« PreviousContinue »
destined tree, they mount it with much greater ease than when they moved upon the plain. They fall to with famished appetite, and, as before, destroy the very source that supplies them."
How far these may be considered as the unfinished productions of nature, I will not take upon me to determine : if we measure their happiness by our sensations, nothing, it is certain, can be more miserable ; but it is probable, considered with regard to themselves, they may have some stores of comfort unknown to us, which may set them upon a level with some other inferior ranks of the creation; if a part of their life be exposed to pain and labour, it is compensated by a larger portion of plenty, indolence, and safety. In fact, they are formed very differently from all other quadrupeds, and it is probable they have different enjoyments. Like birds they have but one common vent for the purposes of propagation, excrement, and urine. Like the tortoise, which they resemble in the slowness of their motion, they continue to live some time after their nobler parts are wounded, or even taken away. They bear the marks of all those homely-formed animals that, like rade machines, are not easily discomposed.
Its note,(8) according to Kircher, is an ascending and descending hexachord, which it utters only by night; its look is so piteous as to move compassion; it is also accompanied with tears, that dissuade everybody from injuring so wretched a being. Its abstinence from food is remarkably powerful: one that had fastened itself by its feet to a pole, and was so suspended across two beams, remained forty days without meat, drink, or sleep; the strength of its feet is so great that whatsoever it seizes on cannot possibly be freed from its claws. A dog was let loose at the above-mentioned animal, taken from the pole; after some time the sloth laid hold of the dog with its feet, and held him four days, till he perished with hunger.
* Habits of the Sloth.-One day as lant style with his fore legs.” Come, pooz we were crossing the Essequibo, I saw a large fellow,” said I to him, " if thou hast got into two-toed sloth on the ground upon the bank; a hobble to-day thou shalt not suffer for ithow he had got there nobody could tell : the I'll take no advantage of thee in misfortune." Indian said he had never surprised a sloth in On saying this, I took up a long stick which such a situation before: he could hardly have was lying there, held it for him to hook ou, come there to drink, for both above and below and then conveyed him to a high and statelj the place the branches of the trees touched mora. He ascended with wonderful rapidity, the water, and afforded him an easy and safe and in about a minute he was almost at the access to it. Be this as it may, though the top of the tree. He now went off in a side trees were not above twenty yards from him, direction, and caught hold of the branch of a he could not make his way through the sand neighbouring tree; he then proceeded towards time enough to escape before we landed. As the heart of the forest.I stood looking on soon as we got up to him, he threw himself lost in amazement at his singular mode. upon his back, and defended himself in gal. progress.—WATERTON'S WANDERINGS.
(g) Pennant's Synopsis.
This animal as little resembles a quadruped as that which has been described in a former chapter.* If we should suppose a bird divested of its feathers, and walking upon its legs, it might give us some idea of its figure. It has four feet, indeed, but in running or resting it never makes use of any but the hinder. The number of legs, however, do not much contribute to any animal's speed ; and the jerboa, though properly, speaking, furnished but with two, is one of the swiftest creatures in the world.
The jerboa is not above the size of a large rat, and its head is sloped
(The Jerboa.) somewhat in the manner of a rabbit; the teeth, also, are formed like those of the rat kind, there being two cutting teeth in each jaw; it has a very long tail, tufted at the end ; the head, the back, and sides are covered with large, ash-coloured, soft hair; the breast and belly are whitish ; but what most deserves our attention, in the formation of this little animal, is the legs: the fore legs are not an inch long, with four claws and a thumb upon each, while the hinder legs are two inches and a quarter, and exactly resemble those of a bird, there being but three toes, the middlemost of wbich is longest.
