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Having now taken a short survey of all the kinds existing in Britain, we must direct our attention to those which so forcibly attract the traveller's observation as he passes through other countries. The most remarkable is the far-famed
This variety has, doubtless, attracted more attention than all others of this interesting family ; nor can this be wondered at by those who remember the uses to which these animals are put in the desolate and stormy regions of the north. In those vast tracts the rein-deer is wealth and food to the tribes which inhabit the arctic plains, where this valuable creature becomes to the native what our horses, oxen, and sheep are to us. The fame of the animal has, therefore, travelled from its Lapland home into every land; and wherever books of northern travels are read, there some image of this stately deer, with its long and branching horns, suggests vivid ideas of the life led by our distant and halfcivilised brothers of the polar countries.
We must not suppose that this deer is confined to Lapland; for it is found in the northern regions of the three continents, affording its aid to the American, Asiatic, and European. In fact, we find the species throughout Siberia, along the Ural mountains, in Norway, Sweden, and Finmark, whilst thousands roam amid the snow-covered mountains of Iceland, and vast herds enrich the zoology of Greenland, and give an interest to the barren grounds of North America.
The names given to this deer are numerous ; that by which it is known amongst us being, however, the most usual. The term rein is evidently derived from the northern word rhen, which enters with a little alteration into the animal's name in the foreign zoological treatises. In America it is called the Caribou by many, but receives different appellations from various Indian tribes, being called Attek by some, and Etthin, Bedsu, and Tantsuah by others. The term Caribou was, in all probability, derived from the French settlers in Canada, who named the animal Carré-bouf.
The size of this deer is nearly as various as its names; for though some writers give the height of the animal, when fully grown, as about five feet, this is by no means universally the case. Perhaps the rein-deer attains its average size in Lapland, where, however, it is larger than in Norway and Sweden, but smaller than the species found amongst many of the Siberian tribes. The bulk appears to increase as the animal approaches the pole, thus proving that, even in regions which we regard as given up to desolation, and presenting the image of a world in ruins, the means of nourishing so large a class of creatures abundantly exist.
The appearance of a large herd of these deer is most impressive, from their peculiar habits, the branching horns, and white fur; for the hair acquires this colour in a short time after the coat has been cast. The reader must, however, be reminded that, were he to travel through the rein-deer countries, many spotted varieties would be seen; these are, however, not usually met with ; so that whoever wishes to place before his imagination the form of the animal must keep the white species before him as a type of the common rein-deer.
The plains or hills of the north often exhibit to the natives a spectacle which a Linnæus, a Cuvier, or a Temminck would travel a thousand miles to witness. The following short description from the travels of the Prussian naturalist, Leopold Von Buch, may enable some readers, possessed of an active imagination, to fill up the picture here presented in outline.
“It is a new and pleasing spectacle to see in the evening the herd assembled round the gamme (encampment) to be milked. On all the hills around, every thing is in an instant full of life and motion. The busy dogs are every where barking, and bringing the mass nearer and nearer, and the rein-deer bound and run, stand still, and bound again in an indescribable variety of movements. When the feeding animal, frightened by the dog, raises his head, and displays aloft his large and proud antlers, what a beautiful and majestic sight! And when he courses over the ground, how fleet and light are his speed and carriage! We never hear the foot on the earth, and nothing but the incessant crackling of his knee-joints, as if produced by a repetition of electric shocks -a singular noise; and from the number of rein-deer by which it is at once produced, it is heard at a great distance. When all the herd, consisting of three or four hundred, at last reach the gamme, they stand still, or repose themselves, or frisk about in confidence, play with their antlers against each other, or in groups surround a patch of moss, browsing. When the maidens run about with their milk-vessels from deer to deer, the brother or servant throws a back halter round the antlers of the animal which they point out to him, and draws it towards them; the animal generally struggles, and is unwilling to follow the halter, and the maiden laughsat and enjoys the labour it occasions, and sometimes wantonly allows it to get loose that it may again be caught for her; while the father and mother are heard scolding them for their frolicsome behaviour, which has often the effect of scaring the whole flock. Who, viewing this scene, would not think on Laban, on Leah, Rachael, and Jacob? When the herd at last stretches itself to the number of so many hundreds at once round about the gamme, we imagine we are beholding an entire encampment, and the commanding mind which presides over the whole, stationed in the middle.”
The grouping together of thousands of these deer, and the forest of antlers presented to the view as the herd stands in silence on the snow-whitened plains, gives even to a Lapland waste an appearance of rejoicing and busy life, which the native would not exchange for all the luxuriant fertility of our well-tilled vales.
In the above description by Von Buch occurs one little inaccuracy, to which the reader's attention must be called, as it is connected with a peculiar organisation, fitting the rein-deer to traverse with greater ease the snows which, for so long a period, cover the earth in the polar regions. The traveller speaks of a "crackling” noise, and thinks it arises from the striking together of the knee-joints. It is, in fact, produced by the divided hoof coming sharply together when the deer lifts its foot. When the sole of the foot presses the ground, the hoof separates into two parts, which thus present a wider surface to the snow, and gives to the animal a power of supporting itself on so yielding a suba
Whilst the foot remains on the earth, the weight of the body keeps the two portions of the hoof at the stretch ; but the moment it is raised, the rapid jerk of the leg brings the horny edges together with a sharp and clicking sound, which, when produced by a large herd of galloping deer, makes a confused mingling of cracks, not soon forgotten by the man who has but once heard them.
