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Course. When taken, they are soonest brought to be tame
with the Juice of Barley. 1

The Manner of taking Elephants.

THE Indians take Elephants in this manner : the Go-
vernor employeth one of them that are tame, and when he
meeteth with a wild one alone, or can single him from the
Herd, he beateth him until he hath made him weary, and
then he mounteth on him and ruleth him as well as the former.
In Africa they catch them in Pit-falls; into which, if one of
them wander, all the rest immediately heap together Boughs
of Trees, they roll down Heaps, they raise Banks, and with
all they can do, labour to draw him out. Formerly when
they meant to make them tractable, by the Help of Horse-
men they drove the Flocks along into a Valley made by
Man's Hand, and calculated to deceive them for a consider-

1 That is, gruel, or tissane, as we may suppose. Wern. Club.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 13

able Extent ; arid when they were enclosed within the Ditches
and Banks, they subdued them by Hunger; and they knew
they were tame enough if they would quietly take a Branch
from the Man that offered it to them. But now, since they
seek after them for the sake of their Teeth, they throw Darts
at their Legs, which are the softest Part of their Body. The
Trogloditee, 1 a People bordering on Ethiopia, who live only
by hunting Elephants, climb the Trees that are near their
Walk, and from thence watching all the Herd as they pass,
they leap down upon the Buttocks of the hindmost; then he,
with his left Hand, layeth hold of the Tail, and setteth his
Feet fast in the Flank of the left Side ; and so hanging, with
his right Hand he cutteth the Hamstrings of one of his Legs
with a very sharp double-edged Knife ; which done, the
Elephant slackening his Pace, the Man then maketh escape,
and divideth the Sinews likewise of the other Ham ; and all
this Execution he doth with wonderful Agility. Others have
a safer Way than this, but it is more deceitful : they fix in
the Ground a great Way off, very great Bows ready bent;
to hold these fast they choose young Men remarkable for
their Strength, and others united together draw with all
Might these Bows against the first, and so they pierce the
Elephants as they pass with Javelins, and then follow them
by their Blood. Of these Creatures, the Females are much
more fearful than the Males.

1 These people are often mentioned by Pliny, and are particularly
described by Heliodorus (2Ethiopics, b. viii.) : " They are a people of
Ethiopia, and live by grazing. These people are extremely swift of foot,
as well by nature as by continued exercise from their childhood : of little
use in close fight, but very serviceable with their slings, which they gall
their enemy with at a distance ; and if they find themselves overpowered,
they fly, secured by their swiftness, and by running into holes and caverns
among the rocks, where no enemy ever found it worth their while to follow
them." The Agagees, as mentioned by Mr. Bruce, in his " Travels into
Abyssinia," appear to be a similar race of men ; although the object of
pursuit is a different animal. Wern. Club.

] 4 History of Nature. [ BOOK VIII.

The Manner of Taming Elephants.

As furious as they may be, they are tamed with Hunger
and Stripes, and by the Help of other Elephants that are
brought to them, to restrain the unruly Beast with Chains ;
and at other Times, when they go to rut, they are most out
of Order ; so that they demolish the Stables with their Teeth :
and therefore they restrain them from their Heat, and sepa-
rate the Inclosures of the Females apart from those of the
Males, which Enclosures they have much in the Mariner of
other Beasts. When tamed, they serve in War, and carry
little Castles with armed Soldiers among the Enemies j 1 and
for the most Part they decide the Wars of the East. They
bear down the Body of the Army, and stamp them (the
armed Men) under Foot. But these same are affrighted
with the Grunting of Swine ; and if wounded or put into
a Fright, they always go backward, with scarcely less Mis-
chief to their own Side. The African Elephants are afraid
of the Indian, and dare not look upon them ; for the Indian
Elephants are much bigger. 2


How they Bring forth their Young; and of other Parts of
their Nature.

