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loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Monday, May 09, 2011

1895: the dog that buried the frogs

From a collection dated 1895 of letters to the Spectator (UK) magazine: a puzzled reader asks about their dog's very odd habit; someone else helpfully chimes in. All the more curious when you realize the Spectator was/is a current affairs magazine. "Current affairs" must have had a much more elastic definition in 1895 Britain.

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[Feb. 2, 1895.] Knowing your love of animals, and the interest so often shown in your columns in their ways, I venture to send you the following story I have lately heard from an eyewitness, and to ask whether you or any of your readers can throw any light upon the dog's probable object. The dog in question was a Scotch terrier. He was one day observed to appear from a corner of the garden carrying in his mouth, very gently and tenderly, a live frog. He proceeded to lay the frog down upon a flower-bed, and at once began to dig a hole in the earth, keeping one eye upon the frog to see that it did not escape. If it went more than a few feet from him, he fetched it back, and then continued his work. Having dug the hole a certain depth, he then laid the frog, still alive, at the bottom of it, and promptly scratched the loose earth back into the hole, and friend froggy was buried alive! The dog then went off to the corner of the garden, and returned with another frog, which he treated in the same way. This occurred on more than one occasion; in fact, as often as he could find frogs he occupied himself in burying them alive. Now dogs generally have some reason for what they do. What can have been a dog's reason for burying frogs alive? It does not appear that he ever dug them up again to provide himself with a meal. If, sir, you or any of your readers can throw any light on this curious, and for the frogs most uncomfortable, behaviour of my friend's Scotch terrier, I should be very much obliged. -- R. Acland-Troyte


[Feb. 9, 1895-] I think I can explain the puzzle of the Scotch terrier and his interment of the frogs, for the satisfaction of your correspondent. A friend of mine had once a retriever who was stung by a bee, and ever afterwards, when the dog found a bee near the ground, she stamped on it, and then scraped earth over it and buried it effectually—presumably to put an end to the danger of further stings. In like manner, another dog having bitten a toad, showed every sign of having found the mouthful to the last degree unpleasant. Probably Mr. Acland-Troyte's dog had, in the same way, bitten a toad, and conceived henceforth that he rendered public service by putting every toad-like creature he saw carefully and gingerly "out of harm's way," underground. -- Frances Power Cobbe

From Dog Stories from the "Spectator" Being Anecdotes of the Intelligence, Reasoning Power, Affection and Sympathy of Dogs, Selected from the Correspondence Columns of "The Spectator." Introduction by J. St. Loe Strachey. (New York: Macmillan and Co., 1895) pp. 157-159.

1 comment:

Ann Dziemianowicz said...

What unusual behavior! The dog was treating the frogs like they were bones.