Page images

the time which these animals take to continue in the false womb : some assure us they remain there for several weeks; and others, more precisely, mention a month. During this period of strange gestation, there is no difficulty in opening the bag in which they are concealed: they may be reckoned, examined, and handled, without much inconvenience; for they keep fixed to the teat, and cling there as firm as if they made a part of the body of the animal that bears them. When they are grown stronger, they drop from the teat into the bag in which they are contained; and, at last, find their way out in search of more copious subsistence. Still, however, the false belly serves them for a retreat, either when they want to sleep or to suckle, or when they are pursued by an enemy. The dam, on such occasions, opens her bag to receive them, which they enter,

- Pars formidine turpi Scandunt rursus equum et nota conduntur in alvo. The oppossum, when on the ground, is a slow, helpless animal : the formation of its hands are alone sufficient to show its incapacity of running with any degree of swiftness; but, to counterbalance this inconvenience, it climbs trees with great ease and expedition.(g) It chiefly subsists upon birds, and hides among the leaves of the trees to seize them by surprise. It often also hangs by the tail, which is long and muscular; and, in this situation, for hours together, with the bead downwards, it keeps watching for its prey. If any lesser animal, which it is able to overcome, passes underneath, it drops upon it with deadly aim and quickly devours it. By means of its tail, the oppossum also slings from one tree to another, hunts insects, escapes its pursuers, and provides for its safety. It seems to be a creature that lives upon vegetables, as well as animal substances, roots, sugar-canes, the bark, and even the leaves of trees. It is easily tamed, but it is a disagreeable domestic, as well from its stupidity and figure as its scent, which, however fragrant in small quantities, fails not to be ungrateful when copiously supplied.

SU An animal, greatly resembling the former,(8) is the Marmose, which is found in the same continent. It seems only to

lai no differ in size, being less; and, instead of a bag to receive its young, has only two longitudinal folds near the thighs, within which the young, which are prematurely brought forth, as in the last instance, continue to suckle. The young of these, when first produced are not above the size of a bean, but continue sticking to the teat until they

som have arrived at greater maturity.

(The M xican Oppossum.) bei The Cayopolin is somewhat larger than the former; and a good deal resembling it in habits and figure, except that its snout is more pointed, its tail longer in proportion, and its colour different, being of an ash, somewhat inclining to yellow; however, I should suppose it to be only a variety of the former.

To this number we may add the Phalanger, so called by Buffon ; a good deal resembling the former, but distinguished by the fashion of its hinder hands; the thumb and the fore finger being joined together, except at the extremities. This animal is about the size of a rat; and has, accordingly, by some been called the Rat of Surinam.

and The last animal of this class is

Jabata called, by Buffon, the Tarsier. This extraordinary little animal resembles the former in having four hands and a long tail; but it

(The Phalanger.) (9) Buffon, vol. xxi. p. 174.

(8) Ibid., p. 212.


differs very much in the extreme length of its hinder legs, which are longer than the rest of its whole body. The bones of that part of the foot called the tarsus are likewise so very long that from thence the animal has received its name: the tail is naked in the middle and hairy only at both extremities : its hair is woolly, soft, and a deep ash colour. As to the rest, it is unknown from what country this animal was brought; but the naturalist, from whom we have its description, supposes it to be a native of America.



Nearly allied to the last kind in having a pouch for the security of its young, but differing, in many other particulars of its form and manners, is the Kangaroo. The first discovery of this singular apimal was made in 1770, during the period in which our celebrated navigator, Capt.Cook, was exploring that part of the coast of Australia which is now called New South Wales.

“On Friday, June 22nd, (he says,) a party who were engaged in shooting pigeons for the use of the sick of the ship, saw an animal which they described to be as large as

(The Kangaroo.) a greyhound, of a slender make, of a mouse colour, and extremely swift.” The following day the same kind of animal was again seen by a great many other people. On the 21th it was seen by Capt. Cook himself

, who, walking at a little distance from the shore, observed a quadruped, which he thought bore some resemblance to a greyhound, and was of a light mouse colour, with a long tail, and which he should have taken for a kind of wild dog, had not its extraordinary manner of leaping, instead of running, convinced him of the contrary. Sir Joseph (then Mr.) Banks, whose association with Capt. Cook rendered that voyage so peculiarly fortunate for the interests of natural history, having obtained a transient view of it, immediately concluded it to be an animal perfectly new and undescribed.

