Amazing Intelligence in Animals—the Pig

“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”  —Winston Churchill

If you’re like the average person on this planet, you haven’t spent much time wondering what animal will dominate the world once humanity has managed to destroy itself and leave our planet up for grabs for the next best host. In fact, I’ll bet that you haven’t spent even a minute wondering about that!

But, for the moment, let’s suppose that, last night, after you’ve exposed yourself to an hour’s worth of evening news with its threats and warnings and shortfalls about how we’re in danger of annihilating ourselves, you felt a sudden needed a break from all that negativity, so you stepped outside for a breath of fresh air and gaze up at the vastness of the night sky, with its Milky Way and the trillions of other stars winking and blinking back at you—and wondered—if mankind did manage to obliterate himself off the world, what animal would be next in line to step forward and take their opportunity at making the world a livable place, and hopefully, do a better job of stewardship than we did?

If you guessed the lowly pig, you’d be in the right top-ten pick. According to Weird Nature, the pig is seventh in line as being the smartest primate on earth! Pigs have been known to outsmart dogs and considered by many experts to be on equal footing with the Chimpanzee for intelligence.

A male pig is called a boar and a female is referred to as a sow. A group of young piglets is referred to as a drift, and an older group of pigs are called a sounder of swine.

I know, as you’re enjoying your second helping of barbequed pork chop, grilled to perfection on your newly purchased back yard barbeque, the intelligence of a pig isn’t exactly what’s on your mind during that epicurean moment. But, did you know that pigs are considered smarter than dogs?

“It’s when you live in a pigsty that the pigs start to complain about who they have to share with.” —Anthony T. Hincks

And did you also know that the popular belief “dirty as a pig,” is false? Pigs, if given half a chance, are among the cleanest of animals in nature. Weird Nature claims that a pig, even beginning with their young piglets, will refuse to defecate anywhere near the area where it lives or eats. That’s better cleanliness than many of our other domesticated animals!

Pigs are social animals, living complex lives, and readily learn from each other through observation. They will often try to “work to outsmart each other,” adds Weird Nature. Pigs can be trained to perform numerous functions and tricks, and just like a dog, have been used in stage performances to show off their learned talents.

In their eating habits, pigs can be classed as “opportunist omnivores.” In other words, they’ll generally eat what’s available. The diet of feral pigs is mostly plants and tubers, bulbs, mushrooms and even grass. Feral pigs will also steal eggs from ground nesting birds and will eat lizards and other non-mammals.  Farm pigs that are allowed to live a natural life feed mostly on corn, rice and wheat, or whatever the farmer has available for them.

Similar to dogs and a few other mammals, pigs love to play in mock fighting with each other, and are excellent at walking through mazes to claim their prize at the other end of the maze. They can even manipulate a joystick, or on-screen cursor similar to what chimpanzees can do.

So, the next time you bite down on that perfectly barbequed pork chop, give thanks to the intelligence that you are eating!

“Our difficulties in understanding or effectuating communication with other animals may rise from our reluctance to grasp unfamiliar ways of dealing with the world.” —Carl Sagan

Amazing Intelligence in Animals—Pigeons

“I don’t mind being a symbol but I don’t want to become a monument. There are monuments all over the Parliament Buildings and I’ve seen what pigeons do to them.”  —Tommy Douglas

A few years ago, someone abandoned a pair—one male and one female—Mourning Doves in our neighborhood, and they found their way to my bird feeders. Without even a glance back, they set up shop near my feeders and, today, I have counted an estimate (they move around so much so that I can’t get an accurate count) three dozen Mourning Doves that visit my feeders and their nesting places have spread out to cover most of the area in our small, urban town!

My doves are bluish-grey in color and have a distinct black ring around their neck. Research says that there is a difference between a dove and a pigeon, but they share more in common than differences, and in the case of their intelligence, there is no difference.

