Big and Little Personalities

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The other day I saw an article ‘on the news’ (we read our news online, not having a television) about how they (whoever that may be) have just proven that chimpanzees or some other primate have personalities.  Um, excuse me?!  It’s 2012 and you’ve just found that out?!  I may be a bear of very little brain but I kind of thought that was obvious.  Have you ever spent any time with an animal?  Have you ever spent any time with two animals of the same species?

I don’t know why we somehow find it comforting or reassuring or ego-pumping to declare ourselves far superior than our other planet companions.  I notice it a lot.  Animals don’t have feelings, animals can’t work things out, animals don’t have personalities.  It’s a load of tosh.  You don’t have to be an ‘animal person’ to observe that they do.

I’ve just given over a couple of weeks of my life to five baby birds.  Physically they look very similar, four of them especially.  Our little runt might have lagged behind in his development, appearance-wise too.  Within seconds of making their acquaintance, you got a feeling for their individuality.  They all had their preferences.  Birdie was food obsessed.  Rocky had always been so wary of us.  Sneaky loved to perch on the ceiling light.  Feisty loved the water.  And Manky, well Manky is Manky.

If that isn’t personality what is?

There are some species that do reproduce themselves almost by a cloning technique.  I only know of insects that do it, I may be wrong.  It’s a little hard to deduce whether an insect has personality.  They all seemed governed by an overriding military-style sense of instinct, duty and dedication.  But I wouldn’t rule it out.  I just don’t plan on getting to know any bugs particularly closely anytime soon.

There was a cockchafer on our (communal) stairs the other day.  There is a difference between a cockchafer and a cockroach, you can breathe again.  I only know it was a cockchafer because my husband declared it so, myself I identified it as ‘large, shiny, beetle-type, unusual, hm’.  And wondered why it was on my stairs.  I did say that I’m not a scientific type, didn’t I?

(I later discovered that the bug my husband was fancifully calling a cockchafer this year is the common maybug, those giant armour clad frenzied worshippers at lights at this time of year.  I had never seen one looking demure).

(That was a small, random aside.  I return to my subject now).

I found it fascinating to watch our brood (and I could dedicate an entire post to Manky’s unique personality), in fact all creatures much as I don’t declare myself to be an ‘animal person’.  It’s their antics that amuse us humans so much; we attribute easily our own emotions and personalities to them.  We see humour, mischief, cunning, and planning.  If we see it, is it real?

What do you think?

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8 thoughts on “Big and Little Personalities

  1. I am an animal person. I’m a freak, really. I think I might care more about animals than people. Ok, maybe an exaggeration, but I am obsessed. So, now that you know that, you know what’s coming. Of course animals have distinct personalities. All of them do from the top of the food chain, to the bottom. Like you I’m amazed that in 2012 a news piece would assert that about chimpanzees. Slow news day, I guess. Everyone who has ever visited a zoo understands that. I love this post, and good for you for caring for those birds.

  2. I had a pet grasshopper one summer as a boy. It was at my grandparents house where I was staying for a while. His name was Petey. He would ride around on my shoulder all day and I kept him in a cage with leaves and water. I let him go when I left and hoped he would come back the next summer but, alas, no Petey. I think that was one insect with a personality since I still remember him after all these years.

    • Ah, but some people might dare to presume that you were projecting the personality onto wee Petey. What a terrific pet though, very fashionable these days, although I’m not sure your folks would have agreed! :)

  3. Yes, absolutely. No two animals are alike. My last dog was always this laid back fellow. This guy is very demanding, very specific about his place in the family (right next to me). Last night, we were trying to watch a show (having only recently gotten a working TV), and it was Caroline on one end of the couch next to me, and then on the other side, so that the dog would chill out, Sam stretched with his head in my lap and let the dog lie behind him. But that left my husband perched on this tiny corner of sofa for the duration of the program. And he couldn’t move because Sam insisted on being between us.

I'd love to know what you think, concrit is especially welcomed on fiction pieces. Thank you.

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