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Sketches of Natural History of Ceylon by J. Emerson Tennent

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The Singhalese hunt them for the sake of their extremely beautiful
skins, but prefer taking them in traps and pitfalls, and occasionally
in spring cages formed of poles driven firmly into the ground, within
which a kid is generally fastened as a bait; the door being held open
by a sapling bent down by the united force of several men, and so
arranged as to act as a spring, to which a noose is ingeniously
attached, formed of plaited deer's hide. The cries of the kid attract
the leopard, which being tempted to enter, is enclosed by the
liberation of the spring, and grasped firmly round the body by the

Like the other carnivora, leopards are timid and cowardly in the
presence of man, never intruding on him voluntarily, and making a
hasty retreat when approached. Instances have, however, occurred of
individuals having been slain by them; and it is believed, that,
having once tasted human blood, they, like the tiger, acquire an
habitual relish for it. A peon, on duty by night at the court-house of
Anarajapoora, was some years ago carried off by a leopard from a table
in the verandah on which he had laid down his head to sleep. At
Batticaloa a "cheetah" in two instances in succession was known to
carry off men placed on a stage erected in a tree to drive away
elephants from rice-land: but such cases are rare, and, as compared
with their dread of the bear, the natives of Ceylon entertain but
slight apprehensions of the "cheetah." It is, however, the dread of
sportsmen, whose dogs when beating in the jungle are especially
exposed to its attacks: and I am aware of an instance in which a party
having tied their dogs to the tent-pole for security, and fallen
asleep round them, a leopard sprang into the tent and carried
off a dog from the midst of its slumbering masters. On one occasion
being in the mountains near Kandy, a messenger despatched to me
through the jungle excused his delay by stating that a "cheetah" had
seated itself in the only practicable path, and remained quietly
licking its fore paws and rubbing them over its face, till he was
forced to drive it, with stones, into the forest.

Leopards are strongly attracted by the peculiar odour which
accompanies small-pox. The reluctance of the natives to submit
themselves or their children to vaccination exposes the island to
frightful visitations of this disease; and in the villages in the
interior it is usual on such occasions to erect huts in the jungle to
serve as temporary hospitals. Towards these the leopards are certain
to be allured; and the medical officers are obliged to resort to
increased precautions in consequence. This fact is connected with a
curious native superstition. Amongst the avenging scourges sent direct
from the gods, the Singhalese regard both the ravages of the leopard,
and the visitation of the small-pox. The latter they call _par
excellence "maha ledda_," the great "sickness;" they look upon it
as a special manifestation of _devidosay_, "the displeasure of
the gods;" and the attraction of the cheetahs to the bed of the
sufferer they attribute to the same indignant agency. A few years ago,
the capua, or demon-priest of a "dewale," at Oggalbodda, a village
near Caltura, when suffering under small-pox, was devoured by a
cheetah, and his fate was regarded by those of an opposite faith as a
special judgment from heaven.

Such is the awe inspired by this belief in connection with the
small-pox, that a person afflicted with it is always approached as one
in immediate communication with the deity; his attendants, address him
as "my lord," and "your lordship," and exhaust on him the whole series
of honorific epithets in which their language abounds for approaching
personages of the most exalted rank. At evening and morning, a lamp is
lighted before him, and invoked with prayers to protect his family from
the dire calamity which has befallen himself. And after his recovery,
his former associates refrain from communication with him until a
ceremony shall have been performed by the capua, called
_awasara-pandema_, or "the offering of lights for permission," the
object of which is to entreat permission of the deity to regard him as
freed from the divine displeasure, with liberty to his friends to renew
their intercourse as before.

Major SKINNER, who for upwards of forty years has had occasionally to
live for long periods in the interior, occupied in the prosecution of
surveys and the construction of roads, is strongly of opinion that the
disposition of the leopard towards man is essentially pacific, and
that, when discovered, its natural impulse is to effect its escape. In
illustration of this I insert an extract from one of his letters,
which describes an adventure highly characteristic of this instinctive

"On the occasion of one of my visits to Adam's Peak, in the prosecution
of my military reconnoissances of the mountain zone, I fixed on a pretty
little patena (_i.e._, meadow) in the midst of an extensive and dense
forest in the southern segment of the Peak Range, as a favourable spot
for operations. It would have been difficult, after descending from the
cone of the peak, to have found one's way to this point, in the midst of
so vast a wilderness of trees, had not long experience assured me that
good game tracks would be found leading to it, and by one of them I
reached it. It was in the afternoon, just after one of those tropical
sunshowers that decorate every branch and blade with pendant brilliants,
and the little patena was covered with game, either driven to the open
space by the drippings from the leaves or tempted by the freshness of
the pasture: there were several pairs of elk, the bearded antlered male
contrasting finely with his mate; and other varieties of game in a
profusion not to be found in any place frequented by man. It was some
time before I would allow them to be disturbed by the rude fall of the
axe, in our necessity to establish our bivouac for the night, and they
were so unaccustomed to danger that it was long before they took alarm
at our noises.

"The following morning, anxious to gain a height for my observations
in time to avail myself of the clear atmosphere of sunrise, I started
off by myself through the jungle, leaving orders for my men, with my
surveying instruments, to follow my track by the notches which I cut
in the bark of the trees. On leaving the plain, I availed myself of a
fine wide game track which lay in my direction, and had gone, perhaps,
half a mile from the camp, when I was startled by a slight rustling in
the nilloo[1] to my right, and in another instant, by the spring of a
magnificent leopard, which, in a bound of full eight feet in height
over the lower brushwood, lighted at my feet within eighteen inches of
the spot whereon I stood, and lay in a crouching position, his fiery
gleaming eyes fixed on me.

[Footnote 1: A species of one of the suffruticose _Acanthaccae_
(Strobilanthes), which grows, abundantly in the mountain ranges of

"The predicament was not a pleasant one. I had no weapon of defence, and
with one spring or blow of his paw the beast could have annihilated me.
To move I knew would only encourage his attack. It occurred to me at the
moment that I had heard of the power of man's eye over wild animals, and
accordingly I fixed my gaze as intently as the agitation of such a
moment enabled me on his eyes: we stared at each other for some seconds,
when, to my inexpressible joy, the beast turned and bounded down the
straight open path before me. This scene occurred just at that period of
the morning when the grazing animals retired from the open patena to the
cool shade of the forest: doubtless, the leopard had taken my approach
for that of a deer, or some such animal. And if his spring had been at a
quadruped instead of a biped, his distance was so well measured, that it
must have landed him on the neck of a deer, an elk, or a buffalo; as it
was, one pace more would have done for me. A bear would not have let his
victim off so easily."

Notwithstanding the unequalled agility of the monkey, it falls a prey,
and not unfrequently, to the leopard. The latter, on approaching a tree
on which a troop of monkeys have taken shelter, causes an instant and
fearful excitement, which they manifest by loud and continued screams,
and incessant restless leaps from branch to branch. The leopard
meanwhile walks round and round the tree, with his eyes firmly fixed
upon his victims, till at last exhausted by terror, and prostrated by
vain exertions to escape, one or more falls a prey to his voracity. So
rivetted is the attention of both during the struggle, that a sportsman,
on one occasion, attracted by the noise, was enabled to approach within
an uncomfortable distance of the leopard, before he discovered the cause
of the unusual dismay amongst the monkeys overhead.

It is said, but I have never been able personally to verify the fact,
that the leopard of Ceylon exhibits a peculiarity in being unable
entirely to retract its claws within their sheaths.

There is another piece of curious folk lore, in connexion with the
leopard. The natives assert that it devours the _kaolin_ clay
called by them _kiri-mattie_[1] in a very peculiar way. They say
that the cheetah places it in lumps beside him, and then gazes
intently on the sun, till on turning his eyes on the clay, every piece
appears of a red colour like flesh, when he instantly devours it.

[Footnote 1: See Sir J.E. TENNENT'S _Ceylon_, vol. i. p. 31.]

They likewise allege that the female cheetah never produces more than
one litter of whelps.

Of the _lesser feline species_, the number and variety in Ceylon
is inferior to those of India. The Palm-cat[1] lurks by day among the
fronds of the coco-nut palms, and by night makes destructive forays on
the fowls of the villagers; and, in order to suck the blood of its
victim, inflicts a wound so small as to be almost imperceptible. The
glossy genette[2], the "_Civet_" of Europeans, is common in the
northern province, where the Tamils confine it in cages for the sake
of its musk, which they collect from the wooden bars on which it rubs
itself. Edrisi, the Moorish geographer, writing in the twelfth
century, enumerates musk as one of the productions then exported from

[Footnote 1: Paradoxurus typus, _F. Cuv._]

[Footnote 2: Viverra Indica, _Geoffr., Hodgs._]

[Footnote 3: EDRISI, _Geogr._ sec. vii. Jauberts's translation,
t. ii. p. 72. In connexion with cats, a Singhalese gentleman has
described to me a plant in Ceylon, called _Cuppa-mayniya_ by the
natives; by which he says cats are so enchanted, that they play with
it as they would with, a captured mouse; throwing if into the air,
watching it till it falls, and crouching to see if it will move. It
would be worth inquiring into the truth of this; and the explanation
of the attraction.]

_Dogs_.--There is no native wild dog in Ceylon, but every village
and town is haunted by mongrels of European descent, that are known by
the generic description of _Pariahs_. They are a miserable race,
lean, wretched, and mangy, acknowledged by no owners, living on the
garbage of the streets and sewers, and if spoken to unexpectedly they
shrink with an almost involuntary cry. Yet in these persecuted
outcasts there survives that germ of instinctive affection which binds
the dog to the human race, and a gentle word, even a look of
compassionate kindness, is sufficient foundation for a lasting

The Singhalese, from their religious aversion to taking away life in any
form, permit the increase of these desolate creatures till in the hot
season they become so numerous as to be a nuisance; and the only
expedient hitherto devised by the civil government to reduce their
numbers, is once in each year to offer a reward for their destruction,
when the Tamils and Malays pursue them in the streets with clubs (guns
being forbidden by the police for fear of accidents), and the
unresisting dogs are beaten to death on the side-paths and door-steps
where they had been taught to resort for food. Lord Torrington, during
his government of Ceylon, attempted the more civilised experiment of
putting some check on their numbers, by imposing a dog-tax, the effect
of which would have been to lead to the drowning of puppies; whereas
there is reason to believe that dogs are at present _bred_ by the
horse-keepers to be killed for sake of the reward.

The Pariahs of Colombo exhibit something of the same instinct, by
which the dogs in other eastern cities partition the towns into
districts, each apportioned to a separate pack, by whom it is
jealously guarded from the encroachments of all intruders. Travellers
at Cairo and Constantinople are often startled at night by the racket
occasioned by the demonstrations made by the rightful possessors of a
locality in repelling its invasion by some straggling wanderer. At
Alexandria, in 1844, the dogs had multiplied to such an inconvenient
extent, that Mehemet Ali, to abate the nuisance, caused them to be
shipped in boats and conveyed to one of the islands at the mouth of
the Nile. But the streets, thus deprived of their habitual patroles,
were speedily infested by dogs from the suburbs, in such numbers that
the evil became greater than before, and in the following year, the
legitimate denizens were recalled from their exile in the Delta, and
speedily drove back the intruders within their original boundary. May
not this disposition of the dog be referable to the impulse by which,
in a state of nature, each pack appropriates its own hunting-fields
within a particular area? and may not the impulse which, even in a
state of domestication, they still manifest to attack a passing dog
upon the road, be a remnant of this localised instinct, and a
concomitant dislike of intrusion?

_Jackal_.--The Jackal[1] in the low country of Ceylon hunts thus in
packs, headed by a leader, and these audacious prowlers have been seen
to assault and pull down a deer. The small number of hares in the
districts they infest is ascribed to their depredations. In the legends
of the natives, and in the literature of the Buddhists, the jackal in
Ceylon is as essentially the type of cunning as the fox is the emblem of
craft and adroitness in the traditions of Europe. In fact, it is more
than doubtful whether the jackal of the East be not the creature alluded
to, in the various passages of the Sacred Writings which make allusion
to the artfulness and subtlety of the "fox."

