DARWIN & DARWINISM

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THE EXPRESSION OF THE

EMOTIONS IN MAN AND ANIMALS

 

CHAPTER I.

GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF EXPRESSION.

The three chief principles stated--The first principle--Serviceable actions become habitual in association with certain states of the mind, and are performed whether or not of service in each particular case-- The force of habit--Inheritance--Associated habitual movements in man--Reflex actions--Passage of habits into reflex actions--Associated habitual movements in the lower animals--Concluding remarks.  

I WILL begin by giving the three Principles, which appear to me to account for most of the expressions and gestures involuntarily used by man and the lower animals, under the influence of various emotions and sensations.[1] I arrived, however, at these three Principles only at the close of my observations. They will be discussed in the present and two following chapters in a general manner. Facts observed both with man and the lower animals will here be made use of; but the latter facts are preferable, as less likely to deceive us. In the fourth and fifth chapters, I will describe the special expressions of some of the lower animals; and in the succeeding chapters those of man. Everyone will thus be able to judge for himself, how far my three principles throw light on the theory of the subject. It appears to me that so many expressions are thus explained in a fairly satisfactory manner, that probably all will hereafter be found to come under the same or closely analogous heads. I need hardly premise that movements or changes in any part of the body,-- as the wagging of a dog's tail, the drawing back of a horse's ears, the shrugging of a man's shoulders, or the dilatation of the capillary vessels of the skin,--may all equally well serve for expression. The three Principles are as follows.

[1] Mr. Herbert Spencer (`Essays,' Second Series, 1863, p. 138) has drawn a clear distinction between emotions and sensations, the latter being "generated in our corporeal framework." He classes as Feelings both emotions and-sensations.

I. The principle of serviceable associated Habits.--Certain complex actions are of direct or indirect service under certain states of the mind, in order to relieve or gratify certain sensations, desires, &c.; and whenever the same state of mind is induced, however feebly, there is a tendency through the force of habit and association for the same movements to be performed, though they may not then be of the least use. Some actions ordinarily associated through habit with certain states of the mind may be partially repressed through the will, and in such cases the muscles which are least under the separate control of the will are the most liable still to act, causing movements which we recognize as expressive. In certain other cases the checking of one habitual movement requires other slight movements; and these are likewise expressive.

II. The principle of Antithesis.--Certain states of the mind lead to certain habitual actions, which are of service, as under our first principle. Now when a directly opposite state of mind is induced, there is a strong and involuntary tendency to the performance of movements of a directly opposite nature, though these are of no use; and such movements are in some cases highly expressive.

III. The principle of actions due to the constitution of the Nervous System, independently from the first of the Will, and independently to a certain extent of Habit.--- When the sensorium is strongly excited, nerve-force is generated in excess, and is transmitted in certain definite directions, depending on the connection of the nerve-cells, and partly on habit: or the supply of nerve-force may, as it appears, be interrupted. Effects are thus produced which we recognize as expressive. This third principle may, for the sake of brevity, be called that of the direct action of the nervous system.  

With respect to our first Principle, it is notorious how powerful is the force of habit. The most complex and difficult movements can in time be performed without the least effort or consciousness. It is not positively known how it comes that habit is so efficient in facilitating complex movements; but physiologists admit[2] "that the conducting power of the nervous fibres increases with the frequency of their excitement." This applies to the nerves of motion and sensation, as well as to those connected with the act of thinking. That some physical change is produced in the nerve-cells or nerves which are habitually used can hardly be doubted, for otherwise it is impossible to understand how the tendency to certain acquired movements is inherited. That they are inherited we see with horses in certain transmitted paces, such as cantering and ambling, which are not natural to them,-- in the pointing of young pointers and the setting of young setters-- in the peculiar manner of flight of certain breeds of the pigeon, &c. We have analogous cases with mankind in the inheritance of tricks or unusual gestures, to which we shall presently recur. To those who admit the gradual evolution of species, a most striking instance of the perfection with which the most difficult consensual movements can be transmitted, is afforded by the humming-bird Sphinx-moth (Macroglossa); for this moth, shortly after its emergence from the cocoon, as shown by the bloom on its unruffled scales, may be seen poised stationary in the air, with its long hair-like proboscis uncurled and inserted into the minute orifices of flowers; and no one, I believe, has ever seen this moth learning to perform its difficult task, which requires such unerring aim.  

