The Human Side of Animals: Chapter 14 - As the Allies of Man by@royaldixon

The Human Side of Animals: Chapter 14 - As the Allies of Man

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Royal Dixon

The Human Side of Animals

The Human Side of Animals by Royal Dixon is part of HackerNoon’s Book Blog Post series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here: [LINK TO TABLE OF LINK]. Chapter XIV: As the Allies of Man


"Who, after this, will dare gainsay
That beasts have sense as well as they?
For me—could I the ruler be—
They should have just as much as we,
In youth, at least. In early years,
Who thinks, reflects, or even fears?
Or if we do—unmeaning elves—
'Tis scarcely known e'en to ourselves.
Thus by example clear and plain,
We for these poor creatures claim
Sure sense to think, reflect, and plan,
And in this action rival man:
Their guide—not instinct blind alone,
But reason, somewhat like our own!"

The wonderful world in which we live is full of animal life. In the great forests, under the ground, on the steep mountainsides, in the depths of the oceans, rivers, streams, from the frigid north to the torrid south, in the parched deserts, are animals of every size, colour, and form, all of which are, in their general form, adapted to their peculiar places in nature. Their lives and habits undeniably demonstrate proofs of divine wisdom, intelligence, and beneficence. In fact they show an aptitude in many arts and sciences second only to that shown in man.

The reason that animals are often held in such low esteem by the world of science, is because people are apt to look upon them as natural mechanisms and overlook what they are doing and feeling. The propounders of false statements which attribute every act of an intelligent animal—second only to man and his faithful ally—as due to instinct only, deal with metaphysical reasoning. They have never considered the innumerable and irrefutable facts of animal life which no acuteness of analysis and pure thinking can ever explain. Most of these narrow, bookish men deny to animals capabilities which every country schoolboy knows they possess. It is no exaggeration to say that animals exist which sing, dance, play, speak a language, build homes, go to school and learn, wage warfare, protect their homes and property, marry, make laws, build moral codes, in fact, do everything that is generally attributed to man.

In comparing man and animals scientists are prone to ascribe to man as a whole the faculties which only the best trained and most talented possess. They fail to consider our cannibal brethren, such as are found among the Dyaks on the Island of Borneo, whose chief articles of adornment in the house are heads of murdered men, and whose savage and fiendish ways would put to shame a civilised animal. They forget how long man lived on this earth before he even learned to make fire by chipping flints.

Since the beginning of time animals have been the friends and allies of man. From the very earliest ages they have in innumerable ways been associated with historical events, and with the laws, customs, superstitions, and religions of all nations of the universe. Love, devotion, gratitude, the sense of duty, as well as all the lower passions of hatred, revenge, distrust and cunning are their heritage. Only an egotist who has known them in books only, and knows nothing of their mentality and brain power, would dare say that they are governed solely by instinct. Cases of animal suicide, following some deep disgrace among them, are not uncommon.

From the Bible we learn that God frequently employed animals as agents to dispense His providence. Bullocks, sheep, goats were used by the Jews in their religious services, while a disobedient prophet was killed by a lion. Balaam was rebuked for his cruelty by an ass; and David even called upon the animals to aid in praising Jehovah! That we may learn real gratitude for common mercies Isaiah says: "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib," etc. When the city of Nineveh was threatened, God had pity on it, because there were many cattle there. The Saviour compared his own earthly condition with that of certain animals: "The foxes have holes," etc. He called himself the 'Good Shepherd,' and his followers were sheep who knew his voice. John the Baptist referred to Him as the 'Lamb of God'; while John, the beloved disciple, when on the Isle of Patmos, saw the "throne of God in heaven, and before it a lion, a calf, a man, and a flying eagle."

The first beginnings of co-operation between men and animals must have begun by the approach of certain less timid animals, which felt that better conditions for them and more food could be obtained near human habitations, and perhaps, more protection from dangerous animals. Or it may have begun through the stupidity of certain animals who failed to realize the danger of man's proximity.

It seems that the secret ambition of all animals is to become the allies of man. This is demonstrated by the fact that most of them have gone near the villages and towns, and, consequently, there are comparatively few remaining in the heart of the big forests. Under the true state of conditions man should live in harmony with these animal brothers, with mutual trust and respect existing between them. That would mean, of course, that man would have to show a little more kindness to them. For while he is their true sovereign, he abuses the privileges of his sovereignty in untold ways, and up to the present time only a few animals, like the dog and horse, have been fully recognized as his allies.

All the others, with few exceptions, have shown a desire to become more closely united with man, and yet during the thousands of years of man's rulership over the beasts, he has been able to make allies of only about sixty. This regrettable fact speaks for itself—showing that man has long abused his trust.

Warfare, as it is waged to-day, demonstrates that notwithstanding man's vast number of scientific aids, animals are still invaluable. The innumerable mechanical and electrical devices unknown ten years ago, such as enormous rapid-firing guns, walking "Willies," wireless machines, traction engines, smokeless and noiseless powder, silent-sleepers and tear-bombs, all of these have greatly increased man's power of offence and defence, yet with all these ultra-modern improvements, animals are absolutely essential in waging a successful war.

In military circles there is an ever-increasing demand for well-trained army horses, sound in mind and body and educated in modern campaigning. Above all, an army horse must be dependable, must love his soldier-master and must know absolute obedience to orders. Every army horse has to pass an examination and prove his worth before he is enlisted into the service.

The largest of the mountain guns used in Italy against the Austrians were drawn up the steep mountains by mules. Another 75-millimetre gun for mountain warfare is taken to pieces, into four parts, and each piece is separately packed on a mule.

The United States cavalry has the best trained war horses in the world; many of them actually understand the complicated commands of their masters. These horse soldiers have the insignia, U. S., branded on the hoof of the left forefoot, and the other animals in camp, on the shoulder.

When a horse arrives at a regiment he is assigned to a troop according to colour, size, weight and mental efficiency, and later he is permanently assigned to a man. Under no conditions is he interchanged or even ridden by another than his master, and it is astonishing the tremendous affection that oft-times springs up between the two; in many instances horses have been known to seek out their masters among hundreds of soldiers.

On the European battlefields, near which there are few or no railroads, animals have been the principal means of transportation, elephants, camels, horses, mules and oxen being chiefly used for this purpose. The Italian armies have used numerous teams of mountain-trained bullocks to draw loads up the mountains, and, while they cannot ascend roads as steep as those which the mules climb, they are very valuable for heavy loads. These bullocks work faster than an army mule, for a mule will never hurry. As the old darkey once said, "De mule warn't born fer to hurry; not even a torpedo would make him move one step farster!"

Elephants have been used to a small degree in the armies of Europe. While they are splendid workmen, they are dangerously subject to stampede, and one stampeding elephant can do much harm in an army.

The British army has used quite a few trained elephants from India in their ranks. They are especially employed to rout the enemy from small forests. Breaking through bushes, crushing underbrush, and pulling up small trees is their specialty. They make splendid bulwarks for soldiers, and when an army is marching through a forest, are invaluable in clearing the way. A British officer declared that one trained elephant is more valuable than a half-dozen traction engines.

Far the most interesting and curious use to which an animal is subjected is the use of camels chosen and trained because of their strange colouring and height. Small groups of them have been stationed among clumps of acacia trees with a spy mounted on the animal's neck. This is the safest place a person could be, for the camel or, in like manner, the giraffe, standing with only his head above the small trees, looks precisely like a bit of the foliage in the distance.

Camels are especially good for desert warfare, because they can go without water so long and can easily carry loads weighing from 400 to 500 pounds. In the last Afghan campaign the British lost over 50,000 camels and in the Great War they have had more than 60,000 in army service in Egypt. Camels are especially used for transportation purposes. The British capture of Jerusalem was greatly aided by these desert allies. Large numbers of oxen have been used in the French army. They do not balk at autos and know no fear of shells.

One of the greatest allies of the animal kingdom in warfare is the dog. These allies are trained to aid relief parties on the battlefields, and many of the ambulance men have their splendidly trained dogs for seeking out wounded soldiers among the dead. They are also trained as guards and watch-dogs and they become marvellously clever when used near the firing lines. They carry water in the trenches and are trained in packs to dismount enemy motorcyclists by pulling them from their machines. Dogs also make splendid scouts, and excellent and reliable messengers when not required to go too far.

These faithful friends of man, according to Buffon, are far more easily taught than man, and more easily led "than any of the other animals, for not only does the dog become educated in a short time, but even adapts himself to the habits of those who control him." According to circumstances, a dog may become a soldier, messenger, water-carrier, or guard.




American Museum of Natural History, New York


Not the least among the uses of war dogs is the curious practice of sending them into the enemies' lines of cavalry to convey fire in order to terrorise the horses and throw them into confusion. This practice has been quite common in the past. Each dog is dressed in a cuirass of leather and on his back is carefully strapped a pot of boiling, blazing tar. Nothing so terrorises horses as the sight of approaching fire.

A small but valuable ally to man is the ferret. This little creature has come into prominence more particularly during recent years, when the rat infested trenches have made his services invaluable. These Hun-like rats, devouring and devastating in their thirst for human blood, would have forced the abandonment of many a front line trench but for the aid of these trained ferrets, thousands of which have been daily employed on the battle fronts.

The immense services rendered by carrier pigeons in the battle of the Marne, not only to the military authorities, but also to the public at large, will cause the civilised world to pay more attention to the importance of these birds in the future. They carried all kinds of messages to and from Paris during this memorable battle; in fact, they have been used in all the battles as invaluable messengers.

Small animals, such as mice, canary birds, guinea pigs and rabbits are used in trench warfare, because they are more sensitive than man to poisonous gases. It sometimes happens that hundreds of men must be rescued from a trench by three or four men. Each rescuer carries with him a canary bird in a small cage attached to his shoulder. And as long as these birds show no signs of distress the men are safe from gas poison. The birds soon become attached to their masters and seem to like the adventure of the trenches.

As time goes on, it is to be hoped that we will understand our animal brothers better, and that our old attitude toward the so-called "brutes" will be entirely changed. Heretofore we have greatly abused the zebra, for example, because of his wild disposition, ferocious humour, distrust of all power except that in his own legs, and his pronounced aversion to work.

Why should we reproach him for his wildwood philosophy? It is perfectly natural that any animal of his experience with man, and with sufficient brains, would have only contempt for all mankind. His native home is in Africa, and his human associates, if they are human, have been the Hottentots, the Namaquois or the Amazoulons—the most impossible and hideous people on the earth. Since his babyhood days he has seen nothing but cannibalism and carnage among the savages; and since his transportation to Europe by a strange occurrence of horrible circumstances, he has been the subject for all kinds of barbarous punishments which man has seen well to heap upon him. The zebra is not of the mental calibre to be suddenly seized with love for the human species and its civilisations! And the human species is astounded and thinks the zebra stupid and wicked. He may be both, but his wisdom is undeniable when it comes to trusting humanity, and his wickedness is small in comparison to man's terrible cruelties. He should be awarded a medal for wisdom! For man is far the greater ass of the two!

He roams the wild prairies where the fields need no ploughing. There he finds an abundance of grass and fresh water along the streams. No loud cursing and swearing ever greets his ears, nothing but the sweet song of the wild birds. And his children romp and play with him, free as the winds that blow. Of course, he has enemies even there, and so he uses camouflage by painting himself in attractive stripes, so no one can see him at a distance. Even Solomon should have praised his wisdom!

In the beginning God created man, and not long after gave him as his policeman, the dog. And the obedience, friendship and devotion of the dog to his master has been unending. The dog discusses no questions of right or wrong, his only duty is to obey. This he does without a murmur. He is the greatest testimony to man's civilisation, the first and the greatest element of human progress. Through his co-operation man was elevated from the savage to the state of the civilised. He made the herd possible. Without him there could have been no herd, no assured subsistence of food and clothing, no time to study and improve the mind, no astronomical observations, no science, no arts, no automobiles, no airships, no wireless telegraphy—nothing. The East is the home of civilisation, because the East is the home of the dog.

A young hound knows more about tracking game or scenting the enemy after six months' practice than the most skilled savage after fifty years of study. The dog has so aided mankind as to give him more time for study and self-improvement. Thus began the arts and sciences. An interesting, and we believe original observation, of the influence of the dog on peoples is that wherever the dog is found, especially among the shepherd peoples, such as the Chaldeans, Egyptians, Arabs, Tartars, and Mongols, cannibalism is unknown. This is due to the fact that the dog enables them to maintain the herds which supply them with milk, food, and clothing, thus preserving them from the criminal temptation of hunger.

The Indians of North America never refrained from roasting their enemies until they made allies of the horse and dog. Humboldt proves the lively regret held by one of the last surviving chief lieutenants of the war-like Tecumseh whom he asked about a certain American officer who took part in the fight. "Uh!" replied the Indian, "I eat some of him." "Do you still eat your enemies?" asked Humboldt. "No," replied the Indian. "Big dog catch heap meat for me!"

Surely no animal could be more uncivilised or cannibalistic in its desires than man! Spinoza believed, however, that benevolence in animals consisted only in their kindliness and friendly feeling for each other and that we should expect nothing more of them. A good cow, so he thought, was one that was kind to her calf, however ferocious she might be toward human children. But we do not accept this standard of goodness, nor believe that animals' kindness extends only to their own tribes. Their lowest standard of life is no worse than the cannibalism existing among the lower tribes of uncivilised man, which is one of the highest ideals of tribal life. The greatest hero among our savages is the one that can put the most enemies to death.

Many animals seem to have a social instinct and a moral sentiment toward man. They try to break the old bonds of distrust between their master and themselves. This is especially true of the puma, second to the largest of the big cats of the Americas, which seems to love the society of man, and seeks not only to be near him, but to protect him from the attacks of the much-dreaded jaguar. A civil engineer tells the story of an experience he had while journeying up one of the big South American rivers by boat. At their nightly encampments one of the passengers on board was an old miner who insisted on sleeping in a hammock suspended between two small trees. His weight was sufficient to bring the hammock almost to the ground at its lowest curve. One morning, his friends inquired how he had slept, and he complained that "the frogs and small animals had made so much noise under the hammock that he could not sleep." One of the Indian servants roared with laughter, as he said, "Uh, 'tiger' sleep with old man last night. He watch him!"—tiger being the Indian term for the puma. Careful searching revealed the footprints of an immense puma, and that he had evidently lain directly under the hammock. The noise which had kept the old man from sleeping was the purring of the animal, pleased over the privilege of sleeping so near a man. These Guiana Indians know the ways of the forests, and have a special liking for wild animals. This entire absence of fear in the puma is the same as exhibited by the tame house cat.

Many animals seem fond of human companionship, and are easily tamed. My sister raised a small red deer in Texas, and he became so perfectly tame that he would follow her wherever she went, and would even take food from her hand. In Yellowstone Park the deer are so tame they will come into the yards to get food, while the brown bears approach the hotels like tramps, and many of the smaller animals are perfectly fearless. At the Bronx Zoological Gardens, and the London Zoo, the animals have lost all fear. They seem to realise that they have no power to escape and depend entirely upon man for their daily food. But, of course, their conditions are artificial, hence such conclusions as we may draw as to their normal attitude toward man do not necessarily indicate the innate character of their wild kinsmen. We occasionally find, for instance, that in unsettled regions like parts of Mexico and South America, where animals are plentiful and man's influence largely absent, they are found to be particularly ferocious, yet even then lions and leopards rarely attack men unless disturbed in some unusual way.

