Thomas Bingley.

Stories about the Instinct of Animals, Their Characters, and Habits online

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Transcriber's Note: A number of typographical errors found in the
original text have been maintained in this version. A list of these
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Uncle Thomas resumes his Stories about the Instinct of Animals. - Tells
about the Horse, and of the Immense Herds which are to be found on the
Plains of South America; of their Capture by means of the Lasso; the
Arab and his Mare; the Gadshill Robber; the Benevolent Planter; the
Lawyer-Highwayman; as well as several other Curious Stories about the
Intelligence, Affection, and Docility of the Horse Page 9


Uncle Thomas tells about the Beaver, and the Singular Manner in which it
constructs a Dam to confine the Waters of the River; and about the Hut
which it builds for its Habitation. He tells also about the Curious
Nests of the Sociable Grosbeak; and gives a Long and Entertaining
Account of the White Ant of Africa; its Extraordinary Nest; and the
Important Part which it acts in the Economy of Nature 29


Uncle Thomas describes the Manner in which Wild Elephants are caught,
and relates some Curious Stories of the Cunning, Affection, and
Intelligence of the Elephant 54


Uncle Thomas introduces to the Notice of the Young Folks the Ettrick
Shepherd's Stories about Sheep; and tells them some Interesting Stories
about the Goat, and its Peculiarities 71


Uncle Thomas relates some Very Remarkable Stories about the Cat; points
out to the Boys the Connexion subsisting between the Domestic Cat and
the Lion, Tiger, &c., and tells them some Stories about the Gentleness,
as well as the Ferocity of these Animals 89


Uncle Thomas tells about the Tiger; its Ferocity and Power; and of the
Curious Modes which are adopted for its Capture and Destruction. - Also
about the Puma or American Lion, and introduces some Hunting Scenes in
North and South America, with other Interesting and Entertaining
Adventures 123


Uncle Thomas tells about the Migrating Instinct of Animals. - Of the
House Swallow of England; and the Esculent Swallow, whose Nest is eaten
by the Chinese. - He tells also about the Passenger Pigeon of America; of
the Myriads which are found in various parts of the United States; of
the Land-Crab and its Migrations, and of those of the Salmon and the
Common Herring 144


Uncle Thomas tells about the Baboons, and their Plundering Excursions to
the Gardens at the of Good Hope, Calsoaep about Le Vaillant's Baboon,
Kees, and his Peculiarities; the American Monkeys; and relates an
Amusing Story about a Young Monkey deprived of its Mother, putting
itself under the Fostering Care of a Wig-Block 174


Uncle Thomas concludes Stories about Instinct with several Interesting
Illustrations of the Affections of Animals, particularly of the Instinct
of Maternal Affection, in the course of which he narrates the Story of
the Cat and the Black-Bird; the Squirrel's Nest; the Equestrian Friends;
and points out the Beneficent Care of Providence in implanting in the
Breasts of each of his Creatures the Instinct which is necessary for its
Security and Protection 193





Uncle Thomas resumes his Stories about the Instinct of
Animals. - Tells about the Horse, and of the Immense Herds which are
to be found on the Plains of South America; of their Capture by
means of the Lasso; the Arab and his Mare; the Gadshill Robber; the
Benevolent Planter; the Lawyer-Highwayman; as well as several other
Curious Stories about the Intelligence, Affection, and Docility of
the Horse.

"Come away, boys, I am glad to see you again! Since I last saw you I
have made an extensive tour, and visited some of the most romantic and
picturesque scenery in England. One day I may give you an account of
what I saw, and describe to you the scenes which I visited; but I must
deny myself this pleasure at present. I promised, at our next meeting,
to tell you some TALES ABOUT THE INSTINCT OF ANIMALS; and I propose to
begin with the Horse. I like to interest you with those animals with
which you are familiar, and to draw out your sympathies towards them.
After the STORIES ABOUT DOGS which I told you, some of them exhibiting
that fine animal in such an amiable and affectionate character, I am
sure it must assume a new interest in your mind. Such instances of
fidelity and attachment could not fail to impress you with a higher
opinion of the animal than you before possessed, and show that kindness
and good treatment even to a brute are not without their reward.