[2] Muller, `Elements of Physiology,' Eng. translat. vol. ii. p. 939. See also Mr. H. Spencer's interesting speculations on the same subject, and on the genesis of nerves, in his `Principles of Biology,' vol. ii. p. 346; and in his `Principles of Psychology,' 2nd edit. pp. 511-557.

When there exists an inherited or instinctive tendency to the performance of an action, or an inherited taste for certain kinds of food, some degree of habit in the individual is often or generally requisite. We find this in the paces of the horse, and to a certain extent in the pointing of dogs; although some young dogs point excellently the first time they are taken out, yet they often associate the proper inherited attitude with a wrong odour, and even with eyesight. I have heard it asserted that if a calf be allowed to suck its mother only once, it is much more difficult afterwards to rear it by hand.[3] Caterpillars which have been fed on the leaves of one kind of tree, have been known to perish from hunger rather than to eat the leaves of another tree, although this afforded them their proper food, under a state of nature;[4] and so it is in many other cases.  

[3] A remark to much the same effect was made long ago by Hippocrates and by the illustrious Harvey; for both assert that a young animal forgets in the course of a few days the art of sucking, and cannot without some difficulty again acquire it. I give these assertions on the authority of Dr. Darwin, `Zoonomia,' 1794, vol. i. p. 140.

The power of Association is admitted by everyone. Mr. Bain remarks, that "actions, sensations and states of feeling, occurring together or in close succession, tend to grow together, or cohere, in such a way that when any one of them is afterwards presented to the mind, the others are apt to be brought up in idea."[5] It is so important for our purpose fully to recognize that actions readily become associated with other actions and with various states of the mind, that I will give a good many instances, in the first place relating to man, and afterwards to the lower animals. Some of the instances are of a very trifling nature, but they are as good for our purpose as more important habits. It is known to everyone how difficult, or even impossible it is, without repeated trials, to move the limbs in certain opposed directions which have never been practised. Analogous cases occur with sensations, as in the common experiment of rolling a marble beneath the tips of two crossed fingers, when it feels exactly like two marbles. Everyone protects himself when falling to the ground by extending his arms, and as Professor Alison has remarked, few can resist acting thus, when voluntarily falling on a soft bed. A man when going out of doors puts on his gloves quite unconsciously; and this may seem an extremely simple operation, but he who has taught a child to put on gloves, knows that this is by no means the case.  

[4] See for my authorities, and for various analogous facts, `The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication,' 1868, vol. ii. p. 304.

[5] `The Senses and the Intellect,' 2nd edit. 1864, p. 332. Prof. Huxley remarks (`Elementary Lessons in Physiology,' 5th edit. 1872, p. 306), "It may be laid down as a rule, that, if any two mental states be called up together, or in succession, with due frequency and vividness, the subsequent production of the one of them will suffice to call up the other, and that whether we desire it or not." When our minds are much affected, so are the movements of our bodies; but here another principle besides habit, namely the undirected overflow of nerve-force, partially comes into play. Norfolk, in speaking of Cardinal Wolsey, says--

"Some strange commotion
Is in his brain; he bites his lip and starts;
Stops on a sudden, looks upon the ground,
Then, lays his finger on his temple: straight,
Springs out into fast gait; then, stops again,
Strikes his breast hard; and anon, he casts
His eye against the moon: in most strange postures
We have seen him set himself."--Hen. VIII., act 3, sc. 2.  

