Animal Biography

Animal Biography:
Large Mammals







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color picture of Three-Toes Sloth, no later than 1804

Shaw Miscellany plate 6:
Three-Toed Sloth


In this tribe there have been hitherto only three species discovered, two of which are found more commonly in South America than in any other parts of the world. Their motions are unparalleled in the rest of the animal creation, for slowness and inactivity. The feet are furnished with strong hooked claws to enable them to climb the trees, where their voracity leads them to devour both the leaves and fruit⁕2. Their eyes are languid and heavy, and their whole countenance expresses so much misery, that no one can look upon them without pity. Their teats are seated on the breast; and in two of the species it is a remarkable circumstance, that, instead of distinct excretory apertures, there is only one common canal, as in Birds⁕3.

The Sloths have no cutting teeth in either jaw: the canine-teeth are obtuse; and there are five grinders on each side. Their fore-legs are much I.104 longer than the hinder ones; and the body is covered with hair, and not with scales, as in the Armadillo, and some other animals of this order.

⁕1 The Linnæan Order, Bruta, commences with the Sloths. The animals belonging to this order have no front-teeth in either jaw. Their feet are armed with strong, blunt, and hoof-like nails. Their form is in appearance clumsy, and their pace somewhat slow. Their food is for the most part vegetable.—None of the animals of this order are found in Europe. They consist principally of the Sloths, the Ant-eaters, the Rhinoceros, Elephant, and Manati.

⁕2 Elements of Natural History, i. 79.

⁕3 Kerr, i. 102.

Notes and Corrections: The Sloth Tribe

Sloths, together with anteaters, form the order Pilosa (“hairy”). Sloths are suborder Folivora (“leaf eaters”).

the Armadillo, and some other animals of this order
[Bingley will never again mention the Armadillo, but Shaw tells us it is a close relative of the Sloth and Anteater. (It isn’t.)]

[Footnote] The Linnæan Order, Bruta
[For present purposes, Bruta can be translated as “large herbi­vores that Linnaeus never personally set eyes on”. Elephants and manatees are now orders of their own, as is the armadillo; the rhinoceros shares order Perissodactyla with horses and tapirs.]

engraving of Three-Toed Sloth, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 45:
Three-Toed Sloth


Of the Three-toed Sloth, which is a native of the hotter parts of South America, we have a very curious, though often-quoted account, written by Kircher, principally from the authority of a Provincial of the Jesuits, in South America, who had several of these animals in his possession, and tried many experiments with them relative to their nature and properties. Its figure is, (he says) extraordinary: it is about the size of a Cat, has a very ugly countenance, and has its claws extended like fingers. It sweeps the ground with its belly, and moves so slowly that it would scarcely go the length of a bow-shot in fifteen days, though constantly in motion⁕1; hence it obtained the name of Sloth. It lives generally on the tops of trees, and employs two days in crawling up, and as many in getting down again. Nature has doubly guarded it against its enemies, first, by giving it such strength in its feet, that whatever it seizes, is held so fast, that it will not suffer itself to be freed, but must die of hunger. I.105 Secondly, in having given it such an affecting countenance, that when it looks at any one who might be tempted to injure it, it is almost impossible not to be moved with compassion; it also sheds tears, and upon the whole persuades one that a creature so defenceless and so abject ought not to be tormented.

To try an experiment with this animal the Provincial had one of them brought to the Jesuit’s College at Carthagena. He put a long pole under its feet, which it seized very firmly, and would not let go again. The animal, therefore, thus voluntarily suspended, was placed between two beams, where it remained without food for forty days, its eyes being always fixed on those who looked at it, who were so affected that they could not forbear pitying its dejected state. At length, being taken down, a dog was let loose on it, this, after a while, the Sloth seized in its claws, and held till both died of hunger⁕2.—Linnæus also says of it, “that its cry is horrible, and its tears piteous⁕3.”

engraving of Sloth, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 457:

In ascending the trees this animal carelessly stretches one of its fore-paws, and fixes its long claw as high as it can reach. It then heavily raises the body, and gradually fixes the other paw: and in this manner continues to climb, every motion being incredibly slow and languid. When the Sloth once gets into a tree, we are told that it will not descend while a leaf or bud is remaining; and it is added, that in order to save the slow and laborious I.106 descent which it would otherwise be obliged to make, it suffers itself to fall to the ground, its tough skin, and thick coarse hair, sufficiently securing it from any unpleasant effect in its fall. Sometimes the Sloths will suspend themselves by their claws from the branches of trees, and thus hanging, a branch may be cut off, and they will fall with it rather than quit their hold⁕4. One that was taken by some person of the expedition under Woodes Rogers, was brought on board one of the vessels, and put down at the lower part of the mizen shrowds. It climbed to the mast-head; occupying two hours, in what a Monkey would have performed in less than half a minute. It proceeded with a very slow and deliberate pace, as if all its movements had been directed by machinery⁕5.

These animals are always most active during the night, at which time they utter their plaintive cry, ascending and descending in perfect tune, through the hexachord, or six successive musical intervals. When the Spaniards first arrived in America, and heard this unusual noise, they fancied they were near some nation, the people of which had been instructed in our music⁕6.

When kept in a house the Sloth never rests on the ground, but always climbs on some post or door to repose. If a pole is held out to it, when on the ground, it will immediately lay hold, and, if it is fixed, climb to the top, and firmly adhere to it⁕7.


In its general appearance it is extremely uncouth. The body is thick, the fore-legs short, the hinder ones far longer. The feet are very small, but armed with three excessively strong and large claws, of a curved form and sharp-pointed. The head is small, and the face short and naked. The eyes are small, black, and round. The hair on the top of the head projects over, and gives to the animal a very peculiar and grotesque physiognomy. Its general colour is a greyish brown, and the hair is long and coarse, covering the body particularly about the back and thighs, very thickly⁕8.

The female produces one young one, which she frequently carries on her back⁕9.

Synonyms.—Bradypus Tridactylus. Linn.—Sloth. Edwards.—Luyart. Nieuhof.—Haut. Nieremb.—Ai. Buffon.—Three-toed Sloth. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 45.—Bew. Quad. 457.

⁕1 This seems to be an erroneous assertion, for although in their progressive powers they are extremely inactive, yet all others writers that I have consulted agree in their being able to travel at least fifty or sixty paces in a day.

⁕2 Musurgia, Tom. I. lib. ii. c. 6.

⁕3 Linn. Gmel. i. 51.

⁕4 Buff. Quad. vii. 164.

⁕5 Woodes Rogers, 245.

⁕6 Kircher’s Musurgia.

⁕7 Buff. vii. 164.

⁕8 Shaw, i. 150.

⁕9 Buffon.

Notes and Corrections: The Three-Toed Sloth

Bradypus tridactylus still has that binomial. Three-toed sloths are family Bradypodidae (“slow feet”); two-toed sloths are a family of their own, Megalonychidae (“big claws”).

this animal carelessly stretches one of its four-fore-paws,
text has paws

engraving of “Great Ant-Eater”, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 49:
Great Ant-Eater


The Ant-eaters, living entirely on insects, have no teeth. Their tongue, which is long, wormlike, and covered with a kind of glutinous moisture, is the only instrument by which they seize their food. Instead of teeth they have, however, certain bones, not unlike teeth, that are situated deep in the mouth, near the entrance of the gullet. The mouths of the whole tribe are lengthened into a somewhat tubular form. The body is covered with hair⁕1.

⁕1 Linn. Gmel. i. 52.

Notes and Corrections: The Ant-Eater Tribe

Anteaters, together with sloths, form the order Pilosa. Anteaters are suborder Vermilingua (“wormtongue”).


engraving of Ant-Eater, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 459:


The body of the Great Ant-eater is covered with exceedingly coarse and shaggy hair. Its head is very long and slender, and the mouth but just large enough to admit its tongue, near two feet in length, which is cylindrical, and lies folded double within it. The tail is of an enormous size, covered with long black hair, somewhat like that of a horse. With this extraordinary member, when asleep (which is generally in the day-time,) or during a hard shower of rain, the animal covers itself in the manner of a Squirrel; at other times he trails it along, and sweeps the ground⁕1.

This creature is a very bad walker, always resting on the heel of its awkward long feet, but it is able to climb with great ease. Though destitute of teeth, and generally inclined to shun contention, when it is attacked, and its passions become roused, it is a fierce and dangerous adversary. If it can once get its enemy within the grasp of its forepaws, it fixes the claws into his sides, and both fall together; and, as it frequently happens, both perish, for the perseverance of the Ant-eater is so obstinate, that it will not extricate itself even from a dead adversary. Such is its strength, that even the Panthers of America are often unequal to it in combat⁕2.

His food consists of Ants, which he takes in the I.109 following manner:—when he comes to an Ant-hill, he scratches it up with his long claws, and then unfolds his slender tongue, which much resembles an enormously long worm; this being covered over with a clammy matter or saliva, the Ants get upon it in great numbers, and by drawing it into his mouth, he swallows thousands of them alive; and he repeats the operation till no more are to be found. He also climbs trees in quest of Wood-lice and wild-honey; but should he meet with little success in his devastations, he is able to fast for considerable time without the smallest inconvenience. His motions are in general very slow. He swims over great rivers with sufficient ease: on these occasions his tail is always thrown over his back.

It is said that these Ant-eaters are tameable, and that in a domestic state they will pick up crumbs of bread and small pieces of flesh. They are natives of Brazil and Guiana, and are sometimes eight or nine feet in length from the end of the snout to the tip of the tail⁕3. The females bring forth one young one at a time, which does not arrive at maturity till it is four years old.

Synonyms.—Myrmecophaga Jubata. Linn.—Tamandua-guacu. Marcgrave.—Tamanoir. Buffon.—Great Ant-eater. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 49.—Bew. Quad. 459.

⁕1 Stedman.

⁕2 Penn. Quad. ii. 508. Gumilla Orenoque, iii. 152.

⁕3 Stedman.

Notes and Corrections: The Great Ant-Eater

Myrmecophaga jubata is now Myrmecophaga tridactyla, the giant anteater.

engraving of Rhinoceros, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 156:


We now come to a race of animals of huge size and bulk, inhabitants only of the tropical climates. They are dull and sluggish in their manners, but in I.110 their disposition sufficiently peaceable, except when attacked or provoked. They have on the nose, a solid, conical horn, not fixed in the bone; this is never shed, but remains, unless broken off by accident, during life⁕2. Their skin is tuberculated and exceedingly hard, but on the under parts of the body sufficiently tender to be cut through with a knife.—The general internal structure of the animals of this tribe corresponds with what is observed in the Horse.

⁕1 This name is derived from ρις ρινος nose, and κερας a horn.

⁕2 Linn. Gmel. i. 59.

Notes and Corrections: The Rhinoceros Tribe

Rhinoceroses, along with horses and tapirs, form the order Perissodactyla. Each is its own family; the one-horned rhinoceros is the flagship genus Rhinoceros (“nose horn”).

[Footnote] ρις ρινος nose
[That is, the nominative is ῥις but the stem is ῥιν-, hence rhino-.]

engraving of Single-Horned Rhinoceros, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 60:
Single-Horned Rhinoceros


The Single-horned Rhinoceros is not exceeded in size by any land animal except the Elephant, and in strength and power it gives place to none. Its length is usually about twelve feet, and this is also nearly the girth of its body.

Its nose is armed with a formidable weapon, a hard and very solid horn, sometimes above three feet in length, and eighteen inches in circumference at the base, with which it is able to defend itself against the attacks of every ferocious animal.—The Tiger will rather attack the Elephant than the Rhinoceros, which it cannot face without danger of having its bowels torn out. “With this horn,” says Martial, “it will lift up a Bull like a football⁕1.”


The body and limbs of the Rhinoceros are defended by a skin so hard as to be impenetrable, except in the belly, by either a knife or spear. It is said, that even to shoot a full-grown Rhinoceros of an advanced age, it is necessary to make use of iron bullets, those of lead having been known to flatten against the skin.

The upper lip in this animal seems to answer in some measure the same purpose as the trunk of the Elephant. It protrudes over the lower one in the form of a lengthened tip; and, being extremely pliable, is used in catching hold of the shoots of vegetables, &c. and delivering them into its mouth.

The Rhinoceros is generally of a quiet and inoffensive disposition, but when attacked or provoked, he becomes very furious and dangerous; and he is even sometimes subject to paroxysms of fury, which nothing can assuage.

Dr. Parsons, in the year 1743, published a history of the Rhinoceros, containing a very minute description of one that was brought from Bengal into Europe⁕2. He was only two years old, and the expence of his food and journey amounted to near 1000l. sterling. He had every day, at three meals, seven pounds of rice, mixed with three pounds of sugar; besides hay and green plants: he also drank large quantities of water. In his disposition he was very peaceable, readily suffering all parts of his I.112 body to be touched. When he was hungry, or was struck by any person, he became mischievous, and nothing would appease him but food. He was not at this time taller than a young Cow.

A Rhinoceros, brought from Atcham, in the dominions of the King of Ava, was exhibited in 1748, at Paris. It was very tame, gentle, and even caressing; was fed principally on hay and corn, and was much delighted with sharp or prickly plants, and the thorny branches of trees. The attendants frequently gave him branches that had very sharp and strong thorns on them; but he bent and broke them in his mouth without seeming in the least incommoded. It is true they sometimes drew blood from the mouth and tongue, “but that,” says Father Le Comte, who gives us the description, “might even render them more palatable, and those little wounds might serve only to cause a sensation similar to that excited by salt, pepper, or mustard, on ours⁕3.”

