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Mental Epidemics among the Lower Animals

  • W. Lauder Lindsay (a1)

In supplement of my paper on “The Physiology of Mind in the Lower Animals,” and in anticipation of the correlative essay, which I hope by-and-bye to contribute to the “Journal of Mental Science,” on “The Pathology of Mind in the Lower Animals,” I am desirous—so long as the whole British public has a vivid memory of certain signal illustrations of the fact, or phenomena—to direct attention to the circumstance that the lower animals, in common with man, are subject to certain forms of Epidemic Mental Derangement. I allude more especially, at present, to that form thereof which is popularly known as Panic, and technically described as Timoria or Panphobia; an affection that is very properly included among “Epidemic Mental Diseases” in the short account given of them by Dr. Browne, ex-Commissioner in Lunacy for Scotland, in “Chambers's Encyclopædia” (vol. iv, 1862, p. 92). The illustrations to which I would specially draw attention, in the case of the lower animals, are to be found, on the one hand, in the notorious Stampedes of Cavalry Horses, which characterized the well-known “autumn manóuvres” at Aldershot, about the end of August and beginning of September, 1871, as well as the later military manóuvres near the Russian capital (in September, 1871); and on the other hand, the Stampedes of other domestic and wild animals, during the more recent devastating conflagrations of Chicago, and of the prairies or forests of Michigan and Wisconsin, (in October, 1871.)

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“Journal of Mental Science,” April, 1871.

The whole subject of both “The Physiology and Pathology of Mind in the Lower Animals,” has been outlined by the author in a pamphlet bearing that title, published in Edinburgh in May, 1871.

He there cites, as illustrative examples, the Panics of the year 1845, and the descriptions given of them in the “Edinburgh Review” for 1849.

§ Stampede is apparently a Mexican (Spanish) word. Miss Isabella Saxon, in her “Five Years within the Golden Gate” (California), describes the following incident as occurring near Council Bluffs, on the overland route from Chicago to San Francisco, 1868 (p. 280):—“We had here what the travellers call a Stampedo; or the bullocks unharnessed taking flight and scampering off in all directions, often knocking down or trampling upon all in their way. It required much trouble on these occasions, and even considerable danger, to recover them.”

The correspondent of the “Scotsman” (Oct. 27, 1871), writes as regards the American descriptions of the Chicago fire-“As to exaggerations…. there were none. There cmild be none: not one-tenth of the story has been told, and lie doubted if ever it would be…. Who will ever hear the true tale of this dire calamity?”

Using these terms here in their strictly scientific sense.

See what I have said on nervous sensibility in the horse and dop, as the result of high breeding, in my pamphlet on “The Physiology and Pathology of Wind in the Lower Animals ” (p. 13 and 14); as well as in my paper on “Insanity in the Lower Animals” (reprinted from the “British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review” for July, 1871, p. 11).

The “North British Agriculturist,” of October 18, 1871, contains an article on “Panics amongst Horses.”

The reader may compare with this narrative Byron's description, in “Mazeppa,” of the evolutions of a “troop,” or “squadron,” of wild horses—

Headed by one black mighty steed, Who seemed the patriarchi of his breed.”

With this incident may be compared one that happened during some of the fierce battles near Metz-in the course of the recent Franco-Prussian War-in which many of the Prussian cavalry liad been slain. When the evening mustercall of a certain Prussian cavalry regiment (1st Dragoon Guards) was sounded, over 600 riderless horses came in answer to the familiar summons.

See what I have said on this subject in q paper on “Madness in Animals,” “Journal of Mental Science,” July, 1871, p. 187.

See also what I have said on this subject in my pamphlet on “The Physiology and Pathology of Mind in the Lower Animals,” p. 18.

The “Daily Telegraph,” of Novera. 21, 1871, announces that “The Brown Institution,” in Wandsworth Road, Vauxhall, S.W., will be opened on December 1, 1871, for the reception of sick and injured animals. The announcement states further that the Institution is under the government of the University of London; that it is intended for studying and endeavouring to cure the maladies and injuries of quadrupeds and birds useful to man; that this is to be without charge beyond the immediate expenses-the owner defraying simply thfi cost of maintenance of eacli animal under treatment; and that a resident veterinary surgeon will attend daily-Sundays excepted.

Churchill's Voyages, vol. i, 1704.

Dr. Baird: “Cyclopaedia of the Natural Sciences.”

Schreyer paints a picture of horses trying to escape from a burning stable, where tUey are represented as “in passionate, if not delirious, movement.”

A Stampede of man and domestic animals, during “A forest fire in America,” forma the subject of a plate and relative description in the “Illustrated London News,” of Oct. 28, 1871, p. 410.

I have myself had experience of a “Bush” (that is a forest) fire, while travelling in New Zealand, in the district of Coromandel, North Island, ill January, 1862.

Thus paragraphs in the American newspapers, describing the burning of Chicago, are headed “Maddened Horses iu the Fire” and “Bands of Drunken Maniacs.”

Some of the phenomena and effects of such change of the natural character are pointed out in my pamphlet oil “The Physiology and Pathology of Mind in the Lower Animals,” p. 11.

“Descent of Man,” vol. i, p. 83.

Darwin's “Descent of Man,” vol. i, p. 83.

During the autumnal migration of partridges from the north of Scotland, in 1871, it is stated by the “Elgin Courant,” of Novem. 3, 1871, that “Several benighted birds, probably attracted by the gas lights, were found dead in the streets” of the city of Aberdeen.

§ And Fellow of the Linnean Society; in his “Cyclopædia of the Natural Sciences,” 1861.

According to “Chambers's Encyclopasdia” (vol. vi, 1864, p. 448), the cause of the migration of other animals is not, at present, understood. Thus the wanderings of the African Spring-bait are not explicable on the usually assigned theory of the causes of animal migrations, viz.: (1) search for food or water; (2) for a position in which to spawn or breed, under a reproductive impulse or in stinct; (3) or for a wanner temperature. The difficulties of accounting for some of the migrations of birds are stated by Sir Wm. Jardine in his and Jesse's edition of “White's Melbourne” (1851, p. 87). In the same work, White him self remarks (pp. 130-1): “There are doubtless many home internal migrations within this kingdom that want to be better understood. Witness these vast flocks of ken chaffinches that appear with us in the winter without hardly any cocks among them 1 see every winter vast flights of hen chaffinches, but none of cocks.”

With this instance of demoniacal possession may be compared that of the swine mentioned in Scripture (Luke viii, 33; Mark v, 13; Matthew viii, 32).

It is somewhat singular, that, in no recent treatise on Insanity—so far as I remember—is there any section on epidemic mental disorders, even in man! In Buch works, for instance, as those of Bucknil] and Tuke, Maudsley, or Blandford, the word epidemic does not occur at all in their indices or tables of contents.

Dr. Baird, “Cyclopædia of the Natural Sciences.”

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Mental Epidemics among the Lower Animals

  • W. Lauder Lindsay (a1)
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