IT is the common Opinion that they go with Young ten
Years ; but Aristotle saith, that they go but two Years, and

1 Or on their backs (a various reading), Wern. Club.

2 Philostratus and Polybius confirm this statement of Pliny, that the
Indian elephant is larger than that of Africa ; and ^Elian says, that it
attains the height of nine cubits. But modern authors generally consider
the African species the larger, at least larger than the common elephant
of Hindostan. Mr. Corse, formerly superintendent of the East India
Company's elephants at Tiperah, a province of Bengal, never heard of
but one Indian elephant whose height reached ten feet six inches. The
elephants of Hindostan are, however, the smallest of the Asiatic species.
Those of Pegu and Ava are much larger ; and the skeleton of the elephant
at the Museum of Petersburgh, which was sent to the Czar Peter by the
King of Persia, measures sixteen feet and a half in height. Wern. Club.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 15

that they breed but once in their Life, and produce not above
one at a Time : also that they live 200 Years, and some of
them 300. Their Condition of Youth beginneth when they
are threescore Years old : they greatly delight in Rivers, and
they wander about Waters ; when otherwise, by reason of the
Magnitude of their Bodies, they cannot swim. 1 They are
impatient of Cold. The greatest Evil which befals them is,
Distension and Purging of the Bowels ; nor do they suffer
from any other kinds of Sickness. I find that if they drink Oil,
the Darts which stick in their Bodies will fall off, but if they
sweat the more easily will they hold fast. The eating of
Earth causes wasting in them, unless they chew well and
often : they devour Stones also. The Trunks of Trees is the
best Meat they have. They will overturn the higher Palm-
trees with their Forehead, and eat the Dates as they lie
along. They chew their Meat with their Mouth : but they
breathe, drink, and smell with what is not improperly called
their Hand. Of all living Creatures they most detest a
Mouse; 2 and if they perceive that their Provender lying in
the Manger hath been touched by it, they will not touch it.
They are mightily tormented with Pain, if in their drinking
they swallow down a Leech ; which Creature, I observe, they
begin now commonly to call a Bloodsucker, (Sanyuisuga) :
for when the Leech hath fixed itself in the Windpipe, it put-
teth him to intolerable Pain. The Hide of their Back is
most hard; 3 but in the Belly it is soft; their Skin has no
covering of Hair ; and even in their Tail there is no Defence
which might serve to drive away the Annoyance of Flies (for
as huge a Beast as he is, he feeleth it) ; but their Skin is full

1 It scarcely needs be observed that the elephant swims as well as
any other quadruped. In this act he will frequently immerse his whole
body, so that the tip of his trunk only is above water, to the no slight
inconvenience of those who chance to be riding on his back. Wern.

3 JElian says (B. i. c. 38), that it dreads the grunting of a hog, and a
horned ram ; and it was by employing these that the Romans put to flight
the elephants of King Pyrrhus, by which they obtained a decisive victory.
Wern. Club.

3 (Various reading.) Anirnce canali, or amne canali. Wern. Club.

] 6 History of Nature. [ BOOK VIII.

of cross Wrinkles, and its Smell attracts this kind of Crea-
tures. And therefore when they are stretched along, and
perceive the Swarms settled on their Skin, suddenly they
draw those Crevices close together, and crush them to death.
This serves them instead of Tail, Mane, and long Hair.
Their Teeth bear a very high Price, and their Substance is
of greatest request for the Images of the Gods : but Luxury
hath devised another Thing in them to commend ; for they
find a particular Taste (vim) in the hard Substance of (that
which they call) their Hand : for no other reason (I believe)
but because they have a Conceit that they eat the Ivory
itself. In Temples are to be seen Teeth of the greatest Size ;
but in the remote Parts of Africa where it bordereth on
Ethiopia, they stand in the Place of Corner-posts of their
Houses ; and with the Elephants' Teeth they make Hedges
and Pales, as well to enclose their Grounds, as also to keep
their Cattle within Stalls, as PolyHus reporteth, from the
Testimony of the petty King Gulussa.


Where Elephants are bred ; and of the Disagreement between
them and the Dragons. 1

ELEPHANTS are bred in that Part of Africa which lieth
beyond the Deserts of the Syrtes, and also in Mauritania :
they are found also among the Ethiopians and Troglodites,
as hath been said : 2 but India produceth the biggest : as also
the Dragons, which are continually at variance and fighting
with them ; and those of such Greatness, that they can easily
clasp round the Elephants, 3 and tie them fast with a Knot.

1 For the Dragons, see 1 3th chap. Wern. Club.

3 Lib. viii. c. 8. Wem. Club.

3 .ZElian (B. vi. c. 21) says, that these dragons conceal themselves
among the branches of trees, from which they hang dependent, watching
for their prey. When the elephants approach to feed on the branches,
the enemy seizes them about the eyes, twines itself about the neck, and
lashes them with its tail, in which manner they fall down strangled.
Wern. Club.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 17

In this Conflict they die together ; that which is overcome
falling down, and with his Weight crushing the one that is
twined about him.

