Oliver Goldsmith.

A history of the earth and animated nature: With notes from the ..., Volume 1 online

. (page 149 of 155)
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irresistible, are sure of gaining the victory ; as the bears,
in the rampant posture which they always assume in
self-defence, unconsciously expose their most vulnerable
parts to the attack of the hunter. Snares are sometimes
laid for them ; but these are most frequently unsuccess-
ful ; that extreme caution, which Is so strongly pourtrayed
tn their actions and demeanour, rendering them mistrust-
ful of every thing. Nevertheless their gluttony will
sometimes get the better of their prudence, and the bait
of honey ofiers too tempting an allurement to be always
resisted. At other times a whole tribe of Indians will
assemble for the chase, and after having performed a
variety of superstitious observances, beat the entire coun-
try for their game, drive a great number of them into a
spot selected for the purpose, and deal forth upon them
wholesale destruction. Thev will also trace them to
their retreats in the season of their lethargy, which oc-
cupies several of the winter months, and during which
the bears are incapable of offering any eflectual resist-
ance.

In the Life of Colonel Crockett the backwoodsman,
there are some curious anecdote?, of bear- hunting, at
which this extraordinary man appears to have been a
complete adept. The colonel was residing in 18S5,
when about thirty-nine years of age, on the Obion River,
in the wilder parts of Tennessee, where bears were still
to be found in considerable numbers. In the autumn of
that year, he had killed and salted as many as were
necessary for the support of his family during the win-
ter: " but about this time,*' says he, in his own narra-
tive, " one of my old neighbours, who had settled down
on the lake about twenty-five miles from me, came to
my hotise, and told me he wanted me to go down and
kill some bears about in his parts. He said they were
extremely fat, and very plenty. I know'd that when they
vrere fat, they were easily taken, for a fat bear cannot
run fast or long. But 1 asked a bear no favours, no
way further than cirility, for I now had eiffht large dogs,
and as fierce as painters [panthers ;] so that a bear



yet it is still to be distrusted and managed
with caution, as it is often treacherous and re-
sentful without a cause.

This animal is capable of some degree of



stood no chance at all to get away from them. So I
went home with htm, and then went on do%t-n towards
the Mississippi, and commenced huiitinf^.

** We were out two weeks, and in that time killed /if.
teen bears. Having now supplied my friend with plenty
of meat, I engaged occasionally again with my hunds
in our boat-building, and getting stares. But I at
length couldn't stand it any longer without another
hunt. So I concluded to take my little son, and cros*
over the lake, and take a hunt there. We got orer, and
that evening turned out and killed three bears, in lltUe
or no time. The next morning we drove up four forks,
and made a sort of scaffold, on which we salted up our
meat, so as to have it out of the reach of the wolves, for
as soon as we could leave our eamp, they would take pos-
session. We had just ate our breakfast, when a com-
pany of hunters came to our camp, who had fourteen
dogs, but an 80 poor, that when they would bait, thev
would almost have to lean up against a tree and take a
rest. I told them Uieir dogs couldn't ran in smeD of a
bear, and they had better stay at my camp, and feed
them on the bones I had cut out of my meat. I left
them there, and cut out ; but I hadn't gone far, wheo
my doga took a first-rate start after a very large (at old
ke^ear, whidi ran right plninp towards my csmp. I
poisued on, bat my other hunters had heard my dogs
oominff, and met them, and killed the bear before I got
up wiUi him. I gave him to them, and cot oat again
for a creek called Big Clover, which wa'n't very far ofT.
Jost as I got there, and was entering a cane-brake^ my
dogs ^ broke and went ahead, and in a little time they
rdsed a fuss in the cane, and seemed to be going every
way. I listened a while, and found my dogs were io
two companies^ and that both were in a snortinc figbt.
I sent my little son to one, and I broke for t'other. )
got to jnine first, and fonnd my dogs had a two-year -oU
bear, down a-woding away on him ; so I just took out
my big butcher, and went up and skp'd it into him, and
kiUed^im withoat shooting. There were fire of the dogs
in my company. In a sh^ time I heard my little sod
fire at his bear; when I went to him, he had killed it too.
He had two dogs in his team. Just at this moment w»
heard my other dog barldng a short distance ofl^ and all
the rest immediat^ broke to him. We pushed on toc^
and when we got there, we fonnd he had stiU a laxger
bear than either of them we had killed, tree'd by himteH.
"We killed that one also, which made three we had killed
in less than half an hour. We turned in and butdiered
than, and then started to hunt for water, and a good place
to camp. But we had no sooner started, than our dog&
took a start after another one, and away they went hke •
thunder-gust, and were ont of hearing in a minute. We
followed the way they had gone for some time, but at length
we gave up the hope of finding them, and turned back.
As we were going rack, I came to where a poor fellow was

