The Human Side of Animals, Royal Dixon
The following passage is an excerpt from a book that explores the concept that animals possess human characteristics.
1. The fact that all animals possess ideas, no matter how
2. small those ideas may be, implies reason. That these ideas
3. are transmitted from one animal to another, no one can
4. doubt in the light of our present scientific knowledge.
5. "Be not startled," says the distinguished animal authority,
6. Dr. William T. Hornaday, "by the discovery that apes and
7. monkeys have language; for their vocabulary is not half
8. so varied and extensive as that of the barnyard fowls,
9. whose language some of us know very well." The means
10. by which ideas are transmitted from one animal to another can
11. be rightly described by no other term than language.
12. It is evident that there are many kinds of language: the written;
13. the spoken; the universal, which implies the motion, sign, and
14. form language; the language of the eye, by which ideas are
15. exchanged without words or gestures; and lastly, a mode of
16. expression little known to the human world, but universal
17. among animals. This language is spoken by no man, but is
18. understood by every brute from the tiniest hare to the largest
19. elephant; it is the language whereby spirit communicates with
20. spirit, and by which it recognises in a moment what it would
21. take an entire volume to narrate. In its nature it differs essentially
22. from all other languages, yet we are justified in thinking of it as
23. a language because its function is to transmit ideas from one
24. animal to another. Every form of language is used by animals,
25. and each has its own peculiar language or "dialect" common to
26. its tribe only, though occasionally learned by others. All the
27. emotions—fear, caution, joy, grief, gratitude, hope, despair—are
28. disclosed by some form of language.
29. It would be interesting to know how the use of the word "dumb" ever
30. became applied to animals, for in reality there are very few dumb
31. animals. Doubtless the word was originally employed to express a
32. larger idea than that of dumbness, and implied the lack of power in
33. animals to communicate successfully with man by sound or language.
34. The real trouble lies with man, who is unable to under
35. stand the language spoken or uttered by the animals.
36. The gesture language is commonly used by many of the tribes of
37. Southern Africa, and some of the Bushmen are unable to converse
38. freely after dark, because their visible gestures are needed as an
39. aid to their spoken words. Only a few years ago there were almost
40. as many different languages among the North American Indians as
41. there were different tribes, and yet each tribe had a sign-language
42. which any Indian in any part of the world might understand. In fact
43. it was so simple that it might be practically mastered in a few hours,
44. and through it one might converse with the Indians of the world
45. without knowing a single word of their spoken language. And this is
46. exactly what the animals do with their universal language.
47. Who does not understand the meaning of a dog when he approaches
48. his master, after receiving a reprimand for some misdemeanor, with
49. downcast head and lowered tail? Or who could fail to interpret the
50. glee when he has done a noble deed and been praised by his master?
51. His is the language of gesture and look, and is very similar to that in
52. use by our deaf-and-dumb men throughout the world.
53. The Hindoos invariably talk to their elephants, and it is astonishing how
54. they understand. Bayard Taylor says that "the Arabs govern their camels
55. with a few cries, and my associates in the African deserts were always
56. amused whenever I addressed a remark to the dromedary who was my
57. property for two months; yet at the end of that time the beast evidently
58. knew the meaning of a number of simple sentences. Some years ago,
59. seeing the hippopotamus in Barnum's museum looking very stolid and
60. dejected, I spoke to him in English, but he did not even open his eyes.
61. Then I went to the opposite corner of the cage, and said in Arabic,
62. 'I know you; come here to me.' I repeated the words, and thereupon
63. he came to the corner where I was standing, pressed his huge, ungainly
64. head against the bars of the cage, and looked in my face with a touch of
65. delight while I stroked his muzzle. I have two or three times found a lion
66. who recognised the same language, and the expression of his eyes,
67. for an instant, seemed positively human."
68. Every one familiar with the habits of dogs believes that they have a
69. language. Certain shepherds are quite particular about the company
70. their dogs keep. This story is told of a couple of shepherds meeting
71. in a market-place in Scotland, each accompanied by his dog, one of
72. which was a sheep-murderer, the other a faithful and respectable dog.
73. They seemed to strike up a great friendship, "and soon assumed so
74. remarkable a demeanour in their conversation that their owners consulted
75. together on their own account, and agreed to set a watch upon them.
76. On that very evening both dogs started from their homes at the same
77. hour, joined each other, and set off after the sheep." It is unquestionable
78. that these dogs had a sufficiency of language to understand each other.
79. The criminal had invited his innocent young friend to join him in his mischief,
80. and they agreed upon the time to meet and each kept his appointment.
81. It is likely that there was not an audible sound uttered during their
82. conversation, but that they used the language of look and gesture, and
83. while it was not understood by their masters, it was entirely comprehended
84. by themselves.
Dixon, Royal. The Human Side of Animals. New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1918. Print
According to the author, why are animals often considered by humans to be "dumb" (line 29)?