| Wild Animals I Have Known|
|by Ernest Thompson Seton|
|A stirring account of the lives of eight wild animals, including Lobo, the king of Currumpaw; Silverspot, the story of a crow; Raggylug, the story of a cottontail rabbit; Bingo, the story of a dog; the Springfield fox; the pacing mustang; Wully, the story of a yaller dog; and Redruff, the story of the Don valley partridge. Ages 11-14 |
THE STORY OF A YALLER DOG
 WULLY was a little yaller dog. A yaller dog, be it understood, is
not necessarily the same as a yellow dog. He is not simply a canine
whose capillary covering is highly charged with yellow pigment.
He is the mongrelest mixture of all mongrels, the least common
multiple of all dogs, the breedless union of all breeds, and though
of no breed at all, he is yet of older, better breed than any of his
aristocratic relations, for he is nature's attempt to restore the
ancestral jackal, the parent stock of all dogs.
Indeed, the scientific name of the jackal (Canis aureus) means
simply 'yellow dog,' and not a few of that animal's characteristics
are seen in his domesticated representative. For the plebeian cur is
shrewd, active, and hardy, and
 far better equipped for the real
struggle of life than any of his 'thoroughbred' kinsmen.
If we were to abandon a yaller dog, a greyhound, and a bulldog on
a desert island, which of them after six months would be alive and
well? Unquestionably it would be the despised yellow cur. He has
not the speed of the greyhound, but neither does he bear the seeds
of lung and skin diseases. He has not the strength or reckless
courage of the bulldog, but he has something a thousand times
better, he has common sense. Health and wit are no mean
equipment for the life struggle, and when the dog-world is not
'managed' by man, they have never yet failed to bring out the
yellow mongrel as the sole and triumphant survivor.
The Three Maroons
Once in a while the reversion to the jackal type is more complete,
and the yaller dog has pricked and pointed ears. Beware of him
then. He is cunning and plucky and can bite like a wolf. There is a
strange, wild streak in his nature too, that under cruelty or long
adversity may develop into deadliest treachery in spite of the better
traits that are the foundation of man's love for the dog.
WAY up in the Cheviots little Wully was born. He and one other
of the litter were kept; his brother because he resembled the best
dog in the vicinity, and himself because he was a little yellow
His early life was that of a sheep-dog, in company with an
experienced collie who trained him, and an old shepherd who was
scarcely inferior to them in intelligence. By the time he was two
years old Wully was full grown and had taken a thorough course in
sheep. He knew them from ram-horn to lamb-hoof, and old Robin,
his master, at length had such confidence in his sagacity that he
would frequently stay at the tavern all night while Wully guarded
the woolly idiots in the hills. His education had been wisely
bestowed and in most ways he was a very bright little dog with a
future before him. Yet he never learned to despise that addle-pated
Robin. The old shepherd, with all his faults, his continual
after his ideal state—intoxication—and his mind-shrivelling life in
general was rarely brutal to Wully, and Wully repaid him with an
exaggerated worship that the greatest and wisest in the land would
have aspired to in vain.
Wully could not have imagined any greater being than Robin, and
yet for the sum of five shillings a week all Robin's vital energy and
mental force were pledged to the service of a not very great cattle
and sheep dealer, the real proprietor of Wully's charge, and when
this man, really less great than the neighboring laird, ordered
Robin to drive his flock by stages to the Yorkshire moors and
markets, of all the 376 mentalities concerned, Wully's was the
most interested and interesting.
The journey through Northumberland was uneventful. At the River
Tyne the sheep were driven on to the ferry and landed safely in
smoky South Shields. The great factory chimneys were just
starting up for the day and belching out fogbanks and
thunder-rollers of opaque leaden smoke that darkened the air and
hung low like a storm-cloud over the streets. The sheep thought
that they recognized the fuming
 dun of an unusually heavy Cheviot
storm. They became alarmed, and in spite of their keepers
stampeded through the town in 374 different directions.
Robin was vexed to the inmost recesses of his tiny soul. He stared
stupidly after the sheep for half a minute, then gave the order,
"Wully, fetch them in." After this mental effort he sat down, lit his
pipe, and taking out his knitting began work on a half-finished
To Wully the voice of Robin was the voice of God. Away he ran in
374 different directions, and headed off and rounded up the 374
different wanderers, and brought them back to the ferry-house
before Robin, who was stolidly watching the process, had toed off
Finally Wully—not Robin—gave the sign that all were in. The old
shepherd proceeded to count them—370, 371, 372, 373.
