by Samuel White Baker
Instinct and Reason - Tailor Birds and Grosbeaks - The White Ant - Black Ants at War - Wanderoo Monkeys - Habits of Elephants - Elephants in the Lake - Herd of Elephants Bathing - Elephant-shooting - The Rencontre - The Charge - Caught by the Tail - Horse Gored by a Buffalo - Sagacity of Dogs - " Bluebeard " - His Hunt - A True Hound.
There can be no doubt that man is not the only animal endowed with reasoning powers: he possesses that faculty to an immense extent, but although the amount of the same power possessed by animals may be infinitely small, nevertheless it is their share of reason, which they occasionally use apart from mere instinct.
Although instinct and reason appear to be closely allied, they are easily separated and defined.
Instinct is the faculty with which Nature has endowed all animals for the preservation and continuation of their own species. This is accordingly exhibited in various features, as circumstances may call forth the operation of the power; but so wonderful are the attributes of Nature that the details of her arrangements throughout the animal and insect creation give to every class an amount of sense which in many instances surmounts the narrow bounds of simple instinct.
The great characteristic of sheer instinct is its want of progression; it never increases, never improves. It is possessed now in the nineteenth century by every race of living creatures in no larger proportion than was bestowed upon them at the creation.
In general, knowledge increases like a rolling snowball; a certain amount forms a base for extra improvement, and upon successive foundations of increasing altitude the eminence has been attained of the present era. This is the effect of "reason;" but "instinct," although beautiful in its original construction, remains, like the blossom of a tree, ever the same - a limited effect produced by a given cause; an unchangeable law of Nature that certain living beings shall perform certain functions which require a certain amount of intelligence; this amount is supplied by Nature for the performance of the duties required; this is instinct.
Thus, according to the requirements necessitated by the habits of certain living creatures to an equivalent amount is their share of instinct. Reason differs from instinct as combining the effects of thought and reflection; this being a proof of consideration, while instinct is simply a direct emanation from the brain, confined to an impulse.
In our observations of Nature, especially in tropical countries, we see numberless exemplifications of these powers, in some of which the efforts of common instinct halt upon the extreme boundary and have almost a tinge of reason.
What can be more curious than the nest of the tailor-bird - a selection of tough leaves neatly sewn one over the other to form a waterproof exterior to the comfortable little dwelling within? Where does the needle and thread come from? The first is the delicate bill of the bird itself, and the latter is the strong fibre of the bark of a tree, with which the bird sews every leaf, lapping one over the other in the same manner that slates are laid upon a roof.
Nevertheless this is simple instinct; the tailor-bird in the days of Adam constructed her nest in a similar manner, which will be continued without improvement till the end of time.
The grosbeak almost rivals the tailor-bird in the beautiful formation of its nest. These birds build in company, twenty or thirty nests being common upon one tree. Their apparent intention in the peculiar construction of their nests is to avoid the attacks of snakes and lizards. These nests are about two feet long, composed of beautifully woven grass, shaped like an elongated pear. They are attached like fruit to the extreme end of a stalk or branch, from which they wave to and fro in the wind, as though hung out to dry. The bird enters at a funnel-like aperture in the bottom, and by this arrangement the young are effectually protected from reptiles.
All nests, whether of birds or insects, are particularly interesting, as they explain the domestic habits of the occupants; but, however wonderful the arrangement and the beauty of the work as exhibited among birds, bees, wasps, etc., still it is the simple effect of instinct on the principle that they never vary.
The white ant - that grand destroyer of all timber - always works under cover; he builds as he progresses in his work of destruction, and runs a long gallery of fine clay in the direction of his operations; beneath this his devastation proceeds until he has penetrated to the interior of the beam, the centre of which he entirely demolishes, leaving a thin shell in the form of the original log encrusted over the exterior with numerous galleries.
There is less interest in the habits of these destructive wretches than in all other of the ant tribe; they build stupendous nests, it is true, but their interior economy is less active and thrifty than that of many other species of ants, among which there is a greater appearance of the display of reasoning powers than in most animals of a superior class.
