Stories of Animal Sagacity by William Henry Giles Kingston



  Degraded as it is supposed they are by nature, and cruelly ill-used asdonkeys too often are in England, they are fully as intelligent ashorses. They are not only capable of playing all manner of tricks, butsometimes indulge in a variety, of their own accord.


  Mrs F--'s father-in-law had a donkey named Bob, which was kept in afield with other animals, and grazed quietly with them, but jealouslyguarded the entrance against all intruders. If any strange cows, sheep,or pigs ventured within his territory, Bob instantly ran at them fulltilt, and hunted them from the premises, kicking out his heels andbiting whenever he had the opportunity. Indeed, if he but saw theminclined to come in, he would stand in the gap and defend it bravely.His vigilance was so great that it was considered unnecessary to have aherdsman in the place.

  Bob was clearly convinced that it was his duty to keep that fieldagainst all intruders. Dear young reader, when you have the property ofanother person to watch over, guard it as effectually as did honest Bobhis master's paddock.


  Donkeys sometimes exert their ingenuity to their own advantage, likesome other creatures.

  A certain ass had his quarters in a shed, in front of which was a smallyard. On one side of the yard was a kitchen garden, separated from itby a wall, in which was a door fastened by two bolts and a latch. Theowner of the premises one morning, in taking a turn round his garden,observed the footprints of an ass on the walks and beds. "Surely someone must have left the door open at night," thought the master. Heaccordingly took care to see that it was closed. Again, however, hefound that the ass had visited the garden.

  The next night, curious to know how this had happened, he watched from awindow overlooking the yard. At first he kept a light burning near him.The ass, however, remained quietly at his stall. After a time, toenable him to see the better, he had it removed, when what was hissurprise to see the supposed stupid donkey come out of the shed, go tothe door, and, rearing himself on his hind-legs, unfasten the upper boltof the door with his nose. This done, he next withdrew the lower bolt;then lifted the latch, and walked into the garden. He was not longengaged in his foraging expedition, and soon returned with a bunch ofcarrots in his mouth. Placing them in his shed, he went back andcarefully closed the door, and began at his ease to munch the provenderhe had so adroitly got possession of.

  The owner, suspecting that people would not believe his story, invitedseveral of his neighbours to witness the performance of the ass. Nottill the light, however, had been taken away, would the creaturecommence his operations, evidently conscious that he was doing wrong. Alock was afterwards put on the door, which completely baffled theingenuity of the cunning animal.


  The ass has a memory not inferior to that of the horse. This wasespecially noticeable in the case of an ass belonging to a carrier atWigan.

  The ass and his master were accustomed to stop at a certainpublic-house, where the latter obtained a pot of beer, of which healways allowed the animal a little. At length the master turnedteetotaller, when his principles forbade him to stop at thepublic-house; but the ass, whenever he reached the usual halting-place,refused to go on, and no beating would induce him to do so till he hadreceived his usual allowance of beer. The carrier was therefore obligedto buy some beer for his beast, though no longer requiring it himself.

  Remember what I said before about bad habits. Though your friends fromweariness may cease to rebuke you, it is no proof that you are cured ofthem, or that the habits are not as objectionable as at the first.


  Donkeys are capable of great affection for those who treat them well.

  An old woman, known to Mrs F--, had a donkey which usually grazed onthe roadside near her cottage, and when he saw any person about to enterher abode would instantly run to the door and defend it against allintrusion till the dame herself appeared. If any one annoyed the oldwoman--as the boys around would sometimes do, for the sake of seeing howthe donkey would behave--he would kick out at them fiercely, put them tothe rout, and pursue them for some distance.

  When the dame wished to ride, he would proceed with the greatest careand gentleness; but if any other person attempted to mount him, the assvery soon convinced them that their will and power were useless in acontest, and the effort usually ended in the rider being roughly thrown,and perhaps kicked.


  I have heard of a donkey which on one occasion bravely did battle forhimself.

  He happened to be feeding near a river when a fierce bull-dog attackedhim; but so gallantly did he strike out with his heels, that hisassailant was unable to fix on him. At length the ass suddenly turnedround and seized the neck of the bull-dog in his teeth. The dog howledwith pain, and struggled to get free, but the ass had no intention asyet of letting it go. Holding it tight, he dragged it struggling intothe water, going in deeper and deeper; then kneeling down where thedepth was sufficient for the purpose, he kept the dog under the surfacetill it was drowned.

  Whenever you are attacked by a spiritual or moral foe, imitate the braveass, and drown it.


  I met some time ago with an account of a clever donkey which wasemployed in drawing a baker's cart. He was so well acquainted with thehouses of all his master's customers, that while the baker went into oneto deliver his loaves, the sagacious ass would proceed to the door ofthe next, at which, when he could reach the knocker, he gave arap-a-tap-tap. If unable to do so, he would stamp with his feet in apeculiar way, well-known to the inmates. He never failed to stop attheir doors, nor was he ever known by mistake to go to the wrong house.

  Be as careful to learn your school lessons now, and as exact in businessmatters when you grow up, as was the baker's donkey to attend to what heconceived his duty.


  An ass was shipped at Gibraltar on board the _Isis_ frigate, to be sentto Captain Dundas, then at Malta. The ship, on her voyage, struck on asand-bank off Cape de Gat, when among other things thrown overboard wasthe poor ass; it being hoped that, although the sea was running high,the animal might reach the shore.

  A few days afterwards, when the gates of Gibraltar were opened in themorning, the guard was surprised to see the ass present himself foradmittance. On being allowed to pass, he went immediately to the stableof his former master. Not only had the animal swam safely to shorethrough the heavy surf, but, without guide or compass, had found his wayfrom Cape de Gat to Gibraltar, a distance of more than two hundredmiles, across a mountainous and intricate country, intersected bystreams, and in so short a time that he could not have made one falseturn.


  An old hawker was in the habit of traversing the country with his ass,which had served him faithfully for many years. To help himself along,he used frequently to catch hold of the animal's tail.

  The winter wind was blowing strongly, and snow had long been fallingheavily, when the old hawker found himself suddenly plunged with the assinto a deep drift. In vain he struggled to get out, and fully believedthat his last hour had come. The ass succeeded better, and reached theroad; but after looking about and finding his master missing, he oncemore made his way through the drift, and then, placing himself in aposition which enabled the old hawker to catch hold of his tail, thefaithful beast dragged him safely out.

  Never despise the help offered by a humble friend. We are all apt toover-estimate our own strength and wisdom.


  We have no less an authority than Dr Franklin to prove that donkeysenjoy music.

  The mistress of a chateau in France where he visited had an excellentvoice, and every time she began to sing, a donkey belonging to theestablishment invariably came near the window, and listened with thegreatest attention. One day, during the performance of
a piece of musicwhich apparently pleased it more than any it had previously heard, theanimal, quitting its usual post outside the window, unceremoniouslyentered the room, and, to exhibit its satisfaction, began to bray withall its might.

  I need scarcely hint, after you have read this story, that you will actwisely in keeping your proper place. You may be esteemed wonderfullyclever in the nursery, or even at school; but when you appear amongstrangers at home, or go out visiting, wait till you are invited toexhibit your talents, or you may be considered as audacious a donkey aswas the musical ass.

  I think I have told you anecdotes enough to show that donkeys are notsuch stupid creatures as is generally supposed; and I am very sure that,if they were better treated, their character would rise much in publicestimation.

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