Page images

are about the size of a small pea, each answering to as many holes which appear on the outward surface of the skin, and which are about half an inch deep, like as many hollow pipes, wherein the quills are fixed, as in so many sheaths.

This animal seems to partake very much of the nature of the hedge-hog; having this formidable apparatus of arms rather to defend itself, than annoy the enemy. There have been, indeed, many naturalists who supposed that it was capable of discharging them at its foes, and killing at a great distance off. But this opinion bas been entirely discredited of late ; and it is now universally believed that its quills remain firmly fixed in the skin, and are then only shed when the animal moults them, as birds do their feathers. It is probable, that the porcupine when attacked by bolder animals, directs its quills so as to keep always pointing towards the enemy.*. These are an ample protection ; and, as we are assured hy Kolben, at such times, even the lion himself will not venture to make an attack. From such, therefore, the por. upine can defend itself: and chiefly hunts for serpents, and all other reptiles, for subsistence. Travellers universally assure us that, between the serpent and the porcupine there exist an irreconcileable enmity, and that they never meet without a mortal engagement.

The Americans, who hunt this animal, assure us, that the porcupine lives from twelve to fifteen years. During the time of coupling, which is in the month of September, the males become very fierce and dangerous, and often are seen to destroy each other with their teeth. The female goes with young seven months, and brings forth but one at a time; this she suckles but about a month, and accustoms it betimes to live, like herself, upon vegetables and the bark of trees ; she is very fierce in its defence; but, at other seasons, she is fearful, timid, and harmless.

The porcupine does not escape so well from the Indian hunter, who eagerly pursues it, in order so make embroidery of its quills, and to eat its flesh. This, as we are commonly told, is very tolerable eating; however, we may expect wretched provisions when the savages are to be our caterers, for they eat every thing that has life. But they are very ingenious with regard to their embroidery: if I understand the accounts rightly, they dye the quills of various colours, and then splitting them into slips, as we see in the making of a cave-chair, they embroider, with these, their belts, baskets, and several other necessary pieces of furniture.

The porcupines of America differ very much from those of the ancient continent, which we have been describing; and, strictly speaking, may be considered as animals of a different species : however, from their being covered with quills, we will only add them as varieties of the former, since we know very little concerning them, except their difference of figure. They are of two kinds; the one

* Porcupine Quills.—Porcupines are of- one of his Hottentots, who had received a ten found in beating canes for hogs; they wound in his leg from a porcupine, was ill for are easily speared; the flesh of the young more than six months. ones is very gour!, and sometimes similar to

SHOOTING ITS Quills. Upon the slightest pork or veal. With respect to shooting their irritation it raises its quills, and shakes them quills, it is merely fabulous : dogs are apt to with great violence, directing them to that run upon them, and the quills being sharp, quarter from whence it is in danger of being penetrate so deeply, and hold so fast, as to attacked, and striking at the object of its reoccasion them to quit their matrice or inser. sentment at the same time. “We have obtion in the porcupine's skin. The wounds served, on an occasion of this sort, at a time are not dangerous except from their depth. when the animal was moulting or casting its Many horses will not approach porcupines quills, that they would fly out to the distance when running, by reason of a peculiar rat- of a few yards, with such force as to bend tling their quills make against each other. the points of them against the board where The horseman should stab his spear into they struck; and it is not improbable that a porcupines, there being no danger in approach. circumstance of this kind may have given ing them.-ORIENTAL Field SPORTS. rise to an opinion of its power to use them in

M. D. Vaillant in his Travels, says, that a more efféctual manner. - - Bewick's Hisowing to some pernicious quality in the quills, TORY OF QUADRUPEDS.

[ocr errors]

called the coendou: and the other, first named by Buffon, the urson; the one a native of the northern parts of America, the other of the south ; and both differing from the former, in having long tails, whereas that has a very short one.

