Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/190

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

very irregular description, and each dog is apparently ready to bite any of the others. It will easily be seen that this confusion is owing to a disarrangement of natural politics, caused by the disturbing and arbitrary influence of human institutions. If two of the combatants happen to be comrades, they will hold together and treat all the rest as enemies. In the wild state the sounds of strife would mean either a faction fight, or a combat with some powerful enemy of the pack, and probably in the former case every dog within hearing would be a member of one or other of the contending parties. By adopting dogs into our families and separating them from their fellows we upset canine political economy in many ways; but still the old loyal instinct to rush to the support of supposed friends in distress is so strong that a ladies' pug has been known to spring from a carriage to take part in a scrimmage between two large collies.

Among wild dogs the prosperity of the community might be fatally impaired by a lapse of this instinctive loyalty. All who have had to do with hounds know that every pack contains certain individuals whose special talents are invaluable to the rest. Generally one or two of a pack of beagles do most of the finding when driving rabbits in the furze, and in the case of a lost trail another individual will be, as a rule, the successful one in making skillful casts forward to pick up the line of scent. Another, again, will possess quicker vision and greater swiftness in running than the others, and the instant the game comes into view will cease the more tedious method of following, and dash forward at full speed to seize it.

Among wild dogs pursuing large and powerful game, the need and scope for such specialists would be even greater and more important. If one of these were lost through not being well backed up in time of peril, the whole pack would be the sufferers in a very material degree; for it would often fail to start, or lose during pursuit, some animal which might otherwise have been captured.

The study of this communal canine morality is very interesting when considered along with Mr. Herbert Spencer's theories of ethics. It is here dwelt upon, however, merely to explain, on scientific principles, many traits of our domestic dogs which (as is too commonly the case with those who receive benefits) we are liable to profit by and take for granted.

The great naturalist Cuvier observed that all animals that readily enter into domestication consider man as a member of their own society and thus fulfill their instinct of association. The probable view of the fox-terrier or the dachshund which lies upon our hearth-rug, therefore, is that he is one of a pack the other members of which are the human inhabitants of the house.