A vulgar man often scratches his head when perplexed in mind; and I believe that he acts thus from habit, as if he experienced a slightly uncomfortable bodily sensation, namely, the itching of his head, to which he is particularly liable, and which he thus relieves. Another man rubs his eyes when perplexed, or gives a little cough when embarrassed, acting in either case as if he felt a slightly uncomfortable sensation in his eyes or windpipe.[6]

From the continued use of the eyes, these organs are especially liable to be acted on through association under various states of the mind, although there is manifestly nothing to be seen. A man, as Gratiolet remarks, who vehemently rejects a proposition, will almost certainly shut his eyes or turn away his face; but if he accepts the proposition, he will nod his head in affirmation and open his eyes widely. The man acts in this latter case as if he clearly saw the thing, and in the former case as if he did not or would not see it. I have noticed that persons in describing a horrid sight often shut their eyes momentarily and firmly, or shake their heads, as if not to see or to drive away something disagreeable; and I have caught myself, when thinking in the dark of a horrid spectacle, closing my eyes firmly. In looking suddenly at any object, or in looking all around, everyone raises his eyebrows, so that the eyes may be quickly and widely opened; and Duchenne remarks that[7] a person in trying to remember something often raises his eyebrows, as if to see it. A Hindoo gentleman made exactly the same remark to Mr. Erskine in regard to his countrymen. I noticed a young lady earnestly trying to recollect a painter's name, and she first looked to one corner of the ceiling and then to the opposite corner, arching the one eyebrow on that side; although, of course, there was nothing to be seen there.  

[6] Gratiolet (`De la Physionomie,' p. 324), in his discussion on this subject, gives many analogous instances. See p. 42, on the opening and shutting of the eyes. Engel is quoted (p. 323) on the changed paces of a man, as his thoughts change.

In most of the foregoing cases, we can understand how the associated movements were acquired through habit; but with some individuals, certain strange gestures or tricks have arisen in association with certain states of the mind, owing to wholly inexplicable causes, and are undoubtedly inherited. I have elsewhere given one instance from my own observation of an extraordinary and complex gesture, associated with pleasurable feelings, which was transmitted from a father to his daughter, as well as some other analogous facts.[8]  

[7] `Mecanisme de la Physionomie Humaine,' 1862, p. 17.

[8] `The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication,' vol. ii. p. 6. The inheritance of habitual gestures is so important for us, that I gladly avail myself of Mr. F. Galton's permission to give in his own words the following remarkable case:--"The following account of a habit occurring in individuals of three consecutive generations {footnote continues:} is of peculiar interest, because it occurs only during sound sleep, and therefore cannot be due to imitation, but must be altogether natural. The particulars are perfectly trustworthy, for I have enquired fully into them, and speak from abundant and independent evidence. A gentleman of considerable position was found by his wife to have the curious trick, when he lay fast asleep on his back in bed, of raising his right arm slowly in front of his face, up to his forehead, and then dropping it with a jerk, so that the wrist fell heavily on the bridge of his nose. The trick did not occur every night, but occasionally, and was independent of any ascertained cause. Sometimes it was repeated incessantly for an hour or more. The gentleman's nose was prominent, and its bridge often became sore from the blows which it received. At one time an awkward sore was produced, that was long in healing, on account of the recurrence, night after night, of the blows which first caused it. His wife had to remove the button from the wrist of his night-gown as it made severe scratches, and some means were attempted of tying his arm.

"Many years after his death, his son married a lady who had never heard of the family incident. She, however, observed precisely the same peculiarity in her husband; but his nose, from not being particularly prominent, has never as yet suffered from the blows. The trick does not occur when he is half-asleep, as, for example, when dozing in his arm-chair, but the moment he is fast asleep it is apt to begin. It is, as with his father, intermittent; sometimes ceasing for many nights, and sometimes almost incessant during a part of every night. It is performed, as it was by his father, with his right hand.

"One of his children, a girl, has inherited the same trick. She performs it, likewise, with the right hand, but in a slightly modified form; for, after raising the arm, she does not allow the wrist to drop upon the bridge of the nose, but the palm of the half-closed hand falls over and down the nose, striking it rather rapidly. It is also very intermittent with this child, not occurring for periods of some months, but sometimes occurring almost incessantly." {end of long footnote}  

Another curious instance of an odd inherited movement, associated with the wish to obtain an object, will be given in the course of this volume.

