Page images

upon for a supply. There is scarcely one of the deer or hare kind, that is not very easily capable of escaping them by its swiftness ; so that, whenever any of these fall a prey, it must be owing to their own inattention. But there is another class of the carnivorous kind, that hunt by the scent, and which it is much more difficult to escape..

It is remarkable that all animals of this kind pursue in a pack, and encourage each other by their mutual cries. The jackal, the syagush, the wolf, and the dog, are of this kind; they pursue with patience rather than swiftness: their prey flies at first and leaves them behind; but they keep on with a constant steady pace, and excite each other by a general spirit of industry and emulation, till at last they share the common plunder. But it too often happens, that the larger beasts of prey, when they hear a cry of this kind begun, pursue the pack, and, when they have hunted down the animal, come in and monopolize the spoil. This has given rise to the report of the jackal's being the lion's provider, while the reality is, that the jackal hunts for himself, and the lion is an unwelcome intruder

upon the fruits of his toil.–Of the prey of these carnivorous animals, some find protection in holes, in which nature has directed them to bury themselves; some find safety by swiftness; and such, as are possessed of neither of these advantages, generally herd together, and endeavour to repel invasion by united force. The very sheep, which to us seem so defenceless, are by no means so in a state of nature. They are furnished with arms of defence, and a very great degree of swiftness. But they are still further assisted by their spirit of mutual defence: the females fall into the centre; and the males, forming a ring round them, oppose their horns to the assailants.—Some ani mals, that feed upon fruits, which are to be found only at one time of the year, fill their holes with several sorts of plants, which enable them to be concealed during the hard frosts of the winter, contented with their prison, since it affords them plenty and protection. These holes are dug with so much art, that there seems the design of an architect in the formation. There are usually two apertures, by one of which the

little inhabitants can always escape, when the enemy is in possession of the other. Many creatures are equally careful of avoiding their enemies, by placing a sentinel to warn them of the approach of danger. These generally perform this duty by turns: and they know how to punish such, as have neglected their post, or have been unmindful of the common safety. Such are a part of the efforts, that the weaker races of quadrupeds exert, to avoid their invaders; and, in general, they are attended with success. The arts of instinct are most commonly found an overmatch for the invasions of instinct. Man is the only creature, against whom all their little arts cannot prevail. Wherever he has spread his dominion, scarcely any flight can save, or any retreat harbour. Wherever he comes, terror seems to follow, and all society ceases among the inferior tenants of the plain. Their union against him can yield them no protection, and their cunning is but weakness. In their fellow-brutes they have an enemy, whom they can oppose with an equality of advantage. They can oppose fraud or swiftness to force, or numbers to invasion ; but what can be done against such an enemy as man, who finds them out though unseen, and though remote destroys them? Wherever he comes, all the contest among the meaner ranks seems to be at an end, or is carried on only by surprise. Such as he has thought proper to protect, have calmly submitted to his protection; such as he has found convenient to destroy, carry on an unequal war, and their numbers are every day decreasing.




The wild animal is subject to few alterations, and, in a state of savage nature, continues for ages the same, in size, shape, and colour. But it is otherwise when subdued, and taken under the protection of man. Its external form, and even its internal structure, are altered by human assiduity; and this is one of the first and greatest causes of the variety, that we see among the several quadrupeds of the same species. Man appears to have changed the very nature of domestic animals by cultivation and care. A domestic animal is a slave, that seems to have few other desires, but such as man is willing to allow it. Humble, patient, resigned, and attentive, it fills up the duties of its station; ready for labour, and content with subsistence. Almost all domestic animals seem to bear the marks of servitude strong upon

them. All the varieties in their colour, all the fineness and length of their hair, together with the depending length of their ears, seem to have arisen from a long continuance of domestic slavery. What an immense variety is there to be found in the ordinary race of dogs and horses ? the principal differences of which have been effected by the industry of man, as adapting the food, the treatment, the labour, and the climate ; that nature seems almost to have forgotten her original design, and the tame animal no longer bears any resemblance to its ancestors in the woods around him. In this manner, nature is under a kind of constraint in those animals we have taught to live in a state of servitude near us. The savage animals preserve the marks of their first formation. Their colours are generally the same; a rough dusky brown, or a tawny, seem almost the only varieties. But it is otherwise in the tame; their colours are various, and their forms different from each other. The nature of the climate, indeed, operates upon all, but more particularly upon these. The nourishment, which is prepared by the hand of man, not adapted to their appetites, but to suit his own convenience, that climate, the rigour of which he can soften, and that employment, to which they are sometimes assigned, produce a number of distinctions, that are not to be found among the savage animals. These at first were accidental, but in time became hereditary; and a new race of artificial monsters are propagated, rather to answer the

