Quadrupeds, What They Are and Where Found
by Mayne Reid
MONKEYS OF THE
MONKEYS OF THE
RATS AND OTHER
EIGHTEEN. THE OX
Quadrupeds, what they are and where found, by Captain Mayne Reid.
This is a fairly short book, but it certainly hits the spot, for
its aim is to inform young people about the four-legged animals of our
planet, and this it does very competently.
Of course there is no reason why young ladies should not read this
book: I am sure they would enjoy this just as much Reid's target
readership, which was boys.
There are 24 chapters, each dealing with a kind of animal. Sometimes
an animal genus is given two chapters, for instance domestic dogs, and
wild dogs. One grouse: the phrase well-known occurs over forty times.
Would the well-known fact be well-known to the book's intended
readership? Probably not.
There are a score of very nice illustrations, most showing numerous
animals of that chapter's genus.
QUADRUPEDS, WHAT THEY ARE AND WHERE FOUND, BY CAPTAIN MAYNE REID.
I have been called upon to write illustrative sketches to a series
of engravings, designed by an eminent artist. In performing my part of
the work I have thrown the Mammalia into twenty-four
groupscorresponding more or less to the picture designsand have
dwelt chiefly on the geographical distribution of the animals. The
Cetaceae and Vespertilionidae are properly omitted.
In the groups given there is no attempt made at any very scientific
arrangement. The sketches are purely of a popular character, even the
scientific nomenclature being avoided. It is hoped, however, that they
may prove of service to the zoological tyro, and form as it were his
first stepping-stone to a higher order of classification.
In reality, notwithstanding the prodigious speculations of
learned anatomists, no truly good arrangement of the Mammalia
has yet been arrived at; the deficiency arising from the fact that, as
yet, no true zoologist has had the opportunity of a sufficiently
extended observation of the natural habits of animals.
Now, however, that the great agentsteamhas as it were brought
the ends of the earth together, the opportunity is no longer wanting;
and it is to be hoped that a better classification may soon be
obtained. Who knows but that some ardent young zoologist, who has taken
his first lessons from this little book, may be the man to supply the
desideratum? Who knows?
Such a result would be a proud triumph for the author of these
CHAPTER ONE. MONKEYS OF THE OLD
The great family of the Monkeys, or the Monkey tribe, as it is
usually called, is divided by naturalists into two large groupsthe
Monkeys of the Old World, or those that inhabit Africa, Asia, and the
Asiatic islands; and the Monkeys of the New World, or those that
belong to America. This classification is neither scientific nor
natural, but as it serves to simplify the study of these quadrupedsor
quadrumana, as they are termedit is here retained. Moreover, as
there is no genus of monkey, nor even a species, common to both
hemispheres, such a division can do no harm.
The number of species of these animals, both in the Old and New
Worlds, is so great, that to give a particular description of each
would fill a large volume. It will be only possible in this sketch to
point out the countries they inhabit, and to say a word or two of the
more remarkable kinds.
In point of precedence, the great Ourang-outang contests the
palm with the Chimpanzee. Both these creatures often attain the
size of an ordinary man, and individuals of both have been captured
exceeding this size; while, at the same time, in muscular strength, one
of them is supposed to equal seven or eight men. It is remarkable how
little is known of the habits of either. This is accounted for by the
fact that they both inhabit regions still unexplored by civilised man,
dwelling in thick impenetrable forests, where even the savage himself
Although many exaggerated stories are told of these great satyr
apes, and many of these are only sailors' yarns, yet it is easy to
believe that animals approaching in structure, and even in
intelligence, to man himself, must possess habits of the most singular
kind. There is little more known of them than there was hundreds of
years agoindeed, we might say thousands of years; for it is evident
that the Carthaginians came into contact with the chimpanzee on the
western coast of Africa, and through them the Romans became acquainted
with it; and no doubt it was this animal that gave origin to most of
their stories of satyrs and wild men of the woods.
The chimpanzee is found only in the forests of tropical Africamore
especially along the west coast, the banks of the Gaboon, and other
rivers. The ourang-outang is exclusively Asiaticinhabiting Borneo,
Sumatra, the peninsula of Malacca, Cochin China, and several others of
the large Oriental islands. Of the ourang-outang there are two
speciesperhaps threediffering very little, except in point of size
A group of large tail-less apes, usually denominated Gibbons,
or Long-armed Apes, come next in order. These are neither so large nor
human-like as the ourang or the chimpanzee; nevertheless, they are
capable of walking upon their hind legs, after the manner of bipeds.
They are all long-armed apes, and generally use their fore-arms in
walking, but more to assist them in clinging to the branches of trees,
and swinging themselves from one to the other.
The gibbons are all Asiatic monkeys, and inhabit the same countries
with the ourang, viz., the tropical forests of India and the Indian
Archipelago. There are at least a dozen species of them, nearly half of
which are found in the Island of Sumatra alone.
The Proboscis monkeys follow the gibbons. These are also
long-armed apes, but with tails and sharp proboscis-like snouts, from
which their name is derived. Only two species are knownboth belonging
to the great Island of Borneo, so rich in varieties of these human-like
mammalia. One of the species of proboscis monkeys has also been
observed in Cochin China. Another large tribe of Asiatic apes,
containing in all nearly twenty different species, has been constituted
into a genus called Semnopithecus. These also inhabit the Indian
continent and the great islands; but they are not so exclusively
tropical in their habits, since several of the species extend their
range northward to Nepaul, and other districts among the Himalaya
Mountains. It is a species, or more than one, of these ugly apes that
is venerated by the Hindus; and they are permitted to live without
molestation in the sacred groves and temples, though they often prove
most troublesome protegees to their fanatical benefactors.
In Africa, the representatives of this last-mentioned tribe are
found in the Colobus monkeys. Of these there are about a dozen
species; and from several of them are obtained the long-haired monkey
skins of commerce. They are all tropical animals, and inhabit the
middle zone of Africatheir range extending from Abyssinia to the
shores of the Atlantic.
Another very large tribe, containing in all as many as thirty
species, and belonging exclusively to Africa, are the Guenons.
They are closely allied to the colobus monkeys, but yet sufficiently
different from them in habits and conformation to be classed into a
separate genus. Most of the guenons inhabit the central regions of
Africa; but they are not exclusively tropical, since several kinds
belong to Kaffraria, and that region indefinitely called the Cape of
The Macaco apes constitute another genus, which forms the
link between the guenons and the baboons, or dog-headed monkeys. They
are neither exclusively African nor Asiatic monkeys, since species of
macacoes are found in both these continents. They are usually
subdivided into the macacoes with long tails, and those with short
tails; and there is one species which wants this appendage altogether.
This is the Magot perhaps the most noted of all the macacoes, since
it was the earliest known to European nations, and is, in fact, the
only species that is indigenous to Europe. It is the magot that
inhabits the Rock of Gibraltar. Much has been written as to whether
this monkey is really indigenous to Europesome naturalists alleging
that it reached Gibraltar from Africa, where it is also common. But it
is not generally known that, on European ground, the magot is not
confined solely to the Gibraltar Rock. It is also found in other parts
of the south of Spain; and, it is likely enough, has existed there long
enough to claim the character of a native.
In the chain of natural affinities, the Baboons, or
dog-headed monkeys, stand next to the macacoes. These are more of a
quadruped form than any yet mentioned; and, both in a moral and
physical sense, they are certainly the ugliest of animals. The hideous
Drills and Mandrills, so well-known in our menageries, belong to this
genus; as also the Chacma, or great dog-monkey of the Cape.
There are, in all, seven or eight species of baboons, and most of
them inhabit Africa. One of the most singular of them, the Hamadryas,
extends its range into Arabia; while another, the Black Baboon, is an
inhabitant of the Philippine Isles.
With the baboons we close our list of the Monkeys of the Old World;
but, in order to complete the account of these quadruped mammalia, it
is necessary to find a place for those strange creatures usually known
as Lemurs. These are usually grouped by themselves, and in a
classification succeed the American monkeysto some of which they have
a greater resemblance than to those of the Old World; but, as they are
all exclusively inhabitants of the latter, they may appropriately be
The Lemurs are animals having very much the appearance and
habits of monkeys, but with long snouts or muzzles, resembling that of
the fox. Hence they are sometimes called fox-apes. There are many kinds
of them, however; and, although classed in a group called lemurs, they
differ exceedingly from one another, some of them having the appearance
of foxes, others more resembling squirrels, and still others like
flying squirrelsbeing possessed of a similar wing-like appendage, and
capable, like them, of extended flight. They are known under different
appellations, as Makis, Indris, Loris, Galagos, Tarsiers, Ay-ays,
etcetera, and naturalists have subdivided them into a great number of
genera. They are found both in Africa and Asia; but by far the greater
number of them, as the Makis and Ay-ays, belong to the Island of
Madagascar. The last are not to be confounded with an animal bearing
the same namethe ay-ay of America. The latter is the singular
creature known as the sloth, of which there are several distinct
species, all inhabitants of the great forests of tropical America.
Of the lemurs, at least thirty different kinds are known, more than
half of which belong to the Island of Madagascar. A few species are
found on the west coast of Africa: and the others inhabit the Oriental
islands Ceylon, Java, Sumatra, Timor, Mindanao, and the Philippine
CHAPTER TWO. MONKEYS OF THE NEW
The Monkeys of America differ in many respects from those of the Old
World. In general they are smallernone of the species being quite so
large as the baboons. Their bodies and limbs are also more slender and
spider-like; and their whole conformation seems intended to adapt them
for dwelling in the great virgin forests of the New World. There is one
particular in which they differ most remarkably from their congeners of
the Old World; that is, in having prehensile tails. With these
they are enabled to suspend themselves from the branches of trees, or
swing their bodies from one to the other; and this prehensile power is
far greater than could be obtained by any clutch of the hand. So great
is it, that even after the animal has died from the effect of a shot or
other wound, its tail will still remain hooped around the branch; and
if the body is not taken down by the hunter, it will hang there till
released by the decay of the tail!
Not all the monkeys of America possess this prehensile power of
tail. Some are entirely without it, and approach nearer to certain
kinds in the Old World; while there are a few species that very closely
resemble the lemurs. These differences have led to a classification of
the American monkeys; and they have been thrown into three groups,
though it may be remarked that these groups are not very natural.
They are as follow:The Sapajous, whose tails are not only
prehensile, but naked underneath, and tubercled near the tips; the
Sajoas, who possess the prehensile power, but have hairy tails; and
the Sajouins, whose tails are not prehensile.
For want of a better, this classification may be adopted.
The Sapajous are subdivided into three genera, of which the Howlers
form one. They are so denominated from their habit of assembling in
troops, and uttering the most terrible howlings, so loud that the
forest is filled with their sonorous voices. Their cries can be heard
at a half-league's distance, and produce upon a stranger unaccustomed
to such sounds a very disagreeable impression. The unusual strength of
voice is accounted for by a peculiar drum-like construction of the
os hyoides, common to all the genera of Sapajous, but more
developed in some than in others; and those in whom the voice is
loudest constitute the genus of Alouatles, or Howlers.
Of the true howlers there are about a dozen species known to
naturalists. Most of them are denizens of the tropical forests of
Guiana and Brazil; but some species are not so tropical in their
habits, since one or two extend the kingdom of the monkeys into Mexico
on the north, and southward to Paraguay.
Closely allied to the last, are the Ateles, or Spider
monkeys. These derive their generic name from their singular
spider-like appearance caused by their disproportionately long and
slender limbs, and the great length of their tails. None equal them in
the prehensile power of the caudal appendage; and it is of them that
that curious story is related the story of the Monkeys' Bridgewhere
it is told how they pass over a stream: a number of the strongest
joining their bodies together by means of their long tails, and thus
forming a bridge, by which the whole troop are enabled to cross.
Of the spider monkeys there are about a dozen species; but three of
these have been taken to form one of the three genera into which, as
already stated, the Sapajous are divided. These three differ very
little from the other spider monkeys, except in being covered with a
soft, woolly hair; and, furthermore, in being much more rare than the
others; at all events, they are more rarely seen, as they dwell only in
the thickest forests, far remote from the habitations of man.
The third and last genus of the Sapajous is that termed Lagothrix. They are small monkeys, covered also with soft woolly hair; and their
habitat is along the banks of rivers. They have a strange habit, not
observable among their congeners, of collecting in small troops, and
rolling or clewing themselves up together. This they do in cold
weather, or on the approach of a storm. They summon each other by means
of signals and cries; and selecting the convenient bifurcation of some
tree, they there form the singular group. The jaguar and other beasts
of prey take advantage of this habit, and often make victims of the
whole tableau vivant! There are three species already described,
all denizens of the Brazilian forests.
The Sajous form the second group of the American monkeys. These have
also prehensile tails; but the power is not so highly-developed in them
as in the Sapajous, nor are their tails naked. Moreover, the bodies of
the Sajous are more robust, and their limbs of stouter make.
The Sajous are well-tempered creatures, and easily domesticated.
Some of the species are favourite petson account of their pleasing
manners, and the docility of their nature. The old males, however,
scarcely deserve this reputation, as they will bite freely enough when
They are not subdivided; but permitted to constitute a single genus,
of which there are nearly twenty speciesall of them inhabiting
The Sajouins form the third group; but as the name merely signifies
those monkeys that have not the power of suspending themselves by the
tail, it can hardly be considered a natural group, since there are very
varied and numerous genera who lack this power. The group of Sajouins
must therefore be subdivided into several lesser groups.
First of all we have the true Sajouins; and of these the Saimiri
or Titi is the most distinguished species. This pretty little
creature is about equal in size to a squirrel, and possesses all the
playful disposition of the latter. Its childlike innocence of
countenance, as well as its pleasing and graceful manners, render it a
favourite pet wherever it can be obtained. Its rich robe of
yellowish-grey, mixed with green, adds to the attraction of its
presence. There are several species of Sajouins, known as the Widow
monkey, the Moloch, the Mitred monkey, and the Black-handed
Sajouinall of them dwellers in the tropical regions of America. The
Doroucouli is another small species, that in the nocturnal forest often
alarms the traveller by its singular cry; and an allied species of
Doroucouli constitutes, with the one above-mentioned, a second genus of
The Sakis form of themselves another and somewhat extensive
family of the Sajouins. There are a dozen species of them in all; and
they possess the peculiarity of being insect-eaters. They are fond of
honey, too; and are often seen ranging the woods, in little troops of
ten or twelve, in search of the nests of the wild bees, which they
plunder of their luscious stores.
The Ouistitis also constitute a genus. These, like the
Saimiris, are beautiful little creaturesmany of the species not being
larger than squirrels, and marked with the most lively colours: as
bright red and orange. There are many different kinds of small
squirrels known by this name, or by its abbreviationTitisome of
them belonging to the group of Saimiris, and others to the Ouistitis,
properly so called.
Last of all come the little Tamunus; some of which, in beauty of
colours, in playfulness of disposition, and other amiable qualities,
need not yield either to the Saimiris or Ouistitis. They are equally
prized as pets; and among their Creole owners have equally applied to
them the endearing appellation of Titi-titi.
Quadrupeds, what they are and where foundby Captain Mayne Reid
CHAPTER THREE. BEARS.
In the days of Linnaeusthat is, a century and a half agoit was
supposed there was only one kind of Bear in existencethe common Brown
bear of Europe. It is true that Linnaeus before his death had heard of
the great Polar bear, but he had never seen one, and was not certain of
its being a distinct species. Not only has the Polar bear proved to be
a very different animal from his brown congener, but other species have
turned up in remote quarters of the globe: until the list of these
interesting quadrupeds has been extended to the number of at least a
dozen distinct speciesdiffering not only in size, shape, and colour,
but also in many more essential characteristics. Bears have been found
in North America, and others in South America; some in Asia, and still
others in the islands of the Indian Archipelago; entirely unlike the
brown bear of Europe, as they are to one another.
As the Brown bear is the oldest of the family known to
naturalists, I shall give him the precedence in this little monograph.
It is a misnomer to call him the brown bear of Europe, since he is
even more common in many parts of Asiaespecially throughout Asiatic
Russia and Kamtschatka. But he is also met with in most European
countries, where there are extensive ranges of mountains. In the
mountains of Hungary and Transylvaniaas well as in those of Russia,
Sweden, and Norwaythe brown bear is found. He is also met with as far
south as the Alpsand even the Pyrenees, and Asturias, mountains of
Spain; but the bear of these last-mentioned localities differs
considerably from the real brown bear of the northern regions; and most
probably is a different species.
Again, in North Americain a very remote and sterile region lying
to the westward of Hudson's Bay, and known as the Barren Groundsa
large brown bear has been observed by travellers and traders of the Fur
Company, supposed to be identical with the European bear. This,
however, is a doubtful point; and in all likelihood the bear of the
Barren Grounds is a new species, only found in that desolate region.
The brown bear is of solitary habits. During the summer season he
roams about, growing fat upon roots, fruits, seeds, and wild
honeywhen he can procure it. At the approach of winter this animal
has the singular habit of returning to his den, and there remaining
dormant or torpid throughout the season of cold. During this prolonged
slumber he takes no sustenance of any kind; and although exceedingly
fat when going to rest, he comes forth in the spring-time as thin as a
skeleton. The den is usually a cave or hollow tree; or, failing this, a
lair, which the animal constructs for himself out of branches,
lining it snugly with leaves and moss.
The brown bear is a long-lived animal. Individuals have been known
of the age of fifty years. The cubs when first born are not much larger
than the puppies of a mastiff. The people of Kamtschatka hunt this
species with great assiduity, and obtain from it many of the comforts
and necessaries of life. The skins are used for their beds and
coverlets, for their caps, gloves, and boots. They manufacture from it
harness for their dogs. From the intestines they make masks for their
faces, to protect them from the glare of the sun; and they also use the
latter stretched over their windows as a substitute for glass. The
flesh and fat are among the most esteemed dainties of a Kamtschatkan
cuisine. Even the shoulder-blades are used as sickles for cutting
grass. The Laplanders, alsoof whose cold country the brown bear is an
inhabitanthave a great esteem for this animal. They regard its
prowess as something wonderful, alleging that it has the strength of
ten men, and the sense of twelve! The name for it, in their language,
signifies the dog of God.
The White, or Polar bear, is, perhaps, the most
interesting of the whole family: not so much on account of his superior
sizesince the brown and the grizzly are sometimes as large as hebut
rather from his singular habits, and the many odd stories told about
him, dining the last fifty years, by whalers and Arctic explorers.
To describe the appearance of the Polar bear would be superfluous.
Everybody has seen either a living individual in a menagerie, or a
stuffed skin of one in a museum; and the long, low, tail-less
bodywith outstretched neck and sharp projecting snoutcovered with a
thick coat of white hair, renders it impossible to mistake the Polar
bear for any other animal.
This quadruped is more of a sea than land animal.
Sometimes, it is true, he wanders inland for fifty miles or so; but
this he does in following the course of some river or marshy inlet,
where he finds fish. His usual haunts are along the icy shores of the
Arctic Ocean, and the numerous ice-bound islands of the great Polar
Sea. There he roams about over the frozen banks, or floats upon
icebergs and drifts; or, if need be, takes to the open water, where he
can swim with almost the facility of a fish.
A proof of his natatory powers is found in the fact that Arctic
voyagers have observed him swimming about in the open sea full twenty
miles from the nearest land! He is equally expert as a diver; and uses
this art for the purpose of capturing various kinds of marine animals,
upon which he subsists. In regard to food, the Polar bear differs
altogether from his congeners. He is almost wholly carnivorous in his
habits. Indeed, were it otherwise, he could not exist in his icy
kingdomin many parts of which not a trace of vegetation is to be
found. Fish of many kinds, birds, and their eggs, and four-footed
beastswhen he can lay his claws upon themall are welcome to his
palate. Nor will he disdain to feast upon the carcass of the great
whalewhen chance, or the whale fishermen, leaves such a provender in
his way. The seal is a particular favourite with him, and he hunts this
creature with skill and assiduity. When he perceives the seal basking
upon a ledge of ice, he slips quietly into the water, and swims to
leeward of his intended victim. He approaches by frequent short
divesso calculating his distance, that at the last he comes up close
to the spot where the seal is lying. Should the victim attempt to
escape, by rolling into the water, it falls into the bear's clutches:
if, on the contrary, it lies still, the bear makes a powerful spring,
seizes it on the ice, and then kills and devours it at his leisure.
In swimming, the Polar bear not only moves rapidly through the
water, but is also capable of darting forward in such a way as to seize
a fish before it can escape beyond reach. On the land, also, he can
move with rapidityhis slouching trot being almost as fast as the
gallop of a horse.
Individuals have been shot that weighed as much as 1600 pounds!
Polar bears are found along the shores of the Arctic Ocean, both in
Asia and America. They do not go to sleep in winterthat is, the males
do not. The females with young, however, bury themselves in the snow
having formed a lairand there remain until they bring forth their
young. The cubs are often captured in these snow caves, which the
Esquimaux discover by means of dogs trained for this peculiar purpose.
The Grizzly bear next merits attention. This formidable
animal was, for a long time, supposed to be a variety either of the
brown bear of Europe or the black bear of America; but his greater
ferocity, so often and fatally experienced by travellers, drew the
attention of naturalists upon him, when it was discovered that he was
altogether distinct from either of the two. His name is usually coupled
with that of the Rocky Mountains of Americafor it is chiefly in the
defiles and valleys of this stupendous chain that he makes his home. He
wanders, however, far eastward over the prairies, and also to the
Californian Mountains on the west; and in a latitudinal direction from
the borders of Texas on the south, northward as far, it is supposed, as
the shores of the Arctic Sea. At all events, a bear somewhat like him,
if not identically the same, has been seen on the banks of the great
Mackenzie River, near its mouth. Perhaps it may be the brown bear of
the Barren Grounds, already noticed; and which last is, in many
respectsin size and colour especiallyvery similar to the grizzly.
The grizzly bear is certainly the most ferocious of his tribeeven
exceeding, in this unamiable quality, his white cousin of the icy
north; and many a melancholy tale of trapper and Indian hunter attests
his dangerous prowess. He is both carnivorous and frugivorouswill dig
for roots and eat fruits when within his reach; but not being a
tree-climber, he has to content himself with such berries as grow upon
the humbler bushes. Indeed, it is a fortunate circumstance that the
fierce animal is unable to ascend a tree. Many a traveller and hunter
have found a neighbouring tree the readiest means of saving their
lives, when pursued by this ferocious assailant. Another circumstance
is also in favour of those pursued by the grizzly bear. In the region
where he dwells, but few persons ever go afoot; and although the bear
can overtake a pedestrian, his speed is no match for that of the
It is almost hopeless to think of killing a grizzly bear by a single
bullet. There the deadly rifle is no longer deadlyunless when the
shot is given in a mortal part; and to take sure aim from the saddle,
with a horse dancing in affright, is a feat which even the most skilful
marksman cannot always accomplish. As many as a dozen bullets have been
fired into the body of a grizzly bear, without killing him outright.
The strength of this animal equals his ferocity. He pulls the huge
buffalo, a thousand pounds in weight, to the ground; and then drags its
carcass to some cave or crevice among the rocks, or to a hole which he
has dug to receive it. To this place he repairs from time to time, till
the exhausted store compels him to go in search of a new victim. Many
an incident can be relatedand on the best authority toowhere man
has been the victim of the grizzly bear; and the Indians esteem the
killing of one of these animals a feat equal to that of taking the
scalp of a human enemy. One of the proudest ornaments of a savage chief
is a necklace of bears' claws: only to be worn by those who have
themselves killed the animals from which they have been taken.
The Black, or American bear, is one of the best known
of the family; and on account of his clean smooth head, tapering
muzzle, and rich black fur, he is also one of the best looking of
bears. He is found throughout the whole of the United States
territoryfrom the Canadas to the Gulf of Mexicoand westward to the
shores of the Pacific. He is sometimes met with in the same
neighbourhood with the grizzly, but not often: since their haunts are
essentially unlikethe black bear being a denizen of the
heavy-timbered forest, while the other frequents the grassy hills or
coppice-openings of the prairies and mountain valleys.
The black bear is a tree-climber; and ascends the loftiest trees in
search of the honey of the wild bees, or to make his lair in some
cavernous hollow of the trunks. His food is usually fruits and roots,
but he is also fond of young corn, and often commits serious
depredations on the maize plantation. In the backwood settlements,
where clearings are apart from each other, the black bear is still
occasionally met with; and the chase of this animal is one of the most
favourite pastimes of the backwoods' hunter, whether amateur or
professional. Generally there is little peril in the pursuitunless
when the bear is wounded and enraged, and the hunter chooses to risk
himself at close quarters.
There are varieties in colour. Some with white throats, and some of
a cinnamon brown, have been observed; but the colour of the species is
usually jet black; and on this account the skins are much prized for
military and other purposes.
The Spectacled bear is a native of South America, and
frequents the forests upon the declivities of the Andes. This was long
supposed to be a variety of the black bear, but later observations
prove it to be a different species. Its habits are very similar to the
last, to which it is also similar in shape. In colour it differs
essentially. It is black, but with a buff snout, and buff rings round
the eyes, which give it that appearance whence it derives its trivial
name. Its throat and breast are whitish.
There is at least one other species of black bear indigenous to
South America, inhabiting the tropical forests; but very little is
known of itfurther than that it is one of the smallest of the tribe.
We now reach the Asiatic bears, properly so called; and we have only
space to say a word about each.
The Siberian bear is thought to be only a variety of the
brown bear of Europe, differing slightly in colour. In the former there
is a broad band, or collar, of white passing over the neck and meeting
upon the breast. It is, as its name implies, an inhabitant of Siberia.
The Thibet bear is a dweller among the Himalayasin Sylhet
and Nepaul. Its general colour is black, with a white mark, shaped like
the letter Y; so placed that the shank of the letter is upon its
breast, and the forks running up the front of its shoulders. It is not
carnivorous, and, generally, its disposition is harmless and playful.
It is easily tamed.