The Subtilty of Animals.*

WONDERFUL is the Subtilty of Animals, each one ac-
cording to its own Kind ; and they have only this one Diff-
culty, that they must climb to so great an Height. The
Dragon, therefore, espying the Elephant going to its Food,
throweth itself on it from a high Tree ; this Creature,
knowing its Inability by struggling to withstand the other's
Windings about it, seeketh to crush its Enemy against the
Trees or Rocks. The Dragons guard against this by en-
tangling its Progress first with their Tail; the Elephants
undo those Knots with their Hand : but the Dragons put
their Heads into their Snout, and so shut out their Breath,
and tear the tenderest Parts. When these two chance to
encounter each other on the Way, the Dragons raise them-
selves against their Enemies, and aim chiefly at the Eyes,
whereby it happeneth that many Times they (the Ele-
phants) are found blind, and worn away with Hunger
and Grief. What other Reason should a Man allege of so
great a Variance between them, if it be not a Sport of Nature,
in matching these two, so equal in every respect ? But some
report this Contest in another Manner ; and that the Occa-
sion of it ariseth from the Elephant's Blood being exceed-
ingly Cold, on which Account chiefly the Dragons search it
out during the parching Season of the Year. And to the
same Purpose they lie under the Water in Rivers, watching
for the Elephants when they are drinking; when they catch
fast hold of their Hand (Trunk), and having clasped it, they

1 This chapter offers a poor developement of a universal principle in
nature, by which the character of every animal is displayed in its re-
sources of pursuit and defence. For its exemplification in the habits of
British animals, the reader is referred to a work entitled " Illustrations
of Instinct, derived from the Habits of British Animals," by Jonathan
Couch, F.L.S. Wern. Club.


]8 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

fix their Bite in the Elephant's Ear, because that is the only
Part which they cannot defend with their Hand. These
Dragons are so large, that they are able to receive all the
Elephant's Blood. Thus are they sucked dry by them until
they fall down dead ; and the Dragons thus drunken, are
crushed under them, and both die together.

Of Dragons.*

IN Ethiopia there are produced as great Dragons as in
India, being twenty Cubits long. But I chiefly wonder at
this one Thing: why Juba should think they were Crested.
They are produced most in a Country of Ethiopia, where the
People called Asachsei inhabit. It is reported, that upon
their Coasts they enwrap themselves four or five together,
in the manner of a Bundle of Rods, and thus pass the Seas,
to find better Pasturage in Arabia, bearing up their Heads
aloft as they cross the Waves.

1 Dragons are often mentioned by ancient authors, but without any
marks by which we can distinguish them from other kinds of serpents.
Their bulk did not constitute the distinction, for the bose mentioned in
the following chapter are, at least, equally large. The idea of ferocity
seems more directly to mix itself with this class of reptiles ; and accord-
ingly in the Septuagint version of the Scriptures this is the impression
usually implied in the term. In the 29th chapter of the prophecy of
Ezekiel the crocodile is signified by that name, as it is also by Marco
Polo in his travels ; but in Revel, c. xx. as in the more ancient books of
Scripture, a large serpent is distinctly characterised. Among the remark-
able things at Rome in the days when the strangest things were sought
out to gratify extravagant curiosity, Suetonius says that Tiberius pos-
sessed a tame dragon ; and Martial (Ep. b. vii. c. 70) makes it the play-
thing of a lady : " Si gelidum collo nectit Glacilla Draconem." The
dragon, as a winged serpent, was in the middle ages often represented by
the skin of a skate, distorted and cut into form, by which the opinion of
?uch a monstrous shape was spread among the public. Wern. Club.

BooKVIU.] History of Nature. 19

Of very great Serpents, and those called Bo<z. L

MEGASTHENES writeth that there are Serpents in India
which grow to such a Size that they are able to swallow
Stags or Bulls whole. Metrodorus saith that about the River
Rhyndacus, in Pontus, there are Serpents which catch and
devour the Fowls of the Air as they fly over them, however
high or rapid their Flight may be. It is well known that
Regulus, Imperator during the Wars against the Cartha-
ginians, near the River Bograda assailed a Serpent with his
Military Engines, the Balistae and Tormentum, as he would
have done to a Town ; and when Subdued, the Length of the
Serpent was found to be 120 Feet. The Skin and Jaws of
this Serpent were preserved in a Temple at Rome until the
War of Numantia. And this is rendered the more credible
from the Serpents that we see in Italy that are called Boae,
which increase to such Size, that in the Days of the Prince
Dlvus Claudius there was one of them killed in the
Vatican, within the Belly of which there was found an In-
fant Child. They are nourished at the first by the Milk of
the Cow, from whence they take their Name. As for other
Animals, which of late are often brought from all Parts into
Italy, it is needless for me to describe their Forms par-

