« НазадПродовжити »
THE DOMESTIC DOG.
This is an animal so common in our streets, that specimens, except in a few cases, are not required in a zoological collection; yet we may safely maintain that no animal, except the horse itself, is so necessary to the lonely settler on the edge of some primeval forest as the watchful dog, which hears from a distance the stealthy step of the savage native, or the approach of the beast of prey. Such regions would often remain untrodden by the lonely emigrant, save for the assistance of his dog. But with this animal for his companion, man plunges into the far-stretching forests, and erects his hut on the banks of some wild lake, many miles distant from any other location, and sleeps soundly through the night, knowing that his guard will signal the approach of danger, whether in the form of beasts or men. Does the wolf slily draw near the lonely hut, the howl of alarm gives clear note of warning to the master; whilst the deep growl of angry suspicion indicates the presence of the lurking native. We, living in cities and populous districts, cannot estimate aright the value of the dog to men placed on the frontier lands of civilisation; nor can we feel the degree of confidence given to a solitary household by
If we take our stand in some promenade of a large city, and mark the different varieties of the domestic dog passing along the road, from the portly Newfoundland “Carlo" down to the pug led by a string of blue riband, it might puzzle us were a bystander to ask, “Which of all these is the parent stock?”. And this would indeed prove a perplexing question for the whole zoological society. The same obscurity hangs over the origin of the dog as upon that of the cat. Some writers trace all our domesticated dogs to the wolf; others regard the jackal as the parent of the whole race; whilst a few look upon the shepherd's dog as the pri. mitive type of all the rest. Thus our Neptunes, Hectors, Carlos, and Pontos, must be left in a difficulty as to their ancestry. The wolf, however strange this may appear to some readers, is generally deemed the original of the dog, which, in its wild state, approaches very near to the wolf in habits. The wild dog of India called the Dhole, and that in Australia termed the Dingo, as also the half-tamed races of America, have the long muzzle, gaunt body, muscular strength, and howl of the wolf, all of which resemblances decrease in proportion as the animals are brought under the control of man. Two remarkable changes follow the civilisation of the dog. The wolf is well known to howl, but never barks; this remark is true of all the wild dogs, that is, of those which have in different ages escaped from the control of man and tallen back to the savage state. Barking is a sure mark of domestication in the dog; and the change from the wolfish howl of the wild to the bark of the tame animal is singularly exhibited in zoological collections. Some wild dogs brought from the country of the Hare Indians in North America were kept in the Regent's Park, where nothing like a bark was ever heard from them; but a young one being born barked like other tamed dogs. What were the peculiar influences which made so great a difference between the voice of this puppy and that of its parents? The answer to such a question would involve difficulties worthy the consideration of the best-trained and most accomplished intellects. In the countries where the wild dogs are found, large packs are seen hunting other animals; in these chases the bark is not heard, but that yelping howl so inspiriting to the huntsman when echoing over some English moor. But the results of civilisation leave us in doubt respecting the origin of the dog ; and however much the wild dog may approximate to the wolf in voice, habits, and appearance, there is nevertheless an unquenchable enmity between the two races. No quarter is ever given by one to the other; and in wild countries it becomes the greatest concern of the settler to secure his dogs from the attacks of the wolf-packs. In Sweden, during severe winters, hundreds of dogs thus perislı by the wolves, which always exhibit a preference for the flesh of man's fourfooted friend. The wolf will even have recourse to stratagem to get the dog within its gripe; so determined seems its hostility to an animal having numerous qualities in common with itself. Nor is the dog a whit behind the wolf in his hatred, eagerly pursuing his foe, and evincing the highest delight in his destruction. Ali this mutual animosity does not favour the notion that the wolf is the original of the domestic dog, in which case we should expect more feelings in common between the two. But this hatred may have arisen from the changes produced by the domestication of the dog, which alone might be sufficient to put the two animals in the attitude of enemies. Man has employed the dog to hunt down the wolf and aid in its extirpation; it cannot, then, be expected that friendly feelings should exist between races placed in such antagonistic positions.
There are cases, nevertheless, in which these animals will live amicably together, and produce a common offspring; but this is not usual, war being the general state of affairs between them. The great and various changes produced by civilisation on the dog, renders it impossible to say with certainty from what species our domestic quadruped has descended. The Newfoundland bears little resemblance to the pet poodle; yet buth these are undoubtedly from the same parent stock. Such diversities in the progeny. may well puzzle us to answer questions respecting their origin. The numerous varieties of the dogs are arranged by some in three large groups; the first called Matins, with a long head, such as we see in all the greyhounds, whether Italian or English. The second contains the Spaniels (named from Spain, their country), in which
group are all the hounds, pointers, setters, and even the Newfoundland: the most sagacious dogs belong to this division, and its members are distinguished by the great capacity of the skull, and a remarkable adaptation to the purposes of man; as the Esquimaux and shepherd's dog fully prove. The third group contains the more ferocious and courageous, but certainly the less intelligent dogs, such as the mastiff and the bull-dog. Amongst such varieties we see animals differing more from each other than any of them from either the wolf or jackal: all the diversities are, however, clearly the result of civilisation, and attest the power of man over this widely-spread family.