[Footnote 1: Canis Aureus, _Linn._]

These faculties they display in a high degree in their hunting
expeditions, especially in the northern portions of the island, where
they are found in the greatest numbers. In these districts, where the
wide sandy plains are thinly covered with brushwood, the face of the
country is diversified by patches of thick jungle and detached groups
of trees, that form insulated groves and topes. At dusk, or after
nightfall, a pack of jackals, having watched a hare or a small deer
take refuge in one of these retreats, immediately surround it on all
sides; and having stationed a few to watch the path by which the game
entered, the leader commences the attack by raising the unearthly cry
peculiar to their race, and which resembles the sound _okkay!_
loudly and rapidly repeated. The whole party then rush into the
jungle, and drive out the victim, which generally falls into the
ambush previously laid to entrap it.

A native gentleman[1], who had favourable opportunities of observing the
movements of these animals, informed me, that when a jackal has brought
down his game and killed it, his first impulse is to hide it in the
nearest jungle, whence he issues with an air of easy indifference to
observe whether anything more powerful than himself may be at hand, from
which he might encounter the risk of being despoiled of his capture. If
the coast be clear, he returns to the concealed carcase, and carries it
away, followed by his companions. But if a man be in sight, or any other
animal to be avoided, my informant has seen the jackal seize a coco-nut
husk in his mouth, or any similar substance, and fly at full speed, as
if eager to carry off his pretended prize, returning for the real booty
at some more convenient season.

[Footnote 1: Mr. D. de Silva Gooneratne.]

They are subject to hydrophobia, and instances are frequent in Ceylon
of cattle being bitten by them and dying in consequence.


An excrescence is sometimes found on the head of the jackal, consisting
of a small horny cone about half an inch in length, and concealed by a
tuft of hair. This the natives call _narrie-comboo_; and they aver that
this "Jackal's Horn" only grows on the head of the leader of the
pack.[1] Both the Singhalese and the Tamils regard it as a talisman, and
believe that its fortunate possessor can command by its instrumentality
the realisation of every wish, and that if stolen or lost by him, it
will invariably return of its own accord. Those who have jewels to
conceal rest in perfect security if along with them they can deposit a
narri-comboo, fully convinced that its presence is an effectual
safeguard against robbers.

[Footnote 1: In the Museum of the College of Surgeons, London (No.
4362 A), there is a cranium of a jackal which exhibits this strange
osseous process on the super-occipital; and I have placed along with
it a specimen of the horny sheath, which was presented to me by Mr.
Lavalliere, the late district judge of Kandy.]

One fabulous virtue ascribed to the _narrie-comboo_ by the Singhalese is
absurdly characteristic of their passion for litigation, as well as of
their perceptions of the "glorious uncertainty of the law." It is the
popular belief that the fortunate discoverer of a jackal's horn becomes
thereby invincible in every lawsuit, and must irresistibly triumph over
every opponent. A gentleman connected "with the Supreme Court of Colombo
has repeated to me a circumstance, within his own knowledge, of a
plaintiff who, after numerous defeats, eventually succeeded against his
opponent by the timely acquisition of this invaluable charm. Before the
final hearing of the cause, the mysterious horn was duly exhibited to
his friends; and the consequence was, that the adverse witnesses,
appalled by the belief that no one could possibly give judgment against
a person so endowed, suddenly modified their previous evidence, and
secured an unforeseen victory for the happy owner of the

_The Mongoos_.--Of the Mongoos or Ichneumon four species have been
described; and one, that frequents the hills near Neuera-ellia[1], is so
remarkable from its bushy fur, that the invalid soldiers in the
sanatarium there, to whom it is familiar, have given it the name of the
"Ceylon Badger."

[Footnote 1: _Herpestes vitticollis_. Mr. W. ELLIOTT, in his _Catalogue
of Mammalia found in the Southern Maharata Country_, Madras, 1840, says,
that "One specimen of this Herpestes was procured by accident in the
Ghat forests in 1829, and is now deposited in the British Museum; it is
very rare, inhabiting only the thickest woods, and its habits are very
little known," p. 9. In Ceylon it is comparatively common.]


I have found universally that the natives of Ceylon attach no credit to
the European story of the Mongoos (_H. griseus_) resorting to some
plant, which no one has yet succeeded in identifying, as an antidote
against the bite of the venomous serpents on which it preys: There is no
doubt that, in its conflicts with the cobra de capello and other
poisonous snakes, which it attacks with as little hesitation as the
harmless ones, it may be seen occasionally to retreat, and even to
retire into the jungle, and, it is added, to eat some vegetable; but a
gentleman, who has been a frequent observer of its exploits, assures me
that most usually the herb it resorted to was grass; and if this were
not at hand, almost any other plant that grew near seemed equally
acceptable. Hence has probably arisen the long list of plants, such as
the _Ophioxylon serpentinum_ and _Ophiorhiza mungos_, the _Aristolochia
Indica_, the _Mimosa octandria_, and others, each of which has been
asserted to be the ichneumon's specific; whilst their multiplicity is
demonstrative of the non-existence of any one in particular on which the
animal relies as an antidote. Were there any truth in the tale as
regards the mongoos, it would be difficult to understand why creatures,
such as the secretary bird and the falcon, and others, which equally
destroy serpents, should be left defenceless, and the ichneumon alone
provided with a prophylactic. Besides, were the ichneumon inspired by
that courage which would result from the consciousness of security, it
would be so indifferent to the bite of the serpent that we might
conclude that, both in its approaches and its assault, it would be
utterly careless as to the precise mode of its attack. Such, however, is
far from being the case: and next to its audacity, nothing can be more
surprising than the adroitness with which it escapes the spring of the
snake under a due sense of danger, and the cunning with which it makes
its arrangements to leap upon the back and fasten its teeth in the head
of the cobra. It is this display of instinctive ingenuity that Lucan[1]
celebrates where he paints the ichneumon diverting the attention of the
asp, by the motion of his bushy tail, and then seizing it in the midst
of its confusion:--

"Aspidas ut Pharias cauda solertior hostis
Ludit, et iratas incerta provocat umbra:

* * * * *

[Footnote 1: The passage in Lucan is a versification of the same
narrative related by Pliny, lib. viii. ch. 53; and AElian, lib. iii. ch.

Obliquusque caput vanas serpentis in auras
Effuse toto comprendit guttura morsu
Letiferam citra saniem; tunc irrita pestis
Exprimitur, faucesque fluunt pereunte veneno."
_Pharsalia_, lib. iv. v. 729.

The mystery of the mongoos and its antidote has been referred to the
supposition that there may be some peculiarity in its organisation which
renders it _proof against_ the poison of the serpent. It remains for
future investigation to determine how far this conjecture is founded in
truth; and whether in the blood of the mongoos there exists any element
or quality which acts as a prophylactic. Such exceptional provisions are
not without precedent in the animal oeconomy: the hornbill feeds with
impunity on the deadly fruit of the strychnos; the milky juice of some
species of euphorbia, which is harmless to oxen, is invariably fatal to
the zebra; and the tsetse fly, the pest of South Africa, whose bite is
mortal to the ox, the dog, and the horse, is harmless to man and the
untamed creatures of the forest.[1]

[Footnote 1: Dr. LIVINGSTONE, _Tour in S. Africa_, p. 80. Is it a fact
that, in America, pigs extirpate the rattlesnakes with impunity?]

The Singhalese distinguish one species of mongoos, which they designate
"_Hotambeya_" and which they assert never preys upon serpents. A writer
in the _Ceylon Miscellany_ mentions, that they are often to be seen
"crossing rivers and frequently mud-brooks near Chilaw; the adjacent
thickets affording them shelter, and their food consisting of aquatic
reptiles, crabs, and mollusca."[1]

[Footnote 1: This is possibly the "musbilai" or mouse-cat of Behar,
which preys upon birds and fish. Can it be the Urva of the Nepalese
(_Urva cancrivora_, Hodgson), which Mr. Hodgson describes as dwelling in
burrows, and being carnivorous and ranivorous?--Vide _Journ. As. Soc.
Beng._ vol. vi. p. 56.]

[Illustration: FLYING SQUIRREL.]

IV. RODENTIA. _Squirrels_.--Smaller animals in great numbers enliven the
forests and lowland plains with their graceful movements. Squirrels[1],
of which there are a great variety, make their shrill metallic call
heard at early morning in the woods; and when sounding their note of
warning on the approach of a civet or a tree-snake, the ears tingle with
the loud trill of defiance, which rings as clear and rapid as the
running down of an alarum, and is instantly caught up and re-echoed from
every side by their terrified playmates.

[Footnote 1: Of two kinds which frequent the mountains, one which is
peculiar to Ceylon was discovered by Mr. Edgar L. Layard, who has done
me the honour to call it the _Sciurus Tennentii_. Its dimensions are
large, measuring upwards of two feet from head to tail. It is
distinguished from the _S. macrurus_ by the predominant black colour of
the upper surface of the body, with the exception of a rusty spot at the
base of the ears.]

One of the largest, belonging to a closely allied subgenus, is known as
the "Flying Squirrel,"[1] from its being assisted, in its prodigious
leaps from tree to tree, by a parachute formed by the skin of the
flanks, which, on the extension of the limbs front and rear, is
laterally expanded from foot to foot. Thus buoyed up in its descent, the
spring which it is enabled to make from one lofty tree to another
resembles the flight of a bird rather than the bound of a quadruped.

[Footnote 1: Pteromys oral., _Tickel_. P. petaurista, _Pallas_.]

Of these pretty creatures there are two species, one common to Ceylon
and India, the other (_Sciuropterus Layardii_, Kelaart) is peculiar to
the island, and by far the most beautiful of the family.

_Rats_.--Among the multifarious inhabitants to which the forest affords
at once a home and provender is the tree rat[1], which forms its nest on
the branches, and by turns makes its visits to the dwellings of the
natives, frequenting the ceilings in preference to the lower parts of
houses. Here it is incessantly followed by the rat-snake[2], whose
domestication is encouraged by the servants, in consideration of its
services in destroying vermin. I had one day an opportunity of
surprising a snake that had just seized on a rat of this description,
and of covering it suddenly with a glass shade, before it had time to
swallow its prey. The serpent, appeared stunned by its own capture, and
allowed the rat to escape from its jaws, which cowered at one side of
the glass in the most pitiable state of trembling terror. The two were
left alone for some moments, and on my return to them the snake was as
before in the same attitude of sullen stupor. On setting them at
liberty, the rat bounded towards the nearest fence; but quick as
lightning it was followed by its pursuer, which seized it before it
could gain the hedge, through which I saw the snake glide with its
victim in its jaws. In parts of the central province, at Oovah and
Bintenne, the house-rat is eaten as a common article of food. The
Singhalese believe it and the mouse to be liable to hydrophobia.

[Footnote 1: There are two species of the tree rat in Ceylon: M.
rufescens, _Gray_; (M. flavescens, _Elliot_;) and Mus nemoralis,

[Footnote 2: Coryphodon Blumenbachii, _Merr_.]

Another indigenous variety of the rat is that which made its appearance
for the first time in the coffee plantations on the Kandyan hills in the
year 1847; and in such swarms does it continue to infest them, at
intervals, that as many as a thousand have been killed in a single day
on one estate. In order to reach the buds and blossoms of the coffee, it
cuts such of the slender branches as would not sustain its weight, and
feeds on them when fallen to the ground; and so delicate and sharp are
its incisors, that the twigs thus destroyed are detached by as clean a
cut as if severed with a knife.

The coffee-rat[1] is an insular variety of the _Mus hirsutus_ of W.
Elliot, found in Southern India. They inhabit the forests, making their
nests among the roots of the trees, and feeding, in the season, on the
ripe seeds of the nilloo. Like the lemmings of Norway and Lapland, they
migrate in vast numbers on the occurrence of a scarcity of their
ordinary food. The Malabar coolies are so fond of their flesh, that they
evince a preference for those districts in which the coffee plantations
are subject to their incursions, where they fry the rats in coco-nut
oil, or convert them into curry.

[Footnote 1: Golunda Ellioti, _Gray_.]

[Illustration: COFFEE RAT.]

_Bandicoot_.--Another favourite article of food with the coolies is the
pig-rat or Bandicoot[1], which attains on those hills the weight of two
or three pounds, and grows to nearly the length of two feet. As it feeds
on grain and roots, its flesh is said to be delicate, and much
resembling young pork.