rubbing, and he looked like the very picture of hard timts.
asked him what he was doing away there in the woods
by himself. He said he was grabbing for a man who in<
tended to setUe there; and he did it because he had no
meat for his family, and he was worldug for a little.

"I was mighty 'sorry for the poor fellow, for it was not
only a hard, but a very slow way to get meat for a hun-
gry family; so I told' him if he would go with mc, I
would give him more meat than he could get by gnjl>*
bing in a month. I intended to supply him with meat,
and also to get him to assbt my little boy in psdong ta
and salting up my bears. He haJ never seen a W



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THE BEAR.



547



iasiructlon. There are few but have seen it
dance in awkward measures upon its hind feet,
to the voice or the instrument of its leader ; and
it must be confessed that the dancer is often



killed in his life. I told him I liad six killed then, and
my dogs were hard after another. He went off to his
little cabin, which wu a short distance in the bush, and
his wife was very anxious he should go with me. So
we started, and went to where I had lefc my three hears,
and made a camp. We then gathered my meat, and
•alted and scaffolded it, as 1 bad done the other. Night
now came on, but no word from my dogs yet. I after,
wards found they had tree'd the bear about five miles off,
near to a man's house, and had barked at it the whole
enduring niglit. Poor fellows! many a time they looked
for me, and wondered why I didn't come, for they
know'd there was no mistake in me, and I know'd they
were as good as ever fluttered. In the morning, as
soon as it was light enough to see, the man took his gun
and went to them, and shot the bear, and killed it. My
dogs, however, wouldn't have any thing to say to this
stranger ; so they left him, and came early In the morn-
ing back to me.

** We got our breakfast, and eut out again ; and we
killed four large and very fat bears that day. We hunted
out the week, and in that time we killed seventeen, all
of them first-rate. When we closed our hunt, I gave
the man over a thousand weight of fine fat bear-meat,
which pleased him mightily, and made him feel as rich
as a Jew. I saw him the next fall, and he told me he
had plenty of meat to do him the whole year from his
week's hunt

** When I got home, one of my neighbours was out of
meat, and wanted me to go back, and let him go with
me, to take another hunt. I could'nt refuse; but I told
him thai I was afraid the bears had taken to house by
that time, for after they get very fat in the fall and early
part of the winter, they go into their holes, in large hol-
low trees, or into hollow logs, or their cane-houses, or
the barricanes, and lie there till spring, like frozen
snakes. And one thing about this will seem mij;hty
strange to many people. From about the first of Jan-
uary to about the last of April, these varmints He in their
holes altogether. In all that time they have no food to
eat; and yet when they come out, they are not an ounce
lighter than when they went to bouse. I don't know
the cause of this, but still I know it is a fact; and I
leave it for others who have more learning than myself
to account for it. They have not a particle of food with
them, but they just lie and suck the bottom of their paw
all the time. I have killed many of them in their trees,
which enables me to speak positively on this subject."

The Grixziy Bear is a native of the northern di-
vision of America, and more particularly of that exten-
sive tract of country which constitutes the state of Mis-
• souri. It differs in many striking points, both of char-
acter and habits, from the black bear, as well as from
every other animal of the very natural group of which
he forms part By his elongated, narrowed, and flat-



tened mutzle, adiled to the slight elevation of hit fore-
liead, be is closely connected with the black bear of



found to be the best performer of the two. I am
told that it is first taught to perform in this man-
ner , by setting it upon hot plates of iron, and then
playing to it, while in this uneasy situation.

