Page images
PDF
EPUB

it is carried in a straight direction with its body. It has five claws behind, and only four before. These it uses as the squirrel does, to carry its food to its mouth ; and it usually sits upon its hinder parts to feed in the manner of that little animal.

The marmot is chiefly a native of the Alps ; and when taken young is tamed more easily than any other wild animal, and almost as perfectly as any of those that are domestic.(8)* It is readily taught to dance, to wield a cudgel, and to obey the voice of its master. Like the cat, it has an antipathy to the dog ; and when it becomes familiar to the family, and is sure of being supported by its master, it attacks and bites even the largest mastiff. From its squat muscular make, it has great strength joined to great agility. It has four large cutting teeth, like all those of the hare kind; but it uses them to much more advantage, since in this animal they are very formidable weapons of defence. How

OBSERVATIONS.—Having in the winter vant roused it too hastily, and in attempting of 1830, undertaken some experiments on to seize it, inflicted on it a mortal wound, the hybernation of animals, I exposed four which thus deprived me of the pleasure I young marmots to a temperature of from 10° should have had of studying, in this animal, to 12 R. below zero. But this cold, which habits which result from an instinct in the was perhaps too intense to determine their marmot, more perfect than its apparent stunumbness, put them into a state of trouble, pidity seems to indicate. which lasted until I restored them to a tem- Our correspondent adds :--This mention of perature of 70 to 8° R. My marmots then fell the marmot reminds me of a singular spot asleep, with the exception of one, which es- I visited in the course of a tour last summer caped secretly from the room where I was amongst the Alps, which is a favourite resort making my observations. I searched for it of these animals. During a stay at Chain every adjoining place, but in vain ; when, mouni, I made an excursion, in company after the lapse of a fortnight, a servant, on with some friends, to the “ Jardin," a spot entering a deep cellar beneath my house, situated at several leagues across the Mer de felt such a resistance at the door, in trying to Glace. The name is given to a patch of push it open, that she could not succeed in rocks which rise in the midst of a wide plain forcing it back. She instantly came to me, of snow, forming a horse-shoe basin of consi. expressing her fear that some ill-disposed derable extent, and inclosed on all sides but person had secreted himself in the cellar. at one opening, by a circle of the highest I went to the spot with some friends who Alps. This spot is situated at a height of chanced to be with me at the time; but what about 9,000 feet, and its chief interest arises was our astonishment, on forcing open the from its forming an insulated patch of verdoor, at finding that the marmot which I dure in the midst of a region of sterility and had imagined to have been lost, haud pus- saows,-an oasis of spring in a desert of sessed himself of this lodging! The animal, winter. While resting there, on a rich bed had found an entrance by a small opening in of turf and flowers, we looked around in vain the vault, and wishing to secure for itself an for any other appearance of life or vegetation. impenetrable retreat, we noticed that it had The eye stretched across this plain of snows dug up the earth and scraped the wall, in to the grey, craggy mountains which rose order to heap up the mould and plaster arcund us ; or still further, through the against the door to about the height of two opening of this amphitheatre, across the valfeet; and by a still further foresight, per- ley of the Mer de Glace, for several leagues, ceiving an aperture below the door of two or to the smooth dome of snows of Mont Blanc. three inches, it had taken the precaution, The marmots burrow in these rocks in great before heaping up the earth and plaster, to numbers. They come out in wet weather, fix against this space a piece of board, which and towards evening, and may frequently be it had detached from a shelf. Our marmot herd in their burrows, especially on the aphad then untied a straw rope which enve. proach of rain, making a shrill and peculiar loped twenty bottles, with which it formed a whistle, by imitating which, and remaining bed from eight to ten inches thick, in a cor- quiet on the ground, they may be attracted ner of the cellar ; and afterwards, to protect from their holes. The weather was fine and itself apparently from the annoyance of the dry when we visited this spot, and we neither rats, the industrious animal had broken heard nor saw anything of them; and our several bottles, and formed, with the greatest guides predicted from this circumstance a regularity, a half circle of the broken pieces continuance of good weather.—200LOGICAL of glass, before its bed. Unhappily, my ser- MAGAZINE.