[Footnote 1: Mus bandicota, _Beckst._ The English term bandicoot is a
corruption of the Telinga name _pandikoku_, literally _pig-rat_.]

Its nests, when rifled, are frequently found to contain considerable
quantities of rice, stored up against the dry season.

[Illustration: BANDICOOT.]

_Porcupine_.--The Porcupine[1] is another of the _rodentia_ which has
drawn down upon itself the hostility of the planters, from its
destruction of the young coconut palms, to which it is a pernicious and
persevering, but withal so crafty, a visitor, that it is with difficulty
any trap can be so disguised, or any bait made so alluring, as to lead
to its capture. The usual expedient in Ceylon is to place some of its
favourite food at the extremity of a trench, so narrow as to prevent the
porcupine turning, whilst the direction of his quills effectually bars
his retreat backwards. On a newly planted coconut tope, at Hang-welle,
within a few miles of Colombo, I have heard of as many as twenty-seven
being thus captured in a single night; but such success is rare. The
more ordinary expedient is to smoke them out by burning straw at the
apertures of their burrows. At Ootacamund, on the continent of the
Dekkan, spring-guns have been used with great success by the
Superintendent of the Horticultural Gardens; placing them so as to sweep
the runs of the porcupines. The flesh is esteemed a delicacy in Ceylon,
and in consistency, colour, and flavour it very much resembles young

[Footnote 1: Hystrix leucurus, _Sykes_.]

V. EDENTATA. _Pengolin_.--Of the Edentata the only example in Ceylon is
the scaly ant-eater, called by the Singhalese, Caballaya, but usually
known by its Malay name of _Pengolin_[1], a word indicative of its
faculty, when alarmed, of "rolling itself up" into a compact ball, by
bending its head towards its stomach, arching its back into a circle,
and securing all by a powerful fold of its mail-covered tail. The feet
of the pengolin are armed with powerful claws, which in walking they
double in, like the ant-eater of Brazil. These they use in extracting
their favourite food from ant-hills and decaying wood. When at liberty,
they burrow in the dry ground to a depth of seven or eight feet, where
they reside in pairs, and produce annually one or two young.[2]

[Footnote 1: Manis pentadactyla, _Linn._]

[Footnote 2: I am assured that there is a hedge-hog in Ceylon; but as I
have never seen it, I cannot tell whether it belongs to either of the
two species known in India (_Erinaceus mentalis_ and _E. collaris_)--nor
can I vouch for its existence there at all. But the fact was told to me,
in connexion with the statement, that its favourite dwelling is in the
same burrow with the pengolin. The popular belief in this is attested by
a Singhalese proverb, in relation to an intrusive personage; the import
of which is that he is like "_a hedge-hog in the den of a pengolin_."]

Of two specimens which I kept alive at different times, one, about two
feet in length, from the vicinity of Kandy, was a gentle and affectionate
creature, which, after wandering over the house in search of ants, would
attract attention to its wants by climbing up my knee, laying hold of my
leg with its prehensile tail. The other, more than double that length,
was caught in the jungle near Chilaw, and brought to me in Colombo. I
had always understood that the pengolin was unable to climb trees; but
the one last mentioned frequently ascended a tree in my garden, in
search of ants; and this it effected by means of its hooked feet, aided
by an oblique grasp of the tail. The ants it seized by extending its
round and glutinous tongue along their tracks; and in the stomach of one
which was opened after death, I found a quantity of small stones and
gravel, which had been taken to facilitate digestion. In both specimens
in my possession the scales of the back were a cream-coloured white,
with a tinge of red in that which came from Chilaw, probably acquired by
the insinuation of the Cabook dust which abounds along the western coast
of the island.

[Illustration: THE PENGOLIN.]


Of the habits of the pengolin I found that very little was known by the
natives, who regard it with aversion, one name given to it being the
"Negombo Devil." Those kept by me were, generally speaking, quiet during
the day, and grew restless and active as evening and night approached.
Both had been taken near rocks, in the hollows of which they had their
dwelling, but owing to their slow power of motion, they were unable to
reach their hiding place when overtaken. When frightened, they rolled
themselves instantly into a rounded ball; and such was the powerful
force of muscle, that the strength of a man was insufficient to uncoil
it. In reconnoitring they made important use of the tail, resting upon
it and their hind legs, and holding themselves nearly erect, to command
a view of their object. The strength of this powerful limb will be
perceived from the accompanying drawing of the skeleton of the Manis; in
which it will be seen that the tail is equal in length to all the rest
of the body, whilst the vertebrae which compose it are stronger by far
than those of the back.

From the size and position of the bones of the leg, the pengolin is
endued with prodigious power; and its faculty of exerting this
vertically, was displayed in overturning heavy cases, by insinuating
itself under them, between the supports, by which it is customary in
Ceylon to raise trunks a few inches above the floor, in order to prevent
the attacks of white ants.

VI. RUMINANTIA. _The Gaur_.--Besides the deer, and some varieties of the
humped ox, that have been introduced from the opposite continent of
India, Ceylon has probably but one other indigenous bovine _ruminant_,
the buffalo.[1] There is a tradition that the gaur, found in the
extremity of the Indian peninsula, was at one period a native of the
Kandyan Mountains; but as Knox speaks of one which in his time "was kept
among the king's creatures" at Kandy[2], and his account of it tallies
with that of the _Bos Gaurus_ of Hindustan, it would appear even then to
have been a rarity. A place between Neuera-ellia and Adam's Peak bears
the name of "Gowra-ellia," and it is not impossible that the animal may
yet be discovered in some of the imperfectly explored regions of the
island.[3] I have heard of an instance in which a very old Kandyan,
residing in the mountains near the Horton Plains, asserted that when
young he had seen what he believed to have been a gaur, and he described
it as between an elk and a buffalo in size, dark brown in colour, and
very scantily provided with hair.

[Footnote 1: Bubalus buffelus, _Gray_.]

[Footnote 2: KNOX, _Historical Relation of Ceylon, &c._, A.D. 1681. Book
i. c. 6.]

[Footnote 3: KELAART, _Fauna Zeylan_., p. 87.]

_Oxen_.--Oxen are used by the peasantry both in ploughing and in
tempering the mud in the wet paddi fields before sowing the rice; and
when the harvest is reaped they "tread out the corn," after the
immemorial custom of the East. The wealth of the native chiefs and
landed proprietors frequently consists in their herds of bullocks, which
they hire out to their dependents during the seasons for agricultural
labour; and as they already supply them with land to be tilled, and lend
the seed which is to crop it, the further contribution of this portion
of the labour serves to render the dependence of the peasantry on the
chiefs and headmen complete.

The cows are often worked as well as the oxen; and as the calves are
always permitted to suck them, milk is an article which the traveller
can rarely hope to procure in a Kandyan village. From their constant
exposure at all seasons, the cattle in Ceylon, both those employed in
agriculture and those on the roads, are subject to devastating murrains,
that sweep them away by thousands. So frequent is the recurrence of
these calamities, and so extended their ravages, that they exercise a
serious influence upon the commercial interests of the colony, by
reducing the facilities of agriculture, and augmenting the cost of
carriage during the most critical periods of the coffee harvest.

A similar disorder, probably peripneumonia, frequently carries off the
cattle in Assam and other hill countries on the continent of India; and
there, as in Ceylon, the inflammatory symptoms in the lungs and throat,
and the internal derangement and external eruptive appearances, seem to
indicate that the disease is a feverish influenza, attributable to
neglect and exposure in a moist and variable climate; and that its
prevention might be hoped for, and the cattle preserved, by the simple
expedient of more humane and considerate treatment, especially by
affording them cover at night.

During my residence in Ceylon an incident occurred at Neuera-ellia,
which invested one of these pretty animals with an heroic interest. A
little cow, belonging to an English gentleman, was housed, together with
her calf, near the dwelling of her owner, and being aroused during the
night by her furious bellowing, the servants, on hastening to the stall,
found her goring a leopard, which had stolen in to attack the calf. She
had got it into a corner, and whilst lowing incessantly to call for
help, she continued to pound it with her horns. The wild animal,
apparently stupified by her unexpected violence, was detained by her
till despatched by a bullet.

The number of bullock-carts encountered between Colombo and Kandy, laden
with coffee from the interior, or carrying up rice and stores for the
supply of the plantations in the hill-country, is quite surprising. The
oxen thus employed on this single road, about seventy miles long, are
estimated at upwards of twenty thousand. The bandy to which they are
yoked is a barbarous two-wheeled waggon, with a covering of plaited
coco-nut leaves, in which a pair of strong bullocks will draw from five
to ten hundred weight, according to the nature of the country; and with
this load on a level they will perform a journey of twenty miles a day.

A few of the large humped cattle of India are annually imported for
draught; but the vast majority of those in use are small and
dark-coloured, with a graceful head and neck, and elevated hump, a deep
silky dewlap, and limbs as slender as a deer. They appear to have
neither the strength nor weight requisite for this service; and yet the
entire coffee crop of Ceylon, amounting annually to upwards of half a
million hundred weight, is year after year brought down from the
mountains to the coast by these indefatigable little creatures, which,
on returning, carry up proportionally heavy loads, of rice and
implements for the estates.[1] There are two varieties of the native
bullock; one a somewhat coarser animal, of a deep red colour; the other,
the high-bred black one I have just described. So rare was a white one
of this species, under the native kings, that the Kandyans were
compelled to set them apart for the royal herd.[2]

[Footnote 1: A pair of these little bullocks carry up about twenty
bushels of rice to the hills, and bring down from fifty to sixty bushels
of coffee to Colombo.]

[Footnote 2: WOLF says that, in the year 1763, he saw in Ceylon two
white oxen, each of which measured upwards of eight feet high. They were
sent as a present from the King of Atchin.--_Life and Adventures_, p.

Although bullocks may be said to be the only animals of draught and
burden in Ceylon (horses being rarely used except in spring carriages),
no attempt has been made to improve the breed, or even to better the
condition and treatment of those in use. Their food is indifferent,
pasture in all parts of the island being rare, and cattle are seldom
housed under any vicissitudes of weather.

The labour for which they are best adapted, and in which, before the
opening of roads, these cattle were formerly employed, is in traversing
the jungle paths of the interior, carrying light loads as pack-oxen in
what is called a "_tavalam_"--a term which, substituting bullocks for
camels, is equivalent to a "caravan."[1] The class of persons engaged in
this traffic in Ceylon resemble in their occupations the "Banjarees" of
Hindustan, who bring down to the coast corn, cotton, and oil, and take
back to the interior cloths and iron and copper utensils. In the
unopened parts of the island, and especially in the eastern provinces,
this primitive practice still continues. When travelling in these
districts I have often encountered long files of pack-bullocks toiling
along the mountain paths, their bells tinkling musically as they moved;
or halting during the noonday heat beside some stream in the forests,
their burdens piled in heaps near the drivers, who had lighted their
cooking fires, whilst the bullocks were permitted to bathe and browse.

[Footnote 1: Attempts have been made to domesticate the camel in Ceylon;
but, I am told, they died of ulcers in the feet, attributed to the too
great moisture of the roads at certain seasons. This explanation seems
insufficient if taken in connection with the fact of the camel living in
perfect health in climates equally, if not more, exposed to rain. I
apprehend that sufficient justice has not been done to the experiment.]

The persons engaged in this wandering trade are chiefly Moors, and the
business carried on by them consists in bringing up salt from the
government depots on the coast to be bartered with the Kandyans in the
hills for "native coffee," which is grown in small quantities round
every house, but without systematic cultivation. This they carry down to
the maritime towns, and the proceeds are invested in cotton cloths and
brass utensils, dried fish, and other commodities, with which the
_tavalams_ supply the secluded villages of the interior.

_The Buffalo_.--Buffaloes abound in all parts of Ceylon, but they are
only to be seen in their native wildness in the vast solitudes of the
northern and eastern provinces, where rivers, lagoons, and dilapidated
tanks abound. In these they delight to immerse themselves, till only
their heads appear above the surface; or, enveloped in mud to protect
themselves from the assaults of insects, they luxuriate in the long
sedges by the water margins. When the buffalo is browsing, a crow will
frequently be seen stationed on its back, engaged in freeing it from the
ticks and other pests which attach themselves to its leathery hide, the
smooth brown surface of which, unprotected by hair, shines with an
unpleasant polish in the sunlight. When in motion a buffalo throws back
its clumsy head till the huge horns rest on its shoulders, and the nose
is presented in a line with the eyes.