America, and as remarkably distinguished from the
common brown bear of Europe, and from the white bear
of the polar regions, which last, in size and general form,
oifers perhaps the nearest approximation to the present
species. But his enormous magnitude, which may be
stated as averaging twice the bulk of tlie black bear ;
the greatly increased size and power of his canine teeth ;
and, above all, the excessive length of his talons, on the
fore feet especially, afford characteristic diflerences so
obvious and so essential, tliat it is difficult to conceive
how they could have been so long overlooked by natural-
ists as well as travellers, who have all, until within
little more than twenty years of the present time, passed
him over without even a casual hint that he presented
any claims to be considered as distinct from the common
species of his country. His hair, generally speaking, is
longer, finer, and more abundant than that of the black
bear, and varies in colour to an almost indefinite extent,
passing through all the Intermediate shades between a
light gray and a black brown. The brown tinge is,
however, the most common ; and it is always more or
less grizzled either by the intermixture of grayish hairs
or by the brown hairs being tipped with gray. His eyes
are very small, and hardly at all prominent; and the
lino of the profile is consequently nearly straight. His
tail Is scarcely visible, being almost entirely concealed
by the long hairs which surround it. The breadth of the
fore foot In one of the individuals observed by Captains
Lewis and Clarke, exceeded nme inches, while the
length of his hind foot, exclusive of the talons, was eleven
inches and three quarters, and its breadth seven inches.
The claws of the fore foot measure about six Inches.
The latter are considerably longer and less curved than
those of the hind feet, and do not narrow In a lateral
direction as they approach their extremity, but diminish
only from beneath : the point is consequently formed by
the shelving of the inferior surface alone, their breadth
remaining the same throughout the whole of their enor.
mous length, and their power being proportionally In-
creased; an admirable provision for enabling the ain'mal
to exercise to the fullest extent his propensity for dig-
ging up the ground, either in search of food or for other
purposes. It appears, however, on the other hand, to
unfit him for climbing trees, which he never attempts;
and this remarkable circumstance in his habits affords a
striking distinction between him and all the other bearv,
which are essentially climbers.

Of all the quadrupeds which inhabit the northern re-
gions of the American continent, the grizzly bear is uru
questionably the most formidable and the most dreaded.
Superior to the rest of his tribe, not excepting even the
polar species. In bulk. In power, in agility, and in the
ferocity of his disposition, It Is not to be wondered at
that he should be regarded by the native Indians with an
almost superstitious terror, and that some portion of this
feeling should have been communicated even to the
civilized travellers, who have occasionally met with him
in the wild and desolate regions which are subject to his
devastations.

M. Duvaucel enuhierates three species of bears in-
habiting India and the neighbouring islands. The first
of these is the Ursus Labiatus, which was strangely
mistaken on its first arrival in Europe, nearly forty
years ago, for a sloth, and received from the naturalistsi
of that day the name of Bradjrpus pentadactylus, or ur-
iinus, the five-fingered, or Ursine, Sloth ; an appellation
which has been productive of no little confusion in no^
meuclature, and is still frequently employed in mena-
geries and exhibitions to distinguish the same animals



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548



HISTORY OF ANIMALS.



The bear, when come to maturity, can
never be tamed ; it then continues in its native
fierceness, and though caged, still formidably
impotent, at the approach of its keeper flies



and Mmetimei even nearly related species. With the
trae sloths it hu nothing in common ; and the only cir-
cumstance which can at all account for the blunder, con-
aisu in the accidental deficiency of the incisor teeth in
the animal first examined ; a deficiency^ which, accord-
ing to the strict principles of the artificial system then
adopted, wai alone sufficient to conTert a bear into a sloth.
The second is the Ursus Malayanus, the Malay bear,
admirably illustrated, both with regard to character and
habits, by the late lamented Sir Stamford Raffles in the
thirteenth volume of the Linnean Transactions. The
third is the Thibet bear. Another species connected
with the aboTe is the Bornean bear. The Bomean
bear is perhaps somewhat shorter in his proportions than
the rest of the group, and the great proportional breadth
of his head extencb also to the neck and body. The
claws are very long, strongly arched, and Tory gradually
attenuated to the point, which is transTorsely truncated
and chiefly fitted for digging the earth; but probably
also for enabling it to climb with great agility.

