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The Human Zoo: A Zoologist's Study of the Urban Animal

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  2,306 ratings  ·  92 reviews
This study concerns the city dweller. Morris finds remarkable similarities with captive zoo animals and looks closely at the aggressive, sexual and parental behaviour of the human species under the stresses and pressures of urban living.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 27th 1994 by Vintage (first published 1969)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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Nandakishore Varma
In scholarly circles, I understand that Desmond Morris is not taken very seriously nowadays. His anthropological observations of the human race are seen as too simplistic. However, I have always found his analysis to be relevant and highly enjoyable.

Here, the human animal is observed in urban surroundings - according to the author, this is equivalent to the limited surroundings of a zoo. Animals exhibit many "deviant" behaviours under captivity: Morris illustrates, in highly entertaining
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Javier
Dec 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read this book shortly after reading the naked ape. I thought it was a great book. The human animal acts just like the animals it claims to be "superior to". In SuperFreakeconomics .... the economist started using money on the monkeys .... once they learned the coins had value ..., the female monkeys, prostituted themselves, sex for money .... this is no small discovery. When I was in Saudi Arabia, two female soldiers were court martialed because they were prostituting.

Their defense,
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Kali
Aug 06, 2012 rated it did not like it
Setting the standard for evolutionary psychology "just so" stories, Morris demonstrates that at least in this case evolutionary psychologists tell us more about their own biases than the human past. In Morris's analysis, the cause and effect of human evolution are crystal clear and all happen to mesh neatly with his own biases, including his sexism and homophobia. His "ten commandments of dominance," upon which he claims human relationships are based, are often absurd, such as the commandment, " ...more
Dustin J Allen
Dec 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Changed the way I see things. Haha. Desmond Morris is an awesomely funny and radical academic.
Bastard Travel
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
I can only assume the working title was "Shitty Cities: Why People Are Garbage When They Don't Live In the Woods".

After a near catastrophe where I spilled a gallon of water on it and had to bake it dry in my car, effort justification forced me to power through it the rest of the way. It made a callous and unpopular suggestion vis-à-vis "human nature" that I have no choice but to love.

The Human Zoo is overgrown civilization, specifically in the form of major, metropolitan cities. We evolved to
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Nick Arkesteyn
Sep 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What happens when you take people who are biologically programmed to live in groups of less than 200 and cram them into large dense cities? This book describes the interesting behavior patterns that play out from politics to sex.

There are so so so many levels to this book. It is worth many reads.

Every human should read this book!

Nick Arkesteyn
Philip Aarons
Oct 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
1969 and a real forward thinker. While in 2012 the views have been updated and put within the context of today's cultural norms, this was and is a ground breaking book. Accessible, informative and a reflection on behaviour patterns. His contemporaries, such as Lyall Watson step out the shadows of this great author and command great books and acclaim themselves. Recommended reading and follow with his own students books.
Nicholas
Jan 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychology
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Srikkanthan
Feb 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Can't believe this was written in the late sixties. This is one wonderful book that puts forth with all honesty why the urbanized human being is so violent as well as vulnerable. This book is really thought provoking and definitely would change the world view after reading.
Jon
Jul 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Morris's premise is an interesting one--that animals in zoos suffer from loneliness and deprivation and act out in unwholesome ways that do not occur in nature. So, too, man is housed in a zoo. It's called a city. As such, we have murder, thievery, and so on--actions you would see nowhere in nature.