On a fine sunny morning it is not uncommon, to see ants busily engaged in bringing out all the eggs from the nest and laying them in the sun until they become thoroughly warmed, after which they carry them all back again and lay them in their respective places. This looks very like a power of reasoning, as it is decidedly beyond instinct. If they were to carry out the eggs every morning, wet or dry, it would be an effort of instinct to the detriment of the eggs; but as the weather is uncertain, it is an effort of reason on the part of the ants to bring out the eggs to the sun, especially as it is not an every-day occurrence, even in fine weather.
In Mauritius, the negroes have a custom of turning the reasoning powers of the large black ant to advantage.
White ants are frequently seen passing in and out of a small hole from underneath a building, in which case their ravages could only be prevented by taking up the flooring and destroying the nest.
The negroes avoid this by their knowledge of the habits of the black ant, who is a sworn enemy to the white.
They accordingly pour a little treacle on the ground within a yard of the hole occupied by the white ants. The smell of the treacle shortly attracts some of the black species, who, on their arrival are not long in observing their old enemies passing in and out of the hole. Some of them leave the treacle; these are evidently messengers, as in the course of the day a whole army of black ants will be seen advancing, in a narrow line of many yards in length, to storm the stronghold of the white ants. They enter the hole, and they destroy every white ant in the building. Resistance there can be none, as the plethoric, slow-going white ant is as a mouse to a cat in the encounter with his active enemy, added to which the black ant is furnished with a most venomous sting, in addition to a powerful pair of mandibles. I have seen the black ants returning from their work of destruction, each carrying a slaughtered white ant in his mouth, which he devours at leisure. This is again a decided effort of reason, as the black ant arrives at the treacle without a thought of the white ant in his mind, but, upon seeing his antagonist, he despatches messengers for reinforcements, who eventually bring up the army to the "rendezvous."
Numerous instances might be cited of the presence of reasoning powers among the insect classes, but this faculty becomes of increased interest when seen in the larger animals.
Education is both a proof and a promoter of reason in all animals. This removes them from their natural or instinctive position, and brings forth the full development of the mental powers. This is exhibited in the performance of well-trained dogs, especially among pointers and setters. Again, in the feats performed by educated animals in the circus, where the elephant has lately endeavored to prove a want of common sense by standing on his head. Nevertheless, however absurd the trick, which man may teach the animal to perform, the very fact of their performance substantiates an amount of reason in the animal.
Monkeys, elephants and dogs are naturally endowed with a larger share of the reasoning power than other animals, which is frequently increased to a wonderful extent by education. The former, even in their wild state, are so little inferior to some natives, either in their habits or appearance, that I should feel some reluctance in denying them an almost equal share of reason; the want Of speech certainly places them below the Veddahs, but the monkeys, on the other hand, might assert a superiority by a show of tails.
Monkeys vary in intelligence according to their species, and may be taught to do almost anything. There are several varieties in Ceylon, among which the great black wanderoo, with white whiskers, is the nearest in appearance to the human race. This monkey stands upward of three feet high, and weighs about eighty pounds. He has immense muscular power, and he has also a great peculiarity in the formation of the skull, which is closely allied to that of a human being, the lower jaw and the upper being in a straight line with the forehead. In monkeys the jaws usually project. This species exists in most parts of Ceylon, but I have seen it of a larger size at Newera Ellia thin in any of the low-country districts.
Elephants are proverbially sagacious, both in their wild state and when domesticated. I have previously described the building of a dam by a tame elephant, which was an exhibition of reason hardly to be expected in any animal. They are likewise wonderfully sagacious in a wild state in preserving themselves from accidents, to which, from their bulk and immense weight, they would be particularly liable, such as the crumbling of the verge of a precipice, the insecurity of a bridge or the suffocating depth of mud in a lake.