Doves and pigeons have been raised as pets by humans for thousands of years and were widely used as subjects of sacrifice to appease the gods and were even employed as message carriers before government postal services replaced them. They are also considered a delicacy in the food isle. If you’re any kind of food connoisseur, you’ve eaten pigeon meat! And who hasn’t gone for a walk in the community park without a bag of popcorn to feed the pigeons?

On the other hand, they are also famous for ‘disgracing’ statues and other public monuments by pooping all over them and are referred to by many as “flying poop machines!” Some folk who really hate pigeons have even gone so far as to accuse them of being dirty and spreading disease. However, this has proven to be untrue. No evidence has been found where pigeons have been responsible for spreading disease, no worse than in any other clean, animal species, but, on the other hand, pigeons have been listed among the top ten species as having super intelligence!

“Pigeons are among the most maligned urban wildlife despite the fact that human beings brought them to our shores and turned them loose in our cities – not something that they chose.”  —Ingrid Newkirk

According to Dr. Becker, in her Healthy Pets, states, “In a classic test of basic intelligence known as the “string task,” pigeons selected the correct string (the one attached to food treats) up to 90 percent of the time. Even more remarkable? The pigeons aced the test “virtually” using a computer touch screen.” In other studies, pigeons have shown remarkable skills in being able to learn abstract mathematical rules. In fact, according to Dr. Becker, “[pigeons] are the only non-humans other than rhesus monkeys with [that] ability.”

In other studies, as reported in Science Daily, “Pigeons can remember large numbers of individual images for a long time, e.g. hundreds of images for periods of several years.” And “Pigeons can be taught relatively complex actions and response sequences and can learn to make responses in different sequences.”

And, who hasn’t heard of the Homing Pigeon with their unique ability to learn routes back to their home from long distances? This homing behavior is different from migratory birds that recall fixed routes at fixed times of the year, although there is some belief that the same mechanisms may be involved. So, salute the pigeon, and the next time you take a walk through your community’s park, armed with a bag of popcorn to feed the pigeons, think of them as being more than just “flying poop machines!”

“My father fought in World War 1 and single-handedly destroyed the German’s line of communication. He ate their pigeon!” —Frank Carson

Amazing Intelligence in Animals—Rats.

“Rats survived so well because they were rats. They knew when to keep quiet and they knew when to squeal.” —Danielle Bennett

Society loathes the rat! Like its close counterpart for being loathed—or feared– is the wolf who, even in fairy tales is always pictured as “the bad guy,” and so, also, is the rat always the creature to be loathed, hated and shunned. It is considered the harbinger of disease. In addition, in modern times, as well as in ancient times, the rat was viewed as a pest that destroyed stored grain.

Rats were even blamed as the main culprits for spreading the Black Plague that decimated Europe during the 13th century. The nursery rhyme, “Ring Around the Rosie,” although today it’s sung by children playfully dancing in a circle, singing “Ring around the Rosie, A pocket full of Posies, Ashes Ashes, we all fall down,” it has its morbid origin in the Black Plague period. The “rosie” referred to the black, pussy sores that would appear on the infected bodies. “Posies” is reference to people who would carry posies (flowers) around to help them cope with the smell of dead bodies everywhere.” “Ashes signified the piles of ashes from the bodies being burned on pyres.

Although rats have been intertwined in our history, they were especially not welcome guests during the Black Plague period, and probably even today, our loathing for these little critters has its roots in the part they played in he assumed spreading of diseases and destroying our stored grains of our ancestors. However, after all this has been said, the rat is considered one of the ten smartest animals in the animal kingdom! Maybe that’s one reason why it managed to survive in close proximity with man for all these millennia.

“I wouldn’t mind the Rat Race-if the rats would lose once in a while.” —Tom Wilson

But, in all fairness, before we talk more about the rat’s intelligence, we have to first acknowledge the rat’s redeeming qualities for being our historic “bad guy,” and examine the service it plays as an important positive subject, namely, in our lab experiments. The rat is the fall guy in all the laboratory’s “oopses on their road to success, that otherwise, we’d have to suffer ourselves.  It is estimated (drum roll, please, for our little heroes) that over 10 million rats and mice are “experimented on” each year to help bring us better health!

