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What the dogs knew: Intelligence and morality in the Cape Colony

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Chapter Summary

Dogs were ubiquitous and powerful communicators in Cape society. Across a variety of Cape cultures, the dog spoke either simple, true messages or bald-faced lies. But whatever dogs said, it always merited attention. Where canines fell in humans? moral universe differed across the cultures that populated the colonial Cape. This chapter uses stories about dogs from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century to illustrate some of that variety. It makes some general observations that hold true across these cultures. The chapter refers to domesticated and wild dogs, hyenas, and jackals collectively as ?canines? because in the colonial period at least one significant group- Europeans-grouped them as such. It shows a variety of southern African cultures considered these animal exemplars of the moral ambiguity of intelligence. Even canines who acted as tricksters had admirable wits and served valuable social functions for humans.

Keywords: Cape society; hyenas; jackals; southern Africa; wild dogs



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