The temper of the wild buffalo is morose and uncertain, and such is its
strength and courage that in the Hindu epic of the Ramayana its
onslaught is compared to that of the tiger.[1] It is never quite safe to
approach them, if disturbed in their pasture or alarmed from their
repose in the shallow lakes. On such occasions they hurry into line,
draw up in defensive array, with a few of the oldest bulls in advance;
and, wheeling in circles, their horns clashing with a loud sound as they
clank them together in their rapid evolutions, they prepare for attack;
but generally, after a menacing display the herd betake themselves to
flight; then forming again at a safer distance, they halt as before,
elevating their nostrils, and throwing back their heads to take a
defiant survey of the intruders. The true sportsman rarely molests them,
so huge a creature affording no worthy mark for his skill, and their
wanton slaughter adds nothing to the supply of food for their assailant.

[Footnote 1: CAREY and MARSHMAN'S Transl. vol. i. p. 430, 447.]

In the Hambangtotte country, where the Singhalese domesticate buffaloes,
and use them to assist in the labour of the rice lands, the villagers
are much annoyed by the wild ones, that mingle with the tame when sent
out to the woods to pasture; and it constantly happens that a savage
stranger, placing himself at the head of the tame herd, resists the
attempts of the owners to drive them homewards at sunset. In the
districts of Putlam and the Seven Corles, buffaloes are generally used
for draught; and in carrying heavy loads of salt from the coast towards
the interior, they drag a cart over roads which would defy the weaker
strength of bullocks.

In one place between Batticaloa and Trincomalie I found the natives
making an ingenious use of them when engaged in shooting water-fowl in
the vast salt marshes and muddy lakes. Being an object to which the
birds are accustomed, the Singhalese train the buffalo to the sport,
and, concealed behind, the animal browsing listlessly along, they guide
it by ropes attached to its horns, and thus creep undiscovered within
shot of the flock. The same practice prevails, I believe, in some of the
northern parts of India, where they are similarly trained to assist the
sportsman in approaching deer. One of these "sporting buffaloes" sells
for a considerable sum.

In the thick forests which cover the Passdun Corle, to the east, and
south of Caltura, the natives use the sporting buffalo in another way,
to assist in hunting deer and wild hogs. A bell is attached to its neck,
and a box or basket with one side open is securely strapped on its back.
This at nightfall is lighted by flambeaux of wax, and the buffalo
bearing it, is driven slowly into the jungle. The huntsmen, with their
fowling pieces, keep close under the darkened side, and as it moves
slowly onwards, the wild animals, startled by the sound, and bewildered
by the light, steal cautiously towards it in stupified fascination. Even
the snakes, I am assured, will be attracted by this extraordinary
object; and the leopard too falls a victim to curiosity.

There is a peculiarity in the formation of the buffalo's foot, which,
though it must have attracted attention, I have never seen mentioned by
naturalists. It is equivalent to the arrangement which distinguishes the
foot of the reindeer from that of the stag and the antelope. In the
latter, the hoofs, being constructed for lightness and flight, are
compact and vertical; but, in the reindeer, the joints of the tarsal
bones admit of lateral expansion, and the front hoofs curve upwards,
while the two secondary ones behind (which are but slightly developed in
the fallow deer and others of the same family) are prolonged vertically
till, in certain positions, they are capable of being applied to the
ground, thus adding to the circumference and sustaining power of the
foot. It has been usually suggested as the probable design of this
structure, that it is to enable the reindeer to shovel away the snow in
order to reach the lichens beneath it; but I apprehend that another use
of it has been overlooked, that of facilitating its movements in search
of food by increasing the difficulty of its sinking in the snow.

A formation precisely analogous in the buffalo seems to point to a
corresponding design. The ox, whose life is spent on firm ground, has
the bones of the foot so constructed as to afford the most solid support
to an animal of its great weight; but in the buffalo, which delights in
the morasses on the margins of pools and rivers, the construction of the
foot resembles that of the reindeer. The tarsi in front extend almost
horizontally from the upright bones of the leg, and spread apart widely
on touching the ground; the hoofs are flattened and broad, with the
extremities turned upwards; and the false hoofs behind descend till they
make a clattering sound as the animal walks. In traversing the marshes,
this combination of abnormal incidents serves to give extraordinary
breadth to the foot, and not only prevents the buffalo from sinking
inconveniently in soft ground[1], but at the same time presents no
obstacle to the withdrawal of its foot from the mud.

[Footnote 1: PROFESSOR OWEN has noticed a similar fact regarding the
rudiments of the second and fifth digits in the instance of the elk and
bison, which have them largely expanded where they inhabit swampy
ground; whilst they are nearly obliterated in the camel and dromedary,
that traverse arid deserts.--OWEN _on Limbs_, p. 34; see also BELL _on
the Hand_, ch. iii.]

The buffalo, like the elk, is sometimes found in Ceylon as an albino,
with purely white hair and a pink iris.

_Deer_.--"Deer," says the truthful old chronicler, Robert Knox, "are in
great abundance in the woods, from the largeness of a cow to the
smallness of a hare, for here is a creature in this land no bigger than
the latter, though every part rightly resembleth a deer: it is called
_meminna_, of a grey colour, with white spots and good meat."[1] The
little creature which thus dwelt in the recollection of the old man, as
one of the memorials of his long captivity, is the small "musk deer"[2]
so called in India, although neither sex is provided with a musk-bag.
The Europeans in Ceylon know it by the name of the "moose deer;" and in
all probability the terms _musk_ and _moose_ are both corruptions of the
Dutch word "_muis_," or "mouse" deer, a name particularly applicable to
the timid and crouching attitudes and aspect of this beautiful little
creature. Its extreme length never reaches two feet; and of those which
were domesticated about my house, few exceeded ten inches in height,
their graceful limbs being of proportionate delicacy. It possesses long
and extremely large tusks, with which it can inflict a severe bite. The
interpreter moodliar of Negombo had a _milk white_ meminna in 1847,
which he designed to send home as an acceptable present to Her Majesty,
but it was unfortunately killed by an accident.[3]

[Footnote 1: KNOX'S _Relation, &c._, book i. c. 6.]

[Footnote 2: Moschus meminna.]

[Footnote 3: When the English look possession of Kandy, in 1803, they
found "five beautiful milk-white deer in the palace, which was noted as
a very extraordinary thing."--_Letter_ in Appendix to PERCIVAL'S
_Ceylon_, p. 428. The writer does not say of what species they were.]


_Ceylon Elk_.--In the mountains, the Ceylon elk[1], which reminds one of
the red deer of Scotland, attains the height of four or five feet; it
abounds in all shady places that are intersected by rivers; where,
though its chase affords an endless resource to the sportsman, its
venison scarcely equals in quality the inferior beef of the lowland ox.
In the glades and park-like openings that diversify the great forests of
the interior, the spotted Axis troops in herds as numerous as the fallow
deer in England: but, in journeys through the jungle, when often
dependent on the guns of our party for the precarious supply of the
table, we found the flesh of the Axis[2] and the Muntjac[3] a sorry
substitute for that of the pea-fowl, the jungle-cock, and flamingo. The
occurrence of albinos is very frequent in troops of the axis. Deer's
horns are an article of export from Ceylon, and considerable quantities
are annually sent to the United Kingdom.

[Footnote 1: Rusa Aristotelis. Dr. GRAY has lately shown that this is
the great _axis_ of Cuvier.--_Oss. Foss._ 502. t. 39; f. 10: The
Singhalese, on following the elk, frequently effect their approaches by
so imitating the call of the animal as to induce them to respond. An
instance occurred during my residence in Ceylon, in which two natives,
whose mimicry had mutually deceived them, crept so close together in the
jungle that one shot the other, supposing the cry to proceed from the

[Footnote 2: Axis maculata, _H. Smith_.]

[Footnote 3: Stylocerus muntjac, _Horss_.]

VII. PACHYDERMATA.--_The Elephant_.--The elephant, and the wild boar,
the Singhalese "waloora,"[1] are the only representatives of the
_pachydermatous_ order. The latter, which differs somewhat from the wild
boar of India, is found in droves in all parts of the island where
vegetation and water are abundant.

[Footnote 1: Mr. BLYTH of Calcutta has distinguished, from the hog,
common in India, a specimen sent to him from Ceylon, the skull of which
approaches in form, that of a species from Borneo, the _susbarbatus_ of
S. Mueller.]

The elephant, the lord paramount of the Ceylon forests, is to be met
with in every district, on the confines of the woods, in the depths of
which he finds concealment and shade during the hours when the sun is
high, and from which he emerges only at twilight to wend his way towards
the rivers and tanks, where he luxuriates till dawn, when he again seeks
the retirement of the deep forests. This noble animal fills so dignified
a place both in the zoology and oeconomy of Ceylon, and his habits in a
state of nature have been so much misunderstood, that I shall devote a
separate section to his defence from misrepresentation, and to an
exposition of what, from observation and experience, I believe to be his
genuine character when free in his native domains. But this seems the
proper place to allude to a recent discovery in connexion with the
elephant, which strikingly confirms a conjecture which I ventured to
make elsewhere[1], relative to the isolation of Ceylon and its
distinctness, in many remarkable particulars, from the great continent
of India. Every writer who previously treated of the island, including
the accomplished Dr. Davy and the erudite Lassen, was contented, by a
glance at its outline and a reference to its position on the map, to
assume that Ceylon was a fragment, which in a very remote age had been
torn from the adjacent mainland, by some convulsion of nature. Hence it
was taken for granted that the vegetation which covers and the races of
animals which inhabit it, must be identical with those of Hindustan; to
which Ceylon was alleged to bear the same relation as Sicily presents to
the peninsula of Italy. MALTE BRUN[2] and the geographers generally,
declared the larger animals of either to be common to both. I was led to
question the soundness of this dictum;--and from a closer examination of
its geological conformation and of its botanical and zoological
characteristics I came to the conclusion that not only is there an
absence of sameness between the formations of the two localities; but
that plants and animals, mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects exist in
Ceylon, which are not to be found in the flora and fauna of the Dekkan;
but which present a striking affinity, and occasionally an actual
identity, with those of the Malayan countries and some of the islands of
the Eastern Archipelago. Startling as this conclusion appeared to be, it
was strangely in unison with the legends of the Singhalese themselves,
that at an infinitely remote period Ceylon formed an integral portion of
a vast continent, known in the mythical epics of the Brahmans by the
designation of "_Lanka_;" so immense that its southern extremity fell
below the equator, whilst in breadth it was prolonged till its western
and eastern boundaries touch at once upon the shores of Africa and

[Footnote 1: _Ceylon, &c._, by Sir J. EMERSON TENNENT, vol. i. pp. 7,
13, 85, 160, 183, n., 205, 270, &c.]

[Footnote 2: MALTE BRUN, _Geogr. Univ._, l. xlix.]

Dim as is this ancient tradition, it is in consistency with the
conclusions of modern geology, that at the commencement of the tertiary
period northern Asia and a considerable part of India were in all
probability covered by the sea but that south of India land extended
eastward and westward connecting Malacca with Arabia. PROFESSOR ANSTED
has propounded this view. His opinion is, that the Himalayas then
existed only as a chain of islands, and did not till a much later age
become elevated into mountain ranges,--a change which took place during
the same revolution that raised the great plains of Siberia and Tartary
and many parts of north-western Europe. At the same time the great
continent whose position between the tropics has been alluded to, and
whose previous existence is still indicated by the Coral islands, the
Laccadives, the Maldives, and the Chagos group, underwent simultaneous
depression by a counteracting movement.[1]

[Footnote 1: _The Ancient World_, by D.T. ANSTED, M.A., &c., pp.

But divested of oriental mystery and geologic conjecture, and brought to
the test of "geographical distribution," this once prodigious continent
would appear to have connected the distant Islands of Ceylon and Sumatra
and possibly to have united both to the Malay peninsula, from which the
latter is now severed by the Straits of Malacca. The proofs of physical
affinity between these scattered localities are exceedingly curious.

