IANS – Animal Intelligence


It’s feeding time; I’m waiting!

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. ~ Mark Twain

When George Gershwin composed the song It Ain’t Necessarily So, he was onto something. I’d love to have a nickel for everything I was taught or told or just accepted as fact in the course of my life. From food preservation to gardening to animal husbandry to medicine to finance, there have been a lot more ‘not-so’ things than ‘so’ things. A while back I did a post on not needing to waterbath jams and jellies; I got more than 100 comments corroborating my “not-so” position. At which point it occurred to me there are lots of other not-so things out there, and shazaam, I had an ongoing blog topic. Here’s the latest “it ain’t necessarily so” (IANS).

Smart girls.

Animals aren’t very intelligent.
Depends on the breed and the individual animal. I once had a Quarter Horse mare who could open any kind of gate except one that was chained and held closed with a metal snap. She taught her colts to do the same thing (or maybe it wasn’t deliberate and they just learned by observation). Sheep are not the brightest bulbs in the socket, compared to most farm animals – especially when compared to pigs. But our sheep know the difference between a four-wheeler coming in the evening to shut them in the nighttime pen (when they get treats for going inside) and a four-wheeler going down at about the same time to work in the garden or irrigate. In the first case, they move into the area of the pen. In the second, they either ignore the sound or merrily race the four-wheeler toward the far end of the field. Even my chickens (who have a brain about the size of a walnut), know the sound of the gate opening in the morning means they’re about to be let out, and start talking as soon as they hear the chain rattle. Pigs can be house-trained (although I admit I’ve never tried it – don’t want a 400-pound pig in the living room, thank you!) and taught a variety of tricks.
My father used to pontificate about the intelligence of dogs, maintaining that a dog could only understand about a dozen different commands. He was chagrined to discover that my McNabb/Queensland Heeler cross understood at least 30. Moreover, many of those were full sentences like “Aren’t you supposed to be on your rug?” rather than one-word commands like “sit” and “stay.” The Border Collie is considered one of the smartest (if not the smartest) of all dog breeds; one female Border Collie named Chaser knows over 1,000 commands. My Border Collie Pip has a visual defect that limits her vision. She is smart enough to compensate in such a way that most people don’t realize she can’t see very well. And both my dogs know that they can’t lick the cat food dish until all the cats have finished and walk away from it; I don’t have to supervise – they just wait patiently.

Supper time. the black one walking down Mama’s shoulder is just trying a new approach!

Take a Missouri Approach
Missouri is the “show me” state. The mental attitude of “you’ll have to prove it to me” is a good one. Use your common sense. When your experience or that of people you trust is contrary to accepted scientific wisdom or expert recommendations, odds are very high the scientific wisdom and the experts are out to lunch. Ask the old homicide lawyer’s question, “Cui bono?” Loosely translated as “Who benefits?” what it actually means is “To whose profit?” When big bucks, company survival or professional reputations are on the line, ethics quite often take a back seat. Circus entrepreneur PT Barnum is credited as the person who coined the sucker-born-every-minute rule. In fact, there’s no evidence that he did say it; however, there is some evidence that it was said about Barnum’s tactics, by a banker named David Hannum. Don’t be a sucker and remember: it ain’t necessarily so.

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