The Nearness of Animals to Men
THE late Professor von Prantl 1 takes the ground that the lower animals are endowed with moral and intellectual faculties, but adds : “They are destitute of any logical apprehension and power of abstraction ; for while they comprehend objects and their optical, acoustic, and other efficient qualities in a certain abiding manner, they have no conception of substance or attribute, of coexistence or succession. Animals perceive also an actual causal connection, and are therefore capable of drawing causative conclusions, reasoning forward and backward, from cause to effect and from effect to cause, but not capable of a logical deduction ; they seek a cause, but not a logical ground or reason, and are, by virtue of such endowment, wary and cautious, but without foresight ” (behutsam urd vorsichtig, aber ohne Varaussicht). In other words, " animals think without logic, but not therefore illogically.”
Again, “ in order to formulate precisely the distinction between man and beast,” he sums up this difference in the succinct statement. “ man has timesense.” Beasts have " space-sense,” or the “ sensual perception of expansive being,” but not “ time-sense ; that is to say, the brain activity of man is competent to comprehend also pure succession as such, and the pure intensity of occurrence in general.”
In proof of this proposition Prantl states that “man can count.” Even without the use of names or numerals “ he can fix the succession of days by marks, or express the number of objects lying before him gesticulatively with his fingers.舡 This “ sense of continuity, denied to the whole world of lower animals,舡 renders man “ conscious of being the same in a later as in a former time,” and thus endows him with “immutable ego-consciousness, or Kant’s transcendental apperception.” It enables him to look before and after, to bind together the past and the future, and thus to create law and order, domestic, social, and political institutions, ethics, art, religion, science, and history, and to make external things serve his purposes and supply his wants. " Man, and man only, fabricates weapons and tools, kindles fire, plants seeds in the earth, and is alone capable of self-renunciation and suicide.” “ By virtue of this continuity of his selfconsciousness and his look into the future, he transforms the realities around him and makes them minister to his ideals.” The sole and ultimate source of all these higher developments and ideal acquisitions of humanity, individual, social, political, industrial, and artistic, is to be sought in “ the far-reaching and fundamental postulate that man is endowed with time-sense.”
For this reason man alone is able to distinguish between the subjective and the objective, to conceive of the subject as an object, and to apprehend mathematical truths and relations, which are purely ideal, as real. “It would be ridiculous to ascribe mathematics to animals ; nevertheless the labors of the bee and of the spider excite astonishment ; but inasmuch as, with genuinely animal limitations, they always appear in a definite geometrical form, they show that they are not products of spontaneous mathematical thinking.”
Prantl also denies that expressions of sorrow, remorse, or gratitude on the part of animals furnish any evidence that they act under the impulse of moral ideas, but interprets them as having reference to their own well-being or comfort. To talk of the “ art-instinct of animals ” is, he thinks, a mere confusion of terms, 舠 since we demand of art that it shall realize an idea.舡 Still, after all his metaphysical distinctions, he admits that the essential nature of man as distinguished from that of the beast is " only the result of a progressive upward evolution.” If this conclusion be correct, and it is all that the most advanced zoöpsyehologist has ever claimed, then the distances (Abstände) between man and beast are not impassable, and even “human speech” (die menschliche Sprache) is but a higher development of “animal utterance” (die thierische Kundgebung).
The weak point of these speculations concerning the mental powers of animals is that they are too exclusively metaphysical, constituting a logical and systematic exposition of conceptions or notions without that accurate and exhaustive observation of facts which no acuteness of analysis and no vigorous process of pure thinking can supply. Not only is Prantl ignorant of the habits and aptitudes of animals, denying them capacities which they are known to possess, but he is liable to an opposite error, equally fatal to his theories, in his tendency to ascribe to the human race as a whole faculties which are characteristic of man only in a high state of civilization. He ignores the savage and the boor, and compares beasts with the most cultivated and most highly developed human beings, overlooking the long period which man existed on the earth before he even learned how to chip flints.
As to the “ ideal-sense,” upon which Prantl lays peculiar stress, there are low tribes in which it is wholly wanting, and which are as destitute of historical annals as any herd of apes. How much knowledge of the past may be transmitted from generation to generation by tradition in a community of monkeys it is impossible to determine. The amount of information thus preserved and accumulated in simian hordes is probably very small and exceedingly vague, since even human hordes, not native to the countries they inhabit, soon lose all recollection of the early migrations of their ancestors, and all traditions concerning the cradle of their race. This is why savages always regard themselves as autochthones, even in cases in which it can be clearly proved that they are not aboriginal to the soil, and that their immigration is of comparatively recent date.
There is no reason to believe that " time-sense,” which Prantl claims to be the exclusive attribute of man, and from which he derives the superior mental evolution and equipment of the human race, is wholly lacking in the lower animals. Every creature endowed with personal consciousness and memory must know that it is the same being to-day that it was yesterday, or, in other words, that it exists in time. The possession of this knowledge does not imply the possibility of indulging in philosophical reflections about it any more than the possession of thoughts necessarily involves the power of thinking about thoughts, although it would be rash to affirm that animals may not be capable of giving themselves up to meditation by recalling mental impressions and making them objects of thought.
