Page:Origin of Species 1872.djvu/231

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


not more fearful than small; and the magpie, so wary in England, is tame in Norway, as is the hooded crow in Egypt.

That the mental qualities of animals of the same kind, born in a state of nature, vary much, could be shown by many facts. Several cases could also be adduced of occasional and strange habits in wild animals, which, if advantageous to the species, might have given rise, through natural selection, to new instincts. But I am well aware that these general statements, without the facts in detail, can produce but a feeble effect on the reader's mind. I can only repeat my assurance, that I do not speak without good evidence.


Inherited Changes of Habit or Instinct in Domesticated Animals.

The possibility, or even probability, of inherited variations of instinct in a state of nature will be strengthened by briefly considering a few cases under domestication. We shall thus be enabled to see the part which habit and the selection of so-called spontaneous variations have played in modifying the mental qualities of our domestic animals. It is notorious how much domestic animals vary in their mental qualities. With cats, for instance, one naturally takes to catching rats, and another mice, and these tendencies are known to be inherited. One cat, according to Mr. St. John, always brought home game birds, another hares or rabbits, and another hunted on marshy ground and almost nightly caught woodcocks or snipes. A number of curious and authentic instances could be given of various shades of disposition and taste, and likewise of the oddest tricks, associated with certain frames of mind or periods of time. But let us look to the familiar case of the breeds of dogs: it cannot be doubted that young pointers (I have myself seen striking instances) will sometimes point and even back other dogs the very first time that they are taken out; retrieving is certainly in some degree inherited by retrievers; and a tendency to run round, instead of at, a flock of sheep, by shepherd-dogs. I cannot see that these actions, performed without experience by the young, and in nearly the same manner by each individual, performed with eager delight by each breed, and without the end being known — for the young pointer can no more know that he points to aid his master, than the white butterfly knows why she lays her eggs on the leaf of the cabbage — I cannot see that these actions differ essentially from true instincts. If we were to behold one kind of wolf, when young and without any training, as soon as it scented its prey, stand motionless like a statue, and then slowly