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A Hind in Richmond Park  —  £ 3.99

Go to the eBook Shop A travel writer, novelist, ornithologist and founder member of the RSPB, William Henry Hudson was considered the best field naturalist of his time. He died on August 18th 1922, aged 81, having told his old friend Morley Roberts the previous day that the manuscript for this book was not quite finished. Roberts arranged the last chapter and it was published within a few weeks.

John Galsworthy wrote of his passing that "No man, I think, has ever realised Nature emotionally so completely as Hudson, and no writer has been so able to pass on to others that emotional realisation."

This eBook version contains the entire text. Please see the extract below for a list of the contents and the whole of the first chapter.

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Hudson describes this book as an 'olla podrida' (a spicy Spanish stew containing any ingredients that come to hand). It is the culmination of a lifetime's work where he records everything he has discovered or observed (including pheromones, 60 years before the word was coined) but is also something of an apologia. For example, his interest in teenage girls would now be considered inappropriate (see also Green Mansions), and a few of his thoughts border on the crackpot. Don't let this put you off. It is a fascinating and thought-provoking book.

The cover of my original is blank, so I made the one above. The painting is by George Stubbs, more usually known for his horses.

The only part not included is the short index. Making one for an eBook is ludicrously time consuming and of questionable use because the text can be searched by most eReaders.


The text and any images below are identical to the eBook; however, depending on the typeface, etc., that you select, they may not display here exactly as they do on your eReader. Also, pages turn as normal, rather than the scrolling effect seen here.



Chapter I

Richmond Park – Red deer – An adventure with a hind eating acorns – Watching a listening hind – Senses in dog and deer compared – Senses and instinct in wild and domestic animals – Man and beast compared – The hind divides her listening sense in two parts – The trumpet ear and the ear trumpet – Strange case of a deaf lady listening through an ear trumpet to a sermon

Chapter II

Ears in man and other animals – Ears in primitive man – Atavism in ears, in the twitching-muscle and the teeth – Teeth-gnashing faculty – The teeth as a musical instrument – Cave men's chamber music – A natural ear-pad – Helping our ears – Wind-made noises in our ears a defect – A wind symphony

Chapter III

Our senses – An atmospheric and wind sense – A difficult subject – Our feeling about the wind – Women's unsuitable clothing – Eastern and Western dress – A woman's fight with the wind – A ludicrous sight which was beautiful – An historical question – Light from the dark ages – Sheep-shearing – A saint's biography – Ellen in "News from Nowhere" – Wind in poetical literature

Chapter IV

On seeking for a way back to Nature – The natural man and his surroundings – When pain is pleasure – Man in unison with Nature – "Intuition of snow," a notion fantastic and true – Influence of the wind – The wind a promoter of thought – Flying thoughts – Help from the physicists – Phantasms in the wind – Telepathic messages – A domestic drama – Is the wind a mind-messenger? – A desire of the mind – The poet expresses it – Is it a delusion? – Conjectures – Mental embryology – Telepathy inherited from the animals

Chapter V

Wind and the sense of smell – Scent in deer and dog – Sense of smell in man – In the Queensland savage – Sense of smell in different races – Purely personal experience – The Smell of England: a mystery and its solution – Aromatic and fragrant smells – Wordsworth's vision of Paradise – Sweet gale – Bracken – Gorse and its powerful effect – Spiritual quality in odours – Cowslip – Melancholy flowers – Honeysuckle and sweet-briar – Shakespeare and Chaucer on its scent – Chaucer, though old, still living – Scents and their degrading associations – Frankincense

Chapter VI

The idea of unconscious smelling and the light it lends – Effect of rest on nerves of smell: in caverns; at sea; on mountains – Character of a dog's smell – A friend's surprising experience – Racial smell – Smell a low subject – Physiology – Man-smelling by savages – Atavism and a man whose nose never deceived him – Cheek-smelling by Mosquito Indians – Case from Dugald Stewart – Estimating character by scent – The dog's nose in judging character – Effect of human odour on animals – Wolves in the Zoological Gardens – Wolf-children – The jaguar's beneficent impulses – Bear and puma – The mystery explained

Chapter VII

Little knowledge of savages available – Observations on the lower animals – Nose-greeting in animals – Smell in savages – Our unconscious sense of smell – Gypsies and savages on a level – Nerve of smell – The dog in his world of smells – Small woodland beasts in their world – How we are moved by hidden causes – Antipathies – Classical cases and modern instances – Antipathies and second sight – A strange case; clairvoyance or sense of smell?