As an equivalent for a very dull sight, Dr. Parsons remarks, that this animal has an acute and most attentive ear. It will listen with a deep and long-continued attention to any kind of noise; and although it be eating, lying down, or obeying any pressing demands of nature, it will raise its head, and listen till the noise ceases.

The Rhinoceros is said to run with great swiftness, and from his strength and impenetrable covering, I.113 is capable of rushing with resistless violence through woods and obstacles of every kind; the smaller trees bending like twigs as he passes them. In his general habits and manner of feeding he resembles the Elephant: residing in cool sequestered spots, near waters, and in shady woods. Like the hog, he delights in occasionally wallowing in the mire⁕4.

The Asiatics sometimes tame and bring these animals into the field of battle, to strike terror into their enemies. They are, however, in general so unmanageable, that they do more harm than good; and in their fury it is not uncommon for them to turn on their masters⁕5.

The skin, which is of a blackish colour, is disposed about the neck into large plaits or folds: a fold of the same kind passes from the shoulders to the fore legs; and another from the hind part of the back to the thighs. It is naked, rough, and covered with a kind of tubercles, or large callous granulations. Between the folds, and under the belly, the skin is soft, and of a light rose-colour. The ears are moderately large, upright, and pointed. The eyes are small, and so placed, that the animal can only see what is nearly in a direct line before him⁕6.

The flesh is eaten by the inhabitants of the country. The skin, flesh, hoofs, teeth, and even the dung, are also used medicinally. The horn, when cut through the middle, is said to exhibit on each side, the rude figure of a man; the I.114 outlines being marked by small white strokes⁕7. Many of the Indian princes drink out of cups made of this horn; imagining, that when these hold any poisonous draught, the liquor will ferment till it runs quite over the top. Goblets made of the horns of the young, are esteemed the most valuable. Professor Thunberg, when at the Cape, tried these horns, both wrought into goblets and unwrought, both old and young horns, with several sorts of poison, weak as well as strong, but did not observe the least motion or effervescence; when, however, a solution of corrosive sublimate was poured into one of them, there arose indeed a few bubbles, which were produced by the air that had been inclosed in the pores of the horn, and was now disengaged from it⁕8. Martial informs us, that the Roman ladies of fashion used these horns in the baths, to hold their essence-bottles and oils⁕9. The Javanese make shields of the skin.

The Single-horned Rhinoceros is a native of several parts of India; as well as of the islands of Ceylon, Java, and Sumatra. It is also found in Ethiopia.—The female produces only one young one at a birth.

Synonyms.—Rhinoceros Unicornis. Linn.—Rhinoceros. Buffon. Parsons, &c.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 60.—Bew. Quad. 156.

⁕1 Martial, Book i. Epig. 14.

⁕2 The first that was brought into England was in the year 1684.

⁕3 Church.

⁕4 Shaw, i. 200.

⁕5 Church.

⁕6 Shaw, i. 199.

⁕7 Grose, i. 273.

⁕8 Thunberg, i. 246

⁕9 Lib. xiv. Ep. 53.

Notes and Corrections: The Single-Horned Rhinoceros

The one-horned rhinoceros still has the binomial Linnaeus gave it, Rhinoceros unicornis.

Its nose is armed a with a formidable weapon
text has with


The Single-Horned Rhinoceros⁕1.

The only two animals of this species that have been brought into England during the last half century, were both purchased for the exhibition rooms at Exeter ’Change. One of them, of which the skin is still preserved, came from Laknaor, in the East Indies, and was brought over in the Melville Castle, East Indiaman, as a present to Mr. Dundas. This gentleman, not wishing to have the trouble of keeping him, gave the animal away. Not long afterwards he was purchased by Mr. Pidcock of Exeter ’Change, for the sum of 700l. He arrived in England I.488 in the year 1790, and is supposed to have been at that time about five years old.

He exhibited no symptoms of a ferocious propensity, and would even allow himself to be patted on the back or sides by strangers. His docility was about equal to that of a tolerably tractable Pig: he would obey the orders of his keeper, to walk about the room, and exhibit himself to the numerous spectators who came to visit him.—This animal usually ate every day twenty-eight pounds weight of clover, besides about the same weight of ship biscuit, and a vast quantity of greens. His food was invariably seized in his long, and projecting upper lip, and by it conveyed into the mouth. He was allowed also five pails of water twice or thrice a day. This was put into a vessel that contained about three pails, which was filled up as the animal drank it; and he never ended his draught till the water was exhausted. He was very fond of sweet wines, of which he would often drink three or four bottles in the course of a few hours. His voice was not much unlike the bleating of a Calf. It was most commonly exerted when the animal observed any person with fruit or other favorite food in his hand, and in such cases it seems to have been a mark of his anxiety to have it given him. During the severe illness which preceded his death this noise, but in a more melancholy tone, was almost constantly heard, occasioned doubtless by the agonies that he underwent.

In the month of October, 1792, as this Rhinoceros was one day rising up very suddenly, he slipped the joint of one of his fore legs. This accident [I.489] brought on an inflammation that about nine months afterwards occasioned his death. It is a singular fact that in the incisions which were made, on the first attempts to recover the animal, through his thick and tough hide, the wounds were invariably found to be healed in the course of twenty-four hours. He died in a caravan at Corsham near Portsmouth. When the carriage arrived at the latter place, the stench arising from the body was so offensive, that the Mayor was under the necessity of ordering it to be immediately buried. This was accordingly done, on South Sea Common. About a fortnight afterwards, during the night, and unknown to any of the people of Portsmouth, it was dug up for the purpose of preserving its skin, and some of the most valuable of the bones. The persons present declared, that the stench was so powerful, that it was not without the greatest difficulty they could proceed in their operations. It was plainly perceptible at the distance of more than half a mile.

The other Rhinoceros that was at Exeter ’Change was considerably smaller than this, and was likewise a male. It was brought over about the year 1799, and lived not more than twelve months afterwards. An agent of the Emperor of Germany purchased it of Mr. Pidcock for 1000l. It died in a stable-yard in Drury Lane, after he had been in possession of it about two months.

⁕1 See vol. i. p. 110.

engraving of Two-Horned Rhinoceros, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 61:
Two-Horned Rhinoceros


This species differs from the last, principally in the appearance of its skin; which, instead of vast and regularly marked armour-like folds, has merely I.115 a very slight wrinkle across the shoulders and on the hinder parts, with a few fainter wrinkles on the sides; so that, in comparison with the common Rhinoceros, it appears almost smooth. What, however, constitutes the principal distinction, is the nose being furnished with two horns, one of which is smaller than the other, and situated above it. These horns are said to be loose when the animal is in a quiet state, but to become firm and immoveable when he is enraged⁕1.

In its habits and manner of feeding, this differs but little from the Single-horned Rhinoceros. Le Vaillant says, that when these animals are at rest, they always place themselves in the direction of the wind, with their noses towards it, in order to discover by their smell the approach of any enemies. From time to time, however, they move their heads round to look behind them, and to be assured that they are safe on all sides; but they soon return to their former position⁕2. When they are irritated they tear up the ground with their horn; throwing the earth and stones furiously, and to a vast distance, over their heads.

Mr. Bruce’s description of the manners of the Two-horned Rhinoceros, is deserving of particular notice. He informs us that, “besides the trees capable of most resistance, there are, in the vast forests within the rains, trees of a softer consistence, and of a very succulent quality, which seem to be I.116 destined for the principal food of this animal. For the purpose of gaining the highest branches of these, his upper lip is capable of being lengthened out so as to increase his power of laying hold with it, in the same manner as the Elephant does with his trunk. With this lip, and the assistance of his tongue, he pulls down the upper branches, which have most leaves, and these he devours first. Having stripped the tree of its branches, he does not immediately abandon it; but, placing his snout as low in the trunk as he finds his horns will enter, he rips up the body of the tree, and reduces it to thin pieces like so many laths; and when he has thus prepared it, he embraces as much of it as he can in his monstrous jaws, and twists it round with as much ease as an ox would do a root of celery, or any small plant.

“When pursued, and in fear, he possesses an astonishing degree of swiftness, considering his size, the apparent unwieldiness of his body, his great weight before, and the shortness of his legs. He has a kind of trot, which, after a few minutes, increases in a great proportion, and takes in a great distance; but this is to be understood with a degree of moderation. It is not true that in a plain he beats the Horse in swiftness. I have passed him with ease, and seen many, worse mounted, do the same; and though it is certainly true that a horse can very seldom come up with him, this is owing to his cunning, and not to his swiftness. He makes constantly from wood to wood, and forces himself into the thickest parts of them. The trees that are dead or dry, are broken down, as with a cannon shot, and I.117 fall behind him and on his side in all directions. Others that are more pliable, greener, or fuller of sap, are bent back by his weight, and the velocity of his motions. And after he has passed, restoring themselves like a green branch to their natural position, they often sweep the incautious pursuer and his horse from the ground, and dash them in pieces against the surrounding trees.

“The eyes of the Rhinoceros are very small; he seldom turns his head, and therefore sees nothing but what is before him⁕3. To this he owes his death, and never escapes if there is so much plain as to enable the Horse to get before him. His pride and fury then make him lay aside all thoughts of escaping, but by victory over his enemy. He stands for a moment at bay: then, at a start, runs straight forward at the Horse, like the Wild Boar, which, in his manner of action, he very much resembles. The Horse easily avoids him by turning short to one side; and this is the fatal instant: the naked man, with the sword, drops from behind the principal horseman, and, unseen by the Rhinoceros, who is seeking his enemy, the Horse, he gives him a stroke across the tendon of the heel, which renders him incapable of further flight or resistance.

“In speaking of the great quantity of food necessary to support this enormous mass, we must I.118 likewise consider the vast quantity of water which he needs. No country but that of Shangalla, which he possesses, deluged with six months rain, and full of large and deep basons, made in the living rock, and shaded by dark woods from evaporation, or watered by large and deep rivers which never fall low or to a state of dryness, can supply the vast draughts of this monstrous creature: but it is not for drinking alone that he frequents wet and marshy places; large, fierce, and strong as he is, he must submit to prepare himself against the weakest of his adversaries. The great consumption he constantly makes of food and water, necessarily confines him to certain limited spaces; for it is not every place that can maintain him; he cannot emigrate or seek his defence among the sands of Atbara⁕4.”—His adversary is a Fly (probably of the Linnæan genus œstrus) which is bred in the black earth of the marshes. It persecutes him so unremittingly, that it would in a short time subdue him, but for a stratagem which he practises for his preservation. In the night when the Fly is at rest, the Rhinoceros chuses a convenient place, and there rolling in the mud, clothes himself with a kind of case, which defends him against his adversary the following day. The wrinkles and plaits of his skin serve to keep this muddy plaster firm upon him, all but about his hips, shoulders, and legs, where it cracks and falls off, by motion, and leaves him exposed in those parts to the attacks of the Fly. The itching I.119 and pain which follow, occasion him to rub himself in those parts against the roughest trees; and this is one cause of the numerous pustules or tubercles that we see upon him.

He enjoys so much the rubbing himself, that he groans and grunts so loud during this action, as to be heard at a considerable distance. The pleasure he receives from this employment, and the darkness of the night, deprive him of his usual vigilance and attention. The hunters, guided by his noise, steal secretly upon him; and while lying on the ground, wound him with their javelins; mostly in the belly, where the wound is mortal.

It is by no means true that the skin of this Rhinoceros, as it has been often represented, is hard or impenetrable like a board. In his wild state he is slain by javelins thrown from the hand, some of which enter his body to a great depth. A musket-shot will go through him, unless interrupted by a bone; and the Shangalla, an Abyssinian tribe, kill him by the clumsiest arrows that ever were used by any people practising that weapon, and cut him to pieces afterwards with the very worst of knives.

In order to afford some idea of the enormous strength of the Rhinoceros, even after being severely wounded, I shall quote Mr. Bruce’s account of the hunting of this animal in Abyssinia: “We were on horseback (says this gentleman) by the dawn of day, in search of the Rhinoceros, many of which we had heard making a very deep groan and cry as the morning approached; several of the I.120 Agageers (hunters) then joined us: and after we had searched about an hour in the very thickest part of the wood, one of them rushed out with great violence, crossing the plain towards a wood of canes that was about two miles distant. But though he ran, or rather trotted with surprising speed, considering his bulk, he was, in a very little time, transfixed with thirty or forty javelins; which so confounded him, that he left his purpose of going to the wood, and ran into a deep hole, ditch, or ravine, a cul de sac, without outlet, breaking above a dozen of the javelins as he entered. Here we thought he was caught as in a trap, for he had scarcely room to turn; when a servant, who had a gun, standing directly over him, fired at his head, and the animal fell immediately, to all appearance dead. All those on foot now jumped in with their knives to cut him up; but they had scarcely begun, when the animal recovered so far as to rise upon his knees: happy then was the man that escaped first; and had not one of the Agageers, who was himself engaged in the ravine, cut the sinew of the hind leg as he was retreating, there would have been a very sorrowful account of the foot-hunters that day.

“After having dispatched him, I was curious to see what wound the shot had given, which had operated so violently upon so huge an animal; and I doubted not it was in the brain. But it had struck no where but upon the point of the foremost horn, of which it had carried off above an inch: and this occasioned a concussion that had stunned I.121 him for a minute, till the bleeding had recovered him.”