1 The monstrous serpents recorded by ancient authors, as Aristotle,
Virgil, Livy, Pliny, and others, were probably of the family of bose.
Pliny gives here the derivation of the name " boa," and Johnson, " Dei-
parse de Urseolo," and others observe that the name is derived not so
much from the power the animals have of swallowing oxen, as from a
strong opinion in old times of their following the herds, and sucking their
udders. Cuvier says the boae are among the largest of serpents. Some
of the species attain to thirty or forty feet in length, and become capable
of swallowing dogs, deer, and even oxen, after having crushed them in
their folds, and lubricated them with their saliva. The class of bose, as
anciently understood, has been divided by Cuvier into two, boa and
python : to which latter this author supposes that serpent to have belonged
which offered so formidable a resistance to the army of Regulus. Such
enormous serpents have long since ceased to exist in Italy. Wern. Club.

9Q History of Nature. [ BOOK VIII.


Of Scythian Animals, and those that are produced in the
North Parts.

VERY few Animals are produced in Scythia, through the
Scarcity of Vegetation. Few likewise are in Germany, bor-
dering on it; but that Country possesseth some remark-
able kinds of Wild Cattle, as the Maned Bisons, 1 and the
Urus, of very great Strength and Swiftness, which ignorant

1 Urus Bonasus. Much doubt has existed with regard to the
distinction between these three supposed species of oxen, which Cuvier
resolves into two, the Bos Bonasus of Linneus; Zubr, or European
Bison; and the Urus, mentioned in ancient times by Caesar. The
former animal once roamed over the woodland districts of Central
Europe, and in England was contemporary with the extinct races
of elephant and rhinoceros ; but it is now confined to the forest of
Bialowicza, in the government of Grodno, where it is carefully pro-
tected by the imperial government, whose strict enactments alone have
saved it from extirpation. In Owen's " History of British Fossil Mam-
malia," p. 491, &c. the remains of animals of this species are described
as those of the Bison Priscus; and they are found in " various newer ter-
tiary fresh -water deposits, especially in Kent and Essex, and along the
valley of the Thames." A young male and female were presented to the
Zoological Society of London, by the Emperor of Russia, in the year
1847. Aristotle calls it Bonasos, or Monassos, and describes it as living
in Pa3onia, the modern Bulgaria; but the distance to which, in terror, it
voids its excrements, is more moderately represented by him as four
fathoms ; which Pliny extends to no less than " tria jugera," or a space of
700 feet. The Urus, also a large species of wild ox, ranged the forests of
Germany and Belgium till a late period of the Roman empire, but is now
extinct. Its fossil remains, under the name of Bos Primigemus, are found
by Professor Owen in the same deposits and localities as those of the
Aurochs, or Bison. The Urus was almost equal in size to the Aurochs,
but differed from it precisely, as the Roman poets and historians have
indicated, by the greater length of its horns, and by the absence of a
copious mane. It appears to have had a nearer affinity to the domestic
ox, resembling it probably in the close nature of its hairy covering.
Cuvier, Professor Bell, and other naturalists, are disposed to believe that
our domestic cattle are the degenerate descendants of the Urus, but with
this opinion Professor Owen does not concur ; and they are more probably
to be referred to the wild cattle still preserved in the park at Shering-
ham. Wern. Club,

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 2 1

People call Bubalus : whereas the Bubalus 1 is bred in Africa,
and beareth some Resemblance to a Calf, or rather to a Stag.
The Northern Regions also bring forth Troops of Wild
Horses ; 2 as in Asia and Africa there are of Wild Asses. 3
Besides these there is the Alee, 4 very like a Beast of Burden,
but that the Height of its Ears and Neck distinguishes it.
Also, in the Island Scandinavia, but nowhere else in the
World, though spoken of by many, there is a Beast called
Machlis, not much unlike the Alee abovenamed, but without
any Bending of the Pastern, and therefore he never lieth
down, but Sleepeth leaning against a Tree; and when that is
cut down, they are taken in the Snare, for otherwise they
are too swift to be caught. Their upper Lip is exceeding
Great, and therefore as they Feed they go backward ; for if
they passed forward, it would be folded double. There is
(they say) a Wild Beast in Paeonia, which is called Bonasus,
with a Mane like an Horse, but otherwise resembling a
Bull ; arid his Horns bend so inwardly, with their Tips
toward the Head, that they are of no Service for Fight, and
therefore he hath recourse to Flight for Safety ; and in it
throwing out his Dung at intervals to the Distance of three
Acres, the Contact of which burneth them that follow, like so
much Fire. It is a strange thing that Leopards, Panthers,
Lions and such Animals, as they go, draw the Points of their

