Popular Science Monthly/Volume 14/December 1878/Strange Animal-Friendships


WHY married folk, so ill-mated as to agree only to differ, should be said to lead a cat-and-dog life, is not very clear, since those household pets, being intelligent, affectionate, cheerful, and sociable creatures, very frequently contrive to live harmoniously enough together. The Aston Hall cat, that ate, associated, and slept, with a huge bloodhound, only did what innumerable cats have done. Such companionships are too common to be reckoned among strange animal-friendships, such as that most singular instance of attachment between two animals of opposite natures and habits, related to Mr. Jesse by a person on whose veracity he could depend. The narrator boasted the proprietorship of an alligator which had become so tame that it would follow him up and down stairs; while it was so fond of his cat's society that, when she lay down before the fire, the alligator followed suit, made a pillow of puss, and went off to sleep; and when awake the reptile was only happy so long as puss was somewhere near, turning morose and ill-tempered whenever she left it to its own devices.

Many equine celebrities have delighted in feline companions, following in this the example of their notable ancestor, the Godolphin Arab, between whom and a black cat an intimate friendship existed for years, a friendship that came to a touching end; for, when that famous steed died, his old companion would not leave the body, and, when it had seen it put underground, crawled slowly away to a hay-loft, and, refusing to be comforted, pined away and died.

One of Miss Braddon's heroines says: "It is so nice to see a favorite horse looking over the door of his loose-box, with a big tabby-cat sitting on the window-ledge beside him." The big tabby would probably prefer being on horseback, for puss takes very kindly to the stable, and the horse takes as kindly to puss. A cat belonging to the royal stables at Windsor made herself so agreeable to one of the horses there that, rather than put her to any inconvenience, he would take his night's rest standing. This was held detrimental to his health, and the stable authorities, unable to hit upon any other plan, banished poor pussy to a distant part of the country.

Mr. Huntington, of East Bloomfield, New York, owns a thorough-bred horse named Narragansett and a white cat. The latter was wont to pay a daily visit to Narragansett's stall, to hunt up the mice and then enjoy a quiet nap. Mr. Huntington removed to Rochester with his family, leaving the cat behind; but she complained so loudly and so unceasingly that she was sent on to the new abode. Her first object was now to get somebody to interpret her desires. At last her master divined them, and started off with her to the barn. As soon as they were inside, the cat went to the horse's stall, made herself a bed near his head, and curled herself up contentedly. When Mr. Huntington visited the pair next morning, there was puss close to Narragansett's feet, with a family of five beside her. The horse evidently knew all about it, and that it behooved him to take heed how he moved his feet. Puss afterward would go out, leaving her little ones to the care of her friend, who would every now and then look to see how they were getting on. When these inspections took place in the mother's presence, she was not at all uneasy, although she showed the greatest fear and anxiety if any children or strangers intruded upon her privacy.

A gentleman in Sussex had a cat which showed the greatest affection for a young blackbird, which was given to her by a stable-boy for food a day or two after she had been deprived of her kittens. She tended it with the greatest care; they became inseparable companions, and no mother could show a greater fondness for her offspring than she did for the bird.

Lemmery shut up a cat and several mice together in a cage. The mice in time got to be very friendly, and plucked and nibbled at their feline friend. When any of them grew troublesome, she would gently box their ears.—A German magazine tells of a M. Hecart who placed a tame sparrow under the protection of a wild-cat. Another eat attacked the sparrow, which was at the most critical moment rescued by its protector. During the sparrow's subsequent illness its natural foe watched over it with great tenderness.—The same authority gives an instance of a cat trained, like a watch-dog, to keep guard over a yard containing a hare, and some sparrows, blackbirds, and partridges.

A pair of carriage-horses taken to water at a stone trough, then standing at one end of the Manchester Exchange, were followed by a dog who was in the habit of lying in the stall of one of them. As he gamboled on in front, the creature was suddenly attacked by a mastiff far too strong for his power of resistance, and it would have gone hard with him but for the unlooked-for intervention of his stable-companion, which, breaking loose from the man who was leading it, made for the battling dogs, and with one well-delivered kick sent the mastiff into a cooper's cellar, and then quietly returned to the trough and finished his drink. In very sensible fashion, too, did Mrs. Bland's half-Danish dog Traveler show his affection for his mistress's pet pony. The latter had been badly hurt, and, when well enough to be turned into a field, was visited there by its fair owner and regaled with carrots and other delicacies; Traveler, for his part, never failing to fetch one or two windfall apples from the garden, laying them on the grass before the pony, and hailing its enjoyment of them with the liveliest demonstrations of delight.

That such relations should exist between the horse and the dog seems natural enough; but that a horse should be hail-fellow with a hen appears too absurd to be true; yet we have Gilbert White's word for it that a horse, lacking more suitable companions, struck up a great friendship with a hen, and displayed immense gratification when she rubbed against his legs and clucked a greeting, while he moved about with the greatest caution lest he might trample on his "little, little friend."

