Animal Writes
3 June 2001 Issue
Animal Altruism

from Andrew Gach - [email protected] 

Everyone has heard stories of how a dog or cat comforted its sad or frightened owner. But what about a Labrador retriever that barked for an hour in the snow to summon help for a stranger who had fallen into a river? Or the cat in Hawaii who led a woman to some puppies that had fallen into a 12-foot-deep crack in the earth?

Or Beauty, a horse that -- while swimming in a rushing river to try to save her colt -- nudged a stranger toward the safety of the shore before rescuing her foal? (The man had jumped in to try, unsuccessfully, to help the horses.) Stories like these seem to show that animals are capable of being virtuous, says Kristin von Kreisler.

She has compiled hundreds of similar stories and put them in a book ("Beauty in the Beasts: True Stories of Animals Who Choose to Do Good," published by Tarcher/Putnam). Von Kreisler says the stories prove that animals aren't always motivated by instinct or self-preservation. This is a controversial view among scientists.

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