Chapter VIII

An explanation and apology postponed – Smell in birds – An ancient controversy – The vulture's two aspects – The way of the vulture – Pigeons – Smell in crows – Daws and ravens – Carrion crow – The rook's double nature – An uncanny took story – Panic fear in mammals – Horses and cattle scenting grass and water – Great stampedes preceding Indian invasions – Indian warfare in Argentina – A little frontier tragedy

Chapter IX

The way this book is being written – The hind in Richmond Park again – An imaginary colloquy – Sense of direction in animals and man – Snakes – Insects – A foraging ant – Fishes, batrachians, birds and mammals – Smell in self-preservation – Horses: the history of a homing horse – Sense of direction in man – A gaucho's testimony – Sudden recovery of the sense of direction – Comments

Chapter X

Migration unrelated to a sense of direction – Personal observations – The old simple account of the phenomenon – Migration a mystery still – Newton and Addison: the supernatural theory – Dr. Henry More – Erasmus Darwin and his tradition theory – Wallace and others – Canon Tristram's theory of the origin of life in the Arctic regions – Glacial epochs and Seebohm in search of evidence – Benjamin Kidd and the simple sun theory – Aspects of migration in England – We are still left wondering – Recent futile methods of attacking the problem – A new method suggested

Chapter XI

Aspects of migration in southern South America – Migrants from the northern hemisphere – The abundance of bird life – Golden plover – Eskimo curlew – Buff-breasted sandpiper – Glossy ibis – Cow-bird – Military starling – Upland plover – The beautiful has vanished and returns not

Chapter XII

The migrants' cry – Unrest previous to departure – Upland plover, swallows and others – Demonstrative and undemonstrative species – Parental solicitude – Swifts and house-martins – Strange case of a captive cuckoo – Night migration of diurnal species – Woodland migrants on the pampas – Reluctant migrants – Thistledown as an illustration – Migration of a troupial – Fear in birds and false associations – Direction of migration – Unrest – Flying north – Migration of rock-swallow – Pull of the north – Perturbations in migration – Upland plover

Chapter XIII

No hard and fast line between migrants and non-migrants – Swallows and partridges – Contrasted behaviour in two mocking-birds – Spur-wing lapwing – An instinct in a state of flux – Migration in other creatures – Fishes and insects – Kirby and Spence speculate – Spiders – Mammals – Migration a danger – Sand-grouse and the "Tartar invasions of Europe" – A "sense of polarity" the origin of migration – A trace of this sense in man

Chapter XIV

The pampas Indian's battle-cry – Terrifying effects of sound generally – Other aspects of sound – Effect of a powerful sneeze – The human voice at its loudest – Account of a man with a big voice – Sound in the ears of the drowning – Sound of big bells heard in a belfry – A great thunder-clap – The phenomenon and the dream – The wilderness of the mind

Chapter XV

The rhea's voice – Sounds that carry farthest – Man and animals compared as to voice power – The swift's flight – Melody – Music as art and instinctive – Mammalian music – Capybara – Quis – Tuco-tuco – Singing mouse and small rodents – Monkeys – Braying of the ass as music – A purge for the mind – The ass in fable and folk-story

Chapter XVI

Music of the lower animals – Of savage man and Hindoos – Music of the stone age – The cannibal Pan – Singing of savages – Origin of song – Diderot and Herbert Spencer – The cries of passion – Music founded on passion and play – Music older than speech – Origin of rhythm – Impassioned speech in savage and civilised man – Song in speech and speech in song – Darwin's theory – Herbert Spencer's theory of the function of music – What is Poetry? – Spiritual senses – Music and Poetry sister arts – Furthest apart at their greatest, and nearest at their lowest

Chapter XVII

Instrumental music, one with vocal music in its origin – Instrumental music in the lower animals – Insects – Cicada – Locusts – Œcanthus; silence, moonlight and tears made audible – Locusta viridissima and music in insects and man – A robber fly's musical performance – Of insect wing-music generally – Hover-fly – Birds as instrumentalists – Storks and woodpeckers – Wings as instruments of music – Wing slappings and clappings – Bleating of snipe – Origin of wing-music

