The Intuitive-Connections Network

Current Update as of January 15, 2006 

Inspired by The Edgar Cayce Institute for Intuitive Studies

Edited by HENRY REED, Ph.D.

Explore Our Contents Here Learn how to Use Intuitive Guidance! Get Connected with Intuition

How Animals Talk

How Animals Talk

(Inner Traditions)

An excerpt

The way of animal communication now grows dimmer and dimmer, or some readers may even think it "curiouser and curiouser," as Alice of Wonderland said when she found herself lengthening out like a telescope.

But there is certainly a trail of some kind ahead, and since we are apt to lose it or to wander apart, let us agree, if we can, upon some familiar fact or experience which may serve as a guiding landmark.

Our general course will be as follows: first, to define our subject, or rather, to make its meaning clear by illustration; second, to examine the reasonableness of telepathy from a natural or biological viewpoint; and finally, to go afield with eyes and minds open to see what the birds or the beasts may teach us of this interesting matter.

It seems to be fairly well established that a few men and women of uncommonly fine nervous organization (which means an uncommonly natural or healthy organization) have the power of influencing the mind of another person at a distance; and this rare power goes by the name of thought transference, or telepathy.

The so-called crossing of letters, when two widely separated persons sit down at the same hour to write each other on the same subject, is the most familiar but not the most convincing example of the thing.

Yes, I know the power and the example are both challenged, since there are scientists who deny telepathy root and branch, as well as scientists who believe in it implicitly; but I also know something more convincing than any secondhand denial or belief, having at different times met three persons who used the "gift" so freely, and for the most part so surely, that to ignore it would be to abandon confidence in my own sense and judgment.

I am not trying, therefore, to investigate an opinion, but to understand a fact.

To illustrate the matter by a personal experience: For many years after I first left home my mother would become "uneasy in her mind," as she expressed it, whenever a slight accident or danger or sickness had befallen me.

If the event were to me serious or threatening, there was no more doubt or uneasiness on my mother's part. She would know within the hour that I was in trouble of some kind, and would write or telegraph to ask what was the matter.

It is commonly assumed that any such power must be a little weird or uncanny; that it contradicts the wholesome experience of humanity or makes fantastic addition to its natural faculties; and I confess that the general queerness, the lack of balance, the Hottentotish credulity of folk who dabble in occult matters give some human, if not reasonable, grounds for the assumption.

Nevertheless, I judge that telepathy is of itself wholly natural; that it is a survival, an age-old inheritance rather than a new invention or discovery; that it might be exercised not by a few astonishing individuals, but by any normal man or woman who should from infancy cultivate certain mental powers which we now habitually neglect.

I am led to this conviction because I have found something that very much resembles telepathy in frequent use throughout the entire animal kingdom. It is, as I think and shall try to make clear, a natural gift or faculty of the animal mind, which is largely subconscious, and it is from the animal mind that we inherit it; just as a few woodsmen inherit the animal sense of direction, and cultivate and trust it till they are sure of their way in any wilderness, while the large majority of men, dulled by artificial habit, go promptly astray whenever they venture beyond beaten trails.

That the animals inherit this power of silent communication over great distances is occasionally manifest even among our half-natural domestic creatures. For example, that same old setter of mine, Don, who introduced us to our fascinating subject, was left behind most unwillingly during my terms at school; but he always seemed to know when I was on my way home.

For months at a stretch he would stay about the house, obeying my mother perfectly, though she never liked a dog; but on the day I was expected he would leave the premises, paying no heed to orders, and go to a commanding ledge beside the lane, where he could overlook the highroad. Whatever the hour of my coming, whether noon or midnight, there I would find him waiting.

Once when I was homeward bound unexpectedly, having sent no word of my coming, my mother missed Don and called him in vain. Some hours later, when he did not return at his dinnertime or answer her repeated call, she searched for him and found him camped expectantly in the lane. "Oho! wise dog," said she. "I understand now. Your master is coming home." And without a doubt that it would soon be needed, she went and made my room ready.

If the dog had been accustomed to spend his loafing-time in the lane, one might thoughtlessly account for his action by the accident or hit-or-miss theory; but he was never seen to wait there for any length of time except on the days when I was expected. And once (unhappily the last time Don ever came to meet his master) he was observed to take up his watch within a few minutes of the hour when my train left the distant town.

Apparently he knew when I headed homeward, but there was nothing in his instinct or experience to tell him how long the journey might be. So he would wait patiently, loyally, knowing I was coming, and my mother would take his dinner out to him.

In many other ways Don gave the impression, if not the evidence, that he was a "mind-reader." He always knew when Saturday came, or a holiday, and possibly he may have associated the holiday notion with my old clothes; but how he knew what luck the day had in store for him, as he often seemed to know the instant I unsnapped his chain in the early morning, was a matter that at first greatly puzzled me.