There are other actions which are commonly performed under certain circumstances, independently of habit, and which seem to be due to imitation or some sort of sympathy. Thus persons cutting anything with a pair of scissors may be seen to move their jaws simultaneously with the blades of the scissors. Children learning to write often twist about their tongues as their fingers move, in a ridiculous fashion. When a public singer suddenly becomes a little hoarse, many of those present may be heard, as I have been assured by a gentleman on whom I can rely, to clear their throats; but here habit probably comes into play, as we clear our own throats under similar circumstances. I have also been told that at leaping matches, as the performer makes his spring, many of the spectators, generally men and boys, move their feet; but here again habit probably comes into play, for it is very doubtful whether women would thus act.

Reflex actions--Reflex actions, in the strict sense of the term, are due to the excitement of a peripheral nerve, which transmits its influence to certain nerve-cells, and these in their turn excite certain muscles or glands into action; and all this may take place without any sensation or consciousness on our part, though often thus accompanied. As many reflex actions are highly expressive, the subject must here be noticed at some little length. We shall also see that some of them graduate into, and can hardly be distinguished from actions which have arisen through habit? Coughing and sneezing are familiar instances of reflex actions. With infants the first act of respiration is often a sneeze, although this requires the co-ordinated movement of numerous muscles. Respiration is partly voluntary, but mainly reflex, and is performed in the most natural and best manner without the interference of the will. A vast number of complex movements are reflex. As good an instance as can be given is the often-quoted one of a decapitated frog, which cannot of course feel, and cannot consciously perform, any movement. Yet if a drop of acid be placed on the lower surface of the thigh of a frog in this state, it will rub off the drop with the upper surface of the foot of the same leg. If this foot be cut off, it cannot thus act. "After some fruitless efforts, therefore, it gives up trying in that way, seems restless, as though, says Pfluger, it was seeking some other way, and at last it makes use of the foot of the other leg and succeeds in rubbing off the acid. Notably we have here not merely contractions of muscles, but combined and harmonized contractions in due sequence for a special purpose. These are actions that have all the appearance of being guided by intelligence and instigated by will in an animal, the recognized organ of whose intelligence and will has been removed."[10]  

[9] Prof. Huxley remarks (`Elementary Physiology,' 5th edit. p. 305) that reflex actions proper to the spinal cord are NATURAL; but, by the help of the brain, that is through habit, an infinity of ARTIFICIAL reflex actions may be acquired. Virchow admits (`Sammlung wissenschaft. Vortrage,' &c., "Ueber das Ruckeninark," 1871, ss. 24, 31) that some reflex actions can hardly be distinguished from instincts; and, of the latter, it may be added, some cannot be distinguished from inherited habits.

We see the difference between reflex and voluntary movements in very young children not being able to perform, as I am informed by Sir Henry Holland, certain acts somewhat analogous to those of sneezing and coughing, namely, in their not being able to blow their noses (i. e. to compress the nose and blow violently through the passage), and in their not being able to clear their throats of phlegm. They have to learn to perform these acts, yet they are performed by us, when a little older, almost as easily as reflex actions. Sneezing and coughing, however, can be controlled by the will only partially or not at all; whilst the clearing the throat and blowing the nose are completely under our command.  

[10] "Dr. Maudsley, `Body and Mind,' 1870, p. 8.

When we are conscious of the presence of an irritating particle in our nostrils or windpipe--that is, when the same sensory nerve-cells are excited, as in the case of sneezing and coughing-- we can voluntarily expel the particle by forcibly driving air through these passages; but we cannot do this with nearly the same force, rapidity, and precision, as by a reflex action. In this latter case the sensory nerve-cells apparently excite the motor nerve-cells without any waste of power by first communicating with the cerebral hemispheres--the seat of our consciousness and volition. In all cases there seems to exist a profound antagonism between the same movements, as directed by the will and by a reflex stimulant, in the force with which they are performed and in the facility with which they are excited. As Claude Bernard asserts, "L'influence du cerveau tend donc a entraver les mouvements reflexes, a limiter leur force et leur etendue."[11]

The conscious wish to perform a reflex action sometimes stops or interrupts its performance, though the proper sensory nerves may be stimulated. For instance, many years ago I laid a small wager with a dozen young men that they would not sneeze if they took snuff, although they all declared that they invariably did so; accordingly they all took a pinch, but from wishing much to succeed, not one sneezed, though their eyes watered, and all, without exception, had to pay me the wager. Sir H. Holland remarks[12] that attention paid to the act of swallowing interferes with the proper movements; from which it probably follows, at least in part, that some persons find it so difficult to swallow a pill.  