Furthermore, in all fairness, it should be noted that rats are not the disease-spreaders that they have been accused of being. Even during the Bubonic plague period, humans, themselves, were the greatest spreaders of the disease, not rats. Rats keep themselves very clean and, similar to cats, spend a lot of time in grooming themselves. It is usually the fleas on rats, not the rats, themselves, that spread disease.

Rats are social animals and communicate with each other using high frequency sounds that are above our hearing capacity. In fact, both rats and mice have been recorded as “singing,” like birds at ultrasonic frequencies! According to a PETA article, “They play together, wrestle, and love sleeping curled up together, much like us, and if they do not have companionship, they can become lonely, anxious, depressed and stressed.”

Rats can show empathy. In one study, “rats experiment, [rats] chose to help another rat who was being forced to tread water.”

PETA also states that, “if not forced to live in a dirty cage, a rat’s skin has a very pleasant perfume-like scent. After engaging in sex, male rats sing at frequencies beyond the range of human hearing, around 20 to 22 kHz.”

A rat’s lifespan is from two to three years, and they make excellent alternative pets, especially in apartments that don’t allow tenants to have cats or dogs. They do require specialized care and need time outside of their cage to be exercised and “loved.” Just like a cat or a dog, rats appreciate being loved, and are very capable of showing affection in return.

“I will not join the rat race because I’m not a rat. And I will not blindly follow a specific faith because I’m not a bat. The only race I’ll take part in is for humans being humane. It’s called the human race, and sadly it’s got the least participants.” —Suzy Kassem

Amazing Intelligence in Animals—Mule Deer

See the source imageLast winter (2018) was a ‘heavy snow’ winter for us here in Southern Alberta. For humans, it wasn’t that much of an inconvenience, other than the almost daily clearing of the snow off our cars and driveways, but for our wildlife—and here, in particular, I mean our Mule Deer—it’s a different story for them: they had trouble finding food.

“In my cosmology, indigenous wild deer are more important than exotic ornamental shrubs.” —Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

Normally, we seldom see Mule Deer in town. They’re a bit on the shy side and prefer to forage in the open spaces our rolling grasslands and nearness to the Rocky Mountains provide for them, but last winter, it was common to see small numbers of them on our lawns and picking through our flower beds looking something—anything, to eat.

Mule Deer are native to western North America, and they get their name, “Mule Deer,”  from their long ears, similar to that of a mule. Oh, and here’s a bit of trivia that you may or may not have known: In Chaldean numerology, their numerical value is 7. In Pythagorean numerology, their numerical value is 2. I’ll bet that’s information you always wanted to know, but didn’t know who to ask. 🙂

I don’t know if there is a driver on our highways who hasn’t hit a deer with his car at some time in their life. To some, such an incident puts the deer on the dumb side of the scale: they have excellent sight and hearing, why can’t they hear or see a car coming? But before we judge a deer’s intelligence in this matter, let’s first consider their evolutionary process in learning. They’ve only experienced vehicles in their lives for a little more than a hundred years. To learn something—and this applies to humans, or any other creature—evolutionary-wise, it takes hundreds of years, if not millennia for the lesson to be permanently written into consciousness. They’ve already had several millions of years to learn that a wolf is a predator, and they must run from it, but they’ve had only a very short time to learn that a speeding car can’t stop and wait for them to move off the road.

You’ve heard the saying, “caught in your headlights,” as it applies to deer. When you come upon them on the road, they will stop and ‘stare‘ at you—caught in your headlights. Actually, they’re not staring, nor are they ‘frozen’ for the moment: they’re evaluating the situation; are you harmless to them  or are you a predator, and that moment of analysis—and it takes a moment for the mind to make a decision, be you human or animal—is all it takes for the car to hit the deer.

Deer aren’t the only animals that we hit on our roads. Foxes, coyotes, birds—even domestic animals like cattle can fall victim to this modern “road kill” tragedy, a word that we’ve introduced into our language, and intelligence really has nothing to do with it.