"Wully," he said reproachfully, "thar no' a' here. Thur's anither."
And Wully, stung with shame, bounded off to scour the whole city
for the missing one. He was not long gone when a small boy
pointed out to Robin that
 the sheep were all there, the whole 374.
Now Robin was in a quandary. His order was to hasten on to
Yorkshire, and yet he knew that Wully's pride would prevent his
coming back without another sheep, even if he had to steal it. Such
things had happened before, and resulted in embarrassing
complications. What should he do?
There was five shillings a week at stake. Wully was a good dog, it
was a pity to lose him, but then, his orders from the master; and
again, if Wully stole an extra sheep to make up the number, then
what—in a foreign land too? He decided to abandon Wully, and
push on alone with the sheep. And how he fared no one knows or
Meanwhile, Wully careered through miles of streets hunting in
vain for his lost sheep. All day he searched, and at night, famished
and worn out, he sneaked shamefacedly back to the ferry, only to
find that master and sheep had gone. His sorrow was pitiful to see.
He ran about whimpering, then took the ferryboat across to the
other side, and searched everywhere for Robin. He returned to
South Shields and searched there, and spent the rest
 of the night
seeking for his wretched idol. The next day he continued his
search, he crossed and recrossed the river many times. He watched
and smelt everyone that came over, and with significant
shrewdness he sought unceasingly in the neighboring taverns for
his master. The next day he set to work systematically to smell
everyone that might cross the ferry.
The ferry makes fifty trips a day, with an average of one hundred
persons a trip, yet never once did Wully fail to be on the
gang-plank and smell every pair of legs that crossed—5,000 pairs,
10,000 legs that day did Wully examine after his own fashion. And
the next day, and the next, and all the week he kept his post, and
seemed indifferent to feeding himself. Soon starvation and worry
began to tell on him. He grew thin and ill-tempered. No one could
touch him, and any attempt to interfere with his daily occupation
of leg-smelling roused him to desperation.
Day after day, week after week Wully watched and waited for his
master, who never came. The ferry men learned to respect
 Wully's fidelity. At first he scorned their proffered food and shelter, and
lived no one knew how, but starved to it at last, he accepted the
gifts and learned to tolerate the givers. Although embittered
against the world, his heart was true to his worthless master.
Fourteen months afterward I made his acquaintance. He was still
on rigid duty at his post. He had regained his good looks. His
bright, keen face set off by his white ruff and pricked ears made a
dog to catch the eye anywhere. But he gave me no second glance,
once he found my legs were not those he sought, and in spite of my
friendly overtures during the ten months following that he
continued his watch, I got no farther into his confidence than any
For two whole years did this devoted creature attend that ferry.
There was only one thing to prevent him going home to the hills,
not the distance nor the chance of getting lost, but the conviction
that Robin, the godlike Robin, wished him to stay by the ferry; and
But he crossed the water as often as he felt
 it would serve his
purpose. The fare for a dog was one penny, and it was calculated
that Wully owed the company hundreds of pounds before he gave
up his quest. He never failed to sense every pair of nethers that
crossed the gang-plank—6,000,000 legs by computation had been
pronounced upon by this expert. But all to no purpose.
His unswerving fidelity never faltered, though his temper was
obviously souring under the long strain.
We had never heard what became of Robin, but one day a sturdy
drover strode down the ferry-slip and Wully mechanically assaying
the new personality, suddenly started, his mane bristled, he
trembled, a low growl escaped him, and he fixed his every sense
on the drover.
One of the ferry hands not understanding, called to the stranger,
"Hoot mon, ye maunna hort oor dawg."
"Whaes hortin 'im, ye fule; he is mair like to hort me." But further
explanation was not necessary. Wully's manner had wholly
changed. He fawned on the drover, and his tail was wagging
violently for the first time in years.
 A few words made it all clear.
Dorley, the drover, had known Robin very well, and the mittens
and comforter he wore were of Robin's own make and had once
been part of his wardrobe.
