THE UNNATURAL HISTORY OF DOGS, CATS, COWS AND HORSES.   Have you ever wondered how our favorite animals came to live with us…and why? This book is an in-depth look at domestication, from the animals’ point of view. When dogs, cats, cows, and horses left the wild to live among us, what did they get … Continue reading Intro




Have you ever wondered how our favorite animals came to live with us…and why? This book is an in-depth look at domestication, from the animals’ point of view. When dogs, cats, cows, and horses left the wild to live among us, what did they get and what did they give up in return? Some of the answers will surprise you!

From a survival standpoint, domestication proved to be a very good strategy for those animals that could pull it off. Today, people and our animals make up ninety-six percent of the vertebrate animal mass on land while wild animals make up only four percent. In short, it’s good to be a dog, cat, horse or cow.

But when humans took control of animal breeding, we imposed new demands on animals apart from those of the natural world. That’s why we have Holstein cows straining to produce 50,000 pounds of milk a year, Quarter horses with lethal genetic diseases, and mutant dogs and cats scarcely able to function.

Modern breeding technology only adds to these problems. Artificial insemination, genetic modification, embryo transfer, and even the Internet all impact the quality of animals’ lives. But, as this book shows, the results don’t have to be bad. Breeding science and animal husbandry can create marvelous capabilities and possibilities to help animals live better, healthier lives.

As LEAVING THE WILD shows, it all comes down to values. Even before animals are born, our values impact them. When the values are good, the outcomes tend to be too. But when they are bad, animals suffer. This book can help us make better choices.

Join journalist Gavin Ehringer on a trip across the American West. Meet remarkable animals, plus pet owners, animal breeders, show exhibitors, scientists, veterinarians, historians, and animal activists. And discover what’s happening in the domestic animal world of today.

About the Author

Since grade school, I can’t recall a day passing when I wasn’t thinking about, writing about, or interacting with animals. I grew up near a state game preserve in Washington State. I’d pet deer fawns, watch the bears for hours, and listen for the peacocks’ eery crowing at night. We had a basset hound, and grandpa Les took us to a farm where we could ride horses. Animals made me feel good. It seemed natural to make them part of my career.

As an undergraduate at Colorado College, I worked on horse farms and cattle ranches to pay tuition. Always keen on writing, I began documenting my exploits. Soon, I found work as a columnist and feature writer for a popular equestrian magazine. That led to further employment as a sports stringer at Denver’s now-deceased daily the Rocky Mountain News. These experiences set the course for my writing career.

As a journalist and photographer, I’ve spent three decades covering animals and the people who breed them, raise them, care for them, buy them, sell them, race them, ride them, train them, and compete with them. I’ve written more than 3,000 articles. Most included the animals featured in this book.

Credits, Books and Awards

My work has appeared industry-leading equestrian magazines including Western Horseman, Horse & Rider, America’s Horse, The Chronicle of the Horse, and many more. In the canine world, I’ve done work for Dog Fancy (now Dogster) and The Dog Channel Online. I joined the Dog Writers Association of America and am a many-time American Horse Publications award winner for feature and column writing. Past titles include Rodeo Legends and Rodeo In America, the latter co-written with sociologist Dr. Wayne Wooden. Additionally, I’ve written three guidebooks plus an extensive amount of web page content.

My practical experience comes from years spent working as a ranch cowboy, horse show contestant and animal trainer. My dogs compete in the show ring and in performance events including herding, agility, obedience, and canine disc (Frisbee).

I call Denver home. Leaving the Wild is my eighth book.

great dane, chihuahua, big dog, little dog
Great Danes can weigh one-hundred twenty pounds, Chihuahuas as little as little as two!


Why a blog about domesticated animals?

This book idea came to me six years or so ago, while I was in Mexico. I was reading Michael Pollan’s book The Botany of Desire, about how certain plants used our desires to manipulate us into carrying them all across the globe. And I had an epiphany: our domesticated animals did the same thing!

In November of 2016, I bought an RV named “Sonny” and went on the road to see what the animals were up to lately. During my 6-month road trip, I visited dozens of animal raisers, veterinarians, animal shows, veterinary schools, and other places where people and animals congregate. Not all of the stories fit into the book Leaving the Wild. (

So, I am putting them here! Along with these, I am including some interesting, quirky news stories and articles of relevance to the book. I find these stories fascinating and sometimes disturbing. I hope you’ll take the time to visit as I add to the blog, and also tell others about this book, the blog, and this web page. I poured all my experiences (and a sizable chunk of money) into this project. I also got a lot of people to support the research through Indiegogo. (

I’d like to thank visitors and contributors who made this book possible. Without your support, this would not have been possible. So, pat yourselves on the backs…and tell more people about Leaving the Wild. While it’s my hope this book will buy me a house on the beach in Mexico, that wasn’t the sole or even the main objective. My hope was always to make life better for the animals themselves. I hope, in some substantial way, it does just that!

Contact Gavin about Leaving the Wild.


Let’s start a conversation!

Leaving the Wild is intended to provoke thought and discussion. Nothing would please me more than to discuss Leaving the Wild with your group, club, association, or college! I’d also love to speak with fellow journalists.

Animal breeding is at the heart of this book. It’s my belief that conscientious breeding is the new frontier of animal welfare and animal rights. If we are to honor our pact with domestic animals, we need to make scientifically-informed decisions before they’re even born. Whether this means facilitating Trap-Neuter-Release programs for alley cats, deciding if we should bring a litter of puppies into the world, or choosing how to best use artificial reproductive technology, we need to talk. The ethical treatment of animals begins with ethical breeding decisions. Those decisions are neither simple nor easy to make. They deserve our careful attention.

A discussion topic might include: the future of animal shelters; the plight of pit bulls; cloning and genetic modification; dairy farming; single-trait breeding and the “popular sire” effect; the impact of animal show judging…anything in the book is fair game!