Imatges de pÓgina

with his tongue. The surest way to escape is, if possible, to ride up a hill, as the great bulk of the buffalo's body, like that of the elephant, is a weight sufficient to prevent his vying with the slender and fine-limbed horse in swiftness. It is said, however, that, in going down hill, this formidable animal gets on much faster than the horse.

The goat and sheep tribe, so valuable, especially the latter, to the human race, present respectively a species peculiar to the continent of Africa. The Egyptian goat, by some however regarded as nothing more than a variety of the domestic breed, is distinguished by the great convexity of its facial line, and a depression between the face and the forehead. The lower jaw projects beyond the upper; the ears are long and flat, and the horns are either very small, and arched slightly backwards, or are entirely wanting. The female scarcely dif fers from the male in external appearance, with the exception of the straighter outline of the face. It inhabits Upper Egypt. The other animal above alluded to is called the bearded sheep (Ovis tragelaphus). It inhabits the desert steeps of Barbary and the mountainous portions of Egypt.

We have now enumerated, with occasional brief descriptions and interspersed notices of their history and habits, the greater proportion of the more remarkable quadrupeds of Africa. To extend the list would have been both easy and agreeable; but we trust that the preceding sketch will suffice to exhibit the prevailing and peculiar features of this

branch of African zoology, even though our confined limits should have excluded many minor details, not in themselves devoid of interest, though unessential to our present undertaking. The great preponderance of the antelope tribe, the existence of the giraffe and the hippopotamus, and the numerous troops of equine animals, such as the zebra and the quagga, may be stated as forming the principal zoological characters of this extensive continent.


Natural History of the Birds of Africa.

WE shall next take a rapid survey of some other departments of the natural history of Africa; and continuing, as we have commenced, with a certain degree of systematic arrangement, the second great class which attracts the attention of the traveller is that of birds.


The arid and wide-spread plains which compose so large a portion of this continent, are unfavourable to the existence and multiplication of the feathered Yet the more umbrageous banks of rivers, the extensive forests which here and there prevail to check the drifting of the desert-sand, and those green and grateful oases which towards evening cast their far shadows across a waterless land, harbour in their cool recesses many a gorgeous form of feathered life. Nor can we suppose that the mountain-summits, and those Sierras which occasionally interrupt the horizontal view of the bleached wilderness, are uninhabited by birds of prey, eagleeyed and swift of wing, there perched securely amid their rocky fortresses, but ever ready to descend with eager cry, when the blast of the simoom overwhelms the exhausted caravan, or the weary camel "ship

of the desert" is seen to stoop its mast-like neck, and the glassy hue of death suffuses its gentle eye, not from the turbulence, but the want of waves. And if, as has been supposed, some of the great African rivers empty their translucent streams into an interior and sea-like lake, many an unknown but beautiful aquatic bird must haunt its mysterious and long-sought-for shores, and revel in the crystal depths of those delusive waters which have already led on to death so many of our brave and devoted countrymen. To these, however, so long as heroic enterprise is valued, they will likewise prove the waters of immortality, though, to their surviving and deploring friends, bitter as the fountain of Marah.*

If the multiplicity of species, even in the class of quadrupeds, be found an insuperable obstacle to a detailed account in such a publication as the present, far more must we curtail our remarks when treating of the feathered race, the number of which, not unfamiliar to the ornithologist, does probably not fall far short of 6000 species. Let us commence with the carnivorous tribes.

Several species of vulture occur in Africa, where, as in other countries, they follow troops of armed men,

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The writer of these notices dwelt at one time, during his boyhood, for many months in the family and constant companionship of the late lamented Major Laing, and was in habits either of personal intimacy or correspondence with the unfortunate Bowdich, Oudney, Clapperton, and the younger Park, who so lately perished following his father's footsteps.

in the hope of ere long preying on their slaughtered bodies. It is, however, by the sense of sight, and not by that of smell, that these birds so quickly discover and assemble round their victims on the battle-field.

The eared vulture (l'oricou of Le Vaillant) is a gregarious species which inhabits the southern parts of Africa. Their nests are placed very near each other, and the birds are seen sitting in vast numbers about the caverns of the rocky mountains where they breed.

A doubtful species, called the armed vulture, is mentioned by Browne in his African Travels, and is said to be extremely frequent in the country of Darfur, where it flies about in thousands.

The African snake-eater (Falco serpentarius, Linn.) is usually placed between the vultures and hawks. It is a long-legged species, of peculiar aspect, resembling in some respects rather a wader than a bird of prey. It inhabits dry open plains in the lower parts of Southern Africa, and feeds on reptiles. Le Vaillant found in the craw of a single bird twenty-one young tortoises, three snakes, and eleven lizards, and, besides these, there was a large ball in the stomach formed entirely of the scales of tortoises, the vertebræ of snakes and lizards, the legs of locusts, and the wing-cases of coleopterous insects.

Of more noble habits are the eagles, hawks, and other birds of prey, which, for the most part disdaining the corrupting carcasses, whether of man or beast, overcome by speed of wing, and pounce with their talons on all such living creatures as they are able to subdue.

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