grew up in the city of Vienna; the nearest tree was several blocks away.
My earliest recollections of animals relate to chickens at my paternal
grandmother’s house in the country. The henhouse had two fenced-in
runs, but only one run was used by chickens; the other one became my playpen
with a sand box. This gave me an early opportunity to watch the hens
and the rooster, to talk to them, to befriend them. There were also
two dogs, a little gray schnauzer and a German shepherd, a canary, and
many wild birds and other animals in the big garden--fireflies, beautiful
butterflies, big staghorn beetles, ants, earthworms. Summer vacation
with my maternal grandparents gave me early insight into peasant life with
cows and horses and in the little run in the back of our yard, and in ponds
and a trout stream I discovered aquatic life.
first animal I raised successfully was a kestrel, during my first year
at the university in 1946. Since meat was scarce during the lean
postwar years, I had to catch his food myself and soon became an experienced
mouser, even invented a better mouse trap (51). Without a refrigerator
for storage, I kept my mice alive up to the moment of their demise, and
soon found them more interesting than the kestrel. I discovered their
high-pitched vocalizations, which were inaudible to most people, and my
subsequent research in sound perception became the core of my dissertation
and the basis for my further research into bioacoustics (48, 52).
During my dissertation research, I stumbled on many different aspects of
rodent behavior. In the context of an analysis of the behavior of
newborn mice, my friend Heinz Prechtl joined me in a comparative study
of mammalian neonates, involving observing and experimenting with puppy
dogs, kittens, and human babies (50).
I became assistant to Konrad Lorenz in 1951, my first project was to repeat
and reevaluate the controversial experiment about the effect of predator
models on ducks, geese and gallinaceous birds performed by Lorenz and Niko
Tinbergen. They had performed this experiment together in 1937 but
later differed in interpretation of results.
Since, according to Lorenz, the famed differential
response to the “Hawk-Goose Model” was shown only in young turkeys, I tried
to conduct my experiments under as close to the original conditions as
possible, but-–due to various mishaps-–did not succeed until 1961 (58,
60, 61a, b, ). By that time I had become enough of an expert on turkey
behavior to get first an invitation for one year and ultimately a job for
20 more years in the USA (64b, c, 65, 69, 70a, b, c).
over the years, support for behavioral research and for turkey studies
was cut back, I scaled my animal subjects down in size, working with pheasants,
chickens and quail, and finally with the smallest of all galliformes, the
blue-breasted quail (72, 73, 74, 76, 78, 82, 83, 84).
I felt sufficiently secure in the methods I had tested on animals to apply
them to the study of human behavior (85, 88b, 92, 94, 95, 98a, b, 01c)
and I have begun to propose less anthropomorphic, i.e., less self-centered
views of human ethics (98b, 00).