If I appeared in my old clothes and set him free with the resolution that my day must be spent in study or tinkering or farm work, he would bid me good morning and go off soberly to explore the premises, as dogs are wont to do.

But when I met him silently with the notion that the day was my day off, to be wasted in shooting or fishing or roving the countryside, then in some way Don caught the notion instantly; he would be tugging at his leash before I reached him, and no sooner was he free than he was all over the yard in mad capers or making lunatic attempts to drag me off on our common holiday before breakfast.

That any dog of mine should obey my word, doing gladly whatever I told him, was to be expected; or that in the field he should watch for a motion of my hand and follow it instantly, whether to charge or hold or come in or cast left or right, was a simple matter of training; but that this particular dog should, unknown to me, enter into my very feeling, was certainly not the result of education, and probably not of sight or sense, as we ordinarily understand the terms.

When we were together of an evening before the fire, so long as I was working or pleasantly reading he would lie curled up on his own mat, without ever disturbing me till it was time for him to be put to bed, when he would remind me of the fact by nudging my elbow.

But if an hour came when I was in perplexity, or had heard bad news and was brooding over it, hardly would I be away in thought, forgetful of Don's existence on a trail I must follow alone, when his silky head would slide under my hand, and I would find his brown eyes searching my face with something inexpressibly fine and loyal and wistful in their questioning deeps.

Thus repeatedly, unexpectedly, Don seemed to enter into my moods by some subtle, mysterious perception for which I have no name, and no explanation save the obvious one-that a man's will or emotion may fill a room with waves or vibration as real as those streaming from a fire or a lighted candle, and that normal animals have some unused bodily faculty for receiving precisely such messages or vibrations. But we are not yet quite ready for that part of our trail; it will come later, when we can follow it with more understanding.

Should this record seem to you too personal (I am dealing only with firsthand impressions of animal life), here is the story of another dog-not a blue-blooded or highly trained setter, but just an ordinary, doggy, neglected kind of dog-submitted by a scientific friend of mine, who very cautiously offers no explanation, but is content to observe and verify the facts:

This second dog, Watch by name and nature, was accustomed to meet his master much as Don met me in the lane; but he did it much more frequently, and timed the meeting more accurately. He was nearer the natural animal, never having been trained in any way, and perhaps for that reason he retained more of the natural gift or faculty of receiving a message from a distance.

His owner, a busy carpenter and builder, had an office in town, and was accustomed to return from his office or work at all hours, sometimes early in the afternoon, and again long after dark. At whatever hour the man turned homeward, Watch seemed to follow his movement as if by sight; he would grow uneasy, would bark to be let out if he happened to be in the house, and would trot off to meet his master about halfway.

Though he was occasionally at fault, and sometimes returned to brood over the matter when his master, having started for home, was turned aside by some errand, his mistakes were decidedly exceptional rather than typical.

His strange "gift" was a matter of common knowledge in the neighborhood, and occasionally a doubtful man would stage an experiment: the master would agree to mark the hour when he turned homeward, and one or more interested persons would keep tabs on the dog.

So my scientific friend repeatedly tested Watch, and observed him to take the road within a few moments of the time when his master left his office or building operations in the town, some three or four miles away.

Thus far the record is clear and straight, but there is one important matter which my friend overlooked, as scientific men commonly do when they deal with nature, their mistake being to regard animals as featureless members of a class or species rather than as individuals.

The dog's master always came or went in a wagon drawn by a quiet old horse, and upon inquiry I found that between Watch and the horse was a bond of comradeship, such as often exists between two domestic animals of different species.

Thus, the dog often preferred to sleep in the stall near his big chum, or would accompany him to the pasture when he was turned loose, and would always stand by, as if overlooking the operation, when the horse was being harnessed.

It may well be, therefore, that it was from the horse rather than from the man that Watch received notice when heads were turned homeward; but of the fact that some kind of telepathic communication passed between two members of the trio there is no reasonable doubt.

Some of my readers may make objection at this point that, though something like telepathic communication appears now and then among the brutes, it should be regarded as merely freakish or sensational, like a two-headed calf; while others will surely ask, "Why, if our dogs possess such a convenient faculty, do they not use it more frequently, more obviously, and so spare themselves manifold discomforts or misunderstandings?"

Such an objection is natural enough, since we judge as we live, mostly by habit; but it has no validity, I think, and for two reasons. First, because such animals as we have thus far seen exercising the faculty (and they are but a few out of many) are apparently normal and sensible beasts, precisely like their less-gifted fellows; and second, because the telepathic power itself, when one examines it without prejudice, appears to be wholly natural, and sane or simple as the power of thought, even of such rudimentary thought as may be exercised in an animal's head.