Chapter XVII

Instrumental music and its evolution – A book that is wanted – Fashion, caprice and selection – The piano made perfect – The quality most desired in musical sound – A bird and insect illustration – Naturalness of instrumental music – A bird voice and the power of expression – Human expression of instrumental music – The harp – Obsolete and reigning instruments – A first experience of great music – Cause of different effects produced by bird and human music – Conclusion


Difficulty of ending a story without end – Art as universal instinct – Plastic art tracked by a footprint – Primitive expression of the colour-sense – And of the actor's and storyteller's arts – Santayana criticised – Insignificance of art in relation to life – An image of a cloudy sky – The cry that calls attention to something seen – An everlasting aspiration – The artist's creed – A way to something better – The author's credentials – "Unemotional music" and the ordinary man – A picture seen in boyhood – Sense of beauty a universal possession – Definition of "field naturalist" – The perpetual flux of artistic theory, a sign of progress beyond art – An unanswered question.

Chapter 1

     OCCASIONALLY when in London I visit Richmond Park to refresh myself with its woods and waters abounding in wild life, and its wide stretches of grass and bracken. It is the bird life that attracts me most, for it is a varied one although so near to the metropolis, and there are here, at least two of England's few remaining great birds – the great crested grebe and the heron. The mammals are of less account, but I have met here with at least two adventures with the red deer which are worth recording. Stags are aloof and dignified, if not hostile in their manner, which prevents one from becoming intimate with them. When walking alone late on a misty October or November evening I listen to their roaring and restrain my curiosity. A strange and formidable sound! Is it a love-chant or a battle-cry? I give it up, and thinking of something easier to understand quietly pursue my way to the exit.
     One afternoon in late summer I was walking with three ladies among the scattered oak trees near the Pen Ponds when we saw a hind, a big beautiful beast, rearing up in her efforts to reach the fully ripe acorns, and on my plucking a few and holding them out to her, she came readily to take them from my hand. She invariably took the acorn with a sudden violent jerk; not that she was alarmed or suspicious, but simply because it was the only way known to a hind to take an acorn from the branch to which it is attached with a very tough stem. To her mind the acorn had to be wrenched from me. My friends also gave her acorns, and she greedily devoured them all and still asked for more.
     And while we were amusing ourselves in this way, two ladies accompanied by a little girl of about eight or nine came up and looked on with delight at our doings. Presently the little girl cried out, "Oh, mother, may I give it an acorn?" And the mother said "No." But I said, "Oh, yes, come along and take this one and hold it out to the deer." She took it from me gladly and held it out as directed. Then a sudden change came over the temper of the animal; instead of taking it readily she drew back, looking startled and angry; then slowly, as if suspiciously, approached the child and took the acorn, and almost at the same instant sprang clear over the child's head, and on coming down on the other side, struck violently out with her hind feet. One hoof grazed her cheek and dealt her a sharp blow on the shoulder. Then it trotted away, leaving the child screaming and sobbing with pain and fright.
     For a few minutes I was amazed at this action of the hind, then I noticed for the first time that the child was wearing a bright red jacket. O unseeing fool that I am, exclaimed I to myself, not to have noticed that red jacket in time! I think my hurt was as great as that of the child, who recovered presently and was duly (and quite unnecessarily) warned by her mother to feed no more deer.
     I have seen the effect of scarlet on various other animals, but never before on deer. It affects animals as a warning or a challenge, according to their disposition, and if they are of a fiery or savage temper, it is apt to put them in a rage.
     In the other adventure with a hind there was no sensational or surprising element, but it interested me even more than the first.
     Seeing a hind lying under an oak tree, chewing her cud, I drew quietly towards her and sat down at the roots of another tree about twenty yards from her. She was not disturbed at my approach, and as soon as I had settled quietly down the suspended vigorous cud-chewing was resumed, and her ears, which had risen up and then were thrown backwards, were directed forwards towards a wood about two hundred yards away. I was directly behind her, so that with her head in a horizontal position and the large ears above the eyes, she could not see me at all. She was not concerned about me – she was wholly occupied with the wood and the sounds that came to her from it, which my less acute hearing failed to catch, although the wind blew from the wood to us.