"I wish to excite the same interest towards the other animals which, I
hope, I have effected towards the Dog. Each, you will find, has been
endowed by its Creator with particular instincts, to fit it for the
station which it was intended to occupy in the great system of Nature.
Some of them are wild and ferocious, while others are quiet and
inoffensive; the former naturally repel us, while those of the latter
class as naturally attract our regard, although, properly speaking, each
ought equally to interest us, in as far as it fulfils the object of its

"But I know you like stories better than lectures, so I will not tire
you by lecturing, but will at once proceed to tell some stories about
Horses, which I have gathered for you."

"Oh no, Uncle Thomas, we never feel tired of listening to you; we know
you have always something curious to tell us."

"Well, then, Frank, to begin at once with THE HORSE.

"In several parts of the world there are to be found large herds of wild
horses. In South America, in particular, the immense plains are
inhabited by them, and, it is said, that so many as ten thousand are
sometimes found in a single herd. These flocks are always preceded by a
leader, who directs their motions; and such is the regularity with which
they perform their movements, that it seems almost as if they could not
be surpassed by the best trained cavalry.

"It is extremely dangerous for travellers to encounter a herd of this
description. When they are unaccustomed to the sight of such a mass of
creatures, they cannot help feeling greatly alarmed at their rapid and
apparently irresistible approach. The trampling of the animals sounds
like the loudest thunder; and such is the rapidity and impetuosity of
their advance, that it seems to threaten instant destruction. Suddenly,
however, they sometimes stop short, utter a loud and piercing neighing,
and, with a rapid wheel in an opposite course, altogether disappear. On
such occasions, however, it requires all the care of the traveller to
prevent his horses from breaking loose, and escaping with the wild

"In those countries where horses are so plentiful, the inhabitants do
not take the trouble to rear them, but, whenever they want one, mount
upon an animal which has been accustomed to the sport, and gallop over
the plain towards the herd, which is readily found at no great distance.
Gradually he approaches some stragglers from the main body, and, having
selected the horse which he wishes to possess, he dexterously throws the
_lasso_ (which is a long rope with a running noose, and which is firmly
fixed to his saddle,) in such a manner as to entangle the animal's hind
legs; and, with a sudden turn of his horse, he pulls it over on its
side. In an instant he jumps off his horse, wraps his _poncho_, or
cloak, round the captive's head, forces a bit into its mouth, and straps
a saddle upon its back. He then removes the poncho, and the animal
starts on its feet. With equal quickness the hunter leaps into the
saddle; and, in spite of the contortions and kickings of his captive,
keeps his seat, till, having wearied itself out with its vain efforts,
it submits to the discipline of its captor, who seldom fails to reduce
it to complete obedience."

"That is very dexterous indeed, Uncle Thomas; but surely all horses are
not originally found in this wild state. I have heard that the Arabians
are famous for rearing horses."

"Arabia has, for a long time, been the country noted for the symmetry
and speed of its horses: so much attention has been paid to the breeding
of horses in our own country, however, for the race-course as well as
the hunting-field, that the English horses are now almost unequalled,
both for speed and endurance.

"It is little wonder, however, that the Arabian horse should be the most
excellent, considering the care and attention which it receives, and the
kindness and consideration with which it is treated. One of the best
stories which I ever heard of the love of an Arabian for his steed, is
that related of an Arab from whom one of our envoys wished to purchase
his horse.

