Page images
PDF
EPUB

OF THE TAPIR TRIBE

Of this

, as of the preceding tribe, there is only one known species, and as the former is a native only of the Old, this is an inhabitant, exclusively, of the New Continent. There are front-teeth in each jaw; and single incurvated canine teeth. There are also five broad grinders on each side, both above and below. On the hind feet there are three hoofs, and on the fore feet four.

THE LONG-NOSED TAPIR.

The Tapir is about the size of a small Cow. The nose of the male

is elongated into a kind of proboscis, capable of being contracted and ex tended at pleasure. The ears are roundish and erect; and the tail is short and naked. The neck is thick, short, and has a kind of bristly mane, about an inch and a half long near the head. The body is thick and clumsy, and the back somewhat

arched. The legs are short and thick; and the feet have small black hoofs. The hair is of a dusky or brownish

color. In its general habits this animal has a considerable resemblance to the Hippopotamus; yet, in many particulars, it reminds us also of the Elephant and of the Rhinoceros. It is the largest of all the South American quadrupeds, except the Horse ; and its skin is so thick and hard, as to be almost impenetrable by a bullet. Although its natural disposition is marked only by actions indicative of mildness and timidity, endeavoring when attacked, to save itself by flight, or by plunging into the water, yet, if its retreat be cut off, it has courage and strength to make a most powerful resistance, both against men and dogs.

The Tapir feeds chiefly by night, and subsists upon sugar-canes, grasses, the leaves of shrubs, and various kinds of fruit. In feeding it uses its long projecting nose or proboscis, in the same manner as the Rhinoceros applies bis upper lip, to grasp its food and convey it to its mouth. This is an instrument of great flexibility and strength; and in it

, as in the proboscis of the Elephant, are situated the organs of smell.

Notwithstanding its general clumsy appearance, the Tapir is an ex. tremely active animal in the water, where it swims and dives with singular facility. Like the Hippopotamus, it is able to continue immersed for a considerable while; but it is also under the necessity of occasivnally rising to the surface in order to breathe. During the day.time this animal generally sleeps in some retired part of the

[graphic]
[blocks in formation]

woods. It chiefly resides in dry places, near the sides of hills; and occasionally frequents the savannahs in quest of food. On land its motions appear to be slow, and its disposition inactive. Its voice is a kind of whistle, which the hunters easily imitate, and by this means frequently lure it to its destruction. The usual attitude which the Tapir adopts, when at rest, is sitting on its rump in the manner of a Dog.

Except at one season of the year, the male lives entirely apart from

[graphic][merged small]

the female. To the latter belongs the whole management of rearing their offspring. This she leads to the water, and she seems to delight in teaching it to swim, frequently plunging about and playing with it, in that element, for a considerable while together. On land it runs after her wherever she goes.

If they are caught young, these animals may, without difficulty, be tamed, and rendered even in some measure domestic. They are very common in the town of Cayenne, where they are suffered to run about the streets, and are fed with cassava-bread and fruit. M. Bajou, a surgeon attached to the government, had, at this place, a Tapir which became perfectly familiar, and acquired a strong attachment to him, distinguishing him in the midst of many other persons, licking his hands, and following him like a Dog. This animal would often go alone into the woods to a great distance, but always returned to his home early in the evening. M. Bajou assures us, that a Tapir, which had been suffered to run tame about the streets of Cayenne, became so unmanageable in a vessel, on board of which it was put in order to be conveyed to France, that it was found impossible to confine it. It broke the very strong cords with which it was tied, and, throwing itself overboard, escaped to shore. Every one supposed it to have been lost, but, in the evening, it returned to the town. On reimbark. ing it, great precautions were taken to prevent its escape; but these did not succeed, for during the voyage, a storm happening to rise, it became again outrageous, broke its fetters, and, rushing out of its place of confinement, committed itself to the waves, and was never afterwards seen.

In the year 1704, a Tapir was exhibited alive at Amsterdam, under the name of Sea Horse. Another, which, about the same time, was in the menagerie of the Prince of Orange, was so young as scarcely to be larger than a Hog. Its proboscis, when at rest, did not much extend below the under lip; and, in this state, had numerous circular wrinkles, but was capable of considerable extension. It had no finger at the extremity, like the proboscis of an Elephant, notwithstanding which, the animal, by means of it, could pick up from the ground the smallest objects. This creature was very gentle, and approached with familiarity any one who entered its lodge. A female Tapir was exhibited at several of the fairs in Holland and Germany. The keepers usually fed it on rye-bread, a kind of gruel, and on vegetables of different kinds. It was excessively fond of apples, and was able to smell them to a considerable distance. If any person happened to have apples in his pockets, it would eagerly approach, and thrusting in its proboscis, would take them out with surprising facility. It ate of almost every thing that could be presented to it, whether vegetables, fish, or meat. Its favorite attitude was sitting on its rump, like a Dog; and it never exerted its voice unless it was either fatigued or irritated.

