The following facts (having been witnessed by myself) may, perhaps, be considered worthy of insertion in your journal, as bearing on the subject of "Perception and Instinct in the Lower Animals," which has lately been brought into such prominent notice.
On the Richmond road (Surrey), at about a mile from the town, stands an old roadside inn, yclept "The Black Horse," owned by one R. Ketley. Attached to the house are a number of domestic pigeons of various breeds, chiefly "Pouters."
Having occasion to wait for my pony to be harnessed at this inn a few years since, my attention was directed by a gentleman (a resident of the neighbourhood) with whom I was acquainted, to the strange conduct of one of the birds.
A number of them were feeding on a few oats that had been accidentally let fall while fixing the nose-bag on a horse standing at bait. Having finished all the grain at hand, a large "Pouter" rose, and flapping its wings furiously, flew directly at the horse's eyes, causing that animal to toss his head, and in doing so, of course shake out more corn. I saw this several times repeated; in fact, whenever the supply on hand had been exhausted. I leave it to your readers to consider the train of thought that must have passed through the pigeon's brain before it adopted the clever method above narrated, of stealing the horse's provender.
Was not this, indeed, something more than mere instinct?
Richard H. Napier
Upton Cottage, Bursledon, Southampton, Aug. 13
<i>Nature</i> Vol 8, 324 1873