Beauty or Statistics, by Bert Theunissen, is a valuable and innovative piece of scholarship based on meticulous research. It advances a broadening field devoted to understanding how animal breeding evolved in relation to the science of genetics, arguing that it is too simplistic to see the infiltration of genetics into practice as merely modernization. The book looks at the interface between science and practice in the breeding of farm animals, with a special focus on Dutch livestock breeding. The number of species dealt with is unusual, covering cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, and horses, and such wide coverage allows for the identification of trends outside the differing breeding cultures that can be found in livestock industries. The writing is clear and makes difficult subjects easy to understand.

Historical animal breeding, and particularly its relationship to advancing science, has attracted two separate sets of academics: one principally interested in the cultural...

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