The Sloth bear is another Indian species having this peculiar
marking on the breast and shoulders. This animal is one of the oddest
of creatures. Its short limbs and depressed head, with the long shaggy
hair surmounting its back like a bullock, give it the appearance of
being deformed. On this account it was the favourite of the Indian
jugglers, who, depending on its ugliness as a source of attraction,
trained it to a variety of tricks. It is therefore sometimes known as
the jugglers' bear (Ours jongleur). It has also a peculiar
prehensile power in its lips; and this, with its general shaggy mien,
led to the belief of its being a species of slothhence its common
The Malayan bear is another black species, with a marking on
the breast. This mark is of a semi-lunar shape, and whitish; but the
colour of the muzzle is buff-yellow. This is a very handsome species,
subsisting on vegetable diet; and very injurious to the plantations of
young cocoa trees, of the shoots of which it is very fond. It is also a
honey eater; and roams about in quest of the hives of the indigenous
bees. It is a native of Malacca, Sumatra, and others of the East Indian
The Isabella bear is so called from its colourbeing of that
fulvous white known as Isabella colour. It is another of the species
belonging to the great range of the Himalayas, and is found in the
mountains of Nepaul. Sometimes it is observed of nearly a white colour;
which led to the mistaken belief that Polar bears existed in the
The Syrian bear is a species found in the mountainous parts
of Asia Minor. It is of a fulvous-brown colour, sometimes approaching
to yellowish white. It is partly carnivorous, but feeds also on fruits;
and is most remarkable as being the species first mentioned in books
that is, it is the bear of the Bible.
The Bornean bear is the last to be mentioned, though it is
certainly one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, of the
genus. This beauty arises from its peculiar markings, especially from
the large patch of rich orange colour upon the breast. It is a native
of the great Island of Borneo, and little is known of its habits; but
it is supposed to resemble the Malayan bear in these, as it does in
many other respects.
In Africa there are no bears.
CHAPTER FOUR. BADGERS.
The Badger is a silent, solitary, carnivorous creature, having his
representative, in some form or other, in almost every part of the
world; though nowhere either numerous in species or plentiful in
individuals. In Europe he appears in two forms, the Glutton and
common Badger; in North America in three, viz., Wolverene,
American, and Mexican Badgers; and, indeed, we might say a
fourth belongs to that continent, for the Racoon is as near
being a badger, both in appearance and habits, as he is to being
anything else. For convenience, therefore, let us class him in this
group: he will certainly be more at home in it than among the bears
where most of the naturalists have placed him.
In South America we find another form of badger in the Coati
mondi, of which there are several varieties; and there, too, the
racoon appears of a species distinct from those of the north. Some
writers class the coati with the civets, but the creature has far more
of the habits and appearance of a badger than of a civet cat; and
therefore, whatever the anatomists may say, we shall consider the coati
But a truer form of the badger than either of the above, exists in
South Americaextending over nearly the whole of that continent. This
is the Grison, which, in appearance and habits, somewhat
resembles the wolverene. It also is found in two or three
varietiesaccording to the part of the country it inhabits. The
Taira is another South American species of badger-like animal,
though usually referred to the weasels.
In Africa, the badger appears in the Ratel, or honey badger,
common from Senegal to the Cape. In Asia, in its northern zone, we have
the European badger and Glutton; and in the south, the Indian
badger; while in the Himalaya chain dwells another animal, closely
allied to the badgers, called the Wha or Panda. In Java,
we find still another species, the Nientek; and in the other
large Asiatic islands there are several kinds of animals that approach
very near to badgers in their forms and habits, but which are usually
classed either with the weasels or civets.
We shall now give some details respecting the different animals of
this family; among which the Glutton, in point of size, as well as for
other reasons, deserves precedence.
The Glutton is the Rosomak of the Russians, in whose country
he is chiefly foundalong high northern latitudes, both in Europe and
Asia. He is supposed to be identical with the wolverene of North
America; and if this be so, his range extends all round the Arctic zone
of the globe: since the wolverene is found throughout the whole extent
of the Hudson's Bay territory. There are good reasons to believe,
however, that the two species differ considerably from each otherjust
as the European badger does from his American cousins. It was the
writer Olaus Magnus who gave such celebrity to this animal, by telling
a very great story about the creaturewhich, at a time when people
were little studied in natural history, was readily believed. Olaus's
report was, that whenever the glutton killed an animal, he was in the
habit of feeding on the carcass till his belly became swelled out and
tight as a drum; that then he would pass between two trees growing
close togetherto press the swelling inwards and ease himselfafter
which he would return to the carcass, again fill himself, and then back
again to the trees, and so on, till he had eaten every morsel of the
dead animal, whatever might have been its size! All this, of course,
was mere fable; but it is not without some foundation in fact: for the
Rosomak is, in reality, one of the greatest gluttons among
carnivorous animals. So, too, is his cousin, the wolverene of America;
as the fur trappers have had sad reasons to knowwhenever the creature
has come upon a store of their provisions. The name of Glutton,
therefore, though based upon Olaus Magnus's exaggeration, is not so
The glutton and wolverene are, in fact, very like the common badger
in their habits; except that being much larger and stronger animals,
they prey upon larger game. The reindeer, and other large quadrupeds,
are often the victims of both; and it is even said that they can
overcome the great elk; but this is not confirmed by the observations
of any trustworthy traveller. The young of the elk, or a disabled old
one, may occasionally succumb to them, but not an elk in full vigour,
nor yet a reindeer, except when they can surprise the latter asleep.
Their game is usually the smaller quadrupeds; and in the fur countries
no animal is a greater pest to the trapper than the wolverene or
glutton. A single individual will in one night visit a whole line of
traps, and rob them of the captured animalswhether they be polar
hares, white or blue foxes, martens, or ermine weasels.
It is this creature that is usually represented lying in wait upon
the limb of a tree, and springing upon deer as they pass underneath:
but this story of its habits wants confirmation.
The fur of the wolverene is one of the staple articles of
trade of the Hudson's Bay Company; though it is more prized among the
Russians than with uswho esteem it in value as next to the ermine.
The Common, or European badger, need not be here
described, since it is familiar to all. The same may be said of the two
American badgers, and also that of India, all three of which are very
similar in habits and appearance to the common kind.
But the African badger, or Ratel, merits a word or
two. It is about the size of the true badger, and ordinarily lives on
small game, as badgers do; but, in addition to this, it is fond of
varying its diet with a little honey. This it procures from the nests
of wild bees, common throughout the whole of Africa. The account given
of the mode in which it finds these nests would be incredible, were it
not that we have the testimony of reverend missionaries to confirm it.
It is as follows:In Africa there is a birda species of
cuckooknown as the Indicator bird, or honey guide. This little
creature hops from tree to tree, itself apparently in search of the
bees' nests. While doing so, it utters a shrill cry; and these cries
are repeated until the honey hive is found. The ratel lies in wait for
this bird; and, on hearing the cry, makes towards it, and keeps
following its flights till the bees' nest is found. Should this prove
to be in a tree and out of reachfor the ratel is not a climberthe
animal vents his chagrin by tearing at the trunk with his teeth, as if
he had hopes of felling the tree. The scratches thus made on the bark
serve as a guide to certain other creatures, who are also fond of
honey, viz., the Kaffir hunters and Bushmen.
Should the bees' nest prove to be on the ground, or under it, the
ratel soon unearths the treasure with his strong claws, and takes
possession of it, regardless of the stings of the bees, against which
his thick skin defends him.
The Orison inhabits the forests of South America, from Guiana
to Paraguay. It is quite as ferocious as any of the tribe; but its
smaller size hinders it from attacking large animals, and its victims
are birds, agoutis, and other small rodentsagainst all of which it
wages a war of extermination. When surprised by the hunters and their
dogs, it will battle furiously till life is extinct: all the while
emitting a strong disagreeable smell, after the manner of the weasels
and polecats. The Racoon, which we have grouped with the
badgers, is both a North and South American animal; dwelling in dense
forests, and making its lair in the hollow of a tree. This animal is a
good tree-climber, and usually takes refuge among the higher branches
when pursued. It is nocturnal in its habits, but in deep shady woods it
may be seen prowling about in the daylight, in search of birds and
their eggs, small rodents, fish, or frogs, all of which it eats
indifferently. There are several distinct species.
The Coati is exclusively South American. This, unlike the
racoon, sleeps at night, and prowls during the day. It is also an
expert tree-climber, and has a peculiarity in this respect; viz., it
descends a tree head foremost, which no other animal of its
order can do. It is equally as fierce and carnivorous as any of the
badgers; and its prey, as with the racoon, consists of birds,
their eggs, and small quadrupeds. It feeds also upon insects; and will
turn over the earth with its long proboscis-like snout. When drinking
it laps like the dog. In eating, it uses its fore-paws to carry the
food to its mouth, though not as squirrels and monkeys do. On the
contrary, it first divides the flesh, or whatever it may be, into small
morsels, and then raises these to its mouth by impaling them on its
claws as on a fork!
It is not a solitary animal, but prefers the society of its
companions, and usually goes about in troops or gangs. Its lair, like
the racoon, is the hollow of a tree.
The Panda of the East Indies is an animal of very similar
habits. It is found chiefly along the banks of streams that descend
from the mountains; and subsists upon small quadrupeds and birdswhich
it is able to follow to the tops of the tallest trees. Its name of Qua,
or Oua, or Wha, is derived from the cry which it utters, and repeats
very often; and which is well represented by any of the syllables above
CHAPTER FIVE. WEASELS, OTTERS AND
Fortunate it is that the quadrupeds composing this group are all
animals of small dimensions. Were they equal in size to lions and
tigers, the human race would be in danger of total extirpation: for it
is well-known that weasels are the most ferocious and bloodthirsty
creatures upon the earth. None of them, however, much exceed the size
of the ordinary cat: unless we include the gluttons and wolverenes
among the weasels, as naturalists sometimes do, notwithstanding that
these animals differ altogether from them.
The civets, it is true, are not usually classed with the
weasels, but form a group of themselves; however, they are much more
nearly related to weasels than the gluttons; and where, as in the
present case, it is desirable to divide the mammalia into large groups,
they will stand very well together. In truth, the civets are much
nearer in resemblance to weasels than the otters are; and these two
last are generally classed togetherthe otters being neither more nor
less than water weasels.
We shall first consider the true Weasels: that is, the
Weasels, Stoats, Ferrets, Polecats, and Martens.
The habits of most of the species are well-known; and all resemble
each other in the exceeding ferocity of their disposition. It will only
be necessary to say a word about their geographical distribution, and
to speak of a few of the more noted kinds.
In Great Britain, five species are natives: the Pine and Beech
Martens, the Stoat, the Common Weasel (which is the type of the
family), and the Polecat. The Ferret is not indigenous to the country,
but has been introduced from Africa, and is trained, as is well-known,
for the pursuit of the rabbitwhich it can follow into the very
innermost recesses of its burrow. The English species of weasels are
also common to other countries of Europe and Asia.
In the high northern latitudes of the Old World, we find a very
celebrated speciescelebrated for a long time on account of its
valuable furthe Sable. The sable is a true marten: a tree-climber,
and one of the most sanguinary of weasels. An account of its habits,
and of the mode of hunting it, forms one of the most interesting
chapters in natural history.
An allied species inhabits the Hudson's Bay territory, known as the
American sable, and another, belonging to the Japanese islands, is
called the Japan sable.
The Ermine is a species equally famous; and for a like reasonthe
value of its beautiful white fur, so long an article of commerce. The
ermine is neither more nor less than a stoat in winter dress; but there
are several varieties of itsome that turn to brown in summer, while
another kind retains its snow-white covering throughout all the year.
The ermine is common to Europe, Asia, and North America.
The Pekan is a larger species, belonging to North America, and
semi-aquatic in its habits; while the Vison, or Mink, is a large black
weasel that inhabits the borders of rivers in Canada and the United
States, where it preys upon fish and aquatic reptiles.
In North America there is also a very large Pine marten, so called
from its habit of dwelling in the pine forestswhere it climbs the
trees in pursuit of birds and squirrels. This is among the largest of
the weasel tribe. In California, a new species has been described under
the name of the Yellow-cheeked weasel, and in Mexico another, the
Blackfaced; so that North America has its full complement of these
sanguinary quadrupeds. Nor is the southern division of that continent
without its weasels, as there is one species or more in New Granada,
one in Guiana, and two or three in Chili and Peru.
In India, there is the White-cheeked weasel, Hodgson's and
Horsefield's weasels; and in Nepaul, the Nepaul weasel, and the Cathia.
Further north in Asia, there is, in Siberia, the Vomela, the Chorok,
and the Altai weasel of the Altai Mountains; and no doubt need exist
that animals of the weasel tribe are to be found everywhere. Indeed, if
we regard as weasels the various carnivorous quadrupeds of the glutton
and badger family, which have been described elsewhere in these
sketches including the strange Teledu or Stinkard of Java, the
Helietis of India and China, the Taira and Grison of Brazil, the Ratel
or honey badger of Africa, the Zorille of the Cape, the Zorilla or
Maikel of Patagonia, the Sand bear of India, and the numerous varieties
of the celebrated Polecat, or Skunk, of North and South Americawe may
well say that there are weasels, or their representatives, in every
hole and corner of the earth.
With regard to the Polecats of America, they form a sort of link
between the weasels and civets; and although there was long supposed to
be but one kindas in the case of the opossumit is now ascertained
that there are several distinct species, with an endless list of
The Water Weasels, or Otters, are not so numerous
either in species or individualsthough there are at least a dozen of
them in all, and they are widely distributed over the world.
In Britain, there is but onethe Common or European otter; and in
North America, a very similar species was supposed, until recently, to
be the only one inhabiting that continent. The rivers of California,
however, have presented us with a second, known as the Californian
otter; and the singular Sea otter, whose beautiful fur is so prized
under the name of Sea otter, is also an animal inhabiting the coasts of
Californiaas it does most part of the western seaboard of the
The Grey otter is a South African animal, and in India we have the
Wargul; while in the rivers of Nepaula country so rich in mammalia
there is the Golden brown otter. China, in common with other
Indo-Chinese countries, possesses the Chinese otter; and South America
has the Brazilian Contra, and in all probability several other species.
With regard to the Civet-Weaselsor Civet Cats, as they are
commonly calledthere is a still greater variety, both in genera and
species: so many, indeed, that, as already stated, they have been
arranged in a family by themselves. They may be regarded, however, as
large weasels, distinguished from the others by their having a sort of
pouch or gland under the tail, in which is secreted an unctuous and
highly odorous substance. This, in some species, as in the true civets,
is relished as a perfume or scent, while in others it is an extremely
disagreeable odour. The true civet is a native of North Africa; where
it is kept in a tame state, for the purpose of obtaining from it the
well-known perfume of commerce. An allied species, the Rasse, belongs
to Javaand is there also kept in cages for the same purposewhile in
Asiafrom Arabia to Malabar, and among the Malays and Arabs of Borneo,
Macassar, and other islands of the Indian Archipelagostill another
species of civet affords a similar perfumed substance.
The Aard Wolf (earth wolf) of South Africa is usually classed among
the civets, but with very slight reason. It is far more like the hyena;
and is certainly nothing else than a hyena.
The Delundung of Java is a creature that bears a resemblance to the
civets; and may be regarded as forming a link between these and the
The Genets constitute a division of the civet-weasel tribe; and one
of which there are numerous species. They are usually pretty spotted
creatures, with immensely long tails; and but for their cruel and
sanguinary habits would, no doubt, be favourites. They exist in South
Europe; and, under different forms and appellations, extend over all
Africa to Madagascar and the Capeas well as through the countries of
Southern Asia and the Asiatic islands.
The Ichneumons claim our attention next. These are celebrated
animals, on account of the strange and fabulous tales related of the
species known as the Egyptian ichneumon, which, among the people of
Egypt, is domesticated, and was once held as a sacred animal. Besides
the Egyptian ichneumon, there are several other species in Africaone
belonging to Abyssinia, and no less than six to the countries near the
Cape. The Garangan of Java is an ichneumon; and so also are the Mongoos
and Nyula of Nepaul; while in the Malay peninsula is a species known as
the Malacca ichneumon. The Paradoxure is usually classed with the
civets, though it wants the perfumed pouch; and the Suricate or
Meer-cat, of the Cape colonists, takes its station in this group. A
badger-like animal of Madagascar, the Mangu, is also regarded as a
civet: so, too, are the Coatis of the New World, though these last are
evidently of much nearer kin to the badgers.
Perhaps the curious creature known as the Potto, or Kinkajou, has
more pretensions to a place among the civets: at all events, it
deserves one in the general group of the weasels.
CHAPTER SIX. TAME DOGS.
Perhaps of all other animals the dog has been the earliest and most
constant companion of man. His swiftness and strength, but more
especially his highly-developed power of smelling, have made him a
powerful ally against the other animals; and these qualities must have
attracted the attention of man at an early periodparticularly in
those times when the chase was, perhaps, the only pursuit of mankind.
No animal is more widely distributed over the earth. He has followed
man everywhere; and wherever human society exists, there this constant
and faithful attendant may be founddevoted to his master, adopting
his manners, distinguishing and defending his property, and remaining
attached to him even after death.
It is a question among naturalists as to what was the parent stock
of the dog. Some allege that he has sprung from the wolf; others that
he is a descendant of the jackal; while not a few believe that there
were true wild dogs, from which the present domesticated race had their
origin. These ideas are mere speculations, and not very reasonable ones
either. It would not be difficult to show, that different kinds of dogs
have sprung from different kinds of animalsthat is, animals of the
same great familyfrom wolves, foxes, jackals, zerdas, and even
hyenas. This can be proved from the fact, that domesticated breeds
among savage tribes, both in Asia and America, are undoubtedly the
descendants of wolves and jackals: such, for instance, as the Esquimaux
dog of the Arctic regions, the Dingo of Australia, the Indian dogs of
North Americaof which there are several varietiesand also one or
two kinds existing in Mexico and South America.
Naturalists deny that there are any true dogs living in a wild
state. This is simply an unreasonable assertion. Wild dogs of several
species are to be met with in Asia and America; and if it be asserted
that these originally came from a domesticated stock, the same cannot
be said of the hunting dog of Southern Africawhich is neither more
nor less than a wild hound.
Perhaps none of the animals that have submitted to the conquest of
man have branched off into a greater number of varieties than this one.
There are more kinds than either of horses or oxen. We shall not,
therefore, attempt a description of each; but limit ourselves to speak
of those breeds that are the most remarkableor rather those with
which the reader is supposed to be least familiar. To describe such
varieties as the spaniel, the greyhound, the mastiff, or the terrier,
would not add much to the knowledge which the English reader already
One of the most remarkable of dogs is the huge mastiff of Tibet. He
is long-haired, and usually of a jet black colour. He is quite a match
in size for either the Newfoundland or San Bernard breeds, and not
unlike one or the otherfor it may be remarked, that these in many
points resemble each other.
The Tibet dog, as his name implies, is the property of the
Tibetians: especially the Bhooteesthe same people who own that
curious species of cattle, the Yak, or grunting ox, and who
reside on the northern slopes of the Himalaya mountains. It may be
inferred, therefore, that the Tibet dog affects a cold climate; and
such is in reality the case. He cannot bear heat; and does not thrive,
even in the kingdom of Nepaul. Attempts to introduce the breed into
England have resulted in failure: the animals brought hither having
died shortly after their arrival.
The masters of these dogsthe Bhootees, or Bhoteas, are a singular
race, of a ruddy copper colour, rather short in stature, but of
excellent disposition. Their clothing consists of furs and woollen
cloths, adapted to the cold climate which they inhabit. The men till
the ground, and keep yaks and sheep, and sometimes come down into the
warm plains to tradepenetrating even to Calcutta. The women remain at
home, their only protectors being these great dogs, who watch
faithfully over their villages and encampments, and fly fiercely at any
stranger who may approach them. It is said that they are especially
hostile to people who have a white face; but this disposition is
also characteristic of the dogs belonging to the American Indiansand
perhaps those possessed by all savages with a coloured skin.
The Dingo, or dog of Australia, is an animal domesticated among the
aborigines of that country. He is a dog of wolf-like shape, who does
not bark, but utters only a mournful howling. He is used by the
wretched natives both for the chase and as an article of food; and is a
fierce and voracious creaturenot hesitating to launch himself on the
larger kinds of animals. He is especially employed in hunting the
kangaroo; and sometimes terrible combats occur between the dingo and
the larger species of kangaroosresulting always in the death of the
The San Bernard dog, supposed to be a cross between the mastiff and
shepherd's dog, is too celebrated to require a description here. His
sagacity in discovering travellers amid the Alpine snows, and guiding
them upon their path, is the quality upon which the fame of this dog
has been founded; but it may be remarked that many of the feats
attributed to him have their origin in the fertile fancies of Parisian
The Esquimaux dog is another celebrated variety. He is an animal
with a fox-like face and thick coat of whitish hair, generally tinged
with yellow. He is to the Esquimaux a most valuable companion: trained
to draw their sledges over the surface of the snow, and enabling them
to make long and rapid journeyswithout which these singular people
would be ofttimes in danger of perishing amid the inhospitable regions
The Indians of North America possess two or three varieties of
domesticated dogs, evidently derived from the wolves of that region.
Indeed, the common Indian dogs, found among the Sioux and other
northern tribes, bear so close a resemblance to the large American
wolf, that they are often taken for this animal, and in consequence
shot, or otherwise killed by mistake. The Indians use them for carrying
burdens: their tents and tent poles being transported by these animals
on long journeys across the prairies. Their flesh is a favourite
article of the savage cuisine; but it is too costly to be used
as an every-day food; and is only served up on grand festive occasions.
Like the dogs of Tibet, these Indian wolf dogs have the greatest
antipathy to a white skin; so much so, that even a friend in that guise
can rarely obtain either their confidence or friendship.
A smaller kind than the common one is found among certain tribes,
and appears to have derived its origin from the prairie wolfthe
jackal of Americawhile the Hare Indians of the Rocky Mountains
possess a third variety; and it is known that still another exists
among the tribes of Russian America. This last is short-haired and
smooth-coated: therefore differing altogether from the Indian dogs of
In Mexico, there are two or three native dogs: found there on the
arrival of Europeans. One is the Alcoa dog remarkable for a
curious hunch or protuberance upon the back and shoulders, a thick
short neck, and small pointed muzzle. He is thinly covered with long
hair, of a yellowish colour.
Another singular variety is the dog of Chihuahua and this is,
perhaps, the smallest of all canine creatures. Full-grown specimens
have been seen, whose dimensions did not exceed those of the common
rat; and a singular fact, well authenticated, is, that this dog, when
transported from Chihuahua to any other placeeven to the city of
Mexico itself invariably becomes larger, or degenerates, as the
Mexicans have it! There is also in Mexico a hairless dog. It is, no
doubt, the same as that known by the name of Turkish dog; since this
variety came originally from Spanish America.
In South America, there are several species of native dogs, found
among the savages of the Orinoco and Amazon. They are small animals,
usually of a whitish colour: but their owners follow the curious
practice of dyeing them with annatto, indigo, and other brilliant dyes,
for the purpose of rendering them more ornamental!
We can only find space to say that there are many other varieties of
domesticated dogs, almost unknown beyond the countries in which they
are found. Such are the Quao of Rhamgur, the Sumatran dog, the
Poull of New Ireland, the dogs of Patagonia and Tierra del
Fuegothose of the South Sea Islands; and the Waht that
inhabits some of the ranges of the Himalayas.
It is reasonable to suppose that there is not a nation upon earth,
hardly a tribecivilised or savagethat does not possess some variety
of the canine race differing from all the others.
CHAPTER SEVEN. WILD DOGS.
By Wild Dogs, we mean not only several sorts of true dogs,
that in different parts of the world are found living in a wild state;
but also Wolves, Foxes, Jackals, Hyenas, and Fennecsfor all these are
but dogs in a state of nature.
First, we shall speak of the true dogs living in a wild statethat
is, apart from the society of man.
It is not necessary here to go into the often-debated question, as
to whether dogs were originally wolves, or what species of wolf the dog
is descended from. This is all mere speculation, and answers no
purpose. It is just as likely that wolves sprang from dogs, as that
dogs came from wolves; and every one may perceive that two breeds of
the dog species are often far more unlike each otherboth in
appearance and habitsthan a dog is to a wolf itself. Again, foxes
differ only from wolves in point of size; and a small wolf is in
reality a fox, while a large fox may be equally regarded as a wolf.
Furthermore, the jackal is nothing else than another form of the same
animalthe wolf or dog, whichever you choose to term it; and the
hyenas but a still uglier shape of the same carnivorous
With regard to the true wild dogswhich are not regarded as
wolveswe find them existing in various parts of the world. They
usually live in communities, and have the habit of houndsthat is,
they hunt in packs. Whether they were originally dogs in a domesticated
state, and have since seceded from the society of man, is a question
which naturalists are unable to agree upon.
In India there are two or three kinds of wild dogs living thus. One
in the Deccancalled Kolsun by the Mahratta peopleis a
reddish-coloured animal, nearly as large as the common European wolf.
It dwells in the forests, far remote from the villagesand of course
lives by preying upon other animalsjust as wolves and foxes do.
Again, in the forests of the Himalaya mountains there is another
species of wild dog, different from that of the Deccan. It is usually
known as the wild dog of Nepaul, from its being found in many parts of
that kingdom. A large community of these animals is often met with in
the mountain forests living in caves, or at the bottoms of cliffs,
where there are deep crevices among the boulders of loose rocks, that
afford them a secure asylum when pursued by their enemies. In these
places the dogs sleep, and bring forth their young; and the puppies are
taught to be exceedingly wary, and not stray far from their dens during
the absence of the mothers. Indeed, so cunning do they become when only
a few days old, that it is difficult to capture one of them outside its
During many hours the old ones are abroad, in pursuit of the animals
upon whose flesh they subsist; and, as already stated, these dogs
follow their game not singly, but in bands or packs. In this way,
instinct teaches them that they will have a better chance of success;
since they are more able to head the pursued animal, turn it in
different directions, and at length run it to the ground. A curious
fact is related of the cunning of these wild dogs. It is stated that
when in pursuit of the larger animalssuch as stags and large
antelopes that inhabit the same districtinstead of running them down
at once, the dogs manoeuvre so as to guide the game to their breeding
place, before giving the final coup to the chase! The object of
this is to bring the carcass within reach of their young; which, were
it killed at a great distance off, would be obviously impossible. Such
a habit as this would prove them possessed of something more than
instinct; but for all that, it may be true. A fact seems to confirm it:
the fact that a large quantity of bones is always observed in the
immediate neighbourhood of the breeding placessome of these being of
such a size as to preclude the belief that they could have been carried
thither by the dogs themselves.
