Page images

except the pleasure they afford to the spectator, they are of very little benefit to mankind. Some, indeed, dress and eat them; but their flesh is indifferent food, and by no means a reward for the trouble of rearing them. This, perbaps, might be improved, hy keeping them in a proper warren, and not suffering them to become domestic: however, the advantages that would result from this, would be few, and the trouble great; so that it is likely they will continue a useless, inoffensive dependant, rather propagated to satisfy caprice than supply necessity.*

rially even in the taste of its flesh. Two of the Pampa hares, a male and a female, are almost invariably found together, and they run with a wonderful degree of force and velo. city, for a little time; but they aru speedily fatigued, and a well mounted horseman can overtake and catch them with very great facility. This is generally performed either by entangling them in a net, or striking them with a ball. The voice of this animal heard during the night, has a very singular, and by no means an agreeable, effect; it is a loud, sharp, and unpleasant cry, which may be thus expressed, 0, 0, 0, y: when taken, it also eries in the same manner. The independent Indians eat its white flesh, as likewise do the labouring people among the Spanish South-Americans. When taken young, they

aru easily tamed, will suffer themselves to be (Patagonian Cary.)

scratched and patted, receive bread from the

hand, eat of every thing, aru suffered to quit The PATAGONIAN Cavy.—The Agouti the house with impunity and will return des patagoni, is described at considerable to it with equal freedom. Their length is length by D'Azara, in his valuable Essay on about thirty inches; the tail an inch and a the Natural History of Paraguay. He in half, without hair, thick, and as hard as a forms us that this agouti is not precisely piece of wood; it is capable of motion, cyline known among the natives of that place; but drical and truncated, and slightly curved tothat he has seen and caught many of them wards its origin. between the thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth de- What is most reinarkable, in the fur, is a grees of south latitude, in the territory of white and narrow band, which, com

ommencing Pampas, to the south of Buenos Ayres. The on one of the haunches, proceeds to the other. domicile of the animal extends over the en- round by the tail; the hair on the body is of tire country of the Patagonians.

a dusky cast. D’Azara has seen carpets of The people of this region call it a harc; this hair, and they are much esteemed for but it is more Aeshy and larger than the hare their softness, and the agreeable effect they of Spain, and differs from it also very mate. produce on the eye.-Shaw.




Were it necessary to distinguish animals of the rat kind from all others, we might describe them as having two large cutting teeth, like the harc kind, in each jaw; as covered with hair; and as not ruminating. These distinctions might serve to guide us, had we not too near an acquaintance with this noxious race to be

(Rat and Young.) mistaken in their kind. Their. numbers, their minuteness, their vicinity, their vast multiplication, all sufficiently contribute to press them upon our obervation, and remind us of their existence. Indeed, if we look through the different ranks of animals, from the largest to the smallest, from the great elephant to the diminutive montse, we shall find that we suffer greater injuries from the contemptible meanness of the one, than the formidable invasions of the other. Against the elephant, the rhinoceros, or the lion, we can oppose united strength; and by art make up the deficiencies of natural power: these we have driven into their native solitudes, and obliged to continue at a distance, in the most inconvenient regions and unhealthful climates. But it is otherwise with the little teasing race I am now describing : no force can be exerted against their unresisting timidity; no arts can diminish their amazing propagation : millions may be at once destroyed, and yet the breach be repaired in the space of a very few weeks; and, in proportion as Nature has denied them force, it has supplied the defect by their fecundity.

THE GREAT RAT.–Of these, the animal best known at present, and in every respect the most mischievous, is the Great Rat; which, though but a new comer into this country, has taken too secure a possession to be ever removed. This hateful and rapacious creature, though sometimes called the Rat of Norway, is utterly unknown in all the northern countries, and, by the best accounts I can learn, comes originally from the Levant. Its first arrival, as I am assured, was upon the coasts of Ireland, in those ships that traded in provisions to Gibraltar; and perhaps we owe to a single pair of these animals, the numerons progeny that now infests the wbole extent of the British empire.t

* ANIMALS OF THE RAT KIND. - These middle of the 16th century, they were observed have the upper front teeth wedge-shaped, for the first time in the neighbourhood of three grinders on each side in each jaw, Paris, and M. F. Cuvier assures us that in though sometimes only two, and have perfect some departments of France, they are yet collar bones. In Turton's Linne, forty-six unknown. Pallas tells us that they arrived species are described, besides varicties. at Astracan in the autumn of 1727, in such