In the year 1812, there was, at Exeter 'Change, a young Tapir, which was not bigger than a large Hog. It had been brought into England about seven months before, with another of the same species, which died not long after its arrival. In every respect it appeared to be a mild and docile beast.

These animals inhabit the eastern parts of South America; and occur in great numbers, from the Isthmus of Darien, to the river Amazon. Their flesh is considered by the South Americans as a wholesome food; and the skin serves all the purposes for which a strong leather would be required. The Indians make shields of it, which are stated to be so hard, as to be impenetrable by an arrow.

The Malay Tapir is somewhat larger, and is known by the greyish white color of the loins and hind quarters, which give the animal an appearance as if a white horse-cloth had been spread over it.

THE HYRAN, OR DAMAN.

The Hyran, or Daman, although so small an animal, is ranked among the Tapirs. It abounds on the sides of Table Mountain, where it may be seen skipping near its burrow's mouth, or cropping the herbage; on the least alarm, however, it instantly retreats to its stronghold, whence it cannot be dislodged without the greatest difficulty. In the general contour of its body, the Hyran is stout and thickly set. The limbs are short, the toes on each foot are four before and

[blocks in formation]

three behind, all being tipped with little slender hoofs, except the inner toe on each hind foot, which is armed with a long, crooked nail. The head is large and thick, the eyes of a moderate size, the ears short and rounded; the teeth consist of molars, and incisors, the former bearing a close resemblance to those of the Rhinoceros. It has no tail. The general color of the fur, which is soft and thick, is a dark greyish brown, becoming paler beneath.

OF THE HOG TRIBE IN GENERAL.

[graphic]

In the upper jaw there are four front teeth, the points of which converge; and, usually, six in the lower jaw, wbich project. The canine teeth, or tusks, are two in each jaw; those above short, while those below are long, and extend out of the mouth. The snout is prominent, moveable, and has the appearance of having been cut off, or truncated. The feet are cloven.

The manners of these animals are, in general, filthy and disgusting. They are fond of wallowing in the mire, and feed almost indifferently on animal and vegetable food, devouring even the most corrupted carcasses. With their strong and tendinous snout they dig the earth, in search of roots and other aliments hidden beneath the surface. They are exceedingly prolific.

[merged small][merged small][graphic][ocr errors]

WILD BOAR.

few scattered shrubs which are there found, yield him but little sub sistence, and still less shade.

While they are young, these animals live in herds, for the purpose of mutual defence; but the moment they come to maturity, they walk the forest alone and fearless. They seldom attack unprovoked: but they dread no enemy, and shun none. When bunted,

they do not so much flee from their assailants, as keep them at bay, and are at last rather wearied out, or overcome by numbers, than fairly killed in the chase.

The Domestic Hog is, generally speaking, a harmless and inoffensive beast. He lives chiedy on vegetables, though, when pressed by hunger, he will devour even the most putrid carcasses. We, however, generally conceive him much more indelicate than he really is. He selects, at least, the plants of his choice, with great sagacity and miceness; and is never, like some other animals, poisoned by mistaking noxious for wholesome food. Selfish, indocile, and rapacious, as many think him, no animal has greater sympathy for those of his own kind than the Hog. The moment one of these animals gives the signal of distress, all within hearing rush to its assistance. They have been known to gather round a Dog that teased them, and kill him on the spot. Enclose a male and female in a sty, when young, and the female will decline from the instant her companion is removed, and will probably die of a broken heart. This animal is well adapted

to the mode of life to which it is destined. Having to obtain a sub• sistence principally by turning up the earth with its nose, we find that the neck is strong and brawny; the eyes are small, and placed high in the head; the snout is long; the nose callous and tough, and the power of smelling peculiarly acute. The external form is indeed very unwieldy, but, by the strength of its tendons, the Wild Boar is enabled to fly from the hunters with surprising agility. The back toe on the feet of this animal prevents its slipping while it descends steep declivities.

In Minorca the Hog is converted into a beast of draught; a Cow, a Sow, and two young Horses, have been seen in that island yoked together, and of the four the Sow drew the best. The Ass and the Hog are their common helpmates, and are frequently yoked together to plough the land. In some parts of Italy, Swine are employed in hunting for truffles, which grow some inches deep in the grcund. A cord being tied round the hind leg of one of the animals, the beast is driven into the pastures, and we are told that wherever he stops and begins to root with his nose, truffles are always to be found.

In proof that these animals are not destitute of sagacity, it would perhaps be unnecessary to recite any other accounts than those of the various "learned Pigs," which have at different times been exhibited in this country. But an instance more surprising than these was

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »