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This is the great deer of America; the term "moose” being derived from an Indian term, mousoä, and it is also frequently called the elk, or great stag. It is the largest of the whole deer family, being noted for the noble expanse of its spreading horns, and the majestic appearance of the whole body. "It inhabits the wide regions to the north-east of the American continent, extending across the wastes over which the Indian tribes still seek a precarious existence by hunting. Some of the Indians are almost entirely dependent in winter upon the flesh of this animal; and should the deer abandon their accustomed haunts, a famine destroys numbers of these half-civilised people.
Čaptain Back has described the miseries witnessed by himself amongst the Indians, consequence of an unexpected departure of the moose-deer from a particular district. To this region the hunters hastened on the approach of winter, hoping to meet with supplies of venison as usual, but, to their horror, not a deer appeared. We know the panic occasioned in our own country by even the partial failure of one kind of vegetable produce; what, then, must be the condition of the helpless savages when their only support departs? Then it is that the traveller beholds the depth of suffering to which uncivilised man is liable, and never talks or writes again of the romance of the Indian’s life. In one such year the skeleton forms of the famishing natives flocked around the tents of Captain Back's exploring party, ready to feed upon the merest garbage. In vain the provident Europeans urged their dark brethren to dash across the country to another district; the terror-stricken Indians dared not move from the succours sure to be rendered by the white men.
Thus the moose-deer is to those distant tribes of the New World the only resource towards which uncivilised nature can look with the least hope when winter settles down upon the hunting-grounds.
Should the animals be numerous, joy is in a thousand wigwams, for both food and clothing are then easily procured; the excitement of the chase being rather a delight than a toil to the Indians. The flesh of the moose-deer is said to resemble beef, though perhaps it may not be quite so tender as our Christmas prize-joints. The Indian, however, is quite satisfied with the quality of the food, bis only apprehensions relating to quantity; in fact, he prefers this flesh to that of any other animal, which, as he has little choice of selection, is at least a fortunate matter.
When the natives are in want of clothing, they must, of course, be their own tailors and shoemakers; but where do they obtain materials, since they have neither Manchester cottons nor Yorkshire broadcloth amongst them? The skin of the moose-deer supplies them with many articles, and especially with mocassins, for which its capabilities of resisting the effects of moisture adapt this leather.
As food and clothing are obtained from the animal, it is not surprising that the hunting of this deer is reckoned the most important art which an Indian can study. To his nature tillage is an abomination, and manufactures the pursuit of women; but to track the deer over the snow, through forests and across morasses, - this is the work, the life suitable to a hero. Some of the tribes take an especial pride in preparing their young men for the chase; nor is the task quite so easy as some may suppose who think only of our English hunts with horses and dogs. In general, the Indian is on foot when he pursues the deer; and the proof of his skill is, to follow the animal by observing its foot-tracks in the snow, and judging from their appearance whether the prey is near or at a distance. A silent chase of this kind will sometimes last for five or six days before the extraordinary perseverance of the hunter conquers the endurance, or defeats the watchfulness, of the stag. Nor is the pursuit altogether free from danger; for a wounded deer will sometimes turn with the greatest fury upon the assailant, striking with all the weight of his powerful body at the object of its attack. If trees are near, the hunter shelters himself behind one, whilst the enraged animal tears off the bark and splinters the wood by its mad charges, until the man, watching his opportunity, inflicts a mortal wound, and ends his peril and the animal's life at the same moment.
The reader will now perceive of what great importance to mankind are many wild animals; how completely dependent upon such creatures are tens of thousands dwelling in distant lands. Thus we have in this fact another instance of the close connexion between the history of man and animals, and the influence which a quadruped may exercise in forming the habits and fixing the characters of numerous tribes. What an effect do some animals produce in fixing men to particular countries, where otherwise we cannot suppose that human beings would have penetrated! How many inhabitants would Lapland have, were the rein-deer unknown in that part of the world? What tribes would people the barren grounds of North America, did not the moosedeer make their homes in those wilds ? Whether man would ever have looked upon such regions, except when attracted by the hope of capturing certain animals, may be matter for dispute; but he would not have remained long in such countries, had all their beasts departed at the close of summer. Various races of men are, therefore, bound to particular districts ; not by grandeur of scenery or security of position, but by the existence of certain animals in such places. These supply the settlers with food and clothing, and thus attach them to lands which must otherwise have been left in desolation.
There are other varieties of the deer family which might be noticed in a book on systematic zoology, but the species already described are the most interesting and useful. With these, therefore, we close this account of a tribe of animals not unimportant, whether we regard them as filling a large compartment in the wide field of natural history, or as valuable auxiliaries to numerous portions of the human race.
