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THE CANADA FIELD RAT.
open, they instantly shut again. The members are all stiff, and the body feels as cold almost as ice. It has been satisfactorily ascertained that this animal, in order to become torpid, must be excluded from all communication with the external air. If a Hamster be put into a cage filled with earth and straw, and exposed to a degree of cold sufficient to freeze water, he will continue awake and active; but if the cage be sunk four or five feet beneath the surface of the ground, he will soon be as torpid as if in his own burrow.
The life of a Hamster is divided between eating and fighting. He seems to have no other passion than that of rage; which induces him to attack every animal that comes in his way, without in the least attending to the strength of the enemy. Ignorant of the art of saving himself by flight, rather than yield he will allow himself to be beaten to pieces with a stick. If he seize a man's hand, he must be killed before he will quit his hold. The magnitude of the Horse terrifies him as little as the address of the Dog, which last is fond of hunting him. When the Harnster perceives a Dog at a distance, he begins by emptying his cheek pouches, if they happen to be filled with grain: he then blows them up so prodigiously, that the size of his head and neck greatly exceeds that of the rest of the body. He raises himself on his hind legs, and thus darts upon the enemy. If he catches hold, he never quits his foe but with the loss of life. This ferocious disposition prevents the Hamster from being at peace with any animal whatever. He even makes war against his own species. When two Hamsters meet they never fail to attack each other, and the stronger always devours the weaker. A combat between a male and female commonly lasts longer than that between two males. They begin by pursuing and biting each other; then each of them retires aside, as if to take breath. After a short interval they renew the com. bat, and continue to fight till one of them falls. The vanquished animal uniformerly serves for a repast to the conqueror.
The females bring forth their offspring twice or thrice in the year; each litter consisting of six or eight young.ones; and their increase in some years is excessively rapid. In about three weeks after their birth, the young ones are able to seek their own provisions, which the mother compels them to do; and in fifteen or sixteen days they begin to dig the earth.
In some seasons, the Hamsters are so numerous that they occasion a dearth of corn. In one year, about eleven thousand skins, in another fifty-four thousand, and in a third year eighty thousand, were brought to the Town-house of Gotha, as vouchers of claims to the rewards allowed for the destruction of these animals.
THE CANADA FIELD RAT.
Akin to the Hamster is the Canada Field Rat with its enormous cheek pouches for storing its food,
THE WATER RAT.
The Water Rat is a native of England, and very common on the banks of rivers, brooks, &c. It digs holes in the bank, and is reported
to eat fish, frogs, &c., but this is very doubtful. These animals exist in great numbers round Oxford, and I have repeatedly watched them feeding. I never saw them eating fish, nor found fish-bones inside their holes, except when a Kingfisher had taken possession; but I have frequently seen them gnawing the green bark from reeds, which they completely strip, leaving the mark of each tooth as they pro
ceed. I shot one while feeding, and at first thought that the marks of its teeth were caused by the shot, for until that time I had supposed that the Water Rat fed on fish.
TAB WATER RAT.
OF THE MARMOT TRIBE.
The Marmots have two wedge-shaped front teeth in each jaw; and five grinders on each side in the upper, and four in the lower jaw. They have collar-bones in the skeleton.
This tribe does not differ, in many particulars, from that of the Rats. The animals have thick cylindrical bodies, and large roundish heads. The fore feet have each four claws, and a very small thumb; and the hind feet five claws. They reside in subterraneous holes, and pass the winter in sleep. Only eight species have as yet been discovered
THE ALPINE MARMOT.
This animal is about sixteen inches in length, has a short tail, and bears some resemblance both to the Rat and the Bear. The color is brownish above, and bright tawny on the under parts. The head is rather large, and flattish; the ears short, and hid in fur; and the tail is thick and bushy.
Being natives chiefly of the highest summits of the Alps and the Pyrenean Mountains, these singular quadrupeds delight in the regions of frost and snow, and are seldom found on the plains, or in the open country. Their holes are constructed with much art; each of them forming a kind of gallery in the form of the letter Y, with an aperture at each upper extremity, and terminating below in a capacious apartment, where several of the animals lodge together. This apartment is well lined with moss and hay, of which they lay up a great store during the summer.
THE ALPINE MARMOT.
It is affirmed that the labor of collecting the materials for their nest, is carried on by the animals in concert; that some of them cut the finest herbage, which is collected by others; and that they transport it to their dens in the following manner: One, it is said, lies down on his back, allows himself to be loaded with hay, and extends bis limbs; and others trail him, thus loaded, by the tail
, taking care not to overset him. The task of thus serving as a vehicle, is divided alternately among the number. "I have often seen them practise this mode of conveyance, (says M. Beauplau, in his account of Ukraine,) and have had the curiosity to watch them at it for several days successively." The friction occasioned by their sustaining a passive part in the operation, is assigned as a reason why the hair is generally rubbed off from the backs of these animals. But it is more probable that this is produced by their frequent digging of the earth, which alone is sufficent to rub off the hair. However this may be, it is certain that they dwell together, and work in common in their habitations, where they pass three-fourths of their lives. Thither they retire during rain, or at the approach of danger; and they never go out but in fine weather, and even then to no great distance.
