Please note that this section is in the process of
editing, as it is easier to do when it is on-line I have
uploaded it. Apologies for any mistakes which hopefully
will only be minor and concern spelling and format.
Sentient in Rabbits This is a new segment in this
section concerning sentience in animals, sentient
rabbits. Most of us who own, I prefer the term guardian
rather than owner, a pet or pets, again I prefer the
term companion animal, know don't we that the animal we
care for is a sentient being, a creature with his or her
own personality likes and dislikes, a thinking feeling
This the first article of a series which will eventually
include other pets will focus on information, stories
and antidotes regarding the sentience of rabbits. More
information will be included when it becomes available.
assumption that animals acted exclusively by instinct,
while man had a monopoly of reason, is, we think,
maintained by few people nowadays who have any knowledge
at all about animals. We can only wonder that so absurd
a theory could have been held for so long a time as it
was, when on all sides the evidence if animals' power of
reasoning is crushing.
Ernest Bell (1851-1933)
is for true stories and accounts of animal sentience.
The idea is to bring together a collection of anecdotes
and accounts of animal sentience from the past and the
present. At the present time the vast majority of
accounts here are taken from books, on-line and other published
sources. I would very much like to include accounts of
animal sentience from people who visit this website, so
if you have a story about your companion animal, a wild
animal, farm animal indeed any animal please send it to
firstname.lastname@example.org, for inclusion, you are welcome to include photos if you have them.
This is an extension of the section Sentience in Farm animals
contains accounts and antidotes that
show sentience in farm and other animals.
To skip the
extended introduction below and go straight to
the information selection and
focus on a particular a characteristic of animal
please scroll down or click
sentient animal is one for whom feelings matter
John Webster, Professor Emeritus,
University of Bristol
Basically sentience is awareness,
Here are a
couple of definitions:
the ability to feel or perceive. The term is used in
science and philosophy, and in the study of artificial
intelligence. Sentience is used in the study of
consciousness to describe the ability to have sensations
or experiences, known to Western philosophers as "qualia".
In eastern philosophy, sentience is a metaphysical
quality of all things that requires respect and care.
studies in animal intelligence are rife with debate,
sentience is fairly straightforward by comparison. It
simply means being conscious, having the capacity to
perceive through the senses. Often, it implies the
capacity to suffer. "To be sentient is to be aware. One
of the ways we are aware is pain," explains Dr. Roger
Fouts, a professor of psychology at Central Washington
University, an Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) board
member and a co-director of the Chimpanzee and Human
Communications Institute. "Sentience is a very useful
trait to have in adaptation and survival," he says,
adding that it is "far too complex to have popped up in
our species without a long history of evolutionary
complex abilities and lead rich emotional lives,
they are sentient
beings aware of their environment, their own bodies and
what is happening to them, aware of other animals, have
the ability to experience suffering or pleasure, pain or
wellbeing, to form friendships and so on. It may
surprise you to know that animals can dream about their daily
experiences in much the same way as we do.
rats shows that they dream. Experiments conducted at
MIT showed that animals have complex dreams and are able
to retain and recall long sequences of events while they
are asleep demonstrating that just like our brains the
brains of rats regurgitate the day's events when asleep.
animals are sentient in ways we do not understand and
may outperform humans in certain abilities and senses.
Here is a good
Below is a
sort animated video concerning the ability of animals to
predict an earthquake
"In China in
1975, 90,000 lives were saved when a whole city was
evacuated several hours before a 7.3 magnitude
earthquake struck. The evacuation was based purely on
the unusual behaviour of local animals: cattle lay down
in the road and cockerels began crowing in the day. The
cartoon you are about to see is based on this true
event. Graham Norton, Miranda Richardson and Andrew
was commissioned by the World Society for the Protection
of Animals, who wanted a Manga-style animation to raise
public awareness of sentience and intelligence in farm
animals. In particular WSPA wanted to focus on Asia,
where factory farming is expanding at an alarming rate
so we also made versions in Mandarin and Spanish.