(8) Buffon, from whence the remainder of this description is taken.

ever, it is in general a very inoffensive animal ; and, except its enmity to dogs, seems to live in friendship with every creature, unless when provoked. If not prevented, it is very apt to gnaw the furniture of a house, and even to make holes through wooden partitions ; from whence, perhaps, it has been compared to the rat. As its legs are very short, and made somewhat like those of a bear, it is often seen sitting up, and even walking on its hind-legs in like manner; but with the fore paws, as was said, it uses to feed itself in the manner of a squirrel. Like all of the hare kind, it runs much swifter up hill than down ; it climbs trees with great ease, and runs up the clefts of rocks, or the contiguous walls of houses, with great facility. It is ludicrously said that the Savoyards, who are the only chimney-sweepers of Paris, have learned this art from the marmot, which is bred in the same country.

These animals eat indiscriminately of whatever is presented to them: flesh, bread, fruits, herbs, routs, pulse, and insects. But they are particularly fond of milk and butter. Although less inclined to petty thefts than ibe cat, yet they always try to steal into the dairy, where they lap up the milk like a cat, purring all the while like that animal, as an expression of their being pleased. As to the rest, milk is the only liquor they like. They seldom drink water, and refuse wine. When pleased or caressed, they often yelp like puppies; but when irritated or frighted, they have a piercing note that hurts the ear. They are very eleaply animals, and like the cat retire upon necessary occasions; but their bodies have a disagreeable scent, particularly in the heat of summer. This tinctures their flesh, which, being very fat and firm, would be very good, were not this flavour always found to predominate.

We have hitherto been describing affections in this animal which it has in common with many others: but we now come to one which particularly distin. guishes it from all others of this kind, and, indeed, from every other guadruped, except the bat and the dormouse. This is its sleeping during the winter. The marmot, though a native of the highest mountains, and where the snow is never wholly inelted, nevertheless seems to feel the influence of the cold more thail any other, and in a manner has all its faculties chilled up in winter.* This ex

* ANIMAL TEMPERATURE.-It is one of of the centigrade thermometer. The increase the most extraordinary as well as one of the of cold on the contrary does not appear to best ascertained facts in the animal economy, influence the temperature of the body in a thongh by no means as yet satisfactorily ex- similar way; and hence we discover the cause plained, that the interior heat of warm. why great cold proves less injurious and fatal blooded animals varies extremely little in the to animals than might be reasonably anticicoldest and in the hottest climates. To the pated. White of Selborne, speaking of gipuninstructed it appears no less erroneous to sies, says: “ These sturdy savages seem to say that the body is equally warm on a cold pride themselves in braving the severity of winter's morning and on the inost sultry of the winter, and in living in the open air (sub the dog-days, as to affirm that the sun is sta- dio) the whole year round. Last September tionary contrary to the apparent evidence of was as wet a month as ever was known; and the senses; yet the one truth is as well as- yet during those deluges did a young gipsy certained as the other. For example, Cap- girl lie in the midst of one of our hop-gattain Parry found that when the air was from dens on the cold ground, with nothing over 30° to 320 at Winter Isle, lat. 66° 11' N., the her laut a piece of a blanket extended on a interior temperature of the foxes when killed few hazel rods bent hoop-fashion and stuck was from 1061 to 98°; and at Ceylon, Dr. in the earth at each end, in circumstances too Davy found that the temperature of the native trying for a cow in the same condition : inhabitants differed only about one or two within this garden there was a large hopdegrees from the ordinary standard in Eng- kiln, into the chambers of which she might land. At very high temperatures, however, have retired, had she thought shelter an obthere is a sore what greater difference, as ject worthy her attention.” Some half-wild appears from the ingenious experiments made cats (Feliš domestica), which frequented a by MM. Delaroche and Berger, who exposed solitary farm-house on the borders of a wood, themselves to a heat of 228", or sixteen de- were more attentive to their comforts than this grees above that of boiling water: they as- young gipsy; since a neighbouring kiln for certained that at such very high temperatures drying corn was their favourite resort during there is an increase of seven or eight degrees winter when the fire was lighted.