As for emotions, more intense and penetrating than any thought, it is hardly to be questioned that a man's fear or panic may flow through his knees into the horse he is riding, or that emotional excitement may spread through a crowd of men without visible or audible expression.

That a dog should receive a wordless message or impulse from his master at a distance of three or four miles is, fundamentally, no more unnatural than that one man should feel another's mood at a distance of three or four feet. Whether we can explain the phenomenon on strictly biological or scientific grounds is another matter.

I am not a biologist, unfortunately, and must go cat-footedly when I enter that strange garret. I look with wonder on these patient, unemotional men who care nothing for a bear or an eagle, but who creep lower and ever lower in the scale of living things, searching with penetrating looks among infinitesimal microbes for the secret that shall solve the riddle of the universe by telling us what life is.

And because man is everywhere the same, watching these exploring biologists I remember the curious theology of certain South-Pacific savages, who say that God made all things, the stars and the world and the living man; but we cannot see Him because He is so very small, because a dancing mote or a grain of sand is for Him a roomy palace.

Yet even with a modest little knowledge of biology we may find a viewpoint, I think, from which telepathy or thought-transference would appear as natural, as inevitable, as the forth-going of light from a burning lamp.

Thus, historically there was a time when the living cell, or the cell-of-life, as one biologist calls it with rare distinction, was sensitive only to pressure; when in its darkness it knew of an external world only by its own tremblings, in response to vibrations which poured over it from every side.

Something made it tremble, and that "something" had motion or life like its own. Such, imaginatively, was the sentient cell's first knowledge, the result of a sense of touch distributed throughout its protecting surface.

Long afterward came a time when the living cell, multiplied now a millionfold, began to develop special sense-organs, each a modification of its rudimentary sense of touch; one to receive vibrations of air, for hearing; another to catch some of the thronging ether waves, for seeing; a third to register the floating particles of matter on a sensitive membrane, for taste or smelling.

By that time the cell had learned beyond a peradventure that the universe outside itself had light and color and fragrance and harmony. Finally came a day when the cell, still multiplying and growing ever more complex, became conscious of a new power within itself, most marvelous of all the powers of earth, the power to think, to feel, and to be aware of a self that registered its own impressions of the external world.

And then the cell knew, as surely as it knew sound or light, that the universe held consciousness also, and some infinite source of thought and feeling. Such, apparently, was the age-long process from the sentient cell to the living man.

Since we are following a different trail, this is hardly the time or place to face the question how this development from mere living to conscious life took place, even if one were wise or rash enough to grapple with the final problem of evolution.

Yet it may not be amiss while we "rest a pipe," as the voyageurs say, to point out that, of the two possible answers to our question (aside from the convenient and restful answer that God made things so), only one, curiously enough, has thus far been considered by our physical scientists.

The thousand books and theories of evolution which one reads are all reducible to this elementary proposition: that the simple things of life became complex by inner necessity. In other words, an eye became an eye, or an oak an oak, or a man a man, simply because each must develop according to the inner law of its being.

That may be true, though the all-compelling "inner law" is still only a vague assumption, and the mystery of its origin is untouched; but why not by outer compulsion as reasonably as by inner necessity? A cell-of-life that was constantly bombarded by moving particles of matter might be compelled to develop a sense of touch, in order to save its precious life by differentiating such particles into good and bad, or helpful and harmful.

A cell over which vibrations of air and ether were continually passing might be forced for its own good to develop an ear and an eye to receive such vibrations as sound and light; and a cell over which mysterious waves of thought and emotion were ceaselessly flowing might be driven to comprehend that particular mystery by developing a thought and emotion of its own.

I do not say that this is the right answer; I mention it merely as a speculative possibility, in order to get our alleged scientific mind out of its deep rut of habit by showing that every road has two sides, though a man habitually use only one; and that Reason or Law or God, or whatever you choose to call the ultimate mainspring of life, is quite as apt to be found on one side of the road as on the other.

Inner necessity is not a whit more logical or more explanatory than external force or compulsion when we face the simple fact that an animal now sees and feels in the light instead of merely existing in darkness, or that primitive cells which were dimly sentient have now become as thinking gods, knowing good and evil.

What this thought of ours is we do not know. Beyond the fact that we have it and use it, thought still remains a profound mystery. That it is a living force of some kind; that it projects itself or its waves outward, as the sun cannot but send forth his light; that it affects men as surely as gravitation or heat or the blow of a hammer affects them,-all this is reasonably clear and certain.

