Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/101

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.



It is not probable that animals possess savage qualities other than such as are or were originally of service to them and their kind. We cannot understand that any quality or habit should be developed in an animal which was not serviceable to it; but it is certain that both may arise from the wants and necessities incident to its condition.

If strength and fleetness are essential in pursuit, so also is sagacity in eluding it. An element of danger is detected and removed. A fox will use every precaution that the hound may not be allured by his odor, and the white urus destroys its weak comrade which falls in the rear unable to maintain its place in the flight. The habit with some animals of destroying their weak companions is only one of many which by repetition becomes at last common to the kind. With the repetition of the act grows a disposition or tendency to repeat it as the exciting cause or condition recurs. It becomes thus in the creature a tendency which we may term instinctive, and that such tendencies are transmissible and are inherited needs no illustration here. Perhaps there is no fact in biology more clearly established and more fearfully significant than this, and it is true equally in man and in the lower animals.

Habits thus developed do not readily disappear, but the old disposition or instinct may remain after the habit has been discontinued, and long after it has ceased to be of service to the creature. This is shown by the fact that former habits frequently reappear when suggested by former predisposing conditions, although these may have been long overlooked or forgotten.

Under domestication many habits indispensable to animals in their wild state become useless, and slowly but surely disappear, while others are developed, and the animal undergoes a physical and mental change; but the time is very long before old instincts die out beyond the possibility of resuscitation. They appear to continue in animals under domestication as do those of the savage, in civilized life, despite culture and education. We will illustrate by a single instance:

With the savage, hunting is the occupation of life. He hunts from necessity, and his mental, moral, and physical being, are attuned to its conditions. His hunting habits and hunting dispositions are thoroughly instinctive, but in civilized communities the necessity for hunting has chiefly disappeared. Still, the field and forest are hunting-grounds. The savage is not there, but who will say that the old instincts have not survived in the cunning of pursuit, the thoughtless cruelty of destruction, and indifference to suffering? It is true our modern hunter has grown gentle, humane, and tender, in a thousand directions, but the enjoyment of him who hunts merely for sport cannot be in that spirit which has developed with his culture—which weeps at the sight of agony, and is tender to the "mournful eloquence of pain."

We refer to this only to illustrate the persistence of instinctive