Many persons, says the author of Oriental Field
Sports, hare disputed the existence of the bear in India.
Facts, however, impose a silence on all atteiQpts at rea-
«oning on this point, as to its heavy coat of hair, and
the heat of the country ; for to the great annoyance of
the villagers, bears not only exist in India, but do much
mischief to the crops, and occasionally devour many of
the inhabiUnto.

The Bengal bear is disUaguisbed by the deep black
colour of his hair, and by a crescent of white hair like
a gorget on his breast. The hind legs are shorter, and
tlie paws flatter and longer than those of European
breed ; his pace is more shufiling, awkward, and labour*
ed, though quick enough to overtake a man on foot ; and
his hair is long, and tUnly scattered over his body. He
is remarkably active in climbing; frequently when not
more than a month old, a cub will ascend to the
shoulders of his keeper with great ease, and descend
again stem foremost with equal adroitness. They are
of a most sanguinary disposition, and will chew and
suck at a limb till it be a perfisct pulp. They do not
bite away the flesh like most beasts of prey, but prefer
extracting the blood and juices by suction. While sta-
tioned at Dacca, I went with a party several times to
the great house at Tergong, distant about five miles from
the town. I had on several occasions seen bears among
the wild mango tops, and did not consider them as being
so dangerous, until one day as I was returning with a
friend from hunting some hog-deer, we heard a most
lamentable outcry in the cover through which we had to
pass. Having our spears, and being provided with guns,
we alighted, not doubting but a leopard had attiu^ked
some poor woodcutter. We met a woman whose fears
had deprived her of speech, and whose senses were just
flitting. She, however, collected herself suflidently to
pronounce the word iauioo, which signifies a bear. She
led us with caution to a spot not more than fifty yards
distant, where we' found her husband extended on the
ground, his hands and feet, as I before observed, sucked
and chewed into a perfect pulp^ the teguments of the
limbs in general drawn from under the skin, and the
akull mostly laid bare, the skin of it hanging down in
long strips, obviously eflected by their talons. What
was most singular, was, that the unhappy man retained
his senses sufficiently to describe that he had been at-
tacked by several bears— the woman said sevens-one of
which embraced him while the others clawed him about
the head, and bit at his arms and legs, seemingly in
competition for the booty. Wt canveyed the wretched



to meet him. But notwithstanding the fierce-
ness of this animal, the natives of thoee coun-
tries where it is found, hunt it with mat per-
severance and alacrity. The least dangerous

object to the house, where, in a few hours, death re-
lieved him from a state in which no human being oould
afford the smallest assistance. These merciless brutes
dash from the covers, both single and In numbers, to at.
tack passengers. As to escaping into trees, that would
be poor evasion; for the bear climbs with astonishing
ease.

During our halt in the Himalaya mountains, sajrs a
writer in the Oriental Annual, a circumstance occurred
which I confess 1 feel no little pleasure at having the
opportunity of recording, as it is highly characteristic of
the skill of the mountaineers in baffling the ferocious
propensities of those animals by which they are so perw
petually threatened with mischief. I had entered a deep
dell with inygun, accompanied by two hill- men, in order
to try if I could not succeed in killing some jungle-
fowl, which are here tolerably abundant, though so wild
as to render it a matter of no common difficulty to get
near them. Afier a long and fiUiguing walk, we ascended
with some toil a very sudden abruption of the moun-
tain, when upon gaining the summit, which overhung a
precipice, a bear started from a recess in the neighbour-
ing covert, and advanced evidently with sinister inten-
tions towards us. I was about to fire, though my gun
was only loaded with large shot, when one c^ my high-
land guides motioned me to desist, giving me to under-
stand, by significant gesticulations (for I understood his
language but very indifferently) that he would attack
the enemy unarmed ; and from the coolness and dex-
terity with which he commenced operation^ I confes I
could not persuade myself to doubt of a favourable re.
suit, in spite of the difficulties which seemed to defy its
accomplishment. Almost upon the extreme 6dge of the
precipice stood a tall tree with strong vertical branches,
apparently of the character though not the form of the
mountain-ash, being very tpugh and elastic The hill,
man approached the bear, and by exciting it withdrew
its attention from me towards himself. The exasperated
beast immediately made him the object of attack, when
the man adroitly sprang on the tree, as nimbly followed
by the bear. The former having reached the upper
branches, he quickly slipped a strong cord over the top
of the limb upon which he stood, at the same time
dropping the reverse end upon the ground. This wa«
instantly seixed by his companion, who, pulling with all
his strength, drew the point of the bough downward un-
til the branch projected nearly in a horicontal line from
the stem: there were no intervening branches betwixt
this and the precipice, the edge of which it nearly over-
hung when in its natural position. As soon as the bough
was warped to the necessary degree of tension, the
mountaineer crept cautiously as near the extremity as he*
could with safety, followed as cautiously by the bear; but,
the moment he saw his angry fee upon the bent branch,
he dexterously let himself down by the cord to the
ground. The bear, thus unexpectedly deprived of its
victim, attempted to turn, in order to retrace its steps :
no sooner, however, had it relaxed its grasp of the bough
for this purpose, than the hill-man suddenly cut the
cord, which had been securely tied to the stump of a
tree, and the depressed branch instantly gained its ori«
ginal position with an irresistible momentum. The sud-
denness and vigour of the recoil shook the bear from its
hold, elancing it, like tbt fragment of a rock from a
catapult, into the empty air; uttering a stifled yell, it
was hurled over the precipice, and, filling with a dull
crash upon the rocks beneath, no doubt soon became a
prey to the vultures and jackals. The address with
which the bokl highlander accomplished this dangeroug