One of these animals stands sentinel upon a rock, while the others gambol about upon the grass, or are employed in cutting it in order to make hay. If the sentinel preceive a man, an Eagle, a Dog, or any other dangerous animal, he instantly alarms his companions by a loud whistle, and is himself the last that enters the hole.
The Old Marmots, at break of day, come out of their holes to feed; afterwards they bring out their young ones. The latter scamper on all sides; chase each other; sit on their hind feet; and remain in that posture, facing towards the sun, with an air expressive of satisfaction. They are fond of warmth ; and, when they think themselves se cure, will bask in the sun for several hours successively.
The Marmot has a quick eye, and discovers an enemy at a con. siderable distance. He never does the least injury to any other animal, and when himself attacked, attempts to escape. But, if flight be impossible, he will defend himself with spirit against even man and Dogs.
In countries where rhubarb grows, it is said that the Marmots gen. erally fix their residence near those plants: and that, if ten or twenty of these plants are adjacent to each other, there are always several of their burrows immediately under the shade and protection of the leaves.
About the end of September, or the beginning of October, the Marmots retire to their holes, in which they become torpid, and from which they do not again come abroad until the beginning of April. When they feel the first approach of the sleeping season, they shut up both of the passages to their residence; and they perform this
operation with so much labor and solidity, that it is more difficult to dig the earth in the parts they have thus fortified, than in any
adjacent spot. At this time they are very fat, weighing sometimes as much as twenty pounds each; and they continue so for three months; but they afterwards gradually declive, and, by the end of winter, become ex. tremely ernaciated. When found in their winter retreats, they appear rolled up like a ball, and are covered
with hay. If caught when young, the Marmot may easily be domesticated. It will walk on its hind feet, sit upright, and carry food to its mouth with its fore feet. It will dance with a stick between its paws, and perform various tricks to please its master.
In the winter season, these animals are sought after with great eagerness by the inhabitants of the countries where they are found ; and are killed in immense numbers, both on account of their flesh, and for their skins.
The Bobac is about the size of the Alpine Marmot. Its color is gray above, and fulvous or ferruginous beneath. The tail is short, somewhat slender, and very hairy.
It is a native of the mountainous parts of Poland, Russia, and some other countries of Europe.
The burrows which the Bobacs form in the ground, are constructed obliquely, and are of the depth of two, three, or four yards. They consist of several galleries, which have one common, entrance from the surface, each gallery terminating in a nest for some of its inhabitants. Sometimes, however, the burrows consist of but one passage.
Though these burrows are found in greatest numbers where the earth is lightest, yet they are very common even in the strata of the mountains. In hard and rocky places, from twenty to forty of the animals join together to facilitate the work; and they live in society, cach with its nest at the end of its respective gallery. Towards the approach of winter, they collect into their nests the finest hay they oan procure; and in such plenty, that sufficient is often found in one vest for a night's food for a horse.
During the middle or sunny part of the day, they sport about the entrance of their holes; but they seldom go far from them. At the sight of man, they retire with a slow pace; and sit upright near the entrance, giving a frequent whistle, and listening to the approach. In places where they live in large families, they always station a sentinel to give notice of any danger, during the time when the rest are em. ployed in feeding
They are mild, good-natured, and timid. They feed only on vegetables; which they go in search of in the morning, and about the middle of the day. They sit on their hams when they eat, and carry the food to their mouth with their fore paws; and in this posture it is that they defend themselves when attacked. When they are irritated, or when any one attempts to lay hold of ther, they bite desperately, and utter a shrill cry. In the summer-time they eat voraciously; but they remain torpid all winter, except when kept in very warm places ; and even then they eat but little, and will, if possible, escape into some comfortable place, in which to pass this dreary season. These animals soon become tame, even when taken of full age; and the young ones are familiar from the moment they are caught.
Their flesh is eatable; and, except that it is somewhat rank, resembles that of the Hare. The fat is used in the dressing of leather and furs; and the skins are employed by the Russians for clothing. The female brings forth her young.ones in the spring, and usually produces six or eight at a litter.
The Capromys is found in Cuba, where the natives call it the Utia. It is a Marmot, not larger than the Woodchuck, which it somewhat resembles. It is a harmless animal, living on vegetable food.
The name Capromys signifies a "Hog-rat," the animals in their mode of walking and other characteristics resembling the Hog, while in the form of their teeth and in their tails they have some resemblance to the Rat. In a state of nature these animals inhabit the woods, and climb trees with great facility. In reaching the leaves of those short plants which they do not require to climb, they make use of their tails as a third foot. In a state of domestication they drink tea, and do not refuse a bit of bread although it be soaked in cherry-brandy.