Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/433

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417
SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE.

made a very lively, interesting, and instructive book, which, is marred, however, by occasional evidences that, while begun with serious purpose, it has been hurried to meet a passing demand, and by the too frequent intrusion of trivialities and slang.

 

We are often surprised at manifestations of individuality and intelligence in domestic animals and pets, and are accustomed to attribute extraordinary qualities to the beasts in which we perceive them; as if each animal could not have its peculiar traits and talents as well as each man. We hardly imagine that there are any special differences in wild animals, and that idiosyncrasies of character and diversities of gifts and powers of adaptation may run through the whole animal kingdom. A closer acquaintance with Nature would teach us better. Certain stories and myths of savages show that they had a fair appreciation of the individual peculiarities of animals, and farmers' boys, who live in natural surroundings, know something of these things. The subject is now presented to us in a fairly clear light by Mr. Ernest Seton Thompson, as illustrated in the careers of a number of typical specimens of animals and birds whose characters and acts, as they came under his observation, are related in Wild Animals I have Known[1] The stories, he avers, are true; the animals in the book are all real characters. They lived the lives he has depicted, and showed the stamp of heroism and personality more strongly by far than it has been in the power of his pen to tell. Among them was Lobo, the wolf, of the Corrumpaw Cattle Range, New Mexico, the leader of a gang, who exhibited some of the qualities of an able general, and was a beast of influence, powerful, vigilant, crafty, and the terror of the settlement; and who was only trapped when grief for the loss of a female companion deprived him of the wit by which he had escaped all previous efforts to take him. Silverspot, the crow, was the leader of a large band. He had his calls, which the other crows obeyed, and was always to be seen at the head of his company in their incursions into the fields, and guiding them in their journeys northward and southward. Raggylug, the rabbit, is acknowledged to be a composite, embodying in one the ways of several rabbits, their nesting habits and ways of concealment and devices to baffle pursuers. Bingo, the dog, had associates as well as enemies among the wolves, and different characters by day and by night. In a similar way to these, the traits of the fox, the pacing mustang, other dogs than Bingo, and the partridge are portrayed. In all the stories the real personality of the individual and his view of life are the author's theme, rather than the ways of the race in general, as viewed by a casual and hostile human eye. The moral is suggested by the lives and emphasized by Mr. Thompson, that "we and the beasts are kin. Man has nothing that the animals have not at least a vestige of; the animals have nothing that man does not at least in some degree share. Since, then, the animals are creatures with wants and feelings differing only in degree from our own, they surely have their rights." It would be hard to speak too well of the graphic expressiveness of the illustrations.


  1. Wild Animals I have Known, and 300 Drawings. By Ernest Seton Thompson. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Pp. 358. Price, $3.