It has been often asserted that the tongue of the Rhinoceros is so hard and rough, as to take away the skin and flesh wherever it licks any person that has unfortunately fallen a victim to its fury⁕5. Dr. Sparrman says, however, that he thrust his hand into the mouth of one that had just been shot, and found the tongue perfectly soft and smooth.—The cavity which contained the brain of one of these huge animals, was only six inches long and four deep; and, being filled with pease, was found to hold barely a quart; while a human skull, measured at the same time, took above two quarts to fill it.

The Hottentots, and even some of the inhabitants of the Cape, set a high value on the dried blood of the Rhinoceros, to which they ascribe great virtues in the cure of many disorders of the body. The flesh is eatable, but it is very full of sinews.

Synonyms.—Rhinoceros Bicornis. Linn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 61.—Bew. Quad. 156.

⁕1 Shaw, i. 202.

⁕2 New Travels in Africa, iii. 42.

⁕3 The account of Mr. Bruce differs in this particular from that of M. Vaillant, before quoted; and it is impossible for me to say which of the two is nearest the truth.

⁕4 Travels to discover the Source of the Nile.

⁕5 Kolben, ii. 103.

Notes and Corrections: The Two-Horned Rhinoceros

Rhinoceros bicornis has been upgraded to its own genus, and is now Diceros bicornis (“two horns” in two languages).

No country but that of Shangalla
[Loosely, Ethiopia.]

a Fly (probably of the Linnæan genus œstrus)
[See gadflies in Volume III.]

all but about his hips, shoulders, and legs
comma after “hips” missing

[Synonyms] Bew. Quad. 156.
letter “Q” missing

engraving of Elephant, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 63:


These animals have no front teeth in either jaw; and from the upper jaw proceed two long and stout tusks, which, in a state of nature, are used in tearing up trees for food, and as weapons of defence against their enemies. They have a long, cartilaginous, prehensile trunk, which is capable I.122 of laying hold even of the most minute substances. Their body is very thinly scattered over with hairs.—No more than one species has hitherto been discovered.

Notes and Corrections: The Elephant Tribe

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You may have read that the elephant’s closest relative is the hyrax:

Hyracoids are usually grouped with elephants and sirenians as “subungulates,” and they all may have all descended from a common stock

This source doesn’t give them a superorder of their own, though some places probably do.

No more than one species has hitherto been discovered.
[If chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans are all to be subsumed under Oran Outan, it should not be surprising that all elephants look alike. In fact Asian and African elephants are not simply separate species but—like the great apes—different genera, Elephas and Loxodonta. It took biologists a surprisingly long time to notice that on one continent, the females always have tusks, while on the other continent, they never do. (And then there’s the Sri Lankan subspecies, in which even the males don’t always have tusks.)]

engraving of mother and baby elephant, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 64:
Elephant Suckling its Young


There is scarcely any animal in the Creation that has at different times occupied so much the attention of mankind as the Elephant. Formed in a very particular manner for the service of man in the hot climates, it is endowed with every requisite to usefulness. It is strong, active, and laborious; replete with mildness and sagacity. Docile in a very eminent degree, it may be trained to almost any service that a brute is capable of performing.

Elephants are found wild in the shady woods of Asia and Africa, where they generally live in large troops. They feed on vegetables; the young shoots of trees, grains, and fruit of various kinds. Their incursions are much dreaded in plantations, where they frequently commit the most extensive ravages; at the same time also materially injuring the crops, by trampling the ground with their vast feet.

The skin of the Elephant is generally of a deep ash-coloured brown, approaching to black. The tusks are not visible in a young animal, but in its more advanced state of growth they are eminently I.123 conspicuous; and in the full-grown animal they measure sometimes so much as ten feet from their sockets⁕1. It is but rarely that they are seen in the females; and when they appear they are but small, and their direction is somewhat downwards.

engraving of Elephant, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 166:

This is undoubtedly the largest of all terrestrial animals, arriving sometimes at the height of twelve feet; though the more general height seems to be from nine to ten. It is said to live to the age of a hundred, or a hundred and twenty, years.—The female seldom produces more than one at a birth. This, when first born, is about three feet high, and continues growing till it is sixteen or eighteen years old. The teats of the female are two, seated at a small distance behind the fore-legs.

The eyes are extremely small; and the ears very large and pendulous. The form indeed of the whole animal is very awkward: the head is large; the body large; the back much arched; the legs extremely thick, and very short; and the feet slightly divided into, or rather edged with, five rounded hoofs. The tail is terminated by a few scattered, very thick, black hairs.

In the structure of the Elephant, the most singular organ is the trunk or proboscis. This is an extension of the canals of the nose: it is very long, composed of a great number of cartilaginous rings, I.124 and is through its whole length divided by a continuation of the septum. At the lower end it is furnished with a kind of moveable finger, that seems to divide its aperture into two parts. It is so strong as to be capable of breaking off large branches from trees. Through this the animal smells and breathes; and it is possessed of such exquisite sensibility that he can pick up with it almost the smallest bodies from the ground. By means of this the Elephant conveys the food to its mouth; which is situated so much in the under part of its head, as to seem almost a part of the breast. The sense of smelling he enjoys in great perfection; and when a number of people are standing around him, he will discover food in the pocket of any one, and take it out by means of his trunk with great dexterity⁕2. With this he can untie the knots of ropes, and open and shut gates by turning the keys or pushing back the bolts. It is, in short, as complete an instrument as nature has bestowed on even her most favorite productions⁕3.

The skin of this animal, where it is not callous, is extremely sensible. In the fissures and other places where it is moist and soft, he feels the stinging of flies in such a lively manner, that he not I.125 only employs his natural motions, but even the resources of his intelligence, to rid himself of them. He strikes them with his tail, his ears, and his trunk. He contracts his skin, and crushes them between its wrinkles. He drives them off with branches of trees, or bundles of long straw. When all these artifices are unsuccessful, he collects dust with his trunk, and covers all the more tender parts of his skin with it. He has been observed dusting himself in this manner several times in a day; and always at the most proper season, namely after bathing⁕4.

The disposition of these animals is gentle, and their manners social, for they are seldom seen wandering alone. They generally march in troops, the oldest keeping foremost, and the next in age bringing up the rear. The young and the feeble occupy the middle. The mothers carry their young firmly embraced in their trunks. They do not, however, observe this order, except in perilous marches, when they want to pasture on cultivated fields. In the deserts and forests, they travel with less precaution, but without separating so far as to exceed the possibility of receiving assistance from one another.

The wild Elephants of Ceylon live in troops or families, distinct and separate from all others, and seem to avoid the strange herds with particular care. When a family removes from place to place, the largest-tusked males put themselves at the head; I.126 and if they come to a river, are the first to pass it. On arriving at the opposite bank, they try whether the landing-place is safe: if it is, they give a signal with their trunk, on which another division of the old Elephants swim over; the younger then follow, holding one another by locking their trunks together; and the rest of the old ones bring up the rear⁕5.

As the modes of taking this animal, and rendering it submissive to human authority, merit particular attention, I shall, in a cursory manner, describe those pursued by the inhabitants of a few of the different countries of the East.

At Tepura, in the East Indies, the manner of securing a single male, is very different from that employed in taking a herd. In the former case, which I shall first mention, the animal is taken by means of Koomkees, or female Elephants, trained for the purpose; whereas in the latter case they are driven into a strong inclosure.

As the hunters know the places where the Elephants come out to feed, they advance towards them in the evening with four Koomkees, the number of which each hunting party consists. When the nights are dark, the male Elephants are discovered by the noise they make in cleaning their food, which they do by whisking and striking it against their fore-legs; and in the moon-light nights may to be seen distinctly at some distance.


As soon as the hunters have determined on the animal they mean to secure, three of the Koomkees are conducted silently and slowly, at a little distance from each other, near to the place where he is feeding. The Koomkees advance very cautiously, feeding as they go long, and appear like wild Elephants that have strayed from the forest. When the male perceives them approaching, if he takes the alarm, and is viciously inclined, he beats the ground with his trunk, and makes a noise, shewing evident marks of his displeasure, and that he will not allow them to approach nearer. In this case, if they persist he will immediately attack and gore them with his tusks; for which reason they take care to retreat in good time. He, however, generally allows them to approach, and sometimes even advances to meet him.

The drivers now conduct two of the females, one on each side, close to him, and make them press themselves gently against his neck and shoulders; the third female then comes up, and places herself directly across his tail. In this situation, far from suspecting any design against his liberty, he begins to toy with the females, and caresses them with his trunk. While thus engaged, the fourth female is brought near attended by proper assistants furnished with ropes, who immediately get under the belly of the animal at the tail, and put a slight rope round his hind legs. If he takes no notice of this slight confinement, the hunters proceed to tie his legs with a stronger rope; which is passed alternately, by means of a forked stick, and a kind of hook, from one leg to the other, I.128 in the form of a figure of 8. Six or eight of these ropes are generally employed, one above another; and they are fastened at their intersections by another rope, that is made to pass perpendicularly up and down. A strong cable, with a running noose, sixty cubits long, is next put round each hind leg, above the other ropes; and afterwards six or eight other ropes are crossed from leg to leg above the cable. The fixing these ropes usually occupies about twenty minutes, during which time the utmost silence is observed.

When thus properly secured, the animal is left to himself, the Koomkees retiring to a little distance. In attempting to follow them, he finds his legs tied; and becoming sensible of the danger of his situation, immediately retreats towards the jungle. The drivers, mounted on the tame Elephants, accompanied by a number of people, who till this time have been kept out of sight, follow him at a little distance; and as soon as he passes near a tree sufficiently stout to hold him, they take a few turns with the long cables which trailed behind him, round his trunk. His progress being thus stopped, he becomes furious, and exerts his utmost efforts to disengage himself. The Koomkees dare not now come near him: and in his fury he falls down on the earth, and tears it up with his tusks. In these exertions he sometimes breaks the cables, and escapes into the thick jungle. Hither the drivers cannot advance, for fear of the other wild Elephants; and are therefore obliged to leave him to his fate. But as the cables are strong, and very seldom give way, when he has exhausted I.129 himself by his exertions the Koomkees are again brought near and take their former positions, one on each side and the other behind. After getting him nearer the tree, the people carry the ends of the long cables two or three times round it, so as to prevent the possibility of his escape. His forelegs are now tied in the same manner as his hind-legs were; and the cables are made fast, one on each side, to trees or stakes driven deep into the earth.

When he has become more settled, and will eat a little food, with which he is supplied as soon as he is taken, the Koomkees are again brought near, and a strong rope is then put twice round his body, close to his fore-legs, like a girth, and tied behind his shoulder; then the end is carried backward close to his rump, and there fastened, after a couple of turns more have been made round his body. Another rope is next fastened to this, and thence carried under his tail like a crupper, and brought forward and fastened to each of the girths. A strong rope is now put round his buttocks, and made fast on each side to the girth and crupper; so as to confine the motion of his thighs, and prevent him from taking a full step. A couple of large cables, with running nooses, are now put about his neck, there secured, and tied to the ropes on each side. Thus completely hampered, the cables round his neck are made fast to two Koomkees, one on each side.

Every thing being now ready, and a passage cleared from the jungle, all the ropes are taken from his legs, except the strong one round his buttocks to confine the motion of his hind-legs, which I.130 is still left. The Koomkees pull him forward; sometimes, however, not without much struggling and violence on his part. When brought to his proper station, and made fast, he is treated with a mixture of severity and gentleness; and generally in a few months becomes tractable, and appears perfectly reconciled to his fate.—It seems somewhat extraordinary, that though the animal uses his utmost force to disengage himself when taken, and would kill any person coming within his reach, yet he seldom or never attempts to hurt the females that have ensnared him; but, on the contrary, seems (as often as they are brought near, in order to adjust his harnessing, or move and slacken those ropes which gall him) pleased, soothed, and consoled by them, as it were, for the loss of his liberty.

The mode of securing a herd of wild Elephants, is very different from that adopted in taking a single male, and the process is much more tedious.

When a herd, which generally consists of from about forty to a hundred, is discovered, about five hundred people are employed to surround it. By means of fire and noises, they in the course of some days are able to drive them to the place where they are to be secured. This is called the Keddah. It consists of three inclosures, communicating with each other by means of narrow openings or gateways. The outer one is the largest, the middle generally the next in size, and the third or furthermost the smallest. When the animals arrive near the first inclosure, (the palisadoes and two gates of which are as much as possible disguised with branches of I.131 trees and bamboos stuck in the ground, so as to give them the appearance of a natural jungle,) great difficulty attends the business of getting them in. The leader always suspects some snare, and it is not without the utmost hesitation that he passes; but as soon as he enters, all the rest implicitly follow. Immediately, when they have passed the gateway, fires are lighted round the greatest part of the inclosure, and particularly at the entries, to prevent the Elephants from returning. The hunters from without then make a terrible noise by shouting, beating of tomtoms (a kind of drum), firing blank-cartridges, &c. to urge them on to the next inclosure. The Elephants, finding themselves entrapped, scream and make other noises; and discovering no opening except the entrance to the next inclosure, they at length, but not before they have many times traversed round their present situation, following their leader, enter it. The gate is instantly shut upon them, fires are lighted, and the same discordant noises made as before, till they have passed through another gateway into the last inclosure, where they are secured in a similar manner. Being now completely surrounded on all sides, and perceiving no outlet through which they can escape, they appear desperate, and in their fury advance frequently to the surrounding ditch in order to break down the palisade, inflating their trunks, and screaming out aloud: but wherever they make an attack, they are opposed by lighted fires, and by the noise and triumphant shouts of the hunters. The ditch is then filled with water; and after a while they have recourse to it in order to I.132 quench their thirst and cool themselves, which they do by drawing the water into their trunks, and then squirting it over every part of their bodies.

