Monthly Archives: September 2012

Incey, Wincey, Spider

I am going to be honest from the start of this post – I loathe spiders. I suppose I have a very mild form of arachnophobia – I can ignore the really little ones, but the big ones can leave me frozen where I stand. (Which is unhelpful if I am the only one at home!) And spiders usually feature in my nightmares. So imagine my ‘joy’ at finding a couple of large spiders sheltering from the rain in my flat this morning.

Whenever I mention my dislike of these creepy crawlies to anyone, the usual response I get is ‘well they are harmless and they catch flies – so what’s the problem?’ Well I say that is all well and good, but Continue reading


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A Lesson In Loyalty and Devotion

The Grave of Greyfriars Bobby

Close to the entrance of Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh, stands a headstone inscribed ‘Let his Loyalty and Devotion be a lesson to us all’. The stone marks the grave of Greyfriars Bobby, whose famous story may be known to you. Many versions of this story have been told, as many historians search to find the definitive truth about this devoted Skye Terrier. However, like all good historical animal tales, and despite this myriad of opinions, there is something about the story of Greyfriars Bobby that people want to believe, at least I do.

Yet, occasionally you come across a new interpretation of the story that makes you stop and think. Well, this happened to me earlier this year, when I stumbled across a book with an alternative theory on the life and devotion of Bobby, and it got me thinking about the relationship between man and his best friend. And perhaps the loyalty and devotion is not as one-sided as we would like to believe.

I wrote the piece for the Queen Mary Centre for the History of the Emotions  Blog. So instead of reposting it here, I thought I would just point you in its direction, so please click for ‘Loyalty and a Dog called Bobby‘ – you’ll find plenty of other posts to interest you there as well.

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Filed under Emotional Animals

A Old Approach to Waspishness?

Perhaps it was the chill in the air, the fact I finally pulled out my collection of jumpers, or that I even considered the need for a jacket, but something this morning told me that summer really was on its way out. (If it ever really arrived this year anyway). However, in this quiet moment of reflection, my thoughts wandered to all the changes in animal inhabitants of my garden that are becoming apparent. The number of spiders has risen quite dramatically, whilst the number of flying insects has steadily begun to fall. Fewer bees can be found buzzing around the roses and, thankfully, fewer wasps will be arriving, uninvited into the kitchen. But, perhaps, I have been misjudging wasps, and if you can spare me a few moments, I would like to try and explain my (slight) change of view.

Wasp – nasty or nice?. Copyright Peter Dahlgren, flickr

In a book that will in the future be referred to often on ‘tales of animals past’ Mind in the Lower Animals (1879), William Lauder Lindsay (Scottish Alienist and scholar of the animal mind), writes that man himself has ascribed the characteristics of irritability, ill-nature, spite and vengefulness onto wasps. And this in spite of their natural character which is quite the opposite Continue reading


Filed under Moral Treatment of Animals

The Animal Side of Art

Last week, an online media outlet (that does not need to be named here)  posted a link to an article and entitled it ‘Our favourite animal that thinks its human moment…’. This struck a cord with me – and not because I believe that animals, on occasion, may/could think of themselves as human. Now this may not strictly have an historical element to the story, and because of that I have been quite undecided as to whether to share this as my first post. But, upon reflection, if I can’t write about it here, where can I write about it.

The story was about an elephant that paints. This is only one of many stories that are out there about animal art. But what struck me about this interpretation is that art was presented as something that defines us as human. Continue reading

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