In Ramghur there is a wild dog called Quao, or Quaw, which lives in
communities, just as those of Nepaul; and still another kind inhabits
the forests of the Island of Sumatra.
None of these kinds are to be confounded with the half-wild dogs of
India, called pariah dogs; since the latter, although not owned by
individuals, dwell in the villages, and of course associate with man.
Besides, the pariahs are of no particular breedthere being several
sorts of pariah dogs. They are merely outcast curs, without
owners, that pick up a living as they best can.
Passing from India to the tropical countries of America, we find
another sort of wild dog in the forests of Guiana, known as the
Koupara, or Crab-dog. It is not certain whether these dogs are
indigenous to Guiana, or the progeny of some domestic variety
introduced by the colonists. They dwell in small troops or families, of
six or seven individuals each, and their food is furnished by the
pacas, agoutis, and other small rodent animals of tropical America.
They also find sustenance in several kinds of crabs, which they
adroitly capture upon the banks of the rivers; and it is from their
habit of feeding upon these they have derived the name of crab-dogs.
They are easily tamed; and when crossed with other breeds, a variety is
produced which is esteemed by the natives as the very best kind for the
hunting of the agoutis, cavies, and capibaras.
The wild dogs of the Cape country, called Wilde Hunden (wild
hounds) by the Dutch, are usually regarded as near akin to the
hyenas. But they are more like real wild hounds than hyenas; and
their colourwhich is a mixture of black, white, and tanalmost
points to them as the progenitors of that variety of dog known as the
hound. Their habits, too, would seem to confirm this hypothesis: for it
is well-known that these animals pursue their prey just after the
manner of a pack of real houndsdoubling upon it, and using every
artifice to run it down. The numerous species of ruminant animalsthe
antelope in particularare the especial objects of their pursuit, and
upon these they subsist. Like the Indian wild dogs, they live in
communitiesusing the burrows of the wild hog and ant-eater, as also
the hollow ant-hills, for their lairs and breeding places. Travellers
passing across the plains of South Africa have often witnessed the
splendid spectacle of a pack of these beautiful wild hounds in pursuit
of a large antelope, and almost fancied themselves looking at a stag
hunt, with a kennel of real hounds going at full view!
The true wild dog of all is that creature so well-known and
celebrated in all our tales of childhoodthe Wolf.
To describe the wolf, or even to give an account of his habits,
would be superfluous. Almost every one is acquainted with the gaunt
form, the shaggy hide, and tierce aspect of this formidable creature;
and every one has heard of his fierce and savage disposition: for who
is ignorant of the story of Little Red Riding Hood?
The presence of this much-disliked animal is almost universal: by
which I mean, that in some form or other he is represented in almost
every corner of the globe. You may say there are no wolves in Africa;
but this is not true: for the hyenas are nothing more nor less than
wolves, and wolves of the very ugliest kind.
Fortunately wolves are no longer found in Britain, though they were
once plentiful enough in these islands; but all over the continent of
Europe there are still numerous wolves in the forests and mountains.
The Common Wolf, that is, the wolf of Europe, is the type of the
family; but this type offers many varietiesaccording to the different
localities in which it is found. I shall here notice these varieties.
French wolves are generally browner and smaller than those of
Germany; and the wolves of Russia, Sweden, and Norway are still
stronger animals, and of a more sinister appearance. These differ very
much in colour, which in winter is almost white. Again, the Alpine
wolves are smaller than the French, and of a brownish-grey colour;
while those of Italy and Turkey have a yellowish tinge. Black wolves
are not uncommon, especially in the Pyrenees of Spain; but whether
these, as well as the others, are all mere varieties of the common
wolf, or whether there are two or three distinct species of European
wolf, are questions to be left to the disputation of systematic
Over all the continent of America, from the Arctic shores in the
north to Tierra del Fuego in the south, wolves are found; and here
again there are varieties in size, colour, and even habits, that may
fairly entitle the different kinds to rank as separate species. Most
certainly there are distinct species, for that known as the Prairie
Wolf, and also the Coyote of Mexico, are two kinds that more resemble
jackals than real wolves.
Besides, other wolves of the American continent, as the Brown Wolf
of Mexico, the great Dusky Wolf of the Upper Missouri, the Aguara Dog
of South America, the Wild Dog of the Falkland Islands, the Fox Wolves
of Patagonia and Terra del Fuego, the Guazu of Paraguay and Chili, and
the North American Common Wolfare all animals of such different
appearance and habits, that it is absurd to term them varieties of the
same species. In Asia we have just the same series of varietiesthat
is, in every part of the great continent is found some representative
of the tribe, which in reality is no variety, but an original and
indigenous animal of the wolf kindsuch as the Sandgah, or Indian wolf
of the Himalayas; the Beriah, another Indian wolf; and the Derboom, a
black species that inhabits the mountains of Arabia and Syria.
In Africa the wolf is represented by the hyenas, of which there are
at least four speciesone of them, the common hyena, belonging to the
northern half of the African continent, and extending its range into
several countries of Asia. At the Cape, and northward into Central
Africa, three large species of hyena, and one small one (the Aard
wolf), represent the lupine family. The Jackal, tooof which there are
several distinct kinds in Asia and Africais only a wolf of diminutive
size and gregarious habit.
This creature is fairly represented in America by the Coyote of
Mexico, and the Barking Wolf of the prairies; and in Asia, upon the
steppes of Tartary, by the Corsac.
Even in Australia, where new mammalia have turned up in such odd and
fantastic forms, the wolf has his congener in that curious creature
known as the Tasmanian wolf.
With regard to foxes, they, like the wolves, are distributed almost
universally over the globe; and exhibit a like variety of forms and
colours, according to the different localities which they inhabit.
Their name is legion.
As the smallest representatives of the wild dogs, we find in Africa
the curious little creatures known as the Fennecs. Of these there are
also varieties; for, although very much alike in habits, the Fennecs of
Abyssinia and those of the Cape are evidently distinct species.
CHAPTER EIGHT. CATS.
The Lion is the king of cats; though there are some who think
that the Tiger has a better claim to the throne. In point of
size and strength, there is not much difference between these two
animals. The lion appears larger, on account of his shaggy mane;
but specimens of the tiger have been taken whose measurement was equal
to that of the largest lion. Otherwise, the tiger is decidedly superior
in courage, in address, and in beauty; in fact, the royal tiger is one
of the most beautiful of animals; while the lion, notwithstanding the
great fame he enjoys, is among the very ugliest of brutes.
These two powerful creatures often meet in the jungles of India, and
try their strength in single combat. It is not decided which is
superior in prowess, since victory is sometimes on one side and
sometimes on the other. No doubt this depends on the individuals who
may engage, for lions are not all alike, nor tigers neither. Both
differ in strength and courage, just as men do; and this difference is
caused by a variety of circumstancessuch as age, size, season of the
year, nature of the country and climate, and many like contingencies.
Remember that the lion is found both in Asia and Africa, and nowhere
else. He inhabits the whole of Africa, from the Cape to the shores of
the Mediterranean, and there are three well-marked varieties on that
continent. In Asia he is only found in its southern partthat is, in
the tropical and sub-tropical regions; and there are also two or three
varieties of the Asiatic lion.
With regard to the tiger, he is altogether an Asiatic. There are no
tigers in Europe, Africa, and Americaof course we mean in their wild
state; and the stories of tiger-hunts in Africa and America, frequently
to be met with in books and newspapers, are the narratives of mere
ignorant travellers, who confound the royal tiger with several species
of spotted catsof which we shall presently speak. We may add that the
tiger, although exclusively Asiatic, is not exclusively tropical in his
haunts. Tigers are more abundant in the hot jungles of India and some
of the larger islands of the Indian Ocean than elsewhere; but they have
also been observed far to the north of the Himalayan chain on the great
steppes that extend almost to the confines of Siberia.
To continue the monarchical analogy; there are four cats that may be
called the princes of the family. These are the Jaguar, the
Leopard, the Panther, and the Hunting-leopard or
Cheetah. The first of these is exclusively American; the other
three, African and Asiatic. They are all four what are termed spotted
cats; that is, having black markings on a buff or yellowish ground. I
need not add that they are all beautiful creatures. A superficial
observer would easily mistake the one for the other; and in common
phrase, they are indifferently termed leopards, panthers, and even
tigers; but the naturalist, and even the furrier knows that they
are four distinct species.
I shall endeavour to point out as briefly as possible some marks
that will enable you to distinguish them. In the spots we find a
tolerably good criterion of the species. Those upon the body of the
jaguar are not spots, but rather what may be termed rosettes. So, too,
the black markings of the leopard and panther are rosettes; that is,
irregular black rings enclosing an open space of the yellow ground. On
the contrary, the spots upon the hunting-leopard are real spots, of a
uniform black; and, consequently, this animal is easily distinguished
from the other three. He differs from them also in shape. He is longer
in the legs, stands more upright upon them, and can run more swiftly
than any of the cat tribe. In fact, he has a tendency towards the
nature and habits of the dog, and might be appropriately termed the
cat-dog, or the dog-cat, whichever you please. It is on account of his
canine qualities that he is sometimes trained to the chase: hence his
specific name of the hunting-leopard. He inhabits both Asia and Africa.
But how are the jaguar, leopard, and panther to be distinguished
from one another? The jaguar easily enough from the other two. His
rosettes have a black point in the centre, which is wanting in the
rings of the panther and leopard. Besides, the jaguar is a larger and
more powerful animal. Humboldt and others have observed specimens of
the jaguar nearly equal in dimensions to those of the royal tiger
himself; and his feats of fierce prowess, in the forests of Spanish
America, are scarce eclipsed by those of his congener in the jungles of
India. Human beings are frequently his victims, and settlements have
been abandoned on account of the dangerous proximity of the jaguars.
His range in America is pretty nearly co-terminal with the Spanish
territoriesincluding, of course, Brazil and Guiana, and excluding the
country of Patagonia, where a smaller species takes his place. In all
these countries he is misnamed tiger (tigre)hence the
anomalous stories to which we have alluded. We may add that there is a
black jaguar in tropical America, just as there is a black
panther in Asia. In neither case is it a different species: only a
variety as regards colour. In all other respects the black and yellow
kinds are alike. Even on the black ones the spots are observable in a
certain light, being of a deeper hue than the general ground colour of
Thus, then, it is easy to distinguish a cheetah from a jaguar, or
either from a leopard or panther; but with regard to these last two,
the distinction is more difficult. In fact, so much are they alike,
that the two species are confounded even by naturalists; and it is yet
an undecided point which is the leopard, and which the panther! That
there are two distinct species is certain. The London furrier knows
that there are two kinds of skins, which he distinguishes mainly by the
feel; but the learned zoologist, Temminck, has pointed out a difference
in the anatomical structure. Both animals are natives of Africa, and
both were supposed to exist in Asia; but it is doubtful whether that
known as the leopard extends beyond the limits of the African
continent. The panther is that one which is a little heavier in the
body, more cat-like in shape, and of a deeper yellow in the ground
colour; but, perhaps, the truest distinction is found in the tail,
which is longer in the panther than in the leopard, and consists of a
greater number of vertebrae.
The panther is a well-known animal in India and the Asiatic islands;
and, as already stated, there is a dark-skinned variety, commonly known
as the Black Panther of Java.
Taking the cat family according to size, the next that deserves
mention is the Couguar, or Puma. This is the panther of the
Anglo-Americans, and the lion (leon) of the Mexicans and South
Americans. His colour is a uniform tawny red, or calf colour; and he is
inferior to the jaguar in size, strength, and courage. Notwithstanding,
he is a formidable animal, and has been known to attack and destroy the
larger mammalia. When wounded, or at bay, he will also defend himself
against a human enemy; and there have been instances of hunters, both
white and Indian, having succumbed to his strength. His range extends
over nearly the whole continent of America; but he more particularly
affects the deep shadow of the forests; and, like the jaguar, he is a
tree-climber. He has no claim to the title of lion, except from some
resemblance in colour; and no doubt it was this that led to his
misnomer among the early settlers of Spanish America.
The Ounce comes next. Of all the large cats this is the least known,
either to naturalists or hunters. We only know that such a species
exists; that it is a native of Western Asia (Persia, and perhaps
Arabia); that it is an animal nearly as large as the leopard or
panther, but of stouter build and clumsier shape; that it is covered
with long woolly hair of a pale-yellow colour, and spotted, not so
distinctly as the true leopards, from which it is easily distinguished,
both by its form and colour. The name Ounce is from Buffon; but this
specific appellation is also applied to the jaguar of America, the
Jaguarundi, or lesser jaguar of Paraguay, and even to the Ocelot.
The Rimau-dahan is one of the most beautiful species of cats.
It is of a yellowish ground colour, not spotted like the leopard, but
marked with broad black bands and patches; in other words, clouded. It
is not so large as either of the species described. It is a
tree-climber, and lies in wait for its prey in the forks of the lower
limbs, where it also goes to sleep. From this habit it derives its
name, Dalian; which, in the Sumatran language, signifies the
fork of a tree.
Not unlike the Rimau-dahan, both in size and markings, is the
Nepaul cat: a species, as its name imports, found in Nepaul, in the
The Serval is a spotted catblack upon a pale-yellowish groundand
considerably larger than the domestic species. It is a native of South
Africa; and its skin is prized among the Kaffirs, for making their fur
cloaks or karosses.
The Ocelot is about equal in size to the last-named, and equally
prized for its beautiful skin, which is clouded with an admixture of
spots and stripes upon a ground of yellowish-grey. It belongs to
Spanish Americamore especially Mexico: and it is said to have been
this animal that is represented on the hieroglyphical paintings of the
ancient Aztecs. More probably its nobler congener, the jaguar, which is
also found in Mexico, is the animal that held this distinction in the
land of Anahuac.
In Central and South America there are a great many species of
striped and spotted cats, known generally as tiger cats. The Ocelot is
one of these; but there are also the Pampas cats, the Chati, the
Jaguarundi, the Margay, the False Margay, and many others.
Numerous species, too, exist in the forests of India; as also in the
great tropical islands of Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and the Philippines.
There is yet a section of the cat family to be described. These are
the lynxes, or cats with short tails and long earsthe latter erect,
and at the tips pointing inward, or towards each other.
Of the Lynxes three species are found in North America. The
largest of these is the Canada lynx, which in point of size approaches
the smaller species of leopards. The colour of this animal is of a
reddish grey, with spots very indistinctly marked. Its fur is long, and
its skins form one of the principal articles of the Hudson's Bay trade.
The Canada lynx is not found so far south as the United States; but
its place is there occupied by the Bay lynxa smaller species, and one
very similarly marked, except that the rufous tint on the back and
sides of the latter is deeper, and the spots more pronounced.
Still further south is a third species, only made known to
naturalists within the last few years. It inhabits Texas, and is hence
called the Texan lynx. It is of a darker red than either of the
preceding; but in other respectssize, shape, and habitsit is almost
identical with the Bay lynx. Both range to the Pacific.
Of the lynxes of the Old World, there is the common or European
lynx, which is still found in several European countries; the Caracal,
a native of Africa and part of Asia; the Booted lynx, also indigenous
to both continents; the Chaus, belonging to the country of the
Mahrattas; the Kattlo, a large species, of Northern Europe; the Nubian
lynx, of North Africa; and the Southern lynx, a native of Spain.
It may be added that there is scarce one of these species of which
there are not two or more varieties, known only to those who have made
a study of the Kingdom of Nature.
CHAPTER NINE. RATS AND OTHER
In this group we include not only Rats, but a great many other small
rodents, or gnawers, such as Mice, Marmots, Lemmings, Hamsters,
Mole-Rats, Jerboas, and Jumping Mice. The Shrew-Mice and Moles may also
be classed herealthough naturalists separate them from rodents,
because their food is not herbivorous, but consists of worms and
insects. For all that, there is a certain general resemblance, both as
to appearance and habits, among all these small quadrupeds; which, for
purposes of classification, is, perhaps, of more value than mere
difference of food, or tubercles upon the teeth; especially, as it can
be proved, that the sort of food an animal eats, is often dependent on
the circumstances in which it may be placed.
Of the Rats, properly so called, there are numerous species,
as well as varieties. Their size is, in general, about the same as the
Black and Norway ratsboth of which belong to England, and have been
introduced, by means of ships, into every country upon the habitable
globe. They are said to have come originally from Asia. There is one
species of rat, however, that is much larger than either of thesethe
Gigantic rat, found in Indian countries, and which in size quite equals
The habits of the rats are too well-known to require description.
Someas the Wood Rat and Florida Rat of Americadwell apart from the
habitations of man, in the woods; where, instead of living in burrows,
they construct large nests, by collecting together heaps of sticks,
leaves, and grass.
Mice may be regarded as only a smaller kind of rats; and of
these there are many distinct speciesboth in the Old and New Worlds.
The Marmots are, perhaps, the most interesting of the small
rodents. They stand in a sort of connection with the squirrels, more
especially the ground squirrels: on the other hand, they resemble
rabbits; and they have still many points of identity with rats. They
belong to the northern zones of Europe, Asia, and America. There are
three or four species belonging to the Old World; and a great many to
North America. Moreover there is a considerable difference in the
habits of these species, which has led zoologists to separate them into
several genera. One genus, called the Seed-eaters, is a very curious
kind. The marmots of this genus have a pair of pockets or pouchesone
on the outside of each cheekin which they actually carry seeds and
other articles of food to their burrows. These pouches, when filled,
impart to the little creatures a most ludicrous appearance.
The marmots usually live in large communitiesin burrows, as
rabbits do. These burrows are sometimes very extensiveespecially so,
in the case of the prairie marmot of Americabetter known as the
Prairie Dog whose villages sometimes cover an extent of many
square miles; and whose odd social habits have been repeatedly and
accurately described by late travellers who have crossed the American
The Mole-rats are a sort of combination between moles and
rats: hence their common name. One species is found in Eastern Russia;
where it burrows much after the fashion of the moleliving principally
upon roots. Two other kinds belong to South Africa. Both these are of
large size, nearly as big as rabbits. On the plains, they make
extensive excavations, which often prove dangerous to the horse and his
rider causing the former to stumble. The Dutch of the Cape know them
by the name of Sand Moles.
The Hamsters differ considerably from the marmots in their
mode of burrowing. They make their underground dwellings very
extensivehaving a great many chambers and galleries. In these they
collect vast stores of foodconsisting of grain, peas, and seeds of
various kinds. Sometimes two or three bushels of provision will be
found in the storehouse of a single family. The hamsters do not confine
themselves exclusively to a vegetable diet: since it is known that they
will kill and eat birds, or even small quadrupeds. In this respect they
resemble the common rats; and, therefore, it is idle to talk of mere
herbivorous genera of animals. The hamsters are very fierce little
creatures: constantly fighting with other quadrupeds, and even among
themselves; but the polecat is their master and tyrant, and carries on
a war of extermination against themfollowing them through the
intricate ways of their burrows, and destroying them even in their
There are several species of hamsters in Europe and Asia, and also
in North America: for the animal known as the Canada Pouched Rat is of
this kind, and so also is the Tucan of Mexico. So also is that very
singular and beautiful creature, the Chinchilla of South Americaso
celebrated for its soft and valuable fur.
The Lemmings are another form of small rodent animals,
celebrated for their extraordinary migratory habit; which resembles
that of the grey squirrels of North America. There are several species
of lemmings belonging to the northern section of the Old Continentin
Eastern Russia and Asia. One or two are found in North Americain that
part of it known as the Hudson's Bay Territory.
The Spinous Rats are little animals much resembling ordinary
rats; but with the peculiarity of having stiff spines growing among
their hair, after the manner of porcupine quills. There are several
species of them: all natives of tropical America.
The Jerboas are, perhaps, the most singular of all the
rodents. They are noted for having the hind legs much longer than the
fore onesin fact, being shaped very much like the kangaroosof which
they might be termed Lilliputian varieties, were it not that they lack
the pouch, which distinguishes these curious creatures. Like the
kangaroos, they use their fore-feet only to rest upon. When in motion,
or desirous of passing quickly over the ground, they make use of their
hind-feet only: proceeding by long leaps or jumps, and sometimes
springing to the distance of twelve or fifteen feet. Their tails being
long and slender, were supposed not to assist them in this
operation; but an experiment made by a cruel Frenchmanthat of cutting
off these appendagesproved that a considerable portion of the jumping
power is derived from the tail.
Africa and Asia are the head-quarters of these quadrupedsthe most
noted species being the Jerboas of Egypt, and the Leaping Hare of the
Cape. They dwell in sandy desertsburrowing in communities like the
marmots. In America there are no true jerboas: they are there
represented by the Jumping Mice of Labrador and the Hudson's Bay
Territory; which resemble the jerboas in almost everything except size,
the jumping mice being much smaller animals.
Field Mice and Dormice are other kinds of small
rodents, differing from the common kind of mouse; but the habits and
appearance of these little quadrupeds are well-known.
The Beaver and Musk-rat, or Musquash of
America, are usually classed among the rat tribe; but these animals,
for many reasons, deserve to stand apart and form a group of
themselves. With regard to the shrew-mice and moles, there is less
reason for separating them from other mice; and we shall speak of them
in this connection.
The Moles are known to be the best burrowers in the world:
since they can pass under the surface of the ground as fast as a man
can dig after them, or even faster. In England, the common mole is
well-knowntoo well, in factfor it is the very pest of the farmer;
and the damage done by it to the herbage is very considerable
indeedof greater amount than that occasioned by any other wild
In America, where there are several species of moles, their habits
are similar; and the common American mole is very like its European
congener in every respect. But there are two or three species found in
North American countries very different from either; and the most
singular of all is that known as the Star-nosed Mole. This creature has
the cartilage of the snout extended into five or six branches, that
radiate from each other, like spokes of a wheel, or the points of a
starhence the name of star-nosed mole. The use of this singular
appendage is not clearly understood; and, indeed, it would appear to be
an obstruction to the natural requirements of the animal. No doubt,
however, it has its purposethough that purpose be unknown to us.
The Shrew-Mice are still another kind of small ratlike
quadrupeds. They are distinguished by having upon each flank, under the
ordinary skin, a little band of stiff and close hairs, from which an
odoriferous humour is distilled. They dig holes in the earth, which
they seldom come out of until towards evening; and their food consists
of insects and worms. A species that inhabits the Pyrenees, and also
the mountains of Russia, are called Desmans, and differ somewhat from
the ordinary shrew-mice. They are aquatic in their habits; and their
burrows always enter the ground below the level of the water. The
Russian species are usually termed Musk-rats; but these are not to be
confounded with the musk-rats of Americawhich last should undoubtedly
be classed with the beavers.
In India, the shrew-mice attain to the size of ordinary rats, and
are there also called musk-rats, from the fact that a strong odour of
musk is exhaled by themso strong as to make the place through which
the animal passes exceedingly disagreeable. The same is true of the
Russian musk-rats, but for all that their skins are employed in chests
containing clothing: since the musky smell is a good preservative
against the moths.
In addition to the numerous rat animals above-mentioned, there are
still other kinds in different parts of the worldthe names of which
would alone fill many pages. Hence it is that the study of this section
of the mammalia is, perhaps, the most difficult of all; and a true
classification of these small quadrupeds has hitherto proved a puzzle
to the most expert zoologists.
CHAPTER TEN. BEAVERS.
Of true Beavers there is only one speciesunless the beaver of the
Old World be different from the well-known animal of the American
continent. This is a question which has been much debated among
naturalists; and certainly the difference which is known to exist
between the habits of the two animals would seem to prove them
distinct. The European beaver is generally supposed to lead a solitary
lifeburrowing in the banks of rivers as otters do; but this
supposition is evidently erroneous: or, rather, we should say, its
solitary habit is not its normal or original condition, but has been
produced by circumstances. It is probable that if European beavers were
left to themselves, in a situation remote from the presence of man,
they would build dams, and dwell together in colonies, just as the
American beavers do. In fact, such colonies have actually existed in
some parts of Europe and Asia; and no doubt exist at the present hour.
One has even been found on the small river Nutha, in a lonely canton of
the Magdeburg district, near the Elbe. Moreover, it is well-known that
the American beavers, when much hunted and persecuted (as they are
certain to be whenever the settlements approach their territory)
forsake their gregarious habit; and betake themselves to the solitary
system; just as their European cousins have done. Did this constitute
the only difference between the beavers of the Old and New Worlds, we
might regard them as one and the same; but there are other and still
more important points of distinctionreaching even to their anatomical
structurewhich seem to prove them distinct species. The probability
is in favour of this view: since there is perhaps no indigenous
quadruped of the one continent exactly identical with its synonymous
species of the other; excepting the polar bears, and a few other
kindswhose arctic range leads them, as it were, all round the earth.
The written natural history of the beaver is usually that of the
American species; not that this differs materially from his European
congener, but simply because it has been more extensively and
accurately observed. Its valuable fur has long rendered it an object of
the chase; and for fifty years it has been hunted a l'outrance,
and, in fact, exterminated from a wide domain of more than a million of
square miles. Formerly, its range extended from the Gulf of Mexico
almost to the shores of the Arctic Sea, and latitudinally from ocean to
ocean. At present, it is not found in the territory of the United
States proper, except in remote and solitary situations, among the
mountains, or in some tracts still unsettled. Even where found in these
places, its mode of life approximates more to that of the European
species; that is, it burrows instead of builds. The beaver has been
long reputed as the most sagacious of quadrupeds. True it is, that the
capacity of cutting down treesoften a foot or more in
diameterfloating or rafting these trees down a stream, and
constructing a dam with them, and afterwards building its singular
houses or lodges in the water, would seem to indicate the presence of a
rational power. But there are many other creatures birds, insects,
and quadrupedsthat exhibit instincts quite as surprising.
Nevertheless the habits of the beaver are curious in the extreme,
and deserve to be given in detail. The best account of them is that of
the old and truthful traveller Hearne: upon whose homely but accurate
observations scores of fireside naturalists have established a measure
of their fame. We shall leave him to tell the story of these
The beavers, he says, being so plentiful, the attention of my
companions was chiefly engaged on them, as they not only furnished
delicious food, but their skins proved a valuable acquisition,being a
principal article of trade, as well as a serviceable one for clothing.
