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SAGACITY OF ANIMALS.
ANIMALS have so often displayed such a remarkable amount of sagacity, that it has puzzled the most learned naturalists fully to define that wonderful faculty called instinct which God has given them. You have read of some striking instances of animal sagacity, and I have now a little more to say to you on this subject.
How easily spiders are made to know the voice of their master, is familiar to all, from many a sad prisoner's tale. When the great and brilliant Lauzun was held in captivity, his only joy and comfort was a friendly spider: she came at his call; she took her food from his finger, and well understood his word of command. In vain did jailers and soldiers try to deceive his tiny companion; she would not obey their voices, and refused the tempting bait from their hand. Here, then, was not only an ear, but a keen power of distinction. The despised little animal listened with sweet affection, and knew how to discriminate between not unsimilar tones—the tones of the voice of the prisoner, and the tones of the voices of the jailers and soldiers.
It would seem, too, that experience teaches them as well as human beings. If you wish to know what experience is I need only remind you of an old saying, that a “burnt child dreads the fire.” The child having been once burnt avoids coming too close to the fire again, because he found that it burned him. Now that was experience. This is frequently the case with the animal creation. Two carriage horses made a point of stopping at the foot of every hill in spite of all the punishment that the coachman could inflict, and they were almost given np as incurable ; but as a last resort some other horses were attached to the back of the carriage to pull it and them backwards if they would not advance. This had the desired effect; for the next time, and ever
after, as soon as the horses got to the foot of a hill they set off at full speed!
A little poodle dog who had been beaten severely while some musk was held to its nose, always ran away
when he smelt any musk. Another dog having once heard a fiddle took such a dislike to it, that he would often try to get the
bow and hide it that it might not be played in his hearing. A fox that has once been caught in a trap and got away will never again go
A quail that has once been enticed into a net
by the call-pipe, will never again be tempted to listen to the call of the piper let him pipe as long as he may.
The sagacity of animals will also be displayed when they are kindly treated. Cows will show their pleasure at seeing those who have been kind to them by moving their ears gently and putting out their noses. Some boys in a school in America so tamed a .number of wild pigeons from the woods near their school, that they would fly into the room where the boys had dinner, and peck the crumbs from their hands, and when in the fields would come at their call. No doubt you have yourselves seen many instances of such gratitude for kindness in animals. Having once been treated kindly, this experience teaches them to expect a renewal of it when they see their friepds. A farmer's dog, during dinner, will sit upon his haunches and hold out his
for bits of bread or meat. It is because he has found by experience that if he so sits and looks up at his master as if asking him to remember him, he is very likely to get a bit of something to eat.
Although animals seem to use experience, yet it is plain that they cannot reason as we can, as the following instances will show. Sir Joseph Banks had a tame beaver which he put in a ditch on his grounds. One day at the end of autumn it was found in the ditch very busy trying to construct a dam, such as the beaver's make in their wild state. Now if this beaver could have reasoned it would have known how useless such a task was in its present circumstances. And this shows a difference between mere instinct, which can only do one thing at a certain time, and reason which guides us to do what we please at any time.
Bees can fly home to their bives in a straight direction, but if one bappens to fly in at an open window in a room it
will exhaust all its efforts in trying to fly through the shut window on the opposite side of the room, instead of turning round and going out again at the window which it came in at, which
child would do. A Jackdaw, for want of a more suitable place, chose a rabbit hole in which to build its nest, but was often sorely puzzled to get long sticks into the hole, as he held them in bis beak lengthway. Again and again he would push and
try to get the stick in, but could not, because it was longer than the mouth of the hole, and the bird had not sense enough to lay hold of one end and thus drag it in easily.
Monkeys will get round a fire and sit till it goes out, but none of them seem to have "gumption" enough to put more wood on the fire and thus keep it alight. And it is well
that these mischievous creatures can neither kindle a fire or keep it burning. If they could they would soon set the world on fire !
Dogs, in their wild state, sleep on rushes or tall grass, and to make themselves a bed they turn round several times before they lie down; and you will often see a dog do this when going to lie down either on the hearth-rug or in his kennel, which he has no need to do.
A few words about the goose, and I must give over for the present.
You often hear folks say, as silly as a goose;" but geese are not so silly as some folks say they are. You may drive over a dog, or a cat, or a pig, but you cannot drive over a goose, although it waddles so. As for wild geese there is no bird so difficult to get at. Their senses of hearing, seeing, and smelling, are so very keen, and they act in such a clever and cautious manner when feeding or resting, as to prevent all danger. Tame geese, too, are remarkably watchful in the night. Perhaps you have read at school, in the History of Rome, how that great city was once saved by the cackling of some geese which were kept in the capitol, and which heard the enemy coming when all the guards were asleep.
But I must stop for the present. Perhaps I may tell you more tales of this kind at some future time.
I only wish to remind you now that God has made animals with faculties and instincts that they may provide for themselves and their young in the best way, and enjoy, as long as their short life may last, a happy existence. But man is a superior creature of God, and being superior he is account