It is the popular opinion, and I have seen it expressed in many works, that the elephant shuns rough and rocky ground, over which he moves with difficulty, and that he delights in level plains, etc., etc. This may be the case in Africa, where his favorite food, the mimosa, grows upon the plain, but in Ceylon it is directly the contrary. In this country the elephant delights in the most rugged localities; he rambles about rocky hills and mountains with a nimbleness that no one can understand without personal experience. So partial are elephants to rocky and uneven ground that should the ruins of a mountain exist in rugged fragments along a plain of low, thorny jungle, five chances to one would be in favor of tracking the herd to this very spot, where they would most likely be found, standing among the alleys roamed by the fragments heaped around them. It is surprising to witness the dexterity of elephants in traversing ground over which a man can pass with difficulty. I have seen places on the mountains in the neighborhood of Newera Ellia bearing the unmistakable marks of elephants where I could not have conceived it possible for such an animal to stand. On the precipitous sides of jungle-covered mountains, where the ground is so steep that a man is forced to cling to the underwood for support, the elephants still plough their irresistible course. In descending or ascending these places, the elephant a always describes a zigzag, and thus lessens the abruptness of the inclination. Their immense weight acting on their broad feet, bordered by sharp horny toes, cuts away the side of the hill at every stride and forms a level step; thus they are enabled to skirt the sides of precipitous hills and banks with comparative case. The trunk is the wonderful monitor of all danger to an elephant, from whatever cause it may proceed. This may arise from the approach of man or from the character of the country; in either case the trunk exerts its power; in one by the acute sense of smell, in the other by the combination of the sense of scent and touch. In dense jungles, where the elephant cannot see a yard before him, the sensitive trunk feels the hidden way, and when the roaring of waterfalls admonishes him of the presence of ravines and precipices, the never-failing trunk lowered upon the around keeps him advised of every inch of his path.
Nothing is more difficult than to induce a tame elephant to cross a bridge which his sagacity assures him is insecure; he will sound it with his trunk and press upon it with one foot, but he will not trust his weight if he can perceive the slightest vibration.
Their power of determining whether bogs or the mud at the bottom of tanks are deep or shallow is beyond my comprehension. Although I have seen elephants in nearly every position, I have never seen one inextricably fixed in a swamp. This is the more extraordinary as their habits induce them to frequent the most extensive morasses, deep lakes, muddy tanks and estuaries, and yet I have never seen even a young one get into a scrape by being overwhelmed. There appears to be a natural instinct which warns them in their choice of ground, the same as that which influences the buffalo, and in like manner guides him through his swampy haunts.
It is a grand sight to see a large herd of elephants feeding in a fine lake in broad daylight. This is seldom witnessed in these days, as the number of guns have so disturbed the elephants in Ceylon that they rarely come out to drink until late in the evening or during the night; but some time ago I had a fine view of a grand herd in a lake in the middle of the day.
I was out shooting with a great friend of mine, who is a brother-in-arms against the game of Ceylon, and than whom a better sportsman does not breathe, and we had arrived at a wild and miserable place while en route home after a jungle trip. Neither of us was feeling well; we had been for some weeks in the most unhealthy part of the country, and I was just recovering from a touch of dysentery: altogether, we were looking forward with pleasure to our return to comfortable quarters, and for the time we were tired of jungle life. However, we arrived at a little village about sixty miles south of Batticaloa, called "Gollagangwelléwevé" (pronunciation requires practice), and a very long name it was for so small a place; but the natives insisted that a great number of elephants were in the neighborhood.
They also declared that the elephants infested the neighboring tank even during the forenoon, and that they nightly destroyed their embankment, and would not be driven away, as there was not a single gun possessed by the village with which to scare them. This looked all right; so we loaded the guns and started without loss of time, as it was then one P. M., and the natives described the tank as a mile distant. Being perfectly conversant with the vague idea of space described by a Cingalese mile, we mounted our horses, and, accompanied by about five-and-twenty villagers, twenty of whom I wished at Jericho, we started. By the by, I have quite forgotten to describe who "we" are - F. H. Palliser, Esq., and myself.