Time-sense is very highly developed in domestic fowls and many wild birds, as well as in dogs, horses, and other mammals, which keep an accurate account of days of the week and hours of the day, and have, at least, a limited idea of numerical succession and logical sequence. A Polish artist, residing in Rome, had an exceedingly intelligent and faithful terrier, which, as he was obliged to go on a journey, he left with a friend, to whom the dog was strongly attached. Day and night the terrier went to the station to meet every train, carefully observing and remembering the time of their arrival, and never missirg one. Meanwhile he became so depressed that he refused to eat, and would have died of starvation, if the friend had not telegraphed to his master to return at once if he wished to find the animal alive. Here we have a strikingexhibition of time-sense as well as an example of all-absorbing affection and self-renunciation likely to result in suicide.
Love, gratitude, devotion, the sense of duty, and the spirit of self-sacrifice are proverbially strong in dogs, and only a “ hard-shell ” metaphysician, who neither knows nor cares anything about them, would venture to deny them all moral qualities, and to assert that they are governed solely by a regard for their own individual well-being. There are also many apparently well-authenticated instances of animals deliberately taking their own lives ; and without too credulously accepting anecdotes of this sort, in which it is difficult to determine whether the creature was a felo-de-se or the victim of an accident, there is no psychological reason for rejecting them as oldwives’ fables.
According to Spinoza, benevolence in animals consists in the exercise of friendly feelings towards their kind, and this is all that we have a right to demand of them. A good cat, for example, is a cat that is good to her kittens, however cruel she may be to birds and mice. Indeed, her goodness, from a feline as well as from a human point of view, is in direct proportion to her destructiveness of the smaller rodents. A like standard of virtue prevails among low races of men, and constitutes the highest ideal of tribal ethics. The best man among barbarians is the one who is most terrible to their foes, and can put the greatest number of them to death in the shortest time. Such manifestations of love of kin and love of country are only enlargements of self-love ; and it is a long way from this primitive form of egotism to universal philanthropy, and to the still broader benevolence which Buddhism inculcates towards all sentient creatures. One is inclined to pardon the gruff cynicism of Dr. Johnson in denouncing patriotism as “ the last refuge of scoundrels,” when one sees how much individual selfishness finds a covert under this fine-sounding word, and what fierceness of interdynastic and international strife it is made to provoke and to palliate.
Not only the social instincts, but also the moral sentiments growing out of social relations, are common to man and to beast. It is evident that germs of moral ideas and perceptions of moral obligations enter into the conjugal unions of beasts, and impart a certain stability and sacredness to these ties. Many animals are strict monogamists, and have thus attained what Aryan civilization now generally accepts as the highest and purest form of sexual affection and association. With beasts, too, as with men, it is the male which scruples least at transgressing the monogamous principle, and makes light of this breach of fidelity, treating it as a pardonable peccadillo.
The mandarin duck is proverbial for conjugal faithfulness, and the Chinese are accustomed to carry a pair of these fowls in bridal processions, as an emblem of connubial love and an example of constancy for the newly wedded couple. Canaries are also characterized by the same virtue, and the attempt to force them into bigamy by keeping one male and two females in the same cage is uniformly destructive of domestic bliss, and frequently fatal to the young. Jealousies are quite sure to arise in consequence of a preference of the male for one of his mates ; and the consort that feels aggrieved by marital neglect will take every opportunity to avenge herself by peeking and pestering her favored rival, and destroying her nest with its contents of eggs or callow brood. Even the young which are reared under such circumstances are far inferior in beauty and vigor, as well as in numbers, to the offspring of a peaceful monogamous canary household.
Whether the family may be the originary nucleus of the tribe, or, as is more probable, may have been developed through a process of differentiation out of a primitive community, whose members lived in sexual promiscuity,2 the impulse to herd, as well as the purposes it subserves, are the same in savages and in beasts. Wolves hunt in packs ; cattle, horses, and sheep unite for mutual protection; and this tendency remains even after their domestication, when it is no longer essential to their safety, and becomes, as in man, a purely social feeling. Birds of passage assemble for their annual or semi-annual migrations, and separate into families as soon as they have reached their destination ; still preserving, however, their larger and laxer social organization as “birds of a feather,”which enables them to “flock together ” again with facility, whenever the general interest requires united action of any kind. This sense of community is especially strong in rooks and storks, which seem to have a regular system of government, by means of which they enforce discipline, reproving and correcting deviations from their common standard of rectitude, and even inflicting capital punishment for certain transgressions. In such cases the family ceases to exercise jurisdiction over its own members, and recognizes the superior penal authority of the common wealth.
The instances recorded of animals holding courts of justice and laying penalties upon offenders are too numerous and well authenticated to admit of any doubt. This kind of criminal procedure has been observed particularly among rooks, ravens, storks, flamingoes, martins, sparrows, and occasionally among some gregarious quadrupeds. It is as clearly established as human testimony can establish anything that these creatures have a lively sense of what is lawful or allowable in the conduct of the individual, so far as it may affect the character of the flock or herd, and are quick to resent and punish any act of a single member that may disgrace or injure the community to which he belongs. Sometimes an irascible husband may take the law into his own hands, and summarily avenge himself on a faithless wife and her guilty paramour without bringing the case before a general assembly of his kind. Usually, however, it is the whole body which, after due deliberation, pronounces and executes judgment and maintains the majesty of the law. The penalty does not always involve the forfeiture of life, but varies in rigor according to the turpitude of the offense ; the culprit being often condemned to a severe castigation, after which he resumes his position in society a sadder and wiser member of it.
