This manner of expressing affection probably originated through association, as in the case of dogs, from the mother nursing and fondling her young; and perhaps from the young themselves loving each other and playing together. Another and very different gesture, expressive of pleasure, has already been described, namely, the curious manner in which young and even old cats, when pleased, alternately protrude their fore-feet, with separated toes, as if pushing against and sucking their mother's teats. This habit is so far analogous to that of rubbing against something, that both apparently are derived from actions performed during the nursing period. Why cats should show affection by rubbing so much more than do dogs, though the latter delight in contact with their masters, and why cats only occasionally lick the hands of their friends, whilst dogs always do so, I cannot say. Cats cleanse themselves by licking their own coats more regularly than do dogs. On the other hand, their tongues seem less well fitted for the work than the longer and more flexible tongues of dogs.

[1] Azara, `Quadrupedes du Paraquay,' 1801, tom. 1. p. 136.

Cats, when terrified, stand at full height, and arch their backs in a well-known and ridiculous fashion. They spit, hiss, or growl. The hair over the whole body, and especially on the tail, becomes erect. In the instances observed by me the basal part of the tail was held upright, the terminal part being thrown on one side; but sometimes the tail (see fig. 15) is only a little raised, and is bent almost from the base to one side. The ears are drawn back, and the teeth exposed. When two kittens are playing together, the one often thus tries to frighten the other. From what we have seen in former chapters, all the above points of expression are intelligible, except the extreme arching of the back. I am inclined to believe that, in the same manner as many birds, whilst they ruffle their feathers, spread out their wings and tail, to make themselves look as big as possible, so cats stand upright at their full height, arch their backs, often raise the basal part of the tail, and erect their hair, for the same purpose. The lynx, when attacked, is said to arch its back, and is thus figured by Brehm. But the keepers in the Zoological Gardens have never seen any tendency to this action in the larger feline animals, such as tigers, lions, &c.; and these have little cause to be afraid of any other animal.

Cats use their voices much as a means of expression, and they utter, under various emotions and desires, at least six or seven different sounds. The purr of satisfaction, which is made during both inspiration and expiration, is one of the most curious. The puma, cheetah, and ocelot likewise purr; but the tiger, when pleased, "emits a peculiar short snuffle, accompanied by the closure of the eyelids."[7] It is said that the lion, jaguar, and leopard, do not purr.

_Horses_.--Horses when savage draw their ears closely back, protrude their heads, and partially uncover their incisor teeth, ready for biting. When inclined to kick behind, they generally, through habit, draw back their ears; and their eyes are turned backwards in a peculiar manner.[8] When pleased, as when some coveted food is brought to them in the stable, they raise and draw in their heads, prick their ears, and looking intently towards their friend, often whinny. Impatience is expressed by pawing the ground.

[7] `Land and Water,' 1867, p. 657. See also Azara on the Puma, in the work above quoted.

[8] Sir C. Bell, `Anatomy of Expression,' 3rd edit. p. 123. See also p. 126, on horses not breathing through their mouths, with reference to their distended nostrils.

The actions of a horse when much startled are highly expressive. One day my horse was much frightened at a drilling machine, covered by a tarpaulin, and lying on an open field. He raised his head so high, that his neck became almost perpendicular; and this he did from habit, for the machine lay on a slope below, and could not have been seen with more distinctness through the raising of the head; nor if any sound had proceeded from it, could the sound have been more distinctly heard. His eyes and ears were directed intently forwards; and I could feel through the saddle the palpitations of his heart. With red dilated nostrils he snorted violently, and whirling round, would have dashed off at full speed, had I not prevented him. The distension of the nostrils is not for the sake of scenting the source of danger, for when a horse smells carefully at any object and is not alarmed, he does not dilate his nostrils. Owing to the presence of a valve in the throat, a horse when panting does not breathe through his open mouth, but through his nostrils; and these consequently have become endowed with great powers of expansion.

The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals Page 53

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book