Whether or not it was because I did not feel in brisk health, I do not know, but somehow or other I had a presentiment that the natives had misled us, and that we should not find the elephants in the tank, but that, as usual, we should be led tip to some dense, thorny jungle, and told that the elephants were somewhere in that direction. Not being very sanguine, I had accordingly taken no trouble about my gun-bearers, and I saw several of my rifles in the bands of the villagers, and only one of my regular gun-bearers had followed me; the rest, having already had a morning's march, were glad of an excuse to remain behind.
Our rate lay for about a quarter of a mile through deserted paddy-land and low jungle, after which we entered fine open jungle and forest. Unfortunately, the recent heavy rains bad filled the tank, which had overflowed the broken dam and partially flooded the forest. This was in all parts within two hundred yards from the dam a couple of feet deep in water, with a proportionate amount of sticky mud beneath, and through this we splashed until the dam appeared about fifty yards on our right. It was a simple earthen mound, which rose about ten feet from the level of the forest, and was studded with immense trees, apparently the growth of ages. We knew that the tank lay on the opposite side, but we continued our course parallel with the dam until we bad ridden about a mile from the village, the natives, for a wonder, having truly described the distance.
Here our guide, having motioned us to stop, ran quickly up the dam to take a look out on the opposite side. He almost immediately beckoned us to come up. This we did without loss of time, and knowing that the game was in view, I ordered the horses to retire for about a quarter of a mile.
On our arrival on the dam there was a fine sight. The lake was about five miles round, and was quite full of water, the surface of which was covered with a scant, but tall, rushy grass. In the lake, browsing upon the grass, we counted twenty-three elephants, and there were many little ones, no doubt, that we could not distinguish in such rank vegetation. Five large elephants were not more than a hundred and twenty paces distant; the remaining eighteen were in a long line about a quarter of a mile from the shore, feeding in deep water.
We were well concealed by the various trees which grew upon the dam, and we passed half an hour in watching the manoeuvres of the great beasts as they bathed and sported in the cool water. However, this was not elephant-shooting, and the question was, how to get at them? The natives had no idea of the sport, as they seemed to think it very odd that we did not fire at those within a hundred paces' distance. I now regretted my absent gun-bearers, as I plainly saw that these village people would be worse than useless.
We determined to take a stroll along the base of the dam to reconnoitre the ground, as at present it seemed impossible to make an attack; and even were the elephants within the forest, there appeared to be no possibility of following them up through such deep water and heavy ground with any chance of success. however, they were not in the forest, being safe, belly and shoulder deep, in the tank.
We strolled through mud and water thigh-deep for a few hundred paces, when we suddenly came upon the spot where in ages past the old dam had been carried away. Here the natives had formed a mud embankment strengthened by sticks and wattles. Poor fellows! we were not surprised at their wishing the elephants destroyed; the repair of their fragile dam was now a daily occupation, for the elephants, as though out of pure mischief, had chosen this spot as their thoroughfare to and from the lake, and the dam was trodden down in all directions.
We found that the margin of the forest was everywhere flooded to a width of about two hundred yards, after which it was tolerably dry; we therefore returned to our former post.
It struck me that the only way to secure a shot at the herd would be to employ a ruse, which I had once practiced successfully some years ago. Accordingly we sent the greater part of the villagers for about a half a mile along the edge of the lake, with orders to shout and make a grand hullaballoo on arriving at their station. It seemed most probable that on being disturbed the elephants would retreat to the forest by their usual thoroughfare; we accordingly stood on the alert, ready for a rush to any given point which the herd should attempt in their retreat.
Some time passed in expectation, when a sudden yell broke from the far point, as though twenty demons had cramp in the stomach. Gallant fellows are the Cingalese at making a noise, and a grand effect this had upon the elephants; up went tails and trunks, the whole herd closed together and made a simultaneous rush for their old thoroughfare. Away we skipped through the water, straight in shore through the forest, until we reached the dry ground, when, turning sharp to our right, we soon halted exactly opposite the point at which we knew the elephants would enter the forest. This was grand excitement; we had a great start of the herd, so that we had plenty of time to arrange gun-bearers and take our position for the rencontre.
