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Vicious: Wolves and Men in America (The Lamar Series in Western History) Hardcover – August 11, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0300103908 ISBN-10: 0300103905 Edition: 1ST

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Product Details

  • Series: The Lamar Series in Western History
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1ST edition (August 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300103905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300103908
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The sad history of the near-extermination of the wolf in North America and the later protection and reintroduction of this same alpha predator are examined in this new synthesis of history, biology, and folklore. Coleman, a historian, was attracted to the topic because the history of the colonization of North America is peppered with references to the wolf. No animal prompted as much discussion, with mention of wolves appearing in town records, local histories, legislative journals, and personal correspondence. European settlers brought their wolf lore and prejudices with them from the old country, and from this creation of the wolf as a malevolent creature came 300 years of persecution. The gradual shift in how the American public saw wolves fills a fascinating chapter, when the glamorizing of "outlaw" wolves as a ploy to further the employment of professional wolf hunters actually led to the admiration of those "outlaws" by the reading public. This heavily footnoted and concept-heavy book reveals the doctoral dissertation it grew out of, but Coleman's writing is never dry or pedantic. Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"This is a bold, smart, and original book, written with verve and imagination. Far more than a history of wolves in America, it is a meditation on the meanings of time, history, and culture, and an inquiry into the nature of cruelty and hatred."—Andrew Cayton, Distinguished Professor of History, Miami University

"A fascinating book which draws on historical, biological and cultural insights in a penetrating analysis of how Americans have interacted with a major predator. Coleman's approach allows us to understand fully why we eliminated wolves from the United States, and why recent debates over wolf reintroduction have been so heated."—Robert Keiter, author of Keeping Faith with Nature and The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (also Wallace Stegner Professor of Law and director of the Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment at the University of Utah)

More About the Author

A Boulder, Colorado native, Coleman graduated from Fairview High School (co-captain of the 1987 football state champions)and earned a BA and MA from the University of Colorado. He recieved his Ph. D. from Yale University in 2003 and has written two books, Vicious: Wolves and Men in America (Yale, 2004) and Here Lies Hugh Glass: a Mountain Man, a Bear, and the Rise of the American Nation (Hill & Wang, 2012). Vicious won the Jackson prize from the Western History Associaton and the Dunning prize from the American Historical Association. Coleman teaches history at the University of Notre Dame and lives in South Bend, Indiana with his partner, two children, and bassett hounds.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By W. Watson on April 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It doesn't take one long to realize the title, I believe, doesn't refer to the viciousness of the wolves, but to humans. In a number of instances he reveals the incredible senseless cruelty inflicted upon captured wolves, many times for sheer pleasure and other times to somehow to 'even the score'.

Particularly interesting are the passages on the Mormons and their eradication of the wolves of Utah, which I think backfired in an interesting way, the very tall tales associated with wolves, the turning point toward environmentalism brought about Leopold, and the governmental eradication program in effect until 1950. It's quite interesting to see how the government "propaganda program" drove the eradication effort.

The author makes an interesting remark that there is no record in North America that wolves have ever killed a human. It's probably true, but worth looking into. I've heard this remark before. Perhaps a little Google work, or maybe something is in his bibliography.

There was an interesting section on communications between the Algonquin indians and Europeans settlers that hinged on interaction with wolves, dogs, and other animals. I recently had seen the movie "New World", 2005/6 release, which depicted this communication in a similar way. Perhaps the author had some influence.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brian Griffith on October 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
Coleman's account of the great American wolf war is clearly written, almost like the script for a documentary film. But behind the easy-to-digest presentation lies a mass of research on the cultures of wolves and of particular human communities. Coleman gives as much attention to the meanings of wolf behavior as he does to the of meanings Puritan, Narragansett, or Mormon settler behavior. Behind the events of history, he exposes a series of fundamental failures in communication. Most basically, he shows how wolf howls signal other wolves to keep their distance, but the settlers generally assumed that howls were signals for attack on humans. The contrasts between European and Native, or between rural and urban responses to these creatures reveal a range of possibilities for war or co-existence. The story also traces 400 years in the evolution of folklore, and illustrates the degree to which folklore shapes our relations with all the creatures around us.
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10 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Betty Burks on June 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As a young girl, I was warned that lecherous old men were "wolves on the prowl." After all, children read about Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf with big teeth. These are only imaginary wolves not the real 'vicious' wild animals.

When the Europeans came to America, there was a goodly population of these creatures, hungry and ferocious as a tiger in a zoo. Wolf legends preceded them and they were forced to migrate to the West because of rampant eradication in the North East. Steeped in myth and symbols, they existed in folklore long before history connected them to humans.

Wolves were territorial and their haunting howls were not as predators but communication 'songs' warning rival groups in search of food to look elsewhere. Wolves had their own reasons for 'singing' -- to prevent the forced eliminaton of each other.

Like the Indians and buffalo, they were forced off their native lands to the wild West to the point of extinction. Exterminated in the rangelands and farming regions of the U. S., the species survived in the upper regions of Alaska and Canada, along the Great Lakes in the East.

Humans are vicious at the core, generating pain and suffering on each other and cause extreme violence to feel "big." People transported their hatred in stories and traditions,not their souls. Humans tortured animals and showed all kinds of nasty behavior. Euro-Americans killed wild animals and transformed habitats. They espoused a climate of public opinion that mixes love, hate, and indifference with savage behavior. Like the buffalo, they became an endangered species, yet they have survived. Some of the Canadian wolves have been transplanted to Yellowstone National Park in Montana.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By badger on February 22, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
met my needs for the topic. recommend it to anyone. the shippers did a great job. I am very satisfied.
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15 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Alan W. Dye on January 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book a few months ago based on the prestige of the Lamar Series in Western History and Yale University Press. Students of western history know that Yale has one of the most impressive collections of western americana and the Lamar Series in Western History is an outgrowth of the strong primary sources available to historians at this university. The author, Jon T. Coleman is not on the faculty at Yale, but instead teaches history at University of Notre Dame.

I expected a well written, concise, balanced history like some of the other volumes in the series that I have read, but instead found the book to be an unfortunate polemic, with a recitation of one-sided facts that would make most honest historians shudder. The book begins with the author asserting on page 3 in the introduction that there is no record of a non rabid wolf killing a human in North America since the arrival of the Europeans. This is an old saw widely cited by environmentalists who supported the reintroduction of the wolf to the US from Canada in the 1990's, but is not born out by facts.

On March 7th, 1888 at New Rockford in the Dakota Territory as recorded in the Saint Paul Daily Globe, a man and his son were attacked, killed, and eaten by a pack of wolves within yards of their home as the wife watched helpless from the window with an infant in her arms. This is but one example of a long list of known attacks and killings that have been chronicled in newspapers and other primary sources such as personal journals. While the wolves in this instance weren't tested for rabies, biologists cite rabid wolves as working as individuals with healthy wolves moving in packs. This lends credence to the probability that these wolves were in fact healthy when they killed these two people.
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