Men provide themselves with snow-shoes, by the help of which they are enabled to cross the dangerous tracts in the snow-deserts, for this work the rein-deer comes to his owner perfectly equipped.
Thus we see in two opposite regions of the earth manifesta
tions of the same adaptations for the welfare of men and animals. The African camel is furnished with a broad and padded foot, which we may call a sand-foot, and so passes with ease through the sands, or over the hard flats of the torrid wilderness. We also see within the polar circle a similar provision for enabling the rein-deer to pass over a surface formed of snow. Such are some of the facts wbich connect natural history with the sublime principles of natural theology, and enable the careful student of Nature to read proofs of the Divine wisdom and goodness in the footsteps of an animal, in the snows of the pole, or the sands of the Sahara.
The reader is already aware that the rein-deer is famous, not for any singular beauty of form, but for the rare advantages conferred by it upon a portion of the human family during all past ages. Use, therefore, and not beauty, has elevated this animal above others which excel it in nobleness of appearance and in physical powers. Some of the services rendered to man by the rein-deer must now be detailed.
If we regard this quadruped of the North simply as a beast of draught, its value to the dwellers in the higher latitudes is above all calculation. For the animal combines two important qualities of the horse-speed and strength — with a power not possessed by that noble
beast, that of traversing snow surfaces with the utmost ease. When barnessed to a light sledge, these deer have drawn the traveller over the waste at the rate of nearly twenty miles in the hour; and one of these persevering creatures is said to have drawn the bearer of some important despatches over 800 miles in about two days and nights. These feats are, however, not usual, and are mentioned only to shew the possible performances of the rein-deer. But its ordinary rate of travelling, and the length of time for which it will maintain its efforts, are the qualities prized by the Laplander and the Siberian.
By the aid of this animal, the natives of the North are enabled to open and preserve a communication with distant countries, the inhabitants of which would be totally isolated, did not the rein-deer enable them to pass and repass over the frozen deserts with a speed nearly equalling the powers of steam. The usual rate at which the well-trained animals proceed is about ten miles an hour; not bad travelling either, the reader may say, when the nature of the surface traversed is considered. The animals seem to enjoy their long journeys; for the speed of a line of sledges is maintained without the use of the whip, or stimulus of any kind. In fact, the difficulty is to prevent the deer from dragging the vehicle at too rapid a pace through the snows. These animals resemble the camel in their tendency to follow the course of their fellows in front, so that it is almost impossible for the driver to become separated from his party—a matter of the highest moment in the desolate regions of Lapland. The following sketch, from an eye-witness, illustrates the benefits of this habit:
“ If the number of deer be great, a close and lengthened procession is invariably formed; each deer following the foremnost sledge so closely that the head of the animal is generally in contact with the shoulders of the driver before. Should the guide alter his direction, by making a bend to the right or left, the whole of the deer in the rear will change their course when they arrive at the spot where the turn was made. It thus frequently happens, that when the distance between the foremost and hindmost deer is great, the guide making a bend, considerable saving might be obtained by cutting across. This, however, it is scarcely possible to do; for should the deer even be pulled by main force out of its former course, it will immediately turn aside from the new direction it is placed in and regain the old track, in spite of all the driver can do to prevent it. It is useless to contend with the animal, and the time thus lost might leave the driver at such a distance from the rest of the party, as to render it a matter of some difficulty to overtake them. This unwillingness to separate from its companions is one feature of the instinct given to this animal; and it is the very circumstance that, even more than any other, ensures the safety of the traveller. Should any accident separate him from the rest of his party, the deer be fatigued, or other occurrences throw him considerably in the rear, if he trust entirely to his deer, it will enable him to overtake the rest, though they should be some miles in advance, from the exquisite olfactory sense it possesses. The animal in this case, holding its head close to the snow, keeps frequently smelling, as a dog would do to scent the footsteps of its master, and is thus enabled to follow with certainty the track the other deer have gone. Were it not for this property of the animal, travelling across Lapland would be not a little hazardous, particularly in those parts where the weather is the darkest, which is generally while crossing the mountains of Finmark. It often happens that the party is unavoidably scattered, and the sound of the bell enables them to rejoin each other. The bells, however, should the weather be thick and stormy, can only be heard a short distance off'; and it is then by the sagacity of the deer alone that the difficulty is surmounted.”
Sometimes this tendency of the deer to associate with others of its kind is productive of some laughable mishaps to the solitary traveller, whose deer no sooner sees a herd proceeding on the route, than it attempts to follow the strangers, though these may be proceeding in a different direction thus the driver may find himself suddenly whirled away by his obstinate animal in a direction opposite to his wishes. These accidents happen chiefly with untrained deer, or rather with such as have been imperfectly fitted for their work, for a considerable degree of training is