     Undoubtedly the sounds she was listening to were important or interesting to her. On putting my binocular on her so as to bring her within a yard of my vision, I could see that there was a constant succession of small movements which told their tale – a sudden suspension of the cud-chewing, a stiffening of the forward-pointing ears, or a slight change in their direction; little tremors that passed over the whole body, alternately lifting and depressing the hairs of the back – which all went to show that she was experiencing a continual succession of little thrills. And the sounds that caused them were no doubt just those which we may hear any summer day in any thick wood with an undergrowth – the snapping of a twig, the rustle of leaves, the pink-pink of a startled chaffinch, the chuckle of a blackbird, or sharp little quivering alarm-notes of robin or wren, and twenty besides.
     It was evident that the deer could not see anything except just what I saw – the close wood a couple of hundred yards away from us on the other side of a grassy expanse; nor did she require to see anything; she was living in and knew the exact meaning of each and every sound. She was like the dog as we are accustomed to see it in repose, sitting or lying down, with chin on paws, seemingly dozing, but awake in a world of its own, as we may note by the perpetual twitching of the nose. He is receiving a constant succession of messages, and albeit some are cryptic, they mostly tell him something he understands and takes a keen interest in. And they all come to him by one avenue – that of smell; for when we look closely at him we see that his eyes, often half-closed and blinking, have that appearance of blindness or of not seeing consciously which is familiar to us in a man whose sight is turned inwards, who is thinking and is so absorbed in his thoughts that the visible world becomes invisible to him. The dimmed eye in the reposing dog and the absent-minded philosopher is in both cases due to the fact that vision is not wanted for the time, and has been put aside. The resting, but wakeful, deer and dog differ only in this, that the first is living in a bath of vibrations, the other of emanations.
     To return to our listening hind. The sounds that held her attention were inaudible to me, but I dare say that a primitive man or pure savage who had existed all his life in a state of nature in a woodland district would have been able to hear them, although not so well as the hind on account of the difference in the structure of the outer ear in the two species. But what significance could these same little woodland sounds have in the life of this creature in its present guarded, semi-domestic condition – the condition in which the herd has existed for generations? It is nothing but a survival – the perpetual alertness and acute senses of the wild animal, which are no longer necessary, but are still active and shining, not dimmed or rusted or obsolete as in our domestic cattle, which have been guarded by man since Neolithic times. But as I have seen on the Argentine pampas, these qualities and instincts, dormant for thousands of years, revive and recover their old power when cattle are allowed to run wild and have to protect themselves from their enemies.
     A life-long intimacy with animals has got me out of the common notion that they are automata with a slight infusion of intelligence in their composition. The mind in beast and bird, as in man, is the main thing. Man has progressed mentally so far that, looking back at the other creatures, they appear practically mindless to him. Their actions, for example, are instinctive, whereas in the case of man reason has taken the place of instinct. How funny it is to find these hard and fast lines still set down by some modern biologists! Alfred Russel Wallace maintained that there were no instincts in man. The simple truth of the matter is that our instincts have been more modified and obscured, as instincts, in us than in the lower animals. But though the instincts of animals are less modified and obscured, they are also interwoven and shot through or saturated with intelligence. In what do the ordinary occupations of hunting, fishing, shelter-building, rearing and protecting the young, and so on, differ in the animal and the savage or primitive man? There is mind-stuff, or, let us say, intelligence in both; neither beast nor man could exist without that element, although no doubt the man in a state of nature has somewhat more of it than his four-footed neighbours.
     My only reason for touching on this question is that I want to say that I recognize a mind-life in animals similar to, though much lower in degree than, that of man. And the subject was suggested by the behaviour of the hind during the whole time, which was not far short of an hour, while I sat there intently watching her with interest and with surprise as well. And the surprise was at the intense interest she, on her part, was taking in the little sounds coming to her from the wood. These sounds, as we have seen, were of no import in the creature's life. It can even be said or supposed that she knew they were without significance, since there was no fear of any danger from that direction; and so wholly free from fear was she that even my presence at the tree's root behind her was disregarded. Surely thus in her listening she was experiencing a sort of mind-life, amusing herself, we might say, in capturing and identifying the series of slight sounds floating to her. Or one might compare the animal in that state in which I watched her, resting after feeding, chewing the cud, and at the same time agreeably occupied in listening to the little woodland sounds, to the man who, after dining well, smokes his cigar in his easy chair and amuses his mind at the same time with a book – a fascinating story, let us say, of old unhappy things and battles long ago.