The story itself is based on actual events in Haicheng,
China, in 1975, when the city's 90,000 population was
evacuated hours before a 7.3 magnitude earthquake.
possess emotions that we do not experience or understand
described wild beavers whose dam had been severely
damaged by human vandals at a season when material to
repair it was hard to find. The observer arranged for
suitable branches to be deposited in the pond while the
beavers were asleep. The male of the pair was removing
wood from his lodge to transfer to the dam when he
discovered the branches, sniffing them and uttering loud
excited cries. One observer thought that the beaver was
'rejoicing ', the other that he was 'marvelling', but
than coming to their scientific senses, they greed that
the beaver's subjective feelings... were beyond their
power to ascertain.
Why Elephants Weep
Masson and Susan Macarthy
Apparently in ancient Japan it was taken as read that
animals were sentient and were aware of their environment
and what was happening to them, even to the extent of being
devious and possessing imagination.
The following account comes from the Pillow book of Sei
Shonagon*1), a lady in waiting at the court of the
sixty-sixth emperor of Japan Ichijo towards the end of
the twelfth century AD. This account concerns Okinamaru
the palace dog punished for attacking Lady Myobu the
Lady Myobu the palace cat,
who was held in high regard
"awareded the headdress of nobility"
was basking in the sun on
the veranda ignoring the admonition of the nurse who
called out for her to come in
"Oh you naughty thing! Please come inside at once"
The cat paid no heed and the nurse thinking to give her
a fright called on Okinamaru the palace dog
"Okinamaru, where are you?" she cried. "Come and bite
Lady Myobu! The foolish Okinamaru believing
that the nurse was in earnest, rushed to the cat who
startled and terrified, ran behind the blind into the
Imperial Dinning Room, where the emperor happened to be
The unfortunate Okinamaru was chastised and banished.
Shonagon describing the dog's former privileged status
" Poor dog! He used to swagger about so happily.
Recently on the third day of the third month , when the
Controller First Secretary , paraded him through the
palace grounds ,Okinamaru was adorned with garlands of
willow leaves, peach blossoms on his head and cherry
blossoms on his body. How could the dog have imagined
that this would be his fate?
Okinamaru returned to the palace after his banishment
and was beaten by two chamberlains as punishment. An
intervention to stop by Sei Shonagon came to late and the
dog was thrown outside of the gate presumed dead. That
same evening while Sei
Shonagon and other ladies in waiting were lamenting the
fate of Okinamaru a bedraggled dog appeared shaking all
over his body swollen and bruised. At first everyone
thought it was Okinamaru but the dog made no response.
We called him by name, but the dog did not respond.
Lady Urkon who was more familiar with the dog was
summoned to indentify the animal by the Empress who had
over heard the discussion, but she failed to recognise
the dog as Okinamaru saying
When I called to Okinamaru, he always used to come to
me, wagging his tail. But this dog does not react at
After feeding and caring for the unfortunate dog it was
finally decided that he was not Okinamaru.
The next morning when Sei
Shonagon was tending to the empress the wretched dog
walked into the room. Sei
I was holding up the mirror for her when the dog
we had seen on the previous evening slunk into the room
and crouched next to one of the pillars. 'Poor Okinamaru'
I said .'He had such a dreadful beating yesterday . How
sad to think he is dead! I wonder what body he has been
born into this time. Oh how he must have suffered !'
At that moment the dog laying by the pillar started to
shake and tremble, and shed a flood of tears. It was
astounding. So this was really Okinamaru! On the
previous night it was to avoid betraying himself that he
had refused to answer to his name.
yelped loudly and the ladies in waiting crowded round.
When the news of this event reached the emperor he too
came and said
'To think that
even a dog has such deep feelings!'
Okinamaru was granted an imperial pardon.
aspects of sentience
I formerly possessed a
large dog, who, like every other dog, was much pleased
to go out walking. He showed his pleasure by trotting
gravely before me with high steps, head much raised,
moderately erected ears, and tail carried aloft but not
stiffly. Not far from my house a path branches off to
the right, leading to the hot-house, which I used often
to visit for a few moments, to look at my experimental
plants. This was always a great disappointment to the
dog, as he did not know whether I should continue my
walk; and the instantaneous and complete change of
expression which came over him as soon as my body
swerved in the least towards the path (and I sometimes
tried this as an experiment) was laughable. His look of
dejection was known to every member of the family, and
was called his hot-house face. This consisted in the
head drooping much, the whole body sinking a little and
remaining motionless; the ears and tail falling suddenly
down, but the tail was by no means wagged. With the
falling of the ears and of his great chaps, the eyes
became much changed in appearance, and I fancied that
they looked less bright. His aspect was that of piteous,
hopeless dejection; and it was, as I have said,
laughable, as the cause was so slight. Every detail in
his attitude was in complete opposition to his former
joyful yet dignified bearing
extract from The Expression of Emotions and Man and Animals
Darwin writes about the many similarities between human
and non human animals in his book The descent of Man.