The jerboa is found in Egpyt, Barbary, Palestine, and the deserts between Busserah and Aleppo : its hind legs, as was said before, are only used in running, while the fore paws, like those of a squirrel, grasp its food, and in some measure perform the office of hands. It is often seen by travellers as they pass along the deserts, crossing their way, and jumping six or eight feet at every bound, and going so swiftly that scarce any other quadruped is able to overtake them. They are a lively, harmless race of animals, living entirely upon vegetables, and burrowing like rabbits in the ground. Pennant tells us of two that were lately brought to London, that burrowed almost through the brick wall of the room where they were kept: they came out of their hole at night for food,
* THB GENUS JERBOA.—This genus ap- have so many traits of external conformation proximates considerably to the rat, properly similar to the jerboas, they are infinitely reso called, by a great number of characters of moved from them in most important points, internal organization, but is sufficiently dis- such as the organs of generation, ventral tinguished by the shortness of the anterior pouch, &c. The genus jerboa is now comlimbs and the length of the hinder extreini- posed of several distinct species, one of which ties. As to the external conformation, the is extremely abundant in Barbary, in Higher ierboas exhibit some relations with the kan- and Lower Egypt, and Syria, and again in garoos. The form of the body is the same the more northern climates, situated between in general. The hinder limbs are likewise the Tanais and the Volga ; the other occupyfive or six times stronger than the fore. In ing an immense space in Siberia and the both genera the tail is very long ; the ears north part of Russia, from Syria to the Eastelongated and pointed, and the eyes very ern Ocean, and as far as the northern parts of arge and round." But though the kangaroos Hmdostan.--Cuvier.
and, when canght, were much fatter and sleeker than when confined to their burrows. A variety of this animal is found also in Siberia and Circassia, and is, most probably, common enough over all Asia. They are more expert diggers than even the rabbit itself; and when pursued for a long time, if they cannot escape by their swiftness, they try to make a hole instantly in the ground, in which they often bury themselves deep enough to find security before their pnrsuers come up. Their burrows in some places are so thick as to be dangerous to travellers, the horses perpetually falling into them. It is a provident little animal, and lays up for the winter. It cuts grass in heaps of a foot square, which when dried it carries into its burrow, therewith to serve it for food, or to keep its young warm during the rigours of the winter.
But of all animals of this kind, that which was first discovered and described by Sir Joseph Banks is the most extraordinary. He calls it the kangaroo; an:! though from its general outline, and the most striking, peculiarities of its figure, it greatly resembles the jerboa, yet it entirely differs, if we consider its size, or those minute distinctions which direct the makers of systems in assorting the general ranks of nature.*
The largest of the jerboa kind which are to be found in the ancient continent do not exceed the size of a rabbit. The kangaroo of New Holland, where it is only to be found, is often known to weigh above sixty pounds, and must consequently be as large as a sheep. Although the skin of that which was stuffed and brought home by Sir Joseph Banks was not much above the size of a hare, yet it was greatly superior to any of the jerboa kind that have been hitherto known, and very different in many particulars. The snout of the jerboa, as has been said, is short and round, that of the new-discovered animal long and slender : the teeth also entirely differ; for, as the jerboa has but two cutting teeth in each jaw, making four in all, this animal, besides its cutting teeth, has four canine teeth also. But what makes a more striking peculiarity, is the formation of its lower jaw, which, as the ingenious discoverer snpposes, is divided into two parts, which open and shut like a pair of scissors, and cut grass, probably this animal's principal food. The head, neck, and shoulders are very small in proportion to the other parts of the body; the tail is nearly as long as the body, thick near the rump, and tapering towards the end; the skin is covered with a short fur, excepting the head and the ears, which bear a slight resemblance to those of the hare. We are not told, however, from the formation of its stomach, to what class of quadrupeds it belongs. From its eating grass, which it has been seen to do, one would be apt to rank it among the ruminant animals; but from the canine teeth which it is found to have, we may on the other hand suppose it to bear some relation to the carnivorous. Upon the whole, however, it can be classed with none more properly than with animals of the jerboa kind, as its hind legs are so much longer than the fore: it moves, also, precisely in the same manner, taking great bounds of ten or twelve feet at a time, and thus sometimes escaping even the fleetest greyhound with which Sir Joseph Banks pursued it. One of them that was killed proved to be good food; a second,
• THE GIGANTIC KANGAROO. — Buffon, asia has given an additional support to this whose only errors were those of genus, clearly opinion of Buffon. The species of animals perceived that every continent, in its animal there discovered have not only no affinity with productions, presented the appearance of an those of the other continents, but, in fact, especial creation ; but he gave a universality to belong for the most part to genera altogether this proposition of which it is not altogether different. Such are those mammalia which susceptible. It is, nevertheless, true, even the natives of New Holland call kangaroo ; at the prestnt day, within certain limits. A and which offer to the observation of the nagreat number of the Asiatic animals are not turalist organic peculiarities, perceivable in found in Africa, and vice versa. The lemurs no other animal, with the exception of one seem only to exist in Madagascar. America single species. It is in this tribe that, for is peopled with a host of mammalia exclu- the first time, we view the singular phesively peculiar to itself; and there are many nomenon of an animal using its tail as a more in Europe, not to be found in any quar- third hind leg in standing upright and in ters of the globe. The discovery of Austral. walking.
