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Have Dogs a Sense of Humour ?
me captive on this matter by the account he gives of his favourite colley: “It's a good sign of a dog when his face grows like his master's. It's a proof he's aye glow'ring up in his master's een to discover what he's thinking on. Hector got so like me afore he dee'd that I remember, when I was owre lazy to gang to the kirk, I used to send him to take my place in the pew, and the minister never kent the difference. Indeed, he asked me next day what I thocht of the sermon; for he saw me wonderfu' attentive amang a rather sleepy congregation. Hector and me gied ane anither sic a look! We was like to split; and the dog, after laughing in his sleeve for mair than a hundred yards, couldn't stand't nae longer, but was obliged to loup awa owre a hedge into a potato field, pretending to scent partridges." Such excellent fooling may almost persuade us of the existence of a sense of humour in a Scot's dog, and even in the Scot himself !
However closely some animals may approach the dog in intelligence alone, none other has ever laid down his own life through very weariness of existence when the bond between himself and his master has been severed by death, or has sacrificed his life in the endeavour to preserve that of his master. The well-attested cases of dogs refusing food, and pining to death at the graves of their masters, evince a depth of sympathy uncommon even in human beings. Landseer has embodied this finely in his pathetic picture of “The Shepherd's Chief Mourner.” Who but he could have so truly depicted the expression of grief on the countenance of the colley, sitting with his head laid on his master's coffin ? Ben Jonson refers to this undying attachment when the body of Sejanus was cast into the Tiber by order of the tyrant Sabinus :
His faithful dog, upbraiding all us Romans,
–Sejanus, Act IV., Sc. 5.
appeared: “A striking example of that devotedness and faithfulness characteristic of the canine race may be witnessed at the door of the Dundee prison, leading from the police office. At the police court, on Saturday, John Melville, a shepherd, was sent to prison for seven days for drunkenness. The shepherd possessed a beautiful colley, which patiently waited upon its master during his trial. On leaving the bar and being marched to prison, the faithful animal followed, and would willingly have shared a corner of his master's cell had it been permitted. The good dog, being necessarily separated from its master, would not, however, desert his place of confinement, but took up a position at the prison door, where it still keeps watch o'er his lonely cell.' Meat and drink were laid down to it by one of the police officials, and some time afterwards another supply was brought, when it was found that the poor brute had not even tasted the first, and no coaxing could induce it to do so; neither can it be induced to accept a warmer and more comfortable place.”
His drunkenness notwithstanding-and perhaps the Scottish magistrates did not take too lenient a view of the failingthat shepherd must have been a good man to his dog; for, though their forgivingness towards those they love is much greater than that of average men, dogs may be alienated by harsh treatment as certainly as ourselves. A blow unjustly given by one hand may be forgiven after a caress from the other, but a dog betrays by his demeanour to the observant eye the character of his master. We know at once whether he is the trusted friend or merely the slave of the man. In the former case there is confidence in every glance;'“he is aye glow'ring up in his master's een,” as Hogg says; whereas, in the latter, he shrinks from looking at a countenance on which he seldom sees any expression except that of anger.
A human being who has not at some period of life enjoyed the friendship of a dog has missed one of the most humanising of all influences. Almost all the best men and women I have known were indebted to association with their dogs for much
The Pleasures of Sympathy.
of that which is best in their character and disposition. It is no small matter that we have always before us a picture so beautiful as even an ugly dog is in his graceful poses and movements, and his simple, unaffected manners. Our sense of right and justice, too, is perpetually exercised by thoughtful consideration for his needs and pleasures—in supplying him with his food and water and taking him out for his walks. That going out for a walk is the supreme moment of his day. How often will his delight re-act upon us by sympathy, dispel gloomy thoughts, and win us to a cheerful mood! Let me counsel all who keep a dog-or dogs—to cultivate this simple source of genuine enjoyment, even at some sacrifice of convenience. An outing twice or thrice a day is a physiological necessity for a dog. Every large dog ought to have at least four miles of walking exercise daily, and every small one would be the better for so much, and more. It is an excellent remedy for depression of spirits to cultivate the habit of entering into the sense of freedom he feels when he bounds towards the door in anticipation of that daily pleasure which never palls upon his simple mind. Those who have succeeded in this and the habit soon grows—are among the relatively happiest of human beings. They have, at all events, one more source of pleasure than others who do not keep a dog.
But more than this, it is in our power to confer lifelong happiness on a being whose gratitude is boundless, and to enjoy the only unalloyed pleasure we can experience—the consciousness of having thus rendered some creature as happy as we possibly can.
Representatives of the Fossil Carnivora.
The true carnivora are, palæontologically speaking, comparatively recent; but in Triassic times existed in Europe and America marsupial forms of carnivorous, or, at all events, insectivorous habit, allied to the present Australian dasyures and thylacines, whose dentition was of so peculiar a character that it almost entitles them to be placed among the true carnivores. The two great families of Felido and Canido seem to be the earliest known, appearing as they do in the Eocene rocks; though, since they were then already differen. tiated, they certainly cannot represent anything nearly approaching to the ancestral carnivorous form.
The great break in continuity between the Secondary and Tertiary formations may, perhaps, for ever preclude us from knowing what the carnivorous archetype was. The group, however, must have had a great development and wide distribution long before the period at which our acquaintance with it begins; for nearly all the principal families are represented in the Meiocene and Pleiocene of Asia and Europe, and are probably in greater force than ever at the present time. Asia-whether not it was the original birthplace of these forms-is peculiarly rich in fossil examples. Thus, in Series X. of “Palæontologica Indica,” vol. II., part 6, edited by Mr. R. Lyddeker, B.A., F.G.S., &c., thirty-three species from the Meiocene and later rocks of the Siwalik hills are described, belonging to the families of Felidæ,
Ursidæ, Hyonidæ, Viverridæ, Mustelidæ, and the extinct Hyænodontidæ. Mr. Lyddeker considers the relationship of the bears and dogs to be so close as to render their separation unnecessary, at least for palæontological classification, and he, therefore, includes them in the Ursidae. With respect to the cradle of the hyænas, he inclines to the opinion that it was Asia rather than Africa. These Siwalik Hills furnish two species of Machairodus (the sabre-toothed lion, or tiger), which also had a wide European range, and survived at all events to palæolithic times.
From a consideration of these extinct 'Asiatic carnivorous types, and comparing them with some still remaining in the area, some of these ancient forms would appear to have survived in India long after they became extinct elsewhere. These Siwalik fossils occur in conglomerates of fresh water origin, generally speaking of Pleiocene age, and associated with them are the remains of an immense herbivorous fauna, both proboscidean, cervine, bovine, and suine, affording food for their numerous and powerful predatory contemporaries. Other early extinct genera of Tertiary age are Deinocyon, Arctocyon, Amphicyon, Simocyon, Hemicyon, Cynodon, and Cynodictis, mainly of canine type; and Hyænodon, Æluropsis, Ælurogale, and Pterodon, allied to the feline families—some even presenting marsupial characters in their dentition, and otherwise suggesting affinities with that peculiar and specialised order.
Some extinct species were far more formidable than any now surviving. A remarkable and aberrant form is the genus Machairodus, or Drepanodon, which ranged from India through Italy, France, England, the Pampas of South America, and Brazil. This powerful lion (or tiger) carried in the upper jaw a pair of blade-like canines, from 4in. to 6in. or more in length, serrated along their inner edges. The extraordinary length of these teeth suggests the question whether the gape of the jaw would be wide enough to enable their owner to take in anything of large size, for there would be but a few