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in a cold climate, and then the important conclusion may be deduced, that Siberia had then, as now, its wintry season.
This one point may serve to prove that the very facts which appear the least worthy of note may cast a clear light upon the most important discussion in scientific matters. It is, therefore, no wonder that the Royal College of Surgeons received with delight some of the hair and skin from the body of this mammoth, and deposited these memorials of a past age in their museum. The skeleton itself, with the tusks, may be seen in the museum of the Academy at St. Petersburg, where it utters an intelligible tale of the past to the scientific mind.
This singular animal was discovered by a Siberian fisherman, projecting from a bank on which some of the ice had been thawed. This was in the year 1800; and by the summer of 1803 the earth and ice in which the huge body was imbedded gave way, and the whole fell on the sand beneath. The rude fisher thought little of the commotion which his discovery would excite from Petersburg to London; and therefore attended only to the immediate gain to be realised from the sale of the tusks. The gigantic body was left for seven years, exposed to the attacks of the wild beasts, which procured many a meal from the flesh preserved for ages in its icy covering. The natives also cut off large pieces to feed their dogs during the winter months ; so that the bones were gradually cleared, and the skeleton fully exposed to view. At this period a rumour of the discovery reached zoologists, and a gentleman proceeded in search of the mammoth skeleton, which he succeeded in finding, and also in removing to St. Petersburg, a distance of more than 3000 miles. Neither tail nor trunk was visible, having been, as it is supposed, devoured by the wild beasts or the dogs. That the animal had a trunk seems clear from the structure of the skull, on which are seen the parts where the muscles of the trunk were fastened, and there is therefore no reason for supposing that the mammoth wanted this peculiar appendage of the elephant family. Much of the hair was collected, though a great portion had been destroyed by a seven-years' exposure to rain and frost, and many pounds' weight trampled into the ground by the polar bears and other wild beasts. About thirty-six pounds of the hair and bristles were nevertheless obtained, and packed with the greatest care. The skin had been much better preserved, and sufficient was found to employ ten men in lifting the whole. When the flesh which remained had been cleared from the bones, the latter were sorted and packed, and after much difficulty were at last safely lodged in Petersburg. The tusks which the fisherman had sold were fortunately recovered from the dealer, and all the important parts of the animal are therefore preserved for the inspection of the curious, and the examination of the scientific, These tusks measure nine feet six inches in length, and are more curved than those of the existing elephants, turning upwards, and forming more than half a circle in the bend. Their size may be estimated from their weight, which was 360 pounds, whilst the bones of the skull did not weigh more than fifty-four pounds; so great is the disproportion between the head and those enormous teeth.
There is reason to suppose that other skeletons of the mammoth will be discovered in the district where this animal was found, for great numbers of tusks are seen in the hollows of the rocks; and where these exist, the bones of the animals may also be detected by some future investigator, when the ice which now covers these singular fossils shall be broken up:
The zoological names given to this inhabitant of the olden earth are various; but those most usual are elephas primigenius, elephas mammonteus, and the mammoth; the latter being the most general of all in this country. The first is the most appropriate, expressing the great fact in the history of this animal, its antiquity. In what age of the world it existed, whether it was contemporary with Adam; or under what circumstances it passed its life, we shall not here discuss. It is sufficient to have called the reader's attention to the fact that in remote periods a species of elephant existed in the wilds of Siberia, where its remains now utter a short history of the ancient earth.
Another fossil species, called the mastodon, from the peculiar shape of its teeth, is found scattered over the plains of North America, and appears to have been first discovered in the region of the Ohio, from which circumstance it was called the animal of the Ohio. In later times, complete skeletons have been formed from the collected bones, and it has been proved that the species possessed a larger frame than the elephant, though not measuring so much in height. That this animal resembled the elephant in its general structure is beyond a doubt, as both a trunk and tusk were evidently attached to the huge body.