     The last paragraph is pure speculation, and if any sober-minded naturalist (and they are practically all that) has already said in reading it, "You are going too far," I agree with him. The poet Donne has said that there are times when we, or some of us, think with our bodies, and it is truer of the lower animals than of us, perhaps; but the small outward manifestations are not enough to show us the mind, and the gentleman in his easy-chair, smoking his post-prandial cigar and enjoying his novel at the same time, may be on a very different plane from the deer chewing its cud and catching little flying sounds in its trumpet ears, or from the dog dozing in the sunshine and capturing winged scents, even as the garden spider while peacefully reposing captures small gilded flies in her geometric web.
     But what follows is plain fact. This same hind gave me yet another surprise before I had finished with her.
     After sitting there for a space of fifteen or twenty minutes, sufficiently entertained by watching all those minute motions I have described, it came into my head to try a little experiment, and I emitted a low whistle. Instantly the ears, which had been pointed forward all the time, were thrown back, and remained in that position about a minute; then, no further sound being given, they went forward again. Then the whistle was repeated, and the ears came back and remained a longer interval, but finally went forward again; and the whistle and movement of the ears was repeated five or six times. Then came the surprise. When I whistled next time one ear was laid back while the other continued pointing forward at the wood. It was as if the hind had said – for she no doubt knew the whistling came from me – "I'm not going to be cheated out of my woodland sounds any more; I shall keep on attending to them and at the same time keep one ear on you to find out what this whistling means."
     The surprise was that she was able to do such a thing. I had not known that an animal with trumpet ears could use them in that way, receiving impressions from two sources, taken in and judged separately and simultaneously, as a bird receives sight-impressions through the eyes placed (as in most birds) at the sides of the head, each with its own distinct field of vision. Or as the chameleon, with eyes mounted on rods, is able to keep one eye on the movements of an insect in its neighbourhood, while the other looks at you or at some other object which attracts its attention.
     I soon found that if I refused to whistle as long as an ear pointed back at me, it would at last go forward once more to assist the other, and when this happened, and I then whistled again, the one ear – always the left ear – was instantly thrown back again, the other always keeping steadily on the wood.
     This went on until the hind got up, shook the dust and dead leaves off, and slowly sauntered away without even a parting look at the person who had interfered with her pleasure by behaving in that eccentric manner. But she had taught me a lot. Did the hind, I wonder, with its beautiful trumpet ears, suggest the ear trumpet? Watching how this deer moved her pair of live trumpets about to catch passing sounds, it amused me to recall an old lady I used to see in a Hampshire village church who sat in a pew before mine during the Sunday morning services, and the deft way in which she manipulated her trumpet to capture the preacher's precious winged words. His manner in preaching was curious, if not quite unique. He would begin each sentence in a quiet natural tone, then raise his voice, then higher still, then let it drop back to the opening tone. Thus there were four changes in tone fitted to the four clauses composing each sentence, and there were also four bodily attitudes and movements to correspond. Thus, the first clause was delivered standing in a stooping attitude, the eyes fixed on the MS. In the second he rose to his full height and fixed his eyes on his congregation. In the third the upward movement culminated in the preacher standing up on his toes, supporting himself by placing his finger-tips on the pulpit, and then having launched the words of clause three in his most powerful tones, he would sink back to the lower attitude, downward bent eyes and low voice. The difference in the man's height when he delivered clauses three and four must have been about nine inches, which would of course make a very great difference in listening to the sermon by a person hard of hearing. There the old lady's ear trumpet came in; there were four changes in its direction for each sentence, from the first and last when it was directed straight before her, to the second and third when it rose, automatically as it seemed, and at the third it would appear like a crest above her head.
     I was told, if I remember rightly, that he had been vicar above a quarter of a century, and had always preached just in that way, and that the old lady had attended the church for many years with her ear trumpet, till long practice had made her so perfect in its use in following the sermon through all the preacher's bobbings up and down, she could almost do it with her eyes shut and never miss a word.


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