Wully recognized the traces of his
master, and despairing of any nearer approach to his lost idol, he
abandoned his post at the ferry and plainly announced his intention
of sticking to the owner of the mittens, and Dorley was well
pleased to take Wully along to his home among the hills of
Derbyshire, where he became once more a sheep-dog in charge of
Once More a Sheep-dog in Charge of a Flock
Monsaldale is one of the best-known valleys in Derbyshire. The
Pig and Whistle is its single but celebrated inn, and Jo Greatorex,
the landlord, is a shrewd and sturdy Yorkshireman. Nature meant
him for a frontiersman, but circumstances made him an innkeeper
and his inborn tastes made him a—well, never mind; there was a
great deal of poaching done in that country.
Wully's new home was on the upland east of
 the valley above Jo's
inn, and that fact was not without weight in bringing me to
Monsaldale. His master, Dorley, farmed in a small way on the
lowland, and on the moors had a large number of sheep. These
Wully guarded with his old-time sagacity, watching them while
they fed and bringing them to the fold at night. He was reserved
and preoccupied for a dog, and rather too ready to show his teeth
to strangers, but he was so unremitting in his attention to his flock
that Dorley did not lose a lamb that year, although the neighboring
farmers paid the usual tribute to eagles and to foxes.
The dales are poor fox-hunting country at best. The rocky ridges,
high stone walls, and precipices are too numerous to please the
riders, and the final retreats in the rocks are so plentiful that it was
a marvel the foxes did not overrun Monsaldale. But they didn't.
There had been but little reason for complaint until the year 1881,
when a sly old fox quartered himself on the fat parish, like a
mouse inside a cheese, and laughed equally at the hounds of the
huntsmen and the lurchers of the farmers.
He was several times
run by the Peak hounds,
 and escaped by making for the Devil's
Hole. Once in this gorge, where the cracks in the rocks extend
unknown distances, he was safe. The country folk began to see
something more than chance in the fact that he always escaped
at the Devil's Hole, and when one of the hounds who nearly caught
this Devil's Fox soon after went mad, it removed all doubt as to the
spiritual paternity of said fox.
He continued his career of rapine, making audacious raids and
hair-breadth escapes, and finally began, as do many old foxes, to
kill from a mania for slaughter. Thus it was that Digby lost ten
lambs in one night. Carroll lost seven the next night. Later, the
vicarage duck-pond was wholly devastated, and scarcely a night
passed but someone in the region had to report a carnage of
poultry, lambs or sheep, and, finally even calves.
Of course all the slaughter was attributed to this one fox of the
Devil's Hole. It was known only that he was a very large fox, at
least one that made a very large track. He never was clearly seen,
even by the huntsmen. And it was noticed that Thunder and Bell,
stanch-  est hounds in the pack, had refused to tongue or even to
follow the trail when he was hunted.
His reputation for madness sufficed to make the master of the Peak
hounds avoid the neighborhood. The farmers in Monsaldale, led by
Jo, agreed among themselves that if it would only come on a snow,
they would assemble and beat the whole country, and in defiance
of all rules of the hunt, get rid of the 'daft' fox in any way they
could. But the snow did not come, and the red-haired gentleman
lived his life. Notwithstanding his madness, he did not lack
method. He never came two successive nights to the same farm.
He never ate where he killed, and he never left a track that
betrayed his retreat. He usually finished up his night's trail on the
turf, or on a public highway.
Once I saw him. I was walking to Monsaldale from Bakewell late
one night during a heavy storm, and as I turned the corner of
Stead's sheep-fold there was a vivid flash of lightning. By its light,
there was fixed on my retina a picture that made me start. Sitting
on his haunches by the roadside, twenty yards away, was a very
large fox gazing at me with
 malignant eyes, and licking his muzzle
in a suggestive manner. All this I saw, but no more, and might
have forgotten it, or thought myself mistaken, but the next
morning, in that very fold, were found the bodies of twenty-three
lambs and sheep, and the unmistakable signs that brought home
the crime to the well-known marauder.
There was only one man who escaped, and that was Dorley. This
was the more remarkable because he lived in the centre of the
region raided, and within one mile of the Devil's Hole. Faithful
Wully proved himself worth all the dogs in the neighborhood.
