasts?

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