OLFACTORY NERVES. The sense of smell is mostly connected with our enjoyment; occasionally, however, it is a source, perhaps a useful one, of inconvenience and annoyance. In the quadruped it is connected with life itself; it is that by which the animal is guided in the choice of wholesome food, and by which also he is chiefly led to the perpetuation of his species.
An acute sense of smell is necessary to the quadruped. Every plant has its peculiar scent, and probably a scent of a marked character as connected with nutrition or destruction. We find out something of this by experience; the brute learns it by mingled experience and instinct. Without instruction, and without experience the beast has generally some salutary warning to guide him to that which is nutritive, and to warn him from that which would be poisonous. He is however sometimes deceived; but that is only in the early part of the spring, when the scent of the infant plant is not developed. Horses at grass are frequently ill at that time, and cattle more seriously so, and, occasionally, they are actually poisoned. When the great Linnaeus visited Tornea, the inhabitants complained of a distemper which killed many of their cattle, and especially when first turned out into the meadows in spring. He soon traced the disorder to the water hemlock ( cicuta), which grew abundantly there, and which in the spring the cattle did not know how to avoid. Instinct is not an unerring guide; it is a powerful principle, and was wisely and kindly given where reason is limited; it dees not, however, always guide the animal when placed in an unnatural situation, or shield him from the consequences of our absurd management. When our calves and lambs are taken too soon from the dam, and turned with little or no experience into the pasture, they eat indiscriminately every herb that presents itself, and many of them are lost. Had they been suffered to browse a little while, or a little longer, with the mother, she would have taught them to distinguish the sweet and wholesome herbage from the deleterious and destructive. This is a point of agricultural economy not sufficiently attended to.
For the immediate and natural purposes of the animal, instinct is strong, but nature has made no provision for our folly. Galen once took a kid from the womb of its mother, and carried it into an adjoining room: he had previously prepared three dishes, containing various sweetened and templing things, and one of corn, and one of simple milk. The little animal after having licked and cleaned itself for a while, got up and smelled at every dish, and began to lap the milk, and drank it up. Here instinct was as strong as the purposes of the creature required. Milk was destined to be his first food, and instinct led him immediately to that. But nature designed that he should be gradually accustomed to his after-food by the side and under the tuition of his dam. But if the farmer, from ignorance or caprice, or because he thinks he can rear a few more calves, or bring his lambs or their mothers earlier to market, separates the one from the other, and turns out his young stock to browse, inexperienced and untaught, why he must take the consequence of his folly and his avarice.
Here we cannot refrain from making an extract from Professor Youatt's Fifth Veterinary Lecture, delivered at the University of London. Speaking of the acuteness of smell in different animals, Mr. Youatt says, " Observe all our domesticated animals, how carefully they examine their food and their water, and judge of their good or bad qualities by the smell. They submit every stranger to the scrutiny of this sense and form their opinion of him, and even of his intentions, by the intelligence which they obtain through its medium.
" Passing by all other animals, we trace in the dog the triumph of olfactory power. How indistinct must be that scent which is communicated to, and lingers on the ground, by the momentary contact of the pricks of the hare, the ball of the fox, or the slot of the deer! Yet the hound of various breeds recognises it for hours, and some sportsmen have said for more than a day; and he can not only distinguish the scent of one species of animal from another, but that of different animals of the same species. The fox-hound, well broken in, will rarely challenge at the scent of the hare, nor will he be imposed upon when the crafty animal that he pursues has himself taken refuge in the earth, and thrust out a new victim before the pack. The bloodhound, too, gives interesting proof of almost incredible acuteness of smell."
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835
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