[11] "See the very interesting discussion on the whole subject by Claude Bernard, `Tissus Vivants,' 1866, p. 353-356.

[12] `Chapters on Mental Physiology,' 1858, p. 85.

Another familiar instance of a reflex action is the involuntary closing of the eyelids when the surface of the eye is touched. A similar winking movement is caused when a blow is directed towards the face; but this is an habitual and not a strictly reflex action, as the stimulus is conveyed through the mind and not by the excitement of a peripheral nerve. The whole body and head are generally at the same time drawn suddenly backwards. These latter movements, however, can be prevented, if the danger does not appear to the imagination imminent; but our reason telling us that there is no danger does not suffice. I may mention a trifling fact, illustrating this point, and which at the time amused me. I put my face close to the thick glass-plate in front of a puff-adder in the Zoological Gardens, with the firm determination of not starting back if the snake struck at me; but, as soon as the blow was struck, my resolution went for nothing, and I jumped a yard or two backwards with astonishing rapidity. My will and reason were powerless against the imagination of a danger which had never been experienced.

The violence of a start seems to depend partly on the vividness of the imagination, and partly on the condition, either habitual or temporary, of the nervous system. He who will attend to the starting of his horse, when tired and fresh, will perceive how perfect is the gradation from a mere glance at some unexpected object, with a momentary doubt whether it is dangerous, to a jump so rapid and violent, that the animal probably could not voluntarily whirl round in so rapid a manner. The nervous system of a fresh and highly-fed horse sends its order to the motory system so quickly, that no time is allowed for him to consider whether or not the danger is real. After one violent start, when he is excited and the blood flows freely through his brain, he is very apt to start again; and so it is, as I have noticed, with young infants.

A start from a sudden noise, when the stimulus is conveyed through the auditory nerves, is always accompanied in grown-up persons by the winking of the eyelids.[13] I observed, however, that though my infants started at sudden sounds, when under a fortnight old, they certainly did not always wink their eyes, and I believe never did so. The start of an older infant apparently represents a vague catching hold of something to prevent falling. I shook a pasteboard box close before the eyes of one of my infants, when 114 days old, and it did not in the least wink; but when I put a few comfits into the box, holding it in the same position as before, and rattled them, the child blinked its eyes violently every time, and started a little. It was obviously impossible that a carefully-guarded infant could have learnt by experience that a rattling sound near its eyes indicated danger to them. But such experience will have been slowly gained at a later age during a long series of generations; and from what we know of inheritance, there is nothing improbable in the transmission of a habit to the offspring at an earlier age than that at which it was first acquired by the parents.

From the foregoing remarks it seems probable that some actions, which were at first performed consciously, have become through habit and association converted into reflex actions, and are now so firmly fixed and inherited, that they are performed, even when not of the least use,[14] as often as the same causes arise, which originally excited them in us through the volition. In such cases the sensory nerve-cells excite the motor cells, without first communicating with those cells on which our consciousness and volition depend. It is probable that sneezing and coughing were originally acquired by the habit of expelling, as violently as possible, any irritating particle from the sensitive air-passages. As far as time is concerned, there has been more than enough for these habits to have become innate or converted into reflex actions; for they are common to most or all of the higher quadrupeds, and must therefore have been first acquired at a very remote period. Why the act of clearing the throat is not a reflex action, and has to be learnt by our children, I cannot pretend to say; but we can see why blowing the nose on a handkerchief has to be learnt.

[13] Muller remarks (`Elements of Physiology,' Eng. tr. vol. ii. p. 1311) on starting being always accompanied by the closure of the eyelids.

[14] Dr. Maudsley remarks (`Body and Mind,' p. 10) that "reflex movements which commonly effect a useful end may, under the changed circumstances of disease, do great mischief, becoming even the occasion of violent suffering and of a most painful death."

It is scarcely credible that the movements of a headless frog, when it wipes off a drop of acid or other object from its thigh, and which movements are so well coordinated for a special purpose, were not at first performed voluntarily, being afterwards rendered easy through long-continued habit so as at last to be performed unconsciously, or independently of the cerebral hemispheres.

