Susan Kahn, Canine Pioneer

When and Where

Monday, October 23, 2023 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Jackman Humanities Building
170 St. George St., Toronto, ON M5S 2M8


Susan Kahn (Harvard University)


Joseph Lebovic Lecture

Susan Kahn (Harvard University)

Canine Pioneer

Rudolphina Menzel (née Waltuch, 1891-1973) was a Viennese-born Jewish scientist whose pioneering research on canine psychology, development, and behavior fundamentally shaped the ways dogs came to be trained, cared for, and understood. Between the world wars, Menzel was known all over Europe as one of the foremost researchers on canine cognition as well as among the most famous breeders and trainers of police dogs. Throughout the 1920s and until the Nazis seized power in 1933, she was a sought-after consultant at Kummersdorf, the German military dog training institute near Berlin. She was also a devout Zionist who worked tirelessly to convince the leaders of the Yishuv that dogs could help build and protect the nascent Jewish state.  In fact, teaching Jews to like dogs and training dogs to serve Jews became Menzel's unique kind of Zionist mission.

In 1938 Menzel escaped Nazi-occupied Austria and moved to Palestine, where she launched a series of ambitious canine initiatives: she published the first dog-training manual in Hebrew, founded the Palestine Kennel Club, established the Palestine Research Institute for Canine Psychology and Training, and organized dog handling courses for the Haganah; hundreds of her trained dogs served alongside Jewish forces in the 1948 war, detecting mines, carrying messages, and pursuing enemies.  In the 1950s, she created the first guide-dog institute in the Middle East and invented Israel’s national dog breed, the Canaan dog. In 1962 at the age of 71, she was appointed associate professor of animal psychology at Tel Aviv University, where she maintained an active research agenda almost until the day she died.


Susan M. 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 (Duke 2000) 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.



This event will be delivered in-person in JHB100 (170 St. George Street) on Monday, October 23, 2023 at 4 PM.


Joseph Lebovic Lecture


170 St. George St., Toronto, ON M5S 2M8