To Humanize is to Understand

runningtomeYou have to undertsand…

The 1,600 pound horse, red in color, ran around his fenced-in area. At a distance ranging from 100 to 500 feet, the sound of his gait was not always synchronized with the visual of his hooves hitting the ground. The speed at which the horse was traveling often blurred what he passed, unless he was headed straight at you.

Compare that with this:

Proud head up with a playful glint in his eye, with muscles rippling with power as his mighty hooves threw up clods of earth in his wake, the copper horse’s mane and tail streamed in the wind. He felt good, he was feeling his oats, and he was happy to include me in his play. I knew he wouldn’t run into me, he was always aware of me and my role of leader in our little herd of two, but still, his massive size coming at me full bore was enough to keep me on my toes, ready to jump to the side should he carelessly forget to respect.

Aside from the fact, I hope, that it is more enjoyable to read the second description of Odin coming straight at me at a dead run than the first paragraph, what is conveyed in the latter is more understanding. You now know more about what happened than what you could glean from just a statement of facts.

This is accomplished by anthropomorphism, giving human traits to the non human. Research says that this is our way of feeling more in control and gaining more understanding of our world by treating it as something we are most familiar, the human form.

It is also a way to feel more connected when dealing with things outside of our control, like the rotten economy or natural disasters. Those with a limited social circle are far more likely to give human attributes to pets, and far less likely to dehumanize and persecute other groups. The use of anthropomorphism is a good indicator of whether we are treating others – humans, animals, things - with fairness, dignity and compassion.

A horse, dog or cat can’t love, they can’t be happy, they can’t miss their owner or feel depressed. They can’t feel at all. An animal is only drawn to the food in its dish, nor does it wish to please. I’ve heard these arguments time and time again, and have found myself disparaged more than a few times. I am as alien to them as they are strange to me.

So be it.


  1. I totally humanized my Shadow and I really don't care what Caesar or anyone else says my dog was human as far as I'm concerned and he totally grieved when we left him with strangers and when he died the other dog which I haven't humanized got so sick we thought she was going to die. Take care Theresa.

  2. Anthropomorphism, is all fine and dandy as long as the person doing it understands thats what they are doing and does it within limits.

    Like anything it can be taken to the extreme and when it is the animal who are victimized and suffer from it. Its never an appropriate thing when training an animal, you must learn to think like them, not the other way around. Which is why Ceasar is a very accomplished dog trainer.

    If being a good human means we have to run around coveting silly absurd notions then I'm glad I'm not a good human. So are my animals, they are especially grateful. Oooops!