But how thought travels; what refined mental ether conveys it outward with a speed that makes light as slow as a glacier by comparison, and with a force that sends it through walls of stone and into every darkness that the light cannot penetrate,-this and the origin of thought are questions so deep that our science has barely formulated them, much less dreamed of an answer.

Yet if we once grant the simple proposition that thought is a force, that it moves inevitably from its source to its object, the conclusion is inevitable that any thinking mind should be able to send its silent message to any other mind in the universe. There is nothing in the nature of either mind or matter to preclude such a possibility; only our present habit of speech, of too much speech, prevents us from viewing it frankly.

As a purely speculative consummation, therefore, the time may come when telepathy shall appear as the natural or perfect communication among enlightened minds, and language as a temporary or evolutionary makeshift. But that beckons us away to an imaginative flight among the clouds, and on the earth at our feet is the trail we must follow.

The question why our dogs, if they have the faculty of receiving a master's message at a distance, do not use it more obviously, is one that I cannot answer. Perhaps the reason is obvious enough to some of the dogs, which have a sidelong way of coming home from their roving, as if aware they had long been wanted. Or, possibly, the difficulty lies not in the dog, but in his master.

Every communication has two ends, one sending, the other receiving; and of a thousand owners there are hardly two who know how properly to handle a dog either by speech or by silence. Still again, one assumption implied in the question is that dogs or any other animals of the same kind are all alike; and that common assumption is very wide of the fact.

Animals differ as widely in their instinctive faculties as men in their judgments; which partly explains why one setter readily follows his master's word or hand, or enters into his mood, while another remains hopelessly dumb or unresponsive.

The telepathic faculty appears more frequently, as we shall see, among birds or animals that habitually live in flocks or herds, and I have always witnessed its most striking or impressive manifestation between a mother animal and her young, as if some prenatal influence or control were still at work.

For example, I have occasionally had the good luck to observe a she-wolf leading her pack across the white expanse of a frozen lake in winter; and at such times the cubs have a doggish impulse to run after any moving object that attracts their attention.

If a youngster breaks away to rush an animal that he sees moving in the woods (once that moving animal was myself), the mother heads him instantly if he is close to her; but if he is off before she can check him by a motion of her ears or a low growl, she never wastes time or strength in chasing him. She simply holds quiet, lifts her head high, and looks steadily at the running cub. Suddenly he wavers, halts, and then, as if the look recalled him, whirls and speeds back to the pack.

If the moving object be proper game afoot, the mother now goes ahead to stalk or drive it, while the pack follows stealthily behind her on either side; but if the distant object be a moose or a man, or anything else that a wolf must not meddle with, then the mother wolf trots quietly on her way without a sound, and the errant cub falls into place as if he had understood her silent command.

You may observe the same phenomenon of silent order and ready obedience nearer home, if you have patience to watch day after day at a burrow of young foxes. I have spent hours by different dens, and have repeatedly witnessed what seemed to be excellent discipline; but I have never yet heard a vixen utter a growl or cry or warning of any kind.

That audible communication comes later, when the cubs begin to hunt for themselves; and then you will often hear the mother's querulous squall or the cubs' impatient crying when they are separated in the dark woods. While the den is their home (they seldom enter it after they once roam abroad) silence is the rule, and that silence is most eloquent.

For hours at a stretch the cubs romp lustily in the afternoon sunshine, some stalking imaginary mice or grasshoppers, others challenging their mates to mock fights or mock hunting; and the most striking feature of the exercise, after you have become familiar with the fascinating little creatures, is that the old vixen, who lies apart where she can overlook the play and the neighborhood, seems to have the family under perfect control at every instant, though never a word is uttered.

That some kind of communication passes among these intelligent little brutes is constantly evident; but it is without voice or language. Now and then, when a cub's capers lead him too far from the den, the vixen lifts her head to look at him intently; and somehow that look has the same effect as the she-wolf's silent call; it stops the cub as if she had sent a cry or a messenger after him.

If that happened once, you might overlook it as a matter of mere chance; but it happens again and again, and always in the same challenging way. The eager cub suddenly checks himself, turns as if he had heard a command, catches the vixen's look, and back he comes like a trained dog to the whistle.

As the shadows lengthen on the hillside, and the evening comes when the mother must go mousing in the distant meadow, she rises quietly to her feet. Instantly the play stops; the cubs gather close, their heads all upturned to the greater head that bends to them, and there they stand in mute intentness, as if the mother were speaking and the cubs listening.

For a brief interval that tense scene endures, exquisitely impressive, while you strain your senses to catch its meaning. There is no sound, no warning of any kind that ears can hear. Then the cubs scamper quickly into the burrow; the mother, without once looking back, slips away into the shadowy twilight.

