The Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry

Canine Pioneer: The Extraordinary Life of Rudolphina Menzel

Editor: Susan Martha Kahn

An insightful look at the life and legacy of a pioneer cynologist between Europe and IsraelThe book cover of "Canine Pioneer"

Rudolphina Menzel (1891–1973), was a Viennese-born, Jewish chemist whose pioneering research on canine psychology, development, and behavior fundamentally shaped the ways dogs came to be trained, cared for, and understood. Between the two world wars, Menzel was known throughout Europe as one of the foremost breeders and trainers of police dogs and served as a sought-after consultant at Kummersdorf, the German military dog training institute in Berlin. She was also a fervent Zionist who was responsible for inventing the canine infrastructure in what came to be the State of Israel and for training thousands of dogs to protect Jewish lives and property in pre-state Palestine. Teaching Jews to like dogs and training dogs to serve Jews became Menzel’s unique kind of Zionist mission. Detailed and insightful, Canine Pioneer brings to light an important piece of history.

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"This superb book explores, in fascinating detail, the remarkable story of Rudolphina Menzel. In engaging and accessible prose, Susan Kahn and her fellow contributors tease out the complexities and contradictions of Menzel and her remarkable accomplishments in the mid-twentieth-century world of dog breeding and training. Always alive to the context in which she lived and worked, this book expertly weaves together animal history and Jewish history to shine a light on an overlooked aspect of human-canine relations." — Chris Pearson, Department of History, University of Liverpool, author of Dogopolis: How Dogs and Humans Made Modern New York, London, and Paris

"This book gives a fine picture of the extraordinary career and personality of Rudolphina Menzel, an Austrian cynologist who emigrated to British Mandate Palestine in 1938, and emerged as a foremost world expert on canine psychology, development and training. Applying what she had learnt in Austria, she organized canine training for police and military uses in the newborn State of Israel, and eventually sired the development of a new breed, the indigenous Canaan dog. For decades her major theoretical and practical contributions to the field went unrecognized. This volume – beginning with Susan Kahn's well-rounded, introductory biography – goes a long way to correcting this oversight." — Benny Morris, Professor Emeritus, Department of Middle Eastern Studies, Ben Gurion University of the Negev

"... a deeply contextualized account of Menzel's life, from her childhood as a thoroughly assimilated Austrian Jew, through her awakening commitment to Zionism, her training and early career as a scientist, and her career as an eminent dog trainer and breeder both in Europe and in Israel. It is a fascinating story--unusual from the perspective of Menzel's expertise, although not from the perspective of her experience of the darkening political atmosphere of Austria and Germany and of the need to become a refugee." — Harriet Ritvo, Arthur J. Conner Emeritus Professor of History, MIT

"We have waited a long time for a heroine like Menzel. As thoughtful as she was daring, as courageous as she was kind. Driven by curiosity, Menzel straddled the different worlds of canines and humans at a time driven by violent division. Her biographer Kahn has done a masterful job providing us with a fascinating image of an important historical figure whose message resonates especially today - sometimes the characteristics that make us different are less important than the experiences we share." — Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods, authors of The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think

"Rudolphina Menzel devoted much of her life to help our four-legged companions find their place in modern society. Her pioneering effort bears fruit in the present day to improve human-dog partnership." — Ádám Miklósi, Eötvös Loránd University, author of Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition


About the Editor

Susan Martha Kahn is the associate director at the Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law at Harvard Law School. She has published in science studies, animal studies, and Jewish studies, and her book Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel won a National Jewish Book Award, as well as the Eileen Basker Prize for Outstanding Research in Gender and Health from the American Anthropological Association.