« ForrigeFortsett »
The fact is, the Cat has been, although domesticated for so many centuries, a comparatively neglected animal; and it is the fashion to heap upon it the contumacious epithets of sullen, treacherous, selfish, spiteful, and intractable, just as we take as our emblems of stupidity the ass and the goose, which are really among the most cunning of the lower animals. We have never tried to teach the Cat the art of hunting for her owners, but that is no reason for asserting that the animal could not be taught.
As to entering the water, every one who is familiar with the habits of the Cat knows perfectly well that the Cat will voluntarily enter water in chase of prey. A Cat does not like to wet her feet, and will not enter the water without a very powerful reason, but when that motive is supplied, she has no hesitation about it. A curious and valuable confirmation of this fact appeared some time ago in “The Field ” newspaper, in which was recorded the history of an old fisherman, whose Cat invariably went to sea with him, and as invariably used to leap overboard, seize fish in her mouth, and bring them to the side of the boat, where her kindly owner could lift her out, together with the captured fish.
The Cat, then, having been the favoured companion of the Egyptians, among whom the Israelites lived while they multiplied from a family into a nation, it does seem very remarkable that the sacred writers should not even mention it. There is no prohibition of the animal, even indirectly, in the Mosaic law; but it may be the case that the Israelites repudiated the Cat simply because it was so favoured by their former masters.
The only passage in the Apocrypha is a passing allusion in Baruch (vi. 22), where it is said of the idols, that bats and birds shall sit on their bodies, and the cats also. That the word is rightly translated admits of no doubt, because it is the same that is employed by Herodotus in the passage already quoted
Antipathy displayed by Orientals towards the Dog, and manifested throughout
the Scriptures—Contrast between European and Oriental Dogs-Habits of the Dogs of Palestine—The City Dogs and their singular organization - The herdsman's Dog- Various passages of Scripture-Dogs and the crumbs-their numbers—Signor Pierotti's experience of the Dogs-Possibility of their perfect domestication—The peculiar humiliation of Lazarus-Voracity of the Wild Dogs—The fate of Ahab and Jezebel - Anecdote of a volunteer Watch-dogInnate affection of the Dog towards mankind - Peculiar local Instinct of the Oriental Dog—Albert Smith's account of the Dogs at Constantinople-The Dervish and his Dogs - The Greyhound - Uncertainty of the word.
SCARCELY changed by the lapse of centuries, the Oriental of the present day retains most of the peculiarities which distinguished him throughout the long series of years during which the books of sacred Scripture were given to the world. In many of these characteristics he differs essentially from Europeans of the present day, and exhibits a tone of mind which seems to be not merely owing to education, but to be innate and inherent in the race.
One of these remarkable characteristics is the strange loathing with which he regards the Dog. In all other parts of the world, the Dog is one of the most cherished and valued of animals, but among those people whom we popularly class under the name of Orientals, the Dog is detested and despised. As the sacred books were given to the world through the mediumship of Orientals, we find that this feeling towards the Dog is manifested whenever the animal is mentioned ; and whether we turn to the books of the Law, the splendid poetry of the Psalms and the book of Job, the prophetical or the historical portions of the Old Testament, we find the name of the Dog repeatedly mentioned; and in every case in connexion with some repulsive idea. If we turn from the Old to the New Testament, we find the same idea manifested, whether in the Gospels, the Epistles, or the Revelation.
To the mind of the true Oriental the very name of the Dog carries with it an idea of something utterly repugnant to his nature, and he does not particularly like even the thought of the animal coming across his mind. And this is the more extraordinary, because at the commencement and termination of their history the Dog was esteemed by their masters. The Egyptians, under whose rule they grew to be a nation, knew the value of the Dog, and showed their appreciation in the many works of art which have survived to our time. Then the Romans, under whose iron grasp the last vestiges of nationality crumbled away, honoured and respected the Dog, made it their companion, and introduced its portrait into their houses. But, true to their early traditions, the Jews of the East have ever held the Dog in the same abhorrence as is manifested by their present masters, the followers of Mahommed.
Owing to the prevalence of this feeling, the Dogs of Oriental towns are so unlike their more fortunate European relatives, that they can hardly be recognised as belonging to the same species. In those lands the traveller finds that there is none of the wonderful variety which so distinguishes the Dog of Europe. There he will never see the bluff, sturdy, surly, faithful mastiff, the slight gazelle-like greyhound, the sharp, intelligent terrier, the silent, courageous bulldog, the deep-voiced, tawny bloodhound, the noble Newfoundland, the clever, vivacious poodle, or the gentle, silken-haired spaniel.