A striking dissimilarity presents itself between some of the Mammalia of
Ceylon and those of the continent of India. In its general outline and
feature, this branch of the island fauna, no doubt, exhibits a general
resemblance to that of the mainland, although many of the larger animals
of the latter are unknown in Ceylon: but, on the other hand, some
species discovered there are peculiar to the island. A deer[1] as large
as the Axis, but differing from it in the number and arrangement of its
spots, has been described by Dr. Kelaart, to whose vigilance the natural
history of Ceylon is indebted, amongst others, for the identification of
two new species of monkeys[2], a number of curious shrews[3], and an
orange-coloured ichneumon[4], before unknown. There are also two
squirrels[5] that have not as yet been discovered elsewhere, (one of
them belonging to those equipped with a parachute[6],) as well as some
local varieties of the palm squirrel (Sciurus penicillatus, _Leach_).[7]

[Footnote 1: Cervus orizus, KELAART, _Prod. F. Zeyl.,_ p. 83.]

[Footnote 2: Presbytes ursinus, _Blyth_, and P. Thersites, _Elliot_.]

[Footnote 3: Sorex montanus, S. ferrugineus, and Feroculus macropus.]

[Footnote 4: Herpestes fulvescens, KELAART, _Prod. Faun. Zeylan_.. App.
p. 42.]

[Footnote 5: Sciurus Tennentii, _Layard_.]

[Footnote 6: Sciuropterus Layardi, _Kelaart_.]

[Footnote 7: There is a rat found only in the Cinnamon Gardens at
Colombo, Mus Ceylonus, _Kelaart_; and a mouse which Dr. Kelaart
discovered at Trincomalie, M. fulvidiventris, _Blyth_, both peculiar to
Ceylon. Dr. TEMPLETON has noticed a little shrew (Corsira purpurascens,
_Mag. Nat. Hist_. 1855, p. 238) at Neuera-ellia, not as yet observed

But the Ceylon Mammalia, besides wanting a number of minor animals found
in the Indian peninsula, cannot boast such a ruminant as the majestic
Gaur[1], which inhabits the great forests from Cape Comorin to the
Himalaya; and, providentially, the island is equally free of the
formidable tiger and the ferocious wolf of Hindustan. The Hyena and
Cheetah[2], common in Southern India, are unknown in Ceylon; and, though
abundant in deer, the island possesses no example of the Antelope or the

[Footnote 1: Bos cavifrons, _Hodgs_.; B. frontalis, _Lamb_.]

[Footnote 2: Felis jubata, _Schreb_.]

Amongst the Birds of Ceylon, the same abnormity is apparent. About
thirty-eight species will be presently particularised[1], which,
although some of them may hereafter be discovered to have a wider
geographical range, are at present believed to be unknown in continental
India. I might further extend this enumeration, by including the Cheela
eagle of Ceylon, which, although I have placed it in my list as
identical with the _Hematornis cheela_ of the Dekkan, is, I have since
been assured, a different bird, and is most probably the _Falco bido_ of
Horsfield, known to us by specimens obtained from Java and Sumatra.

[Footnote 1: See Chapter on the Birds of Ceylon.]

As to the Fishes of Ceylon, they are of course less distinct; and
besides they have hitherto been very imperfectly compared. But the
Insects afford a remarkable confirmation of the view I have ventured to
propound; so much so that Mr. Walker, by whom the elaborate lists
appended to this work have been prepared, asserts that some of the
families have a less affinity to the entomology of India than to that of

[Footnote 1: See Chapter on the Insects of Ceylon.]

But more conclusive than all, is the discovery to which I have alluded,
in relation to the elephant of Ceylon. Down to a very recent period it
was universally believed that only two species of the elephant are now
in existence, the African and the Asiatic; distinguished by certain
peculiarities in the shape of the cranium, the size of the ears, the
ridges of the teeth, the number of vertebrae, and, according to Cuvier,
in the number of nails on the hind feet. The elephant of Ceylon was
believed to be identical with the elephant of India. But some few years
back, TEMMINCK, in his survey of the Dutch possessions in the Indian
Archipelago[1], announced the fact that the elephant which abounds in
Sumatra (although unknown in the adjacent island of Java), and which had
theretofore been regarded as the same species with the Indian one, has
been recently found to possess peculiarities, in which it differs as
much from the elephant of India, as the latter from its African
congener. On this new species of elephant, to which the natives give the
name of _gadjah_, TEMMINCK has conferred the scientific designation of
the _Elephas Sumatranus_.

[Footnote 1: _Coup d'Oeil General sur les Possessions Neerlandaises dans
l'Inde Archipelagique_.]

The points which entitle it to this distinction he enumerated minutely
in the work[1] before alluded to, but they have been summarized as
follows by Prince Lucien Bonaparte.

[Footnote 1: TEMMINCK, _Coup-d'oeil, &c_., t. i. c. iv. p. 328.; t. ii.
c. iii. p. 91.]

"This species is perfectly intermediate between the Indian and African,
especially in the shape of the skull, and will certainly put an end to
the distinction between _Elephas_ and _Loxodon_, with those who admit
that anatomical genus; since although the crowns of the teeth of _E.
Sumatranus_ are more like the Asiatic animal, still the less numerous
undulated ribbons of enamel are nearly quite as wide as those forming
the lozenges of the African. The number of pairs of false ribs (which
alone vary, the true ones being always six) is fourteen, one less than
in the _Africanus_, _one_ more than in the _Indicus_; and so it is with
the dorsal vertebrae, which are twenty in the _Sumatranus_ (_twenty-one_
and _nineteen_, in the others), whilst the new species agrees with
_Africanus_ in the number of sacral vertebrae (_four_), and with
_Indicus_ in that of the caudal ones, which are _thirty-four_."[1]

[Footnote 1: _Proceed. Zool. Soc. London_, 1849. p. 144, _note_. The
original description of TEMMINCK is as follows:

"Elephas Sumatranus, _Nob_. ressemble, par la forme generale du crane a
l'elephant du continent de l'Asie; mais la partie libre des
intermaxillaires est beaucoup plus courte et plus etroite; les cavites
nasales sont beaucoup moins larges; l'espace entre les orbites des yeux
est plus etroit; la partie posterieur du crane au contraire est plus
large que dans l'espece du continent.

"Les machelieres se rapprochent, par la forme de leur couronne, plutot
de l'espece Asiatique que do celle qui est propre a l'Afrique;
c'est-a-dire que leur couronne offre la forme de rubans ondoyes et non
pas en losange; mais ces rubans sont de la largeur de ceux qu'on voit a
la couronne des dents de l'elephant d'Afrique; ils sont consequemment
moins nombreux que dans celui du continent de l'Asie. Les dimensions de
ces rubans, dans la direction d'avant en arriere, comparees a celle
prises dans la direction transversale et laterale, sont en raison de 3
ou 4 a 1; tandis que dans l'elephant du continent elles sont comme 4 ou
6 a 1. La longueur totale de six de ces rubans, dans l'espece nouvelle
de Sumatra, ainsi que dans celle d'Afrique, est d'environ 12
centimetres, tandis que cette longueur n'est que de 8 a 10 centimetres
dans l'espece du continent de l'Asie.

"Les autres formes osteologiques sont a peu pres les memes dans les
trois especes; mais il y a difference dans le nombre des os dont le
squelette se compose, ainsi que le tableau comparatif ci-joint

"_L'elephas Africanus_ a 7 vertebres du cou, 21 vert. dorsales, 3
lombaires, 4 sacrees, et 26 caudales; 21 paires de cotes, dont 6 vraies,
et 15 fausses. _L'elephas Indicus_ a 7 vertebres du cou, 19 dorsales, 3
lombaires, 5 sacrees, et 34 caudales, 19 paires de cotes, dont 6 vraies,
et 3 fausses. _L'elephas Sumatranus_ a 7 vertebres du cou, 20 dorsales,
3 lombaires, 4 sacrees, et 34 caudales; 20 paires du cotes, dont 6
vraies, et 14 fausses.

"Ces caracteres ont ete constates sur trois squelettes de l'espece
nouvelle, un male et une femelle adultes et un jeune male. Nous n'avons
pas encore ete a meme de nous procurer la depouille de cette espece."]

PROFESSOR SCHLEGEL of Leyden, in a paper lately submitted by him to the
Royal Academy of Sciences of Holland, (the substance of which he has
obligingly communicated to me, through Baron Bentinck the Netherlands
Minister at this Court), has confirmed the identity of the Ceylon
elephant with that found in the Lampongs of Sumatra. The osteological
comparison of which TEMMINCK has given the results was, he says,
conducted by himself with access to four skeletons of the latter. And
the more recent opportunity of comparing a living Sumatran elephant with
one from Bengal, has served to establish other though minor points of
divergence. The Indian species is more robust and powerful: the
proboscis longer and more slender; and the extremity, (a point, in which
the elephant of Sumatra resembles that of Africa,) is more flattened and
provided with coarser and longer hair than that of India.

PROFESSOR SCHLEGEL, adverting to the large export of elephants from
Ceylon to the Indian continent, which has been carried on from time
immemorial, suggests the caution with which naturalists, in
investigating this question, should first satisfy themselves whether the
elephants they examine are really natives of the mainland, or whether
they have been brought to it from the islands.[1] "The extraordinary
fact," he observes in his letter to me, "of the identity thus
established between the elephants of Ceylon and Sumatra; and the points
in which they are found to differ from that of Bengal, leads to the
question whether all the elephants of the Asiatic continent belong to
one single species; or whether these vast regions may not produce in
some quarter as yet unexplored the one hitherto found only in the two
islands referred to? It is highly desirable that naturalists who have
the means and opportunity, should exert themselves to discover, whether
any traces are to be found of the Ceylon elephant in the Dekkan; or of
that of Sumatra in Cochin China or Siam."

[Footnote 1: A further inquiry suggests itself, how far the intermixture
of the breed may have served to confound specific differences, in the
case of elephants bred on the continent of India, from stock partially
imported from Ceylon?]

To me the establishment of a fact so conclusively confirmatory of the
theory I had ventured to broach, is productive of great satisfaction.
But it is not a little remarkable that the distinction should not long
before have been discovered between the elephant of India and that of
Ceylon. Nor can it be regarded otherwise than as a singular illustration
of "geographical distribution" that two remote islands should be thus
shown to possess in common a species unknown in any other quarter of the
globe. As bearing on the ancient myth which represents both countries as
forming parts of a submerged continent, the discovery is curious--and it
is equally interesting in connection with the circumstance alluded to by
Gibbon, that amongst the early geographers and even down to a
comparatively modern date, Sumatra and Ceylon were confounded; and grave
doubts were entertained as to which of the two was the "Taprobane" of
and MERCATOR contended for the former; SALMASIUS, BOCHART, CLUVERIUS,
and VOSSIUS for Ceylon: and the controversy did not cease till it was
terminated by DELISLE about the beginning of the last century.

VIII. CETACEA.--Whales are so frequently seen that they have been
captured within sight of Colombo, and more than once their carcases,
after having been flinched by the whalers, have floated on shore near
the lighthouse, tainting the atmosphere within the fort by their rapid

Of this family, one of the most remarkable animals on the coast is the
dugong[1], a phytophagous cetacean, numbers of which are attracted to
the inlets, from the bay of Calpentyn to Adam's Bridge, by the still
water and the abundance of marine algae in these parts of the gulf. One
which was killed at Manaar and sent to me to Colombo[2] in 1847,
measured upwards of seven feet in length; but specimens considerably
larger have been taken at Calpentyn, and their flesh is represented as
closely resembling veal.

[Footnote 1: _Halicore dugung_, F. Cuv.]

[Footnote 2: The skeleton is now in the Museum of the Natural History
Society of Belfast.]

[Illustration: THE DUGONG.]

The rude approach to the human outline, observed in the shape of the
head of this creature, and the attitude of the mother when suckling her
young, clasping it to her breast with one flipper, while swimming with
the other, holding the heads of both above water; and when disturbed,
suddenly diving and displaying her fish-like tail,--these, together with
her habitual demonstrations of strong maternal affection, probably gave
rise to the fable of the "mermaid;" and thus that earliest invention of
mythical physiology may be traced to the Arab seamen and the Greeks, who
had watched the movements of the dugong in the waters of Manaar.

