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By Austin Osman Spare

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Sample text

Later, after a little reflection, I’d reconsidered, thought that maybe he wasn’t so stupid, that maybe he had been aware of my presence but maybe somehow — by some pheromonelike clue or something — had divined my intentions weren’t bad. Confronting this porcupine, however, I knew it had been neither stupidity nor prescience. That first porcupine had known I was there. He’d intuited nothing of my intentions, probably. What he did know was himself, what he couldn’t do and could. Not with his little quill-tufted head maybe (though to give him his due, the porcupine has a big brain and an excellent memory), but in a visceral way, in the core of him, he knew who he was.

Confronting this porcupine, however, I knew it had been neither stupidity nor prescience. That first porcupine had known I was there. He’d intuited nothing of my intentions, probably. What he did know was himself, what he couldn’t do and could. Not with his little quill-tufted head maybe (though to give him his due, the porcupine has a big brain and an excellent memory), but in a visceral way, in the core of him, he knew who he was. He knew he couldn’t run or fight worth a damn with those little bowed legs, and he knew those chiseling teeth, so perfect for sawing twigs off cleanly, held little threat for me.

And if we’re talking in terms of intelligence, what’s dumb about any of this? If they don’t stand a chance against us, why fight a losing battle? But at the same time, why give us an inch more than they have to give? Maybe by human reckoning cows aren’t as smart as dogs or horses in some ways, but on this count they seem to have pretty good sense. And a certain stolid, self-respecting integrity too. Cows, Arrogance, the Natures of Things What’s more, whoever pays attention will notice that cows aren’t less-than-animal at all.

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