The situation of the beaver-houses are various. Where the beavers are
numerous, they are found to inhabit lakes, ponds, and rivers, as well
as those narrow creeks which connect the numerous lakes with which this
country abounds; but the two latter are generally chosen by them when
the depth of water and other circumstances are suitable, as they have
then the advantage of a current to convey wood and other necessaries to
their habitations; and because, in general, they are more difficult to
be taken than those that build in standing water. They always choose
those parts that have such a depth of water as will resist the frost in
winter, and prevent it from freezing to the bottom. The beavers that
build their houses in small rivers or creeks, in which water is liable
to be drained off when the back supplies are dried up by the frost, are
wonderfully taught by instinct to provide against that evil by making a
dam quite across the river, at a convenient distance from their houses.
The beaver-dams differ in shape, according to the nature of the place
in which they are built. If the water in the river or creek have but
little motion, the dam is almost straight; but when the current is more
rapid, it is always made with a considerable curve, convex towards the
stream. The materials made use of are drift-wood, green willows, birch,
and poplars if they can be got; also mud and stones, intermixed in such
a manner as must evidently contribute to the strength of the dam; but
there is no other order or method observed in the dams, except that of
the work being carried on with a regular sweep, and all the parts being
made of equal strength. In places which have been long frequented by
beavers undisturbed, their dams, by frequent repairing, become a solid
bank, capable of resisting a great force both of water and ice; and as
the willow, poplar, and birch generally take root and shoot up, they by
degrees form a regular planted hedge, which I have seen in some places
so tall, that birds have built their nests among the branches.
The beaver-houses are built of the same materials as their dams,
and are always proportioned in size to the number of inhabitants, which
seldom exceeds four old and six to eight young ones; though, by chance,
I have seen above double the number. Instead of order or regulation
being observed in rearing their houses, they are of a much ruder
structure than their dams; for, notwithstanding the sagacity of these
animals, it has never been observed that they aim at any other
convenience in their houses than to have a dry place to lie on; and
there they usually eat their victuals, which they occasionally take out
of the water. It frequently happens that some of the large houses are
found to have one or more partitions (if they deserve that
appellation), but it is no more than a part of the main building left
by the sagacity of the beaver to support the roof. On such occasions it
is common for these different apartments, as some are pleased to call
them, to have no communication with each other but by water; so that,
in fact, they may be called double or treble houses, rather than
different apartments of the same house. I have seen a large
beaver-house built in a small island that had near a dozen apartments
under one roof; and, two or three of these only excepted, none of them
had any communication with each other but by water. As there were
beavers enough to inhabit each apartment, it is more than probable that
each family knew their own, and always entered at their own door,
without any further connection with their neighbours than a friendly
intercourse, and to join their united labours in erecting their
separate habitations, and building their dams where required.
Travellers who assert that the beavers have two doors to their
housesone on the land side, and the other next the water seem to be
less acquainted with these animals than others who assign them an
elegant suite of apartments. Such a construction would render their
houses of no use, either to protect them from their enemies, or guard
them against the extreme cold of winter.
So far are the beavers from driving stakes into the ground when
building their houses, that they lay most of the wood crosswise, and
nearly horizontal, and without any other variation than that of leaving
a hollow or cavity in the middle. When any unnecessary branches project
inward they cut them off with their teeth, and throw them in among the
rest, to prevent the mud from falling through the roof. It is a
mistaken notion that the woodwork is first completed and then
plastered; for the whole of their houses, as well as their dams, are,
from the foundation, one mass of mud and wood, mixed with stones, if
they can be procured. The mud is always taken from the edge of the
bank, or the bottom of the creek or pond near the door of the house;
and though their fore-paws are so small, yet it is held close up
between them under their throat: thus they carry both mud and stones,
while they always drag the wood with their teeth. All their work is
executed in the night, and they are so expeditious, that in the course
of one night I have known them to have collected as much as amounted to
some thousands of their little handfuls. It is a great piece of policy
in these animals to cover the outside of their houses every fall with
fresh mud, and as late as possible in the autumn, even when the frost
becomes pretty severe, as by this means it soon freezes as hard as a
stone, and prevents their common enemy, the wolverene, from disturbing
them during the winter; and as they are frequently seen to walk over
their work, and sometimes to give a flap with their tail, particularly
when plunging into the water, this has, without doubt, given rise to
the vulgar opinion that they use their tails as a trowel, with which
they plaster their houses; whereas that flapping of the tail is no more
than a custom which they always preserve, even when they become tame
and domestic, and more particularly so when they are startled.
Their food consists of a large root, something resembling a
cabbage-stalk, which grows at the bottom of the lakes and rivers. They
also eat the bark of trees, particularly those of the poplar, birch,
and willow; but the ice preventing them from getting to the land in the
winter, they have not any bark to feed on in that season, except that
of such sticks as they cut down in summer, and throw into the water
opposite the doors of their houses; and as they generally eat a great
deal, the roots above-mentioned constitute a principal part of their
food during the winter. In summer they vary their diet by eating
various kinds of herbage, and such berries as grow near their haunts
during that season. When the ice breaks up in the spring the beavers
always leave their houses, and rove about until a little before the
fall of the leaf, when they return again to their old habitations, and
lay in their winter-stock of wood. They seldom begin to repair their
houses till the frost commences, and never finish the outer coat till
the cold is pretty severe, as has been already mentioned. When they
erect a new habitation they begin felling the wood early in the summer,
but seldom begin to build until the middle or latter end of August, and
never complete it till the cold weather be set in.
Persons who attempt to take beavers in winter should be thoroughly
acquainted with their manner of life; otherwise they will have endless
trouble to effect their purpose, because they have always a number of
holes in the banks, which serve them as places of retreat when any
injury is offered to their houses, and in general it is in those holes
that they are taken. When the beavers which are situated in a small
river or creek are to be taken, the Indians sometimes find it necessary
to stake the river across to prevent them from passing; after which
they endeavour to find out all their holes or places of retreat in the
bank. This requires much practice and experience to accomplish, and is
performed in the following manner:Every man being furnished with an
ice-chisel, lashes it to the end of a small staff about four to five
feet long; he then walks along the edge of the banks, and keeps
knocking his chisel against the ice. Those who are acquainted with that
kind of work well know by the sound of the ice when they are opposite
to any of the beavers' holes or vaults. As soon as they suspect any,
they cut a hole through the ice big enough to admit an old beaver; and
in this manner proceed till they have found out all their places of
retreat, or at least as many of them as possible. While the principal
men are thus employed, some of the under-strappers and the women are
busy in breaking open the housewhich at times is no easy task, for I
have frequently known these houses to be five or six feet thick; and
one, in particular, was more than eight feet thick in the crown. When
the beavers find that their habitations are invaded, they fly to their
holes in the banks for shelter; and on being perceived by the Indians,
which is easily done, by attending to the motion of the water, they
block up the entrance with stakes of wood, and then haul the beaver out
of its hole, either by hand, if they can reach it, or with a large hook
made for that purpose, which is fastened to the end of a long stick.
The beaver is an animal which cannot keep long under at a time; so that
when their houses are broken open, and all their places of retreat
discovered, they have but one choice left, as it may be calledeither
to be taken in their house or their vaults; in general they prefer the
latter; for where there is one beaver caught in the house, many
thousands are taken in the vaults in the banks. Sometimes they are
caught in nets, and, in summer, very frequently in traps.
In respect to the beavers dunging in their houses, as some persons
assert, it is quite wrong, as they always plunge into water to do it. I
am the better enabled to make this assertion, from having kept several
of them till they became so domesticated as to answer to their name,
and follow those to whom they were accustomed in the same manner as a
dog would do; and they were as much pleased at being fondled as any
animal I ever saw. In cold weather they were kept in my own
sitting-room, where they were the constant companions of the Indian
women and children; and were so fond of their company, that when the
Indians were absent for any considerable time, the beavers discovered
great signs of uneasiness, and on their return showed equal marks of
pleasure, by fondling on them, crawling into their laps, lying on their
backs, sitting erect like a squirrel, and behaving like children who
see their parents but seldom. In general, during the winter, they lived
on the same food as the women did; and were immoderately fond of rice
and plum-pudding; they would eat partridges and fresh venison very
freely; but I never tried them with fish, though I have heard they will
at times prey on them. In fact, there are few graminivorous animals
that may not be brought to be carnivorous.
The Musquash, or Musk-rat, is undoubtedly a beaver,
and has been called at times the Little Beaver; but it has pleased the
naturalists to constitute it a genus of itself, though there is only
the one species known. Its habits are extremely like those of the
beaver: it is aquatic, or amphibious, if you pleasebuilding itself a
conical house in the midst of a swamp, or low islet, and feeding on
shoots of trees, bits of green wood, leaves and stalks of nettles, and
other herbaceous plants. Its fur bears a very great resemblance to that
of the beaver, only it is shorter, and therefore less valuable.
Notwithstanding this, it is an article of extensive commerce; and
upwards of a million skins have been imported into England in a single
year. The musquash might also be exterminated like the beaver; but
being a smaller creature, and therefore less persecuted by the amateur
sportsman, it is still common enough upon the streams of the northern
and middle States of America. Further north it is plentiful; and the
Hudson's Bay Company procure a vast number of skins for annual
exportation to Europe. Its name of musk-rat is derived from the scent
of musk which the animal emits, and which is especially powerful during
the season of rut.
It is possible that the musk-rat of Siberia, as well as several
species of water-rats belonging to South Americaand known vaguely by
the name of Lutras and Nutriasmay be animals of the beaver kind,
rather than Water-Rats or Otters, among which they are generally
CHAPTER ELEVEN. SQUIRRELS.
These pretty little animals are widely distributed over the earth;
though to this remark Australia seems to form an exception, since no
species has yet been discovered there. However, there is much of that
great island continent yet to be explored; and perhaps it may turn out
that Australia has its squirrels, as well as other parts of the world
no doubt squirrels with pouches.
In number of speciesand also of individuals, it may be
addedAmerica excels all other countries, and the great forests of
North America may be regarded as the head-quarters of the squirrel
tribe; but, if we give precedence to size, the squirrels of the East
Indian countries are entitled to the first place.
Animals known as Squirrels are of three very distinct kindsviz.,
Squirrels, properly so called; Ground Squirrels: and Flying Squirrels.
These three kinds are very naturally separated into three different
genera; but the closet naturalists, not content with this simple
division, have again subdivided them into other sub-genera, using very
difficult names to distinguish them. In our little sketch we shall
simply call them by the three names above-mentioned.
The Squirrels, properly so called, are not only
tree-climbers, but, as every one knows, dwell habitually upon trees,
and there make their nests and their home. And perfectly at home they
are among the highest branches; for under no circumstances do they ever
miss their footing, or are they in the slightest danger of falling. In
fact, they can not only run with the greatest agility along the
branches, but equally well with their backs downward; and can spring
from branch to branch, and also from tree to tree, over wide intervals
of many yards. They can also leap down from the tops of the tallest
trees to the eartha feat often witnessed by squirrel-huntersand do
so without the appearance of having received the slightest injury; for,
without pausing a moment on the ground, they continue their flight
towards some other tree, where they expect to find better shelter from
the short gun or rifle of their human enemy.
The squirrel builds a nest in the tree, similar to that of some
birds; but they have also in the same tree a more secure retreat in
case of being pursued. This is a hole in the trunk or one of the larger
limbs some natural excavation caused by the decaying of a branchin
short, what is termed a knot hole, which is common in many kinds of
timber. In this hole the squirrel usually lays up its store of winter
food, consisting of nuts, beech-mast, etcetera; and here it takes
refuge when hunted, finding the tree-cave a safe asylum. Unless decoyed
out again, or, which often happens, frightened out again, by
rubbing the trunk with a piece of stick, the squirrel must escape
scot-free nine times out of ten, since no hunter would think of felling
a huge tree to procure so insignificant a reward as the carcass of a
squirrel; and without felling the tree, and splitting it up, too, the
creature could not be reached. Various devices, however, are practised
to decoy it forth; and these, unfortunately for the little refugee, too
The squirrels are the life of the American woodsindeed, a journey
through these great forests would often be very monotonous were it not
enlivened by the presence and gambols of these beautiful creatures; and
in the depth of winter, when the squirrels keep within their dark
tree-caves, the solitude of the forest seems redoubled. But even during
frost and snow, when the weather is fine and the sun shining brightly,
a few will be seen venturing forth, as if to take an airing.
A great many species exist in the forests of North America;
sometimes only one, and sometimes several, occupy the same district.
They are of different colours and sizessome as small as the common
squirrel of England, while several species are three or four times as
large. Some are grey, others brown grey, several species of a fox red,
and those esteemed the most beautiful are of a uniform jet black.
Several new species have lately been found in the forests of Oregon and
Their habits are all nearly alike; but to one species of Grey
Squirrel belongs a habit as distinct as it is singular. This is their
habit of collecting together in immense flocks of many thousands, and
migrating over vast tracts of country, crossing broad rapid rivers, and
staying at no obstacle. The object of this migration is not known, only
that it appears to be the result of some impulsesuch as excites to a
similar movement the springboks of South Africa, the buffaloes of North
America, and the passenger pigeons.
In Europe the squirrel is represented by the Common Squirrel of our
own woods, and which is found throughout the whole of Northern Europe
and Asia, wherever there are trees. Although of a reddish colour in
England, as well as in France, it assumes different hues, according to
the different countries it inhabits; and in the more northern latitudes
it is quite grey. Another European species, distinct from the English
squirrel, is a denizen of the Pyrenees and the Alps of Dauphine.
The Palm Squirrel is a beautiful species belonging to the tropical
parts of Africa and India, and dwelling principally upon the palm
treesas its name imports.
Another, known as the Barbary Squirrel, belongs to North Africa, and
is also a dweller upon palm trees.
The largest, and perhaps the most richly-coated of the tribe, is the
Malabar Squirrel of India, which is as large as a domestic cat. It also
haunts among palm trees, and is fond of the milk of the cocoa-nut,
either in a liquid or solid state.
There are squirrels also in Eastern Africa. India has several
species, and the great islands of Madagascar, Ceylon, Java, Borneo,
Sumatra, etcetera, have each one or more species of large and beautiful
The Ground Squirrels differ from the true squirrels in
several respects, though the chief difference lies in the fact that the
former make their nest or lair upon the ground, while the latter
universally lodge themselves aloft among the branches. The Ground
Squirrels can climb, and appear to ascend trees almost as nimbly as
their congeners; but they rarely do so unless when pursued, and then
but seldom go beyond the lower forks or branches. Their nest is usually
in some hole or cavity among the roots, though several species have
been lately discovered in rocky regions, dwelling in the crevices of
rocks. They approach in habits to the marmot tribe, and seem to link
the tree squirrels with these last. Usually, these ground squirrels are
striped longitudinally with black, red, and white stripes, giving them
a fine appearance; and the species are of different dimensions, from
that of the ordinary squirrel to the size of a mouse. In America, for a
long time, but one kind was supposed to exist; but latterly a great
number of species have been observed and described: denizens of the far
Westof the prairies, and remote valleys of the Rocky Mountains.
The African species of ground squirrel, already mentioned as the
Palm Squirrel, has its dwelling among the palm trees, on the fruit and
roots of whichespecially that of the date-palmit subsists. It is
also an inhabitant of India, where there is at least one other species
of palm ground squirrel.
In Europe, and throughout the whole of Northern Asia, the ground
squirrels are represented by the burunduka very interesting
little species, quite similar in habits to those of North America.
The Flying Squirrels are the last of the group. These are the
most singular of all, and resemble great bats more than squirrels. They
possess the power, not exactly of flight, but of making very long leaps
from a higher to a lower level, so long that they might almost be
regarded as flights. They can pass from one tree to another standing
more than a hundred yards apart, and this without descending more than
a few feet below the level from which they started. This feat they are
enabled to perform by means of a broad membrane that extends from the
skin of their fore-legs to that of their thighs, and which, when
stretched out, endows them with the properties of a parachute. Their
bodies, too, have a flattened shape like the bats; and this also helps
to sustain them in the air.
They are true squirrels, however, living upon trees, as the common
squirrels do, and looking very like the latter, notwithstanding their
winged legs. In one point, however, they differ essentially from the
common squirrels; and that is, they are nocturnal in their
habits. In the daytime they are never seen, except by accident; but in
the twilight, and during a clear night, they may be observed making
their long leaps from tree to tree, through the glades or along the
edges of the forest. There are several species inhabiting the forests
of America, and of late California has yielded several new ones. In the
tropical forests of America there are several large species, and the
Old World has its flying squirrel in the Polatouka, which inhabits the
pine forests of Northern Europe and Asia.
The largest species of these singular quadrupeds appears to belong
to the Oriental Islandsto Java, Sumatra, the Philippines, and
Moluccas, or Spice Islands, as also to Japan. The great Teguan, or
flying squirrel of the Moluccas, is in reality as large as a cat!
The singular Ay-ay of Madagascar is sometimes classed among the
squirrels and sometimes among the lemurs. It certainly bears a great
resemblance to the squirrel family; but the habits of all animals
belonging to Madagascar are so little known that it is difficult to
assign them to that exact genus in which Nature intended they should be
CHAPTER TWELVE. HARES, RABBITS, AND
The Hare, and its very near congener, the Rabbit, are animals too
well-known to need description; but it is necessary to say that,
besides the species of both, peculiar to Great Britain, there are many
other kinds in other parts of the world. Even in Britain itself,
including Ireland, there are several distinct sorts both of hares and
rabbits; for the Irish hare is distinct, being a larger, stronger, and
even swifter animal than the English hare, and having many other points
peculiar to it. Moreover, in the northern and mountainous parts of
Scotland there is found the Varying or Alpine Hare, whose fur changes
in the winter season to a snowy whiteness. But I may here remark, that
the Irish hare also possesses this singular power of transformation,
since upon the mountains of the north, especially upon the Mourne
range, in county Down, white hares have been frequently
observed. Is this the Irish hare turned white, or the true Alpine hare
Hares and rabbits are peculiarly the denizens of cold countries, as
their warm woolly covering would plainly indicate. In tropical climates
their place is supplied by other kinds of rodents, that resemble them
in habits, if not in dress. Of these other animals we shall presently
speak. To the above remark, however a few partial exceptions may be
brought forward; since there is a species existing in Egypt known as
the Egyptian Hare, and there are three others at the Capethe Rock
Hare, the Burrow Hare, and the Vlakte Haas. These, however, differ very
considerably from the common hares and rabbits of northern countries;
and the remark still holds good, that in the tropicsproperly so
calledthe hare does not exist: neither has any true hare been found
in the new world of Australia.
Otherwise, hares are plenteous in the different continents of
Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. In Asia there is a species
inhabiting the regions of the Altai Mountains, and another peculiar to
the Siberian territory, called the Tolai. There is an Indian species
found in the Nepaul Mountains, and a curious variety, also a native of
Nepaul and the Himalayas, known as the Woolly Hare of Thibet.
The Polar Hare, valued for its beautiful white fur, inhabits the
countries around the Arctic Ocean, and is common in Labrador and the
Hudson's Bay territory. In North America, also, there are several other
species of hares: the Marsh, or Swamp Hare, of the Southern United
States, which dwells among the extensive marshes of the Carolinas and
Louisiana, and which freely takes to the water; the Rabbit of the
Middle States, which is a true hare, though from its small size usually
termed a rabbit; the Californian Hare, indigenous to California, and
also another Marsh Hare, belonging to the same country. Upon the
prairies several distinct species have lately been discovered, among
which the Sage Hare deserves especial mention. This kind derives its
name from its being a dweller on the desert plains, where scarce any
other vegetation exists except the artemisia, or wild sage
plant, the leaves of which constitute the principal food of the animal,
rendering its flesh almost uneatable.
The Calling Hares differ very much from the common hares and
rabbits so much as to constitute a separate genus. Their ears are
shorter, and they are altogether without tails. Their habits, however,
are very similar to those of the hare family, and they are therefore
very naturally grouped with the latter. They derive their trivial name
from the habit of uttering a note, which somewhat resembles the piping
of a quail, and which can be heard at a very great distance. This note
is repeated three or four times at night and morning, but is seldom
heard during the middle of the day, unless when the weather is cloudy.
The calling hares are distributed over Asia and North America. At
least two species belong to the Himalayan country, and one is found in
Cabul. In Siberia and Northern Russia there is another, called the
Eadajac; and several species inhabit the northern countries of
Americasome so small as scarcely to exceed the dimensions of a rat!
The Little Chief is one of these tiny creatures long known; but late
explorers of the Rocky Mountain regions have discovered a species still
smaller than the little chief.
The Cavies appear to represent the hare family in the
tropical parts of America. It is true that these last differ from hares
in many particulars; but they have also many points of resemblance, and
they may be grouped together in a very natural manner. They live much
in the same manner; they are swift and inoffensive as the hares; but,
instead of being clothed in soft wool, which would be altogether
unsuitable to the climate in which they dwell, the cavies have a
covering of hair so fine and thin as to convey to the touch a feeling
of coolness rather than warmth. Some of the cavies are among the
largest animals of the Rodent Family; for instance, the great Capivara,
which is equal in size to an ordinary pig. This species is not a swift
runner upon land; but it is semi-aquatic in its habits, and can swim
and dive like an otter, its feet being webbed or palmated. It herds in
troops of from five or ten to fifty in number, and is found upon the
banks of all the great South American rivers, where it has for its
chief enemy the fierce jaguar.
The Guinea Pig is one of the family of cavies. This beautiful little
animal is too well-known to require description. It may be remarked,
however, that the name Guinea Pig is altogether a mistake, since the
creature is found wild only in South America, and is not a
native of Guinea in Africa. Very likely it was originally brought from
Guiana, and this has led to the misnomer. There are several species of
Guinea pig in South America, differing from one another in size, shape,
and colour. Besides the large Capivara and the little Guinea Pig, there
are several intermediate kinds. These are known as the True Cavies, and
are usually called Agoutis, or Acouchis. The agoutis are about the size
of the common hare, and run almost as swiftly. For their food they
prefer nuts to herbage, which is natural enough in a region where the
latter is scanty and the former exists in plenty; and in eating they
squat upright on their haunches, and convey the food to their mouth
after the manner of squirrels. The agouti, like the hare, frequently
rolls over when descending a hill at full speeda habit, or rather an
accident, due to the same cause in both animals, namely, the great
length of the hind legs. When angry, the agouti stamps with the
fore-feet, grunts like a young pig, and erects the bristly hair upon
its crupper after the manner of porcupines.
There are many species of agouti throughout tropical America and the
West India Islands, and the range of the genus extends as far south as
the plains of Patagonia.
The Pacas form another genus belonging to the family of the
cavies that may be also grouped with the hares and rabbits. They burrow
like the common rabbit, and their food consists of nuts, fruits, and
roots. Their flesh is excellent; and on this account they are hunted
eagerly, both by the Indians and whites who dwell in the countries
where they are found. There are several species of them in South
America, and they were also very common at one time in the West India
Islands; but on account of the persecution of many enemiesmore
especially of hunters they are now comparatively rare.
With the hares and rabbits may be classed still another family of
South American animals, and one of the most interesting of the whole
group. These are the Chinchillas and Viscachas. The place assigned to
them by some naturalists is with the hamsters, and therefore they are
grouped with the rats; but an examination into the habits of these
animals shows that they are in reality representatives of the hares and
rabbits on the elevated table-lands of Chili and Peru, as also over the
whole plain country of La Plata and Patagonia. There are several
species known indifferently as Viscachas and Chinchillas; but the true
Chinchilla, celebrated for its soft and beautiful woolly coat, is an
inhabitant of the elevated plateaux of the Andes, where the climate is
as cold as in Siberia itself. The natural history of these rodents is
full of curious interest, and deserves to be given more in detail, if
our space would only admit of it.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN. ELEPHANTS.
The Elephant is by far the largest of land animals, and for this
reason one of the most interesting to the student of zoology; but even
without this superiority, he possesses qualities that entitle him to
rank among the curious objects of creation.
In ages long gone by there were elephants upon the earthor animals
resembling elephantsas much larger than the existing species as these
are superior in size to other quadrupeds. Such were the mammoths and
mastodons, the skeletons of which are occasionally found buried beneath
the surface of the soil in different parts of the world.
As might be expected, the species of this gigantic quadruped are not
numerous. For a long time there was supposed to be only one; but this
was an erroneous belief, and it is now proved that there are at
least two, since the elephants of Africa and those of Asia are
altogether different from each other. It is not quite certain that the
elephant of the Island of Ceylon is identically the same as other
Indian elephants; and in the Asiatic countries and islands there are
varieties differing from each other in size, and other peculiarities,
quite as much as any of them does from the elephant of Africa. Again,
in Africa itself we find that this great creature has its
varietiessome larger and some smaller, according to the part of the
country in which they are found. Even the natives of both Africa and
the Indian territories recognise different kinds, proving that on both
continents there are several permanent varieties, if not species.
In the Indian countries these varieties have received distinct
names just as our breeds of dogsand an elephant is valued according
to the breed or caste to which he belongs; for in India caste is a
universal idea, even among animals.
There are two principal castesthe Koomareah, of princely race; and
the Merghee, or hunting elephant. These two kinds differ a good
dealas much, indeed, as if they were separate species. The koomareah
is deep-bodied, strong, and compact, with a very large trunk and short
thick legs. As a large trunk is considered the great beauty of an
elephant, the koomareah is therefore preferred to the merghee; besides,
he is also superior to the latter in strength and powers of endurance.
The merghee is a taller animal, but neither so compact nor so
strong, and his trunk is short and slender in proportion to his height.
He travels faster, however; and for this reason is oftener employed in
A cross between these two varieties is called a Sunkareah, which
signifies a mixed breed or mule; and in a herd of elephants there will
be found not only sunkareahs, but several varieties of cross breeds
between the koomareahs and merghees. These mules are prized if they
partake more of the nature of the princely caste, and less valued when
nearer to the merghee.