Megasthenes records the existence of a creature in the ocean, near
Taprobane, with the aspect of a woman[1]; and AElian, adopting and
enlarging on his information, peoples the seas of Ceylon with fishes
having the heads of lions, panthers, and rams, and, stranger still,
_cetaceans in the form of satyrs_. Statements such as these must have
had their origin in the hairs, which are set round the mouth of the
dugong, somewhat resembling a beard, which AElian and Megasthenes both
particularise, from their resemblance to the hair of a woman: "[Greek:
kai gynaikon opsin echousin aisper anti plokamon akanthai

[Footnote 1: MEGASTHENES, _Indica_, fragm. lix. 34,]

[Footnote 2: AELIAN, _Nat. Hist._, lib. xvi. ch. xviii.]

The Portuguese cherished the belief in the mermaid, and the annalist of
the exploits of the Jesuits in India, gravely records that seven of
these monsters, male and female, were captured at Manaar in 1560, and
carried to Goa, where they were dissected by Demas Bosquez, physician to
the Viceroy, and "their internal structure found to be in all respects
conformable to the human."[1]

[Footnote 1: _Hist, de la Compagnie de Jesus_, quoted in the _Asiat.
Journ._ vol. xiv. p. 461; and in FORBES' _Orient. Memoirs_, vol. i. p.

The Dutch were no less inclined to the marvellous, and they propagated
the belief in the mermaid with earnestness and particularity. VALENTYN,
one of their chaplains, in his account of the Natural History of
Amboina, embodied in his great work on the Netherlands' Possessions in
India, published so late as 1727[1], has devoted the first section of
his chapter on the Fishes of that island to a minute description of the
"Zee-Menschen, Zee-Wyven," and mermaids. As to the dugong he admits its
resemblance to the mermaid, but repudiates the idea of its having given
rise to the fable, by being mistaken for one. This error he imagines
must have arisen at a time when observations on such matters were made
with culpable laxity; but now more recent and minute attention has
established the truth beyond cavil.

[Footnote 1: FRAN. VALENTYN, _Beschryving van Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien_,
&c. 5 vol. fol. Dordrecht and Amsterdam, MDCCXXVII. vol. iii. p. 330.]

For instance, he states that in 1653, when a lieutenant in the Dutch
service was leading a party of soldiers along the sea-shore in Amboina,
he and all his company saw the mermen swimming at a short distance from
the beach with long and flowing hair, of a colour between gray and
green--and six weeks afterwards, the creatures were again seen by him
and more than fifty witnesses, at the same place, by clear daylight.[1]

[Footnote 1: VALENTYN, _Beschryving, &c._, vol. iii. p. 331.]

"If any narrative in the world," adds VALENTYN, "deserves credit, it is
this; since _not only one but two mermen_ together were seen by so many
eye-witnesses. Should the stubborn world, however, hesitate to believe
it, it matters nothing; as there are people who would even deny that
such cities as Rome, Constantinople or Cairo, exist, merely because they
themselves have not happened to see them."

But what are such incredulous persons, he continues, to make of the
circumstance recorded by Albert Herport in his account of India[1], that
a sea-man was seen in the water near the Church of Taquan, on the
morning of the 29th of April 1661, and a mermaid at the same spot the
same afternoon?--or what do they say to the fact that in 1714, a mermaid
was not only seen but captured near the island of Booro? "five feet
Rhineland measure in height, which lived four days and seven hours, but
refusing all food, died without leaving any intelligible account of

[Footnote 1: Probably the _Itinerarium Indicum_ of ALBRECHT HERPORT.
Berne, 1669.]

Valentyn, in support of his own faith in the mermaid, cites numerous
other instances in which both "sea-men and women" were seen and taken at
Amboina; especially one by an office-bearer in the Church of Holland[1],
by whom it was surrendered to the Governor Vanderstel.

[Footnote 1: A "krank-bezoeker" or visitant of the sick.]

Of this well-authenticated specimen he gives an elaborate engraving
amongst those of the authentic fishes of the island--together with a
minute ichthyological description of each for the satisfaction of men of

[Illustration: THE MERMAID (From VALENTYN)]

The fame of this creature having reached Europe, the British Minister in
Holland wrote to Valentyn on the 28th December 1716, whilst the Emperor,
Peter the Great of Russia, was his guest at Amsterdam; to communicate
the desire of the Czar, that the mermaid should be brought home from
Amboina for his Imperial inspection.

To complete his proofs of the existence of mermen and women, Valentyn
points triumphantly to the historical fact, that in Holland in the year
1404, a mermaid was driven during a tempest, through a breach in the
dyke of Edam, and was taken alive in the lake of Purmer. Thence she was
carried to Harlem, where the Dutch women taught her to spin; and where,
several years after, she died in the Roman Catholic faith;--"but this,"
says the pious Calvinistic chaplain, "in no way militates against the
truth of her story."[1]

[Footnote 1: VALENTYN, _Beschryving, &c_., p. 333.]

Finally Valentyn winds up his proofs, by the accumulated testimony of
Pliny [1], Theodore Gaza, George of Trebisond, and Alexander ab
Alexandro, to show that mermaids had in all ages been known in Gaul,
Naples, Epirus, and the Morea. From these and a multitude of more modern
instances he comes to the conclusion, that as there are "sea-cows,"
"sea-horses," and "sea-dogs;" as well as "sea-trees" and "sea-flowers"
which he himself had seen, what grounds in reason are there to doubt
that there may also be "sea-maidens" and "sea-men!"

[Footnote 1: _Nat. Hist_. l. ix. c. 5, where Pliny speaks of the

_List of Ceylon Mammalia._

A list of the Mammalia of Ceylon is subjoined. In framing it, as well as
the lists appended to the other chapters on the Fauna of the island, the
principal object in view has been to exhibit the extent to which the
Natural History of the island had been investigated, and collections
made up to the period of my leaving the colony in 1850. It has been
considered expedient to exclude a few individuals which have not had the
advantage of a direct comparison with authentic specimens, either at
Calcutta or in England. This will account for the omission of a number
that have appeared in other catalogues, but of which many, though
ascertained to exist, have not been submitted to this rigorous process
of identification.

The greater portion of the species of mammals and birds contained in
these lists will be found, with suitable references to the most accurate
descriptions, in the admirable catalogue of the collection at the India
House, published under the care of the late Dr. Horsfield. This work
cannot be too highly extolled, not alone for the scrupulous fidelity
with which the description of each species is referred to its first
discoverer, but also for the pains which have been taken to elaborate
synonymes and to collate from local periodicals and other sources,
(little accessible to ordinary inquirers,) such incidents and traits as
are calculated to illustrate characteristics and habits.


cephalopterus, _Zimm_.
ursinus, _Blyth_.
Priamus, _Elliot & Blyth_.
Thersites, _Blyth_.
Macacus pileatus, _Shaw & Desm_.
Loris gracilis, _Geoff_.


Pteropus Edwardsii, _Geoff_.
Leschenaultii, _Dum_.
marginatus, _Ham_.
Megaderma spasma, _Linn._
lyra, _Geoff_.
Rhinolophus _affinis_, _Horsf_.
murinus, _Elliot_.
speoris, _Elliot_.
armiger, _Hodgs_.
vulgaris, _Horsf_.
Kerivoula picta, _Pall_.
longimanus, _Har_.
Scotophilus Coromandelicus, _F. Cuv._
_adversus_, _Horsf_.
Temminkii, _Horsf_.
Tickelli, _Blyth_.


Sorex coerulescens, _Shaw_.
ferrugineus, _Kelaart_.
serpentarius, _Is. Geoff._
montanus, _Kelaart_.
Feroculus macropus, _Kel_.
Ursus labiatus, _Blainv_.
Lutra nair, _F. Cuv_.
Canis aureus. _Linn._
Viverra Indica, _Geoff_., _Hod_.
Herpestes vitticollis, _Benn_.
griseus, _Gm_.
Smithii, _Gray_.
fulvescens, _Kelaart_.
Paradoxurus typus, _F. Cuv._
Ceylonicus, _Pall_.
Felis pardus, _Linn._
chaus, _Guldens_.
viverrinus, _Benn_.


Sciurus macrurus, _Forst_.
Tennentii, _Layard_.
penicillatus. _Leach_.
trilineatus, _Waterh_.
Sciuropterus Layardi, _Kel_.
Pteromys petaurista, _Pall_.
Mus bandicota, _Bechst_.
Kok, _Gray_.
Mus rufescens. _Gray_.
nemoralis, _Blyth_.
Indicus, _Geoff_.
fulvidiventris, _Blyth_.
Nesoki _Hardwickii_, _Gray_.
Golunda Neuera, _Kelaart_.
Ellioti, _Gray_.
Gerbillus Indicus, _Hardw_.
Lepus nigricollis, _F. Cuv._
Hystrix leucurus, _Sykes_.


Manis pentadactyla, _Linn._


Elephas Sumatranus, _Linn._
Sus Indicus, _Gray_.
_Zeylonicus_, _Blyth_.


Moschus meminna, _Eral_.
Stylocerus muntjac, _Horsf_.
Axis maculata, _H. Smith_.
Rusa Aristotelis, _Cuv_.


Halicore dugung, _F. Cuv._



* * * * *

_Structure and Functions._

During my residence at Kandy, I had twice the opportunity of witnessing
the operation on a grand scale, of capturing wild elephants, intended to
be trained for the public service in the establishment of the Civil
Engineer;--and in the course of my frequent journeys through the
interior of the island, I succeeded in collecting so many facts relative
to the habits of these interesting animals in a state of nature, as
enable me not only to add to the information previously possessed, but
to correct many fallacies popularly received regarding their instincts
and disposition. These particulars I am anxious to place on record
before proceeding to describe the scenes of which I was a spectator,
during the progress of the elephant hunts in the district of the Seven
Korles, at which I was present in 1846, and again in 1847.

With the exception of the narrow but densely inhabited belt of
cultivated land, that extends along the seaborde of the island from
Chilaw on the western coast to Tangalle on the south-east, there is no
part of Ceylon in which elephants may not be said to abound; even close
to the environs of the most populous localities of the interior. They
frequent both the open plains and the deep forests; and their footsteps
are to be seen wherever food and shade, vegetation and water[1], allure
them, alike on the summits of the loftiest mountains, and on the borders
of the tanks and lowland streams.

[Footnote 1: M. AD. PICTET has availed himself of the love of the
elephant for water, to found on it a solution of the long-contested
question as to the etymology of the word "elephant,"-a term which,
whilst it has passed into almost every dialect of the West, is scarcely
to be traced in any language of Asia. The Greek [Greek: elephas], to
which we are immediately indebted for it, did not originally mean the
animal, but, as early as the time of Homer, was applied only to its
tusks, and signified _ivory_. BOCHART has sought for a Semitic origin,
and seizing on the Arabic _fil_, and prefixing the article _al_,
suggests _alfil_, akin to [Greek: eleph]; but rejecting this, BOCHART
himself resorts to the Hebrew _eleph_, an "ox"--and this conjecture
derives a certain degree of countenance from the fact that the Romans,
when they obtained their first sight of the elephant in the army of
Pyrrhus, in Lucania, called it the _Luca bos_. But the [Greek: antos] is
still unaccounted for; and POTT has sought to remove the difficulty by
introducing the Arabic _hindi_, Indian, s thus making _eleph-hindi_,
"_bos Indicus_." The conversion of _hindi_ into [Greek: antos] is an
obstacle, but here the example of "tamarind" comes to aid; _tamar
hindi_, the "Indian date," which in mediaeval Greek forms [Greek:
tamarenti]. A theory of Benary, that helhephas might be compounded of
the Arabic _al_, and _ibha_, a Sanskrit name for the elephant, is
exposed to still greater etymological exception. PICTET'S solution is,
that in the Sanskrit epics "the King of Elephants," who has the
distinction of carrying the god Indra, is called _airarata_ or
_airavana_, a modification of _airavanta_, "son of the ocean," which
again comes from _iravat_, "abounding in water." "Nous aurions done
ainsi, comme correlatif du gree [Greek: elephanto], une ancienne forme,
_airavanta_ ou _ailavanta_, affaiblie plus tard en _airavata_ ou
_airavana_.... On connait la predilection de l'elephant pour le
voisinage des fleuves, et son amour pour l'eau, dont l'abondance est
necessaire a son bien-etre." This Sanskrit name, PICTET supposes, may
have been carried to the West by the Phoenicians, who were the purveyors
of ivory from India; and, from the Greek, the Latins derived _elephas_,
which passed into the modern languages of Italy, Germany, and France.
But it is curious that the Spaniards acquired from the Moors their
Arabic term for ivory, _marfil_, and the Portuguese _marfim_; and that
the Scandinavians, probably from their early expeditions to the
Mediterranean, adopted _fill_ as their name for the elephant itself, and
_fil-bein_ for ivory; in Danish, _fils-ben_. (See _Journ. Asiat._ 1843,
t. xliii. p. 133.) The Spaniards of South America call the palm which
produces the vegetable ivory (_Phytelephas macrocarpa_) _Palma de
marfil_, and the nut itself, _marfil vegetal_.