Dr. Edmonson states that the hooded crows in the Shetland Islands hold regular assizes at stated periods, and usually in the same place. When there is a full docket, a week or more is spent in trying the cases ; at other times, a single day suffices for the judicial proceedings. The capitally condemned are killed on the spot.
The owner of a house near Berlin found a single egg in the nest of a pair of storks, built on the chimney, and substituted for it a goose’s egg, which in due time was hatched, and produced a gosling instead of the expected storkling. The male bird was thrown into the greatest excitement by this event, and finally flew away. The female, however, remained on the nest, and continued to care for the changeling as though it were her own offspring. On the morning of the fourth day the male reappeared accompanied by nearly five hundred storks, which held a mass-meeting in an adjacent field. The assembly, we are informed, was addressed by several speakers, each orator posting himself on the same spot before beginning his harangue. These deliberations and discussions occupied nearly the entire forenoon, when suddenly the meeting broke up, and all the storks pounced upon the unfortunate female and her supposititious young one, killed them both, and, after destroying the polluted nest, took wing and departed, and were never seen there again.
It happens occasionally that the confidence of the male stork in the virtue of his spouse is too strong to be shaken even by the presence of such questionable progeny ; or, if he suspects her of frailty, he deems it best to condone the fault. They then unite in exterminating the bastard brood, and prudently keep the mysterious episode of ciconian domestic life to themselves.
Professor Carl Vogt tells the story of a pair of storks which had lived together for many years in a village near Soletta. One day, while the male was absent providing for his family, a younger suitor appeared, and began to pay court to the wife. She received his addresses at first with indifference : but as the woman who hesitates is lost, so she finally fell into the snares of her passionate and persistent adorer. His visits became more frequent, and at last he succeeded in so completely fascinating the matron that she was persuaded to accompany him to a marshy meadow, where her unsuspecting husband was engaged in catching frogs, and to join her gay paramour in putting the old stork to death.
A similar case occurred recently in north Germany. A pair of storks had had their nest on the roof of a barn for several seasons, without any apparent discord in their domestic relations. Suddenly, early in the spring, a powerful male stork made his appearance, and violently attacked the husband, who bravely defended himself ; his spouse, strangely enough, taking no part in the fray. The assailant withdrew towards evening, his feathers dappled with blood, but renewed the attack on the following morning. The proprietor of the estate on which the scene took place resolved to interfere and shoot the intruder, but unfortunately aimed at the wrong bird and killed the husband. After this mishap,. the female remained quietly perched on the roof by the side of the stranger, with whom she soon began to chatter in a very lively manner. The talk continued for about an hour, when both storks, as with one accord, fell upon the nest, threw out the eggs, tore it in pieces, and, after gazing for a moment on the ruins, rose together into the air, and, mounting in ever higher circles, vanished from view. Here the wife was at least accessory to the crime after its commission, and her conduct during the combat would seem to indicate that the strange stork was her accepted lover, and his coming preconcerted. Such occurrences, however, are exceptional. As a rule, storks are distinguished for conjugal fidelity no less than for their superior intelligence and the strong ties of affection which they form for human beings.
Ravens also have been known to destroy a nest in which a young owl had been discovered, and to kill both the birds whose home had thus suffered contamination, being evidently determined that the ancient and honorable race of Corvus corax should not be corrupted ; and cocks, in several cases, are said to have killed hens which had hatched the eggs of ducks or partridges. One would hardly suspect such susceptibilities in a polygamous fowl, and least of all in our sultan of the barnyard, who guards his harem with the fierce jealousy of a Turk, but bears his paternal responsibilities very lightly, leaving the brooding mothers and their young for the most part to shift for themselves.
The impulses and motives which lead to the commission of crime are essentially the same in beasts and in man, and students of penal jurisprudence are just beginning to learn that the psychology of criminality in civilized society can never be fully understood except by a careful scientific study of it not only in savages, but also in the lower animals. The incentives to deeds of violence are pretty much the same in both. Many actions, such as the killing of deformed or sickly infants and of old and infirm individuals, are common to barbarians and to beasts, and are regarded as right because they contribute to the collective strength and consequent safety of the tribe or herd ; but with the civilization of man and the domestication of the brute this precaution is no longer needed, and the primitive practice is abandoned. Mice take excellent care of their aged, blind, or otherwise helpless kin, concealing them in safe places and providing them with food. It must be remembered, however, that the mouse has lived in a semi-domestic state as the companion of man from time immemorial.