Our natural environment is one of small tribes, where we hunt and gather. There are maybe fifty of us to twenty square miles. Instead, we have supertribes--cities where we don't know our neighbors and
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Audrey
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
Upon re-reading: 2 stars
I just don't like this book. I think it has a lot of sexism and racism and homophobia. And I just don't enjoy it. There are hardly any citations considering this is purported to be non-fiction, and I don't think that it should be read as such. I'm also mad that I had to entirely re-read this book looking for information for my final, because there is no index or easy way to navigate it other than slogging through his philosophy. I don't know. There are so many other books
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Tommi Mäntysalo
You lost me at the fallos symbol and rock stars masturbating their electric penises while ppl are cheering to them = playing electorni guitar on stage to audience first chapters were good tho ...more
khashayar
Oct 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
The human zoo is a continuation of Morris' earlier book, the naked ape. Unfortunately, I could not get my hands on the former and I had to get myself acquainted with Morris by reading the latter, which I was lucky to find. Inasmuch as I can understand, the animal behavior is employed as a kind of looking glass to examine the human behaviour. In this fashion, the human society is examined and shown to be like the zoo, where animals are living in unnatural habitat. The crux of Morris argumentation ...more
David
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Premise of the book is that Man's flaws are a symptom of living in an unnatural urban environment. Cities are a "Human Zoo". Since our needs are simply met, and we are more and more isolated, the human animal becomes bored and lonely. Or conversely, the human Animal can get too much stimulus. Either way it results in psychological problems. It is an interesting theory and a must read just for exposure sake. I rate it five stars not because I agree or disagree, but because the book gives me a ...more
Joshua
Oct 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book from beginning to almost the end. By the last two chapters I felt like I was getting beat over the head with the previous chapters. The comparisons on captive zoo animal behavior and our own was really fascinating. It feels refreshing to learn again that not only are we "only human" but we are really just animals at our core. Lots of great quotes in this book to carry with you in your journeys.
Melissa
Jun 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought-provoking insights on how we're caging ourselves up in buildings and cubicles when we're biologically meant to be out in the wilderness which is leading to increase anxiety in society today. At the same time, the democratization of power presents very exciting opportunities. Such is life in the big city yo.
Victoria
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A friend gave me this book when I asked why society is so crazy and people are so self-destructive. This book was written in the 60s and while some views are considered outdated by today's standards (re: homosexuality, for example), it provides certain insights. Certain things that make sense in a tribal culture expresses themselves differently in a super-tribe. Overall, very perceptive work.
Mattzgmb
Jul 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
"in all that mass of wires, cables, plastics, concrete, bricks, metal, and glass... there is an animal, a human animal, a primitive tribal hunter, masquerading as a civilized, super-tribal citizen and desperately struggling to match his ancient inherited qualities with his extraordinary new situation." a quaint look at the human condition in relation to the urban environment
Dibias
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Essential reading for the captive, urban animal.
Nuwan
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
T
his is amazing book
Ashley
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating comparisons of behaviour between caged animals and urban dwellers, using multidisciplinary theories. Topics covered are fairly wide but written in concise manner.
Revella Notvanella
Good for every library
Justinian
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
2014-06 – Human Zoo. Desmond Morris (Author) 272 Pages. 1969.

An older book off of my “To Read Pile” This book operates from a hypothesis that we modern humans are essentially the same biologically and evolutionary wise as those hunter gathers making the transition to civilization (defined as agriculture) that actions and reactions to stimuli evolved for survival in small groups of hunter gatherers and we are living in conditions that our evolutionary make-up has not caught up to. To explain …
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Lester
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
A very interesting read. Mr Morris basis almost all of his theory (or at least did at the time - I read the original 1969 version) on his observations as a zoologist. Nevertheless, the extrapolation of his observations, including parallels to the animal world, rang true to me where most of his theories regarding our unsuitability for living in a 'super-tribe' go. Back in 1969, he was able to show that we are not suited to living in large cities, and many of our social problems stem from our ...more
Michael
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was one of those kids who frequently requested trips to the zoo. I was fascinated with the primate house and anything related.

On one particular visits I heard visitors screeching and scrambling away from view of the chimpanzee exhibit. As I moved closer I discovered that the commotion was triggered by several of the chimps who where defecating in their hand and tossing the contents at the glass enclosure.

According to our author, this type of behavior is the result of living in close
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Kaja Trees
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is continuation of study of human animal, describing how all our main characteristics have been developed into the extreme in our super-societies of our cities. After reading this, I am not surprised that mental problems are so prevalent in our society. We just can't help it - it's not natural. Moreover, it makes me scared for the future where everything is even more global, there are even more people both in our physical lives and on the other side of our computer connections... ...more
L
Nov 10, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
Interesting read, but unfortunately does not hold up well scientifically. Morris does not explain how and why humans are comparable to animals; nor does he explain to what extent they are comparable, if they are comparable. While there are many statements of facts throughout the book, Morris fails to explain why they are relevant and what scientific evidence there is to explain that relevance (correlation =/= causation).
Sten Kütt
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
For a young person it gives a good picture and perspective of true human person, not the one who wants to be caged between bricks and concrete.
Eduardo Hernandez
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
A book full of interesting ideas which makes you rethink the concept of human nature. Some things are debatable and that's exactly what you should question while reading. Enjoyed it!
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Desmond John Morris is most famous for his work as a zoologist and ethologist, but is also known as a surrealist artist and author.

“...In little more than a single century from 1820 to 19450, no less than fifty-nine million human animals were killed in inter-group clashes of one sort or another.... We describe these killings as men behaving "like animals," but if we could find a wild animal that showed signs of acting this way, it would be more precise to describe it as behaving like men.” 18 likes
“Clearly, then, the city is not a concrete jungle, it is a human zoo. The” 2 likes
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