• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

Unusual friendships

Food For Thought

I caught part of a recent television program dealing with inter-species friendships in the animal kingdom. When I tuned in, they were discussing an unusual relationship between a Labrador pup and a young lion. They did a lot of racing around and playing just about the same as animal siblings do, and I thought about the kitten we had at one time. She came into a household that already had two female dogs, who got along peacefully, and she was soon adopted by the youngest (and smallest) of the two, who tended to mother her. It wasn’t long before she came to trust the much larger dog and they all seemed to enjoy the three-way tag-team wrestling matches they invented. (That same dog later adopted a baby squirrel that had fallen from its nest. Maybe she had an over-developed mothering instinct.)
The cat-dog friendship doesn’t surprise me much, as both species have been domesticated for so many generations and I doubt they retained much of the strong primal instincts that would have dictated they were enemies, rivals as hunters, and possibly even prey and predator in the natural world. The oldest and most common inter-species relationship is probably between man and dog– which began when dogs were wolves. As man began to plant crops and establish villages, wolves learned there was an easy food source to be found in the village dump. It required only a little trust on both sides and wolves lost some of their fear of man, and man lost some of his fear of the wolf, and the two of them began to realize they could not only get along in peace, but they could care about and protect each other.
I learned recently two new breeds of dogs have been recognized by the American Kennel Club. In spite of the great differences among the many breeds of dogs in the world, they all are direct descendants of the wolf– an amazing fact when you consider all the various characteristics.
There were other odd or unlikely relationships described on that program as well. There was a billy goat who looked after a blind horse for years, leading him through the timber to the best meadow for grazing, and waiting nearby for when it was time to escort him home. There was an orphaned fawn who played with the family dog in a back yard, then bounded off to hide in the woods until the next day. When the fawn grew into an adult, she brought her own fawns to visit and play in the yard.
At this point, the program had dealt only with those odd friendships in which both parties were mammals, and knowing that mammals share many characteristics, that seemed to be part of a logical explanation. Then, we were introduced to a huge tortoise who was befriended by a goose who not only stayed with the tortoise for years, but tended to drive off all other creatures who got too near or were suspect of wanting to eat the tortoise’s favorite food. I wondered if the goose had been abandoned at a young age and imprinted on the tortoise, as members of the bird family are prone to do– much like an Easter chick that became attached to one of my sisters and followed her everywhere one summer.
There were other examples of odd friendships between primates, such as gorillas, monkeys and baboons which, even though they are all primates, have a tendency to associate only with others within their own tribe or family group.
Then there are the symbiotic relationships, such as the birds which follow the American bison around and feed on the insects that can make life miserable for the bison. This mutually beneficial “friendship,” however, can exist between plants and animals, as well as between members of the animal kingdom, so it doesn’t seem to be quite the same thing.
I’ve seen llamas guarding flocks of sheep or other animals, much as sheepdogs would do, though the sheepdogs, we assume, work with man and have been trained for the job. Such dogs, border collies and sheepdogs, have a proclivity for herding and protecting and have been known to tend children, geese or other groups simply because it is their nature. as much as a result of any training.
It is the unusual friendships between predators and prey that seem the most unlikely and remarkable. It all reminds me of paintings by American artist Edward Hicks who painted during the early nineteenth century. His most popular painting, “The Peaceable Kingdom,” illustrates, quite literally, the description in the book of Isaiah of the lion lying down with the lamb, and the child playing by the entrance to the snake’s den. Hicks painted at least 25 versions of the idyllic scene– apparently to satisfy people who requested their own copies of the dream of Paradise on earth as described in the Bible. One of the many perpetual hopes of mankind.