SOME TRUE STORIES OP HORSES AND DONKEYS
By W. H. G. Kingston
The horse becomes the willing servant of man, and when kindly
treated looks upon him as a friend and protector.
I have an interesting story to tell you of a mare which belonged to
Captain Ió, an old settler in New Zealand. She and her foal had
been placed in a paddock, between which and her master's residence,
three or four miles away, several high fences intervened. The
paddock itself was surrounded by a still higher fence.
One day, however, as Captain Iówas standing with a friend in front
of his house, he was surprised to see the mare come galloping up.
Supposing that the fence of her paddock had been broken down, and
that, pleased at finding herself at liberty, she had leaped the
others, he ordered a servant to take her back. The mare willingly
followed the man; but in a short time was seen galloping up towards
the house in as great a hurry as before. The servant, who arrived
some time afterwards, assured his master that he had put the mare
safely into the paddock. Captain Iótold him again to take back the
animal, and to examine the fence more thoroughly, still believing
that it must have been broken down in some part or other, though
the gate might be secure.
Captain Ióand his friend then retired into the house, and were
seated at dinner, when the sound of horse's hoofs reached their
ears. The friend, who had on this got up to look out of the window,
saw that it was the mare come back for the third time; and
observing the remarkable manner in which she was running up and
down, apparently trying even to get into the house, exclaimed,
"What can that mare want? I am sure that there is something the
matter." Captain Ióon hearing this hurried out to ascertain the
state of the case. No sooner did the mare see him than she began to
frisk about and exhibit the most lively satisfaction; but instead
of stopping to receive the accustomed caress, off she set again of
her own accord towards the paddock, looking back to ascertain
whether her master was following. His friend now joined him, and
the mare, finding that they were keeping close behind her, trotted
on till the gate of the paddock was reached, where she waited for
them. On its being opened, she led them across the field to a deep
ditch on the farther side, when, what was their surprise to find
that her colt had fallen into it, and was struggling on its back
with its legs in the air, utterly unable to extricate itself. In a
few minutes more probably it would have been dead. The mare, it was
evident, finding that the servant did not comprehend her wishes,
had again and again sought her master, in whom she had learned from
past experience to confide. Here was an example of strong maternal
affection eliciting a faculty superior to instinct, which fully
merits the name of reason.
[Illustration: GINGER AND I WERE STANDING ALONE IN THE SHADE
From the painting by Maude Scrivener]
The memory of horses is remarkable. The newsman of a country paper
was in the habit of riding his horse once or twice a week to the
houses of fifty or sixty of his customers, the horse invariably
stopping of his own accord at each house as he reached it.
But the memory of the horse was exhibited in a still more curious
manner. It happened that there were two persons on the route who
took one paper between them, and each claimed the privilege of
having it first on each alternate week. The horse soon became
accustomed to this regulation, and though the parties lived two
miles distant, he stopped once a fortnight at the door of the
half-customer at one place, and once a fortnight at the door of the
half-customer at the other; and never did he forget this
arrangement, which lasted for several years.
I was once travelling in the interior of Portugal with several
companions. My horse had never been in that part of the country
before. We left our inn at daybreak, and proceeded through a
mountainous district to visit some beautiful scenery. On our return
evening was approaching, when I stopped behind my companions to
tighten the girths of my saddle. Believing that there was only one
path to take, I rode slowly on, but shortly reached a spot where I
was in some doubt whether I should go forward or turn off to the
left. I shouted, but heard no voice in reply, nor could I see any
trace of my friends. Darkness was coming rapidly on. My horse
seeming inclined to take the left hand, I thought it best to let
him do so. In a short time the sky became overcast, and there was
no moon. The darkness was excessive. Still my steed stepped boldly
on. So dense became the obscurity, that I could not see his ears;
nor could I, indeed, distinguish my own hand held out at
arms-length. I had no help for it but to place the reins on my
horse's neck and let him go forward.
We had heard of robberies and murders committed; and I knew that
there were steep precipices, down which, had my horse fallen, we
should have been dashed to pieces. Still the firm way in which he
trotted gave me confidence. Hour after hour passed by. The darkness
would, at all events, conceal me from the banditti, if such were in
waitóthat was one consolation; but then I could not tell where my
horse might be taking me. It might be far away from where I hoped
to find my companions.
At length I heard a dog bark, and saw a light twinkling far down
beneath me, by which I knew that I was still on the mountain-side.
Thus on my steady steed proceeded, till I found that he was going
along a road, and I fancied I could distinguish the outlines of
trees on either hand. Suddenly he turned on one side, when my hat
was nearly knocked off by striking against the beam of a trellised
porch, covered with vines; and to my joy I found that he had
brought me up to the door of the inn which we had left in the
My companions, trusting to their human guide, had not arrived,
having taken a longer though safer route. My steed had followed the
direct path over the mountains which we had pursued in the morning.