+ Tux SURMULOT.—This rat came from numbers, and in so short a time, that nothing the southern regions of Asia, and its instinct could be done to oppose them. They came has established it more completely among us from the western desert, and transversed the than we could have ever done by our intelli- waves of the Volga, which unquestionably gence. Vain efforts, indeed, are daily inade must have swallowed up a part of their horde. to naturalize in our climate, species that They have not advanced any farther north, might be useful, and which seem to require and are not to be found in Siberia. much less for that purpose than this animal, Tue COMMON Rat.-This and the surwhose wants are numerous. Notwithstanding mulot, or brown rat, appears not to be abori. this, it has been introduced and multiplied ginal in Europe. Nothing indicates any among us, in spite of every natural difficulty. knowledge of this animal amoug the ancients, Its multiplication is at present so great, that and the more modern authors who have it is impossible effectually to oppose its en- spoken clearly on the subject, go no further cioachinents and ravages. Towards the back than the sixteenth century. Some na This animal, which is called by Buffon the Surmulot, is in length about nine inches; its eyes are large and black ; the colour of the head, and the whole upper part of the body, is of a light brown, mixed with tawny and ash colour. The end of the nose, the throat and belly, are of a dirty white, inclining to a grey; the feet and legs are almost bare, and of a dirty, pale, flesh colour; the tail is as long as the body, covered with minute dusky scales, mixed with a few hairs, and adds to the general deformity of its detestable figure. It is chiefly in the colour that this animal differs from the black rat, or the common rat, as it was once called; but now common no longer. This new invader, in a very few years after its arrival, found means to destroy almost the whole species, and to possess itself of their retreats.


But it was not against the black rat alone that its rapacity was directed; all other animals of inferior strength shared the same misfortunes. The contest with the black rat was of short continuance. As it was unable to contend, and bad no holes to fly to for retreat, but where its voracious enemy could pursue, the whole race was soon extinguished. The frog also was an animal equally incapable of combat or defence. It had been designedly introduced into the kingdom of Ireland some years before the Norway rat; and it was seen to multiply amazingly. The inhabitants were pleased with the propagation of a harmiless animal, that served to rid their fields of insects; and even the prejudices of the people were in its favour, as they supposed that the frog contributed to render their waters more wholesome. But the Norway rat soon put a stop to their increase; as these animals were of an amphibious nature, they pursued the frog to its lakes and took it even in its own natural element. I am, therefore, assured, that the frog is once more almost extinct in that kingdom; and that the Norway rat, having no more enemies left there to destroy, is grown less numerons also.

We are not likely, therefore, to gain by the destruction of our old domestics, since they are replaced by such mischievous successors. The Norway rat has the same disposition to injure us, with much greater power of mischief. It burrows in the bank of rivers, ponds, and ditches; and is every year known to do incredible damage to those mounds that are raised to conduct streams, or to prevent rivers from overflowing. In these boles, which it forms pretty near the edge of the water, it chiefly resides during the summer, where it lives upon small animals, fish, and corn. At the approach of winter, it comes nearer the farm houses; burrows in their corn, eats much, and damages still more than it consumes. But nothing that can be eaten, seems to escape its voracity. It destroys rabbits, poultry, and all kinds of game; and, like the polecat, kills much more than it can carry away. It swims with great ease, dives with great celerity, and easily thins the fish pond. In short, scarce any of the feebler animals escape its rapacity, except the mouse, which shelters itself in its little hole, where the Norway rat is too big to follow.

These animals frequently produce from fifteen to thirty at a time ; (f) and usually bring forth three times a year.

To this species I will subjoin as a variety, the black rat, mentioned above, greatly resembling the former in figure, but very distinct in nature, as appears from their mutual antipathy. This animal was formerly as mischievous as it was common; but at present it is almost utterly extirpated by the great råt, one turalists think with Linnæus and Pallas, that refuge in the habitations of man, but where we have received it from America, and others the fields during the entire year present it believe that it is a present of our own to that with abundance of nutriment. In all this country, made after we had ourselves received part of America, accordingly, it has becomu it from the eastern regions. It is certain a perfect scourge, from its ravages and dethat the rat is to be found in all the tempe- vastations. In fact, the rat consumes an rate climates of the globe: that it is wonder- immense quantity of provisions, and destidys fully common in Persia, and multiplied to a or damages still more than it consumes, parprodigious extent in the western islands, ticularly in the fields, as it cuts up from the where it is not obliged by winter to seek a roots, plants of which it cats but a portion,

(8) Buffon, vol. xvii. p. 2.


malady often expelling another. It has become so scarce, that I do not remember ever to have seen one. It is said to be possessed of all the voracious and unnatural appetites of the former; though, as it is less, they may probably be less noxious. To this also we may subjoin the black water rat, about the same size with the latter, with a larger head, a blunter nose, less eyes, and shorter ears, and the tip of its tail a little white. It was supposed by Ray to be web-footed; but this has been found to be a mistake, its toes pretty much resembling those of its kind. It never frequents houses; but is usually found on the banks of rivers, ditches, and ponds, where it burrows and breeds. It feeds on fish, frogs, and insects; and in some countries it is eaten on fasting days.

