Day: December 24, 2014

by Karen Gravelle and Anne Squire

This book is all about how animals communicate, with each other and with us. It\’s written for young readers (I would say age group eight to twelve) but is very informative and I even learned a few things (that ducklings coordinate their hatching time by responding to the mother\’s calls through the shell, and that rattlesnakes can\’t hear the sound they produce with their own tails!) While none of the topics are discussed in a lot of depth, they are all clearly presented. Each section is headed with a short descriptive passage of an animal interacting with others, and then the following chapter explains how this is possible. Not only the different methods animals use to communicate- sound, scent, touch, body posture and so on- but also why their communication abilities differ (animals that live underground or are nocturnal don\’t use many visual signals, for example). Animals featured in the book include honeybees, rattlesnakes, prairie dogs, housecats, chimpanzees, songbirds, elephants, seals, deer, frogs, sheep and even certain fish (which pulse electric signals to each other)! The final chapters discuss why dogs are so good at communicating with people (we share many similar types of signals) and how humans have taught signals and rudimentary language to dolphins, chimpanzees and gorillas. I was familiar with the apes briefly presented here- Lucy, Washoe and Koko. Even though this book is written for kids, it was a satisfying quick read for me.

Rating: 3/5        114 pages, 1988

by Barbara Woodhouse

An old book I picked up at a secondhand shop once. The author is an adamant animal-lover, and she tells of her life with various animals, how she raised and trained many, her methods and affinity with them. She can be stern but mostly comes across in this book as training animals with encouragement and praise. The book opens with her childhood around horses and dogs, and she tells of attending an agricultural college when few women were allowed to. She then went to visit friends at a cattle range in Argentina and ended up staying on and working for them, stepping in wherever needed- as much as they would allow! Women weren\’t supposed to break horses, so it took some cleverness on her part to be allowed the chance, and once the men saw she could train a horse in a few days with gentle methods, she got the job to break and train horses continually. Returning to England she faced hard times during war years, had to sell her horses but started keeping dairy cows to sell milk in the neighborhood- so there\’s a lot about her work with cows- not only how she kept them and got extra yield, but also how she let her children ride the cows and eventually was called up anytime someone wanted a cow to use in a film! because hers were known for being docile and that she could \”do anything with them.\” When the war ended her household moved, and she began buying and selling cattle, but eventually got back into training horses again, and then tried to get her favorite dog- a great dane- acting in films as well. She found it difficult and tiresome to deal with film companies, but became known as a dog trainer and took up running dog obedience classes as well. This was not a woman to ever take no for an answer- often she got around regulations for her dairy cattle, she made and produced her own film on dog training and self-published a book about her great dane. There are a lot more stories in here, all wrapped around the animals, her love for them, and her claims that upon initially earning an animal\’s trust, she could teach it to do anything she wanted.

I found particularly interesting the description of her time spent in South America, the different customs there and methods they used to manage livestock and train their horses. She also tells of becoming diabetic while she lived there, and nearly died of the condition until she took a local remedy from a tree which she claims completely cured her.

Also a curious passage which made me wonder about the origins of the nursery ryhme/song \”Rock a Bye Baby\”. She tells of a native custom where if a baby died, the people did not want to put the body underground but instead would tie the small coffin up in a tree. And a storm blew it down. And they collected the remains and tied it up again. She doesn\’t say how long they would leave the coffin in the tree- indefinitely?

Rating: 3/5        208 pages, 1974

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All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

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