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Social Science Agriculture & Food


A Bovine Biography

by (author) Florian Werner

translated by Doris Ecker

foreword by Temple Grandin

Greystone Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Oct 2011
Agriculture & Food, Mammals
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2011
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2011
    List Price

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The cow is everywhere: as a vehicle for both farmers and advertisers, as a subject for scientists and poets, or simply as a tasty sandwich meat. Yet after more than ten thousand years living alongside humans, the female of the bovine species remains a beguiling mystery. Combining entertaining anecdotes and illuminating discoveries, Florian Werner presents the curious cultural history of that most intriguing of animals: the cow.

Since evolving from the aurochs, an ungulate that grazed the Persian grasslands, the cow has embedded herself into virtually all aspects of our lives. Rigorously researched, Cow is the first book to look at the animal in its countless manifestations in cultures around the world. Werner examines cows' roles in commerce and their place on our plates and in our stomachs. He looks at how cows are worshipped in some circles, such as in Hindu mythology, and abhorred in others, today being vilified as an agent of climate change because of their methane production. And he waxes philosophic about the cow's rumination and cud chewing, as well as her simple but meaningful moo.

With a touching and personal introduction from leading animal welfare advocate, Temple Grandin, the book offers readers an eye-opening perspective on this commodified animal, whose existence is inextricably intertwined with ours and which we too often take for granted. Doris Ecker, a Vancouver-based translator and writer, provides the translation.

About the authors

Journalist and author Florian Werner studied American, British, and German literature in both Germany and Scotland and earned his PhD in 2007. His short-story collection Wir sprechen uns noch (We Still Talk) was published in 2005 by DTV. In 2007, he published the non-fiction book Rapocalypse, a study of millenarianist HipHop lyrics, and in 2011 a cultural history of human excrement, Dunkle Materie: Die Geschichte der Schei e (Dark Matter: The History of S***) When he is not writing, he tours with his band, Fön, and plays soccer for the German national team of writers` Autonama. Werner lives in Berlin.

Florian Werner's profile page

A linguist by training, Doris Ecker is a full-time translator and writer based in Vancouver. After an eclectic career as a copy editor and linguistic adviser, senior researcher in machine translation, and bookbinder/conservator, she completed her Diploma in Translation at the British Institute of Linguists and started her own translation business. Ecker has worked as a translator mainly in the fields of travel, advertising, art and media for over thirteen years and has published travel articles in various English-language magazines. She is a member of the American Translators Association, the Northern Californian Translators Association, and the British Columbia Association of Travel Writers.

Doris Ecker's profile page

Dr. Temple Grandin is a designer of livestock handling facilities and a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. Facilities she has designed are located in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries. She has also developed an objective scoring system for assessing handling of cattle and pigs at meat plants. This scoring system is being used by many large corporations to improve animal welfare. She obtained her B.A. at Frankin Pierce College and her M.S. in Animal Science at Arizona State University. Dr. Grandin received her Ph.D in Animal Science from the University of Illinois in 1989. Today she teaches courses on livestock behaviour and facility design at Colorado State Univeristy and consults with the livestock industry on facility design, livestock handling, and animal welfare. She has appeared on television shows such as 20/20, 48 Hours, CNN Larry King Live, PrimeTime Live, the Today Show, and many shows in other countries. She has been featured in People Magazine, the New York Times, Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Time Magazine, the New York Times book review, and Discover magazine. In 2010, Time Magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people. Interviews with Dr. Temple Grandin have been broadcast on National Public Radio. She has also authored over 400 articles in both scientific journals and livestock periodicals on animal handling, welfare, and facility design. She is the author of Thinking in Pictures, Livestock Handling and Transport, Genetics and the Behavior of Domestic Animals, and Humane Livestock Handling. Her books Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human were both on the New York Times best seller list. Animals Make Us Human was also on the Canadian best seller list. Her life story has also been made into an HBO movie titled "Temple Grandin, staring Claire Danes." The movie shows her life as a teenager and how she started her career.

Temple Grandin's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"A supremely interesting and illuminating book that will leave you entertained and enlightened."

Sean Kenniff, author of "Etre the Cow"

"Compelling...a fascinating and detailed picture of the universe of the cow..."

Publishers Weekly

"A vibrantly written cultural and curio history of the human-cow relationship."


"In Cow: A Bovine Biography, German musician and author Florian Werner delivers an in-depth and surprisingly thoughtful piece of non-fiction...Werner reminds us that bovines are inextricably linked to humans, and that thinking more deeply about our relationship with them can give us a new perspective on our own humanity."

Winnipeg Free Press

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