The coendou, is much less than the porcupine ; its quills are four times shorter, its snout more unlike that of a hare ; its tail is long enough to catch by the branches of trees, and hold by them. It may be easily tamed, and is to be found chiefly in the southern parts of America; yet is not wanting also in the northern.*

* The PREUENSII.E PORCUPINE OR COENDOU.–The relations which animals were first observed to bear to one another reposed on general appearances only, on the resemblance of their ont. ward forms, on the nature of their integuments, and, in a word, on the inost superficial and obvious organs. Thus the porcupine and the hedge-hog, being both covered with a conspicuous defensive armour of spines, were classed together, as being animals whose organization was analogous. They

(Preheusile Porcupine.) were regarded in this manner by the ancients; and in the posthu. Hope: they are met with in Asia Minor, mous volumes of Aldrovandus, published in Palestine, and Persia : they exist in all the the 17th century, we find them thus associated southern parts of Asia, and the neighbouring together. The erroneous nature of these ap- islands; and lastly, South and North Ameproximations was so palpable, that it was de- rica equally produce them. tected the instant an attempt was made to From what we know already of the laws classify animals by their natural affinities; which regulate the geographical distribution and the porcupine was transfered to the of animals, it might be presumed that these rodentia, while the hedge-hog was left next spine-coated rodentia would include different the shrews. But the porcupine was not the genera, requiring only the means of instituonly rodent which had long spines instead of ting the necessary comparisons in order to hairs : other species were found in America, bring their distinctive characters to light. in the East Indies, and in Africa; and we This has been effected in a great measure by find Ray, Linnæus, and the majority of their the labours of M. Fred. Cuvier, who has sepasuccessors, grouping all these animals in the rated from the genus Hystrix of Linnæus, same genus, under the common appellation of the Java porcupine, under the title of Acanporcupine (Hystrix). In this approximation thion; the Canada porcupine, or urson of they were doubtless influenced, though with Buffon, under that of Erethizon; the Brazisome restrictions, by the same preconception lian porcupine, under that of Sphiggurus : which had guided their predecessors, by that and for the Mexican species, he proposes the early notion that animals covered with integu- generic name of Synetheres, as preferable to ments of so remarkable a kind should form a that of Coendus, originally given to it by the natural group. However, as one of these Count Lacépède. porcupines had a prehensile tail, M. de The coendou is an animal altogether pecuLacépède separated it from the rest, to form liar and distinct: no other species resembles the type of a distinct though allied genus. it in its general forms. Its gait is as heavy

These rodentia, armed at all points by and ungraceful as its proportions, notwithstrong and acute spines, the porcupines standing it is endowed with an additional mentioned in travels and works of natural locomotive organ to those usually granted to history,—are already ascertained to be toler. the rodentia, viz. a prehensile tail. But it is ably numervus ; but they are far from being in the shape of the head and muzzle that it all so well known as to enable us to deter. is more especially remarkable. All that part mine their real nature, and mark out their which corresponds to the brain is raised and affinities. Those of Italy and Spain are said expanded so as to announce a most highly to have been originally derived from Africa. developed cerebral organ within; but this is in Porcupines are common in Barbary, Abys- reality no larger than in other rodents. The sinia, Guinea, and at the Cape of Good phrenological character is here produced by The urson, which Buffon calls after our countryman Hudson, is a native of Hudson's Bay. The make of the body of this animal is not so round as that of the two former, but somewhat resembling the shape of the pig. It is covered with long bristly hair, with a shorter bair underneath ; and under this the quills lie concealed very thick; they are white, with a brown point, and bearded, and the longest do not exceed four inches; they stick to the band when the animal is stroked on the back; and likewise, when the hand is taken away, they stick so fast as to follow it. They make their nest under the roots of great trees, sleep very much, and chiefly feed upon the bark of the juniper. In winter the snow serves them for drink; and in summer they lap water, like a dog. They are very common in the country lying to the east of Hudson's Bay; and several of the trading Americans depend on them for food, at some seasons of the year. * large sinuses, which extend in every direc- portion of the tail. Strong whiskers project tion over the frontal bones, covering the brain from the sides of the muzzle. The organs of anteriorly, and augmenting the extent of the motion have a special structure, from which organ of smell; for these cavities communi- results the natural destination of the coendou cate with the nostrils. The muzzle presents to be an animal of the woods, to live on trees, a thick, obtuse, fleshy projection, in front of to dwell on their summits, to derive from which are the orifices of the nostrils, of a very them its nourishment, and there to propagate simple form. In all these respects there is and rear its family. Its fore feet are strong, no resemblance between this animal and the with four distinct and regular digits, armed porcupine ; and the same characters serve with long and strong, but thin and pointed, even better than the prehensile tail to sepa- claws. The thumb is indicated merely by a rate it from every other rodent, being indica- large movable tubercle, covered with a very tive of a fundamentally different nature, pecu- papillose skin, and capable of being opposed liar habits, and consequently the type of a to a certain degree to the other digits. The distinct genus. But if by its physiognomy hind-feet have also four toes; the sole is simiit is found isolated from all the other known larly papillose, and the thumb seems st II species of its class, it nevertheless appertains more developed in them than iu the fore-feet; in its dentition, like the other spiny genera, so that the animal can truly grasp objects to the omnivorous rodentia with compound between this thumb and the other digits, teeth.