"The animal was a bright bay mare, of extraordinary shape and beauty;
and the owner, proud of its appearance and qualities, paraded it before
the envoy's tent until it attracted his attention. On being asked if he
would sell her, 'What will you give me?' was the reply. 'That depends
upon her age; I suppose she is past five?' 'Guess again,' said he.
'Four?' 'Look at her mouth,' said the Arab, with a smile. On examination
she was found to be rising three. This, from her size and symmetry,
greatly enhanced her value. The envoy said, 'I will give you fifty
tomans' (a coin nearly of the value of a pound sterling). 'A little
more, if you please,' said the fellow, somewhat entertained. 'Eighty - a
hundred.' He shook his head and smiled. The officer at last came to two
hundred tomans. 'Well,' said the Arab, 'you need not tempt me farther.
You are a rich elchee (nobleman); you have fine horses, camels, and
mules, and I am told you have loads of silver and gold. Now,' added he,
'you want my mare, but you shall not have her for all you have got.' He
put spurs to his horse, and was soon out of the reach of temptation.

"Swift as the Arabian horses are, however, they are frequently matched
by those of our own country. I say nothing about _race horses_, because,
though some of them are recorded to have run at an amazing speed, the
effort is generally continued for but a short time. Here is an instance
of speed in a horse which saved its unworthy master from the punishment
due to his crime.

[Illustration: CATCHING WILD HORSES - Page 13.]

"One morning about four o'clock a gentleman was stopped, and robbed by a
highwayman named Nicks, at Gadshill, on the west side of Chatham. He was
mounted on a bay mare of great speed and endurance, and as soon as he
had accomplished his purpose, he instantly started for Gravesend, where
he was detained nearly an hour by the difficulty of getting a boat.
He employed the interval to advantage however in baiting his horse. From
thence he got to Essex and Chelmsford, where he again stopped about half
an hour to refresh his horse. He then went to Braintree, Bocking,
Weathersfield, and over the Downs to Cambridge, and still pursuing the
cross roads, he went by Fenney and Stratford to Huntingdon, where he
again rested about half an hour. Proceeding now on the north road, and
at a full gallop most of the way, he arrived at York the same afternoon,
put off his boots and riding clothes, and went dressed to the
bowling-green, where, among other promenaders, happened to be the Lord
Mayor of the city. He there studied to do something particular, that his
lordship might remember him, and asking what o'clock it was, the mayor
informed him that it was a quarter past eight. Notwithstanding all these
precautions, however, he was discovered, and tried for the robbery; he
rested his defence on the fact of his being at York at such a time. The
gentleman swore positively to the time and place at which the robbery
was committed, but on the other hand, the proof was equally clear that
the prisoner was at York at the time specified. The jury acquitted him
on the supposed impossibility of his having got so great a distance from
Kent by the time he was seen in the bowling-green. Yet he was the

"So that he owed his safety to the speed of his horse, Uncle Thomas."

"He did so, Harry. The horse can on occasion swim about as well as most
animals, yet it never takes to the water unless urged to do so. There is
a story about a horse saving the lives of many persons who had suffered
shipwreck by being driven upon the rocks at the Cape of Good Hope,
which, I am sure, will interest you as much for the perseverance and
docility of the animal, as for the benevolence and intrepidity of its

"A violent gale of wind setting in from north and north-west, a vessel
in the roads dragged her anchors, was forced on the rocks, and bilged;
and while the greater part of the crew fell an immediate sacrifice to
the waves, the remainder were seen from the shore struggling for their
lives, by clinging to the different pieces of the wreck. The sea ran
dreadfully high, and broke over the sailors with such amazing fury, that
no boat whatever could venture off to their assistance. Meanwhile a
planter, considerably advanced in life, had come from his farm to be a
spectator of the shipwreck; his heart was melted at the sight of the
unhappy seamen, and knowing the bold and enterprizing spirit of his
horse, and his particular excellence as a swimmer, he instantly
determined to make a desperate effort for their deliverance. He
alighted, and blew a little brandy into his horse's nostrils, and again
seating himself in the saddle, he instantly pushed into the midst of the
breakers. At first both disappeared, but it was not long before they
floated on the surface, and swam up to the wreck; when taking with him
two men, each of whom held by one of his boots, he brought them safe to
shore. This perilous expedition he repeated no seldomer than seven
times, and saved fourteen lives; but on his return the eighth time, his
horse being much fatigued, and meeting a most formidable wave, he lost
his balance, and was overwhelmed in a moment. The horse swam safely to
land, but his gallant rider sank to rise no more."

