Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/272

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

from good authority that a tame sparrow was accustomed to go out daily from the house where it lived in freedom just before it was time for the children to come out from school. It would wait at the school-house door for a child of the family with which it lived, and return perched upon its shoulder. One day it went out but did not return, having probably fallen a prey to a cat.

Nothing is more frequent among animals than daily acts at fixed hours; but we have proof also that animals can measure longer periods. A dog was used to go every Saturday evening for his master, who came to spend Sunday at home, and went away again on Monday. But the dog, instead of following his master away, showed his displeasure at the parting by sulking in a corner. Could this dog count the six days of the week during which his master was absent? It is more likely that his return was foreshadowed by certain things going on in the house that only occurred on that occasion.

Houzeau de la Haie tells of a pelican living in a fisherman's family at Santo Domingo that was fed upon the refuse of the fish-cleaning. Looking for its food, it went to the shore every day and waited for the boats to come back. The fishermen rested on Sunday, and the bird acquired so clear a notion of the return of that day, when it had to fast, that it would not stir from the tree on which it was accustomed to spend its time. It is not necessary to suppose that the pelican had learned to count the six days at the end of which its masters would not go fishing; but, while it really estimated daily the time when it must make its excursion to the shore, it was informed of the return of Sunday by observation of what was going on in the house, as, for instance, by the fishermen putting on their Sunday clothes; in the same way as the dog knew when its master was going to hunt by seeing him with his gun and game-bag. In such instances, animals show that they have the faculty of associating ideas, of observing consecutive facts, and establishing a correlative connection between them—things which have been proved by abundance of other evidence, and which demonstrate not less intelligence than acquaintance with the ten signs exposing the first ten numbers, or the use of a system of numeration to express larger numbers.

Broderip tells of an English Protestant minister's dog which escaped every Sunday and followed its master to church. It was shut up on one Saturday evening, but on the next week when they went to shut it up it could not be found, and hid itself till the service-hour on Sunday, when it appeared again at the church. In acting thus, it had evidently reasoned out all its conduct, displaying memory, foresight, and calculation. It is not likely, however, that it acted upon a count of the days, but rather on the