“We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumes flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle: these are our brothers. All things are connected like the blood which unites one’s family.” —Chief Seattle

A good way to experience the difference in intelligence between humans and animals is to remember that humans think in words. “I think I’ll go for a walk today.” Deer—or any any other animal, can’t rely on language to help them think in words, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t reason as well as we can.

  • They know enough to avoid man. He’s a predator. A rabbit is harmless and can forage alongside of them without having to run from it.
  • The instinct to survive has taught a newborn fawn to walk—even run within an hour of its birth. Humans can’t do that!
  • Deer instinctively know the difference between edible and poisonous plants, unlike us humans who have to turn to our elders for advice on this matter.
  • Deer can learn and remember things. For example, if a deer keeps running into a human at a certain point on its path, it soon learns to avoid that area of its path. True, a deer is no match in mathematical skills to, let’s say even a grade six student, it does have innate survival skills that we humans have to send our kids to Boy Scouts and Girl Guide camps to learn.

Now that summer is almost here and the grass is green and lush again, even on the high mountain slopes, the deer have retreated to their more familiar pastures. Some of our perennial flower arrangements didn’t survive last winter’s deer foraging, but that’s o.k. In sort of a Biblical sense, the plants gave their lives to feed the hungry and starving. Maybe this coming winter I’ll even have the forethought to scatter a few apples discreetly around the lawn to welcome back my very lovely, timid friends.



Amazing Intelligence in Animals—Dolphins

“[The] World is a multi-dimensional reality. At lower levels it is full with unconsciousness and competitiveness. At higher levels it is full with beauty, bliss and divinity. Focus on higher dimensions.” —Amit Ray

I’ve come to understand that all creation can be divided into three categories:

(1) Unconsciousness. This would include the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. Dictionary.com defines unconsciousness as: “not conscious; without awareness, sensation or cognition.” None of these elements can experience pain—at least not that, as a human, I am aware of, nor any of the emotions, nor can they be influenced by ‘reason.’

(2) Consciousness. This would include all plant life, including trees, grass, seeds and flowers. This is a step up from unconsciousness, because plant life can be influenced by natural forces around them. For example, the life force can be extracted from grass through lack of moisture, burning, or severe cold. Some research has demonstrated that plants can be influenced by emotion.

(3) Self-consciousness, or self-awareness. All human, animal, reptile, birds and insects fall into this category, and this is where life gets interesting, because, as humans with a fairly high degree of self-awareness, we can understand the different stages to  self-consciousness—at least as far as human research has shown. Human research believes that humans have more self-awareness than, let’s say, a frog would have—although that point can be debated, because here is where knowledge and intelligence enter into the equation; since we like to separate ourselves from the rest of Creation, we only see the human side of everything, and it’s so easy to think of ourselves as more intelligent than a frog, therefore, we must also be more self-conscious.

Universally, is this seeming really true; are we the most self-conscious—intelligent—creature on this planet, or is it just our ego speaking?

There was a time when, on the scale of intelligence—thus self-consciousness—we placed all sea life near the bottom of the scale. We had no problem in recreational fishing: hook a fish through its mouth, draw it out of its habitat—water—into the boat, watch it wiggles and struggles, gasping for air until it finally dies. We simply thought that fish—sea life—has no feelings, no emotions, no sense of survival like we have, so what did it matter if a fish seemed to struggle? Enter our friends, the dolphins to teach us differently!

“When you gain higher consciousness, your consciousness becomes universal and you become ageless, endless, and universal.” —Debasish Mridha

The dolphin was one of the first sea creatures to teach us that sea life wasn’t necessarily low-life! First, dolphins are not fish: in fact, their diet is fish! They’re mammals just like we are. We seem to have a certain attraction to the dolphin and they are featured attractions in many marine centers throughout the world. Dolphins love to play with us, and are fascinated by us, just like we love to play and are fascinated, by them.

