Графични страници
PDF файл
[merged small][graphic][ocr errors]

THOUGH the defensive armour with which this creature is furnished has induced us to place it among what may be called the armed quadrupeds, yet, according to the Linnean system, it belongs to the class of amphibia, and order of reptiles. It is found in many parts of Africa, in Greece, and almost all the countries bordering on the Mediterranean; also in Sardinia, Corsica, and all the European islands of the Archipelago.—In length it seldom exceeds eight or nine inches, nor does it weigh in general more than three pounds. The shell is composed of thirteen middle pieces, and about twenty-five marginal ones; it is of an oval form, extremely convex, and broader behind than before. It is so strong that the pressure of a broad-wheeled waggon would be insufficient to crush it. The middle part is of a blackish brown varied with yellow; the under part or belly of the shell is of a pale yellow, with a broad dark line down each side, leaving the middle plain. The head is not large, nor does the opening of the mouth extend beyond the eyes; the upper part is covered with irregular scales : the legs are short, the feet moderately broad, and covered with strong scales, and it moves with proverbial slowness; the tail, which is rather shorter than the legs, is also covered with scales, but terminates in a horny tip.

This animal resides principally in burrows that it

[ocr errors]

forms in the ground, where it sleeps the greatest part of its time, appearing abroad only a few hours in the middle of the day. In the autumn it hides itself for the winter, remaining torpid four or five months, and not again making its appearance till the spring. About the beginning of June, the female scratches a hole in some warm situation, in order to deposit her eggs; these are hatched in September, at which time the young are about the size of a large walnut.

The Tortoise can refrain from eating as well as breathing, for a great part of the year. It is particularly remarked for its longevity, being known to exist upwards of a hundred and twenty years, and is so tenacious of life that it will live for many months after its brains have been extracted. Its principal food is lettuces, dandelions, all plants of a milky nature, fruits, worms, snails, and other insects.



The Porcupine inhabits Africa, India, and the Indian islands, and is said to be sometimes found in Italy and Sicily. It is generally about two feet in length, from the head to the extremity of the tail. The upper part of the body is covered with spines, from ten to fourteen inches long, resembling the barrel of a goose-quill in thickness, but tapering at both ends, and variegated with black and white rings. In their usual state, they incline backward, like the bristles of a hog, but when the animal is irritated, they rise and stand upright.

As to the rest of the animals figure, the muzzle bears some resemblance to that of a hare; the legs are very short, and these, as well as the belly, the head, and all other parts of the body, are covered with a sort of short hair like prickles.

Some persons have imagined that it possesses the power of discharging its quills, but this has been long exploded as an error. It seems to have arisen from the circumstance of the animal sometimes shaking off its quills to a considerable distance when it is shedding them. Its real mode of attack is by lying down on one side and suddenly rising when the enemy comes nigh, or by turning round and running backward at him. The Porcupine is a perfectly inoffensive animal; but when he is roused to self-defence, even the lion dare not assail him. He kills serpents by forming himself into a ball, and then rolling his spines over them. It is supposed by some, that the quills have a pernicious quality, which renders it difficult to cure the wounds inflicted by them.

The female goes with young seven months, and produces but one at a time: this she suckles about a month, and accustoms it betimes to live, like herself, upon vegetables, and the bark of trees.

[merged small][graphic]

The Couando, or Brazilian Porcupine, is much less than the real porcupine, and differs from it in its shor

ter head, muzzle, and quills, its longer tail, its wanting the tuft on its head, and the slit in the upper lip, and, above all, in its being a carnivorous animal. It roams by night, and sleeps by day. It is principally found in the southern parts of America, and is capable of being rendered tolerably tame.

There is another animal in America of this species, called the URSON, or Canada Porcupine, which is not so round as the former, and somewhat resembles the shape of a pig; it is covered with long bristly hair, with a shorter hair underneath, and under this the quills lie concealed very thick: they are white with a brown point, and the longest do not exceed four inches. The savages use them for pins and needles. These quadrupeds form their nests under the roots of large 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 inhabit the country lying to the east of Hudson's Bay; and many of the trading Americans depend on them for food at certain seasons of the year.

[merged small][graphic]

In its being covered with prickly quills, this animal resembles the porcupine, but it differs from it in other particulars. The length of the animal varies from six to ten inches; the head, back, and sides are covered with spines; but the nose, breast, and belly with fine soft hair. It has short and almost bare legs, with five long and separated toes on each foot; and the tail, which is about an inch long, is so concealed by the spines, as to be scarcely visible. They generally reside in hedge-rows or thickets, and feed on fallen fruits, roots, and insects; they are also very fond of flesh meat, either raw or roasted. When domesticated they devour cockroaches and beetles with great avidity. They chiefly wander about by night, and during the day lie concealed in their holes.

The Hedgehog defends itself from attack by rolling itself up like a ball, exposing no part of its body, that is not covered with these sharp weapons ; thus tiring out the patience of its adversaries. During the winter, it wraps itself up in a warm nest of moss, dried grass, and leaves; and sleeps out the rigours of that season. It produces from three to five young at a birth ; which at first are white, and exhibit only the marks of this species, with which, however, they are soon covered like the parent animal. The Hedgehog has frequently been persecuted in consequence of an absurd belief that it bites the udders of cows, while sucking them; an operation which the smallness of its mouth incapacitates it from performing.

THE TANREC. This animal is somewhat similar to the hedgehog, but smaller, being about the size of a mole, and is covered with prickles mixed with hair; but, unlike the hedgehog, it does not roll itself into a ball. Its legs are very short; its voice resembles the grunting of a hog, and it is fond of wallowing in the mire. It is generally found near creeks and harbours of salt water, and is said to be in a state of torpidity several months; during which its hair falls off, and is renewed upon its revival. It is a native of the East, and of Madagascar.

« ПредишнаНапред »