So again it appears probable that starting was originally acquired by the habit of jumping away as quickly as possible from danger, whenever any of our senses gave us warning. Starting, as we have seen, is accompanied by the blinking of the eyelids so as to protect the eyes, the most tender and sensitive organs of the body; and it is, I believe, always accompanied by a sudden and forcible inspiration, which is the natural preparation for any violent effort. But when a man or horse starts, his heart beats wildly against his ribs, and here it may be truly said we have an organ which has never been under the control of the will, partaking in the general reflex movements of the body. To this point, however, I shall return in a future chapter.

The contraction of the iris, when the retina is stimulated by a bright light, is another instance of a movement, which it appears cannot possibly have been at first voluntarily performed and then fixed by habit; for the iris is not known to be under the conscious control of the will in any animal. In such cases some explanation, quite distinct from habit, will have to be discovered. The radiation of nerve-force from strongly-excited nerve-cells to other connected cells, as in the case of a bright light on the retina causing a sneeze, may perhaps aid us in understanding how some reflex actions originated. A radiation of nerve-force of this kind, if it caused a movement tending to lessen the primary irritation, as in the case of the contraction of the iris preventing too much light from falling on the retina, might afterwards have been taken advantage of and modified for this special purpose.

It further deserves notice that reflex actions are in all probability liable to slight variations, as are all corporeal structures and instincts; and any variations which were beneficial and of sufficient importance, would tend to be preserved and inherited. Thus reflex actions, when once gained for one purpose, might afterwards be modified independently of the will or habit, so as to serve for some distinct purpose. Such cases would be parallel with those which, as we have every reason to believe, have occurred with many instincts; for although some instincts have been developed simply through long-continued and inherited habit, other highly complex ones have been developed through the preservation of variations of pre-existing instincts-- that is, through natural selection.

I have discussed at some little length, though as I am well aware, in a very imperfect manner, the acquirement of reflex actions, because they are often brought into play in connection with movements expressive of our emotions; and it was necessary to show that at least some of them might have been Erst acquired through the will in order to satisfy a desire, or to relieve a disagreeable sensation.  

Associated habitual movements in the lower animals.-- I have already given in the case of Man several instances of movements associated with various states of the mind or body, which are now purposeless, but which were originally of use, and are still of use under certain circumstances. As this subject is very important for us, I will here give a considerable number of analogous facts, with reference to animals; although many of them are of a very trifling nature. My object is to show that certain movements were originally performed for a definite end, and that, under nearly the same circumstances, they are still pertinaciously performed through habit when not of the least use. That the tendency in most of the following cases is inherited, we may infer from such actions being performed in the same manner by all the individuals, young and old, of he same species. We shall also see that they are excited by the most diversified, often circuitous, and sometimes mistaken associations.

Dogs, when they wish to go to sleep on a carpet or other hard surface, generally turn round and round and scratch the ground with their fore-paws in a senseless manner, as if they intended to trample down the grass and scoop out a hollow, as no doubt their wild parents did, when they lived on open grassy plains or in the woods. Jackals, fennecs, and other allied animals in the Zoological Gardens, treat their straw in this manner; but it is a rather odd circumstance that the keepers, after observing for some months, have never seen the wolves thus behave. A semi-idiotic dog--and an animal in this condition would be particularly liable to follow a senseless habit--was observed by a friend to turn completely round on a carpet thirteen times before going to sleep.

Many carnivorous animals, as they crawl towards their prey and prepare to rush or spring on it, lower their heads and crouch, partly, as it would appear, to hide themselves, and partly to get ready for their rush; and this habit in an exaggerated form has become hereditary in our pointers and setters. Now I have noticed scores of times that when two strange dogs meet on an open road, the one which first sees the other, though at the distance of one or two hundred yards, after the first glance always lowers its bead, generally crouches a little, or even lies down; that is, he takes the proper attitude for concealing himself and {illust. caption = for making a rush or FIG. 4.--Small dog watching a cat on a spring, although the road table. From a photograph taken is quite open and The distance Mr. Rejlander.} great. Again, dogs of all kinds when intently watching and slowly approaching their prey, frequently keep one of their fore-legs doubled up for a long time, ready for the next cautious step; and this is eminently characteristic of the pointer. But from habit they behave in exactly the same manner whenever their attention is aroused (fig. 4). I have seen a dog at the foot of a high wall, listening attentively to a sound on the opposite side, with one leg doubled up; and in this case there could have been no intention of making a cautious approach.