At the den's mouth a foxy little face appears, its nostrils twitching, its eyes following a moving shadow in the distance. When the shadow is swallowed up in the dusk the face draws back, and the wild hillside is wholly silent and deserted.

You can go home now. The vixen may be hours on her hunting, but not a cub will again show his nose until she returns and calls him. If a human mother could exercise such silent, perfect discipline, or leave the house with the certainty that four or five lively youngsters would keep out of danger or mischief as completely as young fox cubs keep out of it, raising children might more resemble "one grand sweet song" than it does at present.

So far as I have observed grown birds or beasts, the faculty of silent communication occurs most commonly among those that are gregarious or strongly social in their habits. The timber-wolves of the North are the first examples that occur to me, and also the most puzzling.

They are wary brutes, so much so that those who have spent a lifetime near them will tell you that it is useless to hunt a wolf by any ordinary method; that your meeting with him is a matter of chance or rare accident; that not only has he marvelously keen ears, eyes that see in the dark, and a nose that cannot be deceived, but he can also "feel" a danger which is hidden from sight or smell or hearing. Such is the Indian verdict; and I have followed wolves often and vainly enough to have some sympathy with it.

The cunning of these animals would be uncanny if it were merely cunning; but it is naturally explained, I think, on the assumption that wolves, more than most other brutes, receive silent warnings from one another, or even from a concealed hunter, who may by his excitement send forth some kind of emotional alarm.

When you are sitting quietly in the woods, and a pack of wolves pass near without noticing their one enemy, though he is in plain sight, you think that they are no more cunning than a bear or a buck; and that is true, so far as their cunning depends on what they may see or hear.

Once when I was crossing a frozen lake in a snowstorm a whole pack of wolves rushed out of the nearest cover and came at me on the jump, mistaking me for a deer or some other game animal; which does not speak very highly for either their eyes or their judgment. They were the most surprised brutes in all Canada when they discovered their mistake.

But when you hide with ready rifle near some venison which the same wolves have killed; when you see them break out of the woods upon the ice, running free and confident to the food which they know is awaiting them; when you see them stop suddenly, as

if struck, though they cannot possibly see or smell you, and then scatter and run by separate trails to a meeting-point on another lake-well, then you may conclude, as I do, that part of a wolf's cunning lies deeper than his five senses.

Another lupine trait which first surprised and then challenged my woodcraft is this: in the wintertime, when timber-wolves commonly run in small packs, a solitary or separated wolf always seems to know where his mates are hunting or idly roving or resting in their daybed.

The pack is made up of his family relatives, younger or older, all mothered by the same she-wolf; and by some bond or attraction or silent communication he can go straight to them at any hour of the day or night, though he may not have seen them for a week, and they have wandered over countless miles of wilderness in the interim.

We may explain this fact, if such it be (I shall make it clear presently), on the simple ground that the wolves, though incurable rovers, have bounds beyond which they seldom pass; that they return on their course with more or less regularity; and that in traveling, as distinct from hunting, they always follow definite runways, like the foxes.

Because of these fixed habits, a solitary wolf might remember that the pack was due in a certain region on a certain day, and by going to that region and putting his nose to the runways he could quickly pick up the fresh trail of his fellows. There is nothing occult in such a process; it is a plain matter of brain and nose.

Such an explanation sounds reasonable enough; too reasonable, in fact, since a brute probably acts more intuitively and less rationally; but it does not account for the amazing certainty of a wounded wolf when separated from his pack.

He always does separate, by the way; not because the others would eat him, for that is not wolf nature, but because every stricken bird or beast seeks instinctively to be alone and quiet while his hurt is healing.

I have followed with keen interest the doings of one wounded wolf that hid for at least two days and nights in a sheltered den, after which he rose from his bed and went straight as a bee's flight to where his pack had killed a buck and left plenty of venison behind them.

In this case it is possible to limit the time of the wounded wolf's seclusion, because the limping track that led from the den was but a few hours old when I found it, and the only track leading into the den was half obliterated by snow which had fallen two nights previously. How many devious miles the pack had traveled in the interim would be hard to estimate.

I crossed their hunting or roaming trails at widely separate points, and once I surprised them in their daybed; but I never found the limit of their great range. A few days later that same limping wolf left another den of his, under a windfall, and headed not for the buck, which was now frozen stiff, but for another deer which the same pack had killed in a different region, some eight or ten straight miles away, and perhaps twice that distance as wolves commonly travel.

If you contend that this wounded wolf must have known where the meat was by the howling of the pack when they killed, I grant that may be true in one case, but certainly not in the other. For by great good luck I was near the pack, following a fresh trail in the gray, breathless dawn, when the wolves killed the second deer; and there was not a sound for mortal ears to hear, not a howl or a trail cry or even a growl of any kind.