Since the above was written Gooneratne Modliar, the Singhalese
Interpreter to the Supreme Court at Colombo, has supplied me with
another conjecture, that the word elephant may possibly be traced to the
Singhalese name of the animal, _alia_, which means literally, "the huge
one." _Alia_, he adds, is not a derivation from Sanskrit or Pali, but
belongs to a dialect more ancient than either.]

From time immemorial the natives have been taught to capture and tame
them and the export of elephants from Ceylon to India has been going on
without interruption from the period of the first Punic War.[1] In later
times all elephants were the property of the Kandyan crown; and their
capture or slaughter without the royal permission was classed amongst
the gravest offences in the criminal code.

[Footnote 1: AELIAN, _de Nat. Anim._ lib. xvi. c. 18; COSMAS INDICOPL.,
p. 128.]

In recent years there is reason to believe that their numbers have
become considerably reduced. They have entirely disappeared from
localities in which they were formerly numerous[1]; smaller herds have
been taken in the periodical captures for the government service, and
hunters returning from the chase report them to be growing scarce. In
consequence of this diminution the peasantry in some parts of the island
have even suspended the ancient practice of keeping watchers and fires
by night to drive away the elephants from their growing crops.[2] The
opening of roads and the clearing of the mountain forests of Kandy for
the cultivation of coffee, have forced the animals to retire to the low
country, where again they have been followed by large parties of
European sportsmen; and the Singhalese themselves, being more freely
provided with arms than in former times, have assisted in swelling the
annual slaughter.[3]

[Footnote 1: LE BRUN, who visited Ceylon A.D. 1705, says that in the
district round Colombo, where elephants are now never seen, they were
then so abundant, that 160 had been taken in a single corral. (_Voyage_,
&c., tom. ii. ch. lxiii. p. 331.)]

[Footnote 2: In some parts of Bengal, where elephants were formerly
troublesome (especially near the wilds of Ramgur), the natives got rid
of them by mixing a preparation of the poisonous Nepal root called
_dakra_ in balls of grain, and other materials, of which the animal is
fond. In Cuttack, above fifty years ago, mineral poison was laid for
them in the same way, and the carcases of eighty were found which had
been killed by it. (_Asiat. Res._, xv. 183.)]

[Footnote 3: The number of elephants has been similarly reduced
throughout the south of India.]

Had the motive that incites to the destruction of the elephant in Africa
and India prevailed in Ceylon, that is, had the elephants there been
provided with tusks, they would long since have been annihilated for the
sake of their ivory.[1] But it is a curious fact that, whilst in Africa
and India both sexes have tusks[2], with some slight disproportion in
the size of those of the females: not one elephant in a hundred is found
with tusks in Ceylon, and the few that possess them are exclusively
males. Nearly all, however, have those stunted processes called
_tushes_, about ten or twelve inches in length and one or two in
diameter. These I have observed them to use in loosening earth,
stripping off bark, and snapping asunder small branches and climbing
plants; and hence tushes are seldom seen without a groove worn into them
near their extremities.[3]

[Footnote 1: The annual importation of ivory into Great Britain alone,
for the last few years, has been about _one million_ pounds; which,
taking the average weight of a tusk at sixty pounds, would require the
slaughter of 8,333 male elephants.

But of this quantity the importation from Ceylon has generally averaged
only five or six hundred weight; which, making allowance for the
lightness of the tusks, would not involve the destruction of more than
seven or eight in each year. At the same time, this does not fairly
represent the annual number of tuskers shot in Ceylon, not only because
a portion of the ivory finds its way to China and to other places, but
because the chiefs and Buddhist priests have a passion for collecting
tusks, and the finest and largest are to be found ornamenting their
temples and private dwellings. The Chinese profess that for their
exquisite carvings the ivory of Ceylon excels all other, both in density
of texture and in delicacy of tint; but in the European market, the
ivory of Africa, from its more distinct graining and other causes,
obtains a higher price.]

[Footnote 2: A writer in the _India Sporting Review_ for October 1857
says, "In Malabar a tuskless male elephant is rare; I have seen but
two."--p. 157.]

[Footnote 3: The old fallacy is still renewed, that the elephant sheds
his tusks. AELIAN says he drops them once in ten years (lib. xiv. c. 5):
and PLINY repeats the story, adding that, when dropped, the elephants
hide them under ground (lib. viii.) whence SHAW says, in his _Zoology_,
"they are frequently found in the woods," and exported from Africa (vol.
i. p. 213): and Sir W. JARDINE in the _Naturalist's Library_ (vol. ix.
p. 110), says, "the tusks are shed about the twelfth or thirteenth
year." This is erroneous: after losing the first pair, or, as they are
called, the "milk tusks," which drop in consequence of the absorption of
their roots, when the animal is extremely young, the second pair acquire
their full size, and become the "permanent tusks," which are never

Amongst other surmises more ingenious than sound, the general absence of
tusks in the elephant of Ceylon has been associated with the profusion
of rivers and streams in the island; whilst it has been thrown out as a
possibility that in Africa, where water is comparatively scarce, the
animal is equipped with these implements in order to assist it in
digging wells in the sand and in raising the juicy roots of the mimosas
and succulent plants for the sake of their moisture. In support of this
hypothesis, it has been observed, that whilst the tusks of the Ceylon
species, which are never required for such uses, are slender, graceful
and curved, seldom exceeding fifty or sixty pounds' weight, those of the
African elephant are straight and thick, weighing occasionally one
hundred and fifty, and even three hundred pounds.[1]

[Footnote 1: Notwithstanding the inferiority in weight of the Ceylon
tusks, as compared with those of the elephant of India, it would, I
think, be precipitate to draw the inference that the size of the former
was uniformly and naturally less than that of the latter. The truth, I
believe to be, that if permitted to grow to maturity, the tusks of the
one would, in all probability, equal those of the other; but, so eager
is the search for ivory in Ceylon, that a tusker, when once observed in
a herd, is followed up with such vigilant impatience, that he is almost
invariably shot before attaining his full growth. General DE LIMA, when
returning from the governorship of the Portuguese settlements at
Mozambique, told me, in 1848, that he had been requested to procure two
tusks of the largest size, and straightest possible shape, which were to
be formed into a cross to surmount the high altar of the cathedral at
Goa: he succeeded in his commission, and sent two, one of which was 180
pounds, and the other 170 pounds' weight, with the slightest possible
curve. In a periodical, entitled _The Friend_, published in Ceylon, it
is stated in the volume for 1837 that the officers belonging to the
ships Quorrah and Alburhak, engaged in the Niger Expedition, were shown
by a native king two tusks, each two feet and a half in circumference at
the base, eight feet long, and weighing upwards of 200 pounds. (Vol. i.
p. 225.) BRODERIP, in his _Zoological Recreations_, p. 255, says a tusk
of 350 pounds' weight was sold at Amsterdam, but he does not quote his

But it is manifestly inconsistent with the idea that tusks were given to
the elephant to assist him in digging for his food, to find that the
females are less bountifully supplied with them than the males, whilst
the necessity for their use extends equally to both sexes. The same
argument serves to demonstrate the fallacy of the conjecture, that the
tusks of the elephant were given to him as weapons of offence, for if
such were the case the vast majority in Ceylon, males as well as
females, would be left helpless in presence of an assailant. But
although in their conflicts with one another, those which are provided
with tusks may occasionally push with them clumsily at their opponents;
it is a misapprehension to imagine that tusks are designed specially to
serve "in warding off the attacks of the wily tiger and the furious
rhinoceros, often securing the victory by one blow which transfixes the
assailant to the earth."[1]

[Footnote 1: _Menageries, &c._, published by the Society for the
Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, vol. i. p. 68: "The Elephant," ch. iii.
It will be seen that I have quoted repeatedly from this volume, because
it is the most compendious and careful compilation with which I am
acquainted of the information previously existing regarding the
elephant. The author incorporates no speculations of his own, but has
most diligently and agreeably arranged all the facts collected by his
predecessors. The story of antipathy between the elephant and rhinoceros
is probably borrowed from AELIAN _de Nat._, lib. xvii. c. 44.]

So harmless and peaceful is the life of the elephant, that nature
appears to have left it unprovided with any weapon of offence: its trunk
is too delicate an organ to be rudely employed in a conflict with other
animals, and although on an emergency it may push or gore with its tusks
(to which the French have hastily given the term "_defenses_"), their
almost vertical position, added to the difficulty of raising its head
above the level of the shoulder, is inconsistent with the idea of their
being designed for attack, since it is impossible for the elephant to
strike an effectual blow, or to "wield" its tusks as the deer and the
buffalo can direct their horns. Nor is it easy to conceive under what
circumstances an elephant could have a hostile encounter with either a
rhinoceros or a tiger, with whose pursuits in a state of nature its own
can in no way conflict.

Towards man elephants evince shyness, arising from their love of
solitude and dislike of intrusion; any alarm they exhibit at his
appearance may be reasonably traced to the slaughter which has reduced
their numbers; and as some evidence of this, it has always been observed
that an elephant exhibits greater impatience of the presence of a white
man than of a native. Were its instincts to carry it further, or were it
influenced by any feeling of animosity or cruelty, it must be apparent
that, as against the prodigious numbers that inhabit the forests of
Ceylon, man would wage an unequal contest, and that of the two one or
other must long since have been reduced to a helpless minority.

Official testimony is not wanting in confirmation of this view;--in the
returns of 108 coroners' inquests in Ceylon, during five years, from
1849 to 1855 inclusive, held in cases of death occasioned by wild
animals; 16 are recorded as having been caused by elephants, 15 by
buffaloes, 6 by crocodiles, 2 by boars, 1 by a bear, and 68 by serpents
(the great majority of the last class of sufferers being women and
children, who had been bitten during the night). Little more than
_three_ fatal accidents occurring annually on the average of five years,
is certainly a very small proportion in a population estimated at a
million and a half, in an island abounding with elephants, with which,
independently of casual encounters, voluntary conflicts are daily
stimulated by the love of sport or the hope of gain. Were the elephants
instinctively vicious or even highly irritable in their temperament, the
destruction of human life under the circumstances must have been
infinitely greater. It must also be taken into account, that some of the
accidents recorded may have occurred in the rutting season, when
elephants are subject to fits of temporary fury, known in India by the
term _must_, in Ceylon _mudda_,--a paroxysm which speedily passes away,
but during the fury of which it is dangerous even for the mahout to
approach those ordinarily the gentlest and most familiar.