THE MOUSE.-An animal equally mischievous, and equally well known with the former, is the mouse. T'imid, cautious, and active, all its dispositions are similar to those of the rat, except with fewer powers of doing mischief. (8) Fearful by nature, but familiar from necessity, it attends upon mankind, and comes an unbidden_guest to his most delicate entertainments. Fear and necessity seem to regulate all its motions; it never leaves its hole but to seek provision, and seldom ventures above a few paces from

(Mouse.) home. Different from the rat, it does not go from one house to another, unless it be forced; and, as it is more easily satisfied, it dots much less mischief.t

ANECDOTE.-Dr. Shaw in his general Zoo- fed together; after which the dog, cat, and logy, informs us, that a gentleman travel rat, lay before the fire, while the raven hopped ling through Mecklenburg, about thirty years about the room. The landlord after account. ago, was witness to the following uriousing for the familiarity which existed among circumstance in the post house Tew the animals, informed his guest that the rat Stargard. After dinner, the landlord /.aced was the most useful of the four, for the noise on the floor a large dish of soup, and gave a he made had completely freed the house from loud whistle. Immediately there came into the rats and mice with which it was before the room a mastiff, a fine Angora cat, an old infested. raven, and a remarkably large rat with a bell DESTRUCTION OF Rats.-Rats are effecabout its neck. The four animals went to tually banished by sprinkling chloride of lime the dish, and without disturbing each other, in their haunts.-MIRROR.

+ BARBARY Mouse.-(Mus Barbaru) – Less than the common mouse : of a brown colour: marked on the back with ten slender streaks : three toes with claws on the fore feet, with the rudiments of a thumb: tail of the length of the body. Inhabits Barbary.-PENNANT.

FRENCH Micr.-A variety of the mouse kind many of our readers have seen in the 2 streets of London; shown about by the Savoyards, of a milk white colour, with red eyes. We merely allude to this variety, which both in size and disposition does not differ from the common coloured sort, to state, that attempts at domesticating the kind on this side of the chan

(Barbary Mouse.) nel have proved abortive, from the hostility, (we believe), generally mani- and in one sense, useful end, in earning for fested by our native mice to the elegant little their adventurous protectors, a subsistence by stranger. As it is, they answer an innocent, the gratuities of the curious and humane. -Ep.

(8) Buffon, vol. xv. p. 145.


Almost all animals are tamed more difficulty in proportion to the cowardice of their natures. The truly bold and courageous easily become familiar, but those that are always fearful are ever suspicious. The mouse being the most feeble, and consequently the most timid of all quadrupeds, except the guineapig, is never rendered thoroughly familiar; and, even thongh fed in a cage. retains its natural apprehensions. In fact, it is to these alone that it owes its security: (&) No animal has more enemies, and few so incapable of resistance. The owl, the cat, the snake, the bawk, the weasel, and the rat itself, destroy this species by millions, and it only subsits by its amazing fecundity.

The mouse brings forth at all seasons, and several times in the year. Its usual number is from six to ten.* These in less than a fortnight are strong enough to run about and shift for themselves. They are chiefly found in farmer's yards and among their corn, but are seldom in those ricks that are much infested with rats. They generally choose the south-west side of the rick, from whence inost rain is expected; and from thence they often, of an evening, venture forth to drink the little drops either of rain or dew that bang at the extremities of the straw. (8)

To this species, merely to avoid teasing the reader with a minute description of animals very inconsiderable and very nearly alike, I will add that of the longtailed field-mouse, which is larger than the former, of a colour very nearly resemnbling the Norway rat, and chiefly found in fields and gardens. They are tremely voracious, and hurtful in gardens and young nurseries, where they are

(Long-tailed field-mouse.) killed in great nunbers. However, their fecundity quickly repairs the destruction.

* The FECUNDITY OF Mice. – An extra- it was found that they fed greedily on the ordinary instance of the rapid increase of latter, and left the roots untouched. Various mice, and of the injury they sometimes do, plans were devised for their destruetion ; occured a few years ago in the new planta. traps were set, poison laid, and cats turned tions, made by order of the Crown, in the out, but nothing appeared to lessen their num. Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, and in the bers. It was at last suggested, that if holes New Forest, Hampshire. Soon after the were dug into which the mice might be formation of these plantations, a sudden and enticed or fall, their destruction might be rapid increase of mice took place in them, effected. Holes, therefore, were made, about which threatened destruction to the whole of twenty yards asunder, in some of the Dean the young plants. Vast numbers of these Forest Plantations, being about twelve in were killed, -the mice having eaten through each acre of ground. These holes were from the root of five years old oaks and chestnuts, eighteen to twenty inches in depth, and two generally just below the surface of the ground. feet one way, and a half the other, and they Hollies also, which were five and six feet were much wider at the bottom than the top, high, were barked round the bottom, and in being excavated hollow under, so that the some instances the mice had crawled up the animal, when once in, could not easily get tree, and were even feeding on the bark of the out again. In these holes, at least 30,000 upper branches.

Iu the reports made to mice were caught in the course of three or Government on the subject, it appears that four months, that number having been the roots had been eaten through wherever counted out and paid for by the proper officers they obstructed the run of the mice, but that of the forest. It was however calculated, that the bark of the trees constituted their food. a much greater number of mice than these This was ascertained by confiuing a number were taken out of the holes, after being of the mice in cages, and supplying them caught, by stoats, weasels, kites, hawks and with the fresh roots and bark of trees, whence owls, and also by crows, jays, and magpies. (8) E volucribus hirundines sunt indociles, e terrestribus mures.—Plin.

(g) Buffon, vol. xv. p. 147.

« PreviousContinue »