They followed, killed and ate in silence, as wolves commonly do, their howling being a thing apart from their hunting. The wounded wolf was then far away, with miles of densely wooded hills and valleys between him and his pack.

Do you ask, "How was it possible to know all this?" From the story the snow told. At daybreak I had found the trail of a hunting pack, and was following it stealthily, with many a cautious détour and look ahead, for they are unbelievably shy brutes; and so it happened that I came upon the carcass of the deer only a few minutes after the wolves had fed and roamed lazily off toward their daybed.

I followed them too eagerly, and alarmed them before I could pick the big one I wanted; whereupon they took to rough country, traveling a pace that left me hopelessly far behind. When I returned to the deer, to read how the wolves had surprised and killed their game, I noticed the fresh trail of a solitary wolf coming in at right angles to the trail of the hunting pack.

It was the limper again, who had just eaten what he wanted and trailed off by himself. I followed and soon jumped him, and took after him on the lope, thinking I could run him down or at least come near enough for a revolver-shot; but that was a foolish notion. Even on three legs he whisked through the thick timber so much easier than I could run on snowshoes that I never got a second glimpse of him.

By that time I was bound to know, if possible, how the limper happened to find this second deer for his comfort; so I picked up his incoming trail and ran it clear back to his den under the windfall, from which he had come as straight as if he knew exactly where he was heading.

His trail was from eastward; what little air was stirring came from the south; so that it was impossible for his nose to guide him to the meat even had he been within smelling distance, as he certainly was not.

The record in the snow was as plain as any other print, and from it one might reasonably conclude that either the wolves can send forth a silent food-call, with some added information, or else that a solitary wolf may be so in touch with his pack-mates that he knows not only where they are, but also, in a general way, what they are doing.

In comparison with timber-wolves the caribou is rather a witless brute; but he, too, has his "uncanny" moods, and one who patiently follows him, with deeper interest in his anima than in his antlered head, finds him frequently doing some odd or puzzling thing which may indicate a perception more subtle than that of his dull eyes or keen ears or almost perfect nose. Here is one example of Megaleep's peculiar way:

I was trailing a herd of caribou one winter day on the barrens (treeless plains or bogs) of the Renous River in New Brunswick. For hours I had followed through alternate thick timber and open bog without alarming or even seeing my game.

The animals were plainly on the move, perhaps changing their feeding-ground; and when Megaleep begins to wander no man can say where he will go, or where stop, or what he is likely to do next. Once, after trailing him eight or ten miles, twice jumping him, I met him head-on, coming briskly back in his own tracks, as if to see what was following him.

From the trail I read that there were a dozen animals in the herd, and that one poor wounded brute lagged continually behind the others. He was going on three legs; his right forefoot, the bone above it shattered by some blundering hunter's bullet, swung helplessly as he hobbled along, leaving its pathetic record in the snow.

On a wooded slope which fell away to a chain of barrens, halting to search the trail ahead, my eye caught a motion far across the open, and through the field-glass I saw my herd for the first time, resting unsuspiciously on the farther edge of the barren, a full mile or more away.

From my feet the trail led down through a dense fringe of evergreen, and then straight out across the level plain. A few of the caribou were lying down; others moved lazily in or out of the forest that shut in the barren on that side; and as I watched them two animals, yearlings undoubtedly, put their heads together for a pushing match, like domestic calves at play.

Hardly had I begun to circle the barren, keeping near the edge of it but always out of sight in the evergreens, when I ran upon a solitary caribou trail, the trail of the cripple, who had evidently wearied and turned aside to rest, perhaps knowing that his herd was near the end of its journey.

A little farther on I jumped him out of a fir thicket, and watched him a moment as he hobbled deeper into the woods, heading away to the west. The course surprised me a little, for his mates were northward; and at the thought I quickly found an opening in the cover and turned my glass upon the other caribou.

Already they were in wild alarm. For a brief interval they ran about confusedly, or stood tense as they searched the plain and the surrounding woods for the source of danger; then they pushed their noses out and racked away at a marvelous pace, crossing the barren diagonally toward me and smashing into the woods a short distance ahead, following a course which must soon bring them and their wounded mate together.

If I were dealing with people, I might say confidently that they were bent on finding out what the alarm was about; but as I have no means of knowing the caribou motive, I can only say that the two trails ran straight as a string through the timber to a meeting-point on the edge of another barren to the westward.

If you would reasonably explain the matter, remember that these startled animals were far away from me; that the cripple and myself were both hidden from their eyes, and that I was moving upwind and silently. It was impossible that they should hear or see or smell me; yet they were on their toes a moment after the cripple started up, as if he had rung a bell for them.