"That was very unfortunate, Uncle Thomas. I suppose the planter had been
so fatigued with his previous exertions, that he had not strength to
struggle with the strong waves."

"Very likely, indeed, Harry. I dare say the poor animal felt the loss of
his kind owner very much, for the horse soon becomes attached to his
master, and exhibits traits of intelligence and fidelity, certainly not
surpassed by those of any other animal: for instance, - A gentleman, who
was one dark night riding home through a wood, had the misfortune to
strike his head against the branch of a tree, and fell from his horse
stunned by the blow. The noble animal immediately returned to the house
they had left, which stood about a mile distant. He found the door
closed, - the family had retired to bed. He pawed at it, however, till
one of them, hearing the noise, arose and opened it, and, to his
surprise, saw the horse of his friend. No sooner was the door opened
than the horse turned round as if it wished to be followed; and the man,
suspecting there was something wrong, followed the animal, which led him
directly to the spot where its wounded master lay on the ground.

"There is another story of a somewhat similar description in which a
horse saved his master from perishing among the snow. It happened in the
North of Scotland.

"A gentleman connected with the Excise was returning home from one of
his professional journies. His way lay across a range of hills, the road
over which was so blocked up with snow as to leave all trace of it
indiscernible. Uncertain how to proceed, he resolved to trust to his
horse, and throwing loose the reins, allowed him to choose his course.
The animal proceeded cautiously, and safely for some time, till coming
to a ravine, horse and rider sunk in a snow-wreath several fathoms deep.

"Stunned by the suddenness and depth of the descent, the gentleman lay
for some time insensible. On recovering, he found himself nearly three
yards from the dangerous spot, with his faithful horse standing over him
and licking the snow from his face. He accounts for his extrication, by
supposing that the bridle must have been attached to his person, but so
completely had he lost all sense of consciousness, that beyond the bare
fact as stated, he had no knowledge of the means by which he made so
remarkable an escape."

"It was at any rate very kind in the horse to clear away the snow, Uncle

"No doubt of it, John, and perhaps he owed his life quite as much to
this act of kindness as to being pulled out of the ravine. He might have
been as certainly choked by the snow out of it as in it. Sometimes the
horse becomes much attached to the animals with which it associates, and
its feelings of friendship are as powererful as those of the dog. A
gentleman of Bristol had a greyhound which slept in the same stable, and
contracted a very great intimacy with a fine hunter. When the dog was
taken out, the horse neighed wistfully after him, and seemed to long for
its return; he welcomed him home with a neigh; the greyhound ran up to
the horse and licked him; the horse, in return, scratched the
greyhound's back with his teeth. On one occasion, when the groom had the
pair out for exercise, a large dog attacked the greyhound, bore him to
the ground, and seemed likely to worry him, when the horse threw back
his ears, rushed forward, seized the strange dog by the back, and flung
him to a distance, which so terrified the aggressor, that he at once
desisted and made off."

"That was very kind, Uncle Thomas. I like to hear of such instances of
friendship between animals."

"Such a docile animal as the horse can readily be trained to particular
habits, and does not readily forget them, however disreputable. There is
an odd story to illustrate this.

"About the middle of last century, a Scottish lawyer had occasion to
visit the metropolis. At that period such journies were usually
performed on horseback, and the traveller might either ride post, or, if
willing to travel economically, he bought a horse, and sold him at the
end of his journey. The lawyer had chosen the latter mode of travelling,
and sold the animal on which he rode from Scotland as soon as he arrived
in London. With a view to his return, he went to Smithfield to purchase
a horse. About dusk a handsome one was offered, at so cheap a rate that
he suspected the soundness of the animal, but being able to discover no
blemish, he became the purchaser.

"Next morning, he set out on his journey, the horse had excellent paces,
and our traveller, while riding over the few first miles, where the road
was well frequented, did not fail to congratulate himself on his good
fortune, which had led him to make so advantageous a bargain.