The passage below describes many characteristics
including vengefulness, deceit, courage and anger in
varying degrees displayed in animals that indicate
sentience as they do in human beings. Moreover he
observed that these characterises varied in the same
species presenting in some animals whilst not in others,
such as a bad temperament in some horses and good
temperament in others, thus demonstrating animals as
individuals in much the same way as are humans. If
you consider carefully the implications of evolution it
will become apparent that our emotions are the gifts of
our animal ancestors. The quotation below expresses this
We have seen that the
senses and intuitions, the various emotions and
faculties, such as love, memory, attention and
curiosity, imitation, reason, etc., of which man boasts,
may be found in an incipient, or even sometimes in a
well-developed condition, in the lower animals.
‘There is no fundamental difference between man and the
higher mammals in their mental faculties… The difference
in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it
is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.’
fact that the lower animals are excited by the same
emotions as ourselves is so well established, that it
will not be necessary to weary the reader by many
details. Terror acts in the same manner on them as on
us, causing the muscles to tremble, the heart to
palpitate, the sphincters to be relaxed, and the hair to
stand on end. Suspicion, the offspring of fear, is
eminently characteristic of most wild animals. It is, I
think, impossible to read the account given by Sir E.
Tennent, of the behaviour of the female elephants, used
as decoys, without admitting that they intentionally
practise deceit, and well know what they are about.
Courage and timidity are extremely variable qualities in
the individuals of the same species, as is plainly seen
in our dogs. Some dogs and horses are ill-tempered, and
easily turn sulky; others are good-tempered; and these
qualities are certainly inherited. Every one knows how
liable animals are to furious rage, and how plainly they
shew it. Many, and probably true, anecdotes have been
published on the long-delayed and artful revenge of
various animals. The accurate Rengger, and Brehm state that the
American and African monkeys which they kept tame,
certainly revenged themselves. Sir Andrew Smith, a
zoologist whose scrupulous accuracy was known to many
persons, told me the following story of which he was
himself an eye- witness; at the Cape of Good Hope an
officer had often plagued a certain baboon, and the
animal, seeing him approaching one Sunday for parade,
poured water into a hole and hastily made some thick
mud, which he skilfully dashed over the officer as he
passed by, to the amusement of many bystanders. For long
afterwards the baboon rejoiced and triumphed whenever he
saw his victim.
The Descent of
Man Charles Darwin
has shown that chickens are capable of empathy. Chickens
it seems are also capable of lust, selfishness and love.
below will take you to a number of accounts concerning
Like Us,' Elephant Researchers Say
Elephants are like us self aware. Recently an elephant
named Happy who sadly is confined to the Bronx Zoo in
New York passed an important test, the mirror test,
by understanding that
the elephant she could see in the mirror was herself
"I think the real shock right now,
in terms of the mirror self-recognition tests and their
intelligence and their emotions is, they're like us.
It's not that they're way up there. It's that they're on
level footing with us,"
Gay Bradshaw, director of a
research institute called The Kerulos Center.
Read more facts that point to
sentience in elephants
reference to animal research. While I strongly condemn
animal research I consider that for the sake of
clarification such research should be referenced
particularly if doing so furthers our understanding of
animals and hence their better treatment
* I have endeavoured to provide accurate
references for stories found on the internet however
some of the stories are so frequently repeated that the
original source is not easily identifiable. If you see
any story here that is yours for which you have not been
credited for have not given permission for
its inclusion please
Credit Photo: (c) 2008 by Wanda Embar, Vegan Peace.
Picture taken at Farm Sanctuary.
I am not an
animal expert of any kind just your average person who
loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply about the
plight of many of our fellow creatures. Neither am I a
writer, or any other expert. Therefore please keep in
mind that the information included in this website has
been researched to the best of my ability and any
misinformation is quite by accident but of course