Page images

Nearly resembling the former, but larger, (for it is six inches long) is the short. tailed field-mouse ; which, as its name implies, bas the tail much shorter than the former, it being not above an inch and a half long, and ending in a small tuft. Its colour is inore inclining to that of the domestic mouse, the upper part being blackish, and the under of an ash colour. This, as well as the fornier, are remarkable for laying up provision against winter; and Buffon assures us they sometimes have a store of above a busbel at a time.*.

We may add also the shrew-mouse to this species of minnte animals, being about the size of the domestic mouse, but differing greatly from it in the form of its nose, which is very long and slender. The teeth also are of a very singular form, and twentyeight in number; whereas the common number in the rat kind is usually not above sixteen. The two upper foreteeth are very sharp, and on each side of them there is a

(Shrew-mouse.) kind of wing or beard, like that of an arrow, scarce visible but on a close inspection. The other teeth are


As the mice increased, so did the birds of prey, of which at last there were an incredible number. In New Forest, from the weekly reports of the deputy surveyor of the forest, about the same number were destroyed, allowing the same calculation for those eaten by vermin: and in addition to which, it should be mentioned, that these mice were found to eat each other when their food fell short in winter. Putting these circumstances together, the total destruction of mice in the two forests, would probably amount to more than 200,000.-- Jesse's GLEANINGS.

* The Harvest Mouse.-This is probably the smallest of British quadrupeds, the body not exceeding two inches and a quarter in length; the weight is said to be about one sixth of an ounce. Mr. White in his history of Selbome, (a sort of work well worthy of imitation, particularly by the clergy and others, who, with the blessings of a liberal education, possess the means of local observation,) first made the species known to the public, nor indeed have we any other original account of it:

(Harvest Mouse.) “These mice are much smaller and more slender than the Mus domesticus medius of belongs. It is so compact and well fitted, Ray, and have more of the squirrel or dor. that it will roll across a table without being mouse colour. They never enter into houses; discomposed, though it contained eight little are carried into ricks and barns with the mice, which are naked and blind. As the sheaves: abound in harvest, and build their nest is perfectly full, how could the dam come best amidst the straws of corn above the at her litter respectively, so as to administer a ground, and sometimes in thistles. They teat to each? Perhaps she opens different breed as many as eight at a litter, in a little places for that purpose, adjusting them again brown nest, composed of blades of grass and when the business is over ; but she could not wheat. The nest is most artificially platted, possibly be contained in the ball with her perfectly round, and about the size of a cricket young, which moreover, would be daily in, hall, with the aperture so ingeniously closed, creasing in bulk."--NATURAL HISTORY OF that there is no discovering to which part it SELBORNE.

placed close together, being very small, and seeming scarce separated; so that with respect to this part of its formation, the animal has some resemblance to the viper. However, it is a very harmless, little creature, doing scarce any injury. On the contrary, as it lives chiefly in the fields, and feeds more upon insects than corn, it may be considered rather as a friend than an enemy. It has a strong disagreeable smell, so that the cat, when it is killed, will refuse to eat it. It is said to bring four or five young at a time.*

THE DORMOUSE.— These animals may be distinguished into three kinds : the greater dormouse, which Buffon calls the Loir; the middle, wbicb he calls the Lerot; the less, which he denominates the Muscardin. They differ from each other in size, the largest being equal to a rat, the least being no bigger than a mouse.

They inhabit woods or very thick hedges, forming their pests in the hollow of some tree, or near the bottom of a close shrub, humbly content with continuing at the bottom, and never aspi. ring to sport among the branches. Towards the approach of the cold season they form a little magazine of nuts, beans, or acorns; and, having laid in their hoard, shut themselves up with it for the winter. As soon as they feel the first advances of the cold, they

(Muscardin Mouse.) prepare to lessen its effect, by rolling themselves up in a ball, and thus exposing the smallest surface to the weather. But it often happens that the warmth of a sunny day, or an accidental change from cold to heat, thaws their `nearly stagnant fluids, and they revive. On such occasions they have their provisions laid in, and they have not far to seek for their support. In this manner they continue usually asleep, but sometimes waking, for above five months in the year, seldom venturing from their retreats,