Dolphins are even camouflaged. Their countershading is a type of camouflage found in many marine species. By having a dark back and a light belly, they blend into the sunlit surface waters as well as the dark ocean depths. They can reach speeds up to 25 feet per second. They analyse their environment by sending out echos—soundwaves—into the water, then analyse them as they bounce back off objects in the water, much like we use radar  in locating objects both in the water and in the air.

Just like humans, dolphins live in pods and are social animals and take excellent care of their sick or wounded. With brains that work much like our brains work, dolphins have adapted human language (commands?) more than any other animal in Nature.

There are cases where dolphins have intervened between human and sharks, and saved humans from shark attacks.

Dolphins have a very advanced system of communication, and have even been known to give each other names.

Rather than considering ourselves as a most advanced species on earth—God’s special creation our Holy Books tell us, it would be wiser to considered ourselves part of Nature and live in harmony with Creation. Think of how much more we could learn that way!

Amazing Intelligence in Animals—Monkeys

“Monkeys are superior to men in  this: when a monkey looks in the mirror, he sees a monkey.” —Malcolm de Chazal

Have you ever told a person that they’re acting like a Rhesus Macaques? No? Well, neither have I, but I have told people “not to act like a monkey!” A Rhesus Macaques is a type of monkey that shares with humans many of our strong tendencies and social patterns.

Many studies have shown these monkeys to be very intelligent, sharing with us humans a great deal of similar traits. In fact, according to Dario Maestripieri, an expert on primate behavior, it is this monkey’s aggressive, opportunist behavior that has allowed them to be so successful in what they undertake, very similar to humans.

These little monkeys form long lasting social bonds between female relatives and express a strong, dominant hierarchy. They can be quite ruthless in their constant seeking of social status, nepotistic, and even have complex political alliances. In fact, Maestripieri says that “tactics used by [Rhesus Macaques] to increase or maintain their power are not much different from those Machiavelli suggested political leaders used during the Renaissance.

The alpha Macaques use threats and violence to hold their position over the troop—does this sound familiar to what human “alphas” use to maintain their control over us?

“True intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination” —Albert Einstein

According to the New Scientist, quite a bit of research has been done in testing the IQ of monkeys. Although their intelligence doesn’t quite measure up to human standards, and our capabilities—at least not according to our opinion of intelligence— this certainly shows that intelligence was not suddenly created in tandem with man’s introduction on earth. The question that really intrigues me is, what, really, is intelligence, and who am I to say, “that person or species is intelligent, and that person or species is not intelligent?

Mainstream Science states that intelligence is: “A very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience. It is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts. Rather, it reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings—”catching on,” “making sense” of things, or “figuring out” what to do.

Sounds “reasonable,” so, my next question is, which is more ‘intelligent’—more valuable to the purpose of creation: a monkey figuring out how to use a stick to dig worms out of a rotten tree stump, or an astronomer attempting to calculate the next chance of a ‘killer’ asteroid striking earth?

As Einstein would say, “It’s all relative!” 

 

Amazing Intelligence in Animals—Our Guardians, our Heros!

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” ― Mark Twain

When I think of creation and the many beauties and perks that come along with being an (elite?) member of this planet, I can easily become overwhelmed with awe at my Creator’s resourcefulness. At the moment, I’m thinking of dogs in our lives. I think that we should give more time and pay greater respects during World Dog Day (see: http://worlddogday.net/) to more justly celebrate and honor what these four-legged partners do for us.

I subscribe to Bored Panda (https://www.boredpanda.com), and an e-article, titled, “30+ Times Dogs Surprised Humans With Their Incredibly Heroic Acts” caught my attention. It’s a wonderful article with photos, and you cannot read to the end without having a greater respect for dogs and what they do for us. The first story relates how Layka, a female German Shepherd military dog who, after being shot four times, still managed to subdue an insurgean that had attacked her handler.

A second story is about a dog that had to bark for 30 minutes in attempt to persuade his family to leave the house because of a gas leak. There’s more, and each one of the stories will pull at your heart strings.