In addition to these distinctions, another very important one is
found in the size and shape of the teeth. The Dauntelah is one with
very large teeth, in opposition to the Mookna, in which the tusks are
of small dimensions, and scarcely visible outside the mouth. The
Europeans prefer elephants of the mookna variety, as these are of
milder disposition than the dauntelahs; but the natives prize the
large-toothed kinds, taking the chance of being able to tame them to
submission. There are many degrees between the mookna and dauntelah,
founded on the form of the tusks. Those of the Pullung-daunt project
forward with an almost horizontal curve, while the straight tusks of
the mooknas point directly downwards. Nearly a dozen varieties or
breeds are thus established among the elephants of India that are held
in a state of domestication.
White elephants are also met with, and are highly prized by the
rajahs and wealthy nobles. These are mere varieties, produced by
albinism, and may belong to any of the castes already described.
It has been further ascertained that the elephants of different
Indian countries vary a good deal in point of size. Those from the
southern districts, and some of the larger islands, are larger and
stronger than the elephants of Nepaul and other mountain countries in
the north. The finest are those of Cochin China and the Burmese
territories of Pegu, while those of Ceylon are even superior to the
kinds indigenous to Northern India.
The African elephants are said also to be larger as they dwell
nearer to the Equator; and from this it would appear that the elephant
is essentially a tropical animal, and thrives best in the climate of
the torrid zone.
The Asiatic elephant is found wild as well as domesticated in nearly
all the Indian countries, as also in many of the large islands. Its
range northward is bounded by the lower hills of the Himalayas; and
among these, especially through the saul forests, these huge
animals roam about in herds, each herd being under the guidance or
leadership of an old male, or bull, as he is termed. As an elephant
brings a considerable sum of money, even in India, these are eagerly
hunted; and their capture is accomplished by decoying them into a pound
or enclosure constructed for the purpose, where ropes are attached to
them, and then tied to the neighbouring trees. The decoy used is a tame
elephant, that has been already trained for the purpose.
There are in India, as well as in Africa, certain old bull elephants
that lead a solitary life, and that are scarcely ever seen in company
with the herds. These bachelors are usually of a morose and fierce
disposition, and when one of them is captured it requires all the skill
of the hunters to keep clear of danger. These wild bulls are larger and
stronger than the common kind, and so untamable in their ferocity that
even when captured no use can be made of them, since they will die
rather than submit to being trained. They are called Goondahs by the
people of Hindostau, and by English hunters Rogues or Rovers.
The African elephant next merits attention. There is no difficulty
in distinguishing this species from any of the Indian varieties. The
immensely large ears constitute a marked characteristic of the former,
which at once becomes recognisable. Other points of difference are the
greater convexity of the forehead or skull and the larger size of the
tusks; though this last point of distinction is not always to be
depended upon, since there are Indian elephants with tusks of similar
dimensions. Generally, however, the African elephants have the largest
In point of bulk the Asiatic species has been considered superior;
but this belief may not be correct. Certain circumstances should be
taken into account. The Asiatic elephant is living in a domesticated
state, and this may have produced a greater size, as it does in the
case of most other quadrupeds. Another circumstance: the African
elephants of our collections have been mostly obtained from the Cape,
or the regions contiguous to it. But it is now known that in the
countries nearer to the equator there exists a much larger kind, that
appears to be quite as bulky as any of the Asiatic varieties.
The height of the elephant has been much exaggerated by
travellerssome having been described as measuring eighteen feet from
the foot to the top of the shoulder! An authority on this subject, who
measured the largest he could meet with in different parts of India,
found none that stood over twelve feet, and this appears to be the
actual height of the very biggest of elephants.
The African elephants have not been tamedat least not in modern
times; but it is certain that the elephants used by the Carthaginians
in their wars with the Romans were of this species; and also that
African elephants were the species exhibited by Caesar and Pompey in
the Roman arena.
In a wild state the African elephant has a wide rangefrom the Cape
country on the south to Senegal on the western side, throughout the
whole of Central Africa, and along the oriental coast to the valley of
the Nile; but it is not very certain whether the elephant of the
eastern countries of Africa is the African species or a variety of the
Asiatic kind. The African elephant is said to be fiercer than that of
Asia; but this is a doubtful statement; and perhaps the habits of the
two do not materially differ, farther than might be expected from a
difference of climate, food, and other external circumstances.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN. THE HIPPOPOTAMUS,
RHINOCEROS, AND TAPIR.
Though these three kinds of creatures belong to different genera,
there is a certain family likeness among them that entitles them to be
classed together; and since there are not many species of each, they
will conveniently form a group.
Of late the hippopotamus has been the most notorious of the three;
though he is far from being as interesting an animal as the rhinoceros.
Since, however, he is at present the most popular, we shall give him
the foremost place in our sketch.
The Hippopotamus was known to the Greeks and Romans. His name is
Greek, and, as every one knows, signifies the River-horse. Why so
called? you may asksince between this unwieldy creature and the
beautiful horse there does not appear a single point of resemblance.
The answer is, that the cry of the hippopotamus was fancied to resemble
the neighing of a horse; and in some respects this is really the case.
Hence the misnomer. The Dutch of the Cape Colony call the creature a
Cow, or Sea-cow, which is also an ill-adapted name. The cow is well
enough, for the head and mouth of the animal bear a very striking
resemblance to those of a broad-muffled cow; but what the sea has to
do with it is not so clearly understood: since the hippopotamus is
found only in fresh water in lakes and rivers.
Every one knows that this huge creature is of amphibious habits; and
lives equally well on land, in the water, or even under the water. It
requires air, however, and at intervals rises to the surface to
breathe. On such occasions it usually projects a jet of water from its
nostrilsin other words, it spouts, after the manner of the whales.
It is altogether herbivorous; and grass and the leaves of succulent
plants form its subsistence. A vast quantity of these are required to
sustain it; and a single individual will consume as much as two hundred
pounds' weight in a day.
The hippopotamus, notwithstanding its formidable appearance, is not
a dangerous enemy if suffered to go unmolested, or rather if persons do
not come in its way. When wounded, however, or even intruded upon in
its solitary haunts, it will attack man himself; and a boat or canoe
passing along a river frequented by these creatures is in danger of
suffering a similar fate to that resulting from an encounter with the
great whalethat is, of being tossed out of the water or broken to
The River-horse, or Sea-cow (whichever you prefer to call the
creature), is exclusively confined to the African continent; and is
found in all the great lakes and rivers from the Cape Colony to the
southern limits of the Sahara. It is indigenous to the Upper Nile; but
does not show itself in the lower half of that river. In fact, its
range appears to be exactly co-terminal with that of the African
There is a question about the number of species. For long it was
supposed there was only one, but now it is ascertained that two, or
even more, exist. The hippopotami of the Nile differ considerably from
each other and also from the species known as Sea-cow in South Africa;
while a smaller kind than either has been observed in the rivers of
The Rhinoceros is altogether a more curious and interesting
animal than the hippopotamus; but, being more common, and oftener
encountered by modern travellers, it is at present less an object of
Of rhinoceroses at least seven distinct species are knownthree of
them being Asiatic, and four African.
The largest of all is the Indian rhinoceros, which inhabits a part
of Bengal and the countries beyondBurmah, Siam, and Cochin China.
This species is easily distinguished from the others by the thick rough
skin, which is placed on the animal's body in such a fashion as to
resemble a coat of ancient armour. The singular protuberances have a
complete resemblance to the bosses which were worn on the shields and
breast-plates of warriors of the olden time.
A second species, the Warak, which inhabits Java, is somewhat
similarly accoutred; but the third Asiatic kind, the Sumatran
rhinoceros, has a smoother skin, more resembling that of the African
These last-mentioned are denizens of the African continent; but
especially of the regions extending northward from the Cape. They do
not all four frequent the same district; but two, and sometimes three
of them, are found in one locality. They are distinguished as the black
and white rhinocerosesthere being two species of the black, and two
of the white. The black ones are much fiercer than their white
congeners; although the latter are by far the largest, and present a
far more formidable appearance, from the extreme length of their horns.
The Tapir was for a long time supposed to be exclusively an
American animal, but later research proves that there is also a species
in Asia. It is found in the Island of Sumatra, and is larger than the
American species, though very much resembling it in other respects. A
new species has also been discovered in South America, altogether
differing from the American tapir already so well-known.
The habits of the American tapir are not unlike those of the
rhinoceros. It is a creature of great strength, and heavy in its
movements. It can live for a long time under water; and its haunts are
the banks of the great riversespecially where these are marshy, and
covered with reeds and other aquatic plants, which constitute its food.
It can swim or walk under the water at will; but its lair is generally
in some bushy retreat at a distance from the banks; and its visits to
the water are usually nocturnal. It is an object of chase among the
native Indians, who prize both its flesh and skin; but its capture is
by no means an easy matter, since its thick hide renders it impervious
to the tiny arrow of the blow-gun.
This species is found in all the rivers of South America, from
Paraguay to the Isthmus of Darien; but its range terminates very
abruptly on the northa fact which puzzles the naturalist, since for
many degrees further northward, climate and other circumstances are
found similar to those which appear to favour its existence in the
southern part of the continent.
The other species of American tapir differs considerably in the
nature of its haunts and habits. In these it is said more to resemble
the tapir of Sumatra. The latter is found dwelling at a great
elevation, in fact, on the tops of the highest mountains of that
island; whereas the Danta, or American tapir, is altogether confined to
the low hot plains. In the same district of country, and even in the
same riversbut further up among the mountainsthe smaller species of
American tapir is met with, but never upon the low level of the plains.
When we consider that for more than three centuries, in a country
inhabited by a civilised people, this new species of American tapir has
remained not only undescribed but even unknown to the scientific world,
we may fairly conjecture that other species of this, as well as of many
other animals, may yet be brought to light to gratify the lover of
nature, and add to his store of pleasant knowledge.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN. GIRAFFES, CAMELS,
Strictly speaking, the Giraffes cannot be considered as belonging to
the same family with the Camels, nor yet the Camels be classed with the
Llamas; but there is a very great resemblance between these three
genera of animals, and, except for scientific purposes, they form a
group sufficiently natural. Indeed any one of the three is more like to
the other two than to any other kind of mammalia; although some
naturalists prefer considering the giraffe as a species of deer. This
classification, however, rests principally upon an erroneous
suppositionthat the oblong protuberances on the head of the giraffe
are horns, which in reality they are not, but mere continuations of the
frontal bone. It would be as absurd, therefore, to call the giraffe a
deer, as to consider it a species of camel, and perhaps more so. It may
be regarded as an animal sui generis; but in making a series of
groupssuch as we have here attemptedit appears more natural to
place it alongside the camels than elsewhere; and it is certainly as
much like the true camel or dromedary as either the llama or vicuna.
One of its most popular namesthat of Camelopard, or Spotted
Camelshows the resemblance which suggests itself to the eye of the
traveller and ordinary observer; and this resemblance extends also to
many characters that are not external. Indeed, after all that has been
said by anatomical naturalists, we might hazard assertion of the
belief, that the camelopard is neither more nor less than a species of
Its appearance need not be described. Every eye is familiar with the
slender form, long neck, smooth coat, and spotted skin of this singular
animal. But its habits are less understood, and this arises from
several distinct causes. In the first place, the giraffe inhabits only
those countries about which very little is known by civilised people;
secondly, it is but rarely seen, even by travellers; and, thirdly, when
it is encountered in its native haunts, it is of so shy a
disposition, and so ready to take flight, that scarce any opportunity
is ever obtained for properly observing it.
The giraffe is exclusively confined to the continent of Africa; but
its range is by no means limited. It was formerly common enough as far
south as the Cape itself, whence it was driven by the Dutch and
Hottentot hunters. It is not now met with to the south of the Great
Orange River. Northward from this point, it extends to Nubia and
Abyssinia; but it does not appear that it inhabits the western section
of the continent, since it is not heard of in Guinea, or any of the
countries on the Atlantic coast. In the interior it is common enough.
The giraffes herd together in small troopsconsisting of ten or a
dozen individualsand prefer the open forests, or rather the hills
covered with copses of acacia and other African trees. Their principal
food is the foliage of these trees; and one species of mimosathe
camel-doorn (camel-thorn) of the Dutch huntersis their especial
favourite. The leaves of this tree, like all others of the acacia
tribe, are of pinnate form, and sweet to the taste; and the giraffe
browses upon them, standing erect, with its long neck outstretched to a
height of nearly twenty feet! Its tongue is possessed of a peculiarly
prehensile power, and with this extended a foot or more beyond the
lips, it can sweep in the leaves and twigs for a wide circle around its
When affrighted and put to its speed, the giraffe appears to go with
an up-and-down gait, and some travellers have alleged that it limps.
This arises from the fact, that every time it lifts its fore-feet, it
throws back its long neck, which on other occasions is always held
erect. It sometimes travels with a pacing step, but it can also gallop
after the manner of a horse, and is even so swift that it requires a
horse at full speed to overtake it.
Notwithstanding that its food consists principally of the leaves and
twigs of trees, the giraffe will also eat grass. While browsing thus,
it usually bends one of its knees downward; and while stretching
upwards to a high branch, it brings all its feet nearer to each other.
It often lies down to chew its cud or to sleep; and this habit
produces the callosities upon the sternum and knees, which resemble
those of the camels.
The giraffe is a peaceful and timid animal, and is often the prey of
the lionthe fierce beast of prey taking it unawares, springing upon
its back, and destroying it by breaking the cervical vertebrae with his
powerful teeth. Sometimes, however, it is enabled to drive the lion off
by kicking out against him with its heels, and tiring or discouraging
him from the attack.
The Hottentots and Kaffirs hunt the giraffe for the sake of its
flesh, which in young individuals is very good eating. Sometimes,
however, it smells strongly of a species of shrub upon which the animal
feeds, and which gives it a disagreeable odour. The Bushmen are
particularly fond of the marrow produced in its long shank bones, and
to obtain this, they hunt the animal with their poisoned arrows. They
also make out of its skin bottles and other vessels for containing
Conspicuous as is the giraffe, it is not so easy to distinguish it
in the haunts where it inhabits. Seen from a distance, it has the
appearance of a decayed tree, and, remaining motionless, it is often
passed by the hunter or traveller without being observed. It is itself
very keen-sighted; and the manner in which its large beautiful eye is
set gives it a decided advantage for seeing around it, even without the
necessity of turning its head. On this account it is approached with
great difficulty, and usually contrives to escape from the most ardent
The Camels come next in turn. Of these there exist two
distinct speciesthe Camel, or Bactrian camel; and the Dromedary, or
Arabian camel. Both are found only in a domesticated state. Both are
beasts of burthen, and of both there are several varieties.
First, then, of the Bactrian camelthat is, the species with two
This animal differs very much from the Arabian camel, and is
altogether more rare. It is about ten feet in length of body, and
covered generally with a thick shaggy coat of hair of a dark brown
colour; but there is no difficulty in distinguishing it from its
Arabian congener. The two huge humps or hunches upon its back form a
sufficient token by which to identify the species.
It is found in Persia and the adjoining countries; but in no part in
such numbers as in the middle zone of Asiain the Taurus, and to the
north of the Himalaya Mountains. It is also seen occasionally in Arabia
and other countries; but in these it is rare, the dromedary taking its
place for all purposes required by man. It is, nevertheless, of a
stouter build than the latter, and stronger in proportion to its size.
As already stated, there are several varieties, produced by a
difference in stature, colour, and swiftness.
The Dromedary, or Arabian camel, is altogether more widely
distributed, and better known to the world. It is propagated in Arabia,
Persia, the south of Tartary, some parts of India, in Africa from Egypt
to Morocco, and from the Mediterranean Sea to the river Senegal. It is
also numerous in the Canary Islands, and has been introduced into
Italy, especially at Pisa, in Tuscany. It is not generally known that
it has also been transported into the Island of Cuba, and employed at
the mines of El Cobre, near Santiago; and later stillin fact, at the
present houran attempt is being made to naturalise it upon the
central plains of Texas and California.
The callosities upon the limbs and chest, and the hump on the back,
have caused much perplexity among naturalists; but, perhaps, their
purpose may be explained. They seem to bear some relation to the
necessities of the animal, considered as the slave or man. The
callosities are the points on which it kneels down to receive its
burden. The hump, which is a fatty secretion, is known to be absorbed
into the system when the animal is pinched for food, thus forming a
provision against the casualties to which it is subject in a life
evidently ordained to be passed in the desert. Add to this, that its
singularly formed stomach renders it capable of containing a supply of
water suitable to long journeys, and we have ample evidence of the
purpose for which this singular and useful creature was designed.
The camel furnishes the Arab with flesh and milk, of its hair he
weaves clothing, and even tents; his belt and sandals are the produce
of its hide, and its dung affords him fuel.
The hair of the Persian camel is held in the highest estimation.
There are three kinds of itblack, red, and grey; the black being of
most value, and the grey fetching only half the price of the red.
But all such uses are mere trifles when compared with the value of
these animals as beasts of burdenships of the desert, as they have
been poetically named. By means of them, communication is kept up
between distant countries separated by large tracts of frightful
deserts, which, without some such aid, would be entirely impassable by
We arrive at the Llamas, or camel sheep, as the old Spanish
colonists used to call them.
These animals are natives of South America, and their range is
limited. They are found only on the high plateaus of the Andes; through
which they extend, from New Granada on the north to Chili on the south,
though one species ranges even to the Straits of Magellan. In all there
are four distinct species of themthe Llama proper, the Paca or
Alpaca, the Guanaco, and the Vicuna.
The Llama and Paca are both held in a state of domestication; the
former as a beast of burden, and the latter for its hair or wool. On
the other hand, the Guanacos and Vicunas are wild animals, and are
eagerly hunted by the mountain tribes of Indians for their flesh and
skins, but in the case of the vicuna for the very fine wool which it
yields, and which commands an enormous price in the markets of Peru.
The Cordilleras of the Andes, below the line of perpetual snow, is
the region inhabited by these creatures. In the hot countries, lying
lower, they do not thrive; and even die in journeys made to the tropic
coast lands. The wild species keep together in herdssometimes of one
or two hundred individualsfeeding on a sort of rushy grass or
reedcalled yea by the nativesand they scarce ever drink, so
long as they can pasture on green herbage. They have the singular habit
of going to a particular spot to drop their dung, which resembles that
of goats or sheep; and this habit often costs them their lives, since
the excrement points out to the hunter their place of resort. They keep
a careful look-out against any danger, usually taking care to place old
males as sentinels of the flock, who give warning of the approach of an
enemy. When startled they run swiftly, but soon halt, stand gazing
back, and then gallop on as before.
During summer they frequent the sides of the mountains; but, as
winter approaches, they descend to the high table plains, and browse
upon the natural meadows found there. They are captured in various
ways. The Indians take them by first surrounding the herd, and then
driving it within enclosures constructed for the purpose. They are also
run down by dogs, trained to hunt them by the mountaineers of Chili, in
which country they are found wild in great numbers. During the chase
they frequently turn upon their pursuer, utter a wild shrill neighing,
and then resume their rapid flight.
The Vicunaswhich are the smallest of the four kinds, and also the
prettiestare captured by the Indians in a still more singular manner.
A large tract of the plains is enclosed merely by a cord, stretched
horizontally upon stakes, of about four feet in height. To the cord are
attached pieces of cloth, feathers, or coloured rags of any kind. Into
this feeble enclosure the herd of vicunas is driven; and, strange to
say, the frightened animals will permit themselves to be crowded
together, and killed with stones rather than leap over the cord.
When any guanacos chance to be mixed up with the herd, the result is
likely to be very different. These, being of bolder spirit, as well as
larger size, at once overleap or break through the fictitious barrier,
and sweep off to the mountains, followed by the whole flock of the
The capability of the llama to carry burdens is well-known. They
were thus employed by the ancient Peruvians, and, although at present
they are less valued on this account, many are still used in carrying
the ores from the rich gold and silver mines of Chili and Peru to the
smelting furnaces, or ports of embarkation on the coast. The
introduction of the mule, however, has to a great extent relieved the
llamas of their load; and less attention is now paid either to their
training or increase.
CHAPTER SIXTEEN. SWINE.
If not one of the most agreeable, the Hogor Pig, as it is oftener
calledis one of the most useful of the domesticated animals. Indeed,
it would be difficult to say how culinary operations could be carried
on without the valuable fat which this creature produces in such
plenty, and to which both cooks and confectioners are so largely
indebted. Besides, there are whole nations who feed almost entirely
upon its flesh; and even its skin and bristles constitute an important
item of manufacturing industry. The facility with which the flesh can
be preserved under the name of bacon, the length of time it may be kept
without the danger of spoiling, combined with the undoubted
wholesomeness of such an article of diet, render it one of the most
convenient articles of provision; and hence in agricultural districts,
and other places far remote from towns, it is an almost universal
article of food.
The number of species that form the group of hogs or swine is very
limited indeed; in all not exceeding half a score. These, however, are
found in endless varieties, and distributed over all the globe, since
in each of the five great divisions one or more indigenous kind of hog
has been found. That which forms the type on which the swine family is
founded, is, of course, the Common Pig; and this is supposed to
be descended from the wild boar, so well-known in connection with the
chase during medieval times.
It is superfluous to say that the common hog of our farmyards has
been propagated until an almost countless variety of breeds have been
producednot only every country, but even single counties or provinces
having a breed of its own. All, however, are so much alike in habits
and general appearance, and their characteristics so well-known, that
it would be idle to give any description of them here. We shall only
remark that the pig, if fairly treated, is by no means an animal of
filthy or dirty habits, as is generally supposed. On the contrary, it
is cleanly in its nature; and its slovenliness is brought upon it by
the manner in which it is styed up, in its own filth. Neither is it a
stupid creature, but possesses considerable intelligence; as is proved
by the tricks which it has been taught to perform under the name of the
learned pig; while several individuals have been trained to follow
the gun, and stand to game as stanch as the best pointers. In France it
is not uncommon for the truffle-hunters to use pigs in search of this
favourite esculentthe keenness of scent which the animal possesses
enabling it to find this hidden treasure, just as it does potatoes or
other roots, far under the surface of the ground.
The Wild Boar, next to the common domestic variety, is the
best known and most celebrated of the swine. In earlier times it was
found in every part of Europe. Even at this day, it is not rare in the
forest fastnesses of most of the continental countries, and also in
Asia. It was formerly common in England, and the chase of it was a
favourite pastime among the kings and nobles, especially about the time
of the Norman Conquest. In those days the Game laws were certainly
harsh enoughmuch more so than those of our own timesince William
the Conqueror issued an edict punishing with the loss of his eyes
any one who should be convicted of killing a wild boar!
In Europe the famed boar spear, used in hunting this animal, has
given way to the rifle; but in India, where the field is taken on
horseback, the spear is still in use; and hunting the wild boar is one
of the most exciting of wild sports practised in that country.
The wild boar of India, however, is in some respects different from
that of Europe; and naturalists generally class it as a distinct
The Babirussa is another species belonging to the East Indian
world: found principally in the Moluccas and other islands of the
Indian Archipelago. It is of about the same size as the common pig; but
of more slender shape, and stands higher upon its deer-like limbs. The
skin is thinly furnished with soft bristles, and is of a greyish tint,
inclining to fawn colour on the belly. But the most striking character
of the babirussa is to be found in its tusks. Of these there are two
pairs of unequal size. The lower ones are shortsomewhat resembling
those of the common boarwhereas the two upper ones protrude through
the skin of the muzzle, and then curve backward like a pair of horns,
and often downward again, so as to form a complete circle! It is not
known for what purpose these appendages exist. The two lower tusks must
be formidable weapons; but the upper ones, especially in old
individuals, can hardly inflict a wound. They may perhaps ward off the
bushes from the eyes of the animal, as it rushes through the thick
cover of its jungly retreat. The females are without these tusks; and
are also much smaller than the males.
The babirussa inhabits marshy thickets and forests; and is hunted
for its fleshwhich is highly prized both by the natives and
foreigners. It is very swift and fierce. When pursued or wounded in the
chase, it will show fight like the wild boar of Europe.
The Papuan hog, or bene, is a native of the Island of
New Guinea; and is characterised by its small stature and slender and
graceful form. Its tusks are not large, and are shaped like the incisor
teeth. It is covered with thick, short, and yellowish-coloured
bristles; and when young it is marked by bright fulvous stripes along
the back. The native Papuans highly esteem its flesh; and on this
account it is hunted by them in the forests where it is found. Its
young are often captured, and brought up in a domesticated statein
order that their flesh may the more easily be procured. Foreigners, who
have visited this island, relish it as an article of food.
We now come to the hogs of Africathe Wart-hogs, as they are
commonly called. Of these there are two species; and it would be
difficult to say which is the uglier of the two. In respect of
ugliness, either will compare advantageously with any other animal
in creation. The deformity lies principally in the countenance
of these animals; and is caused by two pairs of large protuberances, or
warts, that rise upon the cheeks and over the frontal bone. These
excrescencesif we may so call themlend to the visage of the
creature an aspect positively hideous, which is rendered still more
ugly and fierce-looking by a pair of formidable tusks curving upward
from each jaw. The body is nearly nakedexcepting along the neck and
back, where a long bristly mane gives a shaggy appearance to the
animalespecially when these bristles, of nearly a foot in length, are
erected under the impulse of rage. Other peculiarities are, a pair of
whiskers of white curling hair along the lower jaws; small black eyes
surrounded by white bristly hair; a long tail tufted at the extremity;
and on the knees of the fore-legs a piece of thick callous skin, hard
and protuberant. In fact, every characteristic of this creature seems
intended to make his portrait as disagreeable as may be.
We have said there are two species. These are known as Aelian's
wart-hog and the Cape wart-hog. The former is a native of Abyssinia,
Kordofan, and other countries of North Africa; while the latter, as its
name implies, is found at the Capeor rather throughout the whole
southern part of the continent. It is the Vlack Vaark of the Dutch
colonists; and this species differs from Elian's wart-hog in having the
cheek protuberances much larger, its head more singularly shaped, and,
if possible, in being uglier!
