The hypnotisation of animals is possible to a very limited extent, and indeed it is not altogether accurate to term the condition induced, hypnosis; there is, of course, no receptivity to suggestion, and all we can obtain is a certain rigidity, so that the animal, bird, or reptile, will remain in any position in which it may be placed. Apparently the first one to notice this phenomenon was Daniel Schwenter, who in 1636 catalepsed a number of cocks and hens. Fr. Kircher (1646) was the first to make any scientific experiments on the subject. He took fowls, and having tied their legs together, placed them on the ground, and he then drew a chalk line from their beaks, with the result that the birds remained perfectly motionless. A hen can be made to sit or to transfer her nest by means of a well-known expedient. The head is placed under the wings, and the bird is then rocked gently to-and-fro, with the result that it apparently goes to sleep; on waking, the hen will remain contentedly in the nest on which she has been placed.
The Fakirs and the Aissouans are reported to be able to fascinate the most venomous snakes, to charm them with music, and to induce them to imitate, as far as possible, their movements.
These tales require a great deal of sober corroboration before they can be regarded as of any value. It is well known that in most of the cases of the snake-charmers the fangs of the snakes have been extracted, or the snakes have not been venomous.
The catalepsy induced in animals by nerve stimulation has been compared to the fascination which it is said some animals can exercise over others. Of this fascination there can hardly be any doubt. The writer has frequently seen frogs and little birds fascinated by a snake; but it is by no means the rule. Out of a hundred frogs which were put into his snake case, only six were in any sense fascinated; the others jumped about madly till they were caught by the snakes.
It seems rash to compare this fascination, which may be the natural consequence of extreme fright, with the catalepsy induced by means of pressure on the nerves. Many such illustrations are given as analogous instances. It is not easy to catch a pigeon by going straight up to the bird, but it can be quickly taken by walking round and round it. The pigeon turns upon itself, so as not to lose sight of the person who is trying to catch it, and can soon be seized. This has been quoted as an hypnosis. The obvious explanation seems to be that the bird becomes giddy and dazed.
Many animals may be rendered obedient and docile by means of the fixed look and movements that will tend to concentrate their attention. Even a tiger will seek to attack from behind, and thus avoid the look; most animals can be kept in check if they are not allowed to escape the vision of the person attacked. -
A phenomenon which seems allied to the catalepsy induced by nerve stimulation is seen in the simulated death of many animals.
Insects of many kinds, spiders, crayfish, etc., fall into a state of complete insensibility the moment they are alarmed, but they recover directly the exciting cause of the alarm is removed (Romanes).
An interesting case of simulated death has been described amongst snakes, but whether this is really a case of simulation is disputed.
The cataleptic state is induced in animals either by the monotonous excitation of particular nerves, or by constant pressure. The operation, in some cases, is easy, in others, difficult; whilst in the case of larger animals it seems generally impossible, owing to the great resistance made at the outset.
By means of simple inhibition, resulting, probably, in a loss of sensory equilibrium, the writer catalepsed cats (rarely), dogs (less rarely, but not often), pigeons, canaries, fowls, starlings, crayfish, frogs, snakes, toads, lizards, slow-Worms, etc etc.
It is likely that, with instruments for applying the proper stimulation and pressure, catalepsy could be induced in the larger animals. such as the horse and the bullock.
Frogs and toads are easily catalepsed, and when the experiments are repeatedly performed on them, they may remain for long periods in this condition. The toad featured in the text could always be made to remain in this state for half and hour.
The absence of some of the ordinary “reflex” acts is remarkable. Anyone acquainted with lizards will know the extreme rapidity with which they return to their feet on being put down back downwards. The movement is so rapid that the fingers leave the upturned back, and not the abdomen; this altered condition has some resemblance to the stage of acute passivity, which has been described in the chapter dealing with the induction of hypnosis; but, whilst an interesting subject in itself, the catalepsy of animals does not appear to throw much light on the hypnosis occurring in man.
TURNBULL AND SPEARS,
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