Dogs after voiding their excrement often make with all four feet a few scratches backwards, even on a bare stone pavement, as if for the purpose of covering up their excrement with earth, in nearly the same manner as do cats. Wolves and jackals behave in the Zoological Gardens in exactly the same manner, yet, as I am assured by the keepers, neither wolves, jackals, nor foxes, when they have the means of doing so, ever cover up their excrement, any more than do dogs. All these animals, however, bury superfluous food. Hence, if we rightly understand the meaning of the above cat-like habit, of which there can be little doubt, we have a purposeless remnant of an habitual movement, which was originally followed by some remote progenitor of the dog-genus for a definite purpose, and which has been retained for a prodigious length of time.

Dogs and jackals[15] take much pleasure in rolling and rubbing their necks and backs on carrion. The odour seems delightful to them, though dogs at least do not eat carrion. Mr. Bartlett has observed wolves for me, and has given them carrion, but has never seen them roll on it. I have heard it remarked, and I believe it to be true, that the larger dogs, which are probably descended from wolves, do not so often roll in carrion as do smaller dogs, which are probably descended from jackals. When a piece of brown biscuit is offered to a terrier of mine and she is not hungry (and I have heard of similar instances), she first tosses it about and worries it, as if it were a rat or other prey; she then repeatedly rolls on it precisely as if it were a piece of carrion, and at last eats it. It would appear that an imaginary relish has to be given to the distasteful morsel; and to effect this the dog acts in his habitual manner, as if the biscuit was a live animal or smelt like carrion, though he knows better than we do that this is not the case. I have seen this same terrier act in the same manner after killing a little bird or mouse.  

[15] See Mr. F. H. Salvin's account of a tame jackal in `Land and Water,' October, 1869.

Dogs scratch themselves by a rapid movement of one of their hind-feet; and when their backs are rubbed with a stick, so strong is the habit, that they cannot help rapidly scratching the air or the ground in a useless and ludicrous manner. The terrier just alluded to, when thus scratched with a stick, will sometimes show her delight by another habitual movement, namely, by licking the air as if it were my hand.

Horses scratch themselves by nibbling those parts of their bodies which they can reach with their teeth; but more commonly one horse shows another where he wants to be scratched, and they then nibble each other. A friend whose attention I had called to the subject, observed that when he rubbed his horse's neck, the animal protruded his head, uncovered his teeth, and moved his jaws, exactly as if nibbling another horse's neck, for he could never have nibbled his own neck. If a horse is much tickled, as when curry-combed, his wish to bite something becomes so intolerably strong, that he will clatter his teeth together, and though not vicious, bite his groom. At the same time from habit he closely depresses his ears, so as to protect them from being bitten, as if he were fighting with another horse.

A horse when eager to start on a journey makes the nearest approach which he can to the habitual movement of progression by pawing the ground. Now when horses in their stalls are about to be fed and are eager for their corn, they paw the pavement or the straw. Two of my horses thus behave when they see or hear the corn given to their neighbours. But here we have what may almost be called a true expression, as pawing the ground is universally recognized as a sign of eagerness.

Cats cover up their excrements of both kinds with earth; and my grandfather[17]{sic} saw a kitten scraping ashes over a spoonful of pure water spilt on the hearth; so that here an habitual or instinctive action was falsely excited, not by a previous act or by odour, but by eyesight. It is well known that cats dislike wetting their feet, owing, it is probable, to their having aboriginally inhabited the dry country of Egypt; and when they wet their feet they shake them violently. My daughter poured some water into a glass close to the head of a kitten; and it immediately shook its feet in the usual manner; so that here we have an habitual movement falsely excited by an associated sound instead of by the sense of touch.