But, then, the elephant is said to "entertain an extraordinary dislike
to all quadrupeds; that dogs running near him produce annoyance; that he
is alarmed if a hare start from her form;" and from Pliny to Buffon
every naturalist has recorded its supposed aversion to swine.[1] These
alleged antipathies are in a great degree, if not entirely, imaginary.
The habits of the elephant are essentially harmless, its wants lead to
no rivalry with other animals, and the food to which it is most attached
flourishes in such abundance that it is obtained without an effort. In
the quiet solitudes of Ceylon, elephants may constantly be seen browsing
peacefully in the immediate vicinity of other animals, and in close
contact with them. I have seen groups of deer and wild buffaloes
reclining in the sandy bed of a river in the dry season, and elephants
plucking the branches close beside them. They show no impatience in the
company of the elk, the bear, and the wild hog; and on the other hand, I
have never discovered an instance in which these animals have evinced
any apprehension of elephants. The elephant's natural timidity, however,
is such that it becomes alarmed on the appearance in the jungle of any
animal with which it is not familiar. It is said to be afraid of the
horse; but from my own experience, I should say it is the horse that is
alarmed at the aspect of the elephant. In the same way, from some
unaccountable impulse, the horse has an antipathy to the camel, and
evinces extreme impatience, both of the sight and the smell of that
animal.[2] When enraged, an elephant will not hesitate to charge a rider
on horseback; but it is against the man, not against the horse, that his
fury is directed; and no instance has been ever known of his wantonly
assailing a horse. A horse, belonging to the late Major Rogers[3], had
run away from his groom, and was found some considerable time afterwards
grazing quietly with a herd of elephants. In DE BRY'S splendid
collection of travels, however, there is included "_The voyage of a
Certain Englishman to Cambay_;" in which the author asserts that at
Agra, in the year 1607, he was present at a spectacle given by the
Viceregent of the great Mogul, in the course of which he saw an elephant
destroy two horses, by seizing them in its trunk, and crushing them
under foot.[4] But the display was avowedly an artificial one, and the
creature must have been cruelly tutored for the occasion.

[Footnote 1: _Menageries, &c._, "The Elephant," ch. iii.]

[Footnote 2: This peculiarity was noticed by the ancients, and is
recorded by Herodotus: [Greek: "kamelon hippos phobeetai, kai ouk
anechetai oute ten ideen autes oreon oute ten odmen osphrainomenos"]
(Herod. ch. 80). Camels have long been bred by the Grand Duke of
Tuscany, at his establishment near Pisa, and even there the same
instinctive dislike to them is manifested by the horse, which it is
necessary to train and accustom to their presence in order to avoid
accidents. Mr. BRODERIP mentions, that, "when the precaution of such
training has not been adopted, the sudden and dangerous terror with
which a horse is seized in coming unexpectedly upon one of them is
excessive."--_Note-book of a Naturalist_, ch. iv. p. 113.]

[Footnote 3: Major ROGERS was many years the chief civil officer of
Government in the district of Oovah, where he was killed by lightning,

[Footnote 4: "Quidam etiam cum equis silvestribus pugnant. Saepe unus
elephas cum sex equis committitur; atque ipse adeo interfui cum unus
elephas duos equos cum primo impetu protinus prosternerit;--injecta enim
jugulis ipsorum longa proboscide, ad se protractos, dentibus porro
comminuit ac protrivit." _Angli Cujusdam in Cambayam Navigatio_. DE BRY,
_Coll., &c._, vol. iii. ch. xvi. p. 31.]

Pigs are constantly to be seen feeding about the stables of the tame
elephants, which manifest no repugnance to them. As to the smaller
animals, the elephant undoubtedly evinces uneasiness at the presence of
a dog, but this is referable to the same cause as its impatience of a
horse, namely, that neither is habitually seen by it in the forest; but
it would be idle to suppose that this feeling could amount to hostility
against a creature incapable of inflicting on it the slightest
injury.[1] The truth I apprehend to be that, when they meet, the
impudence and impertinences of the dog are offensive to the gravity of
the elephant, and incompatible with his love of solitude and ease. Or
may it be assumed as an evidence of the sagacity of the elephant, that
the only two animals to which it manifests an antipathy, are the two
which it has seen only in the company of its enemy, man? One instance
has certainly been attested to me by an eye-witness, in which the trunk
of an elephant was seized in the teeth of a Scotch terrier, and such was
the alarm of the huge creature that it came at once to its knees. The
dog repeated the attack, and on every renewal of it the elephant
retreated in terror, holding its trunk above its head, and kicking at
the terrier with its fore feet. It would have turned to flight, but for
the interference of its keeper.

[Footnote 1: To account for the impatience manifested by the elephant at
the presence of a dog, it has been suggested that he is alarmed lest the
latter should attack _his feet_, a portion of his body of which the
elephant is peculiarly careful. A tame elephant has been observed to
regard with indifference a spear directed towards his head, but to
shrink timidly from the same weapon when pointed at his foot.]

Major Skinner, formerly commissioner of roads in Ceylon, whose official
duties in constructing highways involved the necessity of his being in
the jungle for months together, always found that, by night or by day,
the barking of a dog which accompanied him, was sufficient to put a herd
to flight. On the whole, therefore, I am of opinion that the elephant
lives on terms of amity with every quadruped in the forest, that it
neither regards them as its foes, nor provokes their hostility by its
acts; and that, with the exception of man, _its greatest enemy is a

The current statements as to the supposed animosity of the elephant to
minor animals originated with AElian and Pliny, who had probably an
opportunity of seeing, what may at any time be observed, that when a
captive elephant is picketed beside a post, the domestic animals, goats,
sheep, and cattle, will annoy and irritate him by their audacity in
making free with his provender; but this is an evidence in itself of the
little instinctive dread which such comparatively puny creatures
entertain of one so powerful and yet so gentle.

Amongst elephants themselves, jealousy and other causes of irritation
frequently occasion contentions between individuals of the same herd;
but on such occasions it is their habit to strike with their trunks, and
to bear down their opponents with their heads. It is doubtless correct
that an elephant, when prostrated by the force and fury of an antagonist
of its own species, is often wounded by the downward pressure of the
tusks, which in any other position it would be almost impossible to use

[Footnote 1: A writer in the _India Sporting Review_ for October 1857
says a male elephant was killed by two others close to his camp: "the
head was completely smashed in; there was a large hole in the side, and
the abdomen was ripped open. The latter wound was given probably after
it had fallen."--P. 175.]

Mr. Mercer, who in 1846 was the principal civil officer of Government at
Badulla, sent me a jagged fragment of an elephant's tusk, about five
inches in diameter, and weighing between twenty and thirty pounds, which
had been brought to him by some natives, who, being attracted by a noise
in the jungle, witnessed a combat between a tusker and one without
tusks, and saw the latter with his trunk seize one of the tusks of his
antagonist and wrench from it the portion in question, which measured
two feet in length.

Here the trunk was shown to be the more powerful offensive weapon of the
two; but I apprehend that the chief reliance of the elephant for defence
is on its ponderous weight, the pressure of its foot being sufficient to
crush any minor assailant after being prostrated by means of its trunk.
Besides, in using its feet for this purpose, it derives a wonderful
facility from the peculiar formation of the knee-joint in the hind leg,
which, enabling it to swing the hind feet forward close to the ground,
assists it to toss the body alternately from foot to foot, till deprived
of life.[1]

[Footnote 1: In the Third Book of Maccabees, which is not printed in our
Apocrypha, but appears in the series in the Greek Septuagint, the
author, in describing the persecution of the Jews by Ptolemy Philopater,
B.C. 210, states that the king swore vehemently that he would send them
into the other world, "foully trampled to death by the knees and feet of
elephants" ([Greek: pempsein eis haden en gonasi kai posi therion
hekismenous.] 3 Mac. v. 42). AELIAN makes the remark, that elephants on
such occasions use their _knees_ as well as their feet to crush their
victims.--_Hist Anim._ viii. 10.]

A sportsman who had partially undergone this operation, having been
seized by a wounded elephant but rescued from its fury, described to me
his sufferings as he was thus flung back and forward between the hind
and fore feet of the animal, which ineffectually attempted to trample
him at each concussion, and abandoned him without inflicting serious

KNOX, in describing the execution of criminals by the state elephants of
the former kings of Kandy, says, "they will run their teeth (_tusks_)
through the body, and then tear it in pieces and throw it limb from
limb;" but a Kandyan chief, who was witness to such scenes, has assured
me that the elephant never once applied its tusks, but, placing its foot
on the prostrate victim, plucked off his limbs in succession by a sudden
movement of the trunk. If the tusks were designed to be employed
offensively, some alertness would naturally be exhibited in using them;
but in numerous instances where sportsmen have fallen into the power of
a wounded elephant, they have escaped through the failure of the enraged
animal to strike them with its tusks, even when stretched upon the

[Footnote 1: The _Hastisilpe_, a Singhalese work which treats of the
"Science of Elephants," enumerates amongst those which it is not
desirable to possess, "the elephant which will fight with a stone or a
stick in his trunk."]

Placed as the elephant is in Ceylon, in the midst of the most luxuriant
profusion of its favourite food, in close proximity at all times to
abundant supplies of water, and with no enemies against whom to protect
itself, it is difficult to conjecture any probable utility which it
could derive from such appendages. Their absence is unaccompanied by any
inconvenience to the individuals in whom they are wanting; and as
regards the few who possess them, the only operations in which I am
aware of their tusks being employed in relation to the oeconomy of the
animal, is to assist in ripping open the stem of the jaggery palms and
young palmyras to extract the farinaceous core; and in splitting the
juicy shaft of the plantain. Whilst the tuskless elephant crushes the
latter under foot, thereby soiling it and wasting its moisture; the
other, by opening it with the point of his tusk, performs the operation
with delicacy and apparent ease.

These, however, are trivial and almost accidental advantages: on the
other hand, owing to irregularities in their growth, the tusks are
sometimes an impediment in feeding[1]; and in more than one instance in
the Government studs, tusks which had so grown as to approach and cross
one another at the extremities, have had to be removed by the saw; the
contraction of space between them so impeding the free action of the
trunk as to prevent the animal from conveying branches to its mouth.[2]

[Footnote 1: Among other eccentric forms, an elephant was seen in 1844,
in the district of Bintenne, near Friar's-Hood Mountain, one of whose
tusks was so bent that it took what sailors term a "round turn," and
resumed its curved direction as before. In the Museum of the College of
Surgeons, London, there is a specimen, No. 2757, of a _spira_ tusk.]

[Footnote 2: Since the foregoing remarks were written relative to the
undefined use of tusks to the elephant, I have seen a speculation on the
same subject in Dr. HOLLAND'S "_Constitution of the Animal Creation, as
expressed in structural Appendages_;" but the conjecture of the author
leaves the problem scarcely less obscure than before. Struck with the
mere _supplemental_ presence of the tusks, the absence of all apparent
use serving to distinguish them from the essential organs of the
creature, Dr. HOLLAND concludes that their production is a process
incident, but not ancillary, to other important ends, especially
connected with the vital functions of the trunk and the marvellous
motive powers inherent to it; his conjecture is, that they are "a
species of safety valve of the animal oeconomy,"--and that "they owe
their development to the predominance of the senses of touch and smell,
conjointly with the muscular motions of which the exercise of these is
accompanied." "Had there been no proboscis," he thinks, "there would
have been no supplementary appendages,--the former creates the
latter."--Pp. 246, 271.]

It is true that in captivity, and after a due course of training, the
elephant discovers a new use for its tusks when employed in moving
stones and piling timber; so much so that a powerful one will raise and
carry on them a log of half a ton weight or more. One evening, whilst
riding in the vicinity of Kandy, towards the scene of the massacre of
Major Davie's party in 1803, my horse evinced some excitement at a noise
which approached us in the thick jungle, and which consisted of a
repetition of the ejaculation _urmph! urmph!_ in a hoarse and
dissatisfied tone. A turn in the forest explained the mystery, by
bringing me face to face with a tame elephant, unaccompanied by any
attendant. He was labouring painfully to carry a heavy beam of timber,
which he balanced across his tusks, but the pathway being narrow, he was
forced to bend his head to one side to permit it to pass endways; and
the exertion and this inconvenience combined led him to utter the
dissatisfied sounds which disturbed the composure of my horse. On seeing
us halt, the elephant raised his head, reconnoitred us for a moment,
then flung down the timber, and voluntarily forced himself backwards
among the brushwood so as to leave a passage, of which he expected us to
avail ourselves. My horse hesitated: the elephant observed it, and
impatiently thrust himself deeper into the jungle, repeating his cry of
_urmph!_ but in a voice evidently meant to encourage us to advance.
Still the horse trembled; and anxious to observe the instinct of the two
sagacious animals, I forbore any interference: again the elephant of his
own accord wedged himself further in amongst the trees, and manifested
some impatience that we did not pass him. At length the horse moved
forward; and when we were fairly past, I saw the wise creature stoop and

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