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History of Animals, Book I, Ch. 1

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1. Some parts of animals are simple, and these can be divided into like parts, as flesh into pieces of flesh; others are compound, and cannot be divided into like parts, as the hand cannot be divided into hands, nor the face into faces. Of these some are not only called parts, but members, such as those which, though entire in themselves, are made up of other parts, as the head and the leg, the hand and the entire arm, or the trunk; for these parts are both entire in them selves, and made up of other parts.

2. All the compound parts also are made up of simple parts, the hand, for example, of flesh, and sinew, and bone. Some animals have all these parts the same, in others they are different from each other. Some of the parts are the same in form, as the nose and eye of one man is the same as the nose and eye of anotherman, and flesh is the samewith flesh, and bone with bone. In like manner we may compare the parts of the horse, and of other animals, those parts, that is, which are the samein species, for the whole bears the same relation to the whole as the parts do to each other. And in animals belonging to the same class, the parts are the same, only they differ in excess or defect. By class, I mean such as bird or fish, for all these differ if either compared with their own class or with another, and there are many forms of birds and fishes.

3. Nearly all their parts differ in them according to the opposition of their external qualities, such as colour or shape, in that some are more, others are less affected, or sometimes in number more or less, or in size greater and smaller, or in any quality which can be included in excess or defect. For some animals have a soft skin, in others the skin is shelly; some have a long bill, as cranes, others a short one; somehave many feathers, others very few; some also have parts which are wanting in others, for some species have spurs, others have none; some have a crest, others have not. But, so to say, their principal parts and those which form the bulk of their body, are either the same, or vary only in their opposites, and in excess and defect.

4. By excess and defect I mean the greater and the less. But some animals agree with each other in their parts neither in form, nor in excess and defect, but have only an analogous likeness, such as a bone bears to a spine, a nail to a hoof, a hand to a crab’s claw, the scale of a fish to the feather of a bird, for that which is a feather in the birds is a scale in the fish. With regard then to the parts which each class of animal possesses, they agree and differ in this manner, and also in the position of the parts. For many animals have the same parts, but not in the same position, as the mammæ which are either pectoral or abdominal. But of the simple parts some are soft and moist, others hard and dry.

5. The soft parts are either entirely so, or so long as they are in a natural condition, as blood, serum, fat, tallow, mar row, semen, gall, milk (in those animals which give milk), flesh, and other analogous parts of the body. In another manner also the excretions of the body belong to this class, as phlegm, and the excrements of the abdomen and bladder; the hard and dry parts are sinew, skin, vein, hair, bone, car tilage, nail, horn, for that part bears the same name, and on thewhole is called horn, and the other parts of the body which are analogous to these.

6. Animals also differ in their manner of life, in their actions and dispositions, and in their parts. Wewill first of all speak generally of these differences, and afterwards con sider eachspecies separately. The following are the points in which they vary in manner of life, in their actions and dispositions. Some animals are aquatic, others live on the land; and the aquatic may again be divided into two classes, for some entirely exist and procure their food in the water, and take in and give out water, and cannot live without it; this is the nature of most fishes. But there are others which, though they live and feed in the water, do not take in water but air, and produce their young out of the water. Many of these animals are furnished with feet, as the otter and the latax ‘ and the crocodile, or with wings, as the seagull and diver, and others are without feet, as the water -serpent. Some procure their food from the water, and cannot live out of thewater, but neither inhale air nor water, as the acalephez and the oyster.

7. Different aquatic animals are found in the sea, in rivers, in lakes, and in marshes, as the frog and newt, and of marine animals some are pelagic, some littoral, and some saxatile. Some land animals take in and give out air, and this is called inhaling and exhaling; such are man, and all other land animals which are furnished with lungs; some, however, which procure their food from the earth, do not inhale air, as the wasp, the bee, and all other insects. By insects I mean those animals which have divisions in their bodies, whether in the lower part only, or both in the upper and lower. Many land animals, as I have already observed, procure their food fromthe water, butthere are no aquatic or marine animals which find their food on land. There are some animals which at first inhabit the water, but afterwards change into a different form, and live out of the water; this happens to the gnat in the rivers, and which afterwards becomes an oestrum.

8. Again, there are some creatures which are stationary, while others are locomotive; the fixed animals are aquatic, but this is not the case with any of the inhabitants of the land. Many aquatic animals aiso grow upon each other; this is the case with several genera of shell-fish: the sponge also exhibits some signs of sensation, for they say that it is drawn up with some difficulty, unless the attempt to remove it is made stealthily. Other animals also there are which are alternately fixed together or free, this is the case with a certain kind of acalephe; some of these become separated during the night, andemigrate. Many animals are separate from each other, but incapable of voluntary movement, as oysters, and the animal called holothuria. Some aquatic animals are swimmers, as fish, and the mollusca, and the malacostraca, as the crabs. Others creep on the bottom, as the crab, for this, though an aquatic animal, naturally creeps.