When the Elephants have continued in the inclosure a few days, where they are regularly, though scantily, fed from a scaffold on the outside, the door of the Roomee (an outlet about sixty feet long and very narrow) is opened, and one of the Elephants is enticed to enter by having food thrown before it⁕6. When the animal has advanced far enough to allow it, the gate is shut and well secured on both sides. Finding his retreat now cut off, and the place so narrow that he cannot turn himself, he advances, and exerts his utmost efforts to break down the bars in front of him, running against them, screaming and roaring most violently, and battering them, like a ram, by repeated blows with his head, retreating and advancing with the utmost fury. In his rage he even rises up, and leaps upon the bars with his fore-feet, striving to break them down with his huge weight. When he becomes somewhat fatigued with these exertions, ropes are, by degrees, put round him; and he is secured in a manner nearly similar to that adopted in taking the single males. And thus, in succession, they are all secured.

The Elephants are now separated, and each put I.133 under the care of a keeper, who is appointed to attend and instruct him. Under this man there are three or four others, who assist in supplying food and water till the animal becomes sufficiently tractable to feed himself. A variety of soothing and caressing arts are practised: sometimes the keeper threatens, and even goads him with along stick pointed with iron; but more generally coaxes and flatters him, scratching his head and trunk with a long bamboo split at one end into many pieces, and driving away the flies from his sores and bruises. In order to keep him cool, he likewise squirts water all over him; carefully standing out of the reach of his trunk.

In a few days he advances cautiously to his side, and strokes and pats him with his hand, at the same time speaking to him in a soothing voice; and after a little while, the beast begins to know his keeper and obey his commands. By degrees the latter becomes familiar, and at length mounts upon his back from one of the tame Elephants; from hence he gradually increases the intimacy as the animal becomes more tame, till at last he is permitted to seat himself on his neck, from which place he is afterwards to regulate and direct all his motions. While they are training in this manner, the tame Elephants lead the others out alternately, for the sake of exercise; and likewise to ease their legs from the cords with which they are tied, and which are apt to gall them, unless they are regularly slackened and shifted.

In five or six weeks the Elephant becomes obedient to his keeper, his fetters are taken off by degrees, and generally in about six months he suffers I.134 himself to be conducted from one place to another. Care, however, is always taken not to let him approach his former haunts, lest a recollection of them should induce him to attempt to recover his liberty⁕7.

The following is Mr. Bruce’s account of Elephant-hunting in Abyssinia. The men who make the hunting of Elephants their business, he says, dwell constantly in the woods, living entirely upon the flesh of the animals they kill, which is chiefly that of the Elephant or Rhinoceros. They are exceedingly thin, light, and agile both on horseback and foot. They are called Agageers; a name derived from the word Agar, which signifies to hough or ham-string with a sharp weapon. More properly it means, indeed, the cutting of the tendon of the heel; and is a characteristic of the manner in which they kill the Elephant, which is thus:—Two men, quite naked to prevent their being laid hold of by the trees or bushes in making their escape from this very watchful enemy, get on horseback. One of them sits on the back of the horse, sometimes with a saddle, and sometimes without one, with only a switch or short stick in one hand, carefully managing the bridle with the other; behind him sits his companion, armed only with a broad-sword. His left hand is employed in grasping the sword by the handle; about fourteen inches of the I.135 blade of which are covered with whip-cord. This part he takes in his right hand, without any danger of being hurt by it; and, though the edges of the lower part of the sword are as sharp as a razor, he carries it without a scabbard.

As soon as an Elephant is found feeding, the horseman rides before him, as near to his face as possible; or, if he tries to escape, crosses him in all directions, calling out, “I am such a one, and such a one, this is my horse, that has such a name; I killed your father in such a place, and your grandfather in such another place, and I am now come to kill you, who are nothing in comparison with them.” This nonsense he believes the Elephant perfectly to understand; who, chafed and angry at hearing the noise immediately before him, attempts to seize him with his trunk; and, intent upon this, follows the horse every where, turning round and round with him, neglecting to make his escape by running straight forward, in which consists his only safety. After having made him turn a few times in pursuit of the horse, the horseman rides close up beside of him, and drops his companion just behind, on the off side; and while he engages the Elephant’s attention upon the horse, the other behind gives him a drawn stroke just above the heel, into what in man is called the tendon of Achilles. This is the critical moment; the horseman immediately wheels round, again takes his companion up behind him, and rides off at full speed after the rest of the herd, if they have started more than one; and sometimes an expert Agageer will kill three out I.136 of one herd. If the sword is good, and the man not too timid, the tendon is in common entirely separated; and, if not cut through, is generally so far divided that the animal, with the stress he puts upon it, breaks the remaining part asunder. In either case, he remains incapable of advancing a step, till the horseman returning, or his companions coming up, pierce him through with javelins and lances; he then falls to the ground, and expires from loss of blood.—The Elephant being slain, they cut his flesh into thongs, like the reins of a bridle, and hang these, like festoons, upon the branches of trees till they become perfectly dry, without salt, and then lay them by for their provision in the season of the rains.

In one of these Elephant-huntings, Mr. Bruce mentions a striking instance of affection in a young one to its mother: “There now remained (says he) but two Elephants of those that had been discovered; which were a she one with a calf. The Agageer would willingly have let these alone, as the teeth of the female are very small, and the young one is of no sort of value whatever. But the hunters would not be limited in their sport. The people having observed the place of her retreat, thither we eagerly followed. She was very soon found, and as soon lamed by the Agageers; but when they came to wound her with their darts, as every one did in their turn, to our very great surprize, the young one, which had been suffered to escape unheeded and unpursued, rushed out from the thicket, apparently in great anger, and ran upon I.137 the horses and men with all the violence it was master of. I was amazed, and as much as ever I was upon such an occasion, afflicted, at seeing the affection of the little animal in defending its wounded mother, heedless of its own life or safety. I therefore cried to them, for God’s sake to spare the mother, but it was then too late; and the calf had made several rude attacks upon me, which I avoided without difficulty; but I am happy to this day, in the reflection that I did not strike it. At last, making one of its attacks upon Ayton Egedan (another of the party,) it hurt him a little on the leg; on which he thrust it through with his lance, as others did after, and it then fell dead before its wounded mother, whom it had so affectionately defended. It was about the size of an ass, but round, big-bellied, and heavily made; and was so furious and unruly, that it would easily have broken the leg of a man or a horse, could it have overtaken, and jostled against them properly.”

In some parts of the East the Elephants are taken by means of pit-falls. Through the woody forests several paths are cut; in these are dug deep and large holes, which are carefully covered over with branches and loose earth.

On distant Ethiopia’s sun-burnt coasts,

The black inhabitants a pit-fall frame;

With slender poles the wide capacious mouth,

And hurdles light, they close; o’er these is spread

A floor of verdant turf, with all its flow’rs

Smiling delusive, and from strictest search

Concealing the deep grave that yawns below.


Then boughs of trees they cut, with tempting fruit

Of various kinds surcharg’d; the downy peach,

The clust’ring vine, and of bright golden rind

The fragrant orange. Soon as ev’ning grey

Advances, slow besprinkling all around

With kind refreshing dews the thirsty glebe,

The stately Elephant from the close shade

With step majestic strides; eager to taste

The cooler breeze that from the sea-beat shore

Delightful breathes, or in the limpid stream

To lave his panting sides; joyous he scents

The rich repast, unweeting of the death

That lurks within. And soon he sporting breaks

The brittle boughs, and greedily devours

The fruit delicious.—Ah! too dearly bought;

The price is life. For now the treach’rous turf

Trembling gives way; and the unwieldy beast,

Self-sinking, drops into the dark profound.

When the hunters have sufficiently secured the animals with strong ropes tied round their limbs, they are dragged out and taken home to be tamed. Of their mode of performing this I shall give the account of Tavernier, from his Travels in India, who tells us that he was himself present at the taming of two that had been taken not long before. “After two hours travel, we came to a great village, where we saw the two Elephants that had been lately taken. Each of these was placed between two tame ones. Round the wild Elephants stood six men, each with a half-pike in his hand, with a lighted torch fastened at the end of it, who talked to the animals, giving them meat, and calling to them in their own language ‘take it, take it.’ If the I.139 wild Elephants refused to do as they were bid, the men made signs to the tame ones to beat them; which they did thus: one of them banged the refractory Elephant about the head with his trunk, and if he offered to make any resistance, the other thwacked him on the other side; so that the poor animal, not knowing what to do, was at length constrained to become obedient⁕8.”

It has been stated, that the sagacity of the Elephant is so great, and his memory so retentive, that when once he has received an injury, or been in bondage and afterwards escaped, it is not possible, by any art, again to entrap him. The following instances recorded in the Philosophical Transactions for 1799, will prove however that this is not the fact:—

“A female Elephant was first taken in the year 1765, by Rajah Kishun Mannick, who, about six months after, gave her to Abdoor Rezah, a man of some rank and consequence in the district. In 1767, the Rajah sent a force against this Abdoor Rezah, for some refractory conduct, who, in his retreat to the hills, turned the above mentioned beast loose into the woods, after having used her above two years as a riding Elephant. She was afterwards retaken; but broke loose in a stormy night, and again escaped. In the year 1782, above ten years after her second escape, she was driven by the Elephant-hunters belonging to Mr. Leeke, of Longford-hall, in Shropshire, into I.140 the inclosure in which the Elephants are secured; and the day following, when Mr. Leeke went to see the herd that had been taken, this Elephant was pointed out to him by the hunters, who well recollected her. They frequently called to her by name; to which she seemed to pay some attention, by immediately looking towards them when it was repeated; nor did she appear like the wild Elephants, who were constantly running about the inclosure in a rage, but seemed perfectly reconciled to her situation.

“For the space of eighteen days, she never went near enough the outlet to be secured; from a recollection perhaps of what she had twice before suffered⁕9. Mr. Leeke, at length, went himself, when there were only herself, another female, and eight young ones remaining in the inclosure. After the other female had been secured, by means of the trained female Elephants, called Koomkees, sent in for that purpose, the hunters were ordered to call on her by her name. She immediately came to the side of the ditch, within the inclosure; on which some of the drivers were desired to carry in a plantain tree, the leaves of which she not only took from their hands with her trunk, but opened her mouth for them to put a leaf into it, which they did, stroking and caressing her, and calling to her by name. One of the trained Elephants was now ordered to be brought to her, and the driver to take her by the I.141 ear and order her to lie down. At first she did not like the Koomkee to go near her, and retired to a distance, seeming angry; but, when the drivers, who were on foot, called to her, she came immediately and allowed them to stroke and caress her as before; and in a few minutes after, permitted the trained Elephants to be familiar. A driver from one of these then fastened a rope round her body, and instantly jumped on her back, which, at the moment, she did not like, but was soon reconciled to it. A small cord was then put round her neck, for the driver to put his feet in; who seating himself on the neck, in the usual manner, drove her about the inclosure, in the same manner as any of the tame Elephants.—After this he ordered her to lie down, which she instantly did; nor did she rise till she was desired. He fed her from his seat, gave her his stick to hold, which she took with her trunk, and put into her mouth, kept, and then returned it as she was directed, and as she had formerly been accustomed to do. In short, she was so obedient, that had there been more wild Elephants in the inclosure, she would have been useful in securing them.

“In June 1787, a male Elephant, taken the year before, was travelling, in company with some others, towards Chittigong, laden with baggage; and having come upon a Tiger’s track, which Elephants discover readily by the smell, he took fright and ran off to the woods, in spite of all the efforts of his driver. On entering the wood, the driver saved himself by springing from the animal and clinging I.142 to the branch of a tree under which he was passing. When the Elephant had got rid of his driver, he soon contrived to shake off his load. As soon as he ran away, a trained female was dispatched after him, but could not get up in time to prevent his escape.

“Eighteen months after this, when a herd of Elephants had been taken, and had remained several days in the inclosure, till they were enticed into the outlet, there tied, and led out in the usual manner, one of the drivers, viewing a male Elephant very attentively, declared he resembled the one which had run away. This excited the curiosity of every one to go and look at him; but, when any person came near, the animal struck at him with his trunk, and in every respect appeared as wild and outrageous as any of the other Elephants.—An old hunter at length coming up and examining him, declared that he was the very Elephant that had made his escape.

“Confident of this, he boldly rode up to him on a tame Elephant, and ordered him to lie down, pulling him by the ear at the same time. The animal seemed taken by surprize, and instantly obeyed the word of command, uttering at the same time a peculiar shrill squeak through his trunk, as he had formerly been known to do; by which he was immediately recognized by every person who was acquainted with this peculiarity.”

Thus we see that this Elephant, for the space of eight or ten days, during which he was in the inclosure, appeared equally wild and fierce with the boldest Elephant then taken; but the moment he I.143 was addressed in a commanding tone, the recollection of his former obedience seemed to rush upon him at once; and, without any difficulty, he permitted a driver to be seated on his neck, who in a few days made him as tractable as ever.