Night after night he brought in the sheep, and never one was
missing. The Mad Fox might prowl about the Dorley homestead if
he wished, but Wully, shrewd, brave, active Wully was more than
a match for him, and not only saved his master's flock, but himself
escaped with a whole skin. Everyone entertained a profound
respect for him, and he might have been a popular pet but for his
temper which, never genial, became more and more crabbed. He
seemed to like Dorley, and Huldah, Dorley's eldest daughter,
 a shrewd, handsome, young woman, who, in the capacity of general
manager of the house, was Wully's special guardian. The other
members of Dorley's family Wully learned to tolerate, but the rest
of the world, men and dogs, he seemed to hate.
His uncanny disposition was well shown in the last meeting I had
with him. I was walking on a pathway across the moor behind
Dorley's house. Wully was lying on the doorstep. As I drew near he
arose, and without appearing to see me trotted toward my pathway
and placed himself across it about ten yards ahead of me. There he
stood silently and intently regarding the distant moor, his slightly
bristling mane the only sign that he had not been suddenly turned
to stone. He did not stir as I came up, and not wishing to quarrel, I
stepped around past his nose and walked on. Wully at once left his
position and in the same eerie silence trotted on some twenty feet
and again stood across the pathway. Once more I came up and,
stepping into the grass, brushed past his nose. Instantly, but
without a sound, he seized my left heel. I kicked out with the other
 but he escaped. Not having a stick, I flung a large stone at
him. He leaped forward and the stone struck him in the ham,
bowling him over into a ditch. He gasped out a savage growl as he
fell, but scrambled out of the ditch and limped away in silence.
Yet sullen and ferocious as Wully was to the world, he was always
gentle with Dorley's sheep. Many were the tales of rescues told of
him. Many a poor lamb that had fallen into a pond or hole would
have perished but for his timely and sagacious aid,
far-weltered ewe did he turn right side up;
while his keen eye
discerned and his fierce courage baffled every eagle that had
appeared on the moor in his time.
The Monsaldale farmers were still paying their nightly tribute to
the Mad Fox, when the snow came, late in December. Poor Widow
Gelt lost her entire flock of twenty sheep, and the fiery cross went
forth early in the morning. With guns unconcealed the burly
farmers set out to follow to the finish the tell-tale tracks in
 the snow, those of a very large fox, undoubtedly the multo-murderous
villain. For a while the trail was clear enough, then it came to the
river and the habitual cunning of the animal was shown. He
reached the water at a long angle pointing down stream and
jumped into the shallow, unfrozen current. But at the other side
there was no track leading out, and it was only after long searching
that, a quarter of a mile higher up the stream, they found where he
had come out. The track then ran to the top of Henley's high stone
wall, where there was no snow left to tell tales. But the patient
hunters persevered. When it crossed the smooth snow from the
wall to the high road there was a difference of opinion. Some
claimed that the track went up, others down the road. But Jo
settled it, and after another long search they found where
apparently the same trail, though some said a larger one, had left
the road to enter a sheep-fold, and leaving this without harming the
occupants, the track-maker had stepped in the footmarks of a
countryman, thereby getting to the moor road, along which he had
trotted straight to Dorley's farm.
 That day the sheep were kept in on account of the snow and Wully,
without his usual occupation, was lying on some planks in the sun.
As the hunters drew near the house, he growled savagely and
sneaked around to where the sheep were. Jo Greatorex walked up
to where Wully had crossed the fresh snow, gave a glance, looked
dumbfounded, then pointing to the retreating sheep-dog, he said,
"Lads, we're off the track of the Fox. But there's the killer of the
Some agreed with Jo, others recalled the doubt in the trail and
were for going back to make a fresh follow. At this juncture,
Dorley himself came out of the house.
"Tom," said Jo, "that dog o' thine 'as killed twenty of Widder Gelt's
sheep, last night. An' ah fur one don't believe as it is first killin'."
"Why, mon, thou art crazy," said Tom. "Ah never 'ad a better
sheep-dog—'e fair loves the sheep."
"Aye! We's seen summat o' that in las' night's work," replied Jo.
In vain the company related the history of
 the morning. Tom swore
that it was nothing but a jealous conspiracy to rob him of Wully.
