and the arctic fox, if disabled, is sometimes not only destroyed, but eaten by its companions. One of a school of porpoises at play around a vessel, as we once witnessed, was injured by a pole hurled at it, when it was instantly pursued by dozens of others with a celerity of movement that was astonishing.
Darwin, commenting on this trait in animals, says: "It is almost the blackest fact in natural history that animals should expel a wounded one from the herd, or gore or worry it to death."
That the helpless and suffering should be thus destroyed does indeed seem to indicate an absence of sympathy in strange contrast with the kindness and affection shown in innumerable instances between animals of the same species. But the kind-hearted author already cited remarks that "instinct or reason may suggest the expelling an injured companion, lest beasts of prey, including man, should be tempted to follow the troop. In this case their conduct is not much worse than that of the North American Indians, who leave their feeble comrades to perish on the plains, or the Feejeeans, who, when their parents get old or fall ill, bury them alive."
If the view of Darwin be correct, it is evident that the habit originated in the wild and undomesticated state of the species, and that, in destroying their disabled or wounded ones, they simply act out their instinct of self-preservation.
They get rid of those which might delay their flight or allure pursuit; and we may conclude that love of life and fear of danger, rather than any primal ferocity, develop and fix a habit which at first sight appears singular and unaccountably savage.
Animals in their wild state live in perpetual danger, and, we may add, in perpetual fear. Sir John Richardson observes that wolves continually haunt the track of the buffalo, and the weak are often seized. The peccary, says Cuvier, if it falls in the rear of the flock, is seized by the jaguar, and the feeble, straggling ones of every herd become a prey to its enemies, and incite pursuit. It would be strange, indeed, if this source of danger, so obvious and persistent, should escape the sagacity of animals, or be disregarded by their prudence. We know that animals of many kinds defend each other, and thus protect themselves. The habit referred to is merely a method of defense. The courageous and strong stand guard over the herd or flock in time of danger, and the intelligence or instinct which prompts this also prompts the removal of an element of weakness.
Nor do animals differ in this respect from man. Does history furnish no instances where commanders of armies have sacrificed the wounded, and destroyed by poison or otherwise the weak and helpless that the strong might escape destruction? Equally with animals and with man, danger may suggest and put in execution means for securing safety, which show a strange absence of sympathy in the one case, and of humanity in the other.