“A female Elephant, belonging to a gentleman at Calcutta, being ordered from the upper country to Chotygoné, by chance broke loose from her keeper, and was lost in the woods. The excuses which the keeper made were not admitted. It was supposed that he had sold the Elephant; his wife and family therefore were sold for slaves, and he was himself condemned to work upon the roads. About twelve years afterwards this man was ordered up into the country to assist in catching the wild Elephants. The keeper fancied he saw his long-lost Elephant in a group that was before them. He was determined to go up to it; nor could the strongest representations of the great danger dissuade him from his purpose. When he approached the creature, she knew him; and giving him three salutes, by waving her trunk in the air, knelt down and received him on her back. She afterwards assisted in securing the other Elephants, and likewise brought with her three young ones, which she had produced during her absence. The keeper recovered his character; and as a recompence for his sufferings and intrepidity, had an annuity settled on him for life. This Elephant was afterwards in the possession of Governor Hastings.”

These and several other instances that have occurred, clearly evince, that Elephants have not the I.144 sagacity to avoid a snare into which they have, even more than once, fallen.

The Elephant, when tamed, becomes the most gentle and most obedient of all domestic animals. He is so fond of his keeper, that he carresses him, and anticipates his commands. He soon learns to comprehend signs, and even to understand the expression of sounds. He distinguishes the tones of command, of anger, or of approbation, and regulates his actions accordingly. He never mistakes the voice of his master. He receives his orders with attention, executes them with prudence and eagerness, but without any degree of precipitation; for his movements are always measured, and his character seems to partake of the gravity of his bulk. He easily learns to bend his knees for the accommodation of those who mount him. His friends he caresses with his trunk; salutes with it such people as are pointed out to him, uses it for raising burthens, and assists in loading himself. He allows himself to be clothed, and seems to have a pleasure in being covered with gilded harness and brilliant housings. He is employed in drawing chariots, ploughs, waggons, &c. He draws steadily, and never turns restive, provided he is not insulted with improper chastisement, and that the people who labour with him have the air of being pleased with the manner in which he employs his strength. The man who conducts him, generally rides on his neck, and uses an iron rod, hooked at the end, or having there a kind of bodkin, with which he pricks the head or I.145 sides of the ears, in order to urge him forward or to turn him. But words are generally sufficient; especially if the animal has had time to acquire a complete acquaintance with his conductor, and to put entire confidence in him. The attachment of the Elephant becomes sometimes so strong, and his affection so warm and durable, that he has been known to die of sorrow, when, in a paroxysm of rage, he had killed his guide.

The domestic Elephant performs more work than perhaps six horses; but he requires from his master much care, and a great quantity of good victuals. He is generally fed with rice, raw or boiled, and mixed with water. To keep him in full vigour, he is said to require daily a hundred pounds weight of this food; besides fresh herbage to cool him, for he is subject to be over-heated, and must be led to the water twice or thrice a-day for the purpose of bathing. He sucks up water in his trunk, carries it to his mouth, drinks part of it, and, by elevating his trunk, allows the remainder to run over every part his body. His daily consumption of water for drink, has been calculated at forty-five gallons⁕10.

To give an idea of the labour which he performs, it is sufficient to remark, that all the tuns, sacks, and bales, transported from one place to another in India, are carried by Elephants; that they carry burthens on their bodies, their necks, their tusks,—and even in their mouths, by giving them the end I.146 of a rope, which they hold fast with their teeth; that, uniting sagacity to strength, they never break or injure any thing committed to their charge; that, from the banks of the rivers, they put these bundles into boats without wetting them, laying them down gently, and arranging them where they ought to be placed; that, when disposed in the places where their masters direct, they try with their trunks whether the goods are properly stowed; and, if a tun or cask rolls, they go, of their own accord, in quest of stones to prop, and render it firm.

M. Phillipe was an eye-witness to the following facts:—He one day went to the river at Goa, near which place a great ship was building. Here was a large area filled with beams for that purpose. Some men tied the ends of heavy beams with a rope, which was handed to an Elephant, who carried it to his mouth, and after twisting it round his trunk, drew it, without any conductor, to the place where the ship was building. One of the Elephants sometimes drew beams so large, that more than twenty men would have been necessary to move them. But what surprized this gentleman still more was, that when other beams obstructed the road, he elevated the ends of his own beam, that it might run easily over those which lay in his way. Could the most enlightened man have done more⁕11?

At Mahie, on the coast of Malabar, M. Toreen tells us, he had an opportunity of admiring the I.147 sagacity of an Elephant. Its master had let it for a certain sum per day; and its employment was to carry with its trunk, timber for a building out of the river: which business it dispatched very dexterously, under the command of a boy; and afterwards laid the pieces one upon another, in such exact order, that no man could have done it better⁕12.

Elephants not only obey the voice of their keeper when present; but some, even in his absence, will perform extraordinary tasks which have been previously explained to them. “I have seen two,” says M. D’Obsonville, “occupied in beating down a wall; which their Cornacs had desired them to do, and encouraged them by a promise of fruits and brandy. They combined their efforts; and doubling up their trunks, which were guarded from injury by leather, thrust against the strongest part of the wall; and by reiterated shocks continued their efforts, carefully observing and following with their eyes the effects of the equilibrium: at last, when it was sufficiently loosened, making one violent push, they suddenly drew back together, that they might not be wounded; and the whole came tumbling to the ground⁕13.”

Now that fire-arms are the principal implements of war, Elephants, which are terrified at the noise and flame, instead of being useful, would, in action, only tend to embarrass and confuse an army. In Cochin, and other parts of Malabar, however, I.148 as well as in Tonquin, Siam, and Pegu, where fire-arms are but little understood, these animals are still used in battle. The guide sits across upon the neck, and the combatants sit or stand upon the other parts of the body. They are also extremely serviceable in the fording of rivers, by carrying over the baggage on their backs. After the keeper has loaded them with several hundred weight, he fastens ropes to them; of which the soldiers taking hold, either swim, or are drawn through the water. In time of action, a heavy iron chain is sometimes fixed to the end of their trunks; which they whirl round with such agility as to render it impossible for an enemy to approach them at that time. Another use still made of this creature in war, is to force open the gates of a city or garrison which is closely besieged. This he does by setting his hinder parts against them, and moving backwards and forwards till he has burst the bars, and forced an entrance: to prevent which, many of the garrisons in the East have large spikes stuck in their gates, projecting to a considerable distance.

The Elephant is, however, used in dragging artillery over mountains; and it is on such occasions that his sagacity is most conspicuous. While the Oxen yoked to a cannon make an effort to pull it up a declivity, the Elephant pushes the breech with his front, and at each effort supports the carriage with his knee, which he places against the wheel. He seems to understand whatever is said to him.

When his conductor wants him to execute any I.149 painful labour, he explains the nature of the operations, and recites the reasons which ought to induce him to obey. If the Elephant shews a repugnance to what is exacted of him, his Cornac, or conductor, promises to give him arrack, or somewhat else that he likes. It is extremely dangerous, however, to break any promise that is made to him; many Cornacs have fallen victims to indiscretions of this kind.

But though he is vindictive, the Elephant is not ungrateful. A soldier at Pondicherry was accustomed to give a certain quantity of arrack to one of these animals, every time he got his pay; and having one day intoxicated himself, and being pursued by the guard, who wanted to put him in prison, he took refuge under the Elephant, and there fell fast asleep. The guard in vain attempted to drag him from this asylum, for the Elephant defended him with its trunk. Next day the soldier, having recovered from his intoxication, was in dreadful apprehension when he found himself under the belly of this enormous animal. The Elephant, who unquestionably perceived his terror, relieved his fears by immediately carressing him with his trunk.

This animal is, during the rutting season, seized with a madness which makes him totally untractable, and makes him so formidable, that it is often necessary to kill him. The people try to bind him with large iron chains, in the hope of reclaiming him: but in his ordinary state, the most acute pains will not provoke him to hurt those who have never injured him. An Elephant, rendered I.150 furious by the wounds it had received at the battle of Hambour, ran about the field making the most hideous cries. A soldier, notwithstanding the alarms of his comrades, was unable, perhaps on account of his wounds, to fly. The Elephant approached, seemed afraid of trampling him under its feet, took him up with its trunk, placed him gently on his ſide, and continued its route.

An incident to which M. le Baron de Lauriston was a witness during one of the late wars in the East, forms another proof of the sensibility of the Elephant. This gentleman, from his zeal and some other circumstances, was induced to go to Laknaor, the capital of the Soubah or viceroyalty of that name, at a time when an epidemic distemper was making the greatest ravages amongst the inhabitants. The principal road to the palace-gate was covered with the sick and dying, extended on the ground, at the very moment when the nabob must necessarily pass. It appeared impossible for his Elephant to do otherwise than tread upon and crush many of these poor wretches in his passage, unless the prince would stop till the way could be cleared; but he was in haste, and such tenderness would be unbecoming in a personage of his importance. The Elephant, however, without appearing to slacken his pace, and without having received any command for that purpose, assisted them with his trunk, removed some, set others on their feet, and stepped over the rest with so much address and assiduity, that not one person was wounded. An Asiatic prince and his slaves were deaf to the cries I.151 of nature, while the heart of the beast relented; he, more worthy than his rider to elevate his front towards the heavens, heard and obeyed the calls of humanity⁕14.

The following instance of the sagacity of these animals was mentioned to Dr. Darwin by some gentlemen of undoubted veracity, who had been much conversant with our Eastern settlements. The Elephants that are used to carry the baggage of our armies, are put each under the care of one of the natives of Indostan; and whilst this person and his wife go into the woods to collect leaves and branches of trees for his food, they fix him to the ground by a length of chain, and frequently leave a child yet unable to walk, under his protection; and the intelligent animal not only defends it, but, as it creeps about, when it arrives near the extremity of his chain, he wraps his trunk gently round us body, and brings it again into the centre of his circle⁕15.

During one of the wars in India, many Frenchmen had an opportunity of observing one of the Elephants that had received a fleſh-wound from a cannon-ball. After having been twice or thrice conducted to the hospital, where he extended himself to be dressed, he afterwards used to go alone. The surgeon did whatever he thought necessary, applying sometimes even fire to the wound; and though the pain made the animal often utter the most plaintive groans, he never expressed any other tokens than those of gratitude to this person, who by momentary I.152 torments endeavoured, and in the end effected, his cure⁕16.

In the last war, a young Elephant received a violent wound in its head; the pain of which rendered it so frantic and ungovernable, that it was found impossible to persuade the animal to have the part dressed. Whenever any one approached, it ran off with fury, and would suffer no person to come within several yards of it. The man who had the care of it, at length hit upon a contrivance for securing it. By a few words and signs he gave the mother of the animal sufficient intelligence of what was wanted; the sensible creature immediately seized her young one with her trunk, and held it firmly down, though groaning with agony, while the surgeon completely dressed the wound: and she continued to perform this service every day till the animal was perfectly recovered.

In many parts of India, Elephants are made the executioners of justice; for, with their trunks, they will break every limb of a criminal, trample him to death, or transfix him with their tusks, as they are directed.

In India, they were once employed in the launching of ships. One was directed to force a very large vessel into the water; but the work proved superior to his strength. His master, in a sarcastic tone, bid the keeper take away this lazy beast, and bring another. The poor animal instantly repeated his I.153 efforts, fractured his skull, and died on the spot⁕17.

In the Philosophical Transactions, a story is related of an Elephant having such an attachment for a very young child, that he was never happy but when it was near him. The nurse used, therefore, very frequently to take the child in its cradle, and place it between his feet. This he became at length so much accustomed to, that he would never eat his food except when it was present. When the child slept, he used to drive off the flies with his proboscis; and when it cried, he would move the cradle backwards and forwards, and thus rock it again to sleep⁕18.

A sentinel belonging to the present menagerie at Paris, was always very careful in requesting the spectators not to give the Elephants any thing to eat. This conduct particularly displeased the female; who beheld him with a very unfavourable eye, and had several times endeavoured to correct his interference by sprinkling his head with water from her trunk. One day, when several persons were collected to view these animals, a by-stander offered the female a bit of bread. The sentinel perceived it; but the moment he opened his mouth to give his usual admonition, she, placing herself immediately before him, discharged in his face a considerable stream of water. A general laugh ensued; but the sentinel, having calmly wiped his face, stood I.154 a little to one side, and continued as vigilant as before. Soon afterwards, he found himself under the necessity of repeating his admonition to the spectators; but no sooner was this uttered, than the female laid hold of his musket, twirled it round with her trunk, trod it under her feet, and did not restore it till she had twisted it nearly into the form of a screw⁕19.

M. Navarette says, that at Macasar, an Elephant-driver had a cocoa-nut given him, which out of wantonness he struck twice against his Elephant’s forehead to break. The day following the animal saw some cocoa-nuts exposed in the street for sale; and taking one of them up with its trunk, beat it about the driver’s head, till the man was completely dead. “This comes (says our author) of jesting with Elephants⁕20.”

An Elephant that was exhibited in France some years ago, seemed to know when it was mocked by any person; and remembered the affront till an opportunity for revenge occurred. A man deceived it, by pretending to throw something into its mouth: the animal give him such a blow with its trunk, as knocked him down, and broke two of his ribs. After which it trampled on him with its feet, broke one of his legs, and bending down on its knees, endeavoured to push its tusks into his body; but they luckily ran into the ground on each side of his thigh, without doing him any injury.—This Elephant generally made less use of its strength than its address. With great ease and coolness, it I.155 loosened the buckle of a large double leathern strap with which its leg was fixed; and though the attendants had wrapped the buckle round with a small cord, and tied many knots on it, the creature deliberately loosened the whole, without breaking either the cord or the strap. One night, after disengaging itself in this manner from its strap, it broke up the door of its lodge with such dexterity as not to awaken the keeper. Thence it went into several courts of the menagerie; forcing open doors, and throwing down the walls when the doors were too narrow to let it pass. In this manner it got access to the apartments of other animals; and so terrified them, that they fled into the most retired corners of the inclosure⁕21.