which weighed eighty-four pounds, and was not yet come to its full growth, was found to be much inferior. *
With this last described and last discovered animal I shall conclude the history of quadrupeds, wbich of all parts of natural knowledge seems to have been described the most accurately. As these, from their figure as well as their saga. city, bear the nearest resemblance to man, and from their uses or enmities are the most respectable parts of the inferior creation, so it was his interest and his pleasure to make himself acquainted with their history. It is probable, therefore, that time, which enlarges the sphere of our knowledge in other parts of learning, can add but very little to this. The addition of a new quadruped to the catalogue already known is of no small consequence, and happens but seldom; for the number of all is so few, that wherever a new one is found it becomes an object worthy our best attention.t
*The CHINCHILLA.-An ani. mai soinewhat resembling the jerboa, but which bas not yet been classified by naturalists, is the chinchilla.Notwithstanding the extensive traffic carried on in the skins of this animal, little was correctly known regarding it until 1830. earliest account of the chin. chilla with which we have met is contained in Father Joseph Acosta's Natural and Moral His. tory of the East and West Indies, published at Barcelona, in Spanish, in the year 1591. The chinchilles,' says he, is another
(The Chinchilla.) kind of small beasts like squirrels : they have the intrusler. A ferocious kind of sculing a wonderful smoothe and soft skinne, which fight iminediately epsued between them, and they weare as a healthful thing to comfort the latter would unquestionably have fallen the stomacke and those parts that have need a victim, had it not been rescued from its of a moderate heat: they make coverings and impending fate. Since that time they have rugges of the haire of these chinchillos, which inhabited separate cages, placed side by side; are found in the Sierre of Peru.'
and although the open wires would admit of “ The chinchilla is a woolly field-mouse some little familiarity taking place between which lives under ground, and chicfly feeds them, no advances have been made on either ca wild onions. Its fine fur is well known side. in Europe ; that which comes from Upper + AGENCY OF MAN IN EXTINGUISHING Peru is rougher and larger than the chinchilla AND SPREADING THE SPECIES. — Let us of Chile, but not always so beautiful in its make some inquiries into the extent of the colour. Great numbers of these animals are influence which the progress of society has caught in the neighbourhood of Coquimbo existed, during the last seven or eight centuand Copiapo, generally by boys with dogs, ries, in altering the distribution of our indi. and sold to trailers, who bring them to San. genous British animals. Dr. Fleming has tiago and Valparaiso, from whence they are prosecuted this inquiry with his usual seal exported. The Peruvian skins are either and ability, and in a memoir on the subject brought to Buenos Ayres from the eastern has enumerated the best authenticated exam parts of the Andes, or sent to Lima. The ples of the decrease or extirpation of certain extensive use of this fur has lately occasioned a species during a period when our population very considerable destruction of the animals." has made the most rapid advances. We shall - SCHMIDTMEYER'S TRAVELS INTO Cune. offer a brief outline of his results. 1824.
The stag, as well as the fallow-deer and INDIVIDUAL, ON This Species.—An indi- the roe, were formerly so abundant that, ac. vidual of this interesting species was lately cording to Lesley, from five hundred to a presented by Lady Knighton to the collection thousand were sometimes slain at a huntingof the Zoological Society: When the new match; but the native races would already comer was first introduced into Bruton Street, have been extinguished, had th it was placed in the same cage with a former carefully preserved in certai specimen; but the latter appeared by no otter, the marten, and the muan. disposed to subunit to the presence of in sufficient numbers to be
sake of their fır; but they have now been but they cannot fail to exalt our conception of reduced within very narrow bounds. The the enormous revolutions which, in the course wild cat and fox have also been sacrificed of several thousand years, the whole huinan throughout the greater part of the country, species must have effected. for the security of the poultry-yard or the The kangaroo and the emu are retreating fold. Badgers have been expelled from nearly rapidly before the progress of colonization in every district which at foriner periods they Australia; and it scarcely admits of doubt inhabited.