1 Antelope bubalus. PALLAS. The Harte-beest. Wern. Club.

3 A race of wild horses was common to the northern and other regions
of the earth in Pliny's time, but they appear to have been derived from a
domesticated stock. Like that of most other animals, and even plants,
that have yielded to the sway of man, the original country of the horse
cannot be traced with a certainty ; but as the sacred writings inform us that
the Egyptians were the first to train him for the use of man, it is pro-
bably to the northern parts of Africa that we are to look for its native
locality. Wern. Club.

3 The ass still exists in a state of nature in Persia, India, and in some
parts of Africa ; it is larger, stronger, and more beautiful than the same
animal in a domestic state. Wern. Club.

4 Alee, the Elk, Cervus Alee, of Linnaeus. What is to be understood
by the Machlis appears to be doubtful. The description applies only to
the Elk ; but part of it is clearly an error. Wern. Club.

22 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

Claws within a Sheath, that they may not be Broken, or
rendered Blunt; and that when they run the Hooks are
turned back, and are never stretched forth but when they
seize an Object. 1

Of Lions . 2

THE Lions are then in their high Perfection vhen the
Hair of their Mane covereth the Neck and Shoulders. And
this cometh at a certain Age to them that are the Progeny
of Lions indeed ; for such as have Panthers to their Sires
never have this Ornament ; 3 as also has not the Lioness.
Lionesses are very lecherous, which is the cause that there
is so much Anger in the Lions. This Africa seeth most,

1 Sir Charles Bell, " Bridgewater Treatise," p. 102, says, " The last
bone, which supports the claw, is placed laterally to the next to the last,
and is so articulated with it that an elastic ligament draws it back and
raises the sharp extremity of the claw upwards. In the ordinary running
of the animal the nearer extremity of the furthest bone presses the
ground, this and the furthest extremity of the second bone, which is also
bent down, being received on a pad, which acts as a cushion, and also adds
to the elasticity. In this condition the claw itself is received into a sheath
above ; but when the creature strikes an object, the claws are brought for-
ward, and bent under by the action of the flexor tendons acting on the
last bone, assisted by the extensors, which cause to start upward the end
of the second bone as by a spring. It is only the excitement of seizing an
object that can produce this action ; and when this does not exist, the
bones and claw fall into their ordinary almost dislocated condition."
Wern. Club.

2 Felis Leo. LINN. Wern. Club.

3 Aristotle also speaks of a maneless lion, " Hist. Anim." ii. 31 ; and
modern science has confirmed the assertion of these ancient naturalists, but
of course without accrediting its monstrous birth. Olivier, " Voyage dans
1'Kmpire Othomau, 1'Egypt, et la Perse," tom.iv. says that the lion which
inhabits the part of Arabia and Persia near the river of the Arabs, from
ilie Persian Gulf to the environs of Helle and of Bagdad, is probably the
species of lion of which Aristotle and Pliny have spoken, and which they
regarded as a different species from that which is spread over the interior
of Africa. This lion much resembles the African species, excepting that
it is smaller and has no mane. la 1833 Captain Since exhibited to a
meeting of the Zoological Society of London the skins of a lion and lioness

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 23

where for want of Water the Wild Beasts meet in Troops
about the few Rivers that are found. And hence it is that
so many strangely shaped Beasts are there produced, for the
Males, either by Force or through Wantonness, mix with
the Females of various Kinds. From hence also proceeds
the common Greek Proverb, That Africa is continually
bringing forth something new. 1 The Lion knoweth by Scent
of the Panther when the Lioness hath suffered his Embrace ;
and with all his might he punisheth her Adultery. And
therefore she either washeth away the Crime in a River,
or else folio weth the Lion at a great Distance. I see it is a
commonly received Opinion that the Lioness bringeth forth
Young but once, because the Whelps in her Parturition

Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 41 of 60)