Anecdotes of the Habits and Instinct of Animals Informative Summary


This book, published in 1852, explores the behaviors and instincts of various animal species, providing a captivating collection of anecdotes that highlight their intelligence, adaptability, and surprising capabilities. The author, Mrs. R. Lee, draws upon her personal experiences and those of other naturalists and travelers to reveal the diverse nature of the animal kingdom, challenging common perceptions and highlighting the intricate relationship between humans and their non-human counterparts.

The book delves into the Quadrumana, or monkey tribe, examining their unique behaviors, intelligence, and the extent to which they mimic human actions. From the mischievous antics of Jack the cook’s monkey to the melancholy demeanor of the Chimpanzee, the author showcases the complex nature of these primates. Further exploration of the Carnivora reveals a fascinating spectrum of behaviors, from the cunning and ferocious wolf to the gentle and playful bear, while the chapter on dogs delves into the extraordinary intelligence and loyalty of these creatures, showcasing how they can understand and respond to human commands and emotions.

Key Findings:

  • Animals, particularly those with a higher level of intelligence, are capable of complex emotions, including affection, loyalty, grief, and even revenge.
  • The natural world is filled with remarkable examples of adaptation, instinct, and intelligence, challenging the traditional view of humans as the only intelligent species.
  • While many animals are dangerous and predatory, others display surprising levels of gentleness, cooperation, and even compassion.


  • The Complex Nature of Instinct and Reason: The book provides ample evidence to suggest that many animals possess a sophisticated level of intelligence, blurring the lines between instinct and reason. While instinct plays a significant role in animal behavior, their ability to learn, adapt, and exhibit complex emotions suggests a level of cognitive ability previously attributed only to humans.
  • The Impact of Domestication: The book illustrates how domestication can significantly alter an animal’s behavior, both for better and for worse. While it can lead to increased intelligence, loyalty, and adaptability, it can also result in the loss of natural instincts and the development of vices due to confinement and mistreatment.
  • The Power of Observation: The anecdotes highlight the importance of careful observation and open-mindedness when studying animal behavior. Mrs. Lee encourages readers to challenge assumptions and look beyond outward appearances to uncover the intricate world of the animal kingdom.

Historical Context:

The book was published in 1852, a time of great scientific advancement and exploration. The Victorian era saw a surge in interest in natural history, fueled by the works of Darwin and other prominent naturalists. The book reflects this fascination with the natural world, showcasing the growing understanding of animal intelligence and the complexities of their behavior.


  • Monkeys can communicate using a variety of vocalizations, gestures, and facial expressions. They use these methods to express emotions, convey information, and interact with each other and humans.
  • Bears are often portrayed as ferocious animals, but they are actually omnivores and primarily consume plants and insects. They will eat meat, but only when necessary or as a result of their environment or training.
  • Badgers are known for their ability to resist the stings of wasps and bees. Their tough hide protects them from the venomous stings of these insects.
  • Weasels are extremely courageous and will attack animals much larger than themselves, including humans. They are known for their ferocity and tenacity when defending their territory or young.
  • Otters are very affectionate and will grieve for their mates if they are killed. They are also known to display an uncanny ability to locate and retrieve fish from water.
  • Wild dogs, such as the Dingo and Buansa, are highly intelligent and possess a remarkable ability to withstand pain. They have developed unique hunting strategies and social structures that allow them to thrive in their natural environments.
  • Wolves are very suspicious and cunning, making them difficult to trap. They also exhibit a remarkable degree of ferocity, especially when protecting their young or defending their territory.
  • Foxes are extremely clever and will employ various strategies to outwit their enemies. Their cunning and adaptability have made them a popular figure in fables and stories throughout history.
  • Hyænas are scavengers and will eat anything, including bones. They have adapted to a diverse diet and are known for their strong jaws and ability to crack bones.
  • Lions, while often portrayed as the “king of beasts,” are actually very shy and avoid human contact. They are extremely powerful and ferocious, but generally only attack when provoked or threatened.
  • Tigers are more agile and ferocious than lions. They are notorious for their deadly hunting methods and their willingness to consume large prey.
  • Leopards and panthers are extremely beautiful and agile. Their ability to climb trees, swim, and slide along the ground allows them to hunt effectively and navigate their environment with ease.
  • Wild cats are fierce and aggressive, with a reputation for having multiple lives. They are known for their sharp claws and teeth, and they will defend their territory fiercely.
  • Squirrels are incredibly agile and have a remarkable ability to leap between trees. They are also known for their playful nature and their ability to adapt to different environments.
  • Rats are extremely prolific and can spread rapidly. They are omnivores and will even consume each other in times of scarcity.
  • Mice are similar to rats in terms of their ability to reproduce rapidly and their diet. However, they are generally more tamable and less ferocious.
  • Elephants are the largest land mammals and possess a highly developed intelligence. They are social creatures with complex communication and emotional systems.
  • Hippopotamus are massive and powerful, but generally harmless unless provoked. They are known for their thick skin, large mouths, and ability to stay submerged for extended periods.
  • Wild hogs are powerful and dangerous when threatened. Their sharp tusks make them formidable opponents, and they can defend themselves fiercely.
  • Rhinoceroses are massive animals with a single or double horn on their nose. They are powerful, but generally avoid conflict and only attack when provoked.
  • Horses are known for their grace, speed, and strength. They are highly trainable and form strong bonds with humans.
  • Asses are hardy and adaptable. They are particularly adept at traversing rugged terrain and carrying heavy loads.
  • Camels and dromedaries are adapted to survive in harsh desert environments. Their humps store fat for energy, and they can go for long periods without water.
  • Llamas and other South American camelids are strong and agile. They are excellent pack animals and are well-suited for traveling in mountainous regions.
  • Deer are elegant and swift animals. They are highly prized for their meat, hides, and antlers.
  • Giraffes are known for their extraordinarily long necks. They browse on tree foliage and are incredibly fast runners.
  • Antelopes are graceful and agile animals. They are known for their distinctive horns and their incredible speed.
  • Goats are hardy and agile, able to navigate rough terrain. They are known for their strong horns and their unique ability to spit.
  • Sheep are docile and gentle, but can be fierce when defending their young. They are prized for their wool and meat.
  • Oxen are large and powerful animals. They are used for various purposes, including farming, transportation, and even fighting.


