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Retrieving by Sight.
again to a pheasant butchery, because you shoot well, and know a cock bird from a hen on the wing. But what does a hundred such days amount to? A blurred picture of smoke, fire, noise, and feathers, with nothing to distinguish one battue from another, nothing to leave an impression worth retaining. I have tried it, and, trust me, it is altogether vanity compared with a quiet walk with a dog along a ' lonely Australian shore, the interminable forest behind you redolent of aromatic gums in the fierce sun, a vast mud flat before you, and outside that the blue Pacific Ocean, a solitary teal, a long shot, and then the pleasure of watching the exercise of faculties in your dog which you even need not disdain to possess. Memory treasures those scenes, and reproduces them with marvellous fidelity years afterwards, affording an ever new delight. During my boat excursions with a friend
the numerous islands and up the creeks entering Moreton Bay, it was the habit of this retriever to sit on the stern seat, sheltered from the sun by a little canopy rigged for his express benefit-for the hot sun punishes a black dog severely -and act as our look-out while we sculled the boat through narrow passages, and punted her over shallows, our attention being then fully engaged, lest with a falling tide we should be left stranded for several hours to bake in a temperature of 130deg. Fahrenheit, with the alternative of wading ashore over the mud, and being tortured by mosquitos under the shade of the mangrove trees. The dog proved very useful; for, on seeing duck either on the wing or sitting on the banks, he would whimper and call our attention to them at once, while gazing steadily in the direction. Then, if circumstances permitted, the boat would be paddled towards them, and one of us would get out and circumvent the birds, the other waiting in the boat for a chance shot as they came over. By this means many a fine duck or brace would be secured which would otherwise have been overlooked. The great distance at which the dog was able to see the
a matter of astonishment to my friend Stanley Hall, a man of exceptional powers of vision, and a crack rifle shot, and even he sometimes was obliged to take up the binocular to verify the dog's sight.
I recollect one notable example of this. The wind had been increasing all the morning, with rain squalls, and about mid-day became too much for our miserably rickety boat; consequently we determined to run for a small island of two or three acres in extent, under whose lee it would be possible to pass the night in safety should one of the short but furious “ Southerly busters” come on, which would be fatal to us if we should be caught in the five miles of open water that separated us from the mainland. For ten minutes or so our cranky craft had been running before nasty seas, Hall being at the sculls, and I busy shovelling the water out. Just as we came into the calmer water to leeward of the island, Carlo I. mounted his look-out station on the stern seat, and presently began to whimper. “What's the matter with the dog ?” said Hall; “I suppose he saw a shark's fin, or he doesn't like this driving mist; there's no likelihood of any ducks hereabouts.' • Well,” I said, “ he means something, depend upon it; scull the boat's head round to windward, and let's watch him.” The object of this maneuvre was to ascertain whether he would continue to look in the same direction. As the boat first lay, his eye looked a point or two before the beam over the starboard side, and when she was turned his eye was fixed in a direction a point or two abaft the beam on the port side, as I find from a rough diagram accompanying the notes put down the same evening. It was clear now that the dog saw some object on the water, but neither of us could find it. I then took the binocular, and soon made out a large flight of ducks bobbing about on the broken water. Possibly the dog had seen them alight, and this would make it easier for him to keep his eye on them, though we could not find them without the help of the glass. This, at all events, was good luck, and
Long-sightedness of the Dog.
after praising him, and making him lie down in the boat we got the guns ready, put the steer oar out astern, and drifted down to leeward of the birds. A few minutes' steady sculling brought us within range for Hall's No. 10 bore with wire cartridges, and a goodly number remained on the water, the other barrel of the 10 bore and both barrels of my 12 bore doing further execution as
the flight rose. When we pulled up to the island, and turned out “the bag,” it amounted to nine ducks and teal. Had it not been for the ever-watchful eyes of the dog, that flight of birds would certainly have remained unnoticed by us.
