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Same page in Hebrew

On King Solomon's Ring - about one word in animals' language
Copyright © 2009 by Netsivi Ben-Amots
English translation Copyright © 2014 by Netsivi Ben-Amots

A legend tells that King Solomon was the wisest person, who even knew the animals' language. A version of this legend relates this ability of King Solomon to a ring that he had.

I had the book "King Solomon's Ring" by the animal researcher Konrad Lorenz, in its Hebrew translation. In this exciting book, the researcher describes cases where animals and birds showed language between themselves, a language that the researcher partially understood and even was sometimes able to give a message to animals.

When I read the book I did not think that one day I will understand a word in animal language, not described in Lorenz's book. This item is about this word.

A TV program on the National Geographic Channel described the activity of the dogs and their operators in the American army during the Vietnam War. The dogs identified traps in the paths in the jungle that the enemy hid for the American soldiers. Killer traps triggered mines and explosives that killed American soldiers. How did the dog inform his operator? The dog stood perpendicular to the path, blocking the passage. Sometimes they did not see what the dog meant, and bypassed him. Immediately the dog moved forward and blocked the path again. In all cases, the dog was right, and saved lives.

The dogs were also wounded and killed like all the soldiers. The soul of the soldiers was connected to the souls of the dogs. The soldiers were worried whether a wounded dog will recover as if the dog was one of them. The TV program told about the tragic end: When the American army left Vietnam, they were told to leave the dogs in Vietnam, so as not to bring diseases and parasites to the U.S.A.

When I have seen the program I thought that standing perpendicular to the path is the sign that the dogs were taught to use. How little I knew.

At a wedding on a farm close to the border, I have seen that there are many free dogs on the farm, whose duty was to guide against strangers entering the farm. One white dog wandered between the guests and set near one of them. They looked at each other for a long time.

When the time came to leave the wedding, I was told to go with a relative woman that was told to drive me. When we walked to her car, the dogs started to bark strongly at us. The dogs were not tied, and it was scary, but I knew that I and the relative are vegetarian, and the dogs identify this in our smell, so I explained to the relative that the dogs simply note that our smell does not fit to what they usually smell.

Then the white dog who heard the barks arrived. He was the alpha dog, or the leader dog. I have not seen in the darkness what the white dog said to the other dogs, but all the dogs were silenced.

The driver started to drive on the way to the gate of the farm. The white dog ran and bypassed us, and stood in the middle of the way but perpendicular to it! The driver asked me what to do. I told her to continue to drive but slowly, so that the dog could move aside and not be hit by the car. The white dog repeated this a few times, until we reached the gate of the farm. Later I explained to the driver that standing perpendicular to the way and blocking it means: "Do not continue in this way."

My explanation is that the leader dog knew that we are guests, so he not only calmed the group of his dogs, but suggested us to remain at the farm and not leave because of the barking dogs. In my opinion, this way the wise dog apologized for the behavior of his group of dogs, which made us afraid without necessity.

Now it was clear to me that blocking the way is a natural word in dogs' language, which they were not trained to use, but as mentioned, it was part of the language.

I did not yet know that I do not know all about this word that I learned in dogs' language.

I have been at a conference in Switzerland, and went to walk from the cable-car station up the mountain. I walked in the path about one kilometer, and turned to walk back. I noticed that wild goats walked after me. I thought that the goats smell the bread in my bag and want it. I took it out, crumbled and threw it on the path. The goats stopped, smelled and continued to follow me. I understood that the goats smell the straw hat in my bag and want it.

I continued to walk, and then the alpha goat bypassed me, and blocked the path! On my left - abyss, on my right - steep rock. The goat stood between me and the abyss, so if I continued to walk I would be squeezed between the goat and the rock.

I stopped. I understood that the goat simply wants to stop me. The goat was not afraid. The goats smelled that I am vegetarian, not a predator like most humans. The goats well knew that their equilibrium sense is much better than mine. Also, they were many and I was single. If they wanted, they easily could push me to the abyss, but the goat stood BETWEEN me and the abyss.

The goat just told me with her language that she stops me, and suggests to me, a vegetarian like them, her protection, so as I join them. Of course, the goats wanted my straw hat.

I did not want to give up my hat, and I understood that I cannot push the goat. What could I say to the goat in a language that she would understand?

I pressed not strongly with one finger on the goat's throat. The goat moved a little far, letting me walk, while she walks aside between me and the abyss, guarding me and the whole group of goats following her.

We reached the fence of the station. I passed and closed the door, to the disappointment of the goats. One goat ran and extended her head to the bag, noticing me that what she wants is in the bag.

An Austrian tourist walked far after me on the same path, and asked me what the goats want from me. I told him that the goats want to eat my straw hat in my bag. The tourist said:
"Goats eat hat? Very strange."
I answered:
"For the goats we are strange, who put good food on the head instead of eating it."

When I reached the hotel, the owner asked how my journey was. I told her the story about the goats. She said that she never heard such a story.

When I returned to my country I told a friend the story about the goats. He asked to see the hat, and said that the hat is torn and squeezed; Since I have other identical unused hats, I should throw it.

This way the hat finished in the garbage, instead of being given to the goats that wanted it so much.

This way I also learned that blocking the path is an international natural word between most animals, not only between dogs.

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בחזרה לדף הראשי בעברית

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