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Pliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books online

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in which to hibernate during the cold months of the year. Here several
are found entwined together, and in a very torpid condition ; and if at
this period a viper be made to wound an animal with its poison fang, no
injury is likely to result from it: the poison does not exist at all, or is
inert." BELL'S British Reptiles. Wern. Club.

5 Cochlea. Lib. ix. 56.



BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 69

Times past digged up only about the Sea-coast of the Alps ;
but of late they have been dug up in Veliternum also. But
the very best of them all are in the Island Astypalaea.

Lizards 1 are the most deadly Enemies to Snails; and Men
say that they do not live above six Months. In Arabia are
Lizards of a Cubit in Length : and in the Mountain Nisa, in
India, they are four-and-twenty Feet long; some tawny,
some light red, and others sky-blue.

CHAPTER XL.
Of Dogs*

AMONG those Creatures which associate with us there
are many Things worthy of being known ; and the Dog is
beyond all others the most faithful to Man, and the Horse
next. We have heard, beyond doubt, of a Dog, that in
Defence of his Master fought hard against Thieves ; and
although he was wounded through the Body in many Places,
yet would he not abandon him, but drove away the wild
Birds and savage Beasts : also of another in Epirus, who in
a great Assembly of the People, recognising the Man who
had murdered his Master, by barking at and tearing him
furiously, compelled him to confess the Crime. Two hundred
Dogs restored from Exile a King of the Garamantes ; fight-
ing against all that opposed him. The Colophonians, and
also the Castabaleans, possessed Squadrons (Cohorts) of
Dogs for War ; and these were put in the front of the Battle,
and were never known to draw back. These were their
trustiest Auxiliaries, and never in want of Pay. In a Battle
when the Cimbri were slain, the Dogs defended their Houses
placed upon the Waggons. Jason the Lycian had a Dog,
which, after his Master was slain, would never eat Meat, but

1 When Pliny tells us that some Lizards were a cubit in length, while
others were twenty-four feet, it will hardly be necessary to inform the
reader that the Romans included many different species, and even genera,
under the terms Lacerta and Lacertus. Wern. Club.

2 Camsfamiliaris. 'Liyx. The Dog. Wern. Club.



70 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

pined himself to Death. Duris maketh mention of another
Dog, which he named Hircanus, that when the funeral Fire
of King Lysimachus was set a-burning, leapt into the Flame.
And so did another at the Funeral of King Hiero. Also
Phylistus commemorateth the Dog of King Pyrrhus, and
another belonging to the Tyrant Gelo. They report of a Dog
belonging to Nicomedes, King of Numidia, which flew upon
Consingis his Wife for toying overwantonly with her Hus-
band. And even with us, Volcatius, a noble Gentleman,
who taught Geselius the Civil Law, as he returned Home one
Evening, riding upon an Hackney from a Village near the
City, was defended from a Highwayman by his Dog. Ccelius,
likewise, a Senator, lying sick at Placentia, was violently
attacked by armed Men, but they were not able to wound
him, until they had killed the Dog. But that exceedeth all,
which happened in our Time, and standeth upon Record in
the Registers : when Appius Junius and P. Silus were Con-
suls, and T. Sabinus and his Servants were punished on ac-
count of Nero the Son of Germanicus : one of them that was
put to Death had a Dog which could not be kept from the
Prison ; and when his Master was thrown down the Stairs
called Scalse Gemonise, he would not depart from his dead
Body, but kept up a most piteous Howling about it, in the
Sight of a great Multitude of Romans that stood about it;
and when one of the Company threw the Dog a piece of
Meat, he carried it to the Mouth of his dead Master. When
the dead Body was thrown into the Tiber, the Dog swam
after it, and endeavoured to bear it afloat ; and a large Num-
ber of People poured out of the City to behold the Fidelity
of the Animal. They are the only Animals that know their
Master ; and if an unknown Person approach suddenly, they
are aware of his coming. They are the only Animals that
know their own Names, and the People of the House by
the Sound of their Voice. They remember the Way, how-
ever long it is, if they have once gone over it. And there is
no Creature, beside Man, that hath a better Memory. Their
Violence and Fury are appeased by a Man sitting down



BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 71

upon the Ground. 1 The longer we live the more Things we
observe still in Dogs ; but their Skill and Sagacity are
chiefly displayed in Hunting : they examine and follow up
the Footmarks, leading the Hunter who attends them to the
very Place where the Beast lieth ; and having gotten an Eye
of his Game, how silent and secret, how significant is their
Discovery to the Hunter, first wagging the Tail, and mark-
ing with their Nose ! And even when Dogs are worn out,
weak and blind, Men carry them in their Arms to hunt,
to wind the Beast, and by Scent to show by their pointing
of the Nose where the Beast is at Harbour. The Indians
desire to procure a Cross between the Dog and the Tiger ;
and for this Purpose, at the proper Time, they tie the
Bitches in the Woods. They suppose the first and second
Litter of such as are thus bred to be too fierce ; but the third
they bring up. The Gauls do the same by their Dogs that
are produced from Wolves; and of which they have Flocks,

1 That the fury of a dog is mitigated by a man's sitting down, Homer
also informs us, Odyssey, xiv. 33 :

" Soon as Ulysses near the inclosure drew,
With open mouths the furious mastiffs flew :
Down sat the sage, and cautious to withstand,
Let fall the offensive truncheon from his hand.
Sudden the master runs ; aloud he calls ;
And from his hasty hand the leather falls ;
With showers of stones he drives them far away ;
The scattering dogs around at distance bay." POPE.

Mure, in his " Journal of a Tour in Greece and the Ionian Islands,"
tells us, that " at Argos one evening, at the table of General Gordon,
then commanding in chief in the Morea, the conversation happened to
turn, as it frequently does when tourists are in company, on the subject
of the number and fierceness of the Greek dogs ; when one of the com-
pany remarked that he knew a very simple expedient for appeasing their
fury. Happening, on a journey, to miss his road, and being overtaken
by darkness, he sought refuge for the night at a pastoral settlement by
the wayside. As he approached, the dogs rushed out upon him, and the
consequences might have been serious had he not been rescued by an old
shepherd, the Eumseus of the fold, who sallied forth, and finding that the
intruder was but a benighted traveller, after pelting off his assailants,



72 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

that have for their Leader and Captain some one Dog : him
they accompany when they hunt ; him they are directed by:
for they keep an Order among themselves of Mastership. It
is certain that the Dogs which live near the Nile lap of the
River 1 as they run, that they may not afford an Opportunity
to the Greediness of the Crocodiles. When Alexander the
Great made his Journey into India, the King of Albania
gave him a Dog of extraordinary Size ; and Alexander taking
great Delight in such an Example of a Dog, commanded
them to let loose on him Bears, and afterwards wild Boars ;
and last of all, fallow Deers ; but he lay still with silent
Contempt. This great Commander, a Man of high Mind,
offended at the Laziness of so great a Body, commanded
that he should be killed. News of this went presently to the
King ; and therefore he sent a second Dog, with this Mes-
sage : That he should not make trial of this too against
small Beasts, but set him against a Lion or an Elephant :
adding, that he had no more than those two ; and if this
were killed likewise, it was not likely he would have more of
that Race. Alexander made no delay, and presently saw a
Lion torn to Pieces. Afterwards he commanded them to
bring out an Elephant, and in no Sight did he take greater
Pleasure than in this. For the Dog's rough, shaggy Hair,

gave him a hospitable reception in his hut. His guest made some remark
on the watchfulness and zeal of his dogs, and on the danger to which he
had been exposed on their attack. The old man replied that it was his
own fault for not taking the customary precaution in such an emergency,
that he ought to have stopped, and sat down, until some person whom the
animals knew came to protect him. As this expedient was new to the
traveller, he made some further inquiries, and was assured, that if any
person in such a predicament will simply seat himself on the ground, lay-
ing aside his weapons of defence, the dogs will also squat in a circle round
him ; that as long as he remains quiet, they will follow his example ; but
as soon as he rises, and moves forward, they will renew the assault."
Wern. Club.

1 " I was very well pleased to see here, for the first time, two shepherd
dogs lapping up the water from the stream, then lying down in it with
great seeming leisure and satisfaction. It refuted the old fable that the
dogs living on the banks of the Nile run as they drink, for fear of the
crocodile." BRUCE'S Travels, vol. ii. p. 7. Wern. Club.



BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 73

stood erect over his whole Body, and his loud barking
sounded like Thunder. Soon after he leapeth and flieth upon
him, rising and mounting against the great Beast, now on
one Side, and then on the other, in skilful Combat, ac-
cording as Opportunity offered, one while assailing and
another while avoiding his Enemy ; so that with continual
turning round, the Elephant grew giddy in the Head, so
that he came tumbling down to the Ground, which shook
with the Fall. Dogs bear Young once in a Year ; and the
due Time for them to be with Whelps is when they are a
Year old. They go with Young threescore Days. Their
Puppies come blind into the World ; and the more Milk
they suck, the later it is before they receive their Sight : but
it is never above twenty Days before they see, and they do
not open their Eyes under seven Days old. Some say that if
but one be born at a Litter, it will see in nine Days ; if two,
it will be in ten Days ; and the more Puppies she hath, the
more Days it will be in that Proportion before they see :
also, that the Bitch-whelp which cometh of the first Litter
discerns Fairies. 1 The best of the whole Litter is that Whelp
which is last to begin to see ; or that which the Bitch car-
rieth first into her Kennel. The Madness of Dogs is most
dangerous to a Man, as we have said before, while Syrius is
burning hot ; for they that are so bitten have a deadly Fear
of Water. To prevent this, therefore, it is good for thirty
Days to mingle Hen's Dung with the Meat of the Dogs ; or,
if the Disease be coming on, Hellebore.

CHAPTER XLI.
Against the Bite of a mad Dog.

THE sovereign Remedy against this Bite was revealed
lately by a certain Oracle : 2 being the Root of a wild Rose,

1 The Fauni here mentioned, and again Lib. xxv. 4, and which we
have translated by the modern term " Fairies," were a species of Incubi,
supposed to occasion the nightmare and other similar diseases. Wern.
Club.

3 Lib. xxv. 2.



74 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

called Cynorrhodos. Columella writeth, that when a Whelp
is exactly forty Days old, if his Tail be bitten off at the
nethermost Joint, and the Sinew that cometh after be taken
away, neither will the Tail grow any more, nor the Dog ever
become mad. I have myself observed, that among the
Prodigies it is reported, that a Dog spoke ; as also that a
Serpent barked at the Time when Tarquin was driven from
the Kingdom.

CHAPTER XLII.
Of the Nature of Horses. I

THE same Alexander of whom we have spoken, had a
very uncommon Horse, which they called Bucephalus ; either
from his stern Look, or from the Mark of a Bull's Head im-
printed on his Shoulder. It is reported of Alexander, that
being but a' Boy, he was so much attracted by his handsome
Appearance, that he bought him out of the Flock of Philo-
nicus the Pharsalian, at the Price of sixteen Talents. He
would suffer no Man to sit on his Back but Alexander, when
he had the royal Saddle and Furniture on ; rejecting others
entirely. The same Horse was of memorable service in
Battles, and being wounded at the Assault of Thebes he
would not suffer Alexander to alight and mount upon ano-
ther. Many other Things of the same kind he did ; on Ac-
count of which, when he was dead, the King conducted his
Funeral sumptuously ; erected a Tomb for him, and about it
built a City that bore his Name. C&sar the Dictator like-
wise had a Horse which would not suffer any Man to ride
him but his Master ; and the same Horse had his Forefeet
resembling those of a Man ; and its Statue so formed is
placed before the Temple of Venus Genetrix. Divus Au-
gustus also formed a Tomb for his Horse ; concerning which
there is a Poem by Germanicus Ccesar. At Agrigentum
there are Pyramids on the Tombs of many Horses. Juba
reporteth, that Semiramis loved a Horse usque ad coitum.
The Scythians make a great Noise of the Glory of their

1 Equus caballus. LINN. The Horse. Wern. Club.



BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 75

Horses and Cavalry. A Chieftain of theirs happening in
Combat on a Challenge to be slain by his Enemy, when the
Conqueror came to take the Spoil, he was killed by the
Kicks and Biting of the Horse of the conquered. There was
another Horse, that when the Covering was removed from
his Eyes, and he knew that he had served as a Stallion to his
own Dam, rushed to a Precipice, and threw himself down
and died. We find, also, that in the Territory of Reate, an
Horsekeeper was torn upon the same Occasion of a Mare.
For surely these Animals understand their Relationship ;
and therefore Colts will in the Flock more willingly keep
Company with their Sisters of the former Year, than with
the Mare their Mother. Horses are so docile, that we
find in the Army of the Sybaritani, the whole Troop of Horse-
men had their Horses accustomed to be moved to a certain
Dance at the Sound of Music. They have an Anticipation
of a Battle, and mourn the Loss of their Masters; some-
times also, they shed tears for Love of them. When King
Nicomedes was slain, his Horse starved itself to Death.
Philarchus reporteth, that King Antiochus having in Battle
slain Centaretus, a Galatian, became possessed of his Horse,
and mounted him in a triumphant manner ; but the Horse,
seized with Indignation, would not be restrained by the
Bridle, but ran furiously to a Precipice, and threw itself
down ; where both Horse and Man perished together. Phi-
listus writeth, that when Dionysius left his Horse stickng
fast in the Mire that he might save himself, the Animal
followed the Tracks of his Master, with a Swarm of Bees
settling in his Mane ; which was the first Presage that in-
duced Dionysius to usurp the Tyranny. The variety of their
Skill cannot be expressed ; and those who throw Darts
have Proof of their entire Obedience, in urging them to the
most difficult Attempts with great Dexterity and striving of
the Body. They even gather up Darts from the Ground,
and reach them to the Horseman ; and when they are fast-
ened to the Chariots in the Circus they display beyond a
doubt their Consciousness of Encouragement and Glory. At
the Secular Circensian Games exhibited bv Claudius Ccesar,



