As I grow older I am progressively more impressed with the human like qualities of animals. It seems to me that they are growing more understanding, tolerant and wise. The DNA experts now say that approximately 97 percent of the DNA of our closest animal relatives is identical to our own. It may also be that they have more exposure to humans and are less concerned with their own survival. Could it be? Such a change would come slowly and at first might be almost unnoticeable. Here are some observations I have made and also some that have been revealed by others.
We have all heard or seen dogs and donkeys that have on their own (some have been trained to) guard goats or sheep from attacks from wild dogs or coyotes. We have seen animals adopt animals of different breeds giving them nourishment, companionship and protection.
Back in the days when cattle were on the open range they would respond to a distress call from other cattle by coming from all around the range in a fighting mood.
I had a Catahoula Cur that was run over by a car receiving an injury to her front leg. When I took her to the vet he asked me to hold her secure while he inserted a draining tube in her leg. It turned out to not be necessary. She seemed to know she was in trouble and that we were helping her.
I knew a man in east Texas who, while running some cows in a thicket on his horse, was shocked and dismayed when the horse ran into an iron pipe that had been left in the ground with one end sticking up at an angle that caught his horse in the chest. The vet sent him home with the diagnosis that treatment was useless; the wound was deep and would be impossible to keep clean and free of infection. When the man got home with his horse he saw the water hose and on impulse turned it on and inserted in as far as it would go into the wound. Again this animal seemed to know he was in trouble and was being helped. Anyone who has ever worked with horses knows that they are very averse to pain. This horse stood still from the first and allowed this procedure to be repeated everyday until he was completely well.
An internet story is going around about Molly, a mare that lost a front leg below the knee when attacked by a Pit Bull. She cooperated with the vet in every way and was fitted with a prosthetic leg. She protects her leg and is doing well.
Another internet story involves a cat that realized that her canine friend was deaf and blind. She spends all day each day being a seeing-eye cat for her friend.
A friend told of a time when she and her husband were sitting on the back porch and observed the behavior of their cats. They had a female cat and had saved one of her female kittens from a past litter. The two cats both had kittens about the same time. They each had a basket on opposite ends of the porch. The kittens of the younger cat all died and the mother’s kittens lived. As they watched, the young female went to her mother’s basket and got one of her kits and took it to her basket. In a few minutes the old mother got up and went to her daughter and slapped her then took the kitten back to her basket. A few minutes later she picked the kitten up and took it to her daughter’s basket and stood caressing her daughter. Both observers were by then in tears.
A CROW CONFERENCE
Nature still has its oddities and interesting phenomena. Having been reared in central Louisiana on a farm set in the edge of a swamp, I observed domestic and wild animals in a variety of circumstances and behaviors such as assisting and protecting each other, homosexual and heterosexual behavior, courtship, fighting, feeding, stealing, killing and play. Nothing, however, equaled the conference of crows I witnessed in the early 1990s in east Texas.
While in a deer stand in east Texas late one sunny afternoon I saw and heard a few crows begin calling loudly. Then others started coming in from every direction answering the call. On their way in they flew fast and were very vocal. Hundreds of them congregated among the red oaks there and began talking among themselves. They had out-posted guards. I had seen the posted guards or sentinels in other smaller groups of crows and blackbirds. This conference proceeded for perhaps thirty minutes and then they began to disperse.
I, of course, did not know what the agenda was nor what conclusions were reached or what actions were taken. Nevertheless, it was an impressive meeting. Their leaving was relatively silent.
The high intelligence of crows has been known for many years. In the early settlement days in this country there was a practice of splitting the tongue of crows enabling them to talk in a fashion similar to parrots.
In recent time it has been noted that they have learned that mother rabbits feed their young once a day so they watch her and when she goes to them they swoop down and eat the young rabbits. The rabbit population in the east Texas area has decreased drastically in the last few years. Could this be the cause?
I recently heard an account told by a minister who watched another example of social behavior among crows. When I tried to contact this gentleman to confirm the story he had deceased—so it is unconfirmed.
He saw a small group of crows feeding on some road kill. I understand that in some parts of America crows do not eat carrion, but in this area they do. These crows had posted a sentinel whose purpose was apparently to warn the diners of approaching cars. He failed to do so and one was killed by a car, whereupon, the remaining diners promptly attacked and killed the sentinel.
So it goes. We humans have refined our ways somewhat, but they are still connected to those of the more primitive animal world. Perhaps that is why observation of them is so interesting.