  • A single elephant can consume 200 lbs. of food and 36 pails of water daily.
  • A herd of elephants can number up to 300 individuals, with a combined weight of over 2,100,000 lbs.
  • A single rhinoceros can weigh up to 5,000 lbs.
  • A herd of buffaloes can number up to 7 individuals.
  • An average horse can run up to 30 miles per hour.
  • A herd of springboks can number in the hundreds of thousands.
  • A single yak can produce enough wool to create a shawl measuring 1.5 yards square.
  • A wild sow can carry her piglets in her mouth to escape predators.
  • A single sheep can travel 9 days to return to its native place.
  • A group of hunters in Hindustan destroyed 16,050 rats in a single month.


  • Quadrumana: An order of primates that includes monkeys and apes. They are distinguished by having four hands, two on their forelegs and two on their hind legs.
  • Carnivora: An order of mammals that includes animals that primarily consume meat. Examples include lions, tigers, bears, and wolves.
  • Insectivora: An order of mammals that includes animals that primarily consume insects. Examples include moles and hedgehogs.
  • Plantigrada: A suborder of mammals characterized by walking on the soles of their feet, including bears and badgers.
  • Digitigrada: A suborder of mammals that includes animals that walk on their toes, such as weasels, foxes, and cats.
  • Vermiform: A term used to describe animals with elongated bodies and short legs that allow them to move through small spaces like worms.
  • Feral: A term used to describe animals that were once domesticated but have returned to a wild state.
  • Solipeda: An order of mammals with a single toe on each foot, which is encased in a hoof. Examples include horses and donkeys.
  • Ruminantia: An order of mammals with a complex digestive system that allows them to chew their food a second time, called “chewing the cud.” They are distinguished by having four stomachs.
  • Pachydermata: An order of mammals characterized by having thick skin, including elephants, rhinoceroses, and hippopotamuses.


  • Jack the Cook’s Monkey: Jack, a mischievous Cercopithecus monkey, delighted in causing chaos on board a ship. He stole food, overturned cages, and even threw other monkeys overboard.
  • The Chimpanzee and the Panther: A young chimpanzee, who was initially becoming friendly with the author, became terrified after encountering a panther in a cage. He retreated to the sail of a boat and refused to leave it for several days.
  • The Esquimaux Dog and the Candle Maker: Two Esquimaux dogs exhibited a strong fondness for oil and spent hours sniffing at the fumes of a candle maker’s workshop.
  • The Shepherd’s Dog and the Potatoes: A shepherd’s dog, seemingly asleep, would immediately spring into action when his master mentioned that the cow was in the potatoes, even though he was not directly told to check on the cow.
  • The Fox and the Hares: A fox, unable to catch hares by speed, hid himself in a hollow near a gap in a wall. He waited patiently until the hares emerged and then sprang upon his prey.
  • The Hyæna and the Human Voices: Three hyænas, mimicking human voices and laughter, deceived villagers into believing there were women present, allowing them to escape undetected.
  • The Lioness and the Exeter Mail: A lioness, escaping from a traveling menagerie, attacked one of the leading horses of the Exeter mail, causing a great deal of chaos.
  • The Squirrel and the Wild Fowl: A squirrel, seemingly determined to disrupt a hunter’s pursuit of wild fowl, chattered loudly and even dropped itself in front of the hunter’s dog, causing the birds to flee.
  • The Rat and the Serpent: A rat and a venomous serpent engaged in a deadly combat, with the serpent eventually emerging victorious.
  • The Elephant and the Boots: An elephant, whose feet were cut by the rough roads, had boots made for him, which became a popular attraction at the Jardin des Plantes.
  • The Buffalo and the Hunters: A herd of buffaloes, pursued by a group of hunters, attacked one of the hunters, tossing him into the air with such force that his body was mangled.
  • The Chamois and the Precipice: A chamois, pursued by hunters, bounded from rock to rock and even threw itself down a precipice, landing on its horns to avoid injury.
  • The Goat and the Beehive: A goat, escaping from a beehive that had been disturbed by a monkey, fled to the nearest encampment for protection from the angry insects.


This collection of anecdotes provides a fascinating glimpse into the diverse and complex world of animals. While they may not always act in ways that we understand or find pleasing, they exhibit a range of emotions, instincts, and abilities that challenge our preconceived notions about their intelligence and behavior. From the clever cunning of the fox to the unwavering loyalty of the dog, and the sheer power of the elephant, these stories demonstrate the rich tapestry of the animal kingdom, highlighting the importance of observing, understanding, and respecting the diverse creatures that share our planet.

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