In the mean time, the roar of water caused by the rapid passage of so many large animals approached nearer and nearer. Palliser and I had taken splendid positions, so as to command either side of the herd on their arrival, with our gun-bearers squatted around us behind our respective trees, while the non-sporting village followers, who now began to think the matter rather serious and totally devoid of fun, scrambled up various large trees with ape-like activity.
A few minutes of glorious suspense, and the grand crash and roar of broken water approached close at hand, and we distinguished the mighty phalanx, headed by the largest elephants, bearing down exactly upon us, and not a hundred yards distant. Here was luck! There was a grim and very murderous smile of satisfaction on either countenance as we quietly cocked the rifles and awaited the onset: it was our intention to let half the herd pass us before we opened upon them, as we should then be in the very centre of the mass, and he able to get good and rapid shooting.
On came the herd in gallant style, throwing the spray from the muddy water, and keeping a direct line for our concealed position. They were within twenty yards, and we were still undiscovered, when those rascally villagers, who had already taken to the trees, scrambled still higher in their fright at the close approach of the elephants, and by this movement they gave immediate alarm to the elders of the herd.
Round went the colossal heads; right about was the word, and away dashed the whole herd back toward the tank. In the same instant we made a rush in among them, and I floored one of the big leaders by a shot behind the ear, and immediately after, as bad luck would have it, Palliser and I both took the same bird, and down went another to the joint shots. Palliser then got another shot and bagged one more, when the herd pushed straight out to the deep lake, with the exception of a few elephants, who turned to the right; after which Palliser hurried through the mud and water, while I put on all steam in chase of the main body of the herd. It is astonishing to what an amount a man can get up this said steam in such a pitch of excitement. However, it was of no use in this case, as I was soon hip-deep in water, and there was an end to all pursuit in that direction.
It immediately struck me that the elephants would again retreat to some other part of the forest after having made a circuit in the tank. I accordingly waded back at my best speed to terra firma, and then striking off to my right, I ran along parallel to the water for about half a mile, fully expecting to meet the herd once more on their entrance to the jungle. It was now that I deplored the absence of my regular gun-bearers; the village people had no taste for this gigantic scale of amusement, and the men who carried my guns would not keep up; Fortunately, Carrasi, the best gun-bearer, was there, and he had taken another loaded rifle, after handing me that which he had carried at the onset. I waited a few moments for the lagging men, and succeeded in getting them well together just is I heard the rush of water, as the elephants were again entering the jungle, not far in advance of the spot upon which I stood.
This time they were sharp on the qui vive, and the bulls, being well to the front, were keeping a bright look-out. It was in vain that I endeavored to conceal myself until the herd had got well into the forest; the gun-bearers behind me did not take the same precaution, and the leading elephants both saw and winded us when at a hundred paces distant. This time, however, they were determined to push on for a piece of thicker jungle, which they knew lay in this direction, and upon seeing me running toward them, they did not turn back to the lake, but slightly altered their course in an oblique direction, still continuing to push on through the forest, while I was approaching at right angles with the herd.
Hallooing and screaming at them with all my might to tease some of the old bulls into a charge, I ran at top speed through the fine open forest, and soon got among a whole crowd of half-grown elephants, at which I would not fire; there were a lot of fine beasts pushing along in the front, and toward these I ran as hard as I could go. Unfortunately, the herd seeing me so near and gaining upon them, took to the ruse of a beaten fleet and scattered in all directions; but I kept a few big fellows in view, who were still pretty well together, and managed to overtake the rearmost and knock him over. Up went the tail and trunk of one of the leading bulls at the report of the shot, and trumpeting shrilly, he ran first to one side, then to the other, with his ears cocked and sharply turning his head to either side. I knew this fellow had his monkey up, and that a little teasing would bring him round for a charge. I therefore redoubled my shouts and yells and kept on in full chase, as the elephants were straining every nerve to reached a piece of thick jungle within a couple of hundred paces.