In the development and organization of social and civic life the bee and the ant hold the foremost place among articulates, corresponding to that of man among vertebrates. They stand respectively at the head of their class, and represent the highest point attained by insect and mammal in the process of evolution. As regards form of government, it is a mistake to speak of the bee state as a monarchy; it is, on the contrary, the most radical of republics, or rather a democracy of the most rigorous kind, with absolute power vested in the working class. The claims of “ labor ” to the exercise of supreme control in political affairs are here fully recognized and practically realized. The so-called queen is really the mother of the hive ; her functions are maternal rather than regal. If she may be said to reign in a certain sense, the workers rule, deciding all questions and performing all acts affecting the common weal. The existence of but a single queen leaves no room for those dynastic enmities and rivalries which have so often disturbed the peace of human empires, and inflicted such untold misery upon mankind. If perchance two queens are produced at the same time, instead of forming factions in the state and exciting civil war, they contend personally for sovereignty, until one of them is killed. Sometimes the workers intervene, and put the less desirable of the claimants to death; or if the hive is populous and circumstances are favorable, a portion of the inmates swarm and carry off one of the contestants to found a new colony. In all these operations the queen initiates nothing ; she is a passive instrument in the hands of the workers, whose decisions she accepts. but does not influence in the slightest degree. There is no “blue blood” in her veins except such as may be produced by a process of pampering ; she is simply a worker, taken in a larval state and fattened into regal favor and function by what Huber calls “ royal treatment; ” that is, by relieving her from all toil and supplying her with richer nutriment. If, on account of bad weather or for any other reason, the bees do not wish to swarm, they do not hesitate to throw all superfluous members of the royal family out of the hive. The institution of appanage is unknown to apian communities. But, in order to provide for emergencies, several larvæ are reared in a single cell, which the old queen is never permitted to approach, since she is as jealous of these royal scions as was ever Persian padishah of his next of kin. For this reason they are kept in close confinement until they are needed.
Doubtless the queen has certain constitutional rights, but they are very limited. She is in the condition of Queen Victoria with Mr. Gladstone as prime minister : she is not asked what ought to be done. but is simply told what the cabinet intends to do, and is expected to indorse it, whether agreeable to her feelings or not. But this relation does not prevent a strong sentiment of loyalty towards her on the part of the workers, who are ready to defend her at the risk of their own lives.
On the other hand, they do not show the slightest affection for the males, or drones, who are in the unenviable position of prince consorts, or mere propagators of the race. No provision is made for them when the winter supplies of food are laid in ; they fulfill their mission in summer, flying abroad on wedding tours with the queens of various hives and enjoying their honeymoon ; but with the early frosts they are thrust out of the hives, and perish of hunger and cold. Meanwhile the queens preserve the sperm in a sac, and use it at pleasure for fecundating the eggs ; as the fecundated eggs produce females and the unfecundated males, the numerical relation of the sexes can he easily regulated. The workers, or neuters, are really females, whose sexual organs remain rudimentary because all their energies are absorbed in labor. The ovary is only partially formed, and they are incapable of laying eggs ; but it needs only a course of “ royal treatment,” consisting of luxury and idleness, to develop any of the larvæ into queens. The queen has no heirs, either apparent or presumptive, and no right of succession is recognized. Any larviform worker can be metamorphosed into a queen, as every American schoolboy is a possible President of the United States.
That this perfect social and industrial organization, in which the principle of the division of labor is so admirably applied and a career opened to every talent, is the result of gradual growth and evolution is evident from the more primitive habits of other hymenoptera, such as wasps, hornets, and bumblebees. Tame honey bees also differ greatly in this respect from wild ones, and are known to have changed their manner of life and to have improved their methods of work to a considerable extent within the memory of man. They have ceased to make comb since the apiarist has begun to furnish them with a good manufactured article, and devote all their activity to filling thle cells, an arrangement apparently satisfactory to both parties. It is probable, too, that bees, after having been supplied with artificial comb for several generations, would finally forget how to make it, and perhaps be no longer able to secrete the wax.
Populous and powerful bee communities sometimes relapse into barbarism, renounce the life of peaceful industry for which they have become proverbial, acquire predatory habits, and roam about the country as freebooters, plundering the smaller and weaker hives, and subsisting on the spoils. These brigand bees seldom reform : if they busily " improve each shining hour,” it is not to “ gather honey all the day from every opening flower,” but to range the fields in looting parties, and ransack the homes of honest honey-makers. Against these anarchists of apian society and other foes the honey bees often fortify their hives, barricading the entrance by a thick wall, with bastions, casemates, and deep, narrow gateways. When there seems to be no immediate danger of hostile attack, these defensive works, which seriously interfere with the ordinary industrial life of the hive, are removed, and not rebuilt until there is fresh occasion for alarm. The common bee (Apis mellifica) not only rifles the nest of the bumblebee (Bombus), but numbers of them often surround one of the latter and force him to give up the sacs of honey he has gathered. The clumsy and not very courageous bumblebee submits to the demands of these highwaymen, surrenders his treasure without much ado, and then flies afield in search of more.
It is undeniable that, in the life of the honey bee, a sort of historical connection exists between the mother hive and her colonies. This sense of kinship extends to the colonies of colonies, and thus gives rise to something like international relations between a large number of apian communities, which share the friendships and the hatreds of the original stock and transmit them to their posterity. Lenz relates his own experience on this point. Six of his hives were blown down by the wind ; he hastened to set them up again, but the bees, rushing out and seeing him thus engaged, regarded him as the cause of the disaster, and stung him. For years afterwards they pursued him whenever he approached their hives, and this unjust antipathy was inherited by all the swarms which issued from these hives and founded colonies elsewhere.
