« ForrigeFortsett »
The following Account of the Treatment of bis Hares was inserted by Mr. Cowper in the Gentleman's Magazine, whence it is transcribed.
In the year 1774, being much indisposed both in mind and body, incapable of diverting myself either with com pany or books, and yet in a condition that made fome diverfion neceffary, I was glad of any thing, that would engage my attention without fatiguing it. The children of a neighbour of mine had a leveret given them for a plaything; it was at that time about three months old. Understanding better how to tease the poor creature than to feed it, and, foon becoming weary of their charge, they readily confented that their father, who faw it pining and growing leaner every day, should offer it to my acceptance. I was willing enough to take the prifoner under my protection, perceiving that, in the management of fuch an animal, and in the attempt to tame it, I fhould find just that fort of employment which my cafe required. It was foon known among the neighbours that I was pleafed with the prefent: and the confequence was, that in a short time I had as many leverets offered to me, as would have ftocked a paddock. I undertook the care of three, which it is neceffary that I fhould here diftinguish by the names I gave them-Pufs, Tiney, and
Befs. Notwithstanding the two feminine appellatives, I must inform you that they were all males. Immedidiately commencing carpenter, I built them houses to fleep in; each had a feparate apartment, fo contrived that their ordure would pafs through the bottom of it; an earthern pan placed under each received whatsoever fell, which being duly emptied and washed, they were thus kept perfectly fweet and clean. In the day-time they had the range of a hall, and at night retired each to his own bed, never intruding into that of another.
Pufs grew presently familiar, would leap into my lap, raise himself upon his hinder feet, and bite the hair from my temples. He would fuffer me to take him up and to carry him about in my arms, and has more than once fallen faft afleep upon my knee. He was ill three days, during which time I nurfed him, kept him apart from his fellows, that they might not moleft him (for, like many other wild animals, they perfecute one of their own species that is fick), and by conftant care, and trying him with a variety of herbs, restored him to perfect health. No creature could be more grateful than my patient after his recovery; a fentiment which he most fignificantly expreffed by licking my hand, first the back of it, then the palm, then every finger feparately, then between all the fingers, as if anxious to leave no part of
it unfaluted ; a ceremony which he never performed but once again upon a fimilar occafion. Finding him extremely tractable, I made it my custom to carry him always after breakfaft into the garden, where he hid himfelf generally under the leaves of a cucumber vine, fleeping or chewing the cud till evening; in the leaves also of that vine he found a favourite repaft. I had not long habituated him to this tafte of liberty, before he began to be impatient for the return of the time when he might enjoy it. He would invite me to the garden by drumming upon my knee, and by a look of such expreffion as it was not poffible to misinterpret. If this rhetoric did not immediately fucceed, he would take the fkirt of my coat between his teeth, and pull at it with all his force. Thus Pufs might be faid to be perfectly tamed, the fhynefs of his nature was done away, and on the whole it was vifible by many fymptoms, which I have not room to enumerate, that he was happier in human fociety than when shut up with his natural companions.
Not fo Tiney; upon him the kindeft treatment had not the leaft effect. He too was fick, and in his fickness had an equal share of my attention; but if, after his recovery, I took the liberty to ftroke him, he would grunt, ftrike with his fore feet, fpring forward, and bite. He
was however very entertaining in his way; even his furlinefs was matter of mirth, and in his play he preferved fuch an air of gravity, and performed his feats with such a folemnity of manner, that in him too I had an agreeable companion.
Befs, who died foon after he was full grown, and whose death was occafioned by his being turned into his box, which had been washed, while it was yet damp, was a hare of great humour and drollery. Pufs was tamed by gentle ufage, Tiney was not to be tamed at all; and Befs had a courage and confidence that made him tame from the beginning. I always admitted them into the parlour after fupper, when the carpet affording. their feet a firm hold, they would frisk, and bound, and play a thousand gambols, in which Befs, being remarkably ftrong and fearlefs, was always fuperior to the reft, and proved himself the Veftris of the party. One evening the cat being in the room, had the hardiness to pat Befs upon the cheek, an indignity which he resented by drumming upon her back with fuch violence, that the cat was happy to efcape from under his paws and hide herfelf.
I defcribe thefe animals as having each a character of his own. Such they were in fact, and their counte
Mances were fo expreffive of that character, that, when I looked only on the face of either, I immediately knew which it was. It is faid that a fhepherd, however numerous his flock, foon becomes fo familiar with their features, that he can, by that indication only, distinguish each from all the reft; and yet, to a common obferver, the difference is hardly perceptible. I doubt not that the fame difcrimination in the caft of countenances would be discoverable in hares, and am perfuaded that among a thousand of them no two could be found exactly fimilar: a circumftance little fufpected by thofe, who have not had opportunity to observe it. Thefe creatures have a fingular fagacity in difcovering the minuteft alteration that is made in the place to which they are accuftomed, and inftantly apply their nofe to the examination of a new object. A fmal hole being burnt in the carpet, it was mended with a patch, and that patch-in a moment underwent the ftrictest scrutiny. They seem too to be very much directed by the smell in the choice of their favourites: to fome perfons, though they faw them daily, they could never be reconciled, and would even scream when they attempted to touch them; but a miller coming in engaged their affections at once; his powdered coat had charms that were irrefiftible. It is no wonder that my intimate acquaintance with thefe fpe