Shrews. The small mammal variety deserves its reputation. I first learned of the word “shrew” from Shakespeare. In the film adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the tigress Katharina brought the full fury of woman to the screen.
Webster’s definition limits the disposition to females: “a woman of violent temper and speech.” In the small mammal world, both genders of the shrew are highly active and violent.
The shrew is a tiny mammal and was thought to be the smallest on earth until the recent discovery of the bumblebee bat. A large shrew weighs about three-quarters of an ounce. In the 2004 issue of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the species is described as having a “supercharged, hyperactive way of life fueled by one of the most extravagant metabolisms in nature.”
One researcher sedated a shrew and measured its heart- rate. The small heart averaged 760 beats per minute! Hibernating is not in their vocabulary, and they sleep little. Voracious appetites drives them to hunt, kill, and consume.
Humans have sighted the tiny shrews killing small rabbits and snakes, and the Blarina brevicauda has a poisonous bite that paralyzes its prey. Constantly searching for food, they will eat any kind of meat they can kill.
Shrews are also known to fight, bite, and devour each other. The shrew’s life is one of constant frenzy, and battle. If a shrew receives a dinner invitation from a neighboring shrew, surely he has to wonder if the motive is hospitality or need of a main course. One other characteristic of the shrew is their ability to fuss and make a scene.
Gerald Durell told of watching a shrew have a temper tantrum when a giant African snail didn’t succumb to the mammal’s first assault. “Screaming with frustration” the shrew attacked the second time and the snail doused the tiny mammal with a frothy substance. The shrew became “almost incoherent with rage.”
Researchers cage shrews and have reported their shrieking and constant chattering. Rage is anger on a rampage, and unleashed anger is not so cute when exhibited in our companions.
Paul said, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Shrewish behavior belongs to a lower class animal.
Compassion and forgiveness should rule the hearts of the human species.
(Photo from http://www.pestproducts.com/pygmy-shrew.htm , where description says this particular shrew is so tiny its weight is about that of a dime.)