which gives it the faculty of perching, alThe coendou has four molaries on either most like birds, on the smallest branches. side, both in the upper and the lower jaw, The spines are mostly of a yellowish white which diminish iu size from before back. colour at the root, black in the middle, and wards: their structure is analogous to that of white at their extremity. The thickest are the urson.

on the anterior parts of the body, and the The external conformation does not indi. lungest on the back, where they measure cate a lively or predominant sensibility in any about three inches in length. On the extreof the organs of sense. The eyes are small mities, the sides of the head, and along the and prominent, and their pupil, which can first half of the tail, they are thinner and only be distinguished by a weak light, is shorter ; and on the remainder of the tail, round: it is closed altogether in full day, and on the under parts of the body, they light. The nostrils open by two simple cir- are gradually reduced to the dimensions of cular apertures, which are situated close toge. simple airs. The muzzle and soles of the ther on a broad Aattened surface, covered with feet are naked, and are of a reddish brown a smooth but not glandular integument. It colour. is by the sense of smell chiefly that this All the movements of the coendou are animal takes cognizance of external objects. slow, and bespeak circumspection and timi. The ear is of an extremely simple structure, dity. It only takes exercise in the evening, being composed merely of a circular ridge or during the night; and although it is then crossed transversely by two slight elevations. tolerably active, it has never been seen to The mouth is of a remarkably diminutive make a bound. When it would pass from size, scarcely opening sufficiently to allow a one place to another, it advances by degrees, passage for the incisors, or permitting any fixing each of its feet; and before raising great degree of separation of the jaws. The any of them it assures itself of the stable tongue is smooth: there are no cheek footing of the others; and its tail, wound pouches.

round the objects within its reach, is really to The exterior coat consists almost entirely grasp them if the other points of support of spines, adhering to the skin by a narrow should fail. This animal can raise itself pedicle, and consequently detaching them- upon its hind-feet, and in that position carselves readily from it. Hairs are found only ries its food to its mouth with the fore feet. on the under parts of the body and upon a * The PORCUPINE. — We are informed by




WHEN we talk of a quadruped, the name seems to imply an animal covered with hair; when we mention a bird, it is natural to conceive a creature covered with leathers; when we hear of a fish, its scales are generally the first part that strikes our imagination.* Nature, however, owns none of our distinctions; various in all her operations, she mixes her plans, groups her pictures, and excites our wonder as well by ber general laws as by her deviations,

Were we to judge of nature from definitions only, we should never be induced to suppose that there existed races of vivaparous quadrupeds destitute of hair, and furnished with scales and shells in their stead. However, nature, every way various, supplies us with many instances of these extraordinary creatures ; the old world has its quadrupeds covered with scales, and the new with a shell. In both they resemble each other, as well in the strangeness of their appetites, as in their awkward conformation. Like animals but partially made up, and partaking of different natures, they want those instincts wbich animals formed but for one element alone are found to possess. They seem to be a kind of strangers in nature, creatures taken from some other element, and capriciously thrown to find a precarious subsistence upon land.

The Pangolin, which has been usually called the scaly lizard, Buffon very judiciously restores to that denomination by which it is known in the countries where it is found. This animal, which is a native of the torrid climates of the ancient continent, is, of all other animals, the best protected from external injury by nature. It is about three or four feet long, or, taking in the tail, from six to eight. Like the lizard, it has a small head, a very long nose, a short, thick neck, a long body, legs very short, and a tail ex

(Pangolin.) tremely long, thick at the insertion, and terminating in a point. It has no Agricola, that the porcupine of Italy was an D’Azara published his Essay on the Quadruexotic in that country, brought either from peds of Paraguay, which includes Africa or India. It has long been naturalized cies. He tells us that most of them dig in the south of Europe. The only difference burrows in the earth, which they commonly observed between the porcupine of Italy and direct under an angle of 45° ; but that they that of Africa is, that the fornier is rather turu so as to make it difficult to ascertain less than the latter, and that the spines are their length, which is presumed, however, to not so strong. The European variety is found be from six to eight feet. principally in the kingdom of Naples, and in Some of the species have nocturnal habits, the southern parts of the Roman States. It and are very timid, flying to their burrows avoids populous parts, and selects stony and the moment they hear a noise. These are dry situations. Its extreme timidity seems very much quicker in their motions than to induce it to continue in its retreat and to might be supposed, from the hindrances seek its sustenance only in the night.- incident to their heavy covering. Other speGRIFFITH.

cies quit their retreat equally by day and * GENUS DASYPUS.—We possessed very night, and these are said not to be so rapid seanty information on these animals till in their motions as the others.-Cuvier.

