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Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift

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[The author relates several particulars of the YAHOOS.
The great virtues of the HOUYHNHNMS. The education
and exercise of their youth. Their general assembly.]

As I ought to have understood human nature much better than I
supposed it possible for my master to do, so it was easy to apply
the character he gave of the YAHOOS to myself and my countrymen;
and I believed I could yet make further discoveries, from my own
observation. I therefore often begged his honour to let me go
among the herds of YAHOOS in the neighbourhood; to which he
always very graciously consented, being perfectly convinced that
the hatred I bore these brutes would never suffer me to be
corrupted by them; and his honour ordered one of his servants, a
strong sorrel nag, very honest and good-natured, to be my guard;
without whose protection I durst not undertake such adventures.
For I have already told the reader how much I was pestered by
these odious animals, upon my first arrival; and I afterwards
failed very narrowly, three or four times, of falling into their
clutches, when I happened to stray at any distance without my
hanger. And I have reason to believe they had some imagination
that I was of their own species, which I often assisted myself by
stripping up my sleeves, and showing my naked arms and breasts in
their sight, when my protector was with me. At which times they
would approach as near as they durst, and imitate my actions
after the manner of monkeys, but ever with great signs of hatred;
as a tame jackdaw with cap and stockings is always persecuted by
the wild ones, when he happens to be got among them.

They are prodigiously nimble from their infancy. However, I once
caught a young male of three years old, and endeavoured, by all
marks of tenderness, to make it quiet; but the little imp fell a
squalling, and scratching, and biting with such violence, that I
was forced to let it go; and it was high time, for a whole troop
of old ones came about us at the noise, but finding the cub was
safe (for away it ran), and my sorrel nag being by, they durst
not venture near us. I observed the young animal's flesh to
smell very rank, and the stink was somewhat between a weasel and
a fox, but much more disagreeable. I forgot another circumstance
(and perhaps I might have the reader's pardon if it were wholly
omitted), that while I held the odious vermin in my hands, it
voided its filthy excrements of a yellow liquid substance all
over my clothes; but by good fortune there was a small brook hard
by, where I washed myself as clean as I could; although I durst
not come into my master's presence until I were sufficiently aired.

By what I could discover, the YAHOOS appear to be the most
unteachable of all animals: their capacity never reaching higher
than to draw or carry burdens. Yet I am of opinion, this defect
arises chiefly from a perverse, restive disposition; for they are
cunning, malicious, treacherous, and revengeful. They are strong
and hardy, but of a cowardly spirit, and, by consequence,
insolent, abject, and cruel. It is observed, that the red haired
of both sexes are more libidinous and mischievous than the rest,
whom yet they much exceed in strength and activity.

The HOUYHNHNMS keep the YAHOOS for present use in huts not far
from the house; but the rest are sent abroad to certain fields,
where they dig up roots, eat several kinds of herbs, and search
about for carrion, or sometimes catch weasels and LUHIMUHS (a
sort of wild rat), which they greedily devour. Nature has taught
them to dig deep holes with their nails on the side of a rising
ground, wherein they lie by themselves; only the kennels of the
females are larger, sufficient to hold two or three cubs.

They swim from their infancy like frogs, and are able to continue
long under water, where they often take fish, which the females
carry home to their young. And, upon this occasion, I hope the
reader will pardon my relating an odd adventure.

Being one day abroad with my protector the sorrel nag, and the
weather exceeding hot, I entreated him to let me bathe in a river
that was near. He consented, and I immediately stripped myself
stark naked, and went down softly into the stream. It happened
that a young female YAHOO, standing behind a bank, saw the whole
proceeding, and inflamed by desire, as the nag and I conjectured,
came running with all speed, and leaped into the water, within
five yards of the place where I bathed. I was never in my life
so terribly frightened. The nag was grazing at some distance,
not suspecting any harm. She embraced me after a most fulsome
manner. I roared as loud as I could, and the nag came galloping
towards me, whereupon she quitted her grasp, with the utmost
reluctancy, and leaped upon the opposite bank, where she stood
gazing and howling all the time I was putting on my clothes.

This was a matter of diversion to my master and his family, as
well as of mortification to myself. For now I could no longer
deny that I was a real YAHOO in every limb and feature, since the
females had a natural propensity to me, as one of their own
species. Neither was the hair of this brute of a red colour
(which might have been some excuse for an appetite a little
irregular), but black as a sloe, and her countenance did not make
an appearance altogether so hideous as the rest of her kind; for
I think she could not be above eleven years old.

Having lived three years in this country, the reader, I suppose,
will expect that I should, like other travellers, give him some
account of the manners and customs of its inhabitants, which it
was indeed my principal study to learn.