Here we have a striking instance of hereditary enmity, such as often characterizes families, tribes, and clans, and takes the form of the vendetta. The bees that had suffered the supposed wrong never forgot it, and communicated their feelings to their descendants by way of tradition.3
Prantl’s assertion that animals do not plant seeds in the earth and raise crops is merely one of many a priori deductions from his assumption that they lack time-sense, and therefore can have no appreciation of the succession of seasons. All facts opposed to this inference he would treat with a skeptical shrug of the shoulders, or relegate with an incredulous smile to the realm of fable. Nevertheless it is only by the careful observation and critical sifting of facts that such questions can be decided.
It has now been ascertained beyond a doubt that in Texas and South America, as well as in southern Europe, India, and Africa, there are ants which not only have a military organization and wage systematic warfare, but also keep slaves and carry on agricultural pursuits. Nineteen species of ants with these habits have been already discovered, and thenmodes of life more or less fully described.
Nearly half a century ago Dr. Linsecom began his studies of the Texan agricultural ant (Atta malefaciens), and after devoting some fourteen years to this subject communicated the results of his researches to Mr. Darwin, who embodied them in a paper read before the Linnean Society of London April 18, 1861. This ant, he informs us, " dwells in what may be termed paved cities, and, like a thrifty, diligent, provident farmer, makes suitable and timely arrangements for the changing seasons. ... It bores a hole, around which it raises the surface three and sometimes six inches, forming a low circular mound having a very gentle inclination from the centre to the outer border, which, on an average, is three or four feet from the entrance. On low, flat, wetland, liable to inundation, though the ground may be perfectly dry at the time when the ant sets to work, it nevertheless elevates the mound in the form of a pretty sharp cone to the height of fifteen to twenty inches or more, and makes the entrance near the summit. Around this mound, in either case, the ant clears the ground of all obstructions, and levels and smooths the surface to the distance of three or four feet from the gate of the city, giving it the appearance of a handsome pavement, as it really is. Within this paved area not a blade of anything is allowed to grow, except a single species of grain-bearing grass. Having planted this crop in a circle around, and two or three feet from the centre of, the mound, the insect tends and cultivates it with constant cave ; cutting away all other grasses and weeds that may spring up amongst it, and all around outside the farm circle to the extent of one or two feet or more. The cultivated grass grows luxuriantly, and produces a heavy crop of small, white, flinty seeds, which under the microscope very closely resemble ordinary rice. When ripe, it is carefully harvested, and carried by the workers, chaff and all, into the granary cells, where it is divested of the chaff and packed away. The chaff is taken out and thrown beyond the limits of the paved area. During protracted wet weather, it sometimes happens that the provision stores become damp, and are liable to sprout and spoil. In this case, on the first fine day, the ants bring out the damp and damaged grain, and expose it to the sun till it is dry, when they carry back and pack away all the sound Seeds, leaving those that had sprouted to waste.” They also check the tendency of the seeds to germinate by biting off the incipient sprouts, treating them as a farmer does his potatoes or onions under similar circumstances.
In pasture-lands, the grass cultivated by the ants is liable to be cropped by cattle, and thus prevented from bearing seeds and producing a harvest. In order to avert such a disaster, the ants avoid the meadows, which are given up to grazing, and establish themselves in the fencecorners of cultivated fields, along garden walks or near gateways, or in other protected places, where their crops run the least risk of being destroyed.
These observations, the truth of which is amply confirmed by other writers, as, for example, by Dr. Henry C. McCook in The Agricultural Ants of Texas, are a complete refutation of Prantl’s zoöpsychology ; for no husbandman ever showed greater skill in adapting himself to circumstances, or manifested a higher degree of intelligence and foresight in conducting his agricultural operations, and in consulting for this purpose the nature of the soil and the variety of the seasons, than are exhibited by these marvelous insects.
Indeed, nearly all the institutions and gradations of culture and civilization which the human race has passed through, and of which we find survivals among the different tribes of men, exist also among ants. Besides the tillers of the soil just mentioned, there are other species, like the Peruvian cazadores, which still lead a nomadic life, having no permanent homes, but wandering from place to place; entering the houses of the natives by millions ; killing rats, mice, snakes, and all sorts of vermin; devouring offal; and performing in general the useful functions of itinerant scavengers. On the approach of these hordes the inhabitants quit their dwellings, and do not return until the invading host has passed on. Dr. Hans Meyer, in an account of his ascent of the Kilima-Njaro, in equatorial Africa, states that his camp was one night attacked by an army of driver-ants, and had to be abandoned. He describes the army as divided into three distinct classes, or castes, superior officers, under officers, and the rank and file, each of which is provided with mandibles of different size and efficiency as weapons, and corresponding with the duties they have to perform. Other ants have advanced beyond this nomadic life of pillage, and have acquired fixed habitations ; they do not cultivate the soil, but keep herds of aphides, or plant-lice, which yield them a milky substance, and are also slaughtered for food.
