In characterizing the present genus, were we to look solely at the animal such as we have it daily before our eyes, the distinction between it and all the other Ruminants is too striking to be for a moment mistaken. But the insensible gradations which connect this familiar denizen of our downs and pastures with the untamed native of the desert and the precipice, and the close affinity which subsists between the latter and the goats, render it almost impossible to isolate them by any satisfactory characters. On the present occasion we shall content ourselves with observing that the sheep may generally be distinguished by the direction of their horns, by the elevation of their profile, and by their want of beard: characters neither essential nor infallible, but the best that can be offered.
It may, however, be observed, that it has been proposed to divide it into two distinct genera, the one containing the Horse alone, and characterized by the flowing tail uniformly covered with long hair, by the absence of a line of darker coloured hairs along the back, and by the presence of callous protuberances on the hind legs as well as on the fore: the other comprehending the Asses and Zebras, and distinguished by the tail having a brush of long hairs at its extremity only, by the presence of the dorsal line, and the absence of the protuberances on the posterior legs. Such a division, resting as it does on striking but not very essential differences, may fairly be admitted for the purpose of separating the genus into sections; but can hardly be regarded as founded on characters of sufficient importance to disunite so well marked and strongly connected, as well as so limited, a group. In the same paper in which this new arrangement was proposed, the beautiful animal which we have now to describe was first specifically distinguished by Mr. Gray from the Common Zebra, with which it had previously been confounded, and characterized by him under the name of the Asinus Burchellii. Still there exists so much confusion between the two Zebras, many naturalists falling into the same error with Mr. Burchell, who first remarked the distinction between them, and regarding the present animal as the Zebra of zoologists, and the common one in reality as the new species; while others have absolutely counterchanged a part of the characters of each, and thus made confusion worse confounded; that we cannot do better than describe with some little detail the markings of the individual now before us.
Canis nubilus. Say.
Macropus Major. Shaw.下载
These singular animals were among the first fruits which accrued to natural history from the discovery of New South Wales, a country which has since proved so fertile in new and remarkable forms both of the animal and vegetable creations. Their natural habits in a wild state are still, however, very imperfectly known. They appear to live in small herds, perhaps single families, which are said to submit to the guidance of the older males, and to inhabit in preference the neighbourhood of woods and thickets. They are, as might be inferred from the small size of their mouths and the peculiar character of their teeth, purely herbivorous, feeding chiefly upon grass and roots. Their flesh is eaten by the colonists, by whom it is said to be nutritious and savoury, an assertion which is confirmed by those who have partaken of it in England. In order to procure this they are frequently hunted in their native country; but the dogs who are employed in this service sometimes meet with dangerous wounds, not only from the blows of their powerful tail, which is their usual weapon of defence, but also from the claws of their hind feet, with which they have been known to lacerate the bodies of their assailants in a shocking manner. But, unless when thus driven to make use of such powers of self-defence as they possess, they are perfectly harmless and even timid; and, when domesticated, are not in the least mischievous. In several collections in this country, and particularly in the Royal Park at Windsor, from which the specimens in the Menagerie were obtained, they have become almost naturalized, and appear to be but little affected by the change of climate. When confined in a small enclosure, they uniformly make their path round its circuit, seldom crossing it or passing in any other direction except for the purpose of procuring their food. Their whole appearance, and especially their mode of progression, is singularly curious and even to a certain extent ludicrous.下载
Hy?na vulgaris. Desm.下载