It was not the first time I had witnessed a herd of animals break away when, as I suspected, they had received some silent, incomprehensible warning, nor was it the last; but it was the only time when I could trace the whole process without break or question from beginning to end. And when, to test the matter to the bottom, I ran the trail of the herd back to where they had been resting, there was no track of man or beast in the surrounding woods to account for their flight.

One may explain this as a mere coincidence, which is not an explanation; or call it another example of the fact that wild animals are "queer," which is not a fact; but in my own mind every action of the caribou and all the circumstances point to a different conclusion-namely, that the fear or warning or impulse of one animal was instantly transferred to others at a distance.

I think, also, that the process was not wholly unconscious or subconscious, but that one animal sent forth his warning and the others acted upon it more or less intelligently. This last is a mere assumption, however, which cannot be proved till we learn to live in an animal's skin.

It is true that the event often befalls otherwise, since you may jump one animal without alarming others of the same herd; and it is possible that the degree or quality of the alarm has something to do with its carrying power, as we feel the intense emotion of a friend more quickly than his ordinary moods.

In this case the solitary caribou was tremendously startled; for I was very near, and the first intimation he had of me, or I of him, was when my snowshoe caught on a snag and I pitched over a log almost on top of him.

Yet the difficulty of drawing a conclusion from any single instance appears in this: that I have more than once stalked, killed and dressed an animal without disturbing others of his kind near at hand (it may be that no alarm was sent out, for the animal was shot before he knew the danger, and in the deep woods animals pay little attention to the sound of a rifle); and again, when I have been trying to approach a herd from leeward, I have seen them move away hurriedly, silently, suspiciously, in obedience to some warning which seemed to spread through the woods like a contagion.

The latter experience is common enough among hunters of big game, who are often at a loss to explain the sudden flight of animals that a moment ago, under precisely the same outward influences, were feeding or resting without suspicion.

Thus, you may be stalking a big herd of elk, or wapiti, which are spread out loosely over half a mountainside. You are keen for the master bull with the noble antlers; nothing else interests you, more's the pity; but you soon learn that the cunning old brute is hidden somewhere in the midst of the herd, depending on the screen of cow-elk to warn him of danger to his precious skin. Waiting impatiently till this vanguard has moved aside, you attempt to worm your way nearer to the hidden bull.

You are succeeding beautifully, you think, when a single cow that you overlooked begins to act uneasily. She has not seen or heard you, certainly, and the wind is still in your favor; but there she stands, like an image of suspicion, head up, looking, listening, testing the air, till she makes up her mind she would as lief be somewhere else, when without cry or grunt or warning of any kind that ears can hear she turns and glides rapidly away.

Now if you value animal lore above stuffed skins, or experience above the babble of hunting naturalists, forget the big bull and his greed-stirring antlers; scramble quickly to the highest outlook at hand, and use your eyes. No alarm has been sounded; the vast silence is unbroken; yet for some mysterious reason the whole herd is suddenly on the move.

To your right, to your left, near at hand or far away, bushes quiver or jump; alert brown forms appear or vanish like shadows, all silent and all heading in the direction taken by the first sentinel. One moment there are scores of elk in sight, feeding or resting quietly; the next they are gone and the great hillside is lifeless.

The thrill of that silent, moving drama has more wisdom in it, yes, and more pleasure, than the crash of your barbarous rifle or the convulsive kicking of a stricken beast that knows not why you should kill him.

Such is the experience, known to almost every elk-hunter who has learned that life is more interesting than death; and I know nothing of deer nature to explain it save this-that the whole herd has suddenly felt and understood the silent impulse to go, and has obeyed it without a question, as the young wolf or fox cub obeys the silent return call of his watchful mother.

Such impulses seem to be more common and more dependable among the whales, which have rudimentary or imperfect sense-organs, but which are nevertheless delicately sensitive to external impressions, to the approach of unseen danger, to the movements of the tiny creatures on which they feed, to changes of wind or tide and to a falling barometer, as if nature had given them a first-class feeling apparatus of some kind to make up for their poor eyes and ears.

Repeatedly have I been struck by this extraordinary sensitiveness when watching the monstrous creatures feeding with the tide in one of the great bays of the Newfoundland or the Labrador coast. If I lowered a boat to approach one of them, he would disappear silently before I could ever get near enough to see clearly what he was doing.

That seemed odd to me; but presently I began to notice a more puzzling thing: at the instant my whale took alarm every other whale of the same species seemed to be moved by the same impulse, sounding when the first sounded, or else turning with him to head for the open sea.

A score of times I tried the experiment, and commonly, but not invariably, with the same result. I would sight a few leviathans playing or feeding, shooting up from the deep, breaching half their length out of water to fall back with a tremendous souse; and through my glasses I would pick up others here or there in the same bay.