"They arrived at last at Finchley Common, and at a place where the road
ran down a slight eminence, and up another, the lawyer met a clergyman
driving a one-horse chaise. There was nobody within sight, and the horse
by his conduct instantly discovered the profession of his former owner.
Instead of pursuing his journey, he ran close up to the chaise and stopt
it, having no doubt but his rider would embrace so fair an opportunity
of exercising his calling. The clergyman seemed of the same opinion,
produced his purse unasked, and assured the astonished lawyer that it
was quite unnecessary to draw his pistol, as he did not intend to offer
any resistance. The traveller rallied his horse, and with many apologies
to the gentleman he had so innocently and unwillingly affrighted,
pursued his journey.

"They had not proceeded far when the horse again made the same
suspicious approach to a coach, from the window of which a blunderbuss
was levelled, with denunciations of death and destruction to the hapless
and perplexed rider. In short, after his life had been once or twice
endangered by the suspicions to which the conduct of his horse gave
rise, and his liberty as often threatened by the peace-officers, who
were disposed to apprehend him as a notorious highwayman, the former
owner of the horse, he was obliged to part with the inauspicious animal
for a trifle, and to purchase one less beautiful, but not accustomed to
such dangerous habits."

"Capital, Uncle Thomas! I should have liked to have seen the perplexed
look of the poor lawyer, when he saw the blunderbuss make its appearance
at the carriage window!"

"There is one other story about the horse, showing his love for his
master, and the gentleness of his character. A horse which was
remarkable for its antipathy to strangers, one evening, while bearing
his master home from a jovial meeting, became disburthened of his rider,
who, having indulged rather freely, soon went to sleep on the ground.
The horse, however, did not scamper off, but kept faithful watch by his
prostrate master till the morning, when the two were perceived about
sunrise by some labourers. They approached the gentleman, with the
intention of replacing him on his saddle, but every attempt on their
part was resolutely opposed by the grinning teeth and ready heels of the
horse, which would neither allow them to touch his master, nor suffer
himself to be seized till the gentleman himself awoke from his sleep.
The same horse, among other bad propensities, constantly resented the
attempts of the groom to trim its fetlocks. This circumstance happened
to be mentioned by its owner in conversation, in the presence of his
youngest child, a very few years old, when he defied any man to perform
the operation singly. The father next day, in passing through the
stable-yard, beheld with the utmost distress, the infant employed with a
pair of scissors in clipping the fetlocks of the hind-legs of this
vicious hunter - an operation which had been always hitherto performed
with great danger even by a number of men. Instead, however, of
exhibiting his usual vicious disposition, the horse, in the present
case, was looking with the greatest complacency on the little groom, who
soon after, to the very great relief of his father, walked off unhurt."


Uncle Thomas tells about the Beaver, and the Singular Manner in
which it Constructs a Dam to confine the Waters of the River; and
about the Hut which it builds for its Habitation. He tells also
about the Curious Nests of the Sociable Grosbeak; and gives a Long
and Entertaining Account of the White Ant of Africa; its
Extraordinary Nest; and the Important Part which it acts in the
Economy of Nature.

"Good evening, Boys! I am going to tell you about a very singular animal
to-night - singular both in its conformation and its habits. I allude to
the Beaver."

"Oh, we shall be so glad to hear about the Beaver, Uncle Thomas. I have
sometimes wondered what sort of an animal it is. It is of its skin that
hats are made - is it not?"

"It is so, Harry - at least it is of the fur with which its skin is
covered. I must tell you about the manufacture of hats at some other
time. Our business at present is with the Beaver itself. I think we
shall get on better by confining our attention to the animal now, and
examine into its habits and instincts."

"Very well, Uncle Thomas, we are all attention."

"The Beaver, which is now only to be found in the more inaccessible
parts of America, and the more northern countries of Europe, affords a
curious instance of what may be called a compound structure. It has the
fore-feet of a land animal, and the hind ones of an aquatic one - the

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