purposes of human pleasure, than their own convenience. In short, their very appetites may be changed, and those that feed only upon grass may be rendered carnivorous. I have seen a sheep that would eat flesh, and a horse that was fond of oysters. But not their appetites, or their figure alone, but their very dispositions, and their


natural sagacity, are altered by the vicinity of man. In those countries where men have seldom visited, some animals have been found established in a kind of civil state of society. Remote from the tyranny of man, they seem to have a spirit of mutual benevolence and mutual friendship. The beavers, in those distant solitudes, are known to build like architects, and rule like citizens. The habitations, that these have been seen to erect, exceed the houses of the human inhabite ants of the same countries, both in neatness and convenience. But, as soon as man intrudes upon their ciety, they seem impressed with the terrors of their inferior situation; their spirit of society ceases; and every animal looks for safety in solitude, and there tries all its little industry to shift only for itself.




In comparing different animals, I know no part of their structure, which exhibits greater variety, or, in that variety, a nicer accommodation to their respective conveniency, than that which is seen in the different formations of their mouths. Whether the purpose be the reception of aliment merely, or the catching of prey, the picking up of seeds, the cropping of herbage, the extraction of juices, the suction of liquids, the breaking and grinding of food, the taste of that food, together with the respiration of air, and in conjunction with it, the utterance of sound; these various offices are assigned to this one part, and in different species, provided for, as they are wanted, by its different constitution. In the human species, forasmuch as there are hands to convey the food to the mouth, the mouth is flat, and, by reason of its flatness, fitted only for reception : whereas the projecting jaws, the wide rictus or gape, the pointed teeth, of the dog and his affinities, enable them to apply their mouths to snatch and seize the objects of their pursuit. The full lips, the rough tongue, the peculiar palate, the broad cutting teeth of the ox, the deer, the horse, and the sheep, qualify this tribe for browsing upon their pasture; either gathering large mouthfuls at once, where the grass is long, which is the case with the ox in particular; or biting close, where it is short, which the horse and the sheep are able to do, in a degree that one could hardly expect. The retired under-jaw of a swine works in the ground, after the protruding snout, like a prong or ploughshare, has made its way to the roots upon which it feeds. A conformation so happy was not the gift of chance.-In birds this organ assumes a new character; new both in substance and in form; but, in both, wonderfully adapted to the wants and uses of a distinct mode of exist


We have no longer the fleshy lips, the teeth of enamelled bone: but we have, in the place of these two parts, and to perform the office of both, a hard substance, of the same nature with that which composes the nails, claws, and hoofs of quadrupeds, cut out into proper shapes, and mechanically suited to the actions which are wanted. The sharp edge and tempered point of the sparrow's bill picks almost every kind of seed from its concealment in the plant; and not only so, but hulls the grain, breaks and shatters the coats of the seed, in order to get at the kernel. The hooked beak of the hawk tribe separates the flesh from the bones of the animals which it feeds upon, almost with the cleanness and precision of a dissector's knife. The butcher-bird transfixes its prey upon the spike of a thorn, whilst it picks its bones. In some birds of this class we have the cross-bill, that is, both the upper and lower bill hooked, and their tips crossing. The spoon-bill enables the goose to graze, to collect its food from the bottom of pools, or to seek it amidst the soft or liquid substances with which it is mixed. The long tapering bill of the snipe and woodcock penetrates still deeper into moist earth, which is the bed in which the food of that species is lodged. This is exactly the instrument, which the animal wanted. It did not want strength in its bill, which was inconsistent with the slender form of the animal's neck, as well as unnecessary for the kind of aliment, upon which it subsists: but it wanted length to reach its object. Birds that live by suction have what are called by naturalists serrated or dentated bills, the inside of which, towards the edge, is thickly

« PreviousContinue »