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Monday, October 10, 2011

What Bow Knows

Today, when I came back from shopping for groceries, Lawrence told me of something that happened while I was away. At one point, sometime between eleven and noon, Bow became very agitated. He kept gesturing toward the southern stretch of backyard fence, and he yelled at Lawrence, as if trying to vocally tell him that something was wrong. He did the same to the dogs. "It was kind of like he was telling the dogs to go out and do something about it, that there was someone or something beyond the fence."

The dogs did not seem aware of anything. They barked back at Bow, interpreting Bow's vocalizations as acts of aggression against them. Bow kept trying to get Lawrence's attention.

Finally, Lawrence asked Bow: "Do you want me to go out there and see who it is?"

Bow said "Yes."

Lawrence went out through the front door and explored the side yard to see what he could see. There didn't seem to be anyone out there, but on his way back he almost stumbled over a big, black rat snake that was lying in his path.

Bow hates snakes. He has always disliked snakes, ever since he was little. This is not something he learned from me, because I'm pretty tolerant toward snakes, compared to most people. But every time Bow sees a snake he gets very upset, and he once lifted an entire bench off the ground and threw it in the direction of a snake that was just outside his outer pens.

Lawrence didn't do anything to the rat snake, as we need the snake's help to get rid of rodents. Rat snakes are not poisonous. There was no reason to be upset that there was a snake near our house. Bow, however, seemed very upset.  But when Lawrence came back in, Bow was calm and happy. Maybe all he needed was for Lawrence to acknowledge that there was indeed a snake out there.

The question is: how did Bow know? The fence is very high, and it's made of wood, and it would be very hard to spot the snake through the tiny cracks between the wood slats. Snakes don't make much noise, so it seems unlikely that Bow heard the snake. And Bow's not telling. He doesn't want to talk about the snake anymore.

Did Bow know there was a snake out there? If he didn't know, what was he so agitated about? If he did know, how did he know? And why won't he tell us?


  1. Hi Aya. Your post reminded me of an interesting paper I read describing how snakes may have influenced the evolution of primate vision.

    Maybe you've read it already, but if not here is a link to an unrestricted (I think) .pdf:


  2. Thanks, Alan, I'll take a look at the paper about primate vision and snakes.

    BTW, there is a little more to the snake story than I knew at the time I made my last post. I'm going to add a new post with more information today.