As he traverses the streets, he finds that all the dogs are alike, and that all are gaunt, hungry, half starved, savage, and cowardly, more like wolves than dogs, and quite as ready as wolves to attack when they fancy they can do so with safety. They prowl about the streets in great numbers, living, as they best can, on any scraps of food that they may happen to find. They have no particular masters, and no particular homes. Charitable persons will sometimes feed them, but will never make companions of them, feeling that the very contact of a dog would be a pollution. They are certainly useful animals, because they act as scavengers, and will eat almost any animal substance that comes in their way.
The strangest part of their character is the organization which prevails among them. By some extraordinary means they divide the town into districts, and not one dog ever ventures out of
that particular district to which it is attached. The boundaries, although invisible, are as effectual as the loftiest walls, and not even the daintiest morsel will tempt a dog to pass the mysterious line which forms the boundary of his district. Generally, these bands of dogs are so savage that any one who is obliged to walk in a district where the dogs do not know him is forced to carry a stout stick for his protection. Like their European relatives, they have great dislike towards persons who are dressed after a fashion to which they are unaccustomed, and therefore are sure to harass any one who comes from Europe and wears the costume of his own country. As is customary among animals which unite themselves in troops, each band is under the command of a single leader, whose position is recognised and his authority acknowledged by all the members.
These peculiarities are to be seen almost exclusively in the dogs which run wild about the towns, because there is abundant evidence in the Scriptures that the animal was used in a partially domesticated state, certainly for the protection of their herds, and possibly for the guardianship of their houses. That the Dog was employed for the first of these purposes is shown in Job xxx. i: “But now they that are younger than I have me in derision, whose fathers I would have disdained to have set with the dogs of my flock.” And that the animal was used for the protection of houses is thought by some commentators to be shown by the well-known passage in Is. lvi. 10 : “His watchmen are blind : they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.” Still, it is very probable that in this passage the reference is not made to houses, but to the flocks and herds which these watchmen ought to have guarded.
The rooted dislike and contempt felt by the Israelites towards the Dog is seen in numerous passages. Even in that sentence from Job which has just been quoted, wherein the writer passionately deplores the low condition into which he has fallen, and contrasts it with his former high estate, he complains that he is despised by those whose fathers he held even in less esteem than the dogs which guarded his herds. There are several references to the Dog in the books of Samuel, in all of which the name of the animal is mentioned contemptuously. For example, when David accepted the challenge of Goliath, and went to
meet his gigantic enemy without the ordinary protection of mail, and armed only with a sling and his shepherd's staff, Goliath said to him, “Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves ? ” (1 Sam. xvii. 43.) And in the same book, chapter xxiv. 14, David remonstrates with Saul for pursuing so insignificant a person as himself, and said, “ After whom is the King of Israel come out ? after a dead dog, after a flea.”
The same metaphor is recorded in the second book of the same writer. Once it was employed by Mephibosheth, the lame son of Jonathan, when extolling the generosity of David, then King of Israel in the place of his grandfather Saul : “And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou
' shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am ?'” (2 Sam. ix. 8.) In the same book, chapter xvi. 9, Abishai applies this contemptuous epithet to Shimei, who was exulting over the troubled monarch with all the insolence of a cowardly nature, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king ?” Abner also makes use of a similar expression, “ Am I a dog's head?” And we may also refer to the familiar passage in 2 Kings viii. 13. Elisha had prophesied to Hazael that he would become king on the death of Ben-hadad, and that he would work terrible mischief in the land. Horrified at these predictions, or at all events pretending to be so, he replied, “But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing ?”
If we turn from the Old to the New Testament, we find the same contemptuous feeling displayed towards the Dog. It is mentioned as an intolerable aggravation of the sufferings endured by Lazarus the beggar as he lay at the rich man's gate, that the dogs came and licked his sores. In several passages, the word Dog is employed as a metaphor for scoffers, or unclean persons, or sometimes for those who did not belong to the Church, whether Jewish or Christian. In the Sermon on the Mount our Lord himself uses this image, “Give not that which is holy unto dogs ” (Matt. vii. 6.) In the same book, chapter xv. 26, Jesus employs the same metaphor when speaking to the Canaanitish woman who had come to ask him to heal her daughter: “It is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to dogs.” And that she understood the meaning of the words is evident from her answer, in which faith and humility are so admirably blended. Both St. Paul and St. John employ the