On the 17th of July, this gentleman, accompanied by a small party, went out at dawn of day in quest of discoveries in natural history; and, in a walk of many miles, at length saw four of these animals, two of which were chased by his greyhound, but readily outstripped their pursuer, and threw him out to a great distance by leaping over the long grass, which prevented the dog from running to advantage. All that could then he distinctly observed was, that the animal in some degree resembled the Jerboa in its manner of springing forward on the bind legs, instead of running in the manner of other quadrupeds.

• The kangaroo is a discovery since the that is interesting of that animal from the time of Goldsmith; we therefore insert all observations of subsequent naturalists.--Ed.


The sight of a creature so extraordinary conld not fail to excite, in the mind of a philosophic observer, the most ardent wishes for a complete examination.

These were at length gratified: Mr. Gore, one of the associates in the expedition of Capt. Cook, having been so fortunate as to shoot one in the course of a few days; and it seems to have been from this specimen that the figure given in Hawksworth's Voyage was drawn.

The term Kangaroo is borrowed from the natives of Australia ; and the last syllable of this word, it may be observed, seems to be a generic appellative sig. nifying " quadruped ” or beast,” for we find it again in Poto-roo, by which they designate the Kangaroo Rat; Wha-tapoa-roo, the native name for the Lemurine Oppossum; and in Hepoona-roo, the native name of the Petaurus, or Flying Oppossum.

The labours and researches of modern naturalists have been repaid by the discovery of several other species of kangaroo, in addition to the large one first seen and described. One of the most elegant of the species is the banded kangaroo, discovered by the French naturalists, Péron and Le Sueur.*

Genus Macropus.—This genus is di- noise alarms them; a breath of wind agitatvided into two groups; but of the various indi- ing the bushes is sufficient to put them to viduals, we content ourselves with a note on fight. On this account, notwithstanding the Fasciated Kangaroo, the most elegant spe- their great abundance at the Island of Bercies of this extraordinary race. It is scarcely so nier, their capture was extremely difficult and large as a rabbit, and is easily distinguishable precarious. Concealed and defended by the from all the other known species by twelve or impenetrable jungles, these animals were fifteen bands disposed transversely across the enabled to brave with impunity the craft and back : these bands are narrow, of a reddish activity of their pursuers. When driven at brown colour, less regular and decided over last from these asylums, they escaped by unthe shoulders, where they commence, but known routes, and darted rapidly across the becoming more distinct and of a deeper open space to some neighbonring bush, brown as they descend towards the tail, at through the inextricable intertexture of which the base of which they terminate. The bands it seemed inconceivable how these delicate are gradually lost on the sides of the body, creatures could force a passage; but, upon a and no trace of them can be perceived at the closer examination, it was found that they under part. The head and the feet of a light had formed in every bush many little covered yellow colour; the under part of the body is ways, commencing at different parts of the of a clear grey approaching to white; the rest circumference, and leading to the centre of of the body is the colour of a hare, more or the jungle, from which, when attacked. they less deep in different individuals. The ears could select an outlet from among numerous in this species are proportionately shorter than different routes. But these attempts at escape in any other; it is the same with respect to were mostly fatal to them when the outlets the tail, which, being deprived of hair, pre- were once discovered; as, in that case, the sents considerable resemblance to that of a hunters stationed themselves in readiness to very large rat. In other respects, the pyra- knock down the affrighted animals, while midable form of the body, the disproportionate others beat the bushes with long staves to size of the hind legs, the disposition and pro- scare them from their hiding-place. To the portions of the toes and claws, are the same French naturalists abovementioned, the flaas in other kangaroos.

vour of these animals resembled that of the The banded or fasciated kangaroo inhabits hare, but was more aromatic, in consequence the three islands called after Bernier, Doore, of the peculiar nature of the plants on which and Dirk-Hattraich, and has not been met with they fed, which were all of an odoriferous on the continent of Australia, or in any other of kind. They assert that this species affords the islands which the French naturalists suc- by far the best food of any of the kangaroo çessively touched at. They also remark that kind, and strungly recommend its introducthe other species of kangaroo seem to be con- tion into Europe, both on that ground, as well fined to a similarly limited range of country; as its beauty. to be fixed by nature to such and such islands, " At the period,” they observe, “ when we without any individual appearing to break were on these coasts, all the full-grown females the limits assigned to its species. The had in their pouch a tolerably sized young smaller species of kangaroo, being compara- one, which they strove to defend and preserve tively deprived of any means of attack or with an admirable degree of courage. When defence, resemble, in their gentle and timid wounded, they fled, bearing along their young character, the hares and other feeble quadr- one in the pouch, and did not abandon it peds of our own climates. The slightest until being overcome with fatigile, and ex