The wart-hog dwells among low bushes and forests. It creeps on its
bent fore-feet in quest of foodsliding along on its knees, and
propelling itself forward by its hind legs. This habit will account for
the callosities already mentioned. In this posture it digs up the
ground, extracting therefrom the roots and bulbs (of which its food is
supposed entirely to consist); for, fierce and hideous as its aspect
may be, the wart-hog is less omnivorous than several other species of
And now for the indigenous hogs of America, the Peccaries. Of
these, also, there are two species described by naturalists; though
certainly a third kind exists in the South American forests, distinct
from the two that are known.
These are the Collared Peccary, or Coyametl; and the
White-lipped Peccary, or Tagassou.
For a long time these two species were confounded with each other;
but it is now proved that they are distinctnot only in size and
colour, but to some extent also in their geographical distribution,
their haunts, and habits.
The Collared Peccary is of small stature: not larger than a
half-grown Berkshire pig. It is thickly covered with hairy bristles of
a greyish-brown colour, and has a whitish band or collar around the
neck from which circumstance it derives its trivial specific name.
Its geographical range is more extensive than that of its congener. It
is found not only in South America, but throughout the whole of Central
and North America, as far as the borders of the United States
territory: in other words, the limits of its range are co-extensive
with what was formerly Spanish America. It exists in Texas; and
still further to the north-west, in New Mexico and Californiathough
nowhere to the east of the Mississippi river. In Texas it is common
enough; and stories are related of many a redoubtable Texan hunter
having been tree'dthat is, forced to take shelter in a tree from a
band of peccaries, whose rage he may have provoked while wandering in
their haunts, and too recklessly making use of his rifle. The same is
related as occurring to South American hunters with the white-lipped
peccariesthat have a similar habit of trooping together in droves,
and acting in concert, both for defence and attack, against the common
The chief points of distinction between the two species are in the
size and colour. The white-lipped kind is much the largerfrequently
weighing one hundred poundswhile a full-grown individual of the
collared peccary does not exceed in weight over fifty pounds. The
former are of a deeper brown colour, want the white collar around the
neck; but in its stead have a whitish patch around the mouth or lips,
from which also comes their specific appellation. These are also
thicker and stouter, have shorter legs, and a more expanded snout. They
troop together in larger droves, that often number a thousand
individuals of all ages and sizes. Thus united, they traverse extensive
districts of forestthe whole drove occupying an extent of a league in
lengthall directed in their march by an old male, who acts as leader.
Should they be impeded in their progress by a river, the chief stops
for a moment to reconnoitre; then plunges boldly into the stream,
followed by all the rest of the troop. The breadth of the river, and
the rapidity of the current, seem to be but trifling obstacles to them;
and are overcome easily, since the peccaries are excellent swimmers.
They continue their onward march through the open grounds; over the
plantations, which, unfortunately for their owners, may chance to lie
in their way; and which they sometimes completely devastate, by rooting
out the whole of the crops of maize, potatoes, sugarcane, or manioc. If
they should meet with any opposition, they make a singular noise
chattering their teeth like castanets; and if a hunter should chance to
attack them when moving thus, he is sure to be surrounded and torn to
pieces: unless he find some tree or other convenient object, where he
may make escape, by getting out of their reach.
The white-lipped peccaries are found in all the forests of South
Americafrom the Caribbean Sea to the Pampas of Buenos Ayres. They are
abundant in Paraguay; and Sonnini, the traveller, has observed them in
Guyana. Others report their presence on the Orinoco and its
tributariesas also on all the waters of the Amazon. Most probably, it
was from the number of these animals observed upon its banks by the
early travellers, that the last-mentioned river obtained one of its
Spanish namesthe Rio Maranonwhich signifies the river of the wild
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN. HORSES AND ASSES.
The Horsepar excellence the noblest of animalsis
represented by only a limited number of species; but, like other
creatures domesticated by man, he is found of many different breeds and
varieties: too many to be minutely described in these pages. Suffice it
to say, that almost every civilised nation possesses several kinds of
horsesdiffering from one another in size, shape, colour, and
qualities: in size especially since this fine animal may be observed
not much bigger than a mastiff; while other members of his family
attain almost to the dimensions of an elephant! Even savage tribes,
both in Asia and America, are in possession of peculiar breeds of
horses; and it may be assumed as a fact, that more than a hundred
varieties exist upon the earth. These have all been regarded as
springing from one original stock; but here again there is only vague
conjecture; and it is far more probable, that the domesticated horses
are the descendants of several kinds originally distinct in their wild
There are wild horses at the present day in Asia, Africa, and
America; but it is questionable whether any of these are the
descendants of an originally wild stock. More likely they are the
progeny of horses escaped from the domesticated breeds. Of course we
refer to the true horses of the genus equus; and not to
the dziggetais, quaggas, and zebrasto which we shall presently refer.
These last-mentioned kinds are still found wild, as they have ever
been; and, with one or two exceptions, none of their species have been
tamed to the use of man.
In Americaboth in the northern and southern divisions of the
continentherds of wild horses are numerous. These have all sprung
from individuals that escaped from their owners, and in process of time
have multiplied to a great extent. Of course they could have no other
origin: since it is well-known that, previous to the time of Columbus,
no animal of the horse kind existed in America. The wild horses now
found there are descended then from a domestic breed; and this breed
has been easily ascertained to be that used by the Spaniards in their
conquests of Mexico and Peru. It is a race known as the Andalusian
horsenearly allied to the Arabianand no doubt at an earlier period
imported into the peninsula of Spain by the Moors. These horses are
much smaller than the English hunter; but possess all the properties of
a true horsethe shape, action, etceteraand cannot, therefore, be
considered as mere ponies. They are, in reality, well-blooded
horses, of small stature; and no breed could be better suited to the
climate of most parts of Spanish America, where they now run wild.
On the pampas of South America these horses exist in vast droves.
The Gauchos, a half-civilised race of men, live amidst their herds, and
hunt them chiefly for the hides. They early learn to capture and ride
them; and a Gaucho is seldom seen off the back of his horse. He can
capture and break one in in the course of an hour. The flesh also
serves him as an article of food. Down as far as the Straits of
Magellan the droves of wild horses are found. There the native Indians
have tamed many of themeven the women and children going most of
their time on horseback. On the llanos, or great plains, that extend
northward from the Amazon and Orinocothat is, in the provinces of
Venezuelaother droves of wild horses exist; and these, along with
half-wild oxen, form the sole property and pursuit of a class of men
called Llaneros, who in many respects resemble the Gauchos. Again,
proceeding to North America, we find the same species of horse running
wild on the great plains to the north of Mexico; in California, and
upon the prairies east of the Rocky Mountains. In Mexico Proper, as
also in California, they are owned by great landed proprietors;
and are annually caught, branded, and sold. Many of these proprietors
can count from 10,000 to 20,000 head roaming within the boundaries of
their estates, besides large droves of horned cattle and mules. In the
vast regions between the settled parts of Mexico and the frontier
settlements of the United States, the wild horses are the property of
no one, but range freely over the prairies without mark or brand. These
are hunted and captured by different tribes of IndiansComanches,
Pawnees, Sioux, Blackfeet, etcetera, who also possess large numbers of
them tamed and trained to various uses. Like the Gauchos and Llaneros
of the south, these Indians use the flesh of the horse for food, and
esteem it the greatest delicacy! Among some tribes, where the buffalo
is not found, the horse takes the place of the latter as an article of
diet; and forms the principal article of subsistence of thousands of
these people. Among most of the prairie tribes the chase of this
animal, or the buffalo, is the sole pursuit of their lives.
Still further north ranges the wild horse, even as far as the
prairies extend; and among the tribes of the Saskatchewan he is also
foundused by them for the saddle, and also as a beast of burden. In
these regions, however, the buffalo still exists in great numbers; and
the horse, besides being eaten himself, is also employed to advantage
in the chase of this animal.
The wild horses of America are not all exactly of one breed. Those
of the Mexico-American prairies, called by the Spaniards mustenos
(mustangs), differ slightly from those found upon the llanos of South
America; and these again from the horses of the pampas, and the
parameros of Peru. These differences, however, are but slight, and
owing solely to climatic and other little causes. But the mustangs of
the northern prairies have among them an admixture of breeds, derived
from American runaways along the borders of the Mississippi, and others
escaped from travellers on the prairies; and there have latterly been
discovered mustangs of large sizeevidently sprung from the
In the Falkland Islands the horse is also found in an untamed state.
These were introduced by the French in 1764; but have since become
perfectly wild. Strange to say, they are only found in the eastern part
of the islandalthough the pasture there is not more rich than in the
west, and there is no natural boundary between the two!
In Asia the horse runs wild in large herdsjust as in America. The
range in which they are found in this state is chiefly on the great
plains, or steppesstretching from the Himalaya Mountains to Siberia.
The Calmuck Tartars tame them; and possess vast droves, like the
Gauchos and Indians. They also eat their flesh; and among many tribes
of Tartars mare's milk is esteemed the most delicious of beverages.
After the true horse, the most beautiful species is the Zebra. Every one knows the general appearance of this handsomely marked
animal, which appears as if Nature had painted his body for effect.
Of the zebra there are two distinct kindsboth of them natives of
Africa, and belonging to the southern half of that great continent.
They are easily distinguished from each other by the stripes. One of
them is literally striped to the very hoofsthe dark bands running
around the limbs in the form of rings. The stripes extend in the same
way over the neck and head, to the very snout or muzzle. This is the
true zebra, an animal that inhabits the mountainous regions of South
Africa, and which differs altogether from the dauw or Burchell's
zebra, also found upon the great plains or karoos of the same region.
The latter has the stripes only over the body; while the head and legs
are very faintly streaked, or altogether of a plain brownish colour.
Attempts have been made at taming both of these kinds, and with some
success. They have been trained both to the saddle and draught; but,
even in the most tractable state to which they have been yet reduced,
they are considered as treacherous, wicked, obstinate, and fickle.
Another species of horse found also in South America is the
Quagga. This is very much like the zebra in size, shape, and in
fact everything except colour. In the last respect it differs from
both, in being of a plain ashy brown hue over the upper parts of the
body, very indistinctly striped, and of a dirty white colour
underneath. Like the dauw, it frequents the open plainstrooping
together in vast droves, and often herding with several species of
Another species of quagga, called the Isabella quagga, is supposed
to exist in South Africa; but there are doubts upon this subject. The
name is derived from the colour of a specimen seen by a very
untrustworthy traveller, which was of the hue known as Isabella colour;
but nothing is known of the animal, and most naturalists believe that
the Isabella quagga is identical with the other species, and that the
specimen reported by Le Vaillant was only a young quagga of the common
All these species of African horses are generally classed with the
genus Asinus; that is, they are considered as asses, not
We now come to other species of the ass genus, which were all
originally natives of Asia.
First, then, there is the domestic Ass; and of this species
there are almost as many varieties as of the horse,some of them, as
the Guddha of the Mahrattas, not larger than a mastiff, while others
exist in different parts of the world as large as a two-year-old
heifer. Asses are found of a pure white, and black ones are common, but
the usual colour is that to which they have given their namethe
colour of an ass.
Besides the domestic species, there are several others still found
wild. There is the Koulan, which is exceedingly shy and swiftso much
so that it is difficult to capture or even kill one of them; since
before the hunter can approach within rifle range of them, they take
the alarm and gallop out of sight. They live in troops, inhabiting the
desert plains of Persia and Mesopotamia in winter, while in summer they
betake themselves to the mountain ranges. They are also found on the
steppes bordering the Caspian and Aral Seas.
Another species of wild ass is the Kiang. This inhabits Thibet. It
is of a bright bay colour, and has a smooth coat; but the males are
deeper coloured than the females. They live in troops of about a dozen
individuals under a solitary male; and frequent places where the
thermometer is below zerothough they dwell indifferently either on
open plains or mountains.
The kiang has a variety of appellations, according to the country in
which it is found. It is the Dziggetai, and the Wild Ass of Cutch, and
also the Yototze of the Chinese; but it is very probable that all these
are the names of different species. It is further probable, that there
exist several other species of wild asses in the Thibetian and Tartar
countries of Asiaand also in the vast unknown territories of
North-eastern Africayet to be classified and described; for it may be
here observed that a monograph of the horse tribe alone, fully
describing the different species and breeds, would occupy the whole
life of a naturalist.
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN. THE OX TRIBE.
Our common domestic cattle furnish the type on which this family is
founded; and it is well-known that of this type there are many
varieties in different countries. Even in our own, so many are there,
that a mere list of their names would fill one of our pages. We shall
refrain therefore from giving any description of the different
varietiessimply remarking that they are all supposed to spring from
one original. This is, to say the least, a very doubtful hypothesis,
since cattle have been found domesticated in many countries, and the
period of their first introduction to the society of man is altogether
unknown. It is far more likely that different species have furnished
the varieties now known as domestic cattle.
We shall proceed to describe the other bovine animalswhich,
although of the same family, are beyond doubt of a distinct species
from the common cattle.
The Zebu is one of the most remarkable. Its home is India and
the adjacent regions; where it branches off into almost as many
varieties as there are breeds of our own oxen. These varieties have
different names; and they differ in size, shape, and other particulars;
but the hump and long hanging dewlap render the zebu easily
In India they are sometimes employed as beasts of the saddle and
draught; and their flesh is also eaten, though with the exception of
the hump (which is esteemed a great delicacy) it is not equal to
English beef. Among the Hindus the zebus are regarded as sanctified
creatures; and to slaughter them is deemed sin. For all that, these
fanatics do not hesitate to work themsometimes hard enough.
There are some zebus, however, that are considered more holy than
common. These may be seen wandering idly about the villages, fed from
the hands of the people; and if neglected in this regard, they walk
uninvited into the rice enclosures, and help themselves!
The zebus are usually of an ashy-grey colour, though many are white;
and their size varies from that of an ordinary calf, to the stature of
a full-grown bull.
There is a variety of the zebuor perhaps a distinct speciesknown
as the Dante. It is an African animalthat is, Egypt is the country
where it is chiefly found. Very little knowledge of it exists among
naturalists. It is distinguished from the Indian zebu by having a
smaller hump upon the withers and a narrower face; and it is supposed
to be the animal represented on the ancient Egyptian tombs.
We next come to the kind of oxen termed Buffaloes; and of
these there are several species.
First, there is the Indian buffalo; and it may here be
remarked, that when the word buffalo is used, an animal with a huge
hump upon its shoulders is usually understood. This is an error,
arising, no doubt, from the fact that the bison of America,
which has a hump, is generally called a buffalo. But the Indian
buffalo has no such protuberance; nor yet the African species. The
Indian animal is found both in a domesticated and wild state; but both
are clearly of the same species. The wild one is called the Arna, and
the tame one Bhainsa, in the language of the natives. The former is of
much greater size than the latterstanding, when full-grown, as high
as the tallest man! So strong are these animals, that an arna bull has
been known to butt down a good-sized elephant with a single stroke of
It is the Indian buffalo that is found in Italywhere it has been
introduced, and is used for draught; its great strength giving it the
advantage over horses, especially on the deep miry roads that exist in
some parts of the peninsula.
The Manilla buffalo is a smaller variety or species of the
arna, inhabiting, as its name imports, the Philippine Islands.
The African buffalo, sometimes known as the Kaffir buffalo, is another of these great oxen, and not the least celebrated of the
tribe. It is an inhabitant of Africa, and is found chiefly in the
southern half of that continent, from the Cape of Good Hope northwards.
It is an animal of vast size and strength; often waging war with the
lion, and frequently with man himself. In these encounters the buffalo
is but too successful; and it is asserted among the natives of South
Africa, that there are more deaths among them, caused by buffalo bulls,
than by all the other wild beasts of the country. Like his Indian
congener, the shock from the massive horns of an African buffalo is
almost irresistible; and both the lion and elephant at times succumb to
There is a smaller African species about which less is known. This
is the Zamouse or Bush cow, which differs from the true buffalo in
having a flatter forehead, and being altogether without the dewlap.
We now come to the American buffalo, or Bison, as it
should be called. This is indigenous to North America; and its present
range is confined to the great prairies that extend eastward from the
foot of the Rocky Mountains. It was formerly found much farther to the
eastin fact, to the Atlantic coast; but its limits are now far beyond
the meridian of the Mississippi. Hunters (both red and white) have
driven it across the Rocky Mountains; and of late years it has been met
with in the territory of the Upper Columbia. Its habits are too
well-known to call for a description here, and its shaggy coat, with
the deformity of its huge shoulder-hump, are familiar to every eye.
With one exception, it is the only species of the ox tribe indigenous
to Americaand it may be added, to North Americasince no native
bovine animal is known to exist in the southern half of the
The European buffaloor as it is sometimes called
Lithuanian buffalobears a considerable resemblance to that of the
prairies. In size it is perhaps superior; but the two are much alike in
general appearanceespecially in their massive form, and the long
brown hair, of woolly texture, so thickly set upon their necks and
The European buffalo is nearly extinct, and exists only in some of
the forests of Lithuanian Poland, where it is rather half-wild than
wild; that is, it freely roams the forests, but only as the deer in our
own extensive parks, or the white cattle, known as the wild Scotch
oxenin other words, it has an owner.
A very remarkable species is the Yak, or Grunting Ox.
This is found only in the high, cold countries that lie to the north of
the Himalayan Mountainsin Thibet and Tartary. There is only one
species, but this is both wild and tamethe wild sort being the larger
and more formidable animal. The domestic variety is used by the people
of Thibet for carrying burdens; and both its milk and flesh are in
great demand in these cold countries of poverty and hunger.
The yaks dislike the warmth of summer; and during that season seek
to hide themselves in the shade, or under water, in which they swim
well. Their grunt exactly resembles that of a hog. The calves are
covered with rough black hair like a curly-haired dog; but, when three
months old, they obtain the long hair that distinguishes the full-grown
animal, and which hangs so low as to give it the appearance of being
without legs! They willingly live with common cattle, and will breed
with them; but the wild yak bull is an exceedingly fierce and dangerous
animal. The tail of the grunting ox is very full, or bushy; and
although the hair of the body is usually black, that upon the tail is
universally of a pure white. This hair, when dyed red, is used by the
Chinese to form the tufts worn in the caps of the mandarins. It is the
chowry or fly-brush of India.
Like other domesticated cattle, the yak is found of different
breeds known by the names of Noble yak, Plough yak, etcetera.
Next in succession comes the Musk Ox of America, which, from
its long hanging hair, and also from many of its habits, bears a good
deal of resemblance to the grunting ox. The musk ox is a native of
North America; and there his range is confined to the most remote
regions of the Hudson's Bay territory. He is met with in the
inhospitable track known as the Barren Groundsand also along the
coasts and islands of the Arctic Oceanbut nowhere so far south as the
boundary of the United States or the Great Lakes. But for the land
expeditions of several Arctic explorers, the existence of the musk ox
would hardly have been known; and, as it is, his habits are but little
understood. He is not of large sizebeing between the stature of an ox
and a sheepand in general appearance he resembles the latter more
than the former; hence, among naturalists, he is styled the Sheep ox (
ovibos). He and the Bison, as already remarked, are the only
indigenous oxen of America.
To return to Asia. In its south-eastern partsthe Indieswe find
several other species of the ox tribe. There is the Gayal or
Jungly-gau, which inhabits the eastern parts of Bengal, especially
the mountains that separate this province from Arracan. Of this there
is a tame and wild speciesthe latter an inhabitant of forests, living
rather upon the shoots of trees than upon grass. It is a large animal,
more like the common ox than any of the buffaloes; and it is also less
fierce in its disposition than the latter.
Next to the gayal is the Gamalso a forest-dwelling ox, of
large size; and, like the other, browsing upon the leaves and twigs of
The gam inhabits several forest-covered mountains in Central India,
where it is only found wild. Attempts have been made to domesticate it,
but without successsince it is both a shy and fierce animal; so much
so that even the calves will not live in captivity!
Another Indian ox is the Takin, which inhabits the country of
the Kamptis, in the eastern ranges of the Himalayas, and about which
there is a dispute among naturalists, as to whether it is an ox!
We conclude our sketch with the Anoa, which belongs to
Celebesa small species bearing some resemblance to the antelopes; and
the Banting or Sumatran Ox, a native of Java, Borneo, and
also, as its second name denotes, of the Island of Sumatra.
CHAPTER NINETEEN. SHEEP.
The Sheep is one of the animals which man has subjected to his use;
and one, too, of primary importance in the domestic economy of almost
every civilised nation. Like the horse, dog, cat, ox, and pig, it has
assumed the greatest possible variety. Many naturalists have treated
these varieties as species; but those writers of greatest authority
agree in considering all the domestic breeds as having originated from
one common stock; and it would be idle here to speculate upon this
Of the tame sheep there are not less than forty very distinct
kinds, besides numerous varieties of each of these kinds! These, of
course, are distributed among many nations, and exhibit a very great
difference in point of size and general appearance. Some are without
horns, while others have these appendages very large, and of eccentric
shape; some are covered with long crisp wool; others have the wool lank
and straight; while still others have no wool at all, but instead a
coat of hair resembling that of a spaniel or Newfoundland dog! But,
besides these distinct kinds, as already stated, there are numerous
varieties of each kind. For instance, the common sheep of England is
itself branched out into quite as many as twenty breeds, each of which
has a name of its own, and differs from all the others in many
Leaving the common sheep of our own country, we shall say a few
words of some of the more noted kinds that are in the possession of
different nations abroad.
From Spain comes the Merino, so celebrated for the quality of its
wool; while in Astracan and other Oriental countries there is a breed,
the lambs of which furnish the well-known Astracan lambs'-skin, one of
the most beautiful and valuable of furs. The Wallachian sheep, bred in
Hungary, Transylvania, and the Danubian principalities, also produces a
flue fur-like skin, much worn by the peasantry of Eastern Europe, in
jackets and cloaks termed bundas.
A very similar kind of hairy-coated sheep is propagated throughout
Asiatic Russia and Siberiathe skins affording a warm and comfortable
clothing for the natives of these cold countries.
In the Indian countries there are many varieties, such as the
Barwall of Nepaul, and also the Huniah, Cago, and Seeling, belonging to
the same kingdom. Again, in the Deccan there is a breed known as Deccan
sheep, another called Garar, and two others in Mysore denominated
respectively the Carrimbar and Shaymbliar. China has a variety known as
the Morvan, with very long legs; and in Russia, again, there is a kind
with tails so long that their tops drag upon the ground; and another in
Northern Russia, with tails so short that they appear altogether
With regard to tails, no breed has these appendages so developed as
the broad or fat-tailed sheep. This kind is supposed to have originally
come from Barbary; but they are now propagated in different parts of
the world. In Asia they are found among the Tartars, Persians,
Buchanans, and Thibetians. In Africa itself they are common among the
Abyssinians, and are also kept in large flocks by the Dutch colonists
of the Cape. The tails of these sheep are sometimes so large and heavy,
that it is with difficulty the animals can carry them; and in some
instances they are dragged along the ground as the sheep move from
place to place! The fat of which this appendage is composed is esteemed
a great delicacy; and at the Cape, as elsewhere, it constitutes an
important article of the cuisine.
There are several other curious breeds of sheep reared in the
different countries of Africa. These are, the Guinea sheep of the
western coast; the Morocco sheep, bred in the kingdom of the same name;
the African sheep, an inhabitant of the Sahara; and the smooth-haired
African sheep. There are also the Tezzan sheep, belonging to Tripoli;
the Saint Helena sheep, of the celebrated Island of Saint Helena; the
Congo sheep, of Congo; and the Angolas, of the same region, famous for
the quality of their woolnot to be confounded, however, with the
Angora wool, which is the produce of a goat. There are sheep in Tartary
that eat bones like dogs, and in Hindustan and Nepaul there are kinds
that have four horns each. These are the Dumbas. A little species
exists in Iceland, in which the horns sometimes grow to the number of
eightthough four is the more common number. America, too, has its
varieties. These are the Brazilian sheep, the Demerara breed, the South
American sheep, and a variety known as the West Indian.
In fact, go to whatever part of the world you may, you will find a
species or variety of this valuable animal, different in some respects
from all the others.
The wild sheep, like the wild goats, do not number a great
many species; but there are certainly several that are yet undescribed,
and perhaps there may be about a dozen in all. No doubt the great
central mountains of Asia, and also the ranges of Northern Africa,
still unexplored, will in time yield several new species of wild sheep.
Indeed, late travellers in the Himalayas speak of wild sheep that
appear to be essentially different from the argali, and other
species already known.
One species of wild sheep belongs to Europethe Moufflon, which is
to this day found plentifully in the mountainous parts of Corsica,
Cyprus, and Candia. It was supposed to be the original of the tame
breeds; but this is a mere conjecture.
In America there is also but one species of wild sheep, though it
has also a variety. This is the Bighorn of the Rocky Mountains, lately
much spoken of by prairie travellers and fur-hunters. It is not known
in tropical North America, nor does its range extend to the Andes of
the south; but it is found to the west, in the mountains of California,
in a variety called the Californian sheep. The bighorn is extremely
like the Asiatic argali, and was for a long time regarded as identical
with the latter; but this was an error. It is now ascertained that not
only is the American animal of another species, but also that there are
several distinct species of the argali itself in the different ranges
of Asiatic mountains.
Africa has its wild sheep, but only in its northern parts. This is
the Aoudad, which dwells in the mountains of Barbary.
Asia appears to be the head-quarters of the wild sheep. One species
is found in Armenia, and another in the Caucasus. Siberia has an
argali, that appears altogether to differ from the argali of the
Himalayas. Again, in the Himalayan Mountains themselves, there is one
species which ranges north only as far as Thibet; while on the
Thibetian plateaux, as far as the Altai Mountains, there is another, if
not two other species, quite distinct from the latter.
It has been observed by competent travellers, that these Thibetian
argalis bear a very strong resemblance to the different breeds of tame
sheep found in the same regions; from which it may be reasonably
inferred that the domesticated varieties of different countries have
sprung from several wild species, instead of being all descended from
one common origin.
CHAPTER TWENTY. GOATS.