* The Economic CAMPAGNOL. — The waited about two hours for them to pass. The length of this animal is about four inches. retirement of these animals is considered by It is found in various parts of Siberia and the Khamtschatdales as a serious misfortune; Khamtschatka, where they make their bur- but their return occasions the utmost joy and rows. The migration of these quadrupeds festivity, a successful chase and fishery being have been noticed by Dr. Grieve and Pennant. always considered as its certain consequence.” “ In the spring," says the former writer, Kerr informs us, that the Khamtschatdales

they assemble in amazing numbers, and never destroy the hoards of these rats. Someproceed in a direct course westward, swim- times, indeed, they take away part of their ming with the utmost intrepidity over rivers, store ; but in return for this, they invariably lakes, and even arms of the sea. Many are leave some caveare, or other food, to support drowned, and many are destroyed by water them in its stead. fowl or rapacious fish. Those that escape, on emerging from the water, rest awhile to MANNER OF CROSSING RIVERS. — The bask, dry their fur, and refresh themselves. manner in which the economic campagnol The Khamtschatdales, who have a kind of on their foraging excursions cross the rivers superstitious veneration for these little ani. of Iceland, is thus described by Olaffen : mals, whenever they find any of them on the “The party, consisting of from six to ten, banks of the rivers, weak and exhausted, select a fat piece of dried cow-dung, on which render them every possible assistance. As they place the berries they collected in a heap soon as they have crossed the river Peas on the middle. Then with their united forces, chinska, at the head of the gulph of the same drawing it to the water's edge, they launch name, they turn in a south westernly direction; it, and embark; placing themselves round and about the middle of July, generally the heap, with their heads joined over it, and reach the rivers Ochetska and Judoma, a their backs to the water, their tails pendent distance of about a thousand miles! The in the stream, serving the purpose of rud. flocks are also so numerous, that travellers have ders."


PERIODICAL LETHARGY. – A. M. Man- + The Far DORMOUSE.—This species is gili, of Pavia, has published his observations still used for food in Italy, and is taken on the periodical lethargy of this species in simply by preparing a fit place for its winter particular, among lethargic quadrupeds. His quarters in the wood, which is large enough hypothesis is, that the arterial blood necessary for many of them to retire to, whence they to excite and revive the fibres of the cerebral are taken toward the end of Autumn. The organ, flows less copionsly to this organ in Romans were very fond of them as food ; the hybernating animals, on account of the they kept and fattened them for the table in small number of the arteries he had found in receptacles called Gliraria. Martial tells us such animals, and of the smallness of their that they are fattest after hybernating, when calibre; these concurring with other exterior they have had nothing but sleep to fatten on; causes of debility, diminishes the energy of on which Buffon observes, that the Loir, at the fibres of the brain, and produces at first all times fat, keeps itself in condition in sleep, and eventually, continued lethargy.- winter by waking occasionally, and taking TRANSACTIONS Royal Society.

food at intervals.

(8) Buffon, vol. xx. p. 4.

sking, which are very valuable.* They then also acquire a very strong scent of musk, so pleasing to an European, but which the savages of Canada cannot abide. What we admire as a perfume, they consider as a most abominable stench, and call one of their rivers, on the banks of which this animal is seen to burrow in numbers, by the name of the stinking river, as well as the rat itself, which is denominated by them the stinkard. This is a strange diversity among mankind; and, perhaps, may be ascribed the different kinds of food among different nations. Such as chiefly feed upon rancid oils and putrid flesh, will often mistake the nature of scents; and, having been long used to ill smells, will by babit consider them as perfumes. Be this as it will, although these nations of northern savages consider the musk rat as intolerably fætid, they nevertheless regard it as very good eating ; and, indeed, in this they imitate the epicures of Europe very exactly, whose taste seldom relishes a dish till the pose gives the strongest marks of disapprobation. As to the rest, this animal a good deal resembles the beaver in its habits and disposition; but, as its instincts are less powerful, and its economy less exact, I will reserve for the description of that animal a part of what may be appli able to this.

THE CRICETUS.—The cricetus, or German rat, which Buffon calls the Hamster, greatly resembles the water-rat in its size, small eyes, and the shortness of its tail. It differs in colour, being rather browner, like the Norway rat, with the belly and legs of a dirty, yellow. But the marks by which it may be distinguished from all others, are two pouches, like those of a baboon, on each side of its jaw, under the skin, into which it can cram a large

(Hamster.) quantity of provision. These bags are oblong, and of the size, when filled, of a large walnut. They open into the mouth, and fall back along the neck to the shoulder. Into these the animal can thrust the surplus of those fruits or grains it gathers in the fields, such as wheat, peas, or acorns. When the immediate calls of hunger are satisfied, it then falls to filling these ; and thus, loaded with two great hunches on each side of the jaw, it returns home to its hole to deposit the spoil as a store for the winter. The size, the fecundity, and the voraciousness of this animal render it one of the greatest pests in the countries where it is found, and every method is made use of to destroy it.