(g) This chapter is chiefly extracted from Buffon, which I meution at once, to save the trouble of repeated quotations.


ight spe

teeth, but is armed with five toes on each foot, with long white claws. But what it is chiefly distinguished by is its scaly covering, which in some measure hides all the proportions of its body. These scales defend the animal on all parts, except the under part of the head and neck, under the shoulders, the breast, the belly, and the inner side of the legs; all which parts are covered with a smooth soft skin, without hair. Between the shells of this animal, at all the interstices, are seen hairs like bristles, brown at the extremity, and yellow towards the root. The scales of this extraordinary creature are of different sizes and different forms, and stuck upon the body somewhat like the leaves of an artichoke. The largest are found near the tail, which is covered with them like the rest of the body. These are above three inches broad, and about two inches long, thick in the middle, and sharp at the edges, and terminated in a roundish point. They are extremely hard, and their substance resembles that of born. They are convex on the outside, and a little concave on the inner; one edge sticks in the skin, while the other laps over that immediately behind it. Those that cover the tail conform to the shape of that part, being of a dusky brown colour, and so hard, when the animal has acquired its full growth, as to turn a musket-ball.

Thus armed, this animal fears nothing from the efforts of all other creatures, except man. The instant it perceives the approach of an enemy, it rolls itself np like the hedge-hog, and presents no part but the cutting edges of its scales to the assailant. Its long tail, which, at first view, might be thought easily separable, serves still more to increase the animal's security. This is lapped round the rest of the body, and, being defended with shells even more cutting than any other part, the creature continues in perfect security. Its shells are so large, so thick, and so pointed, that they repel every animal of prey ; they make a coat of armour that wounds while it resists, and at once protects and threatens. The most cruel, the most famished quadruped of the forest, the tiger. the pan. ther, and the hyæna, make vain attempts to force it. They tread upon, they roll it about, but all to no purpose ; the pangolin remains sale within, while its invader almost always feels the reward of its rashness. The fox often destroys the hedge-hog by pressing it with his weight, and thus obliges it to put forth its nose, which he instantly seizes, and soon after the whole body; but the scales of the pangolin effectually support it under any such weight, while nothing that the strongest animals are capable of doing can compel it to surrender. Man alone seems furnished with arms to conquer its obstinacy. The negroes of Africa, when they find it, beat it to death with clubs, and consider its flesh as a very great delicacy.

But, although this animal be so formidable in its appearance, there cannot be a more harmless, inoffensive creature when unmolested. It is even unqualified by nature to injure larger animals, if it had the disposition, for it has no teeth, It should seem that the bony matter, which goes in other animals to supply the teeth, is exhausted in this in supplying the scales that go to the covering of its body. However this be, its life seems correspondent to its peculiar conformation. Incapable of being carnivorous, since it has no teeth, nor of subsisting on vegetables, which require much chewing, it lives entirely upon insects, for which nature bas fitted it in a very extraordinary manner. As it has a long nose, so it may naturally be supposed to have a long tongue; but, to increase its length still more, it is doubled in the mouth, so that when extended it is shot out to above a quarter of a yard beyond the tip of the nose. This tongue is round, extremely red, and covered with an unctious and slimy liquor which gives it a shining hue. When the pangolin, therefore, approaches an ant hill, for these are the insects on which it chiefly feeds, it lies down near it, concealing as much as possible the place of its retreat, and stretching out its long tongue among the ants, keeps it for some time quite immovable. These little animals, allured by its appearance, and the unctuous substance with which it is smeared, instantly gather upon it in great numbers; and when the pangolin suppuses a sufficiency, it quickly withdraws the tongue, and swallows them at once. This peculiar manner of hunting for its prey is repeated either till it be satisfied, or

« PreviousContinue »