The elephant was not only found in Siberia and America, but also in most of the European countries, many bones having been discovered in England, France, and Germany. Some of these bones were supposed to have belonged to human giants by the early discoverers; and the people of Lucerne, having dug up a gigantic skeleton, hegan to cherish the idea that the ancient inhabitants of their city must have measured twenty feet in height! What speculations were stirred up among the Switzers respecting the size of their ancestors, and the supposed degradation of the moderns, whose bodies of six feet in height would look dwarfish enough beside a man twenty feet high! This supposed human Titan proved to be the remains of an elephant ; so that Lucerne has lost the glory of having been once possessed by a race of giants. More than 200 places were long ago reckoned up in Germany as containing the bones of fossil elephants, which were at first supposed to be the remains of animals left by the Roman armies on their marches through the German forests. But the great numbers subsequently discovered, and the depth at which they were found, gradually dispelled these errors. All the regions round the rivers of Germany, the Elbe, the Oder, the Rhine, and Danube, abound in these remains, and fresh bone-beds are sometimes exposed to view by the floods which carry away large portions of the river banks. Many places are recorded in England from which these bones have been taken, and huge tusks have been dug from excavations in the midst of the metropolis. One was found beneath the gravel in Grays-inn-lane, having been brought up from a depth of more than twelve feet. Large collections have been found near Brentford in Middlesex, and in the famous bone-caves of Yorkshire. Thus, on the plains of ancient Britain the primeval elephants wandered, where now our populous cities and busy factories stand. Since that ancient period the climate of these northern regions, or the constitution of the elephant, has 80 changed, that Britain is now utterly unfitted for the ordinary residence of these animals. We need not, however, regret this great natural revolution, which has left us numerous quadrupeds fitted for our wants, and adapted to promote our civilisation.
After the preceding history of the elephant, some readers might feel a little disappointed were the rhinoceros entirely omitted from this volume. They might justly say that the mere existence of so huge a beast is sufficient to excite a laudable curiosity, even though it cannot be made useful to man either in peace or war. We therefore intend to devote a few lines to the history and habits of the rhinoceros.
The name of this gigantic beast is drawn from the Greek language, and signifies an animal with a horn on its nose; an appellation which all must admit to be sufficiently descriptive of the animal's appearance. The creature has, however, been frequently called the unicorn, which would also be a suitable name for one species, as such an epithet means one-horned; and it is probable that the animal called unicorn in our English version of the Scriptures is the one-horned rhinoceros, viz. the Asiatic species. The magnificent description in the book of Job will apply to no animal so exactly; and to this creature the inspired writer, in all probability, referred in the 39th chapter of that book.
The rhinoceros was certainly known to the Romans, who introduced this powerful beast into their circus to combat the hippopotamus, and even to do battle with bears. But all knowledge of the animal appears to have been lost in Europe after the downfal of the Roman empire, until the early part of the sixteenth century, when one was sent from India to Portugal. The fate of this rhinoceros was rather singular ; the king of Portugal, wishing to present so rare an animal to the Pope, despatched it, under the care of keepers, by sea. But whether the brute disliked his confinement, or abhorred the motion of the ship, or objected to a sailor's life, we cannot say; one thing is certain, that, becoming irritated, he sunk the small vessel by his furious struggles, and found a resting-place in the sea.
Our own country was favoured by a visit from one of these quadrupeds in the year 1685; after which others were brought from the East Indies, and the good people of Loudon were gratified by the exhibition of the new wonder. Any one may now make the acquaintance of this animal, who will walk to the Regent's Park, where, in the Zoological Gardens, this vast beast may be seen endeavouring to console himself for the loss of his Asiatic bathing-places by plunging into the narrow pool in his enclosure.
The reader is not perhaps aware that the Indian rhinoceros differs from the African variety in the number of its horns; the former species having but one on its nose, and the other two of these weapons. This last statement may surprise some who have been accustomed to the sight of the Asiatic rhinoceros only, and who may have concluded that such an animal with two horns was no more to be expected than a lion with two heads. We shall now proceed to give some particulars of the two varieties of this huge beast.
Some facts illustrating the structure of the rhinoceros may be properly introduced in this place before specifying more particularly the peculiarities of the two species; and the reader will remember that these general remarks will apply both to the Indian and African kinds. The vast thickness of the skull-bones is the first peculiarity which strikes the naturalist who is permitted to examine the skeleton; and even the spectator, who sees but the external conformation of the animal, must feel that so solid a skull is almost fitted to resist the force of a battering-ram. After surveying the strength of the skull-bones towards the upper part, and marking the formidable horn which projects upwards from the bony mass, we shall not be surprised to hear that the powerful and warlike elephant finds the rhinoceros a dangerous foe. The tusks of the one animal may fail to produce much effect on the thick bones of the other, and the horn may pierce the belly of the kingly elephant before he can bear down his stubborn enemy.
The huge ribs, nineteen in number, present the same image of power, and are in perfect harmony with the whole aspect of the quadruped. If we proceed to examine the interior organisation, we shall see further illustration of a vast physical power deposited in this great animal.