Recognition Of Likenesses By Dogs

[May 5, 1894.]

In the Spectator of April 21st there is an article on Apes, in which

the following occurs:--"Monkeys, we believe, alone among animals can

recognise the meaning of a picture." It may interest some of your

readers to hear that certain other animals can also do this, two

instances having come under my own observation. A cat belonging to a

little girl I know was on the child's bed one morning, and made a spring

at a picture of a thrush, about life-size, which was hanging near. The

other case is that of a dog--a female Irish terrier--who is in the habit

of running with her mistress's pony carriage. When she sees the pony

being harnessed, she often shows her delight by jumping up at its head

and barking. In a certain shop to which she sometimes goes with her

mistress there is a picture of a horse hanging. The dog invariably

behaves in exactly the same manner to this, jumping up and barking at

it, thus showing unmistakably that she recognises its meaning.


May 19, 1894.

The following instance bears on the subject discussed in the Spectator

of May 5th. We had for a newcomer to our circle a little terrier dog. I

was informed it had been seen in the library facing a large-sized

portrait of myself, and barking furiously. I was somewhat sceptical

until a day or two later I saw it repeat the performance. I have

wondered whether it was because the dog thought it a good or bad

representation of the original, and so was complimenting or otherwise

the artist.


[May 19, 1894.]

Apropos of the recognition of pictures by dogs (Spectator, May 5th), I

think you may be interested in the two following facts which came under

my notice a few years ago. A sagacious but quite uneducated old terrier

came with his master to call for me, and coiled himself on the hearthrug

while we talked. Turning himself round in the intervals of slumber, his

eye caught an oil-painting just over his head (a life-size half-length

of a gentleman). He immediately sat up, showed his teeth, and

growled--not once, but continually--as both angry and mortified that

neither eyes nor nose had given him notice of the arrival of a stranger!

The next instance was similar, except that the chief actor was a young,

intelligent collie, who, on the sudden discovery of a man looking at him

from the wall, barked long and furiously. In both instances, after their

excitement had subsided, I led the dogs to look at another picture

similar in size, and also of a gentleman, but neither of them would take

the smallest notice of it. I need only add that the picture which the

dogs appreciated was painted by Sir Henry Raeburn--the other was not.

Might not a few sagacious canine members be a useful addition to the

Royal Academy Hanging Committee?


[May 26, 1894.]

Many years ago I had a similar experience to Mr. Frank Wright. A

likeness of myself, head and shoulders, drawn in chalk from a

photograph, and enlarged to nearly life size, hung on the dining-room

wall of a house I then occupied. One evening my wife silently called my

attention to a young English terrier, who had not been very long with

us, looking up at it very steadfastly. He regarded it for about a minute

in silence, and at last broke out into a loud bark, which I supposed to

mean that in his opinion the wall was not my proper place, and that only

an evil genius could have set anything like me in such a position.


[June 2, 1894.]

You were so good as to insert my little account of the politeness of a

parrot in the Spectator, will you now allow me also to bear witness to

the recognition of a likeness by a dog? Some time ago I was painting two

portraits in the country, and one day by chance I placed the picture of

my hostess on the ground. Immediately her old spaniel came and gazed

intently at the face for several seconds. Then he smelt at the canvas,

and, unsatisfied, walked round and investigated the back. Finally,

having discovered the deception, he turned away in manifest disgust, and

nothing that we could do or say, on that day or on any other, would

induce that dog to look at that picture again. We then tried him by

putting my portrait of his master also on the ground, but he simply gave

it a kind of casual contemptuous side-glance and took no further notice

of it. We attributed this not to any difference in the merits or

demerits of the two portraits, but simply to the fact that the dog felt

he had been deceived once, but was not to be so taken in again.


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