Saturday, June 07, 2008


I’m always reading several books at once. I like to have one of them be a naturalist’s account of watching animals.

In a chapter on hyenas in her Innocent Killers Jane Goodall describes a play session between two pups:

“Master Beige … was full grown, whilst Brindle was still only about three months old. The game began when Brindle pounced on a rather large and very smooth roundish stone. Opening his mouth as wide as it would go, he struggled to pick it up, but it was just too big and his teeth kept slipping. Just as it seemed that he had, at last, managed to get a grip, Master Beige ambled up, seized hold of his small sibling’s ear, and pulled. Brindle sprawled on the ground, but in a flash he was up and again trying to pick up his stone. But Master Beige, by worrying the scruff of Brindle’s neck, yanking at his ears and pulling at his cheek hairs, made it impossible for Brindle to get a grip on his plaything.

“Suddenly, Brindle left the stone and darted to seize his tormentor by the tail, hanging on tight with his sturdy legs braced as Master Beige turned to bite at him. Gradually they moved farther back, Brindle still gripping his brother’s tail. And then, as fast as his short legs would go, Brindle ran back to the unguarded stone. But Master Beige was too quick for him and grabbed the toy himself, running off in the moonlight with his head turned back over his shoulder, inviting pursuit. Brindle lumbered along behind. Master Beige slowed his gait until his sibling could bite at the stone in his mouth, and then he dropped it on the ground. Brindle once more tried to get a grip on it, but always, if it seemed he might actually pick it up, Master Beige pounced, picked up the stone himself and loped off with it for a few yards. Brindle followed, Master Beige dropped the stone again, and so it went on.

“After a while Brindle, it seemed, gave up. He wandered away until he reached a thorny plant and pulled on a twig until it broke off. Master Beige watched him. Brindle shook his twig, dropped it and pounced on it. Master Beige could resist no longer. He loped across to join his sibling in a tug-of-war. But the moment one end of the twig was firmly in Master Beige’s mouth, Brindle dropped his end and raced back to the stone. Still, of course, he could not pick it up, but this time, as his big brother bounced back to grab the toy, Brindle firmly sat on it.”

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