Their ceaseless industry, when there is work to do, has become proverbial, but many authorities have also noted an indulgence in play. A recent observer describes the delight exhibited by ants when placed near a fire. “They embraced each other and skipped and danced like playful Iambs or kittens.”
Careful removal of the dead has also been observed. They are ingenious in economizing labour; for example, they drop desired objects from a height to others waiting below.
They are clever in overcoming obstacles, as is illustrated by the formation of living bridges and the architectural devices exhibited in their nests.
Many examples of intelligence in beavers could be given. But this will be sufficiently illustrated by a description of one of their most marvelous feats, the building of a dam, by which they widen the area and increase the depth of water round about their homes. These vary in structure according to the nature of the locality.
They are either made of sticks and poles, with a slight embankment of earth, not enough to prevent the surplus water flowing freely through, or they are constructed more firmly and solidly of mud, brushwood and stones.
The curvature of the dam is adjusted to the direction of the current; the wear is remedied by fresh building; and auxiliary dams are constructed, to all appearance simply for the purpose of breaking the flow of water in the main dam.
The memory of the elephant, both for friends and foes, is strong, and has more than once been illustrated by tamed elephants, which, having escaped and been recaptured, returned with all their old obedience to their keeper.
Their cleverness in assisting human labour, the delight with which decoys practice deceit, the manner in which they thatch their backs in summer to keep off sun and flies, are all remarkable. To pile up materials round the base of a tree, so as to reach an enemy, shows decided power of reasoning.
An elephant has been known to feign death and working tamed elephants are said to have an accurate sense of time. Their capacity for tricks is almost unlimited. They can be taught to take tea at a table and ring for the waiter, to uncork bottle and drink the contents, and even to salute princes.
Many other animals, among which the dog and the monkey are notable, show remarkable sagacity; but the instances given should be a sufficient proof that intelligence is not the prerogative of the human race alone.