Quite a few naturalists and scientists believe that the animals' love for man was acquired and not natural. But if this be true, how did the very early tribes of men escape destruction at the hands of the wild beasts which were far more numerous than at present? The animal kingdom was evidently impressed by the power of man at a very early stage of its development, but in just what manner or what period of time this came to pass is not known.

If we regard the conflict as merely between two great groups of animals, surely the animals should have won, and man would have disappeared from the face of the earth. The fact that he did not, and that he became master of the animals, is presumptive evidence that man exceeded the animals in intelligence.

Primitive man could have lived in no other way than by "his wits." For he was not nearly so well equipped for defence as are the monkeys of to-day. Their greatest power is in the ability to use their arms and hands in swinging rapidly from branch to branch. This gives them an advantage over all tree-climbing cats. They are very proficient in throwing stones and other missiles. This is dumbfounding to other animals. Of course, their intelligent and quick-witted methods of defence, menace, guard-duty, and loyalty to tribe makes them great warriors, and enables them to survive even the onslaughts of their greatest enemy and nightmare of every non-carnivorous animal—the harpy eagle!

Through the necessary adjustments growing out of the close relationships of men to animals, the mental faculties of both have been greatly stimulated and advanced. The least developed races seem to be in such places as Tierra del Fuego, where there are no savage animals, and, therefore, no inducement for man to arm and defend himself. The Pygmies of Central Africa are mighty hunters, otherwise they could not survive. Even the Esquimaux are masters of the great polar bears and other northern animals.

In the wilds of Africa, where animals have had a terrible struggle for existence, not only against disagreeable climatic conditions, but all kinds of fellow-foes as well, we find the nkengos have attained a civilisation that almost equals that of our savage brothers. And these pale-faced little beings, with their wrinkled, care-worn, parchment-like skins, remind one of ill-treated, white, human-dwarfs. Their name, nkengo, means wild animal-men, and when tamed they actually make excellent family servants for men.

These closest allies of man live in tall bamboo trees, and are so curiously human that when seen walking around hunting berries, nuts, and fruits, talking in guttural, chattering tones, like old fisher-women, no one could doubt even their kinship to man.

Their children assemble in groups to romp and play under the guardianship of either one of their mothers or grandmothers; while the men forage for food, and watch for enemies. It is not uncommon to see an aged, half-decrepit nkengo lying on a bed of sticks in a tall tree. Here he eats only green leaves and bits of fruit brought him by some kind friend, being far too weak to hunt for food himself, and furthermore, fearing an attack from his mortal enemy, the leopard.

If the colony decides to move to other territory, either because of enemies or the scarcity of food, they all assemble and hold a farewell gathering in which there is much mourning and apparent grief at forever leaving their aged kin to the fate of the wilds. If they are possibly able to walk, they are given patient assistance in travelling along. Sometimes, when they are deserted, sympathetic friends return for days with berries and koola nuts, until at last the colony has gone so far away that none dare return alone, in which event these helpless superannuated members are left to die in their lone tree-top beds.

Many of these beds are as well made as the tree-beds of human beings, and even better than the beds of the savage Dyaks of Borneo. They are usually located in tall trees, inaccessible to leopards and out of reach of their most dreaded of all enemies, the terrible hordes of war-ants. From these nothing escapes—not even elephants and tigers.

The arrival of a baby to these nkengos is of far more importance in their tree-top village, than in a human city. Each of the female relatives, and also the aged males, takes special interest in the new-comer, and they chatter around his little grape-vine cradle with much enthusiasm, shaking their heads and delicately handling his tiny hands and toes as though he were the baby of a king.

This baby is much stronger and quicker to learn than human babies; for when he is only two days old he is able to cling to his mother, so that she can carry him with her on her hunting trips. If he becomes too noisy from sheer delight when she is travelling through the forest with him, she slaps him, in an attempt to quiet him, lest the leopards get him.

At night he sleeps snugly by his mother's side in the great tree-bed, and she never allows him to crawl out of her arms for fear that he fall to the depths below. She loves him dearly, and watches with human eagerness for his first tooth. He loves his mother and will stand for hours while she dresses his hair; or lie on her breast as she rubs his little back.