I could not go any faster, and I saw that the herd, which was thirty or forty yards ahead of me, would gain the jungle before I could overtake them, as they were going at a slapping pace and I was tolerably blown with a long run at full speed, part of which had been through deep mud and water. But I still teased the bull, who was now in such an excited state that I felt convinced he would turn to charge.
The leading elephants rushed into the thick jungle, closely followed by the others, and, to my astonishment, my excited friend, who had lagged to the rear, followed their example. But it was only for a few seconds, for, on entering the thick bushes, he wheeled sharp round and came rushing out in full charge. This was very plucky, but very foolish, as his retreat was secured when in the thick jungle, and yet he courted further battle. This he soon had enough of, as I bagged him in his onset with my remaining barrel by the forehead shot.
I now heard a tremendous roaring, of elephants behind me, as though another section was coming in from the tank; this I hoped to meet. I therefore reloaded the empty rifles as quickly as possible and ran toward the spot. The roaring still continued and was apparently almost stationary; and what was my disappointment, on arrival, to find, in place of the expected herd, a young elephant of about four feet high, who, had missed the main body in the retreat and was now roaring for his departed friends! These young things are excessively foolhardy and willful, and he charged me the moment I arrived. As I laid the rifle upon the ground instead of firing at him, the rascally gunbearers, with the exception of Carrasi, threw down the rifles and ran up the trees like so many monkeys, just as I had jumped on one side and caught the young elephant by the tail. He was far too strong for me to hold, and, although I dug my heels into the ground and held on with all my might, he fairly ran away with me through the forest. Carrasi now came to my assistance and likewise held on by his tail; but away we went like the tender to a steam-engine; wherever the elephant went there we were dragged in company. Another man now came to the rescue; but his assistance was not of the slightest rise, as the animal was so powerful and of such weight that he could have run away with half a dozen of us unless his legs were tied. Unfortunately we had no rope, or I could have secured him immediately, and seeing that we had no power over him whatever, I was obliged to run back for one of the guns to shoot him. On my return it was laughable to see the pace at which he was running away with the two men, who were holding on to his tail like grim death, the elephant not having ceased roaring during the run. I accordingly settled him, and returned to have a little conversation with the rascals were still perched in the trees. I was extremely annoyed, as these people, if they had possessed a grain of sense, might have tied their long comboys (cotton cloths about eight feet long) together, and we might have thus secured the elephant without difficulty by tying his hind legs. It was a great loss, as he was so tame that he might have been domesticated and driven to Newera Ellia without the slightest trouble. All this was occasioned by the cowardice of these villainous Cingalese, and upon my lecturing one fellow on his conduct he began to laugh. This was too much for any person's patience, and I began to look for a stick, which the fellow perceiving he immediately started off through the forest like a deer. He could run faster than I could, being naked and having the advantage of bare feet; but I knew I could run him down in the course of time, especially as, being in a fright, he would soon get blown. We had a most animated hunt through water, mud, roots of trees, open forest and all kinds of ground, but I ran into him at last in heavy ground, and I dare say he recollects the day of the month.
In the mean time, Palliser had heard the roaring of the elephant, followed by the screaming and yelling of the coolies, and succeeded by a shot. Shortly after he heard the prolonged yells of the hunted villager while he was hastening toward my direction. This combination of sounds naturally led him to expect that some accident had occurred, especially as some of the yells indicated that somebody had come to grief. This caused him a very laborious run, and he arrived thoroughly blown, and with a natural desire to kick the recreant villager who bad caused the yells.
If the ground had been ever tolerably dry, we should have killed a large number of elephants out of this herd; but, as it happened, in such deep mud and water the elephants had it all their own way, and our joint bag could not produce more than seven tails; however, this was far more than I had expected when I first saw the herd in such a secure position.
On our return to the village we found Palliser's horse terribly gored by a buffalo, and we were obliged to leave him behind for some weeks; fortunately, there was an extra pony, which served him as a mount home, a distance of a hundred and fifty miles.