The slaveholding ants are of several kinds, and differ greatly in the manner in which they treat their vassals. Some make them do all the work under the direction of overseers ; others share their labors ; while still others have fallen into such habits of luxury as to be unable or unwilling to wait upon or even to feed themselves, and are carried about and provided with food By their bodyservants. In many cases this sybaritism is the mere ostentatious love of being served. The incapacity is not physical, but moral, and arises from an aristocratic aversion to any kind of menial labor, from the pleasure of being served by a train of obsequious attendants, and the notion that it is more dignified and distinguished to be borne along and to have food put into their mouths than to walk on their own legs and to help themselves to victuals ; since these apparently so helpless ants are agile and energetic enough as warriors, when it is a question of conquering and plundering their peaceful neighbors. It is the false sense of honor, fostered by the military spirit, which takes pride in brandishing a sword and, on the slightest provocation, plunging it into the vitals of a fellow-man, but would deem it a deep disgrace for an officer to brush his own clothes or black his own boots.
Sometimes, in consequence of severe exactions, the slaves rise in revolt, and are mercilessly put to death ; and formican like old Roman law seems to recognize the right of the master to inflict summary capital punishment in such cases. This power is often exercised by the red-bearded ant (Formica rubibarbis), who is a fierce slaveholder, and as pitiless in suppressing mutiny as was Barbarossa after the siege of Milan.
Ants differ in quickness of apprehension and in ingenuity quite as much as men do. Some with which Sir John Lubbock experimented, when cut off from their supply of food by the removal of a little strip of paper which had served as a bridge over a chasm a third of an inch in breadth, did not know enough to replace it. In similar cases, ants have been observed bringing straws from a distance for the express purpose of bridging chasms that, separated them from a desirable article of food. Bridges for this purpose are often an inch long, and made of mortar or cement consisting of a mixture of fine sand with a salivary secretion.
In a monastery near Botzen, in the Tvrol, one of the monks put some pounded sugar, together with a few ants taken from an ant-hill in the garden, into an old inkstand, which he suspended by a string from the cross-piece of his window. Very soon the ants began to carry the sugar along the string to their home in the garden, and returned with many others that went to work in the same way. After two days, although the greater part of the sugar was still in the inkstand, no ants were seen on the string; and, on closer examination, it was found that about a dozen of them were in the inkstand, busily engaged in throwing the sugar down upon the window-sill below, where others were carrying it off to the hill. They thus saved themselves the trouble of climbing the whole length of the window and down the string into the inkstand and back again with their burdens, and avoided by this means an immense expenditure of strength and loss of time. This change in the plan of operations shows remarkable powers of observation and reflection, and was doubtless suggested by some of the more thoughtful and practical members of the community, and, after being communicated to the others, was adopted by them.
As regards moral attributes, says Dr. McCook in his work on the honey ants :
“ I am much inclined to the view that anything like individual benevolence, as distinguished from tribal or communal benevolence, does not exist. The apparent special cases of beneficence, outside the instinctive actions which lie within the lines of formicary routine, are so rare and so doubtful as to their cause that, however loath, I must decide against anything like a personal benevolent character on the part of my honey ants.” 4
It is often quite impossible to determine whether human actions arise from public spirit or private feeling ; and an attempt to fathom the motives of ants, and to decide whether they are animated by a love of their kind and a desire to promote the general weal, or by a special good will towards individuals and what we call personal kindness, is attended with equal difficulty. But what the author affirms of honey ants is also true of savages, whose benevolence is tribal rather than personal; even civilized man, with rare exceptions, moves in the same narrow traditional rut, and is swayed in all his sentiments by national prejudices and prepossessions. The feeling of kinship is nevertheless especially strong in ants, and is not weakened by long absence. Mr. Darwin shut several of them in a bottle with asafœtida, and then released them and brought them back to their colony. At first their fellow-ants threatened to attack them and thrust them out, but soon recognized them under their offensive disguise, and received them with evident marks of affection. Still, no one would be justified in asserting that the elements of individual love and personal preference do not also enter into these relations. There is no doubt that strong attachments are formed between animals, and that they are capable of emotions of pity and acts of generosity not only towards their own kind, but even towards creatures of another species. A gentleman who had a great number of doves used to feed them near the barn ; at such times not only chickens and sparrows, but also rats, were accustomed to come and share the meal. One day he saw a large rat fill its cheeks with kernels of corn and run to the coach-house, repeating this performance several times. On going thither he found a lame dove eating the corn which the rat had brought. Such an action on the part of human beings would be looked upon as a charitable desire to relieve the necessities of a helpless cripple, and every one would be satisfied with this simple explanation; but as a rat is assumed to be incapable of similar feelings, its conduct is regarded as the resultant of a series of impulses of sensation, perception, and conception, under which the animal is led to do wonderful things in an automatic way, without any consciousness of the purpose for which it does them; and thus a moral virtue is obscured and wholly hidden from view by a mass of metaphysical jargon.
Again, the ability to use tools and to wield weapons, which Prantl derives from the possession of time-sense, is not exclusively human. Ants build bridges with splinters of wood, small pebbles, grains of sand, and other available materials, and tunnel small streams, and their skill in performing such feats of engineering and in meeting any emergencies that may arise is almost incredible ; but the testimony of Bates and Bär and other naturalists leaves no doubt as to the reality of these achievements. They also make a clever and effective use of implements in capturing and killing the ferocious sand-hornet, which they seize by the legs and fasten to the ground by means of sticks and stones, and then devour at their leisure. Here we have an unmistakable instance of the use of instruments for the accomplishment of a particular purpose. The same is true of the ant-lion when it prepares a pitfall and lies in wait for its prey, just as any hunter would do.