These wild-children are always ill-tempered and self-willed. No human mother has to show more patience and love than does the nkengo mother. She takes the greatest delight in his first efforts at climbing and hunting, and for hours she and his admiring relatives will watch him attempting to climb a cocoanut tree. Sometimes she will climb just behind him to catch him if he falls or becomes frightened.

His arms soon become very powerful, for he is constantly swinging, climbing, and exercising by hanging from a bough with one hand while he pulls himself up with the great power of his muscles. He is able to gather koola nuts long before his jaws are strong enough to crack them; so his fond mother cracks them for him until his hands and mouth are stronger. Like all babies, his ambition is to be big and strong like his father.

Some of the apes are most intelligent and human, and, as allies to man, are more desirable than certain of the human savages. Dr. Livingstone, in his Last Journals, describes one he first discovered. "Their teeth," 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 favourite food being bananas." The natives where these apes live are cannibals, and Dr. Livingstone says, "they are the lowest of the low." One of their number, who had committed a great murder, offered his grandmother "to be killed in expiation of his offence, and this vicarious punishment was accepted as satisfactory."

Thus it is evident that certain of these wild-creatures—like the sokos—have a more correct conception of justice than their human associates, the savages. At least the animals do not make the innocent suffer for the guilty, and give their lives unjustly. Should a soko try to take another's wife he is publicly punished by the tribe. These animals have a great sense of humour and fully enjoy a practical joke. Strangely enough, they never attack women and children, but if any man approaches them with a spear or gun, they try to rush upon him, often at the expense of their own life, and wrest the weapon from him. Most of them are exceedingly kind and civilised in their actions, and natives always say, "Soko is a man, and nothing bad in him."

Often they kidnap babies and carry them up into trees. But these are never harmed and the apes are ever ready to exchange them for bananas. The robbery is, no doubt, for the purpose of extortion. If perchance one of their children is stolen, the entire forest sets up a scream and wail until it is returned. Old hunters and travellers say that they would rather steal the child of a native savage than to take one of the sokos. If one of the soko children disappears, and they do not know what became of it, they immediately send out detectives throughout the country to seek for it. And woe be the home where a stolen soko baby is found!

But man has one great power—a far more potent ally than he has in his animal friends—the use of fire. Unquestionably to the minds of animals it is a supernatural power. They cannot create it, understand it, and it is very doubtful if they can yet use it to advantage. How marvellous is this thing—fire! That great blazing pillar of cloud that destroys all, and leaves nothing to show where it has taken its enemies! To animals it springs up wherever man rests his head, and protects him while he sleeps. It is always with him, and its presence for untold ages has brought terror to all of them.

Not a few reports tell us that certain of our animal allies among the monkeyfolk of South Africa use fire. This may not be true; but it is probable that the time is near at hand when the wild baboon-men of the woods will learn to make and use fire just as we have done.

Enough instances could be shown illustrating animals as man's allies to fill an entire book, but a sufficient number have been adduced to show how truly they are our allies, helpers, and protectors just as we are theirs, only their mode of manifesting it is different. We have shown the absolute fallacy of the old belief that animals lack mentality, and that all their acts of kindness are based upon self-love and personal gain, and have seen that in proportion to their opportunities in life, they have quite as much mentality and brotherly love for each other and mankind as is found among our lower savages. We have seen that among animals as among men, individuals will give their lives for their fellows, serve the weak and timid, and demonstrate the highest and holiest feelings of which true souls can be capable, and always share equally with man the burdens that fall upon themselves and their human allies. And the time is already here when man should protect his animal friends more, and teach them through human kindness not to fear him. But this can only be done when he is willing to treat them as fellow beings only a little below him in the scale of existence.

About HackerNoon Book Series: We bring you the most important technical, scientific, and insightful public domain books. This book is part of the public domain.

Dixon, Royal, 2006. The Human Side of Animals. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved May 2022 from

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