“I have frequently remarked (says Terry, in his Voyage to the East Indies) that the Elephant performs many actions which would seem almost the immediate effect of reason. He does every thing his master commands. If he is directed to terrify any person, he runs upon him with every appearance of fury, and, when he comes near, stops short, without doing him the least injury. When the master chuses to affront any one, he tells the Elephant; who collects water and mud with his trunk, and squirts it upon the object pointed out to him.”

That Elephants are susceptible of the warmest attachment to each other, the following account, extracted from a late French journal, will sufficiently prove. Two Ceylonese Elephants, a male and a I.156 female, each about two years and a half old, were in 1786 brought into Holland, a present to the Stadholder from the Dutch East India Company. They had been separated, in order to be conveyed from the Hague to Paris; where, in the Museum of Natural History, a spacious hall was prepared for their reception. This was divided into two apartments, which had a communication by means of a large door resembling a portcullis. The inclosure round these apartments consisted of very strong wooden rails. The morning after their arrival, they were conveyed to this habitation. The male was first brought. He entered the apartment with suspicion, reconnoitred the place, and then examined each bar separately with his trunk, and tried their solidity by shaking them. He attempted to turn the large screws on the outside which held them together, but was not able. When he arrived at the portcullis which separated the apartments, he observed that it was fastened only by a perpendicular iron bar. This he raised with his trunk, then pushed up the door, and entered the second apartment where he received his breakfast.—These two animals had been parted, (but with the utmost difficulty,) for the convenience of carriage, and had not seen each other for some months; and the joy they experienced on meeting again, after so long a separation, is scarcely to be expressed. They immediately rushed towards each other, and sent forth cries of joy so animated and loud as to shake the whole hall. They breathed also through their trunks with such violence, that the blast resembled an impetuous I.157 gust of wind. The joy of the female was the most lively. She expressed it by quickly flapping her ears, which she made to move with astonishing velocity, and drew her trunk over the body of the male with the utmost tenderness. She particularly applied it to his ear, where she kept it a long time; and after having drawn it over his whole body, often moved it affectionately towards her own mouth. The male did the same over the body of the female, but his joy was more steady. He seemed, however, to express it by his tears, which fell from his eyes in abundance. Since this time they have occupied the same apartment; and their mutual tenderness and natural affection have excited the admiration, and even the esteem, of all who have visited them.

These two Elephants consume every day a hundred pounds weight of hay, and eighteen pounds of bread, besides several bunches of carrots, and a great quantity of potatoes. During summer they drink about thirty pails of water in the day.—On their arrival in Holland, they were conveyed in a vessel up the river Waal to Nimeguen, whence they were driven on foot to Loo. The attendants had much difficulty in inducing them to cross the bridge at Arnheim. The animals had fasted for several hours, and a quantity of food was placed for them on the opposite side of the bridge. Still, however, some time elapsed before they would venture themselves upon it; and at last they would not make any step without first carefully examining the planks, to see that they were firm. During the time they were I.158 kept at Loo they were perfectly tame, and were suffered to range at liberty. They would sometimes even come into the room at the dinner hour, and take food from the company. After the conquest of Holland, from the cruelty with which they were treated by many of the spectators who crowded to visit them, they lost much of their gentleness; and their subsequent confinement in the cages in which they were conveyed to Paris, has even rendered them in some degree ferocious towards spectators. They are not suffered to range at liberty; but are kept in an inclosure sufficiently large to allow them some exercise. This contains their den, and a pond, in which during summer they often wash themselves⁕22.

The Elephant, it is said, is even able to write with a pen. “I have myself seen (says Ælian) an Elephant write Latin characters on a board in a very orderly manner, his keeper only shewing him the figure of each letter⁕23.”

Dr. Darwin tells us, that he was informed by a gentleman of veracity, that, in some parts of the East, the Elephant is taught to walk on a narrow path between two pit-falls, which are covered with turf; and then to go into the woods, and seduce the wild Elephants to come that way, who fall into these wells, whilst he passes safe between them. The same gentleman says also that it was universally observed, that such wild Elephants as had I.159 escaped the snare, always pursued the traitor with the utmost vehemence; and if they could overtake him, which sometimes happened, they beat him to death⁕24.

Tavernier relates, that one of the kings of India was in a hunting-party, with his son, upon an Elephant, when the animal, being seized with one of his periodical fits of madness, became at once ungovernable and furious. The Cornac told the king, that, to allay the fury of the animal, who would otherwise doubtless bruise them all to death among the trees, one of the three must sacrifice his life; and that he would willingly yield his own for the preservation of the other two. In return, he only intreated that the king would provide for his family after his death. This being promised, he threw himself headlong under the animal’s feet; who seized him with his trunk, and afterwards, by trampling, crushed him to pieces. The Elephant soon seemed to repent of having thus, without provocation, murdered his keeper; and without any farther difficulty, became perfectly quiet. The king, says our author, provided liberally for the wife and children of the poor fellow, who had thus generously sacrificed his life for the safety of him and his son⁕25.

Elephants, when hunted, endeavour to avoid muddy rivers with the greatest care, probably that they may not stick fast in the ooze; while, on the I.160 other hand, they industriously seek out the larger rivers, which they swim over with great ease. For, notwithstanding that the Elephant, from the form of his feet and the position of his limbs, does not seem to be adapted for swimming, (when he is out of his depth in the water, his body and head being entirely sunk under the surface;) yet he is in less danger of being drowned than many other land animals, as he carries his long trunk raised above the surface of the water in order to breathe, and can steer his course in it by means of this appendage. It has consequently been observed, that when several Elephants have swum over a river at the same time, they have all found the way very well; and have been able also to avoid running foul of each other, though their heads and eyes have been all the while under water.

These animals are said to be kept in many parts of India, more for shew and grandeur than for use. And their keeping is attended with very great expence; for they devour vast quantities of provision, and must sometimes be regaled with a plentiful repast of cinnamon, of which they are exceedingly fond. It is said to be no uncommon thing for a nabob, if he wishes to ruin a private gentleman, to make him a present of an Elephant; which he is afterwards obliged to maintain at a greater expence than he can afford. By parting with it he would certainly fall under the displeasure of the grandee; besides forfeiting all the honour which his countrymen think is conferred upon him, by so respectable a present.


In the island of Ceylon the general value of an Elephant is about fifty pounds sterling. But if there is any blemish; if, for instance, its tail has been plucked off, one of its ears slit, or it has suffered any other kind of damage; very considerable deductions are made. And, as it is very unusual to find an Elephant free from all these defects, those that are so are commonly sold at from one to two hundred pounds each. They are taken to market at certain stated periods; and generally sold, a great number together, by auction. It is customary for two or more persons to purchase conjointly, fifty, sixty, or a hundred Elephants; which they afterwards dispose of in separate lots, with great profit⁕26.

Elephants are said to be extremely susceptible of the power of music. Suetonius relates that the emperor Domitian had a troop of Elephants disciplined to dance to the sound of music; and that one of them who had been beaten for not having his lesson perfect, was observed the night afterwards in a meadow, practising it by himself!

At Paris some curious experiments have been lately made on the power of music over the sensibility of the Elephant. A band of music went to play in a gallery extending round the upper part of the stalls in which were kept two Elephants, distinguished by the names of Margaret and Hans. A perfect silence was procured. Some provisions of which they were fond were given them to engage their attention, I.162 and the musicians began to play. The music no sooner struck their ears, than they ceased from eating, and turned in surprise to observe whence the sounds proceeded. At sight of the gallery, the orchestra, and the assembled spectators, they discovered considerable alarm, as though they imagined there was some design against their safety. But the music soon overpowered their fears, and all other emotions became completely absorbed in their attention to it. Music of a bold and wild expression excited in them turbulent agitations, expressive either of violent joy, or of rising fury. A soft air performed on the bassoon, evidently soothed them to gentle and tender emotions. A gay and lively air moved them, especially the female, to demonstrations of highly sportive sensibility. Other variations of the music produced corresponding changes in the emotions of the Elephants.

Some of the Indians who believe in transmigration of souls, are persuaded that a body so majestic as that of the Elephant, must be animated with the soul of a great man or a king. In many of the Eastern countries the white Elephants are regarded as the living manes of the Indian emperors. Each of these animals has a palace, a number of domestics, and magnificent trappings; and eats out of golden vessels filled with the choicest food. They are absolved from all labour and servitude. The emperor is the only person before whom they bow the knee, and their salute is returned by the monarch.—When the king of Pegu walks abroad, four white Elephants, adorned with precious stones I.163 and ornaments of gold, march before him; and when he gives audience, these four Elephants are presented to him, who do him reverence by raising their trunks, opening their mouths, making three distinct cries, and then kneeling. This ended, they are led back to their stable, and there each of them is fed in large golden vessels. They are twice a-day washed with water taken from a silver vessel. During the time of their being dressed in this manner, they are under a canopy, supported by eight domestics, in order to defend them from the heat of the sun. In going to the vessels which contain their food and water, they are preceded by three trumpets, and march with great majesty.

Such are the accounts, collected through a pretty wide range of authorities, which I have been enabled to give, of the disposition and manners of this useful and most intelligent of all animals. These may, perhaps, in a few instances, have been exaggerated by the writers, and must consequently be received with some degree of limitation; yet we have had so many surprising instances of their sagacity, given to us on undoubted authority, that however wonderful these may seem, it would not be right to entirely discredit any of them, without direct proof of their untruth. The authorities for the whole are such as have been received by different respectable and observing men, who, with both the powers and ability of enquiring into them, seem to have entertained no doubts whatever of their validity.

Our account of this extraordinary animal cannot I.164 be better closed than with the following expressive lines, finely descriptive of his native state:

Peaceful beneath primeval trees, that cast

Their ample shade o’er Niger’s yellow stream,

And where the Ganges rolls his sacred wave;

Or mid the central depth of black’ning woods.

High rais’d in solemn theatre around;

Leans the huge Elephant, wisest of brutes.

O truly wise! with gentle might endow’d;

Though powerful, not destructive! Here he sees

Revolving ages sweep the changeful earth,

And empires rise and fall; regardless he

Of what the never-resting race of men

Project: thrice happy! could he ’scape their guile,

Who mine, from cruel avarice, his steps;

Or with his tow’ry grandeur swell their state,

The pride of kings! or else his strength pervert,

And bid him rage amid the mortal fray,

Astonish’d at the madness of mankind.

Synonyms.—Elephas maximus. Linn.—Elephant. Smellie.—Elephantus. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 63. 64.—Bew. Quad. p. 166.

⁕1 The largest tusks imported into England measure seven feet in length, and weigh about 150lb. each. There is one in the Leverian Museum about eight feet long, which however weighs only 113lb.

⁕2 Church.

⁕3 Elephants are said to be exceedingly afraid of Mice, lest they should get through the trunk into their lungs, and thus stifle them: and, therefore, sleep with the end of the proboscis so close to the ground, that nothing but air can get in between.—Ray’s Wisdom of God in the Works of the Creation, p. 384.

⁕4 Buff. Quad.

⁕5 Penn. Quad. i. 153.

⁕6 In many places this mode is not adopted; but as soon as the herd has been surrounded by a strong palisade, Koomkees are sent in with proper people, who tie them on the spot, in the manner we have mentioned respecting the single male Elephants.

⁕7 See a paper of John Corse, esq. on the method of catching wild Elephants at Tipura in the East Indies, inserted in the Asiatic Researches.

⁕8 A mode of taming Elephants somewhat similar to this, is now practised in the island of Ceylon. Thunberg, iv. 242.

⁕9 When Elephants are secured in the outlet from the inclosure, they bruise themselves terribly.

⁕10 Thunberg, iv. 244.

⁕11 Voyage du M. Phillipe, quoted in Buff. Quad.

⁕12 Voyage to Surat, quoted in Buff. Quad.

⁕13 D’Obsonville, 163.

⁕14 D’Obsonville, 160.

⁕15 Darwin’s Zoonomia.

⁕16 D’Obsonville, 163.

⁕17 Penn. Quad. i. 155. related from Ludolph. Com. in Hist. Æth. 117.

⁕18 Phil. Tran. xxviii. 65.

⁕19 Tilloch.

⁕20 Navarette, i. 263.

⁕21 Buff. Quad.

⁕22 La Menagerie du Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle.

⁕23 Opera Claudii Æliani, cura Con. Gesneri.

⁕24 Darwin’s Zoonomia.

⁕25 Tavernier’s Travels in India.

⁕26 Thunberg, iv. 243.

Notes and Corrections: The Elephant

skip to Appendix

Elephas maximus is the Asian elephant, the only species in its genus. African elephants are genus Loxodonta, with two species. Some writers believe that as recently as 2000 years ago there was yet another African elephant species.

This chapter’s “Dr. Darwin” is Charles’s grandfather Erasmus.

may to be seen distinctly
text unchanged

He, however, generally allows them to approach, and sometimes even advances to meet him.
text unchanged: error for meet them

On distant Ethiopia’s sun-burnt coasts,
[Bingley is scrupulous about citing his nonfiction sources, but when it comes to literature he seems to assume readers will recognize everything. This one is from Book III of William Somerville’s The Chase, originally published in 1735. (Nope, I’d never heard of either the poem or its author either, though I find illustrated editions as recent as 1896.)]