76 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

although the Driver was thrown from the Chariot within the
Bars, the Horses with the white Livery won the Palm, and
obtained the first Honour; throwing down whatever stood in
the Way, and doing all that needed to be done against their
Rivals, as well as if the most skilful Driver had been in the
Chariot ; so that Men were ashamed to see their Skill over-
matched by Horses ; and when they had performed their
Race according to Law, they stood still at the Goal. A
greater Augury happened in old Time, when in the Plebeian
Circensian Games, the Driver was thrown out of the Cha-
riot, and yet the Horses ran directly into the Capitol, as if
he had stood still in his Place ; and there they ran three times
round the Temple. But the greatest of all was, that the
Horses of Ratumenas came thither from Veij, with the
Palm and Crown which they had won there, after they had
thrown out their Master, who had conquered in the Games
at that City; from whom the Gate (Ratumena) 1 took its
Name. The Sarmatians, when they intend to take a great
Journey, prepare their Horses two Days before, by giving
them no Meat, and only allow them a little Drink ; and thus
they will ride them an hundred and fifty Miles at one Stretch.
Some Horses live fifty Years, but Mares not so long. In five
Years the latter come to their full Growth, but Horses grow
one Year longer. The Beauty of Horses, such as a Man
would choose for the best, hath been very elegantly and com-
pletely described by the Poet Virgil.' 1 And we also have
spoken of the same Thing in a Book lately put forth, con-
cerning Dart-throwing on Horseback ; and about what is

1 Plutarch's account of this circumstance, which he gives in the Life of
Publicola, is as follows : - " It happened that there was a chariot race at
Veii, which was observed as usual ; except that, as the charioteer, who had
won the prize and received the crown was gently driving out of the ring, the
horses took fright from no visible cause ; but, either by some direction of
the gods, or turn of fortune, ran away with their driver, at full speed to-
wards Rome. It was in vain that he pulled the reins, or soothed them
with words ; he was obliged to give way to the career, and was whirled
along till they came to the Capitol, where they flung him, at the gate now
called Ratumena." LANGHORNE'S Translation. Wern. Club.

3 Georg. Lib.iii. 72, etseq. Wern. CM.



BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 77

there set down, I see almost all agree. But for Horses
trained to the Circus, a different mode of Proceeding is to be
sought for. For whereas they may be broke into other Em-
ployments when they are two Years old, they must not be
brought to enter into that Contest before they are five Years
of Age. The Females in this kind go eleven Months with
Young, and in the twelfth they Foal. The Sexes are put
together at the Spring Equinox, when both of them are two
Years old ; but if they be kept until they are three Years of
Age, they produce stronger Colts. The Male is fertile to
three-and-thirty Years old ; so that when they are dismissed
from the Circus, after their twentieth Year, they are sent to
produce Offspring. And it is said that they will continue to
forty Years with a little Help put to the Forepart of the
Body, to lift him up. Few Beasts besides are less capable
of Fertility than the Male ; for which Cause they are allowed
some Space between, and in one Year the most that can be
allowed is fifteen. The Way to quench the Heat of a Mare is
to shear her Mane. Arid yet Mares can bear every Year until
they come to forty Years. It is reported that an Horse hath
lived three-score and fifteen Years. Mares only among all
Races produce their Foals standing on their Feet; and they
love them more than any other Creatures do their Young.
Foals truly have on their Forehead a black Thing of the
Bigness of a Fig, called Hippomanes, 1 which is a powerful
Charm to procure Love ; and this the Dam devours as soon
as the Colt is born ; and if it chance that any Person hath
managed to secure it before her, she will not permit the Foal
to suck her. Horses are driven into Madness by the Smell.
If a young Foal lose her Dam, the other Mares of the com-

1 Lib. xxviii. 11. The Hippomanes was a sort of poison famous
among the ancients as an ingredient in amorous philters, or love-charms.
At the end of Bayle's Dictionary is a very learned dissertation on the
Hippomanes, and all its virtues, both real and imaginary. ^Elian (B. xiv.
c. 18) says that this caruncle was either affixed to the forehead, loins, or
KU.TOC. TOV otiSoiov. But the virtues ascribed to it were so singular, that,
credulous as this author commonly is, he is compelled to express some
doubts of their truth. Wern. Club.



