The hair is not in the least erect. Thus far, the attitude and movements are nearly the same as when the animal is prepared to spring on its prey, and when, no doubt, it feels savage. But when preparing to fight, there is this difference, that the ears are closely pressed backwards; the mouth is partially opened, showing the teeth; the fore feet are occasionally struck out with protruded claws; and the animal occasionally utters a fierce growl. (See figs. 9 and 10.) All, or almost all these actions naturally follow (as hereafter to be explained), from the cat's manner and intention of attacking its enemy.

Let us now look at a cat in a directly opposite frame of mind, whilst feeling affectionate and caressing her master; and mark how opposite is her attitude in every respect. She now stands upright with her back slightly arched, which makes the hair appear rather rough, but it does not bristle; her tail, instead of being extended and lashed from side to side, is held quite still and perpendicularly upwards; her ears are erect and pointed; her mouth is closed; and she rubs against her master with a purr instead of a growl. Let it further be observed how widely different is the whole bearing of an affectionate cat from that of a dog, when with his body crouching and flexuous, his tail lowered and wagging, and ears depressed, he caresses his master. This contrast in the attitudes and movements of these two carnivorous animals, under the same pleased and affectionate frame of mind, can be explained, as it appears to me, solely by their movements standing in complete antithesis to those which are naturally assumed, when these animals feel savage and are prepared either to fight or to seize their prey.

In these cases of the dog and cat, there is every reason to believe that the gestures both of hostility and affection are innate or inherited; for they are almost identically the same in the different races of the species, and in all the individuals of the same race, both young and old.

I will here give one other instance of antithesis in expression. I formerly possessed a large dog, who, like every other dog, was much pleased to go out walking. He showed his pleasure by trotting gravely before me with high steps, head much raised, moderately erected ears, and tail carried aloft but not stiffly. Not far from my house a path branches off to the right, leading to the hot-house, which I used often to visit for a few moments, to look at my experimental plants. This was always a great disappointment to the dog, as he did not know whether I should continue my walk; and the instantaneous and complete change of expression which came over him as soon as my body swerved in the least towards the path (and I sometimes tried this as an experiment) was laughable. His look of dejection was known to every member of the family, and was called his _hot-house face_. This consisted in the head drooping much, the whole body sinking a little and remaining motionless; the ears and tail falling suddenly down, but the tail was by no means wagged. With the falling of the ears and of his great chaps, the eyes became much changed in appearance, and I fancied that they looked less bright. His aspect was that of piteous, hopeless dejection; and it was, as I have said, laughable, as the cause was so slight. Every detail in his attitude was in complete opposition to his former joyful yet dignified bearing; and can be explained, as it appears to me, in no other way, except through the principle of antithesis. Had not the change been so instantaneous, I should have attributed it to his lowered spirits affecting, as in the case of man, the nervous system and circulation, and consequently the tone of his whole muscular frame; and this may have been in part the cause.

We will now consider how the principle of antithesis in expression has arisen. With social animals, the power of intercommunication between the members of the same community,--and with other species, between the opposite sexes, as well as between the young and the old,-- is of the highest importance to them.

The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals Page 25

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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