We cannot conclude this chapter on the deer tribe without a few remarks on the antelopes, which are, in several particulars, related to the animals just described; indeed the resemblances are so striking, that naturalists are not indisposed to place the two genera in the same zoological section. This will justify us in not giving a distinct chapter to the antelopes, as this course must involve us in something like repetition of matters contained in the preceding pages. A few remarks are, however, not objectionable, as a conclusion to the previous notices of the deer.
To describe all the varieties of the genus Antelope would require a large volume; it is, therefore, our intention to limit these observations to a few general topics, and to one or two of the more remarkable species.
When we begin to examine the differences between the antelopes and the deer, the peculiarities of the horns attract our attention. If the reader will refer to the figure of the rein-deer given at page 193, and compare those magnificent and branching antlers with the almost straight horns of the gazelle, figured at page 207, he cannot fail to be struck with the remarkable diversity; the horns of the antelope are spiral, presenting a succession of beautiful convolutions, instead of the branches which adorn the brows of the deer. But these frontal appendages of the antelopes are further distinguished by their permanence, being shed annually like those of the stag, but increasing in size and strength during the life of the animal.
The shape of the horns is not the same in all the species, being in some curved forwards, in others backwards; whilst one variety exhibits a combination of both curves, the horns being first turned back, and then bent again towards the forehead. The horns of the far-famed gazelle appear almost straight at first sight, but they are in reality slightly curved back for the greater part of their length, and then inclined forwards at the extremities. On the head of one species a small branch rises from the horn; this variety is, therefore, called the prongbuck (Antelope furcifer); but this projection cannot for a moment be compared to the
spreading head-armour of the deer, for it seldom exceeds an inch in length.
Though most of the antelopes are characterised by the spirals and rings on the horns, yet one of the largest species, the Nylghau, is without these marks, its horns being quite smooth from the base to the point. The greatest differences may also be observed in the size of these head weapons; for whilst in one species, the Madoqua (Antelope Saltiana), they do not exceed three inches in length, in another variety they are sometimes found to measure four feet. We have been thus particular in describing the horns of the antelopes, that the reader may clearly perceive the difference between these animals and the various members of the deer kind. Whence is the term antelope derived ? From a Greek word signifying bright eyes; a name well suited to these animals, which have always attracted the attention of naturalists by the perfection of the senses in all the varieties of this widelyspread genus, and especially by the brilliancy of their eyes. The native of the East cannot pay a higher compliment than to say, “ You have the eyes of a gazelle,” which beautiful species is distinguished, even among antelopes, by the bright fulness of the eye.
The fleetness of the antelopes is also remarkable, enabling them to escape from the swiftest horse or dog, and compelling the hunters to approach by stealth, and thus surprise the fleet creature, which none could hope to overtake. The deer will sometimes take surprising leaps when pursued; but the bounds of the antelope exceed by many feet the extent of a stag's spring. Travellers who have observed these animated creatures in their native regions declare that a full-grown antelope will frequently clear thirty or forty feet at a single bound,
,-a feat which must cause no small tribulation to the Heetest greyhound in pursuit. Even the pygmy antelope, the legs of which are not thicker than a common quill, will leap over a barrier twelve feet high; yet this creature seldom exceeds nine inches in height, and is too delicate to live in our climate. Many large herds of antelopes roam over the wide plains of India and Persia, and some find refuge in the deep forests of Asia ; but Africa appears to be the proper region of the genus, for out of seventy different species, no less than fifty belong to this continent: only one species is said to be found in Europe, the Saiga (Antelope bolus), which abounds in the region between the Danube and the Irtish, thus extending from Turkey to the Ural Mountains, and thence into Asia. We must, however, include the Chamois amongst the antelopes, with which, indeed, it is classed by many naturalists: this will give to Europe two species of this extended family. A few remarks on four or five of the more remarkable species must now be briefly described.
This beautiful creature, an illustration of which is annexed, is found in the solitudes of the great desert of Africa, where numerous herds are sometimes seen by the slowly moving caravan, as it toils along the burning waste. The usual colour of the upper parts of the body is yellowish, but the under parts are white, and a stripe of the same colour surrounds the eyes, and passes down the side of the face, bringing out into relief the large, soft, and black eyes. The long and elegantly-formed limbs suggest ideas of beautiful and rapid motions, though the speed of the gazelle is of course inferior to that of some of the larger antelopes. The horns of the male are marked by thirteen or fourteen rings, and are frequently curved a little backwards and then forwards, though in some individuals the borns are more straight. When fully grown, they usually measure about nine inches from the base to the tip; but in