that the general cultivation of that country Besides these, which have been driven out must lead to the extirpation of both. The from some haunts, and everywhere reduced most striking example of the loss, even within in number, there are some which have been the last two centuries, of a remarkable species, wholly extirpated ; such as the ancient breed is that of the dodoma bird first seen by the of indigenous horses, the wild boar and the Dutch when they landed on the Isle of wild oxen, of which last, however, a few re. France, at that time uninhabited, immediately mains are still preserved in the parks of some after the discovery of the passage to the East of our nobility. The beaver, which was Indies by the Cape of Good Hope. It was eagerly sought after for its fur, had becomu of a large size and singular form; its wings scarce at the close of the ninth century, and, short, like those of an ostrich, and wholly hy the twelfth century, was only to be met incapable of sustaining its heavy body even with, according to Giraldus de Barri, in one for a short fight. In its general appearance river in Wales and another Scotland. The differed from the ostrich, cassowary, or any wolf, once so much dreaded by our ancestors, known bird. is said to have maintained its ground in Ire- Many naturalists gave figures of the dodo land so late as the beginning of the eighteenth after the commencement of the seventeenth century (1710), though it had been extirpated century; and there is a painting of it in the in Scotland thirty years before, and in Eng. British Museum, which is said to have been land at a much earlier period. The bear, taken from a living individual. Beneath the which in Wales was regarded as a beast of painting is a leg, iu a fine state of preservation, the chase equal to the hare or the boar, only which ornithologists are agreed cannot belong perished as a native of Scotland in the year to any other known bird. In the museum at 1057.
Oxford, also, there is a foot and a head in an Many native birds of prey have also been imperfect state; but M. Cuvier doubts the the subjects of unremitting persecution. The identity of this species with that of which the eagles, larger hawks, and ravens, have disap- painting is preserved in London. peared from the more cultivated districts. The In spite of the most active search, during haunts of the mallard, the snipe, the redshank, the last century, no information respecting and the bittern, have been drained equally the dodo was obtained, and some authors with the summer dwellings of the lapwing have gone so far as to pretend that it, never and the curlew. But these species still linger existed; but amongst a great mass of satisin some portion of the British isles; whereas factory evidence in favour of the recent exist. the large capercailzies, or wood grouse, for- ence of this species, we may mention that an merly natives of the pine forests of Ireland assemblage of fossil bones were recently disand Scotland, have been destroyed within the covered, under a bed of lava, in the Isle of last fifty years. The egret and the crane, France, and sent to the Paris museum by M. which appear to have been formerly very com. Desjardins. They almost all belonged to a mon in Scotland, are now only occasional large living species of land tortoise, called visitants. The bustard (Otis tarda), observes Testudo Indica, but amongst them were the Graves in his British Ornithology, “was head, sternum, and humerus of the dodo. M. formerly seen in the downs and heaths of Cuvier showed me these valuable remains in various parts of our island, in flocks of forty Paris, and assured me that they left no doubt or fifty birds; whereas it is now a circum- in his mind that the huge bird was one of stance of rare occurrence to meet with a sin- the gallinaceous tribe. gle individual.” Bewick also remarks, " that Next to the direct agency of man, his indithey were formerly more common in this rect influence in multiplying the numbers of island than at present; they are now found large herbivorous quadrupeds of domesticated only in the open counties of the south and races may be regarded as one of the most east, in the plains of Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, obviate causes of the extermination of species. and some parts of Yorkshire.” In the few On this, and on several other grounds, the years that have elapsed since Bewick wrote, introduction of the horse, ox, and other mamthis bird has entirely disappeared from Wilt- malia, into America, and their rapid propashire and Dorsetshire.
gation over that continent within the last These changes, we may observe, are de. three centuries, is a fact of great importance rived from very imperfect memorials, and in natural history. The extraordinary herds relate only to the larger and more conspicuous of wild cattle and horses which overran the animals inhabiting a small spot on the globe; plains of South America sprang from a very