The keeper recovered his character
[Yes, but did he recover his wife and family?]

to bend his knees for the accommodation of those who mount him
text has accomodation

He seems to understand whatever is said to him.
text has undersand

A soldier, notwithstanding the alarms of his comrades
text has notwithsanding

or transfix him with their tusks
text has tranfix

attachment to each other, the following account
text has other,the without space

often moved it affectionately towards her own mouth
text has affectinately

one of his periodical fits of madness
text has perodical

Peaceful beneath primeval trees
[Thomson’s Seasons: Summer 716-732.]


The Elephant⁕1.

After the full account that I have already given of the manners of the Elephant in a state of domestication, it will be needless to add much in this place respecting any of these animals that have been brought into England. Confined to the very small apartment at Exeter ’Change, or within the narrow limits of a caravan, much new information cannot be expected, nor indeed has much been obtained.

The Elephant that died last year, at Exeter ’Change, was brought over in the Rose East Indiaman, and purchased by Mr. Pidcock for 1000l.—He was usually fed with hay and straw, but he always preferred the latter. The quantity that he ate could not exactly be ascertained, since he scattered about a great portion of what was given him for food, and also ate a considerable quantity of the straw with which he was littered. He would eat with great avidity, bread, carrots, cabbages, and boiled potatoes. The quantity of water allowed him was about nine pails a day, given at three different times. He was excessively fond of beer, and all kinds of spirituous liquors. He has been known to drink upwards of fifty quarts of beer in a day, given by the different persons who came to visit him, and were desirous of observing the mode in which he conveyed fluids to his mouth.

⁕1 See vol. i. p. 122.

engraving of Duck-Billed Platypus, no later than 1804

Shaw Miscellany plate 385:
Duck-Billed Platypus


The only animal at present known as belonging to this very extraordinary tribe, was discovered a few years ago, in New Holland. Sir Joseph Banks had in his possession two specimens, which were sent over by Governor Hunter; and only one or two others have as yet arrived in this kingdom.

The Platypus has two grinders on each side both of the upper and lower jaw. Instead of front-teeth, it has a process resembling the bill of a Duck. The feet are webbed.

Notes and Corrections: The Platypus Tribe

The subclass Prototheria, egg-laying mammals, has just one order, Monotremata, consisting of two families, yielding a grand total of three genera containing one species each. There are two kinds of echidna and only one platypus; Bingley must not have known about the echidna. (Linnaeus didn’t even know the platypus.)

. . . At least this week. It is also possible that monotremes and marsupials will turn out to be more closely related than marsupials and placental mammals.


engraving of Duck-Billed Platypus, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 66:
Duck-Billed Platypus


The mouth of this very singular creature exhibits so great a resem­blance to the beak of some of the broad-billed species of Ducks, that it is not without minute and accurate examination, that we can persuade ourselves of its being the real beak or snout of a quadruped.

The length of the animal, from the tip of the beak to the end of the tail, is thirteen inches; and of this the beak occupies an inch and a half. The body is depressed, and has some resemblance to that of an Otter in miniature; it is covered with a very thick, soft fur, of a moderately dark brown colour above, and whitish beneath. The head is rather small; and the tail flat, furry like the body, and obtuse. The legs are very short, and terminate in a broad web, which on the fore-feet extends to a consi­derable distance beyond the claws. On the fore-feet there are five claws straight, strong, and sharp-pointed; and on the hind-feet six curved claws; the interior one seated much higher than the rest, and resembling a strong sharp spur⁕1.

engraving of Beak and Feet of Platypus, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 67:
Beak & Feet of the PLATYPUS of their Natural size

The specimens of this animal hitherto sent to Europe, have been deprived of their internal parts, and are for the most part very ill preserved. Mr. Home examined one belonging to Sir Joseph Banks, I.166 which had been kept in spirits, and was tolerably perfect. He discovered that although the beak, when cursorily examined, had so great a resemblance to that of the Duck, as to induce a belief that it was calculated for exactly the same purposes; yet when all its parts were carefully reviewed, he found that it differed in a variety of circum­stances. This, it appears, is not the animal’s mouth; but is merely a projecture beyond, and added to it.

The cavity of the mouth is similar to that of other quadrupeds, and has two grinders on each side, both in the upper and under jaw: but instead of front-teeth, the nasal and palate bones are continued forward, lengthening the anterior nostrils, and forming the upper part of the beak; and the two portions of the lower jaw, instead of terminating, as in other quadrupeds, are also continued forwards, forming the under portion of the beak. This structure differs materially from the bills of all birds: since in the feathered tribe the cavities of the nostrils do not extend beyond the root of the bill; and in the lower portions, which correspond with the under jaw of quadrupeds, the edges are hard, to answer the purpose of teeth, and in the middle there is an hollow space to receive the tongue; but in the Platypus the two thin plates of bone are in the centre, and the parts that surround them are composed of skin and membrane, in which, probably, a muscular structure is included.

The teeth have no fangs that sink into the jaw, as in most other quadrupeds, but are embedded in the gums.—The tongue is scarcely half an inch long, I.167 and the moveable part is not more than a quarter of an inch. It can be drawn entirely into the mouth; and, when extended, reaches about a quarter of an inch into the beak.—The organ of smell differs in some measure from that of both quadrupeds and birds. The external opening is placed near the end of the beak; whence are superadded to it two cavities, extending ell the way along the beak.—The beak itself is covered with a smooth black skin, that extends some way beyond the bones, both in front and laterally; and forms a moveable lip, so strong, that when dried or hardened in spirit, it seems to be quite rigid, but when moistened is very pliant, and is probably a muscular structure. The under portion of the beak has a lip equally broad with the upper. This has a serrated edge, (wanting in the upper mandible), but the serræ are mostly confined to the soft part.—A curious transverse fold of the external black smooth skin by which the beak is covered, projects all round, exactly at that part where it has its origin. The apparent use of this is to prevent the beak from being pushed too far into the soft mud, in which prey may he concealed.—The nerves that supply the beak, are much allied to those of birds; and the cavity of the skull has a greater resemblance to that of a Duck than of a quadruped.—The eye is uncommonly small for the size of the animal; and the external opening of the ear is simply an orifice, and so minute as not to be discovered without difficulty.


From the form of this animal we are led to suppose it a resident in watery situations; that it burrows in the banks of rivers, or under ground, and that its food consists of aquatic plants and animals. But the structure of its beak is such as not to enable it to lay firm hold of its prey: when, however, the two marginal lips are brought together, the animal has most probably a considerable power of suction, and in this manner may draw food into its mouth⁕2.

Synonyms.—Platypus Anatinus. Duck billed Platypus. Shaw.—Ornithorhynchus paradoxus. Home. Blumenbach.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 66, 67.

⁕1 Shaw’s Zool. i. 232.

⁕2 Phil. Tran. for 1800, p. 432.

Notes and Corrections: The Duck-Billed Platypus

The platypus’s current name, Ornithorhynchus anatinus, neatly splits the two binomials listed by Bingley.


The animals of this tribe are destitute of fore-teeth in both jaws. From the upper jaw, however, proceed two great tusks, which point downwards. The grinders have wrinkled surfaces. The lips are doubled. The hind feet are at the extremity of the body, and unite into a kind of fin.

The Manati are entirely marine; feeding on sea-weeds, corallines, and shell-fish, and not carnivorous. Their elongated body, declining in bulk from the head gradually to the tail; and their short, fin-like feet; give them some alliance to the fishy tribes. They may indeed be considered as forming one of those steps in nature, by which we are conducted from one great division of the animal world to the other. Though the general residence I.169 of all the species is in the sea, yet some of them are perfectly amphibious, and live with equal ease on the land and in water.

Notes and Corrections: The Manati Tribe

Manatees, along with dugongs and sea cows, are order Sirenia, divided into two families. Some sources would like to group Sirenia together with elephants and hyraxes. Walruses, on the other hand, are carnivores; apart from being placental mammals, they are not related to manatees in any way.

feeding on . . . shell-fish, and not carnivorous
[Bingley’s definition of “carnivorous” is narrower than yours and mine.]

color picture of “Arctic Walrus”, no later than 1804

Shaw Miscellany plate 276:
Arctic Walrus


These animals, which are sometimes seen eighteen feet long, and ten or twelve in circumference, are inhabitants of the coasts of the Magdalene Islands, in the Gulph of St. Lawrence. They are usually found in vast multitudes floating on the ice. In their upper jaw they have two long tusks bending downwards, which they use in scraping shell-fish and other prey out of the sand, and from the rocks. The further use of these is in ascending the islands of ice, the animals fixing them in the cracks, and upon them drawing up their bodies. They are also weapons of defence against the White Bear, the Sword-fish, and Sharks⁕1.

The Arctic Walrus is inelegant in its form, having a small head, short neck, thick body, and short legs. The lips are very thick, and the upper one is cleft into two large rounded lobes, on which there are several thick and semi-transparent bristles. The eyes are very small; and instead of external ears, there are only two small circular orifices. The skin is thick, and scattered over with short brownish hair. On each foot there are five toes, connected I.170 by webs, and the hind-feet are considerably broader than the others. The tail is extremely short.

engraving of “Arctic Walrus”, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 68 (second with that number):
Arctic Walrus from Jonston

They are harmless animals, unless when attacked or provoked, in which case they become furious, and exceedingly vindictive. When surprised on the ice, the females first provide for the safety of their young, by flinging them into the sea, and conveying them to a secure distance; they then return to the place with great rage to revenge any injury they have received. They will sometimes attempt to fasten their teeth on the boats, in order to sink them, or will rise under them in great numbers, with the intention of oversetting them, at the same time exhibiting all the marks of rage, roaring in a dreadful manner, and gnashing their teeth with great violence. They are strongly attached to each other, and will make every effort in their power, even to death, to set at liberty their harpooned companions. A wounded Walrus has been known to sink to the bottom, rise suddenly again, and bring up with it multitudes of others, who have united in an attack on the boat from whence the insult came⁕2.

These animals always visit the Magdalene Islands early in the spring. These seem particularly adapted to their wants, abounding in large shell-fish, and affording them a convenient landing. Immediately on their arrival they crawl up the sloping rocks of the coast in great numbers, and frequently I.171 remain for many days, when the weather is fair, without food; but on the first appearance of rain they immediately retreat to the water with great precipitation. Very soon after their arrival they bring forth their young. The inhabitants suffer them to come on shore, and amuse themselves for a considerable time, till they acquire some degree of boldness; for, at first landing, they are so exceedingly timid as to suffer no one to approach them. In a few weeks they assemble in great numbers; formerly, when undisturbed by the Americans, to the amount of 7 or 8000.—At a proper time, the fishermen, taking advantage of a sea wind to prevent the animals from smelling them, and with the assistance of dogs, endeavour in the night to separate those that are farthest advanced from those next the water, driving them different ways. This they call making a cut, and it is generally esteemed a very dangerous process, since it is impossible to drive them in any particular direction, and often difficult to avoid them. The darkness of the night, however, deprives them of every direction to the water, so that they stray about, and are killed by the men at leisure, those nearest the shore becoming the first victims. In this manner fifteen or sixteen hundred have been killed at one cut.—They are then skinned, and the coat of fat that always surrounds them is taken off, and dissolved into oil. The skin is cut into slices of two or three inches wide, and exported to America for carriage-traces, and to England for glue⁕3.

engraving of Walrus, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 467:


They sometimes attack small boats, merely through wantonness, and not only put the people in confusion, but frequently subject them to great danger. In the year 1766 some of the crew of a sloop which sailed to the north, to trade with the Esquimaux, were attacked in their boat by a great number of these animals; and, notwithstanding their utmost endeavours to keep them off, one more daring than the rest, though a small one, got in over the stern, and after sitting and looking at the men some time, he again plunged into the water to his companions. At that instant, another of an enormous size was getting in over the bow; and every other means proving ineffectual to prevent such an unwelcome visit, the bowman took up a gun, loaded with goose-shot, put the muzzle into the animal’s mouth, and shot him dead. He immediately sunk, and was followed by all his companions. The people then made the best of their way to the vessel, and just arrived before the creatures were ready to make their second attack, which, in all probability, would have been infinitely worse than the first, as they seemed highly enraged at the loss of their companion⁕4.

The following is Captain Cook’s description of a herd of Walrusses, that were seen floating on a mass of ice off the northern part of the continent of America.—“They lie in herds of many hundreds, upon the ice, huddling over one another like swine; and roar or bray so very loud, that in the night, or in I.173 foggy weather, they gave us notice of the vicinity of the ice before we could see it. We never found the whole herd asleep, some being always upon the watch. These, on the approach of the boat, would wake those next to them; and the alarm being thus gradually communicated, the whole herd would be awake presently. But they were seldom in a hurry to get away, till after they had been once fired at. They then would tumble over one another into the sea in the utmost confusion. And if we did not, at the first discharge, kill those we fired at, we generally lost them, though mortally wounded. They did not appear to us to be that dangerous animal which some authors have described; not even when attacked. They are rather more so in appearance than in reality. Vast numbers of them would follow and come close up to the boats; but the flash of a musket in the pan, or even the bare pointing one at them, would send them down in an instant. The female will defend the young to the very last, and at the expence of her own life, whether in the water, or upon the ice. Nor will the young one quit the dam, though she be dead; so that if one is killed, the other is certain prey. The dam, when in the water, holds the young one between her fore-fins⁕5.”

engraving of “Arctic Walrus”, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 68 (first with that number):
Arctic Walrus

The Greenlanders, when they find a herd of them upon the ice, approach in their boats, and fling their harpoons as the alarmed animals are tumbling themselves along the steeps of the ice into the sea. They seize these opportunities of killing I.174 them, as the animals always distend their skins, to roll with greater ease and lightness, and, therefore, are easier to hit than when they are at rest on the shore, and the skin is flaccid⁕6.