traordinary snspension of life and motion for more than half the year, deserves our wonder, and excites our attention to consider the manner of such a tempo

The law by which animal temperature is twit, twit, twit, and away they all scuttled to thus maintained at nearly the same degree on be first, stopping for a second, and then away exposure to considerable heat or cold, though again.' When they had all assembled, how. it is not easy to reconcile it to any of the ever, on an under bough of the holly, they received theories, supplies the only known began to crowd together, fidgetting and reason why some of the smaller and seem- wedging themselves between one another as ingly tender animals outlive the rigours of the sparrows had done; but whether they inour severest winters. The magpie (Pica cau. tended to roost there, or were merely settling data, Ray), though rather a hardy bird, has the order of precedence, before retiring into been found having recourse to what is often some hole in the tree, we did not ascertain, practised by smaller birds - several of them for in our eagemess to observe what they were huddling together during the night, to keep about, we approached so near as to alarm them, each other warm.

A gentleman of intelli- and they few off' to a distant field. gence and veracity informed us that he once That this contest for places among the litsaw a number of these birds (probably a tle bottle-tits was only previous to retreating young family with their parents) on a tree, into some more snug corner for the night, apin a fir plantation, sitting so closely together pears to us probable, from the known habits that they all seemed to be rolled up into a of their congeners, and also from what we single ball. Little is known of the roosting daily observe among sparrows. Every evening of these birds ; but among smaller species before going into their roostiug holes, the the habit in question is not uncommon. sparrows assemble on some adjacent tree or Even during the day, in severe winter wea- house-top, squabbling and shifting places for ther, we have observed a similar practice in a considerable time, and then dropping off the house-sparrow (Passer domesticus, Ray). one by one according as they seem to have On a chimney top, which can be seen from agreed upon the etiquette of precedence. our study window, we have often remarked Hardy as they certainly are, sparrows mauis the whole of a neighbouring colony of spar. fest great dislike to exposure during the rows contest by the hour the warmest spot on night; and, accordingly, they may be obthe projecting brick ledge, which happened to served taking advantage of every variety of be in the middle. Here the sun shone strong. shelter. They are most commonly seen, in. est, the kitchen fire below sent hither its deed, creeping under the eves of houses or most powerful influence, and here the fortu. the cornices of pillars; but they are equally nate occupant was best sheltered from the fond of a hole in a hay-stack, of getting under frosty wind which swept by its companions the lee-side of a rook's nest on a lofty tree, or that had been jostled to the two extremities of popping into a sand hole burrowed out for of the row. But none remained long in quiet, its nest by the bank swallow (Hyrundo ripafor as soon as the cold air pinched them on ria, Ray). They are exceedingly partial, on the exposed side, they removed to the middle, this account, to the shelter of ivy on a wall, scolding and cackling inost vociferously; or of a thick tuft of clematis; but when and as those who held the best places refused they can find such a shelter, they do not, so to give them up, the new-comers got upon far as we have observed, huddle together side their backs and insinuated themselves be by side, each individual merely selecting the tween two of their obstinate companions, warmest coping of leaves he can discover. wedge-fashion, as you thurst a book into a It is not a little remarkable that the thrush crowded shelf. The middle places were thus and blackbird, though so careful to provide successively contested, till hunger drove the shelter and warmth for their eggs and young, whole colony to decamp in search of food. show no wisdom in procuring the same com

We once witnessed, near Eltham, a simi- forts for themselves during winter, as they usuJar contest for places among a family of the ally roost along with relwings and chaffinches bottle-tit (Parus caudatus, Ray), whose pro- in the open hedges, where they are often froceedings we had been watching while they zen to death in severe weather, or captured fitted from spray to spray of a hawthorn by bat fowlers. The starling (Sturnus vulhedge in search of the eggs of a coccus (Coc- garis) exhibits more care for itself, by roostcus cratægi? Fabr.). The ground was ing in the holes of trees, in the towers of covered with snow, and as evening ap- churches, or under the tiles of an old house, proached, the little creatures, whose restless like the sparrows, and frequently among the activity had no doubt tended to keep them thick tops of reeds in marshes. Yet will they warm, retreated fiom the open hedge to the sometimes suffer from frost even there. Une shelter of a thick holly—“ the leading bird,” winter's day in 1832, after a very keen frost as Mr. Knapp correctly describes their man- in the night, when we were searching for ner of proceeding, " uttering a shrill cry of licheus on the trees in Copenhagen fields,

rary death, and the subsequent revival. But first to describe, before we attempt to discuss.