Now, at first blush, one may question just how are heroic acts like I’ve just quoted, related to intelligence—or loyalty, for that matter?  Well, without intelligence, any living, conscious being would be little more than a walking zombie! It takes reasoning, compassion and understanding to be intelligent, regardless of the species. It also takes intelligence to be loyal, trustworthy, and an eternal friend!

Browsing through the short stories mentioned in the Bored Panda e-article mentioned above, it’s not hard to see the super ability—dare I say psychic intelligence—these dogs display by understanding the problem, then being able to take immediate action, often without prompting from their human handlers.

“I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me–they, and the love and loyalty I give them, form my identity far more than any word or group ever could.”  ― Veronica RothAllegiant

I can add a personal dog-story to the Bored Panda list. A few years ago I owned a beautiful German Shepherd dog I named Sheba. At the time,  I was suffering from depression brought on by lack of work (I am self employed), failing health and mounting  bills. I had an overwhelming blanket of heaviness fall over me with a feeling that all the world was against me: In my world, it seemed that I had no friends and no one to turn to for support. It was then that I noticed Sheba had quietly come over to where I was sitting and laid her head on my lap, looked up at me with eyes that said, “Grieve not. I will always be your friend!” I just cried with relief!

What a dreary world this would be if we didn’t have dogs to protect, comfort and support us!

 

Amazing Intelligence in Animals—Magpies and a Falcon

The art of self-defence is not an invention of man. Self-preservation and of the species is inherent in all living creatures.

I recently wrote about an incident that I experienced between  two Magpies and how they were ‘torturing’ one of our house cats. Here’s another one involving Magpies, but this time it wasn’t a house cat, but a Falcon. I never cease to be amazed at the creative intelligence of Magpies. When God was handing out ‘smarts,’ Magpies obviously were at the front of the line!

During the summer months, I have two bird feeders, a bird bath and a suet dispenser for my “community of birds” that visit my back yard quite regularly. Because of these “feeder attractions,” my back yard is usually alive with the busy chatter of a variety of birds, ranging anywhere from the tiny Hummingbird to the majestic Black Crow, and it’s a real joy to sit there, relaxing on my patio, and listen to this “neighborhood chatter.” However, this particular morning when I went out, all was silent, and this silence immediately attracted my attention.

Not only was there silence  but I couldn’t see any of my usual “customers” at the bird feeders. I stood motionless and just observed. What could be the cause of this silence?

Then I saw it. A Falcon had quietly perched itself in an open  area on our fence. It sat still,  only its head slowly turning as its eyes searched for a hidden bird that it could swoop down on and take away for its next meal.

On another section of the fence, a respectable distance from the Falcon, perched a lone Magpie, also very quiet and not moving even a feather. Although I couldn’t hear it with my human ears, I could sense that the Magpie was sending out an alarm to its fellow Magpies that a dangerous intruder was present!

I don’t think I waited five minutes before a swarm of at least a dozen Magpies seemed to appear as if out of nowhere and started a planned, patterned “dive-bombing” of that Falcon. At first, the Falcon stood its ground. In fact, it even made a few feeble tempts to strike out and catch a swooping Magpie, but these Magpie were too practiced—too skilled at their offensive maneuvers and the Falcon’s feeble attempt to snag a Magpie failed every time. These Magpies knew exactly what they were doing: they were professionals! And the battle soon became one-sided  with the Falcon departing in a humiliated flutter of frustration!

With the Falcon gone, it didn’t take long for my back yard to again return to its bustling, noisy, chattering and chirping self!

Their strategy worked. The Magpies proved again that there is power in numbers!

You cannot expect victory and plan for defeat.”  —Joel Osteen

Amazing Intelligence in Animals—Magpies and our Cat

 

“The fox, when it sees a flock of heron or magpies or birds of any kind, suddenly flings itself on the ground with his mouth open to look as he were dead; and these birds want to peck at his tongue, and he bites off their heads.”  —Leonardo da Vinci

I don’t always have to Google the world to find good stories about animals. Sometimes the most astounding, cutest, funniest antics of animals can take place right in front of me, right in my own back yard!