When playing about in the water, they have been frequently observed to draw Sea-fowl beneath the surface, with their long tusks, and after a while to throw them up in the air; but they live entirely upon marine plants and Shell-fish, and never eat these⁕7.

This animal appears to have been known to king Alfred so early as the year 890, from the information of Octher, the Norwegian, who made a voyage beyond the North Cape of Norway, “for the more commoditie, (says Hakluyt) of fishing of Horse-wales, which have in their teeth bones of great price and excellence; whereof he brought some on his returne unto the king.” Hakluyt further informs us, that at that period the natives of the northern coasts made cables, some of them sixty ells in length, of the Horse-Wales and Seals-skins⁕8.

The tusks of the Walrus, which weigh from ten to thirty pounds each, are used as an inferior sort of ivory; but the animals are principally killed for the sake of their oil. A very strong and elastic leather, it is said, may be prepared from the skin. The animals frequently weigh from 1500 to 2000 pounds, and produce from one to two barrels of oil each⁕9.

Synonyms.—Trichechus Rosmarus. Linn.—Sea-horse. Ellis.—Walross. Marten.—Morse, or Walrus. Smell. Buff.—Morse. Buffon.—Rosmarus. Johnston.—Arctic Walrus. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 68, 69.—Bew. Quad. 467.

⁕1 Crantz, i. 127.

⁕2 Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 147.

⁕3 Shuldham, in Phil. Tran. vol. 65. p. 249.

⁕4 Hearne, 289.

⁕5 Cook’s last Voyage, iii. 42, 43.

⁕6 Marten’s Spitsbergen, in Harris.

⁕7 Crantz, i. 127.

⁕8 Hakluyt, i. 5.

⁕9 Phil. Tran. vol. 65. p. 249.

Notes and Corrections: The Arctic Walrus

skip to next section

Trichechus rosmarus, the walrus, is now Odobenus rosmarus. It is not any kind of manatee; in fact it is a dog-type carnivore (family Odobenidae within suborder Caniformia).

The keen-eyed reader will notice that the color plate from Shaw’s Miscellany appears to be based on the same picture as the engravings in both Bewick’s Quadrupeds and Shaw’s General Zoology.

at the same time exhibiting all the marks of rage
text has “time time” (at mid-line, no less)

on the first appearance of rain they immediately retreat to the water with great precipitation
[Ouch. Editor asleep at the wheel.]

after sitting and looking at the men some time,
text has some aime

The Greenlanders, when they find a herd of
text has Greenlandeers

but the animals are principally killed for the sake of their oil
missing word “killed” supplied from 1st edition

[Synonyms] Morse, or Walrus. Smell. Buff.—Morse. Buffon.
[The first Buff. is probably an error, unless he means Smellie’s translation of Buffon as distinct from Smellie writing in his own name—and as distinct from Buffon, untranslated.]

[Synonyms] Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 68, 69.
[In fact it is plates 68 . . . and 68 again. Shaw’s engraver goofed, leaving us with two successive Plates, both numbered 68. The next Plate will be 69.]



The Whale-tailed Manati live entirely in the water, and in other respects they so nearly approach the Whale tribe, as scarcely to deserve the name of Quadrupeds. What are denominated feet are little more than pectoral fins, which serve only for swimming.

They inhabit the seas between America and Kamtschatka, but never appear off the coast of Kamtschatka, unless driven there by a tempest.—They are always found in herds. The old ones keep behind, and drive the young before them; and some go along the sides, by way of protection.—On the rising of the tide they approach the shores, and are so tame as to suffer themselves to be handled. They live in families near one another, each consisting of a male and female, a half grown young one, and a new-born cub; and these families often unite so as to form vast droves⁕1.

In their manners they are peaceable and harmless, and bear the strongest attachment to each other. When one is hooked, the whole herd will attempt its rescue; some will strive to overset the boat by going beneath it; others will fling themselves on the rope of the hook, and press it down in order to break it; and others again will make the utmost efforts to wrench the instrument out of the body of their wounded companion.


In their conjugal affection, if such it may be termed, they are most exemplary. A male, after having used all his endeavours to release his mate, which had been struck, pursued her to the very edge of the water; and no blows that were given could force him away. As long as the deceased female continued in the water, he persisted in his attendance; and even for three days after she was drawn on shore, cut up, and carried away, he was observed to remain in expectation of her return.

They are taken by a great hook fastened to a long rope. The strongest man in the boat strikes the instrument into the nearest animal; which being done, twenty or thirty people on shore seize the rope, and with the greatest difficulty drag it on shore. The poor creature makes the strongest resistance, assisted by its faithful companions. It will cling with its feet to the rocks till it leaves the skin behind; and often great fragments fly off before it can be landed. “I once saw (says Dr. Grieve,) some of the fishermen cut off the flesh from one of them while it was alive, which all the while struck the water with such force with its paws as entirely to tear off the skin⁕2.”

Their size is enormous, some of them being twenty-eight feet long, and weighing so much as eight thousand pounds.—They are exceedingly voracious, and feed on the different species of Fuci that grow in the sea, and are driven to the shore. When filled they fall aſleep on their backs. During I.177 their meals they are so intent on their food, that any one may go among them, and select out one of their number. Their back and sides are generally above water⁕3.

The head is small. The lips are double; and, near the junction of the two jaws, the mouth is filled with white tubular bristles, which prevent the food from running out with the water, and also serve for cutting teeth, to divide the strong roots of the sea-plants. Two flat white bones with undulated surfaces, one in each jaw, supply the place of grinders.—The eyes are extremely small, as are also the orifices for the ears. The tail is thick and strong; ending in a black, stiff fin. The skin is thick, hard, and black, and full of inequalities like the bark of oak; beneath it there is a thick blubber.

The flesh is coarser than beef, and does not soon putrify. The young ones taste like veal⁕4.

Synonyms.—Trichechus Borealis. Linn.—Morskuia Korowa, the Russian name, Steller.—Whale-tailed Manati. Penn.

⁕1 Penn. Quad. ii. 537.

⁕2 Grieve, 124. Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 177.

⁕3 Penn. Quad. ii. 507.

⁕4 Grieve, 135.

Notes and Corrections: The Whale-Tailed Manati

By the time Animal Biography was published, the Whale-Tailed Manati had already been extinct for several decades, because this is the animal now known as Hydrodamalis gigas or Steller’s Sea Cow. Sea cows belong to the same order, Sirenia, as manatees, but a different family.

Depending on whom you ask, Steller’s sea cow was either directly hunted to extinction, or indirectly driven to extinction through the loss of its primary food source, the sea otter.

The word Bingley gives as “Morskuia” is more often spelled Morskaia or Morskaya. This in turn may be the source of the English word “morse”, walrus.

engraving of “Round-Tailed Trichecus”, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 69:
Round-Tailed Trichechus


These animals are about six feet long; and three or four in circum­ference, though sometimes much more. They have a short thick neck, small eyes, and thick lips; are very thick about the shoulders, and taper gradually to the tail, which is broad and round. The feet are placed at the shoulders, I.178 and near the base of each foot, in the female, there is a small teat. The skin is thick and hard, and has a few hairs scattered over it.

They are found in the African rivers, from Senegal to the Cape; and in abundance on some of the Eastern coasts of South America. In the river of Amazons, they are often seen nearly a thousand leagues from its mouth. They seem much more partial to fresh or only brackish water, than to the sea.

At times they are observed, in their frolicsome moods, to leap to great heights above the surface; and they delight in shallow water near low land, and in places secure from surges, where the tides run gently. Marine plants seem to constitute their principal food. They are taken by harpoons. The Indians go out in small canoes (with the utmost silence, for the animal is very quick of hearing), carrying a harpoon, fastened to a strong cord of several fathoms in length. When struck, the Manati swims off with the instrument of death in his body; and, when spent with pain and fatigue, again rises to the surface, and is taken. The affection of the parent for her young is as conspicuous in this as in the last species. If a young one is with its mother when she is struck by a fisherman, careless of her own sufferings, she affectionately takes it, if not too large, under her fins or feet, to protect it from her own fate. But how cruelly do mankind reward them for these tender offices! the young, which will never forsake its dam, even in the greatest distress, is looked upon in no other light than as certain prey⁕1!


We are told that this species of Manati is often tamed by the native inhabitants of America, and that it delights in music. A governor of Nicaragua is said to have kept one of them in a lake near his house, for six-and-twenty years. The animal was usually fed with breads and fragments of victuals, as fish are fed in a pond. He became so familiar, that in tameness and docility he nearly equalled what has been said by the ancients of their Dolphin. The domestics gave him the name of Matto; and when any of them came at the regular hour to feed him, and called him by his name, he would come immediately to the shore, take victuals out of their hands, and, (though contrary to what is generally said of these creatures) even crawl up to the house to receive it. Here he would play with the servants and children; and according to the writer of the account has even been known to carry persons across the lake on his back⁕2. From circumstances similar to these, some authors have imagined this to be the Dolphin of the ancients; and others believe that what has been written respecting Mermaids and Syrens, should be referred to this animal.

The flesh and fat of the Round-tailed Manati are very white, sweet, and salubrious. The young are extremely tender and delicious. The thicker parts of the skin, cut into slips, and dried, become very tough, and are used for whips. The thinner parts, which are more pliant, serve the I.180 Indians as thongs for fastening the sides of their canoes⁕3.

Synonyms.Trichechus Manatus. Linn.—Lamantin. Buffon. Adanson.—Sea Cow. Adanson.—Round-tailed Manati. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 69.

⁕1 Penn. Quad. ii. 541.

⁕2 Parsons (from Peter Martyr), in Phil. Tran. vol. 47. p. 109.

⁕3 Penn. Quad. ii. 541.

Notes and Corrections: The Round-Tailed Manati

Manatees are genus Trichecus in the single-genus family Triche­chidae in order Sirenia. The binomial Trichechus manatus now belongs to the West Indian manatee.

according to the writer of the account
text has wirter

what has been written respecting Mermaids and Syrens
text has repecting

[Synonyms] Trichechus Manatus. Linn.—Lamantin. Buffon. Adanson.—Sea Cow. Adanson.
text has Trichenus
[The first Adanson is probably an error. Something about the Manati Tribe seems to have a bad effect on Bingley’s—or perhaps his typesetter’s—organizational powers.]


This animal, though placed among the Manati by Mr. Pennant, seems rather to belong to the next order, and to be a Seal⁕1. The following is Dr. Grieve’s account of it.—Mr. Steller saw, off the coast of America, a marine animal which he calls a Sea-ape. The head appeared like that of a Dog; with sharp and upright ears, large eyes, and with both lips bearded. The body was round and conoid, the thickest part near the head; and the tail was forked. The animal was apparently destitute of feet.

It was extremely wanton, and played a number of apish-tricks. It sometimes swam on one and sometimes on the other side of the ship, gazing at it with great admiration. It would often stand erect for a considerable time, with one-third of its body above the water; then dart beneath the ship and appear on the other side, and repeat the same thirty times together. It would frequently rise with a sea plant in its mouth, not unlike the Bottle-gourd, and toss it up and catch it again, playing with it a thousand antics⁕2.

From this animal, much more probably than from the Round-tailed Manati, the fable of the Syrens might originate.

Sea-ape. Grieve.

⁕1 Linn. Gmel. i. 62. n.

⁕2 Grieve, 136. Penn. Arct. Zool.

Notes and Corrections: Sea-Ape Manati

I am inclined to think Bingley is right, and the animal in question is really a seal.

to the

Those marked with an * are varieties of some other species; and those printed in Italics are Synonyms.

Ai 104
Ant-eater tribe 107
—— great 108
—— Tamandua guacu 108
—— Tamanoir 108
Arctic Walrus 169
Elephant Tribe 121
—— great 122, 490
Haut 104
Lamantin 177
Luyart 104
Manati Tribe 168
—— Arctic Walrus 169
—— whale-tailed 175
—— round-tailed 177
—— * Sea Ape 180
—— Lamantin 177
—— Morse 169
—— Morskuia korowa 175
—— Rosmarus 169
—— Sea Cow 177
—— Sea Horse 169
—— Walross 169
—— Walrus 169
Morse 169
Morskuia korowa 175
Ornithorynchus paradoxus 165
Platypus Tribe 164
—— duck-billed 165
—— Ornithorynchus paradoxus 165
Rhinoceros Tribe 109
—— single-horned 110, 487
—— two-horned 114
Rosmarus 169
Sea Ape 180
—— Cow 177
—— Horse 169
Sloth Tribe 103
Sloth, three-toed 104
—— Ai 104
—— Haut 104
—— Luyart 104
Tamandua 108
Tamanoir 108
Walrus Tribe 168
—— arctic 169
Walross 169


Bradypus Genus 103
—— tridactylus 104
Myrmecophaga Genus 107
—— Jubata 108
Rhinoceros Genus 109
—— Unicornis 111, 487
—— Bicornis 114
Elephas Genus 121
—— maximus 122, 490
Platypus Genus 164
—— anatinus 165
Trichechus Genus 168
—— Rosmarus 169
—— Borealis 175
—— Manatus 177
Notes and Corrections: Index

Sloth, three-toed   104
text has 103
[This applies to the three sub-entries as well, since they were printed as “ib.”]


See the next section, Carnivores, for where walruses fit in taxonomically.

The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.