All these animals are remarkable for the extreme disproportion subsisting between their fore and bind extremities. One might almost say that the whole of the upper part of the body had been in sone measure sacrificed to the lower.

hausted by loss of blood, they were unable anatomists the marsupial bones. The naturany longer to carry it; then they would stop, alist has borrowed a term from the same and sitting upright on their hind legs, would source to designate the animals endowed with assist the young one out of the pouch with this abdominal bag; and all the great Anstheir fore legs, and endeavour, as it were, to tralian family of quadrupeils, together with direct it to the place where it could find the the oppossums of America, are included by most easy ineans of escape. Thus disembar- Cuvier in an order called Marsupiata, marsurassed, they would then continue their flight pial or pouched animals. The young in all with as much rapidity as their powers would this tribe are received into the pouch when permit; but if the pursuit was given over or of an extremely minute size, and there acquire, slackened, they would then be seen to return as in a second womb, their principal growth. to the bush which protected their young; to It was from this peculiarity that Linnæus call them by a sort of grunt peculiar to them; gave to the genus most anciently known, the and, on their return, affectionately to caress epithet Didelphis. The peculiarity of this them as if to dissipate their alarm, again mode of generation has rendered it a subject to receive them in the pouch, and to seek, of great interest in a scientific point of view. with their beloved burthen, some other jungle Some of the particulars that have been noremote from the persecution of the hunter. ticed may he briefly alluded to. The Count Similar proofs of intelligence and affection, Aboville attentively watched a pair of opposbut still more touching, were exhibited by sums which he kept in his house. On the the poor mothers when they felt themselves fifteenth day of gestation he found, on intro. mortally wounded; all their cares were then ducing his finger into the pouch, a round directed to the safety of their offspring; far body of the size of a pea ; on the seventeenth from seeking to save themselves, they would day he could detect two similarly formed stand still beneath the blows of the hunter, bodies; ou the sixtieth day a number of and their last efforts would be given to the young ones could be seen in the pouch, hangpreservation of their young. Generous devo. ing from the teats. tion of which the history of animals offers Dr. Barton, an American physician, has so many examples, and which we are often observed that the young oppossum is born reduced to envy.

without form, a mere gelatinous mass, with. " During our sojourn at the Island of Ber- out trace of eyes or ears, weighing not more nier, we took several of these young kanga. than a single grain, though coming from a roos; they were, however, too feeble, and parent as large as a rat. These germs adhere survived their captivity but a short time. to the nipple, and grow from thence without One alone lived and became tame: this ani. quitting it till they attain the size of a rat; mal ate bread with readiness, and was parti- they then return to the pouch for the purposes cularly fond of the sugared water which was of sucking, or when they require shelter. offered to it. This last taste seems the more According to him, uterine gestation lasts from extraordinary, as, in the desert islands which twenty-one to twenty-six days. these animals inhabit, every kind of fresh M. Rengger, also, states that the gestation water is constantly wanting. This young of the oppossum, observed in a species he has kangaroo was killed accidentally at Timor: termed Didelphis Azare, lasts twenty-five we felt its loss the less sensibly, because, days; but, according to this author, the having but one, we could not hope to have young, when they are received into the pouch, naturalized it in Europe ; but this first at- are half an inch in length, naked, with the tempt is enough to prove with certainty, that head very large, the eyes closed, the nostrils this species can accommodate itself very and the mouth open, the ears folded, the fore readily to the cares and society of man; and and hind legs crossed in front of the body, we repeat, that it would be a valuable acqui. and the tail turned towards the same part

. sition for our parks and pleasure grounds." In this state, they manifest no signs of life