This has been a sad digression from our argument upon instinct and reason, a most unreasonable departure from the subject; but this is my great misfortune; so sure as I bring forward the name of an elephant, the pen lays hold of some old story and runs madly away in a day's shooting. I now have to speak of the reasoning powers of the canine race, and I confess my weakness. I feel perfectly certain that the pen will serve me the same trick, and that it will be plunging through a day's hunting to prove the existence of reason in a hound and the want of it in the writer. Thrash me, good critics; I deserve it; lay it on with an unsparing thong. I am humiliated, but still willful; I know my fault, but still continue it.
Let us think; what was the subject? Reason in dogs, to be sure. Well, every one who has a dog must admit that he has a strong share of reason; only observe him as he sits by your side and wistfully watches the endless transit of piece after piece, bit after bit, as the fork is conveying delicate morsels to your mouth. There is neither hope nor despair exhibited in his countenance - he knows those pieces are not for him. There is an expression of impatience about the eye as he scans your features, which seems to say, "Greedy fellow! what, not one bit for me?" Only cut a slice from the exterior of the joint - a piece that he knows you will not eat - and watch, the change and eagerness of his expression; he knows as well as you do that this is intended for him - he has reasoned upon it.
This is the simple and every-day performance of a common house-dog. Observe the pointers in a field of close-cut stubble - two well-broken, reasonable old dogs. The birds are wild, and have been flushed several times during the day, and the old dog has winded them now in this close-cut stubble, from which he knows the covey will rise at a long range. Watch his expression of intense and yet careful excitement, as he draws upon his game, step by step, crouching close to the ground, and occasionally moving his head slowly round to see if his master is close up. Look at the bitch at the other end of the field, backing him like a statue, while the old dog still creeps on. Not a step farther will he move: his lower jaw trembles with excitement; the guns advance to a line with his shoulder; up they rise, whiz-z-z-z-z-z-z! - bang! bang! See how the excitement of the dog is calmed as he falls to the down charge, and afterward with what pleasure he follows up and stands to the dead birds. If this is not reason, there is no such thing in existence.
Again, look at the sheep-dog. What can be more beautiful than to watch the judgement displayed by these dogs in driving a large flock of sheep? Then turn to the Mont St. Bernard dog and the Newfoundland, and countless instances could be produced as proofs of their wonderful share of reasoning power.
The different classes of hounds, being kept in kennels, do not exhibit this power to the same amount as many others, as they are not sufficiently domesticated, and their intercourse with man is confined to the one particular branch of hunting; but in this pursuit they will afford many striking proofs that they in like manner with their other brethren, are not devoid of the reasoning power.
Poor old "Bluebeard!" - he had an almost human share of understanding, but being simply a hound, this was confined to elk hunting; he was like the foxhunter of the last century, whose ideas did not extend beyond his sport; but in this he was perfect.
Bluebeard was a foxhound, bred at Newera Ellia, in 1847, by F. J. Templer, Esq. He subsequently belonged to F. H. Palliser, Esq., who kindly added him to my kennel.
He was a wonderful hound on a cold scent, and so thoroughly was he versed in all the habits of an elk that he knew exactly where to look for one. I am convinced that he knew the date of a track from its appearance, as I have constantly seen him strove his nose into the deep impression, to try for a scent when the track was some eight or ten hours old.
It was a curious thing to watch his cleverness at finding on a patina. In most of the plains in the neighborhood of Newera Ellia a small stream flows through the centre. To this the elk, who are out feeding in the night, are sure to repair at about four in the morning for their last drink, and I usually try along the banks a little after daylight for a find, where the scent is fresh and the tracks are distinctly visible.
While every hound has been eagerly winding the scent upon the circuitous route which the elk has made in grazing, Bluebeard would never waste his time in attempting to follow the innumerable windings, but, taking a fresh cast, he would invariably strike off to the jungle and try along the edge, until he reached the spot at which the elk had entered. At these times he committed the only fault which he possessed (for an elk-hound); he would immediately open upon the scent, and, by alarming the elk at too great a distance, would give him too long a start. Nevertheless, he made up for this by his wonderful correctness and knowledge of his game, and if the run was increased in length by his early note, we nevertheless ran into our game at last.
