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WILD TRAITS IN TAME ANIMALS.
VI.-DOGS AND CATS.
BY DR. LOUIS ROBINSON.
We now come to the domestic animals which are the immediate sharers of our homes, and I hope to show that we have quite as much to learn from the habits of the cat and the dog as from those of the creatures which we have already discussed.
The dog, in his every action, tells us that his forefathers lived in communities banded together for self-protection and for procuring food. The cat's habits show it to have been a solitary prowler from the earliost times. The one is an instinctive socialist; the other is an individualist, pure and simple. Just as the horse yields readily to the will of man because the young animals of every wild inob were submissive to their natural leaders, so the dog is ready to obey the authority of his superiors in the new “pack” in which he finds himself.
I have endeavored to show, in an article on “Canine Manners and Morals,” published in another periodical, that the dog regards his master as the chief of his pack, and the other members of the household as his comrades. His
teachableness and intelligence owe their primary origin to the fact that game had to be secured by co-operation of the most elaborate kind. The wild canide, and especially those which were among the ancestors of the domestic dogs, often prey upon animals larger than themselves, and therefore, intelligent concerted action was an absolute necessity of existence, for a single wolf could not pull down a buffalo or a moose.
Cats, on the contrary, prey as a rule, upon creatures smaller and weaker than themselves; and, from the fact that they stalk their victims silently, they do not find it profit
able to band together. Being naturally solitary and independent, they do not, when captured, become members of the family in the same way that dogs do, but seem to regard the human inhabitants of the honse rather as a part of the furniture than as comrades.
If we carefully consider what kind of raw materials for an opinion about mankind the wild cat brought into captivity, we find that they were of an utterly different nature from those possessed by the dog. The dog was constantly in company of his fellows, and so when he became associated with man he transferred his loyalty and many other mental habits and sentiments to the new government, just as a retired soldier carries his habit of prompt obedience into civil service. To put the case in a nutshell, the dog's master is regarded as the “boss” of the pack. This way of treating new things as part and parcel of what is old and familiar is common enough. When some South Sea Islanders first saw a horse they exclaimed, “What a very large pig”; and, doubtless, when Boston was first named, many who entered it thought more of the little town on the - Lincolnshire coast than of the new city.
But the cat was a solitary roamer, whose companions were the trees of its native forests. It found a home in the hollow trunks and safety among the branches. How do we know that the cat's ancestors were dwellers in the forest ? Because every kitten takes to a tree as readily as a duck to water. Also because nearly all forest dwellers are mottled in color, so that they may not be conspicuous among the light and shadows beneath the trees. While I was considering what was the probable view held by cats about human beings, it was suggested by one ingenious friend that probably they regard a man as a kind of locomotive tree, pleasant to rub against, the lower limbs of which afford a comfortable seat, and from whose upper branches occasionally drop tit-bits of mutton and other luscious fruits. We may laugh at the theory, but it has quite a respectable string of facts behind it to back it up. If the Kanakas argued from the pig to the horse, why should the cat not pass from the familiar tree to the unfamiliar organism called man?
At no time can you better contrast the habits of the dog and the cat than when they are feeding. A dog will either bolt his morsel whole as soon as it is given him or else run away to some
quiet spot where he can devour it at his leisure. He always acts as if he were in fear lest his treasure should be snatched from him; and when he is gnawing a bone, he will not allow even his master to approach without showing displeasure. In the wild state a struggle for the best of the spoil took place directly an animal was captured ; and, as I have already said, your dog pays you the compliment of regarding you as a member of his pack. Hence, he thinks it probable that you would like to take the bone from him and gnaw it yourself.
As you have doubtless often observed, the cat acts in a very different manner. When a piece of food is offered to her she first carefully smells it, then takes it in a deliberate and gingerly way
and sits down to eat it at her leisure. There is none of that hasty stowing the morsel into the one place where no dishonest rival can get at it, which we observe in the dog. It is plain that the cat is accustomed to take its meals in undisturbed solitude. Its master or mistress is not regarded as a possible rival. If the dog's hunting motto is “the more the merrier,” the cat's is the fewer the better fare." When you
have to make a dinner off a mouse or a sparrow, the less company there is the better. It is easy to see that a cat's teeth and claws are not adapted for attacking large and powerful prey. Even that ridiculous and effeminate parasite, the fashionable pug, could make a better show in attacking a sheep or an ox than a cat.