No animal has been so completely domesticated as the dog; for the horse does not live with us in our houses, nor share in so close an intercourse as the animal which watches for us at the foot of the stairs in the morning, accompanies us to the study or in the walk, and constitutes himself our hourly attendant; understanding our looks, and divining the intent of our minutest actions. If this creature has really descended from the wolf, how mysterious are the influences which must, age after age, have been operating to transform wolves into such companionable creatures as Newton's Diamond, or Scott's Maida! It would be a curious study did some ancient history or diary, kept by Nimrod for instance, enable us to note the circumstances which first brought man and the dog together; but this event happened either in times or regions too remote for the keen eye of a Linnæus or a Cuvier to scan. We see, however, the dog and man confederating in the most ancient periods to which the light of knowledge reaches; no region is too inclement to chill the attachment of the dog to man, no people too barbarous for his earnest yearning after companionship with a being who rules the earth by authority of a divine magna charta. How dependant is the Esquimaux upon his dog for the means of transport over the snow wilds of the Polar deserts ! How harshly do they, nevertheless, treat these animals, which are not only hard-worked, but often half-starved by their savage owners, who abandon them in summer to their own resources for food! Even in this half-domesticated state, the dogs invariably return to their rude masters at the approach of winter; when scanty fare and the sledge-harness are their portion for many months.
But it is in civilised regions where the value of the dog is more fully appreciated, that his partiality for man, and subjection to human will, are completely developed. Here the exact discipline of the sporting dogs, the sagacious watchfulness of the house-dog, and the singular devotion of all to their masters, are so remarkable, that philosophers have noted such phenomena amongst their most treasured records. How strongly is the effect of education shewn in the pointer, which, instead of springing on the game, comes to a dead stop at the place where it lies, that his master may obtain the prize. The natural habit of this dog is to steal upon the object cautiously, and then, making a moments pause, to spring upon the prey. This moment's stop has been changed by discipline into the pointer's determined stand ; and thus an original tendency of the animal has been moulded to the exact peculiarity required by man. The sagacity which the educated dog acquires is often remarkable for its resemblance to human skill, reflection, and judgment. How well is he acquainted with every movement in the family; how accurately does he tell, though unable to note the figures on the clock, the time for his master's walk; and with what fidelity does he not remember the days when he must not join in these rambles! Sunday must have to him, we should suppose, the same appearance as another day; but no, there is something which leads him to the conclusion that he is not to be taken out this morning as usual. Does he count the intervening days ? are there peculiar sounds in the air then floating from the distant bells of surrounding churches, which inform his quick ear, whilst he remembers that such sounds and his usual walks are never connected? or does the dog observe certain slight differences in dress or manner on that day in some members of the household, which his minute attention seizes upon as intimations of the state of affairs ? Whatever be the cause, a careful observer may sometimes detect in the manner of a dog on Sunday, whether his master pays much attention to religious services on that day.
How much of keen attention, combined with delicacy of smell, is shewn by a dog searching for his master in the streets of a crowded city! Hundreds of feet are beating in all directions over the ground; but the animal advances, regardless of all the strange footprints of men and animals which mark the surface of the road. Sometimes he pauses for a moment, as if to reconnoitre and form some judgment on the probability of his master having gone in this or that direction. Having collected some evidence from his senses and instinct on this point, he again puts questions to the ground with his nose, and then moves on. Rarely does the dog fail to find his master in such circumstances, though we may well be surprised at the peculiar sense by which he works his way through the difficulty. The acuteness of the smell does much, but the animal cannot wholly trust to that, as is evident by his careful observation of surrounding objects, and his frequent pauses of reflection.
To record even a small number of the facts connected with the habits and sagacity of the domesticated dog would require a volume of no moderate size, and we should, after all, be left in the dark respecting the peculiar powers by which the animal works; for, however acute the race may be in communicating their wishes to man, they are not able to conduct us into the metaphysics of their own natures, upon which we can but look as upon some wonderfully constructed machines, the movements of which baffle our deepest scrutinies.
The state of the dog, as witnessed in different countries, is as various as the condition of man himself; and there is not a greater contrast between the scholar and the statesman, in some of the European capitals, and the wild Indian of the countries near the Pole, than between the pet spaniel or pointer and the dogs of the Esquimaux. Where man is elevated by art and civilisation, the dog shares in the refinement of his position; but partakes equally of the degradation attending on barbarism. All animals associated with man are subject to such laws; but their operations are most evident in the dog, from the closeness of his union with men, in whose good or ill be therefore directly shares. To many there will appear nothing surprising in this close dependence of such an animal upon man; they see the dog every day in our streets; that sight has nothing singular; and as to the question : “Why has the dog thus been brought into such close union with the being who was created in the image of God?” it is a subject they have never dreamed of speculating upon. But those who look at human history aright will see much to excite admiration in this simple matter. Man could not subdue the globe by his own powers alone; it was destined that he should be dependent in such a work, not only upon the co-operation of angels and other spirits of power, but also upon the inferior animal creation. With these he must work, as with tools, before his great triumph is gained. But how shall these animal auxiliaries be made his servants ? Nought, save some instinctive preference for him can effectually bind whole legions of creatures to his will; such a preference, amounting to a deep passion, has been planted in the dog, and by this he is drawn to the homes of men, and fitted to combine in the great work of the world's advancement. The idealist may see much to humiliate human na re here, and feel bimself lowered by the necessity of linking his great thoughts and high objects with the co-operation of a mere animal. Let him, however, sit still, and witness from his retreat the efforts made by the pioneers of civilisation, the hunter, the fur-trader, and the settler, before he turns from this prosaic view of man in partnership with the dog. The varieties of the domesticated race are far too numerous to be described in this place; nor is it necessary, after the remarks already made on the general qualities and usefulness of the species. Some peculiar facts connected with the dog in certain countries may, however, form a suitable close to this part of the present chapter.
In the first place, we must bear in mind the office assigned to the dog in the cities of the East, where he is elected by public assent to the profitable office of public scavenger. In this useful work he is often associated with the vulture, and to their joint labours in clearing the streets from all decaying animal substances