Kittens, puppies, young pigs and probably many other young animals, alternately push with their forefeet against the mammary glands of their mothers, to excite a freer secretion of milk, or to make it flow. Now it is very common with young cats, and not at all rare with old cats of the common and Persian breeds (believed by some naturalists to be specifically extinct), when comfortably lying on a warm shawl or other soft substance, to pound it quietly and alternately with their fore-feet; their toes being spread out and claws slightly protruded, precisely as when sucking their mother. That it is the same movement is clearly shown by their often at the same time taking a bit of the shawl into their mouths and sucking it; generally closing their eyes and purring from delight. This curious movement is commonly excited only in association with the sensation of a warm soft surface; but I have seen an old cat, when pleased by having its back scratched, pounding the air with its feet in the same manner; so that this action has almost become the expression of a pleasurable sensation.  

[16]"Dr. Darwin, `Zoonomia,' 1794, vol. i. p. 160. I find that the fact of cats protruding their feet when pleased is also noticed (p. 151) in this work.

Having referred to the act of sucking, I may add that this complex movement, as well as the alternate protrusion of the fore-feet, are reflex actions; for they are performed if a finger moistened with milk is placed in the mouth of a puppy, the front part of whose brain has been removed.[17] It has recently been stated in France, that the action of sucking is excited solely through the sense of smell, so that if the olfactory nerves of a puppy are destroyed, it never sucks. In like manner the wonderful power which a chicken possesses only a few hours after being hatched, of picking up small particles of food, seems to be started into action through the sense of hearing; for with chickens hatched by artificial heat, a good observer found that "making a noise with the finger-nail against a board, in imitation of the hen-mother, first taught them to peck at their meat."[18]  

[17] Carpenter, `Principles of Comparative Physiology,' 1854, p. 690, and Muller's `Elements of Physiology,' Eng. translat. vol. ii. p. 936.

[18] Mowbray on `Poultry,' 6th edit. 1830, p. 54. I will give only one other instance of an habitual and purposeless movement.

The Sheldrake (Tadorna) feeds on the sands left uncovered by the tide, and when a worm-cast is discovered, "it begins patting the ground with its feet, dancing as it were, over the hole;" and this makes the worm come to the surface. Now Mr. St. John says, that when his tame Sheldrakes "came to ask for food, they patted the ground in an impatient and rapid manner."[19] This therefore may almost be considered as their expression of hunger. Mr. Bartlett informs me that the Flamingo and the Kagu (Rhinochetus jubatus) when anxious to be fed, beat the ground with their feet in the same odd manner. So again Kingfishers, when they catch a fish, always beat it until it is killed; and in the Zoological Gardens they always beat the raw meat, with which they are sometimes fed, before devouring it.  

We have now, I think, sufficiently shown the truth of our first Principle, namely, that when any sensation, desire, dislike, &c., has led during a long series of generations to some voluntary movement, then a tendency to the performance of a similar movement will almost certainly be excited, whenever the same, or any analogous or associated sensation &c., although very weak, is experienced; notwithstanding that the movement in this case may not be of the least use. Such habitual movements are often, or generally inherited; and they then differ but little from reflex actions. When we treat of the special expressions of man, the latter part of our first Principle, as given at the commencement of this chapter, will be seen to hold good; namely, that when movements, associated through habit with certain states of the mind, are partially repressed by the will, the strictly involuntary muscles, as well as those which are least under the separate control of the will, are liable still to act; and their action is often highly expressive. Conversely, when the will is temporarily or permanently weakened, the voluntary muscles fail before the involuntary. It is a fact familiar to pathologists, as Sir C. Bell remarks,[20] "that when debility arises from affection of the brain, the influence is greatest on those muscles which are, in their natural condition, most under the command of the will." We shall, also, in our future chapters, consider another proposition included in our first Principle; namely, that the checking of one habitual movement sometimes requires other slight movements; these latter serving as a means of expression.  

[19] See the account given by this excellent observer in `Wild Sports of the Highlands,' 1846, p. 142.  

[20] `Philosophical Translations,' 1823, p. 182.  

Contents - CHAPTER - Introduction

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8 9 10 11 12 13 14


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