Yet this dog had not exerted himself; he had only wandered slowly and restlessly about the room, and the day was cold. Even a very slight degree of fear is invariably shown by the tail being tucked in between the legs. This tucking in of the fail is accompanied by the ears being drawn backwards; but they are not pressed closely to the head,as in snarling, and they are not lowered, as when a dog is pleased or affectionate. When two young dogs chase each other in play, the one that runs away always keeps his tail tucked inwards. So it is when a dog, in the highest spirits, careers like a mad creature round and round his master in circles, or in figures of eight. He then acts as if another dog were chasing him. This curious kind of play, which must be familiar to every one who has attended to dogs, is particularly apt to be excited, after the animal has been a little startled or frightened, as by his master suddenly jumping out on him in the dusk. In this case, as well as when two young dogs are chasing each other in play, it appears as if the one that runs away was afraid of the other catching him by the tail; but as far as I can find out, dogs very rarely catch each other in this manner. I asked a gentleman, who had kept foxhounds all his life, and be applied to other experienced sportsmen, whether they had ever seen hounds thus seize a fox; but they never had. It appears that when a dog is chased, or when in danger of being struck behind, or of anything falling on him, in all these cases he wishes to withdraw as quickly as possible his whole hind-quarters, and that from some sympathy or connection between the muscles, the tail is then drawn closely inwards. A similarly connected movement between the hind- quarters and the tail may be observed in the hyaena. Mr. Bartlett informs me that when two of these animals fight together, they are mutually conscious of the wonderful power of each other's jaws, and are extremely cautious. They well know that if one of their legs were seized, the bone would instantly be crushed into atoms; hence they approach each other kneeling, with their legs turned as much as possible inwards, and with their whole bodies bowed, so as not to present any salient point; thetail at the same time being closely tucked in between the legs. In this attitude they approach each other sideways, or even partly backwards. So again with deer, several of the species, when savage and fighting, tuck in their tails. When one horse in a field tries to bite the hind-quarters of another in play, or when a rough boy strikes a donkey from behind, the hind-quarters and the tail are drawn in, though it does not appear as if this were done merely to save the tail from being injured. We have also seen the reverse of these movements; for when an animal trots with high elastic steps, the tail is almost always carried aloft. As I have said, when a dog is chased and runs away, he keeps his ears directed backwards but still open; and this is clearly done for the sake of hearing the footsteps of his pursuer. From habit the ears are often held in this same position, and the tail tucked in, when the danger is obviously in front. I have repeatedly noticed, with a timid terrier of mine, that when she is afraid of some object in front, the nature of which she perfectly knows and does not need to reconnoitre, yet she will for a long time hold her ears and tail in this position, looking the image of discomfort. Discomfort, without any fear, is similarly expressed: thus, one day I went out of doors, just at the time when this same dog knew that her dinner would be brought. I did not call her, but she wished much to accompany me, and at the same time she wished much for her dinner; and there she stood, first looking one way and then the other, with her tail tucked in and ears drawn back, presenting an unmistakable appearance of perplexed discomfort. Almost all the expressive movements now described, with the exception of the grinning from joy, are innate or instinctive, for they are common to all the individuals, young and old, of all the breeds.

The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals Page 51

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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