Mr. Romanes seems to think that the only tool-using vertebrates are apes and elephants, but such a restriction is hardly justified by facts. The following incident, which is vouched for by Mr. William B. Smith, on whose farm at Mount Lookout it occurred, proves that an ass may understand the worth of weapons, and be able to avail himself of them. A donkey, which was in the same pasture with an Alderney bull, was frequently attacked by the latter, and worsted in the combat. Convinced that his heels were no match for his adversary’s horns, the ass took a pole between his teeth, and, whirling it about, whacked his assailant so vigorously over the head that the latter was finally glad to give up the contest, and lived thenceforth on a peaceful footing with his longeared and long-headed companion.
Cats and dogs open doors by pressing the latch-key, or cause them to be opened by pulling the bell-cord or lifting the knocker ; and every farmer knows, to his frequent vexation, how readily cows familiarize themselves with the mechanism of gates.
Crows, cormorants, gulls, and other birds carry shellfish into the air and drop them on rocks, in order to break their hard covering and to eat the flesh. If the first fall is not sufficient, they carry it up still higher, and thus virtually hit it a harder blow. If a boy cracks a nut by hurling it against a stone, he makes use of the stone as a tool as truly as if he should take a stone in his hand and strike the nut with it. The former process is that employed by the birds, which are in this respect toolusing animals. There are rocks on the seacoast which have served generations of birds as stationary hammers for smashing mollusks, and are evidently regarded by them as a permanent slaughter-house.
It is well known that monkeys living near the seashore, where the ebb tide leaves the rocks covered with oysters, evince extraordinary expertness in opening these bivalves with sharp stones, just as a man would do under like circumstances. It would require only a very slight increase of intelligence for a monkey to learn to break a stone into proper shape, instead of selecting a suitable one from the shingle of the beach, and, by thus fabricating a tool, bring himself abreast, intellectually, with the flint-chipping man of the early stone age. Indeed, it has been suggested by some scientists that man had not yet appeared upon the earth in the miocene age, and that the chipped flints of that period are the work of semi-human pithecoid apes of superior intelligence ; and there is nothing in the theory of evolution or the facts of natural history that would render such a supposition absurd. Monkeys use stones as hammers and sticks as levers, and appreciate the advantage to be derived from this the simplest of the mechanical powers. With them, as with primitive or uneducated men, this knowledge is purely empirical, a product of experience, and does not imply a perception of mathematical truths or principles any more than the taking of a short cut diagonally across a field involves a knowledge of the relation of the hypothenuse to the other two sides of a right-angled triangle. In neither case is there any question of what Prantl calls 舠spontaneous mathematical thinking.”
Simian dexterity is greatly increased by association with human beings and by observation of their doings. The owner of a pet monkey, which annoyed him by ringing the servants’ bell, tied several knots in the cord, in order to make it shorter and place it out of the animal’s reach. But the crafty creature was not to be thwarted by such a clumsy device, and, climbing up on a chair, artfully untied all the knots, and then gave the bell a succession of violent jerks to signalize his triumph.
Prantl also characterizes man as the only animal familiar with the use of fire, and capable of applying it to culinary and economical purposes and to the increase of personal comfort. But this attainment is by no means common to all mankind. Homo sapiens inhabited the earth for ages before he discovered methods of generating this element and making it subservient to his interests. The habitual use of fire is the sign of a very considerable advancement towards civilization, and marks an important epoch in the evolution of the race. Chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangoutangs have been repeatedly seen bringing brushwood and throwing it on the camp-fires which travelers have left burning ; showing that they have learned by observation how to keep up a fire, although they have no means and do not understand the art of kindling it. By associating with man they soon acquire this knowledge, igniting friction matches, and often have to be watched carefully, like children, lest they should do immense mischief unwittingly as incendiaries. The same is true of ravens, which, when tamed, are fond of throwing pieces of paper and other light combustibles on the glowing coals, and seeing them flash into flame. This favorite pastime renders them exceedingly dangerous inmates of the house; and it is probably this bird that was spoken of by Pliny as avis incendiaria.
Ants store in their chambered hillocks certain substances which, by fermentation, produce quite a high temperature, and are put there for the sole purpose of generating heat and warming their dwellings. Some birds, as, for example, the Australian megapode, or tungle fowl, hatch their eggs by artificial heat, resulting from the decomposition of the leaves and decaying substances with which they cover them ; raising large mounds that are sometimes twenty or thirty metres in circumference, and serve as incubators for successive generations of birds. Thus, while it is true that animals do not make use of fire, they are not ignorant of the properties of heat, which they turn to practical account in matters of domestic economy and household life.