9. Of land animals some arefurnished with wings,as birds and bees, and these differ in other respects from each other; others have feet, and of this class some species walk, others crawl, and others creep in the mud. There is no animal which has only wings as fish have only fins, for those animals whose wings are formed by an expansion of the skin can walk, and the bat has feet, the seal has imperfect feet. Among birds there are some with very imperfect feet, which are thefefore called apodes; they are, however, provided with very strong wings, and almost all birds that are similar to this one have strong wings and imperfect feet, as the swallow and drepanis; for all this class of birds is alike both in ha bits and in the structure of their wings, and their whole appearance is very similar. The apost is seen at all times ofthe year, but the drepanis can only be taken in rainy weatherduring the summer, and on thewhole is a rare bird.

10. Many animals, however, can both walk and swim. The following are the differences exhibited by animals in their habits and their actions. Some of them are gregarious, and others solitary, both in the classes which are furnished with feet, and those which have wings, or fins. Some partake of both characters, and of those that are gregarious, as well as those that are solitary, some unite in societies and some are scattered. Gregarious birds are such as the pigeon, stork, swan, but no bird with hooked claws is gregarious. Among swimming animals some fish are gregarious, as the dromas, tunny, pelamis, amia?

11. But man partakes of both qualities. Those which have a common employment are called social, but that is not the case with all gregarious animals. Man, and the bee, the wasp, and the ant, and the stork belong to this class. Some ofthese obey a leader, others are anarchical; the stork and the bee are of the former class, the ant and many others belong to the latter. Some animals, both in the gregarious and solitary class, are limited to one locality, others are migratory. There are also carnivorous animals, herbivorous, omnivorous, and others which eat peculiar food, as the bee and the spider; the former eats only honey and a few other sweet things, while spiders prey upon flies. and there are other animals which feed entirely on fish. Somo animals hunt for their food, and some make a store, which others do not. There are also animals which make babita tions for themselves, and others which do not. The mole, the mouse, the ant, and the bee, make habitations, but many kinds both of insects and quadrupeds make no dwelling.

12. With regard to situation, some are troglodite, as lizards and serpents, others, as the horse and dog, live upon the sur face of the earth. Some kinds of animals burrow in the ground, others do not; some animals are nocturnal,as the owl and the bat, others use the hours of daylight. There are tame animals and wild animals. Man and the mule are al ways tame, theleopard and the wolf are invariably wild, and others, as the elephant, are easily tamed. We may, however, view them in another way, for all the genera that have been tamed are found wild also, as horses, oxen, swine, sheep, goats, and dogs.

13. Some animals utter a loud cry, some are silent, and others have a voice, which in some cases may be expressed by a word, in others it cannot. There are also noisy animals and silent animals, musical and unmusical kinds, but they are mostly noisy about the breeding season. Some, as the dove, frequent fields, others, as the hoopoe, live on the mountains; some attach themselves to man, as the pigeon. Some are lascivious, as the partridge and domestic fowl, and others are chaste, as the raven, which rarely cohabits.

14. Again, there are classes of animals furnished with weaponsof offence, others with weapons of defence; in the former I include those which are capable of inflicting an in jury, or of defending themselves when they are attacked; in the latter those which are provided with some natural pro tection against injury.

15. Animals also exhibit many differences of disposition. Some are gentle, peaceful, and not violent, as the ox. Some are violent, passionate, and intractable, as the wild buar. Some are prudent andfearful, as the stag and the hare. Serpents are illiberal and crafty. Others, as the lion, are liberal, noble, and generous. Others are brave, wild, and crafty, like the wolf. For there is this difference between the generous and the brave — the former means that which comes of a noble race, the latter that which does not easily depart from its own nature.

16. Some animals are cunning and evil-disposed, as the fox; others, as the dog, are fierce, friendly, and fawning. Some are gentle and easily tamed, as the elephant; some are susceptible of shame,and watchful, as the goose. Some arejealous, and fond of ornament, as the peacock. But man is the only animal capable of reasoning, though many others possess the faculty of memory and instruction in common with him. No other animal but man has the power of recollection. In another place we will treat more accu rately of the disposition and manner of life in each class.

Source:  Aristotle, History of Animals; translated by Richard Cresswell, M.A. (1862)


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