The marmot, usually, at the end of September, or the beginning of October, we found a cock starling in a hole frozen to little power of generating or retaining heat in death. It was in very fine condition, and cold weather. This very circumstance, inmore perfect in plumage than we ever saw deed, was observed by the older naturalists. this species; but it did not appear, upon Speaking of wrens, the learned author of the the closest examination, to have received Physicæ Curiosæ, says, “ They crowd into a any shot or other injury, to cause its death cave during winter to increase their heat by besides the effects of the frost.

companionship.” It may be remarked, that like the spar- Those who keep wrens in cages usually rows and other birds which roost in holes, furnish them with a box, lined and covered the starlings huddle closely together, con- with cluth, having a hole for entrance, where tending for places; a circumstance, indeed, they may roost warmly during the night. recorded by Pliny. '“ As touching sterlings," Yet even in keen frost the wren does not says he," it is the property of the whole kind seem, in the day-time, to care much for cold, of them to fly by troops, and in their flight since we have in such cases frequently heard to gather round into a ring or ball, whiles it singing as merrily as if it had been enjoyevery one of them hath a desire to be in the ing the sunshine of summer, contrary to the middest,” a statement corresponding exactly remark of White, that wrens do not sing in with what we have above mentioned of the frosty weather. sparrows and bottle-tits. It is not a little During a fall of snow, sheep seem both. to interesting thus to verify facts which were take advantage of natural shelter, and to observed by the ancients; and Mr. Knapphuddle together in order to economize their has done so in the instance of the starling animal heat; and they accordingly, during a now under consideration, “ There is some- snow-storm, always flee to the nearest shelter, thing,” he remarks,“ singularly curious and though this is certain to end in their destrucmysterious in the conduct of these birds pre- tion, if the snow fall deep and lie long. It, vious to their nightly retirement, by the va- therefore, becomes one of the most painful riety and intricacy of the evolutions they tasks of the shepherd, in such circumstances, execute at that time. They will form them- to keep his sheep steadily in the very brunt selves, perhaps, into a triangle, then shoot of the blast. So at least we were told by an into a long pear-shaped figure, expand like a old shepherd, whom we encountered at nightsheet, wheel into a ball, as Pliny observes, fall the end of December, 1808, in a wild, each individual striving to get into the cen- mountainous pass, near Douglas, on the bor. tre, &c. with a promptitude more like parade ders of Lanarkshire, who was actually enmovements than the actions of birds.” gaged in thus guarding his flock in as heavy

In the instance of the red-breast, the a fall of snow as we recollect ever witnessing. hedge-sparrow (Accentor modularis, Bech- The Ettrick Shepherd, in a most interesting STEIN), and the wren (Anorthura communis), narrative, entitled " Snow Storms,” in his one can scarcely imagine how any of the spe- Shepherd's Calendar, does not allude to this cies survive the winter, were it only for the propensity in sheep; though it may be in. difficulty they must have in procuring food. fered that they had acted upon it on one of Selby, indeed, has observed wrens to perish the occasions which he describes, from his in severe winters, particularly when accom- having found a number buried under the panied with great falls of snow. “ Under snow by the side of a high bank, to which, these circumstances,” he says, “ they retire no doubt, they had fled for shelter at the onfor shelter into holes of walls, and to the set of the storm. Though sheep, from their eaves of corn and hay-stacks; and I have mode of life, ought to be hardy, they exhibit frequently found the bodies of several toge, an anxiety for procuring shelter well worthy ther in old nests, which they had entered of remark. It is mentioned by Lord Kames, for additional warmth and protection during that the ewe, several weeks before yeaning, severe storms." Buffon says a sportsman selects some sheltered spot where she may told him he had often found more than twenty drop her lamb with the most comfort and collected in the same hole.

