1. “Left for the wolves.”
In the late Spring of 1902, Constable Richard Morris, of the Royal North-West Mounted Police, reported an incident dealing with the native Cree Indians and their dogs. Stationed in a community north of Lake Winnipeg, he noticed that a number of dogs had been staked out in the forest. Each one was left alone and fastened to an iron stake by a chain. When he asked the reason for this, the Crees told him that the dogs were “left for the wolves.”
When Const. Morris objected to this treatment, the Crees explained that the dogs wouldn’t be harmed by the wolves. The dogs — Ungava huskies — were bitches in heat. Male wolves without mates of their own would be attracted to the bitches and mate with them, resulting in cross-bred puppies with “wolfblood.”
Morris said, “Oh, I see. This is so your sled-dogs will be bigger and stronger.”
“No,” said one Cree. “A wolf can outrace our dogs in a quick dash — but our huskies have much more stamina than wolves and can easily outlast them in a long run. Wolves make poor work dogs.”
“Then,” concluded Morris, “it’s because wolves are healthier.”
“No. They are the same.”
“Then — why?” asked the Mountie.
“Up here,” replied the Indian, tapping his forehead.
Father LeBeaux, an Oblate Missionary, later explained, “The Cree people believe that when an animal becomes domesticated, each generation loses in intelligence. That’s why wolves are more intelligent than dogs. The Indians say, ‘The closer to the wolf, the smarter.’ If it is true of domesticated animals, what does that say of civilized man, eh?”
2. “How intelligent are they?”
Our ancestors might have asked this 15,000 years ago when they played with their adopted wolf or jackal pups — the first dogs.
Even the ancient Egyptians asked that question, and studied their own dogs to answer it.
The first modern attempt was by Rene Descartes, who only went one step beyond the cloudy thinking of his time, saying all animals were just soulless biological machines. Descartes set up the narrow, human-centered theory of behaviorism that would dominate until well into the 20th Century.
For decades, behaviorists put animals — including dogs — through sterile tests in sterile labs, looking for mechanical results that proved worthless.
In the middle of this muddle came one sane voice: Donald Griffin, professor of biology at Rockefeller University, who said, “Behaviorism should be abandoned not so much because it belittles the value of living animals, but because it leads to a serious incomplete and hence misleading picture of reality.” Read More