As these noble HOUYHNHNMS are endowed by nature with a general
disposition to all virtues, and have no conceptions or ideas of
what is evil in a rational creature, so their grand maxim is, to
cultivate reason, and to be wholly governed by it. Neither is
reason among them a point problematical, as with us, where men
can argue with plausibility on both sides of the question, but
strikes you with immediate conviction; as it must needs do, where
it is not mingled, obscured, or discoloured, by passion and
interest. I remember it was with extreme difficulty that I could
bring my master to understand the meaning of the word opinion, or
how a point could be disputable; because reason taught us to
affirm or deny only where we are certain; and beyond our
knowledge we cannot do either. So that controversies,
wranglings, disputes, and positiveness, in false or dubious
propositions, are evils unknown among the HOUYHNHNMS. In the
like manner, when I used to explain to him our several systems of
natural philosophy, he would laugh, "that a creature pretending
to reason, should value itself upon the knowledge of other
people's conjectures, and in things where that knowledge, if it
were certain, could be of no use." Wherein he agreed entirely
with the sentiments of Socrates, as Plato delivers them; which I
mention as the highest honour I can do that prince of
philosophers -I have often since reflected, what destruction such
doctrine would make in the libraries of Europe; and how many
paths of fame would be then shut up in the learned world.

Friendship and benevolence are the two principal virtues among
the HOUYHNHNMS; and these not confined to particular objects, but
universal to the whole race; for a stranger from the remotest
part is equally treated with the nearest neighbour, and wherever
he goes, looks upon himself as at home. They preserve decency
and civility in the highest degrees, but are altogether ignorant
of ceremony. They have no fondness for their colts or foals, but
the care they take in educating them proceeds entirely from the
dictates of reason. And I observed my master to show the same
affection to his neighbour's issue, that he had for his own.
They will have it that nature teaches them to love the whole
species, and it is reason only that makes a distinction of
persons, where there is a superior degree of virtue.

When the matron HOUYHNHNMS have produced one of each sex, they no
longer accompany with their consorts, except they lose one of
their issue by some casualty, which very seldom happens; but in
such a case they meet again; or when the like accident befalls a
person whose wife is past bearing, some other couple bestow on
him one of their own colts, and then go together again until the
mother is pregnant. This caution is necessary, to prevent the
country from being overburdened with numbers. But the race of
inferior HOUYHNHNMS, bred up to be servants, is not so strictly
limited upon this article: these are allowed to produce three of
each sex, to be domestics in the noble families.

In their marriages, they are exactly careful to choose such
colours as will not make any disagreeable mixture in the breed.
Strength is chiefly valued in the male, and comeliness in the
female; not upon the account of love, but to preserve the race
from degenerating; for where a female happens to excel in
strength, a consort is chosen, with regard to comeliness.

Courtship, love, presents, jointures, settlements have no place
in their thoughts, or terms whereby to express them in their
language. The young couple meet, and are joined, merely because
it is the determination of their parents and friends; it is what
they see done every day, and they look upon it as one of the
necessary actions of a reasonable being. But the violation of
marriage, or any other unchastity, was never heard of; and the
married pair pass their lives with the same friendship and mutual
benevolence, that they bear to all others of the same species who
come in their way, without jealousy, fondness, quarrelling, or

In educating the youth of both sexes, their method is admirable,
and highly deserves our imitation. These are not suffered to
taste a grain of oats, except upon certain days, till eighteen
years old; nor milk, but very rarely; and in summer they graze
two hours in the morning, and as many in the evening, which their
parents likewise observe; but the servants are not allowed above
half that time, and a great part of their grass is brought home,
which they eat at the most convenient hours, when they can be
best spared from work.

Temperance, industry, exercise, and cleanliness, are the lessons
equally enjoined to the young ones of both sexes: and my master
thought it monstrous in us, to give the females a different kind
of education from the males, except in some articles of domestic
management; whereby, as he truly observed, one half of our
natives were good for nothing but bringing children into the
world; and to trust the care of our children to such useless
animals, he said, was yet a greater instance of brutality.

But the HOUYHNHNMS train up their youth to strength, speed, and
hardiness, by exercising them in running races up and down steep
hills, and over hard stony grounds; and when they are all in a
sweat, they are ordered to leap over head and ears into a pond or
river. Four times a year the youth of a certain district meet to
show their proficiency in running and leaping, and other feats of
strength and agility; where the victor is rewarded with a song in
his or her praise. On this festival, the servants drive a herd
of YAHOOS into the field, laden with hay, and oats, and milk, for
a repast to the HOUYHNHNMS; after which, these brutes are
immediately driven back again, for fear of being noisome to the

Every fourth year, at the vernal equinox, there is a
representative council of the whole nation, which meets in a
plain about twenty miles from our house, and continues about five
or six days. Here they inquire into the state and condition of
the several districts; whether they abound or be deficient in hay
or oats, or cows, or YAHOOS; and wherever there is any want
(which is but seldom) it is immediately supplied by unanimous
consent and contribution. Here likewise the regulation of
children is settled: as for instance, if a HOUYHNHNM has two
males, he changes one of them with another that has two females;
and when a child has been lost by any casualty, where the mother
is past breeding, it is determined what family in the district
shall breed another to supply the loss.



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