My young readers will be surprised to hear that nothing is more
difficult than to tell a Goat from a Sheep. Yet such is
in reality the fact. Of course the common goat is easily distinguished
from the common sheep; but then there are species and varieties of both
these animals so like in shape, size, colour, and habits, that the most
accomplished naturalists are unable to pronounce which are goats and
which are sheep! Indeed, some naturalists make no distinction at all,
but class both under the same genus. This, however, is not a correct
view, since there is an essential difference in the nature of
these two animals, notwithstanding the frequent resemblance in their
outward appearance. It was upon this very pointtheir nature
that the renowned Buffon relied in separating them; he alleging that
the sheep differed only from the goats in the greater gentleness and
timidity of their disposition. It is true that this is not a very
scientific mode of classification; yet, strange to say, it is held to
be one of the safest guides for distinguishing the one from the other.
Of course, it can only be relied upon when taken in connection with
other indices of a physical character. Perhaps you may fancy that goats
and sheep may be distinguished from each other by the coatthe
former having a hairy coat, while that of the latter is
woolly. For you who reside in the British Islands, this mark would
stand good enough, since British goats are in reality clothed with
hair, and British sheep with wool; but in many other countries the case
is not only different, but directly the reverse, the goats being
woolly, while the sheep are hairy!
It may be further remarked, that there are both goats and sheep so
very nearly akin to antelopes, that it is again difficult to draw a
line of distinction among the three. Indeed, there is a section of the
antelope tribe, called the goat-antelopes, so called on account
of this very approximation. Several species of antelopesas the
chamois of the Alps, and othersare by many naturalists classed as
goats; and the bighorn of the Rocky Mountains, which is a true wild
sheep, is also classed by some zoologists as a species of antelope.
The goats approach nearer to the nature of antelopes than do the
sheep. In fact, the mountain antelopes are extremely like goats in
their nature and habits. On this account the latter are supposed to
stand between the sheep and antelopes.
We shall separate the goats into two kinds: first, the tame
or domesticated goats; and secondly, the wild ones. Of
the domesticated kind there is an endless list of varieties; and upon
the question as to which of the wild species was the parent stock,
thousands of opinions have been expressed, and long treatises written.
It is just as with the dog, and other domestic animalsno one can
certainly say what species was first introduced to the society of human
beings; and it is far more likely that it was not any one wild species,
but several, and belonging to different countries, that gave origin to
the numerous kinds of goats now in the possession of man.
It would be a troublesome task to describe these numerous varieties.
Every country has its kind; and, in fact, every district of country can
show a breed distinct from all the others. Instead of specifying each
breed, we shall only mention a few of the more noted and valuable
The Thibet or Cashmere goat is perhaps the most celebrated of the
tribe; its celebrity arising from the fineness of its wool, out of
which are manufactured the costly Cashmere shawls. An attempt was made
to introduce this variety into England; but it has not been successful,
though the cause of its failure has not been communicated to the
public. We can easily find a very good reason in the fact, that a
first-class Cashmere shawl requires a year in its manufacture; and
therefore, if an English weaver were to have the raw material for
nothing, his labour would amount to more than the shawl was worth in
the market! It is just the same with the culture of the tea-plant.
There are many districts in America where the tea-tree would flourish
as well as in China; but what would be the use of growing it there,
since the labour required to bring it to a state of readiness for the
teapot would also raise it to an unsaleable price! These are the
important principles that people who talk of protective duties entirely
lose sight of.
The best Cashmere goats are brought from the Thibet country; and
then wool sells for a rupee a pound in Cashmere itself. It is spun by
the women, and afterwards dyed. The persons employed in making the
shawls sit on a bench around the frame. If it be a pattern
shawl, four persons labour at its manufacture; but a plain one requires
only two. The borders are marked with wooden needles, there being a
separate needle for each colour; and the rough side of the shawl is
uppermost while it is being made.
The best shawls are manufactured in the kingdom of Cashmere itself,
though many are made in other Oriental countries, and also in France;
and the wool of several varieties of the goat, besides the Thibet, is
used in the manufacture. In Cashmere alone 30,000 shawls are made
annuallygiving employment to about 50,000 people.
The Angora goat is another noted varietyesteemed for its fine
silky hair. It inhabits the countries of Angora and Beibazar, in
Asiatic Turkey, where it is kept in large flocks, the goatherds
bestowing much care upon the animalsfrequently combing and washing
The Syrian goat, remarkable for its excessively long ears, is reared
in Aleppo and other parts of Asiatic Turkey, and is kept for the use of
its milk, with which many of the towns are supplied.
There are other varieties less noted, among which may be mentioned
the Spanish goats, without horns; the Juda, or African goat, with two
hairy wattles under the chin; and the pretty little Whidaw goatalso a
small African variety. There is also a Nepaul goat, and one belonging
to the Deccan, called Bukeea very large gaunt fellow, with long
shaggy hair. The Irish goat, too, is a peculiar variety of the common
or domestic species.
Tame goats are distributed very generally over all the Old World.
They thrive well in the cold climate of Norway; and are equally at home
in the hottest parts of Africa and the Indian islands. In America they
are rare, in the territory inhabited by the Anglo-Saxon racesit not
being considered a valuable speculation to raise them; but throughout
the Spanish territories, both in North and South America, large flocks
may be seen, and the wild goats of Juan Fernandez are descendants of
these Spanish-American domesticated breeds.
The species of true wild goats are not numerous, but are very
generally distributed over the worldparticularly over the old
continents. In America only one wild species is indigenous: that is,
the Rocky Mountain goat. Some authors have asserted that this species
is not indigenous to America; but most certainly this statement is an
error. From its peculiar appearance, as well as from the locality in
which it is found, it could never have sprung from any known
domesticated breed. It is a long-haired creature, snow-white in colour,
and with very short straight horns. Its hair is of silky hue and
fineness, and hangs so low that the animal appears as if without legs.
Its skin makes one of the most beautiful of saddle covers; and for this
purpose it is used; but the animal itself being rare, and only found in
the most remote and inaccessible regions of the Rocky Mountains, a good
skin is as costly as it is valuable. It is met with in the great
central range, from Northern Mexico, as far north as the Rocky
Mountains extend; and it is supposed also to exist among the higher
summits of the Californian mountains.
The Ibex is another species of wild goat, somewhat celebrated. It is
the wild goat of the European Alps, where it is known by the Germans as
Stein-boc, and as Bouquetin among the French.
Another ibex belongs to the Caucasian Mountains, called Zebudor, or
Hach; and still another kind inhabits the Himalayas, where it passes
under the name of Sakeen. There is also an ibex in Siberia; and still
another in the Pyrenees.
In addition to these, there is a large wild goat in the loftiest
Himalayas, known as the Jaral, or Tur; and another in India called the
Jungle Kemas, or Wild Sheep of Tenasserim. In Northern Africa, again,
there are several species of native wild goats, as the Jaela in Egypt,
and the Walie of the African-Arab countries; but in South Africa no
indigenous wild goats have been observedtheir place in that region
being supplied by their near congeners the Klipspringers, and other
CHAPTER TWENTY ONE. ANTELOPES.
The Antelope tribe is so closely related to that of the Deer, that
it is often difficult to distinguish one from the other. Indeed,
certain species of antelopes are more like to certain species of deer,
than either to their own kind. This is more especially true of the
females, where the hornsthe chief point of distinctionare absent.
In such cases, even the accomplished naturalist is perplexed by the
close resemblancewhich extends beyond mere outward appearance, and is
found throughout all their habits.
It may be remarked, however, that the different species of antelopes
differ not only in size, shape, and colour, but quite as much in their
modes of existence. Some, like the African Eland and the Nyl-ghau of
India, are clumsy creatures both in shape and movements; while others,
as the Gazelles, are models of symmetry and grace. Some are dwellers in
the arid recesses of the desert; while others affect the most fertile
pastures, or the deepest shades of the thick forest. Others, again,
find their home amidst the sedge on the banks of lakes and rivers,
passing half their time in the water; while several speciesas the
Chamois of Europe and the Klipspringer of South Africadwell in the
mountains, making their way among cliffs and ravines, with an agility
scarce equalled by any other animal. Again, some species are
gregarious, and herd together in vast flocks; while others are found
only in small droves, or families, and not a few species lead what is
termed a solitary life. In all these respects the antelopes resemble
the deer; and, indeed, no very marked distinction can be pronounced
between the two. As already remarked, the main point of difference,
upon which scientific naturalists rely, is found in the horns; those of
the deer being termed osseous, or bony, while these appendages in the
antelopes are true hornsthat is, of the same material as the horns of
oxen. Furthermore, the hornsor rather antlersof the deer are
caducous, shedding annually; while those of the antelopes are
persistent, remaining throughout the life-time of the animalas with
goats, sheep, and oxen.
The antelopes appear to stand, as it were, in a central position,
surrounded by these three last-mentioned groups; in other words, there
are species of antelopes that can scarcely be distinguished from goats,
others equally like sheep, and others that come very near being true
oxen! Nay, further, there are one or two speciesthe Gnus of South
Africathat bear a considerable resemblance to horses!
At one time the antelopes were all classed in a single genus; but
since the species have increasedor rather the knowledge of themthis
arrangement has been deemed inconvenient; and the systematic
naturalists have separated them into a great many generatwenty or
moreand to these genera they have given such a variety of pedantic
titles, that it would be wellnigh impossible for one man's memory to
retain them all. I do not hesitate to say, that it would have been much
wiser to have retained the nomenclature of the old naturalists, and
called all these animals antelopesleaving the specific
appellations to distinguish them from one another.
In a popular sketch it is necessary to treat them in this way; for
to give even a list of the generic characters of the systematic
naturalists would occupy the whole of our space.
First, then, of the number of these ruminantsthat is, the number
of kinds. In this respect they exceed the deer tribe, amounting in all
to between eighty and ninety distinct kinds. Perhaps there are one
hundred species upon the whole earth, since several new ones have been
recently discovered in the interior regions of Asia and Africa.
It is scarcely necessary to say that Africa is the great
head-quarters of the antelope tribemore than half the species
belonging to that continent. In number of individuals, too, it far
excels; the vast herds of these animals that roam over the karoos and
great plains of South Africa consisting sometimes of numbers countless
as locusts or the sands of the sea! Asia, however, is not without its
share of species; and especially that portion of itthe Oriental
regionso rich in other mammalia. In Australia no antelope has yet
been found; nor even in the large island of Madagascar, so African in
its character. Only one representative of the antelopes is indigenous
to the New Worldthe Prong-horn of the prairies; for the Bighorn of
the Rocky Mountains is a sheep, not an antelope. To say the least, this
is a natural fact of some singularity; for from all we know of the
habits of these animals, no country could be better suited to their
existence than the great prairies of North America, or the llanos of
the Orinoco, the paramos of Brazil, and the pampas of Buenos Ayres and
Patagonia. And yet on these South American plains no animal of the
genus antelope has yet been discovered;and on the prairies, as
already mentioned, only one species, the Prong-horn.
It is worthy of remark, also, that in Africa, where the antelopes
most abound, no deer are found to exist in the few African species of
the latter being denizens only of the extreme north of Africa, where
that continent approximates in character to the southern countries of
In Europe there are two speciesthe well-known Chamois of the Alps,
and the Saiga of Eastern Europe, which last is also an Asiatic animal.
In describing the different speciesand we can only say a word or
two of eachwe shall class them, not according to generic
distinctions, but rather by their geographical distribution; and we
shall begin with the Antelopes of Africa.
Of these the Eland is the largest (as it also is the largest of
antelopes), being sometimes of the size and weight of a full-grown
horse! It is an animal of rather an ungainly appearance; but its
beautiful buff colour and mild disposition make up for its ungraceful
shape; and it is scarcely ever out of good condition. Its home is
Southern Africa, where it is still found in large herds; and its flesh
affords a plentiful subsistence both to travellers and the half-savage
natives of the land.
Hunting the eland is a common pastime; and no craft is required to
insure success, since these creatures are almost as tame as domestic
cattle; so tame that the horseman usually rides into the middle of the
drove, and, singling out the fattest bull, shoots him down without any
difficulty. The eland thrives well in England; and Dr Livingstone
remarks it strange that it has not long since been introduced to our
pasturessince its flesh is better than beef, and the animal itself is
as large as an ox.
The Gingi Jonga is a distinct variety of the eland, found in Western
The Koodoo is another large species, of which South Africa is the
home. This is remarkable for a noble appearance; but its most striking
characteristic is its magnificent hornseach of which is four feet in
length, sweeping widely outwards in an elegant spiral curvature. The
koodoo loves the shade of the forest, and especially delights to dwell
on the banks of riverstaking freely to the water and swimming well.
The Gnu next merits attention. In point of fact this is the most
singular of the whole genusbeing that which in many respects
resembles the horse. There are two kinds, both belonging to South
Africa, and known as the Gnu and Brindled Gnu. When seen galloping at a
distance, they bear a marked resemblance to quaggas, or wild horses.
They live in extensive herds on the karoos; and are hunted by the
natives for their skinsout of which the Kaffirs make their karosses.
Their flesh is eaten; though it is not so much esteemed as that of some
The Oryx, or Gemsbok, is a middle-sized species, dwelling in the
same neighbourhood with the gnus. It is a heavy, stout animal, with a
long bunch tail, and a pair of tapering slender horns, almost perfectly
straight, and sweeping back towards the shoulders. It is truly a
creature of the open desert plains; and can go for a long time without
water. It is bold and dangerousespecially when woundedand will give
battle to the hunter even, it is said, when that hunter chances to be
the lion himself!
The true Oryx, or Milk-white Antelope, mentioned by early writers,
is a kindred species to the Gemsbok; and is found in Northern
Africain Sennaar, Nubia, Abyssinia, and Senegal. This last is a
celebrated species, on account of the supposition that it is the animal
figured on the temples of Egypt, and known as the Unicorn. It
would not be difficult, I imagine, to point out the absurdity of this
belief; and to prove that the Unicorn of the ancients was either the
Gnu of South Africa, or an allied speciessupposed to exist at the
present time in the inter-tropical region of the same continent.
A third species of oryx, the Beisa, inhabits Abyssinia.
The Addax is a large, heavily-formed antelope, with spiral horns and
ox-like appearance, inhabiting the greater part of the Central African
region. It frequents sandy plains, and is noted for its broad hoofs,
which seem designed to prevent it from sinking in the soft yielding
sand of the desert. The addax is not gregarious, living in pairs or
One of the handsomest of South African antelopes is the Water Buck,
a fine large species, with long, widely-spreading horns. It is called
Water Buck on account of its habit of frequenting the marshy banks of
rivers and lakes, where it spends most of its time half immersed in the
The Lechee is another species, allied to this, and of very similar
habits; and two, if not three species of water antelopes have
been lately discovered by Livingstone and other South African
explorers. The Sing-sing is an antelope belonging to Western Africa.
The English on the Gambia call it the Jackass Deer, from its
resemblance to a donkey. The negroes believe that its presence has a
sanitary effect upon their cattle; and hardly a flock is seen without
having one or two sing-sings along with it. A similar fancy is
entertained in our own country in regard to the common goatmany
people keeping one in their stables, under the belief that it is
beneficial to the health of the horses!
Another Sing-sing is the Equitoon, or Kob, of Senegaloften
confounded with the former species.
A very beautiful antelope is the Blue buck, or Blauwboc of the Cape
colonists. It is a large, bold animal, with horns ringed, and gently
curving backwards. Its skin is jet black; and it is this colour
reflected through the ashy-grey hair that gives the animal that
purplish or blue tint, whence it derives its name. It is found in small
troops on the plains north of Kurrichane; and when wounded, or in the
rutting season, the males are dangerous creatures. Another similar
species, but larger, is the Tah-kaitze, which is plentiful in the
country of the Bechuanas. It is so ferocious in its disposition, that
the native hunters fear to attack it with the asseghai; but prefer
capturing it in pitfalls.
The Black buck is a species of similar character and habits; and in
Senegal there is one, not unlike the foregoing, known among the French
as vache-brune, and called by the Mandingoes white mouth.
The Pallah is another fine species of South African antelope. Its
horns are of the lyrate form, and its colour a bright rufous. It is on
this account known among the Dutch colonists as the Rooye-boc (Red
buck). It runs in small troops, and is found in the country of the
Bechuanas, who hunt it for its flesh.
The Stein-boc is one of the slenderest and most graceful of
antelopes. It lives upon stony plains and in mountain valleys in South
Africa hence its name of stein-boc, or stone buck. It is very
swift, and, when at full speed, will often spring over fifteen feet at
a single leap. Its flesh is much prized, and on this account it is
hunted eagerly by the natives; so that, although one of the swiftest of
animals, it is now rare in most parts of the Cape colony.
The Grys-boc is a closely allied species, but not so elegantly
formed, nor yet so swift. It hides when closely pursuedthrusting its
head into a bush, or squatting like a hare in her form. The stein-boc
has a similar habit.
The Bleek-boc, or Ourebi, is one of those antelopes which have the
curious appendages upon the knees called brushes. It is a large animal,
and its flesh is eaten by the Kaffirs, in whose country it is chiefly
found. A very similar species, called the gibari, exists in
Northern AfricaAbyssiniaand also on the western coast.
Of all the South African antelopes, perhaps none is more known and
admired than the Spring-boc (springbuck). Its name is derived from a
curious habit the animal has of, every now and then, springing upward
from the ground, while going at full speed across the plains. This leap
is sometimes made to the height of many feet, in an almost
perpendicular direction, and apparently without any other motive than
for amusement! The spring-bucks are eminently gregarious; indeed, they
may be said to swarm. Herds have been met with, numbering as many as
50,000 individuals, migrating from one part of the country to the
other, and paying but little heed to the crowds of hyenas, wild dogs,
and other predatory creatures, who keep them company only to destroy
and devour them.
The Klipspringer is a small antelope that inhabits the most
inaccessible mountains of Southern Africa; and, like its near congener,
the chamois of the Alps, is as much at home on the narrow ledges of
cliffs as its kindred are upon the open plains. It is a long-haired,
shaggy little creature; but its long hair does not protect it from the
bullet of the hunter; and its young frequently fall victims to the
eagle, and the great lammer-geyer vulture, which also dwells among
In addition to those described, there are many other species of
antelopes in Africa. The Duyker-boc, or Diving-buckso called from its
habit of ducking or diving under the bushes when pursuedis a Cape
species; and there is another diving-buck, called the Black-faced; and
still another of these bush antelopes, termed Burchell's bush-boc. Then
there is the Four-tufted antelope of Senegal; the Red-crowned bush-boc,
also of Western Africa; and, belonging to the same region, the
White-backed bush-boc. In the Island of Fernando Po there is found the
Black-striped bush-boc; and in Abyssinia, the Madoqua, or Abyssinian
bush-goat, of a yellow colour. The Bay bush-buck and Bay bush-goat are
two species described as natives of Sierra Leone; while the Black
bush-boc, of a sooty black colour, is found on the coast of Guinea.
The Coquetoon is a species of a deep-reddish bay colour, belonging
to Western Africa; and on the Senegal and Gambia we meet with another
sooty species, called the Guevei. At Port Natal, in South Africa, there
is a red species called the Natal bush-boc; and the Kleene-boc, a
diminutive little creature, only about twelve inches in heighta very
pigmy among the antelopesalso belongs to the same region. Several
other small speciesor pigmy antelopes, as they are termedare found
along the west coast of Africa, viz., the Black-rumped guevei of
Fernando Po; the Grisled guevei of Sierra Leone; and the White-footed
guevei of the same region. The little creature known as the Royal
antelope, or Guinea-musk, is a native of Guinea. Still others in South
Africa are the Ree-boc and the Reed-bocthe latter deriving its name
from its habit of frequenting the reeds that grow along the banks of
the South African rivers. In the Island of Zanzibar there is a very
small species of antelope; and another found in Abyssinia, and called
also the Madoqua, is said to be the smallest of all horned
animalsbeing not so large as an English hare!
In North Africain the Sahara Desertexists a large species,
called by the Arabs the Wild Ox. It is one of the clumsiest in shape of
the whole tribe. In the south two kinds are near akin to itthe
Harte-beest or Secaama, and the Sassaby or Bastard harte-beest. The
Korrigun is another of these large antelopes, belonging to Western
Africa; and the Bonte-boc and Bles-boc are two similar kinds, existing
in the country of the Hottentots. The Bosch-boc, or Bush-goat, is still
another of the southern antelopes, which derives its name from its
dwelling-placethe bushy thicketsout of which it never shows itself;
and, in addition to all these, there is the Decula of Abyssinia, the
Guib of the western coast, the Ingala of Natal, and the Broad-horned
antelope of the Bight of Biafra.
We have not yet mentioned the Gazelles, which are, perhaps,
the most interesting of all the antelope tribe. It is not necessary to
describe their forms, or dilate upon the gracefulness of their
movements and appearance. Their beautiful eyes have been a theme for
the admiration of all ages. We shall only remark here, that there are
several species of antelopes called gazelles, and that they are all
natives of Africa. There is the Dorcas gazelle of Egypt, Barbary, and
Asia Minor; the Isabella gazelle of Egypt and Kordofan; the Mhorr of
Western Africa; the Abyssinian mhorr of the eastern parts of the
continent; the Andora of Sennaar, Dongola, and Kordofan; and, lastly,
the Korin. These are all gazelles; and it is believed that several
other species may yet be found in the interior parts of Africa. Such is
the list of African antelopes.
With regard to the Asiatic species, we can only find space to give
their names, and point out the localities they inhabit.
The Nyl-ghau claims to be mentioned first, as it is one of the
largest antelopes known. It inhabits the dense forests of India, and is
a creature of interesting and singular habits. The Goral and Serow are
also two large species inhabiting the Himalayasespecially in the
kingdom of Nepaulwhile the Chousinga is a denizen of the wooded
plains of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa. Two others, Chousingas, are the
Rusty red and Full horned, both natives of India; and the Jungliburka,
a species found in the Bombay Presidency. In Persia we find the
well-known Sasin, or common antelope, as it is usually called; and in
the Oriental Islands, Sumatra furnishes us with the Cambing outan, and
Japan with the Japanese goat antelope. The Mahrattas have the Chikara,
or Ravine-deer, a species peculiar to the rocky hills of the Deccan.
China is not without its representative in the Whang-yang, or
yellow-goat, which also inhabits the arid deserts of Central Asia,
Thibet, and Southern Siberia. The Goa is another Thibetian species; and
this ends our list of the tribe: for the two European antelopes, the
Chamois and Saiga, and the one peculiar to the prairies of North
Americathe Prong-hornhave already received mention.
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO. DEER.
Of these graceful quadrupeds there are nearly fifty species known to
the scientific naturalist. These are geographically distributed
throughout the continents of Europe, Asia, and America; and several
belong to the great Indian islands. In Africa we find only two kinds,
and these confined to the mountain regions near the coast of the
Mediterranean Sea. Throughout the central and southern parts of that
vast continent no native deer exist; but their place is plentifully
supplied by their very near kindred the antelopesfor which, as
already seen, Africa is especially famous.
It will be evident to my young readers, that anything like a
detailed description of fifty different kinds of animals would take up
a volume of itself. I must therefore content myself with giving a brief
account of the more remarkable species, and a word or two only about
those less noted.
If size entitle a species to precedence, then decidedly the Elk
should stand first. He is the largest of the deer tribenot
unfrequently standing as high as a horse, and carrying upon his crown a
pair of broad, flat-branched antlers, weighing sixty pounds! Although
truly an animal of the deer kind, he lacks those graceful shapes and
proportions that characterise most of his congeners; and his mode of
progressiona sort of shambling trotis awkward in the extreme. While
the animal is in the act of running, its long split hoofs strike
together, giving out a series of singular sounds that resemble the
crackling of castanets. In the elk countries of North America the
native Indians prize the skinsdressing them into a soft pliable
leather. The flesh is also eaten; but it is inferior to the venison of
either the fallow or red deer.
The elk belongs equally to the Old and New Worlds. His range is the
wooded countries of high latitudes in the north, both of Europe and
Asia; and in America he is found in similar situations. In the latter
continent he is called the Moose; and the name Elk is there erroneously
given to another and more southern speciesthe Wapitito be noticed
In North America the range of the elk may be defined by regarding
the boundary-line of the United States and Canada as its southern
limit. Formerly elks were met with as far south as the Ohionow they
are rare even in Wisconsin. In Canada, and northward to the shores of
the Arctic Sea, wherever timber is plenteous, the great moose deer
dwell. They roam in small herdsor perhaps only families, consisting
of six or seven individualsand feed chiefly on the leaves of plants
and trees. Their legs are so long, and their necks so short, that they
cannot graze on the level ground, but, like the giraffes of Africa, are
compelled to browse on the tops of tall plants, and the twigs and
leaves of trees, in the summer; while in the winter they feed on the
tops of the willows and small birches, and are never found far from the
neighbourhood where such trees grow. Though they have no fore-teeth in
their upper jaw, yet they are enabled somehow or other to crop from the
willows and birch trees twigs of considerable thickness, cutting them
off as clean as if the trees were pruned by a gardener's shears.
The moose is a sly animal, and in early winter all the craft of the
hunter is required to capture it. In summer it is easier to do so:
these animals are then so tormented with mosquitoes and gnats, that
they become almost heedless of the approach of their more dangerous
enemy, man. In winter the hunter follows the moose by his track, easily
discovered in the snow; but it is necessary to approach from the
leeward, as the slightest sound borne to his ear upon the breeze is
sufficient to start him off. A very singular habit of the moose adds to
the difficulty of approaching him. When he has the intention to repose,
he turns sharply out of the general track he has been following, and
then, making a circuit, lies down, his body being hidden by the
surrounding snow. In this lair he can hear any one passing along the
track he has made; and, thus warned, his escape is easy. The hunter who
understands his business can usually give a guess (from a survey of the
ground) of where these detours are likely to be taken, and takes his
measures accordingly. When within range, the hunter usually makes some
noise, as by snapping a twig: the moose starts to his feet, and shows
himself above the snow. For a moment he squats on his hams, before
starting off. This is the fatal moment, for it is the time for the
hunter to take sure aim and send the fatal bullet. If the shot prove
only a slight wound, and not mortal, the moose sometimes turns upon his
enemy; and if a friendly tree be not convenient, the hunter stands a
good chance of being trampled to death. In the rutting season the moose
will assail even man himself without provocation; and at such times the
old bulls (as the hunters term the males) have terrible conflicts
with one another.