78 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

mon Herd rear up the Orphan in common. It is said, that
for three Days after they are newly foaled, the young Colts
cannot lay their Mouth to the Ground. The hotter sto-
mached an Horse is, the deeper he thrusteth his Nose into
the Water as he drinketh. The Scythians chose rather to use
their Mares in War, because their staling is no Hindrance to
their Running. It is an admitted Fact that in Lusitania, along
the River Tagus, and about the City Olyssipo (Lisbon) when
the West Wind bloweth, 1 the Mares set themselves full against
it, and so conceive that genital Air from which they become
pregnant, and bring forth Foals of exceeding Swiftness ; but
they live not above three Years. In the same Spain, from
the Parts called Gallaica (Gallicia) and Asturica (Asturia)
there is produced a Race of Horses which we call Thieldones;
and others of less Stature, named Asturcones. These Horses
have a pleasant Pace peculiar to themselves ; with one Foot
set down before another softly and roundly in order by
turns ; from which our Horse-breakers have obtained the Art
by Cords to bring an Horse to the like Amble. A Horse is
subject to almost the same Diseases as a Man : and also to
the turning of the Bladder : as likewise all other Beasts that
labour.

CHAPTER XLIII.
Of Asses*

M. VARRO writeth, that Q. Axius, a Senator, bought an
Ass at the Price of four hundred thousand Sesterces: a Price,
in my Opinion, above the Worth of any Beast whatever: and
yet (no Doubt) he was able to do wondrous good Service in
carrying Burdens, ploughing the Ground, and principally in
getting Mules. In the Purchase there is special Regard to
the Country from whence they come ; as from Arcadia in
Achaia, and Reate in Italy. This Animal is exceedingly im-

1 Virgil has the same monstrous tale (Georg. iii. 273) ; and such
absurdities may be pardoned in a poet, but are inexcusable in a natural
philosopher. Wern, Club.

2 Asinus vulgaris. GRAY. The Ass. Wern. Club'



BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 79

patient of Cold ; which is the Cause that none are bred in
Pontus. Neither do they go with Young, like other Cattle,
in the Spring Equinox, but at the Solstice. He-Asses are
the worse for being spared in their Work. The Females
have bred early, at the Age of thirty Months ; but three
Years is the due Time : as often as Mares, and just so
many Months, and after the same Manner. But after
Reception they must be forced to run by beating them, or
else they will let go their Seed. They seldom produce two
at once. The Ass, when about to Foal, avoideth the Light,
but seeketh some dark Place, that she may not be seen by
Man. She breeds all her Life-time, which is to her thirty
Years. They love their young Foals exceedingly well: but they
cannot abide Water. To their little ones they will go through
Fire ; but if there be the least Brook between, they are so
afraid, that they dare not dip their Feet therein. They will
not drink, except of their accustomed Fountains, within their
Feeding-ground ; and in such a Manner that they may go
along a dry Path to their Drink : neither will they go over any
Bridges where the Planks are not so close together as that
they see the Water through. Strange to say, they are thirsty;
but if their Water be changed, they must be forced to drink,
or else unloaded of their Burdens. They love to lie at large,
and have Room enough. For in their Sleep they dream of
various Fancies appearing to them ; and so they fling about
them with their Heels in every Direction ; by which, if they
should beat against some hard Thing, they would soon be
lame. They are more profitable to their Masters than the
Revenues of good Farms. It is well known, that in Celti-
beria she-Asses, by breeding, have produced the Value of
400,000 Sesterces. For the foaling of Mules, they affirm that
the principal Thing to be regarded in the Ass is the Hair
of the Ears and the Eyelids. For however the whole Body
besides be of one Colour, yet shall the Mules foaled have
as many Colours as were in those Parts. Meccenas was the
first that introduced at Feasts a Dish of young Ass-flesh ; l and

1 See the note on the Lalisiones in the next chapter. Wern. Club.



80 History of Nature. [BOOK VIII.

he preferred their Flesh at that time before that of wild Asses.
But after him the Reputation of their Delicacy decayed. If



Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 46 of 60)