Animals and wagon trains

A newly released nonfiction book from the University of Nevada Press gives its full attention to the animals used by the people in wagon trains.

Well, the news release for Success Depends on the Animals: Emigrants, Livestock, and Wild Animals on the Overland Trails, 1840-1869 doesn’t actually use the term “wagon trains,” but I’m using it as shorthand.

The book, written by Diana L. Ahmad, “explores the relationships and encounters that these emigrants had with animals, both wild and domestic, as they traveled the Overland Trail.” They “were accompanied by thousands of work animals such as horses, oxen, mules, and cattle. These travelers also brought dogs and other companion animals, and along the way confronted unknown wild animals.”

The news release says Ahmad’s study is “the first to explore how these emigrants became dependent upon the animals that traveled with them, and how, for some, this dependence influenced a new way of thinking about the human-animal bond.”

I’ve always been interested in wagon trains for some reason, and I’ve always felt sorry for the oxen. In the books I’ve read, they didn’t always make it to Oregon or California. And, of course, the emigrants ate many of the wild animals they encountered along the trail. I guess that would be a kind of bond.

The author used primary sources such as journals, diaries and newspaper accounts to explore the topic, which is of value whether her intended readers are academics or amateur historians like me.

Ahmad received her PhD at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is a University of Missouri Curators’ Teaching Professor of History at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, where she specializes in the history of the American West, the Pacific and Modern East Asia. She also is the author of The Opium Debate and Chinese Exclusion Laws in the Nineteenth-Century American West.


$31.95 / cloth / 144 pages / print ISBN: 978-0-87417-997-2/ ebook ISBN: 978-1-943859-10-8


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s