It is often remarked that cats are more attached to places than to persons, whereas a dog will accompany his master and make himself at home anywhere. We see in these distinctive traits of character the remnants of certain wild habits. Naturalists teil us that wild cats nearly always choose some fixed spot as their permanent headquarters and devote their attention to the game in the immediate district. Packs of wild animals of the dog tribe, such as wolves, jackals, and dholes, on the contrary, range a great extent of country and make their lair at any convenient spot. Each is at home as long as he is with his fellows. Of course, when a swift creature, such as a deer or antelope, is run down, the chase would often end many miles away from the starting point. The weary and gorged pack would naturally lie down to sleep on the nearest spot which afforded a suitable bed.
As Darwin pointed out, whenever a dog lies down he curls
himself round several times, as if he were twisting the long grass of the prairie or jungle into a comfortable nest.
Although we may safely say that the dog is the most thoroughly tamed of any animal which we possess, yet it is easy to trace every faculty in him which we find useful to the needs of the time when he was wholly engaged in managing his own affairs.
It is worth while to take notice of any distinctive trait of dogs you are familiar with and to think out its probable origin under purely natural conditions. Thus the watchdog's habit of barking when a stranger approaches is clearly traceable to the alarm given by the sentries of the pack when an enemy approached their lair.
The cat, in spite of the domestic character it has acquired, is in reality the least tame of our animal servants. As far as its duties are concerned man has taught it practically nothing. Its methods of pursuing rats, mice, and birds are all entirely its own. It is indeed rather a wild animal which has taken up its residence in our houses for its own purposes than a servant or a slave.
In bringing this series of articles on Wild Traits in Tame Animals to a close, let me say again that it has been my aim to suggest rather than to instruct. I am a strong believer in the doctrine that if you want to get a good grip of any fact you must dig it out yourself. There is no doubt that while we are young our senses, such as sight and hearing, are more acute than in adult civilized life ; and our powers of observation generally are more alert. In solving the many problems in Natural History which have hitherto baffled our wise men these are the very faculties which are wanted. But they must be combined with the power to reflect on the evidence gathered, and to sift out the rubbish from among the wheat. Even the most learned men know so little of the complex conditions of animal life, that orig. inal research is within the power of any one who is content to begin as a careful observer of the facts to be noticed immediately around him.
THE POWER OF THE BRITISH PRESS.
BY HENRY W. LUOY.
In a case affecting theatrical rights recently heard in the London law courts, two well-known managers appearing in the witness box took the opportunity of affirming their absolute disregard, not to say contempt, for articles published in the press purporting to be dramatic criticism. One in the excitement of the competitive examination said he never read notices of pieces in which he was personally concerned. In a calmer moment his colleague wrote to the newspapers to explain that his assertion was strictly limited to notices of pantomimes and did not affect criticism passed upon comedies and other high-class workmanship in vogue at the theatre with which he was connected. The other manager remained impenitent, or at least mute.
This attack on the alleged potency of the press, as affecting public opinion, is the more notable, as coming from a quarter where scepticism on the matter seems least likely to exist. If it be true that the press notices of plays have no value, it must be admitted that managers take extraordinary pains to procure what they believe to be worthless. The incident is useful as raising the question whether journalists have for these many years past been living in a fool's paradise; whether the public have remained under a delusion, and whether “that mighty engine, the press," is after all what Mr. Carlyle liked to call a " simulacrum.” Can a newspaper or a congeries of newspapers make the fortune of a play, sell a book or a picture, or make the fortunes of a man ?
I think the 'answer is that everything depends on the play, the book, the picture, or the man. If there is nothing of merit in any of them, not all the newspapers in the kingdom, morning and evening combined, with the weeklies thrown in, can force