security; and Mr. Hogg, in the volume just We are informed by an intelligent friend, refered to, gives an instance in which a ewe that he once found several wrens in the hole travelled over a great distance to the spot of a wall, rolled up into a sort of ball, for the where she had been accustomed to drop her purpose, no doubt, of keeping one another lambs; but what was still more remarkable, warm during the night; and though such a a ewe, the offspring of this ewe, though recircumstance is only to be observed by rare moved to a distance when a few days old, accident, we think it very likely to be nothing returned to the same spot to drop her first uncommon among such small birds as have lamb. Rennie.

prepares to fit up its liabitation for the winter, from which it is never seen to issue till about the beginning or the middle of April. This animal's little retreat is made with great precaution, and fitted up with art. The apartment is very warmly stuccoed round with moss and bay, of both which they make an ample provision during the summer. As this is a work of great labour, so it is undertaken in common; some cut the finest grass, others gather it, and others fake their turns to drag it into their hole Upon this occasion, as we are told, one of them lies on its back, permits the hay to be heaped upon its belly, keeps its paws upright to make greater room ; and in this mavner, lying still

upon its back, it is dragged by the tail, hay and all, to their common retreat. This also some give as a reason for the hair being generally worn away on their backs, as is usually the case : however, a better reason for this may be assigned, from their continually rooting up holes. and passing through narrow openings. But, be this as it will, certain it is that they all live together, and work in common to make their habitation as snug and convenient as possible. In it they pass three parts of their lives; into it they retire when the storm is high ; in it they continue while it rains ; there they remain when apprehensive of danger, and never stir out except in fine weather, never going far from bome even then. Wbenever they venture abroad, one is placed as a sentinel, sitting upon a lofty rock, while the rest amuse themselves in playing along the green fields, or are employed in cutting grass and making hay for their winter's convenience. Their trusty sen. tivel, when an enemy, a man, a dog, or a bird of prey approaches, apprizes its companions with a wbistle, upon which they all make home, the sentinel himself bringing up the rear.*

But it must not be supposed that this bay is designed for provision ; on the contrary, it is always found in as great plenty in their holes at the end as at the beginning of winter; it is only sought for the convenience of their lodging, and the advantages of their young; As to provision, they seem kindly apprized hy nature that during the winter they shall not want any, so that they make no preparations for food, though so diligently employed in fitting up their abode. “As soon as they perceive the first approaches of the winter, during which their vital motions are to continue in some measure suspended, they labour very diligently to close up the two entrances of their habitation, wbich they effect with such solidity, that it is easier to dig up the earth any where else than where they have closed it. At that time they are very fat, and some of them are found to weigb above twenty pounds; they continue so for even three months more ; but by degrees their flesh begins to waste, and they are usually very lean by the end of winter. When their retreat is opened, the whole family is then discovered, each rolled into a ball, and covered up under the hay. In this state they seem entirely liteless; they may be taken away, and even killed, without their testifying any great pain; and those who find them in this manner carry them home, in order to breed up the young, and eat the old ones. A gradual and gentle warmth revives them; but they would die if too suddenly brought near the fire, or if their juices were too quickly liquefied.

These animals produce but once a year, and usually bring forth but three or four at a time. They grow very fast, and the extent of their lives is not above nine or ten years ; so that the species is neither numerous nor very much diffused. They are chiefly found in the Alps, where they seem to prefer the brow of the highest mountains to the lowest ranges, and the sunny side to that in the shade. The inhabitants of the country where they cbiefly reside, when they observe the hole, generally stay till winter before they think proper to open it; for if they begin too soon, the animal wakes, and, as it has a surprising faculty of digging, makes its hole deeper in proportion as they follow. Such as kill it for food, use every art to improve the flesh, which is said to have a wild taste, and

Brute Animal HAYMAKERS.-Marmots, as a cart. She lies on her back, the hay is in the strictest sense, make hay; they bite off heaped on her belly, and two others drag her the grass, turn it, and dry it in the sun. It home.- Arcana of Science, 1829. is reported that they use an old she marmut

« PreviousContinue »