Cover: The Animal Game: Searching for Wildness at the American Zoo, from Harvard University PressCover: The Animal Game in HARDCOVER

The Animal Game

Searching for Wildness at the American Zoo

Add to Cart

Product Details


$42.00 • £33.95 • €38.00

ISBN 9780674737341

Publication Date: 11/07/2016


400 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

30 halftones


What emerges is a story of adaptation and survival that exposes the modern zoo as ‘a third nature’… Those who are ethically opposed to zoos will find plenty here to strengthen their case. But with zoos’ power of reinvention, it seems likely that this ‘third nature’ will be with us for some time.—Henry Nicholls, Nature

A fascinating history lesson on zoos in the USA, from their beginnings at the end of the nineteenth century through to the 1970s… Each chapter of The Animal Game is riveting and meticulously evidenced… The reason why Bender’s book shines is not only his philosophical musings, but his intricate weaving of the histories of ordinary and extraordinary people and animals that have played a documented part in the narratives of U.S. zoos.—Lauriane Suyin Chalmin-Pui, LSE Review of Books

[The Animal Game] makes some significant contributions to the field by changing the nature of the discussion about animal traders in Africa in the 1920s and 1930s, and by enriching our understanding of labor relations in the zoo, particularly in the 1970s. Both are important additions to zoo history.—Jesse C. Donahue, American Historical Review

Bender provides a high-level history of urban zoos in the 20th-century U.S. Sourced from the libraries and archives of several zoos, this book and its supplemental digital content shine a light on zoo history that was previously kept private.—J. R. Page, Choice

A fascinating transnational labor, social, and cultural history of the American zoo. Bender brilliantly shows us how workers around the world participated in the creation of a popular American institution, including merchants in Singapore who sold caged animals to dealers, East African workers who captured wild animals under horrific conditions, and the wives of self-styled ‘zoo men,’ who raised countless orphaned ‘zoo babies’ after World War II. Well-written and impressively researched, The Animal Game is a groundbreaking book.—Janet Davis, author of The Gospel of Kindness: Animal Welfare and the Making of Modern America

This book could not be more timely. American zoos are contested spaces today, caught between heated debates about conservation and confinement. In seemingly effortless prose backed by impeccable research, Bender shows us how today’s zoos came to be. After reading this book, you’ll never go to the zoo in the same way again.—Jane Desmond, author of Displaying Death and Animating Life: Human–Animal Relations in Art, Science, and Everyday Life

This moving account of the animals that have come to populate zoos ranges from hidden histories of empire, celebrity, and taxidermy to consideration of the ways that institutions associated with prisons, slums, and asylums might affect their inhabitants. Mixing labor history across species lines with keen cultural analysis, this is a story of enclosure that opens out in remarkable ways.—Kristin Hoganson, author of Consumers’ Imperium: The Global Production of American Domesticity

In The Animal Game, Daniel Bender offers a fresh perspective on the twentieth-century history of American zoos. His informative and engaging account includes vivid portraits of human and nonhuman actors, as it details the business, the politics, and the ethics of the acquisition and display of living animals.—Harriet Ritvo, author of Noble Cows and Hybrid Zebras: Essays on Animals and History

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

Marking the 75th Anniversary of Independence from British Rule

August 14 and August 15 mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of independence from British rule for Pakistan and India, respectively. Inextricably linked to the birth of these two South Asian nations is the 1947 Partition of the subcontinent that tragically accompanied the end of British colonialism.