This day I was lounging in one of our deck chairs on our patio when my attention was suddenly attracted to a corner of our yard near the shed, where two Magpies were making quite a ruckus. I glanced over and here was one Magpie limping, screeching its distress call (its version of help?), fluttering its wings like it was injured and couldn’t fly. It was doing this quite near to where one of our cats was sunning itself in the grass. Naturally the cat thought this a good opportunity for a fresh, feathery lunch and lunged for the bird. However, no sooner did the cat get within a few inches of the Magpie, when the Magpie flew up and perched itself on the fence, screeching (more like cackling) in delight in their high pitched shriek that they have, which, to me, sounded like it was laughing its silly head off at having just fooled the cat.

Meanwhile, the second Magpie flew down and landed just a few feet from where the cat now was, the cat looking a bit dazed and confused, because in its mind, the “wounded” Magpie should have been firmly gripped between its paws, not up there on the fence. The second Magpie repeated the first Magpie’s ‘injured’ prank. Sure enough, the cat fell for the trick and lunged for the second Magpie, and the Magpie also flew away just as the cat got within inches of what it anticipated to be an easy lunch.

The two Magpies repeated this caper, much to their own ‘kinky?’ delight at having so completely frustrated the cat. One Magpie would play injured, then fly away just as the cat got near it, then the second Magpie repeated the first one’s ‘injured’ play, then fly away just as the cat again got near. I finally ended up intervening, for had I not interrupted this little fun-play, I’m sure the two Magpies would have driven that poor cat crazy.

I know Magpies are very intelligent birds and are capable of the most intelligent, creative behavior patterns that I’ve ever seen in birds. But I also know that cats are very intelligent and usually not easily fooled, so why did it fall for the play of these two Magpies? I can only conclude that it would be for the same reason an otherwise seemingly intelligent human falls for the nefarious pranks of a scammer!

Sometimes we are the object of the joke, and sometimes we are the joker.

Amazing Intelligence in Animals—Horses

“When we think of those companions [horses] who traveled by our side down life’s road, let us not say with sadness that they left us behind, but rather say with gentle gratitude that they once were with us.”  —author unknown

I grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan near the small town of Hubbard. During the summer, most of the time my sister, my brother and myself would walk the 2 1/2 mile distance to our school in Hubbard. We were young, full of energy, and most of the time enjoyed the walk. However, once winter came, it was a little too difficult to walk, so our Dad constructed a small “cutter” that was drawn by a single horse that would take us to school and back. The cutter was a sled that would smoothly run on the snow, and completely closed in, with windows on front, sides and back. It even had a small built-in stove to keep us warm comfortable during our roughly one-hour drive to and one hour drive home from school.

The horse that our Dad bought for us was a gentle horse—our school horse—and there were times that, as kids we’d take that beautiful animal for granted. Saskatchewan can  get pretty cold during the winter and, although we were always comfortable in our closed-in cutter, that faithful animal had to trot along in sometimes bitter cold, without complaint.

Many times, coming home from school, we’d leave the lines to the horse’s bridle go slack, allowing the horse to trot along at its own pace, while we’d occupy the hour drive by singing songs that we had learned in school, or just chatting and reliving many of our day’s experiences. No one would pay attention to where the horse was going. We knew “Old Faithful” would safely take all the twists and turns in the road, finally stopping in front of the barn in our yard. When I nostalgically think back to those wonderful days, I am often reminded of our modern attempt to create self-driving cars. Will these cars ever be as consciously faithful and loyal as our “Old Faithful” horse was?

A horse’s intelligence has also been demonstrated in war, in the circus tent, in sports, and their ability to strut their stuff as show horses, all in an effort to please us. Along with the dog, horses have been our faithful companions for over 5,000 years!

If horses go to a different heaven than man does, I want to go to the heaven horses go to!