Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/81

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
71
REASONING ANIMALS.

REASONING ANIMALS.
By ALLEN PRINGLE.

THE question as to whether animals reason or not is a disputed one. For myself I am convinced that they do, and with more logic sometimes than some of the genus homo. The notion that what we observe as mind in animals is all instinct and no reason ought to have taken its departure with the discovery that the animal had a brain and nervous system quite similar to that of man, and subject to the same general mental and physiological laws. The truth is, man has both reason and instinct, and so has the animal. Instinct acts spontaneously without thought, while reason reflects and adapts means to ends. When we wink with lightning rapidity to protect the eye from something flying into it, or when we start back in fright from a sudden and threatened danger, we act instinctively; the animal does the same. On the other hand, when we act from reflection and adapt means to ends, we exercise reason; the animal does the same thing. In our daily contact with our domesticated animals we find ample proof of this. I mention the horse, the cow, the dog, and the honey-bee, not because they are the only animals that reason, but because most people are specially interested in these domestic animals, and are familiar with their characters and habits. Many other animals exhibit a high degree of intelligence.

A most remarkable case of bovine intelligence which recently came to my knowledge, and for the truth of which I can vouch, has prompted the writing of this paper. A cow and steer—the latter two to three years old—were the only occupants of the barnyard where the occurrence took place. A baiting of hay was put out to them, the cow taking possession. The steer wished to share it; but the cow, like some higher animals, was selfish and was bent on taking the whole of it, and as often as he would manoeuvre around from side to side to get a bite she would drive him off at the point of her horn. The steer was so persistent that at last the old cow's patience gave way, and making a determined and vicious charge on him, punished him severely, though he was her own offspring. The steer felt badly hurt, not only in body but evidently in mind as well, and immediately started out of the yard and off down the lane toward the pasture where were the rest of the stock, bellowing vengeance at every step in a language which was unmistakable to the bystander and which the mother well understood, as she ceased eating and listened intently to the threatenings of what was to come. When these died away in the distance she resumed her ration, but with evident apprehension. In due time the steer was seen returning, bringing with him a companion