It is questionable whether Prantl’s statement that animals “ expect an effect, but not a logical sequence, and seek a cause, but not a logical ground,” can be maintained. The following incident, related by Dr. Schomburgk, director of the zoölogical garden at Adelaide, in South Australia, would seem to render such a distinction untenable. An old monkey of the genus Macacus sinicus, which was confined in a cage with two younger ones, flew at the keeper one day as he was supplying them with fresh water, and bit him so severely in the wrist as to injure the sinews and artery and lo endanger his life. Schomburgk ordered the animal to be shot, but as an attendant approached the cage with a gun the culprit showed the greatest consternation, fled into the sleeping apartment of the cage, and could not be induced by any offers of tempting food to come out of this place of refuge. It must be added that the monkeys were perfectly accustomed to firearms, which had been frequently used for killing rats near the cage, and had never manifested the slightest fear of them. Even now the other monkeys ate their food as usual, with a conscience void of offense, and were not at all disturbed by the sight of the murderous weapon. No sooner had the man with the gun withdrawn and concealed himself than the old monkey sneaked out, and, snatching some of the food, rushed back into his asylum; but when he tried to repeat this experiment a keeper closed the slidingdoor from without, and thus cut off his retreat. As the man with the gun drew near again, the poor monkey seemed quite beside himself with terror. He first tried to open the sliding-door, then ran into every nook and corner of the cage in search of some way of escape, and finally, in despair, threw himself flat on the floor and awaited his fate, which soon overtook him. The conduct of the monkey in this case can be explained only by assuming the animal to have been endowed with a moral sense and a logical faculty, implying a clear perception of right and wrong, a consciousness of guilt, a knowledge of the use of firearms, and quite a complicated process of reasoning from these premises to a perfectly correct conclusion.
Perhaps the most human of anthropoid apes, as regards intelligence, is a species of chimpanzee called the soko, first discovered by Livingstone, and most fully described by him in his Last Journals. The teeth of these creatures, he says, “are slightly human, but their canines show the beast by their large development. The hands, or rather the fingers, are like those of the natives.
They live in communities consisting of about a dozen individuals, and are strictly monogamous in their conjugal relations, and vegetarian, or rather frugivorous, in their diet, their favorite food being bananas.” The aborigines, the Manyuema, are, on the contrary, cannibals, and are described by Livingstone as “ the lowest of the low.” One of them, who had killed a woman, offered his grandmother to be killed in expiation of his offense, and this vicarious punishment was accepted as satisfactory. Even the sokos have a higher and more correct conception of justice than this; at least they do not make the innocent atone for the crimes of the guilty. If a soko “tries to seize the female of another, he is caught on the ground, and all unite in boxing and biting the offender.” “Numbers of them come down in the forest within a hundred yards of our camp, and would be unknown but for giving tongue like foxhounds. This is their nearest approach to speech. A man hoeing was stalked by a soko and seized. He roared out, but the soko giggled and grinned, and left him, as if he had done it in play.” It is evident that these animals have some sense of humor and appreciate a practical joke. They are inoffensive and unaggressive, but fearless and energetic in self-defense. They never molest women or unarmed men, but if any one approaches them with a spear they rush upon him and wrest the weapon from his hands. If struck with a dart or an arrow, they pull it out, and stanch the blood by stuffing leaves into the wound. The natives recognize their harmless and human character, and say, “ Soko is a man, and nothing bad in him.”
Sometimes they kidnap a child and take it up into a tree, but they never hurt it, and are ready to exchange it at any time for a bunch of bananas. Perhaps the robbery is for the sake of the ransom. When roaming through the forest, the lemale usually carries her infant in her arms ; but in crossing a glade or other open ground, where they would be more exposed to danger, the father takes the child, and returns it to the mother as soon as they enter the wood again. They are extremely fond of assembling in a remote part of the forest and drumming on hollow trees and other resonant objects, accompanying this fearful din with loud yells, like sopranos and tenors of strong pulmonary powers trying to outshriek the clash and clang of a Wagnerian orchestra. This deafening noise does not differ greatly from “ the nalives’ embryotic music,” and is quite as harmonious and pleasant to the ear as much of the music of the Chinese and other Oriental peoples.
Livingstone had a young female soko, which, after having been petted for some time, was “quite like a spoiled child.” She enjoyed shaking hands, and took as much pleasure in this tiresome manual ceremony as any American citizen who honors the President of the Uinted States by calling on him at the White House. She liked to be carried about, and would beg people to take her in their arms. If they refused, she seemed greatly aggrieved, and would make a wry face, as if about to burst into tears, and wring her hands, apparently in severe distress of mind. She learned to eat whatever was set before her, drew grass and leaves around her for a bed, and covered herself with a mat when she went to sleep. She could untie a knot with her fingers and thumbs “in quite a systematic way,” “looked daggers” at any one who interfered with her doings, and resented every attempt to touch what she regarded as her personal property.
Indeed, the idea of personal property, in distinction from communal property, — such, for example, as the provisions stored by ants for winter,— is quite as strongly developed in many of ihe higher species of animals as in some of the lower races of men.
E. P. Evans.
- In a paper on Reformgedanken zur Logik, read before the Royal Bavarian Academy of Sciences, and printed in its Proceedings for March 6. 1875.↩
- Yet see on this subject the important work by Westermark, The History of Human Marriage. — ED.↩
- Cf. Wundt, Vorlesungen über die Meuschenund Thierseele, ii. 196-200. Also article Bees in Encyclopædia Britannica.↩
- The Honey Ants of the Garden of the Gods, and the Occident Ants of the American Plains, page 45.↩