Another horse of mine, which always appeared a gentle animal, and
which constantly carried a lady, was, during my absence, ridden by
a friend with spurs. On my return, I found that he had on several
occasions attacked his rider, when dismounted, with his fore-feet,
and had once carried off the rim of his hat. From that time forward
he would allow no one to approach him if he saw spurs on his heels;
and I was obliged to blindfold him when mounting and dismounting,
as he on several occasions attacked me as he had done my friend.
A horse was shut up in a paddock near Leeds, in a corner of which
stood a pump with a tub beneath it.
The groom, however, often forgot to fill the tub, the horse having
thus no water to drink. The animal had observed the way in which
water was procured, and one night, when the tub was empty, was seen
to take the pump handle in his mouth, and work it with his head
till he had procured as much water as he required.
A remarkable instance of a horse saving human life occurred some
years ago at the Cape of Good Hope. A storm was raging when a
vessel, dragging her anchors, was driven on the rocks and speedily
dashed to pieces. Many of those on board perished. The remainder
were seen clinging to the wreck, or holding on to the fragments
which were washing to and fro amid the breakers. No boat could put
off. When all hope had gone of saving the unfortunate people, a
settler, somewhat advanced in life, appeared on horseback on the
shore. His horse was a bold and strong animal, and noted for
excelling as a swimmer. The farmer, moved with compassion for the
unfortunate seamen, resolved to attempt saving them. Fixing himself
firmly in the saddle, he pushed into the midst of the breakers. At
first both horse and rider disappeared; but soon they were seen
buffeting the waves, and swimming towards the wreck. Calling two of
the seamen, he told them to hold on by his boots; then turning his
horse's head, he brought them safely to land.
No less than seven times did he repeat this dangerous exploit, thus
saving fourteen lives. For the eighth time he plunged in, when,
encountering a formidable wave, the brave man lost his balance, and
was instantly overwhelmed. The horse swam safely to shore; but his
gallant rider, alas! was no more.
Some horses in the county of Limerick, which were pastured in a
field, broke bounds like a band of unruly schoolboys, and
scrambling through a gap which they had made in a fence, found
themselves in a narrow lane. Along the quiet by-road they galloped
helter-skelter, at full speed, snorting and tossing their manes in
the full enjoyment of their freedom, but greatly to the terror of a
party of children who were playing in the lane. As the horses were
seen tearing wildly along, the children scrambled up the bank into
the hedge, and buried themselves in the bushes, regardless of
thorns,ówith the exception of one poor little thing, who, too
small to run, fell down on its face, and lay crying loudly in the
middle of the narrow way.
On swept the horses; but when the leader of the troop saw the
little child lying in his path, he suddenly stopped, and so did the
others behind him. Then stooping his head, he seized the infant's
clothes with his teeth, and carefully lifted it to the side of the
road, laying it gently and quite unhurt on the tender grass.
He and his companions then resumed their gallop in the lane,
unconscious of having performed a remarkable act.
We have no less an authority than Dr. Franklin to prove that
donkeys enjoy music.
The mistress of a chateau in France where he visited had an
excellent voice, and every time she began to sing, a donkey
belonging to the establishment invariably came near the window, and
listened with the greatest attention. One day, during the
performance of a piece of music which apparently pleased it more
than any it had previously heard, the animal, quitting its usual
post outside the window, unceremoniously entered the room, and, to
exhibit its satisfaction, began to bray with all its might.
Donkeys sometimes exert their ingenuity to their own advantage. A
certain ass had his quarters in a shed, in front of which was a
small yard. On one side of the yard was a kitchen garden, separated
from it by a wall, in which was a door fastened by two bolts and a
latch. The owner of the premises one morning, in taking a turn
round his garden, observed the footprints of an ass on the walks
and beds. "Surely some one must have left the door open at night,"
thought the master. He accordingly took care to see that it was
Again, however, he found that the ass had visited the garden.
The next night, curious to know how this had happened, he watched
from a window overlooking the yard. At first he kept a light
burning near him. The ass, however, remained quietly at his stall.
After a time, to enable him to see the better, he had it removed,
when what was his surprise to see the supposed stupid donkey come
out of the shed, go to the door, and, rearing himself on his
hind-legs, unfasten the upper bolt of the door with his nose. This
done, he next withdrew the lower bolt; then lifted the latch, and
walked into the garden. He was not long engaged in his foraging
expedition, and soon returned with a bunch of carrots in his mouth.
Placing them in his shed, he went back and carefully closed the
door and began at his ease to munch the provender he had so
adroitly got possession of.
The owner, suspecting that people would not believe his story,
invited several of his neighbours to witness the performance of the
ass. Not till the light, however, had been taken away, would the
creature commence his operations, evidently conscious that he was
A lock was afterwards put on the door, which completely baffled the
ingenuity of the cunning animal.