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And the story of a certain wombat goes like this ……
You will understand why this story is in a blog about dogs at the end.
Jackie French was the Australian Children’s Laureate during 2014-15 and 2015 Senior Australian of the Year. She is an award-winning Australian best-selling author who has written over 170 books and has won more than 60 national and international awards.
In her words, she can’t walk outside her front door at night without tripping over wombats. Her home, a property nestled among national parks near Braidwood in the southern tablelands of New South Wales, Australia is a sanctuary for wildlife.
She has also been a conservationist most of her life and written scores of books on gardening, ecology and animals. If you want some of her insights about living more “naturally” you should visit her website: www.jackiefrench.com
VERY recently my employers wife, Kirsty, an animal rescue professional, was at a conference about Wombat care and rehabilitation. Jackie told a story about wombat intelligence; about how she had one cantankerous wombat who got very upset about being taken for an idiot when it came to his evening snack of carrots (at the back door, on the back porch, on the porch mat of Jackie’s home).
From what Kirsty told me of the story Jackie narrated; (and I confirmed it with Jackie herself later), this wombat gained enough trust to come and dine on the 2 carrots Jackie offered on this back door mat every evening.Not sure how long this went on but one evening Jackie only had one carrot to offer which was apparently unacceptable to our wombat who made its disgust clear by attacking the door.
This made Jackie curious as there had been no attempt to damage property previously. Jackie next offered, not 2 carrots, but the one carrot cut in 2. And behold there was no attempt to damage anything that evening.
Slowly over a period of weeks she built it up to 3 pieces of carrot. Again fury if it was reduced back to 2 pieces. Then 4 and back to 3. Not happy, another attack. Back to 4 …. all OK. Repeating this action using 5 pieces, then 6 and again and again the same fury and the same attack on the door when there was a reduction in number of pieces from the previous evening. So this wombat was using arithmetic to determine if it was being duped. Size wasn’t the issue, it was numbers.
Now Jackie had started this little exercise purely as a gesture to a hungry wombat as it was at a time when grazing was scarce due to dry weather conditions. But after the experiment reached 6 pieces of carrot in rained and the palatable native grasses came back and our wombat returned to the bush, no longer needing to have supplement feeding by it’s kind benefactor.
So the BIG unanswered question is: HOW MANY COULD OUR WOMBAT HAVE COUNTED UP TO?
Did Jackie have a chance encounter with the World’s only mathematical wombat genius or can other wombats count to 6 or maybe 7 or maybe they can even do algebra?
So much we don’t know about the other creatures we share this planet with. Jackie has even witnessed another wombat twice using a lever. Go figure!
So why is there a story about an Australian native mammal, a wombat, on a website about dogs?
Well the reason is simple. There is so much information about dog intelligence on the internet these days and most of it is (in my opinion) misleading. Much of it infers that some breeds of dogs are more intelligent than others. As a dog owner and avid researcher thereof for half a century I totally disagree. Any individual within any breed has the capability to demonstrate qualities that humans interpret as intelligence. There are external influences such as the willingness to learn, as well as the different ways there are to learn and the interpretation of what “learning” actually is.
This is just one example of literally thousands where other animals far more primitive on the evolutionary ladder than a dog have demonstrated cognitive intelligence equal to tests quoted in many articles relating to dog intelligence experiments,which were undertaken on breeds targeted for their obedience to human commands, which is presumed to be the common denominator of intelligent breeds of the dog world by some.
In other words I believe they are a load of poppycock. All dogs are created equal. (I’ve heard that said about another species on this planet, so why would it be any different with dogs?). The difference is in EAGERNESS! The difference relates to “traits” bred into their ancestors! The difference is environment! Not intelligence. Some breeds are more eager to please and obey humans, (I CALL THEM SLAVES). And then there are other breeds who are more independent of their human counterparts and not necessarily so eager to please. (I CALL THEM COMPANIONS) …… THAT IS THE PERSONALITY I WANT!