The City is More Than Human
photos courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives and Rainier Valley Historical Society

The City is More Than Human:
An Animal History of Seattle

Frederick L. Brown, Ph.D.



This book features a wedding gift of chickens, a downtown horse parade, loose cows detained at the city's cattle pound, a runaway red steer, a wandering German shepherd named Caesar, and salmon struggling up through the Ballard Locks. It asks, What does the history of a city look like if we pay attention to animals and their historical roles?

Seattle would not exist without animals. Materially and culturally, animals shaped the area's transformation from the indigenous towns of the early nineteenth century to the livestock-friendly Euro-American town of the later nineteenth century, to the pet-friendly, livestock-averse modern city of the early twentieth century to the paradoxical city of the later twentieth century and beyond -- enacting benevolence toward pets while exploiting distant and hidden livestock and transforming distant animals' habitats ever more intensely.

Human beings are a distinct minority in Seattle, as they are on the planet as a whole. The vast majority of the eyes that have observed the city's changing contours, of the legs that have walked across its landscape, of the mouths that have consumed its bounty belonged not to humans, but to other animals. We may think of cities as quintessentially human landscapes -- the result of human plans and desires, of human prejudices and follies. That they are, in some sense, certainly more than they are the result of chicken plans and desires, or of coyote prejudices and follies. And yet, we cannot understand these places without considering all their residents, without considering the nonhuman animals whom humans enlisted in transforming landscapes, whose presence or absence became markers of progress or backwardness, who took note and advantage of human efforts, who countered or furthered human projects.

Chapter outline:

Past book-related events


What scholars and reviewers have said:

Press coverage:

Other book-related links:


Last updated October 2021