The pouch abovementioned, which Nature when touched or irritated. Shortly after has given the kangaroo for the defence and birth, they are found suspended by the mouth shelter of her offspring, is not confined to this to the nipples, but without being coherent genus, but is found in females of all the qua- with them. They remain attached to the drupeds of New Holland, with the exception nipples seven weeks, when their eyes are for of the native dog, a species of water-rat, the the first time opened; they then begin to quit paradoxical platypus, and the porcupine ant- the pouch—a sort of second birth ; and after. eater; the two latter have, however, the pecu- wards return to it at intervals for nourishment liar bones which, from a supposition of their and protection.-ZOOLOGICAL MAGAZINE. supporting the pouch, have been termed by

The hinder limbs possess an astonishing power, from their bulk and lengtb ; while the tail, from its thickness and the strength of its muscles, seems, as it were to form a fifth extremity. The fore legs, on the contrary, are very slim and small; the neck tapers to the head, which is itself small and tapering. This conformation permits them to assume and maintain the erect position, during which the tail forms with the bind legs a firm tripod, or basis of support, the disarrangement of whose equilibrium is little risked by the lightness of the superincumbent parts; and the kangaroo in this position derives additional support and stability from the length of its feet-a peculiarity from which the generic term Macropus is derived. The fore feet are armed with five strong claws, which are of a three-sided figure, with a flat surface below, and slightly arched; the toes are very free and movable, and thus adapted in some degree for grasping. The bind feet have only four toes, the two innermost of which are rudimentary, and enveloped in a single sheath of skin as far as the claws, which are small, curved, and distinct; the next toe is very large and long, armed with a very powerful sharp-pointed claw, or rather elongated hoof, with which the kangaroo can inflict very severe wounds: the outer toe is almost as strong as the preceding, but is shorter and its claw somewhat weaker: the under surface of the foot is naked as far as the projecting heel or hock; the leg is twice the length of the thigh. The hair of the kangaroo is of two kinds, silky and woolly; the first kind is only found on the limbs, the head, and the tail, whilst the woolly hair covers all the rest of the body; a few short, black, stiff bristles appear on the upper lip, the eyebrows, and beneath the eyes and the throat. The eyes are large with a mild expression, the pupils large and round; the ears are of a moderate size and simple structure; the nostrils are patulous and surrounded by a bair-clad skin; the tongue is smooth; and the upper lip divided, like that of the hare or rabbit. They are herbivorous animals, generally living in small troops under the guidance of an old male, frequenting the wooded regions of Australia, but readily propagating in our climate; and since their flesh is esteemed for its flavour, they might form a useful addition to our stock of domesticated animals, as well as an ornament to our parks and forests.

They appear to be a very hardy race: the naturalists who accompanied M. Freycinet relate that in the sterile region of the Bay of Seals, where there is an absolute want of fresh water, the kangaroos still find a subsistence, and satisfy their thirst with sea-water. On board ship, although from their digestive systein essentially herbivorous, yet they would eat any kind of viand, as bread, sugar, and even salt beef, or old leather, &c.; they would also drink wine or brandy. We have heard that advantage has occasionally been taken of this aptitude to drink intoxicating liquors, to occasion the ludicrous spectacle of their singular modes of progressive motion as modified by a state of inebriation.

In their more leisurely motions as quadrupeds, with the four legs on the ground, they raise the hinder part of the body by making use of their tail as a prop or support, then carrying the bind legs past the fore legs they rest them on the ground, and simultaneously throw forward the fore legs and the tail-on which again the body is supported while the hind legs are again brought forward, &c.; but, when pushed to a swifter motion, they make leaps of from twenty to thirty feet in extent, and from six to nine in height, clearing the obstacles which impede their less gifted pursuers, and using the tail as an essential instrument in this vigorous species of locomotion.

The kangaroo is hunted by the colonists with a strong race of dog, partaking of the qualities of the greyhound and staghound. It is observed, when hard pressed by these pursuers in the open plains, not to use the saltatory mode of progression, but to run on its four legs, leaping only when it has an obstacle to overcome; for it appears that the tail cannot be brought with sufficient rapidity into the position necessary for the performance of its part in the leap, to mable the kangaroo to escape by this means when on level and unobstructed ground. The chase is not without its dangers to the dogs. The kangaroos inflict stunning blows with their heavy and muscular tail; the kick from the hind leg is often fatal, and always inflicts a severe wound; the strong males

« PreviousContinue »