"Wully sleeps i' the kitchen every night. Never is oot till he's let to
bide wi' the yowes. Why, mon, he's wi' oor sheep the year round,
and never a hoof have ah lost."
Tom became much excited over this abominable attempt against
Wully's reputation and life. Jo and his partisans got equally angry,
and it was a wise suggestion of Huldah's that quieted them.
"Feyther," said she, "ah'll sleep i' the kitchen the night. If Wully 'as
ae way of gettin' oot ah'll see it, an' if he's no oot an' sheep's killed
on the country-side, we'll ha' proof it's na Wully."
That night Huldah stretched herself on the settee and Wully slept
as usual underneath the table. As night wore on the dog became
restless. He turned on his bed and once or twice got up, stretched,
looked at Huldah and lay down again. About two o'clock he
seemed no longer able to resist some strange impulse. He arose
quietly, looked toward the low window, then at the motionless girl.
Huldah lay still
 and breathed as though sleeping. Wully slowly
came near and sniffed and breathed his doggy breath in her face.
She made no move. He nudged her gently with his nose. Then,
with his sharp ears forward and his head on one side he studied her
calm face. Still no sign. He walked quietly to the window,
mounted the table without noise, placed his nose under the
sash-bar and raised the light frame until he could put one paw
underneath. Then changing, he put his nose under the sash and
raised it high enough to slip out, easing down the frame finally on
his rump and tail with an adroitness that told of long practice.
Then he disappeared into the darkness.
Wully Studied her Calm Face
From her couch Huldah watched in amazement. After waiting for
some time to make sure that he was gone, she arose, intending to
call her father at once, but on second thought she decided to await
more conclusive proof. She peered into the darkness, but no sign
of Wully was to be seen. She put more wood on the fire, and lay
down again. For over an hour she lay wide awake listening to the
kitchen clock, and starting at each trifling sound, and
what the dog was doing. Could it be possible that he had really
killed the widow's sheep? Then the recollection of his gentleness
to their own sheep came, and completed her perplexity.
Another hour slowly tick-tocked. She heard a slight sound at the
window that made her heart jump. The scratching sound was soon
followed by the lifting of the sash, and in a short time Wully was
back in the kitchen with the window closed behind him.
By the flickering fire-light Huldah could see a strange, wild gleam
in his eye, and his jaws and snowy breast were dashed with fresh
blood. The dog ceased his slight panting as he scrutinized the girl.
Then, as she did not move, he lay down, and began to lick his paws
and muzzle, growling lowly once or twice as though at the
remembrance of some recent occurrence.
Huldah had seen enough. There could no longer be any doubt that
Jo was right and more—a new thought flashed into her quick brain,
she realized that the weird fox of Monsal was before her. Raising
herself, she looked straight at Wully, and exclaimed:
 "Wully! Wully! so it's a' true—oh, Wully, ye terrible brute."
Her voice was fiercely reproachful, it rang in the quiet kitchen, and
Wully recoiled as though shot. He gave a desperate glance toward
the closed window. His eye gleamed, and his mane bristled. But he
cowered under her gaze, and grovelled on the floor as though
begging for mercy. Slowly he crawled nearer and nearer, as if to
lick her feet, until quite close, then, with the fury of a tiger, but
without a sound, he sprang for her throat.
The girl was taken unawares, but she threw up her arm in time,
and Wully's long, gleaming tusks sank into her flesh, and grated on
"Help! help! feyther! feyther!" she shrieked.
Wully was a light weight, and for a moment she flung him off. But
there could be no mistaking his purpose. The game was up, it was
his life or hers now.
"Feyther! feyther!" she screamed, as the yellow fury, striving to kill
her, bit and tore the unprotected hands that had so often fed him.
 In vain she fought to hold him off, he would soon have had her by
the throat, when in rushed Dorley.
Straight at him, now in the same horrid silence sprang Wully, and
savagely tore him again and again before a deadly blow from the
fagot-hook disabled him, dashing him, gasping and writhing, on
the stone floor, desperate, and done for, but game and defiant to
the last. Another quick blow scattered his brains on the
hearthstone, where so long he had been a faithful and honored
retainer—and Wully, bright, fierce, trusty, treacherous Wully,
quivered a moment, then straightened out, and lay forever still.
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