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THE BEAR.



54d



method of taking it is by intoxicating it»
by throwing brandy upon honey, which it
seems to be chiefly fond of, and seeks for in
the hollow of trees. In Canada, where the
BLACK BBAR8 are yery common, and where their
dens are made in trees that are hollow towards
the top, they are taken by setting fire to their
retreats, which are often above thirty-feet from
the ground. The old one is generally seen first
to issue from her den, and is shot by the hunters.
The young ones as they descend are caught
in a noose, and are either kept, or killed for
provision. Their paws are said to be a great
delicacy, and their hams are well enough
known at the tables of the luxurious here.
Their fat also, which still preserves a certain
degree of fluidity, is supposed to be an effi-
cacious remedy in white or indolent tumours,
though probably very little superior to hog's
lard.

The WHITE GBBBNLAKo BBAB dlflers greatly,
both in figure and dimensions, from those aU
ready described ; and though it preserves in
general the external form of its more southern
kindred, yet it grows to above three times the
size. The brown bear is seldom above six
feet long ; the white bear is often known from
twelve to thirteen. The brown bear is made
rather strong and sturdy like the mastifl'; the
Greenland bear, though covered with very
long hair, and apparently bulky, is neverthe-
less more slender, both as to the head, neck,
and body, and more inclining to the shape of
the greyhound. In short all the variations of
its figure, and its colour, seem to proceed from
the coldness of the climate where it resides,
and the nature of the food it is supplied with.'



exploit was as astonishing as it was novel. — Oriental
Annual,

* Polar bear. — In the arctic regions where the vegeta-
ble kingdom is feebly represented by lichens and mosses,
but where, on the contrary, the ocean teems %rith my.
riads of small moUusca, and at the same time exhibits
animal life under its bulkiest forms, — here the polar
bear is found laying wait for and combating the walrus
and the seal ; pursuing and overtaking in its own ele-
ment the swift salmon ; employing stratagem to surprise
the smaller quadrupeds and birds which in summer time
visit the higher latitudes ; less delicate also in his appe-
tites than the more strictly carnivorous quadrupeds, this
species does not disdain to feast on the stranded carcass
of the whale; and being of a slothful disposition, he pre-
fers this mere easy and more abundant sustenance,, to
that which demands from him mor«* active predatory
exertions.

In the tropical regions, on the contrary, where vege-
tation is exhibited under the most luxuriant forms and
in the greatest profusion, the bears live almost exclu-
sively on vegetable matter ; and it is interesting to ob-
serve that these species are the smallest of the genus,
and are consequently best fitted for climbing ; whilst
the bears inhabiting the wilds of Siberia, the rocky
mountains of North America, and the arctic icebergs,
attain that superior size and strength which enable them



Online LibraryOliver GoldsmithA history of the earth and animated nature: With notes from the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 149 of 155)