Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

assuage that extraordinary heat, wherewith their bodies seem to be naturally affected.”

They pair at breeding season, and are not polygamous. The hen lays her eggs in a nest, or rather hole, dug by the feet in the sand. This hole sometimes contains as many as forty eggs. The hens generally watch them closely. They are, however, frequently left to be hatched by the warmth of the sun. Almost the only evidence of care which the hen shows, is seen in depositing a certain number of eggs around the nest. These are not covered by the sand, and are not hatched, but they serve as food for the chicks, when they burst their shells. Shaw adds :-“Yet, notwithstanding the ample provision which is hereby made for a numerous offspring, scarce one quarter of these eggs are ever supposed to be hatched; and of those that are, no small share of the young ones may perish with hunger, from being left too early by their dams to shift for themselves. For in these, the most barren and desolate recesses of the Sahara, where the ostrich chooses to make her nest, it would not be enough to lay eggs and hatch them, unless some proper food was near at band, and already prepared for their nourishment. And accordingly, we are not to consider this large collection of eggs as if they were all intended for a brood; they are, the greatest part of them, reserved for food, which the dam breaks and disposes of, according to the number and the cravings of her young ones.

“But yet, for all this, a very little share of that storgē, or natural affection, which so strongly exerts itself in most other creatures, is observable in the ostrich. For upon the least distant noise, or trivial occasion, she forsakes her eggs or her young ones, to which perhaps she never returns; or, if she does, it may be too late either to restore life to the one, or to preserve the lives of the others. Agreeably to this account, the Arabs meet sometimes with whole nests of these eggs undisturbed; some of which are sweet and good; others are addle and corrupted; others again have their young ones of different growths, according to the time, it may be presumed, they have been forsaken by the dam. They oftener meet a few of the little ones, no bigger than well-grown pullets, half starved; straggling and moaning about, like so many distressed orphans, for their mother. And in this manner the ostrich may be said (ver. 16) “to be hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers; her labour (in hatching and attending them so far) being in vain, without fear,' or the least concern of what becomes of them afterwards. This want of affection is also recorded in Lam. iv. 3—' The daughter of my people,' says the prophet, 'is cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness.' -"Travels,” ïi. 340.)

Dr. Livingstone's notices of the ostrich shed light on other aspects of its habits as referred to in this passage. Of its speed, he says :“When the ostrich is feeding, his pace is from twenty to twenty-two inches; when walking, but not feeding, it is twenty-six inches; and when terrified, as in the case noticed, it is from eleven and a half to thirteen and even fourteen feet in length. Only in one case was I at all satisfied of being able to count the rate of speed by a stop watch, and, if I am not mistaken, there were thirty in ten seconds; generally one's eye can no more follow the legs than it can the spokes of a carriage-wheel in rapid motion. If we take the above number, and twelve feet stride as the average pace, we have a speed of twenty-six miles an hour.

The ostrich begins to lay her eggs before she has fixed ou a spot for a nest, which is only a hollow a few inches deep in the sand, and about a yard in diameter. Solitary eggs, named by the Bechuanas “lesetla,' are thus found lying forsaken all over the country, and become a prey to the jackal. She seems averse to risking a spot for a nest, and often lays her eggs in that of another ostrich, so that as many as forty-five have been found in one nest. —("Travels,” pp. 153–155.)

The ostrich appears to have been much more widely distributed in Asia in ancient times than it is now. On the Asiatic continent it is chiefly, if not altogether, confined to Southern Arabia. (Plate XXV., fig. 1.)

The description of the war-horse (ver. 19-25) is incomparably grand. His strength, his streaming mane, his noble boundings, his snorting“the glory of his nostrils ”—his eagerness for the fight as his highly sensitive frame catches the spirit of his dauntless rider, his behaviour on the battlefield amidst the clash of arms, the shouts of victors, the groans of the dying, are all set before us in language unmatched for its sublimity and force :

“ He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted ;
Neither turneth he back from the sword.
The quiver rattleth against him,

The glittering spear and the sword.” Every line indicates how thoroughly the spirit of the warrior was sympathized with by his horse. Indeed, no other of the domestic animals, with the exception of the dog, comes so easily under the power of man, or is so readily impressed by the nervous characteristics of his owner.

[graphic]
[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[graphic]
[ocr errors]

GAVEST THOU WINGS AND FEATHERS UNTO THE OSTRICH?-JOB xxxix. 13.

YE KNOW NOT WHEN THE MASTER COMETH, AT COCKCROWING, OR IN

THE MORNING.-MARK xiii. 35.

« VorigeDoorgaan »