Colonel Montagu tells of a pointer which, after being well beaten for killing a Chinese goose, was further punished by having the murdered bird tied to his neck—a penance that entailed his being constantly attended by the defunct's relict. Whether he satisfied her that he repented the cruel deed is more than we know; but, after a little while the pointer and the goose were on the best of terms, living under the same roof, feeding out of one trough, occupying the same straw bed; and, when the dog went on duty in the field, the goose filled the air with her lamentations for his absence.

A New Zealand paper says: "There is a dog at Taupo and also a young pig, and these two afford a curious example of animal sagacity and confidence in the bona fides of each other. These two animals live at the native pah on the opposite side of Tapuaeharuru, and the dog discovered some happy hunting-grounds on the other side, and informed the pig. The pig, being only two months old, informed the dog that he could not swim across the river, which at that spot debouches from the lake, but that in time he hoped to share the adventures of his canine friend. The dog settled the difficulty. He went into the river, standing up to his neck in water, and crouched down; the pig got on his back, clasping his neck with his forelegs. The dog then swam across, thus carrying his chum over. Regularly every morning the two would in this way go across and forage around Tapuaeharuru, returning to the pah at night; and, if the dog was ready to go home before the pig, he would wait till his friend came down to be ferried over. The truth of this story is vouched for by several who have watched the movements of the pair for some weeks past."

When Cowper cautiously introduced Puss—a hare that had never seen a spaniel—to Marquis—a spaniel that had never seen a hare—he discovered no token of fear in the one, no sign of hostility in the other, and the new acquaintances were soon in all respects sociable and friendly—a proof, the poet thought, that there was no natural antipathy between dog and hare. Upon just as good grounds the same might be inferred regarding dog and fox. We have read of a tame fox hunting with a pack of harriers; and Mr. Moffat, of Bearsley, Northumberland, owned one that was excessively fond of canine society. In consequence of detection following a raid on the poultry-yard, Master Reynard was chained up in a grass area. Whenever he caught sight of a dog coming his way, he began fanning his tail, and, laying back his ears, would strain desperately at the full length of his tether, that he might smell at the mouth of the dog, and use all his arts to induce him to have a romp, even though he had never set eyes on that especial dog before.

In 1822 some white rats were trapped in Colonel Berkeley's stables. Mr. Samuel Moss, of Cheltenham, took a fancy to a youngster, and determined to make a pet of him. He was soon tamed, and christened Scugg. Then he was formally introduced to a rat-killing terrier, a ceremony so well understood by Flora that she not only refrained from assaulting the new-comer, but actually constituted herself his protectress, mounting guard over Scugg whenever a stranger came into the room, growling, snarling, and showing her teeth, until convinced he had no evil intentions toward her protégé. These two strangely-assorted friends lapped from the same saucer, played together in the garden, and, when Flora indulged in a snooze on the rug, Scugg ensconced himself snugly between her legs. He would mount the dinner-table and carry off sugar, pastry, or cheese, while Flora waited below to share in the plunder. One day a man brought Mr. Moss another white rat, while the terrier and Scugg were racing about the room. The stranger was shaken out of the trap, and presently two white rats were scampering across the floor pursued by Flora. The chase did not last long, one of them quickly falling a victim to the terrier's teeth, much to the experimentalist's alarm, as his eyes could not distinguish one rat from the other. Looking around, however, his mind was relieved, for there in his corner was Scugg, with Flora standing sentry before him—a position she held until the man and the dead rat were out of the room. When his master took a wife to himself, a new home was found for Scugg; but the poor fellow died within a month of his removal, and it is not improbable that the separation from his canine friend was the primary cause of the rat's untimely decease.

St. Pierre pronounced the mutual attachment displayed between a lion at Versailles and a dog to be one of the most touching exhibitions Nature could offer to the speculations of the philosopher. Such exhibitions are by no means rare. Captive lords of the forest and jungle have often admitted dogs to their society and lived on affectionate terms with them. Not long ago, an ailing lioness in the Dublin Zoölogical Gardens was so tormented by the rats nibbling her toes that a little terrier was introduced into the cage. His entrance elicited a sulky growl from the invalid; but, seeing the visitor toss a rat in the air and catch it with a killing snap as it came down, she at once came to the sensible conclusion that the dog's acquaintance was worth cultivating. Coaxing the terrier to her side, she folded her paw round him and took him to her breast; and there he rested every night afterward, ready to pounce upon any rat daring to disturb the slumbers of the lioness.

The last time we visited the lion-house of the Regent's Park Zoölogical Gardens, we watched with no little amusement the antics of a dog, who was evidently quite at home in a cage occupied by a tiger and tigress. The noble pair of beasts were reclining side by side, the tiger's tail hanging over the side of their couch. The dog, unable to resist the temptation, laid hold of it with his teeth and pulled with a will; and, spite of sundry gentle remonstrances on the part of the owner of the tail, persisted until he elicited a very deep growl of disapproval. Then he let go, sprang upon the tiger's back, curled himself up, and went off to sleep. Such friendships are, it must be owned, liable to come to a tragic ending, like that recorded by an ancient writer, who tells how a lion, a dog, and a bear, lived together for a long time on the most affectionate terms, until the dog, accidentally putting the bear out of temper, had the life put out of his body; whereupon Leo, enraged at losing his favorite, set upon Bruin and made an end of him too.—Chambers Journal.