Selecting a certain whale, I would glide rapidly toward him, crouching low in the dory and sculling silently by means of an oar over the stern. By some odd channel of perception (not by sight, certainly, for I kept out of the narrow range of his eye, and a whale is not supposed to smell or hear) he would invariably get wind of me and go down; and then, jumping to my feet, I would see other whales in the distance catch the instant alarm, some upending as they plunged to the deeps, others whirling seaward and forging full speed ahead.

This observation of mine is not unique, as I supposed, for later I heard it echoed as a matter of course by the whalemen. Thus, when I talked with my friend, Captain Rule, about the ways of the great creatures he had followed in the old whaling-days, he said, "The queerest habit of a whale, or of any other critter I ever fell foul of, was this: when I got my boat close enough to a sperm-whale to put an iron into him, every other sperm-whale within ten miles would turn flukes, as if he had been harpooned, too."

But he added that he had not noticed the same contagion of alarm, not in the same striking or instantaneous way, when hunting the right or Greenland whale-perhaps because the latter is, as a rule, more solitary in its habits.

Wolves and caribou and whales are far from the observation of most folk; but the winter birds in your own yard may some time give you a hint, at least, of the same mysterious transference of an impulse over wide distances. When you scatter food for them during a cold snap or after a storm (it is better not to feed them regularly, I think, especially in mild weather when their proper food is not covered with snow) your bounty is at first neglected except by the house sparrows and starlings.

Unlike our native birds, these imported foreigners are easily "pauperized," seeking no food for themselves so long as you take care of them. They keep tabs on you, also, waiting patiently about the house, and soon learn what it means when you emerge from your back door on a snowy morning with a broom in one hand and a pan in the other. They are feeding greedily the moment your back is turned, and for a time they are the only birds at the table.

When they have gorged themselves, for they have no manners, a few tree-sparrows and juncos flit in to eat daintily. Then suddenly the wilder birds appear-jays, chickadees, siskins, kinglets and, oh, welcome! a flock of bob-whites-coming from you know not where, in obedience to a summons which you have not heard.

Some of these may have visited the yard in time past, and are returning to it now, hunger driven; but others you have never before met within the city limits, and a few have their accustomed dwelling in the pine woods, which are miles away. How did these hungry hermits suddenly learn that food was here?

The answer to that question is simple, and entirely "sensible" if you think only of birds that live or habitually glean in your neighborhood. Some of them saw you scatter the food, or else found it by searching, while others spied these lucky ones feeding and came quickly to join the feast.

For birds that live wider afield there is also an explanation that your senses can approve, though it is probably wrong or only half right: from a distance they chanced to see wings speeding in the direction of your yard, and followed them expectantly because wings may be as eloquent as voices, the flight of a bird when he is heading for food being very different from the flight of the same bird when he is merely looking for food.

But these most rare visitors, kinglets or pine-finches or grosbeaks or bobwhites, that never before entered your yard, and that would not be here now had you not thought to scatter food this morning,-at these you shake your head, calling it chance or Providence or mystery, according to your mood or disposition.

To me, after observing the matter closely many times, the reasonable explanation of these rare visitors is that either wild birds know how to send forth a silent food-call or, more likely, that the excitement of feeding birds spreads powerfully outward, and is felt by other starving birds, alert and sensitive, at a distance beyond all possible range of sight or hearing.

By no other hypothesis can I account for the fact that certain wild birds make their appearance in my yard at a moment when a number of other birds are eagerly feeding, and at no other time, though I watch for them from one year's end to another.

Like every other explanation, whether of stars or starlings, this also leads to a greater mystery. The distance at which such a summoning call can be felt by others must be straitly limited, else would all the starving birds of a state be flocking to my yard on certain mornings; and the force by which the silent call is projected is as unknown as the rare mental ether which bears its waves or vibrations in all directions.

Yet the problem need not greatly trouble us, since the answer, when it comes, will be as natural as breathing. If silent or telepathic communication exists in nature, and I think it surely does, the mystery before us is no greater than that which daily confronts the astronomer or the wireless operator.

One measures the speed of light from Orion; the other projects his finger-touch across an ocean; but neither can tell or even guess the quality of the medium by which the light or the electric wave is carried to its destination.

Reprinted by permission of Inner Traditions Publisher. Copyright © 2005.

To order this book from, click here!

Google Search Our Pages or the Internet Here

Search WWW Search

Please Visit Our Sponsors
Atlantic University
Association for Research and Enlightenment
The Edgar Cayce Institute for Intuitive Studies

Web Design by HENRY REED and MARIO HADAM. All Rights Reserved.

Atlantic University Association for Research & Enlightenment The Edgar Cayce Institute for Intuitive Studies