The habits of the elk of Northern Europe appear to be identical with
the moose of America. Hunting it in Sweden and Norway is a favourite
sport, and its flesh is eaten, the nose and tongue being esteemed great
delicacies, as they are in America. It is related that elks were
formerly used in Sweden to draw the sledge; but, for certain reasons,
this was prohibited by law.
In point of size, the Wapiti stands next to the elk. In shape
he resembles the well-known Stag or Red Deer of our parks, but is much
larger. The wapiti is exclusively a native of North America; and it may
be remarked that his range is more southerly, and not so northerly as
that of the moose. He is not found so far south as the Southern States,
nor farther north than the Canadas; but around the great lakes, and
westward to the Rocky Mountains, and even to the Pacific, the wapiti is
met with. He is a noble creatureperhaps the noblest of the deer
tribeand it is a boast of the backwoods' hunter to have killed an
elk; for such, as already mentioned, is the name erroneously given to
Perhaps the Reindeer is the most celebrated of all the deer;
and just on that account I shall say but little of this species, since
its habits are familiar to every one. Every one has read of the
Laplander and his reindeerhow these people have tamed and trained,
and otherwise submitted it to a variety of useful purposes; but the
Laplanders are not the only people who have to do with the reindeer.
The tribes of the Tungusians and Tchutski, who inhabit the northern
parts of Asia, have also trained it to various usesas a beast of
burden, and also to ride upon. The varietyperhaps it is a distinct
specieswhich the Tungusians employ for the saddle, is much larger
than that of the Laplanders; but it may be remarked that there are also
varieties in Lapland itself. The same remark applies to the reindeer of
America, which is found in the northern parts of the Hudson's Bay
territory, and all along the shores of the Arctic Ocean, making its way
over frozen seas, even to the islands that lie around the pole. In
these desolate countries the Caribou (for by such name is the reindeer
known in America) is hunted by both Indians and Esquimaux; but it has
never been trained by either race to any useful purpose, and is only
sought for as furnishing an important article of food and clothing. At
least two kinds of Caribou exist in the vast tracts of almost unknown
country known as Prince Rupert's Land, or the Hudson's Bay territory.
As the three kinds described belongat least partiallyto the New
World, we shall finish with the other deer of this hemisphere, before
proceeding to those peculiar to the Old World.
The Virginian Deer is the species common to the United States
proper, and, in fact, the only wild species now found in the greater
number in the States. It is a small animal, very similar to the
fallow-deer of Europe; and several varieties (or species), not
differing much from the Virginian deer, exist throughout the forests of
Mexico, California, Oregon, and South America. In Mexico there are
three or four species, severally known as the Mexican Deer, the Mazama,
the Cariacou, and by other appellations. Of course, the inhabitants
simply know them as venados (deer). In Guyana there are one or two
small species, and along the forest-covered sides of the Andes two or
three more. In Bolivia there is a large kind known as the Tarush; and
on the pampas of Buenos Ayres and Patagonia is a kind called Guazuti,
which associates in large herds, and is remarkable for the powerful
odour emitted by the bucks.
In the forests of the Amazon, and all through the Brazilian country,
deer exist of different species; several, as the Guazuviva, the Pita,
the Eyebrowed Brocket, and the Large-eared Brocket, being tiny little
creatures, not much larger than the fawns of the ordinary species.
Returning to North America, we find several varieties of the
Virginian Deer in the countries lying along the Pacific coastviz.,
California, Oregon, and Russian America. These have received trivial
names, though it is believed that they are only varieties, as mentioned
above. Two, however, appear to be specifically different from the
Virginian deer. One of these is the Mule Deer of the Rocky
Mountainsalmost as large as the red deer of our own country, and
well-known to the trappers of the Upper Missouri. Another is a
well-marked species, on account of the length of its tailwhence it
has received its hunter appellation of the Long-tailed Deer.
The Deer of Europe are not numerous in species; but if we
consider the large herds shut up in parks, they are perhaps as
plentiful in numbers as elsewhere, over a like extent of territory.
The Reindeer and Elk, as already stated, are both
indigenous to Europe; so also the Stag or Red Deer, the
greatest ornament of our parks. The red deer runs wild in Scotland, and
in most of the great forests of Europe and Asia. There are also
varieties of this noble animal, a small one being found in the
mountains of Corsica.
The Fallow-Deer is too well-known to need description. It is
enough to say that it exists wild in most countries of Europe, our own
excepted. Into this country it is supposed to have been introduced from
The Roebuck, another species of our parks, is indigenous to
both England and Scotland. It is now found plentiful only in the
northern parts of Great Britain. It is a native also of Italy, Sweden,
Norway, and Siberia.
The African Deer consist of two species, supposed to be
varieties of red deer. They are found in Barbary, and usually known as
the Barbary Deer. But the fallow-deer also exists in North Africa, in
the woods of Tunis and Algiers; and Cuvier has asserted that the
fallow-deer originally came from Africa. This is not probable, since
they are at present met with over the whole continent of Asia, even in
We now arrive at the species more especially termed Asiatic
or Indian Beer. These form a numerous group, containing species
that differ essentially from each other.
There is the Ritsa, or Great Black Stag of the Japanese and
Sumatrans. It is named black stag, from its dark brown colour
during winter. It is fully as large as our own stag; and is further
distinguished by long hair growing upon the upper part of its neck,
cheeks, and throat, which gives it the appearance of having a beard and
mane! It inhabits Bengal, and some of the large Indian islands.
The Samboo, or Sambur, is another large species, not
unlike the rusa. It is found in various parts of India, and especially
in the tropical island of Ceylon. Several varieties of it have been
described by naturalists.
In the Himalaya Mountains there exist two or three species of large
deer, not very well-known. One is the Saul Forest Stag, or Bara-singa
a species almost as large as the Canadian wapiti. Another is the Marl,
or Wallich's Stag, which is also found in Persia. Still another
species, the Sika, inhabits Japan; and yet another, the Baringa, or
Spotted Deer of the Sunderbunds, dwells along the marshy rivers of this
last-mentioned territory. Again, there is the Spotted Rusa, and other
species, inhabitants of the Saul Forests. In fact, the number of
species of Indian deer is far from being accurately ascertained, to say
nothing of the very imperfect descriptions given of those that are
When we come to the great Oriental islandsthe Isles of Indwe
find many new and beautiful species; some being large noble stags,
while others are tiny graceful little creatures like gazelles.
In Sumatra and Borneo we have a distinct species of Sambur Deer; in
Timor a smaller one; a third exists in Java; and a fourth in the
Philippines. In Java, too, we find the beautiful little Muntjak; and
another tiny variety in China, called the Chinese Muntjak.
Returning again to the Himalaya country, we encounter, in the plains
south of this great chain, the Spotted Axis, so well-known from its
beautiful markings, which resemble those of the fawn of our own
fallow-deer. But it may be remarked that there are two or three species
of spotted deer, and that they inhabit the plains of Indiafrom the
Himalayas southward to the Island of Ceylon. Ascending these great
mountains, we encounter among their lower slopes another very singular
species of cervine creaturethe Musk Deerwhich, though but little
known, is one of the most interesting of its tribe; especially so, as
it is from the secreting glands of this curious little animal that most
of the celebrated perfume of commerce is obtained.
Crossing the Himalayas, and advancing northwards, we find upon the
plains of Central Asia a species of deer, known among the Tartars as
Siaga, and to our own naturalists as the Tail-less Roe. Several species
entirely unknown to scientific men will yet be discovered, when the
immense steppes of Asia come to be explored by observers capable of
describing and classifying.
Like many another genus of animals, a complete monograph of the deer
tribe would be of itself the labour of a life.
CHAPTER TWENTY THREE. QUADRUPEDS
In the year 1711 was brought to France, from the Island of New
Guinea, an animal of an unknown species, and one that was singular in
many respects; but especially so, from the fact of its having a double
skin, covering a part of its belly, and forming a sort of pocket or
pouch. This animal was Le Brun's Kangaroo; very properly named after
the naturalist who first described it, since it was the first of the
marsupial or pouched animals known to the scientific world.
The Opossums of America were afterwards scientifically described;
but it is only of late years that the numerous species and genera of
pouched animalsconstituting almost the entire mammalia of the
Australian worldhave become generally known to Europeans.
The peculiarity of the pouched animals is in reality the
pouch, common to all of them. Otherwise they differ in many
respectssome being carnivorous, others graminivorous, others
insectivorous, and so on. In fact, among them we have forms analogous
to almost all the different groups of ordinary mammalia. Some
naturalists have even classified them in the different groups, but with
little success; and it is perhaps better to keep them together,
retaining the pouch as the common characteristic.
The marsupial animals bring forth their young before they are fully
developed. The mother places the mouth, of what is little more than a
foetus, to her teat; and there it remains till it is able to go alone.
The pouch covers the teats, and serves to protect the young, while the
process of development is going on. Even after the little ones are able
to run about, they continue to use this singular nest as a place of
repose, and a refuge in case of attack by an enemy!
The pouched animals are not entirely confined to the Australian
island. The large island of New Guinea possesses some of them; and
there are species in Java, and others of the Asiatic islands. America
(both North and South) has the opossums, in numerous species; but it is
in Australia, and the contiguous islands of Van Diemen's Land and New
Guinea, that we find both the genera and species in greatest numbers.
These countries are, in fact, the head-quarters of the marsupial
The true genera are not numerous, though the species of most of them
are; and it is but natural to suppose that many new onesboth genera
and specieswill yet be discovered, when the vast terra incognita
of Australia comes to be explored. In fact, every expedition into the
interior brings home with it some new animal that carries a pouch!
As the opossums were the first of these animals whose habits became
generally known to Europeans, we shall speak first of them; and it may
be remarked, that although there are several species in the Australian
countries resembling the true opossums, and are even called opossums,
yet among naturalists the name is usually limited to the pouched
animals of America.
The old writer, Lawson, gives as succinct an account of the habits
of the best known speciesthe Virginia opossumas may be found
anywhere. We shall adopt it verbatim:The possum, says he,
is found nowhere but in America. She is the wonder of all the land
animalsbeing of the size of a badger, and near that colour. The
female, doubtless, breeds her young at her teats, for I have seen them
stuck fast thereto when they have been no bigger than a small
raspberry, and seemingly inanimate. She has a paunch, or false belly,
wherein she carries her young, after they are from those teats, till
they can shift for themselves.
Their food is roots, poultry, or wild fruits. They have no hair on
their tails, but a sort of scale or hard crust, as the beavers have. If
a cat has nine lives, this creature surely has nineteen; for if you
break every bone in their skin, and smash their skull, leaving them
quite dead, you may come an hour after and they will be quite gone
away, or, perhaps, you may meet them creeping away. They are a very
stupid creature, utterly neglecting their safety. They are most like
rats than anything. I have for necessity, in the wilderness, eaten of
them. Their flesh is very white and well-tasted, but their ugly tails
put me out of conceit with that fare. They climb trees as the racoons
do. Their fur is not esteemed or used, save that the Indians spin it
into girdles and gaiters.
Bating the exaggeration about their tenacity of life, and also the
error as to their mode of bringing forth, the above account hits off
the opossum to a nicety. Lawson might have added that their tails are
highly prehensile, and are not only used for suspending them to the
branches of trees, but also employed by the female for holding her
young upon her backin which fashion she often carries them about.
The flesh of the opossum is not only eatable, but much eaten, and
even sought after as a delicacy both by negroes and whites.
It is surprising how the number of species of this animal has lately
multiplied, under the research of naturalists. Perhaps no creature
illustrates more forcibly the folly of setting limits to the species of
animals, by simply trusting to the account of those known or described.
Over thirty species have been found in America, of which five or six
belong to the northern division of the continent. The tropical region
is their head-quarters; but they are not confined to the torrid zone,
since there are species existing everywhere, from Canada to Chili.
Another form of pouched animal that can scarcely be called an
opossum is the Yapock of tropical South America. It is a smaller animal
than the opossum, aquatic in its habits, and in fact approaches nearer
to the family of the water-rats. Of this, too, there are several
Crossing to Australia we find the pouched animals, as already
observed, of several different and very dissimilar genera.
Taking them in the usual order of mammalia, we have three kinds
truly carnivorous. First, the Tasmanian wolf, a creature which
possesses all the fierce attributes of his synonyme, and is, in fact, a
wolf, only one who carries a pocket. He is an animal as active as
fierce, and lives by preying on the kangaroos and other kindred
animals. He is also troublesome to the breeders of sheep; as, since the
introduction of these innocent animals to his country, he appears to
have formed a preference for mutton over kangaroo flesh. Fortunately
his range is not extensive, as he is confined to the island of Van
Dieman's Land, and has not been observed elsewhere. Only one species
has been yet discovered.
Another pouched animal, equally carnivorous, is the Ursine Opossum.
This is a burrowing creature about the size of a badger, and of equally
In some places it proves extremely destructive to the poultry of the
settler, though it will also eat carcass, or dead fishin short,
In a state of captivity it will not submit to be tamed, biting
everything that comes near it, at the same time uttering a sort of
yelling growl. Small though it be, in many of its actions and habits it
resembles the bear, and might be regarded as the Australian
representative of the ursine family; but several of its species
approach nearer to the weaselsfor it is not so poor in species as the
Tasmanian wolf, there being at least five kinds of it in Australia and
Van Dieman's Land. One variety of it is distinguished by the name of
Another genus of Australian carnivora is in the Phascogals.
These animals are smaller than the last, and dwell upon trees like
squirrels. From their having bushy tails, they might readily be
mistaken for animals of the squirrel kind; but their habits are
entirely different since to birds, and other small game, they are as
destructive as the weasel itself.
After the true carnivora come the Bandicoots. These are named after
the great bandicoot rat of India, to which the early settlers fancied
they bore a resemblance. They are insect-eaters, and represent in
Australia the shrews and tenrecs of the Old World. They also feed upon
roots and bulbs, which with their strong claws they are enabled to
scratch up out of the ground. Their mode of progression is by
leapsnot like those of the kangaroo, but still more resembling the
pace of a rabbit or hare and they appear to prefer mountainous
regions for their habitat. There are several species of them in
Australia and the adjacent islands.
The Phalangers, or Fox Opossums, come next in order. These creatures
are so called from a sort of resemblance which they bear to the
well-known Reynard; but, fortunately, the resemblance does not extend
to their habits, as they are all supposed to be innocent creatures,
living on fruits and seeds, and climbing trees for the purpose of
obtaining them. The true Vulpine Opossumwhich is a native of
Australia, near Port Jacksonis very much like a small fox; but there
are two sub-genera of the phalangers that differ much from this form.
One of these is the Scham-scham, a very beautiful spotted creature
found in the Molucca and Papuan islands. Several other species of
phalangers inhabit these and other Asiatic islands, especially Celebes
and New Ireland.
The other sub-genus is that of the Flying Squirrels, usually known
as Norfolk Island Flying Squirrels, though it is not even certain that
they inhabit the last-mentioned island. It needs only to be said that
these animals are very much like other flying squirrels; and in fact
they are squirrels, only squirrels of the marsupial kind. There
are several species already described.
Another pouched animal is the Koala, or Ashy Koala as it is called.
It differs in appearance from all the others, being of stout make, and
almost without a tail. It is not unlike the bear in its form and
movements; but its bulk is scarce equal to that of a moderate sized
dog. It can climb trees with great facility, though it makes its
lodgment among their roots, in a den which it hollows out for itself.
Its food is supposed to be fruits, and very likely it is the Australian
representative of the frugivorous bears. It has the singular
habit of carrying its young one upon its back, after the latter has
grown too large to be conveniently stowed away in the pouch. Two
species of koala have been spoken of, but as yet one only is described
and certainly known.
The Wombat is another animal of thick stout form, and also without
tail. It is a slow creature, easily overtaken by a man on foot. It
burrows in the ground. During the day it remains in its hole, issuing
forth only at night to procure its food, which consists mainly of
herbage. There is but one species known, belonging to both Van Dieman's
Land and New South Wales.
I have kept the Kangaroos to the last: not that they are the least
interesting, but because these very singular animals are now so
well-known, and their habits have been so often described, that it
seems almost superfluous to say a word about them. I shall content
myself with observing that the genus of the kangaroos has been divided
into two sub-genera, the true Kangaroos, and those known as Kangaroo
Rats. The difference, however, is not very great, since the rats are as
mild and inoffensive in their habits as the kangaroos themselves. Of
the kangaroo rats there are several species; but when we arrive at the
true kangaroos we find a list altogether too numerous to mention. They
are of all sizes, too, from that of the great giant kangaroo, that
stands, or rather squats, full five feet in height, down to little tiny
creatures not bigger than rabbits or squirrels. There are nearly fifty
species in all inhabiting the known parts of the Australasian islands.
It may be remarked, in conclusion, that two or three other kinds of
pouched animals, differing from all the foregoing, have been lately
brought to light by recent explorers; but, since nothing certain has
been ascertained in regard to their habits, it would be idle in this
place even to mention their names.
CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR. ANT-EATERS,
ARMADILLOES, AND OTHER ODD ANIMALS.
This is, perhaps, the most interesting of the groupsinteresting on
account of the singular animals which compose it, every one of which
may be termed an odd creature. In a strictly natural classification
these animals would not come together, since many of the species are
unlike the others both in appearance and habits; but in a scientific
point of view the absence of incisor teeth has caused them to be ranged
together in a group, known as the edentata, or toothless
In this group we shall give the first place to the true ant-eaters,
and first speak of the ant-eaters of America. Of these there are four
well-known species, the great Ant-bear, or Tamanoir; the Tamandua, or
little Ant-bear; another little ant-bear, the Ringed Tamandua; and a
very small species that differs much from the other three. They are all
inhabitants of tropical America, and there are varieties of them in
The Tamanoir is by far the largest, often attaining the size of a
Newfoundland dog; and the long hair which covers its sides, together
with its immense bushy tail, give to it the appearance of being much
bulkier than it is.
Its habits are tolerably well-known, constituting a very curious
chapter in natural history which we have not space to give. Suffice it
to say that its food consists entirely of ants and termites, which of
themselves form a strange feature in the zoology of tropical countries.
These it eatsnot with teeth, but by means of its long slimy tongue,
by which it is enabled to draw into its mouth hundreds of the little
creatures at a time.
The two species of smaller ant-bears, or Tamanduas, obtain their
sustenance in a similar manner, and in other respects are like their
great congener; but they possess a power with which the latter is not
giftedthat of climbing trees, and making their nests high up in the
cavities of the trunks. They have the further power of being able to
suspend themselves from the branches with their tails, which, like
those of the opossums, are highly prehensile. The tamanduas do not live
solely upon ant-diet. The wild bees, that build nests among the
branches, are also objects of their attention; and their thick hairy
skins appear to protect them from the stings of these insects.
The smallest speciescalled the Ouatiri, or Two-toed
Ant-eaterdiffers altogether from the three above-mentioned. It more
resembles a little monkey, and is covered all over with a thick coat of
soft woolly hair of a yellowish colour. It is also a tree-climber,
possesses a naked prehensile tail, and makes its nest in a hole in the
trunk, or in one of the larger branches.
In Africa the ant-eaters are represented by several kinds of
animals, differing essentially from each other in outward appearance,
though all agreeing in their habits, or rather in the nature of their
The Aard-vark, or Earth-hog, of the Cape colonists, is the most
noted kind. This animal is a long, low-bodied creature, with
sharp-pointed snout, and an immense whip-like tongue, which he is
capable of projecting to a great distance, in the same manner as the
tamanoir. His body is covered with a dense shock of reddish-brown hair;
and he dwells in a burrow, which he can cleverly make for
himselfhence his trivial name of Ground-hog.
The other African ant-eaters are usually called Pangolins, or Manis.
These are covered with scales that resemble suits of ancient armour;
and on this account they have sometimes been confounded with the
armadilloes, though the two kinds of creatures are altogether different
in their habits. The pangolins possess, in common with the armadilloes,
the power of rolling themselves into a ball whenever attacked by an
enemya fashion not peculiar to pangolins and armadilloes, but also
practised by our own well-known hedgehog.
The Sloths belong to this group of mammalia; not that they have the
slightest resemblance to the ant-eaters in any respect, but simply, as
before stated, because they want the cutting teeth. They are not
absolutely toothless, however, since they possess both canines and
molars. With these they are enabled to masticate their food, which
consists of the leaves and tender shoots of trees.
The name, sloth, is derived from the sluggishness of their
movements, amounting almost to complete inactivity. They scarce stir
from the spot in which they may be placed, or at all events move so
slowly as to be a whole hour in getting from one tree to another, or
even from one limb to another! They spend most part of their time upon
the trees (the cecropia peltata is their favourite), usually
clinging to the branches with their backs downward; and in this way
they crawl from one to another, uttering at intervals a plaintive cry,
which resembles the syllable ai, uttered several times in
succession. From this they derive one of their trivial names of Ai, or
The sloths are all inhabitants of tropical Americadwellers in the
great forests of Guiana and Brazil.
As natural curiosities in the animal kingdom, the Armadilloes do not
yield to any of the four-footed creatures, and an account of their
habits, would space permit, could not be otherwise than extremely
interesting. They are exclusively inhabitants of America; but many
species, both in North and South America, are found far beyond the
limits of the torrid zone. There are a great many species knownand
these are of all sizesfrom that of an ordinary rat, to the Giant
Tatou, which sometimes attains the enormous dimensions of a moderate
sized sheep! It may be mentioned that they are subdivided into a number
of genera, as the sloths, etcetera; and here, again, without any very
sufficient reason, since they all possess the scaly armourfrom which
the name armadillo is derivedand their habits are nearly identical.
They dwell in burrows, which they make for themselves; in fact, they
are more than ordinarily clever at excavating, and have been blamed for
carrying their tunnels into graveyards, and feeding upon the bodies
there deposited! Of some of the species this charge is but too true;
and one would think that an animal of such habit would be regarded with
disgust. On the contrary, the flesh of the armadillo is in much esteem
as an article of food, both among the white colonists and the natives,
and men and dogs are employed in many parts of South America to procure
it for the table. Several species of armadilloes possess the power of
clueing themselves up, a la hedgehog, and thus presenting an
impenetrable front to the attacks of an enemy; while others want this
power, but, in its stead, can flatten their bodies along the ground, in
such a way that neither dog nor jaguar can set tooth upon anything
softer than their scales, and these are as impenetrable as if they were
plates of steel.
The more noted species are known by different namesas the Tatou
Poyou, the Giant Tatou, the Peba, the Pichiciago, the Pichey, the Hairy
Tatou, the Mataco, the Apara, and such like designations.
It may be added, that the armadilloes dwell in districts very
dissimilar. According to the species, they inhabit low marshes, thick
forests, or dry open hills; and several kinds are indigenous to the
high table-lands of the Andes.
Their usual food consists of fruits, legumes, and roots; but they
are nearly all omnivorous, and will eat carrion whenever it falls in
To this group belong two very singular animals, that have only of
late years become known. These are the Mullingongbetter known as the
Ornithoryncusand the Echidna, or Ant-eating Hedgehog. Both are
natives of what may be termed the new world of Australasia.
To give an account of the peculiar conformation or appearance of the
mullingong would require many pages, and only the artist can convey any
idea of what the creature is like. Suffice it to say, that it is a sort
of triangular cross between a bird, a quadruped, and a fish; having the
bill of a duck, the hair, skin, and legs of a quadruped, and the
aquatic habits of a fish, or rather of a seal. In general appearance it
is, perhaps, more like to a beaver than to any other animal. It dwells
upon the banks of rivers, lakes, or marshes, burrows in the ground like
a badger, swims and dives well, and feeds chiefly on aquatic insects.
The echidna is altogether a different sort of creature, both in
appearance and habits. It is, in reality, an ant-eater, with the body
of a porcupine, having a long slender snout and an extensile tongue,
just like that of other ant-eaters. It burrows in the ground, where it
can remain for a long period without food, and it is supposed to issue
forth only during the season of the rains. It also possesses the power
of rolling itself into a ball, like the hedgehoghence its name among
the colonists of Ant-eating Hedgehog; but by far the most appropriate
appellation for it is the Porcupine Ant-eater, since in general
appearance it is exceedingly like several species of porcupines.
The Porcupines and Hedgehogs, though usually classed elsewhere, on
account of their teeth, their food, and a few other reasons not very
natural, should certainly stand in this group of odd animals; and here
let us place them. We have not space to say much about either of them;
and can only remark of the porcupines, that there are nearly a dozen
known species inhabiting different parts of the worldas usual,
separated into a great number of genera. Europe, Asia, Africa, the
Asiatic Islands, North and South America, all have their porcupines
some of them entirely covered with quills, others with hair
intermingled with the spines, and still others on which the spinous
processes are so small as to be scarcely perceptible, yet all partaking
of the habits and character of the true porcupines. It may be further
remarked, that the American porcupines are tree-climbers, and feed upon
twigs and bark; in fact, lead a life very much resembling that of the
The Hedgehogs, about which so much has been said, should also go
with this group, though it is usual to place them among carnivorous
Of hedgehogs there are also several species, and they are found in
most countries of Europe, and in many parts of Asia and Africa. No true
hedgehog has yet been discovered in North or South America, but they
have their representatives there in other species of worm-eating
It would not be proper to conclude these sketches without remarking,
that there are still a few other odd animals which we have not an
opportunity of introducing here. As an instance, we may mention the
little Daman, or Hyrax, a native of Africa and Asia Minor, and of which
there are two or three distinct species. This is the animal over which
Mr Frederic Cuvier, and other learned anatomists, have raised such a
paean of triumphhaving discovered that, notwithstanding its great
resemblance to a rabbit, the little creature was, in reality, a
M. Cuvier and his followers seem to have omitted the reflection that
this wonderful discovery very naturally suggests. Putting it
interrogatively, we may ask, How is it that the hyrax, whose
anatomical structure proves it to be a rhinoceros, is not a
rhinoceros in habits, appearance, nor, in fact, in anything but the
shape of its bones?
If, then, we were to take osteology for our guide, I fear we should
often arrive at very erroneous conclusions; and were the little hyrax
an extinct animal, and not known to us by actual observation, we should
be led by anatomical theorists to ascribe to the timid creature a very
different set of manners from what it has got.
Despite anatomic theories, then, we shall continue to regard the
hyrax the coney of the Scripturesas a rabbit, and not a