One more instance, in similar circumstances, of keen vision on the part of the dog may be cited. On the shores of Moreton Bay, twenty miles or so to the south of the. river Brisbane, was a favourite shooting ground, haunted by a few of the more adventurous gunners, who took boat and camped out for a week at a time, living on hard biscuit and the liberal rations provided by their guns. Some short distance from the coast were vast stretches
of swamp, almost impenetrable on account of their boggy character and the hosts of bloodthirsty mosquitos.
From these swamps to the mud flats of the bay large flights of duck were continually passing, and, as the tide rose and covered the salt water feeding grounds, the birds flew inland again to the fresh-water
a tidal creek of considerable size during floods. Ducks, as every gunner knows, have a habit of following the direction of water-courses, even when they could make shorter line overland. Some quarter of a mile to the southward of the mouth of the creek was a point of land reaching boldly out into the bay, and all the birds coming from that direction rounded the point before entering the creek, where a few low bushes afforded cover enough for the sportsman. Behind these I established myself with companion and my retriever, Carlo I., during several successive afternoons, at the rising of the tide, to take the
ducks by a flanking fire as they turned to enter the creek. With the old muzzle-loaders could, of course, never get a chance of more than four barrels at. them, but generally the dog had the pleasure of retrieving three or four, sometimes six birds. From our place of concealment they could not be seen when rounding the point, and flying low with the land as a background, except by the help of a binocular, with which each of us in turn kept on the look out. The silent movement on the part of the watchman of putting down the glass and lifting his gun was the signal to prepare for action, and in a few seconds the birds were streaming past in their arrow-like flight, and presently the dog was busy at his retrieving work. In the meantime, it must have occurred to his mind that there was some object in the steady gaze I directed towards that point when it
was my turn to use the glass, for, after the first hour or so, he turned his attention with obvious expectation towards the point of land, peeping through the bushes, and even creeping out of cover to watch.
I soon became convinced that he saw the birds rounding the point as soon as I did, and he watched for them as eagerly as ourselves. A little shiver of excitement, and the cocking
even occasionally before I was myself quite certain of their approach, was an indication not to be neglected. Accordingly, I left him to watch alone, and only when he exhibited these signs of interest put the glass to my eye for a moment and proved him to be right. It was scarcely credible that he should be able to detect them at that distance: but on the second and succeeding days we discontinued the tedious use of the glass, and trusted solely to his sight. At the first sign of excitement, we ordered him to lie down, and took up our guns in complete confidence, always justified that the signal he gave was correct, and thenceforth trusted entirely to him. As an example of intelligence it is interesting, but I think it proves the sight of a dog to be quite equal, and even superior,
of his ears,
The Sense of Hearing.
to that of the average man. My companion, however, was one of the crack rifle shots of the colony, and endowed with exceptionally far sight, for I have often heard him correctly call out the position of a shot on the target before the flag went up, and when other riflemen could not see it. On this occasion he was much struck with the dog's performance, and remarked to me: “Well,' I should not have thought that Carlo's sight could equal mine, and with the glass too." It, should be explained that the binocular we used was of low power and large field, only suitable for a theatre, but it appreciably extended the range of vision. This and many other instances, both with the same and other dogs, inclines me to attribute to them a power of vision not by any means inferior, if not superior, to that of other mammals, and Mr. Hugh Dalziel tells me that his experience leads him to the same conclusion.
Whatever difference of opinion may exist on this, there can be none with respect to the acuteness of the sense of hearing. Opportunities for verifying this have often occurred to me when camping out alone in the bush with the retriever above mentioned. I had occasion to make a journey through a part of Australia infested by very hostile tribes of blacks, sleeping at shepherds' huts when fortunate enough to meet with them, but more frequently compelled to do the best I could, rolled in my blanket, under the canopy of heaven. It was not prudent to keep the fire alight after dark, on account of the chance of attracting the natives, who would not hesitate to crawl up and hurl half a dozen spears at the sleeping figure for the sake of appropriating the few pounds of salt or dried beef and damper, and the few ounces of tea and sugar in the traveller's saddle bags. After cooking the evening meal then there was nothing for it, whether wet or cold, but to rake out the fire and turn in. These little encampments in the bush—the saddle, the saddle bags, and the sausagelike thing in the blanket—seem to excite the curiosity of cattle. In the early mornings, when they are moving off