But, although this animal is very noxions with respect to man, yet, considered with regard to those instincts which conduce to its own support and convenience,

* The Musi Rar. The Indians kill sitting on the shores of small muddy islands, these animals by spearing them through the in a rounded form, and not easily to be diswalls of their houses, making their approach tinguished from a piece of earth, until on the with great caution, for the Musquashes take approach of danger, it suddenly plunges into to the water when alarmed by a noise on the the water. In the act of diving, when surice. An experienced hunter is so well ac- prised, it gives a smart blow to the water quainted with the direction of the chamber, with its tail. Hearne states that it is easily and the position in which its inmates lie, tamed, soon grows fond, is very cleanly and that he can transfix four or five at a time. playful, and smells pleasantly (!) of musk. As soon as, from the motion of the spear, it The fur of this animal is used in the mais evident that an animal is struck, the house nufacture of hats. Between four and five is broken down, and it is taken out. The hundred thousand skins are annually im. Musquash is a watchful, but not a very shy ported into Great Britain from North Ameanimal. It will come very near to a boat or rica. RICHARDSON'S NORTH AMERICAN canoe, but divos instantly on perceiving the ZOOLOGY. flash of a gun. It may be frequently seen


it deserves our admiration. (8) Its hole offers a very curious object for contem. plation, and shows a degree of skill superior to the rest of the rat kind.* It consists of a variety of apartments fitted up for the different occasions of the little inhabitant. It is generally made on an inclining ground, and always has two entrances, one perpendicular and the other oblique; though, if there be more than one in a family, there are as many perpendicular boles as there are individuals below. The perpendicular hole is usually that through which they go in and out: the oblique serves to give a thorough air to keep the retreat clean, and, in case one hole is stopped, to give an exit at this. Within about a foot of the perpendicnlar hole, the animal makes two more, where are deposited the family's provisions. These are much more spacious than the former, and are large in proportion to the quantity of the store. Beside these, there is still another apartment warmly lined with grass and straw, where the female brings forth her young; all these communicate with each other, and all together take up a space of ten or twelve feet in diameter. These animals furnish their storehonses with dry corn well cleaned; they also lay in corn in the ear, and beans and peas in the pod. These, when occasion requires, they afterwards separate, carrying out the pods and empty ears by their oblique passage. They usually begin to lay in at the latter end of August; and, as each magazine is filled, they carefully cover up the mouth with earth, and that so neatly that it is no easy matter to discover where the earth has been removed. The only means of finding out their retreats are, therefore, to observe the oblique entrance, wbich generally has a small quantity of earth before it; and this, though often several yards from their perpendicular retreat, leads those who are skilled in the search to make the discovery. Many German peasants are known to make a livelihood by finding out and bringing off their boards, which, in a fruitful season, often furnish two bushels of good grain in each apartment.

Like most others of the rat kind, they produce twice or thrice a year, and bring five or six at a time.

THE LEMMING.–Having considered various kinds of these noxious little animals that elude the indignation of mankind, and subsist by their number, not their strength, we come to a species more bold, more dangerous, and more numerous than any of the former. The lemming, which is a native of Scandinavia, is often seen to pour down in myriads from the northern mountains, and, like a pestilence, destroy all the productions of the earth. It

(Lemming.) is described as being larger than a dormouse, with a bushy tail, though shorter. It is covered with thin hair


INSTINCT AND INTELLIGENCE.— Nothing remarkable faculties are usually accompanied so greatly shows the power and extent of the by organs the most limited, and physical resources of Nature, as the modes in which qualities the most feeble. The circumstance, she supplies by instinct the want of intelli- however, which separates instinct from intelgence, and puts a blind and necessary force ligence, and gives to the latter the most dein the place of judgment and reason. When cided superiority, is, that instinct is circumthis is done, we find those beings which are scribed to a small number of actions, out of in reality the most stupid, appear to possess the range of which it is absolutely nothing. the most extensive intellectual faculties. But intelligence, on the contrary, always They seem to approximate to man, to equal, present, and always ready for action, extends nay, to surpass him in foresight and saga. itself to all circumstances, to all times, and city. What is most singular is, that these to all places. With instinct the world is

(8) Buffon, vol. xxvi. p. 159.

« PreviousContinue »