Some years ago he met with an accident which partly deprived him of the use of one of his bind legs; this made the poor old fellow very slow, but it did not interfere with his finding and hunting, although the rest of the pack would shoot ahead, and the elk was frequently brought to bay and killed before old Bluebeard had finished his hunt; but he was never thrown out, and was sure to come up at last; and if the pack were at fault during the run, he was the hound to show them the right road on his arrival.
I once saw an interesting proof of his reasoning powers during a long and difficult hunt.
I was hunting for a few days at the Augora patinas, accompanied by Palliser. These are about five hundred feet lower than Newera Ellia, and are situated in the district of Dimboola. They are composed of undulating knolls of fine grass, with a large and deep river flowing through the centre. These patinas are surrounded by wooded hills of good open jungle.
We had found upon the patina at break of day, and the whole pack had gone off in full cry; but the whereabout was very uncertain, and having long lost all sound of the hounds we wandered here and there to no purpose. At length we separated, and took up our stations upon different knolls to watch the patina and to listen.
The hill upon which I stood commanded an extensive view of the patina, while the broad river flowed at the base, after its exit from the jungle. I had been only a few minutes at my post when I observed, at about six hundred yards distant, a strong ripple in the river like the letter V, and it immediately struck me that an elk had come down the river from the jungle and was swimming down the stream. This was soon proved to be the case, as I saw the head of a doe elk in the acute angle of the ripple.
I had the greyhounds with me, "Lucifer," "Lena," "Hecate" and "Bran," and I ran down the hill with these dogs, hoping to get them a view of her as she landed on the patina. I had several bogs and hollows to cross, and I accordingly lost sight of the elk; but upon arriving at the spot where I imagined the elk would land, I saw her going off across the patina, a quarter of a mile away. The greyhounds saw her, and away they flew over the short grass, while the pack began to appear from the jungle, having come down to the halloo that I had given on first seeing the elk swimming down the river.
The elk seemed determined to give a beautiful course for, instead of pushing straight for the jungle, she made a great circuit on the patina, as though in the endeavor to make once more for the river. The long-legged ones were going at a tremendous pace, and, being fresh, they rapidly overhauled her; gradually the distance between them diminished, and at length they had a fair course down a gentle inclination which led toward the river. Here the greyhounds soon made an end of the hunt; their game was within a hundred yards, going at top speed: but it was all up with the elk; the pace was too good, and they ran into her and pulled her down just as the other hounds had come down upon my scent.
We were cutting up the elk, when we presently heard old Bluebeard's voice far away in the jungle, and, thinking that he might perhaps be running another elk, we ran to a hill which overlooked the river and kept a bright look-out. We soon discovered that he was true upon the same game, and we watched his plan of hunting, being anxious to see whether he could hunt up an elk that had kept to water for so long a time.
On his entrance to the patina by the river's bank he immediately took to water and swam across the stream; here be carefully hunted the edge for several hundred yards down the river, but, finding nothing, he returned to the jungle at the point from which the river flowed. Here he again took to water, and, swimming back to the bank from which he had at first started, he landed and made a vain cast down the hollow. Back he returned after his fruitless search, and once more he took to water. I began to despair of the possibility of his finding; but the true old bound was now swimming steadily down the stream, crossing and recrossing from either bank, and still pursuing his course down the river. At length he neared the spot where I knew that the elk had landed, and we eagerly watched to see if he would pass the scent, as he was now several yards from the bank. He was nearly abreast of the spot, when he turned sharp in and landed in the exact place; his deep and joyous note rung across the patinas, and away went the gallant old hound in full cry upon the scent, while I could not help shouting, "Hurrah for old Bluebeard!" In a few minutes he was by the side of the dead elk - a specimen of a true hound, who certainly had exhibited a large share of "reason."