« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
pendage: I have passed a river in a boat with four people in it, which was ferried across in the same way as the Gaucho. If a man and horse have to cross a broad river, the
A NAKED MAN ON A NAKED HORSE. (ANCIENT GREEK HORSE-RACE.)
best plan is for the man to catch hold of the pommel or mane, and help himself with the other arm.
We were delayed crossing the Rio Colorado by some immense troops of mares, which were swimming the river in order to follow a division of troops into the interior. A more ludicrous spectacle I never beheld than the hundreds and hundreds of heads, all directed one way, with pointed ears and distended nostrils, appearing just above the water, like a great shoal of some amphibious animal. Mares' flesh is the only food which the soldiers have when on an expe. dition. This gives them a great facility of movement, for the distance to which horses can be driven over these plains is quite surprising. I have been assured that an unloaded horse can travel a hundred miles a day for many days successively.
At an estancia (grazing farm) near Las Vacas large numbers of mares are weekly slaughtered for the sake of their hides, although worth only five paper dollars apiece. It seems at first strange that it can answer to kill mares for
such a trifle; but as it is thought ridiculous in this country ever to break in or ride a mare, they are of no value except for breeding. The only thing for which I ever saw mares used was to tread out wheat from the ear; for which pur
. pose they were driven round a circular enclosure, where the wheat-sheaves were strewed.
It is a marvellous fact that in South America a native horse should have lived and disappeared, to be succeeded in after-ages by the countless herds descended from the few introduced with the Spanish colonists! As the remains of elephants, mastodons, horses, and hollow- horned ruminants are found on both sides of Behring's Straits and on the plains of Siberia, we are led to look to the north-western side of North America as the foriner point of communication between the Old and the so-called New World. And as so many species, both living and extinct, of these same genera
inbabit and have inhabited the Old World, it seems most probable that the North American elephants, mastodons,
'horses, and hollow-horned ruminants migrated, on land since submerged near Bebring's Straits, from Siberia into North America, and thence, on land since submerged in the West
FOSSIL REMAINS OF AN ELEPHANT.
Indies, into South America, where for a time they mingled with the forms characteristic of that southern continent, and have since become extinct.
The horse was first landed at Buenos Ayres in 1537, and the colony being then for a time deserted, the horse ran wild. In 1580, only forty-three years afterward, we hear of them at the Strait of Magellan !
WHEN about half-way up the Portillo Pass, we met a large party with seventy loaded mules. It was interesting to hear the wild cries of the muleteers, and to watch the long descending string of the animals; they appeared so diminutive, there being nothing but the bleak mountains with which they could be compared. The madrina (or godmother) is a most important personage: she is an old, steady mare, with a little bell round her neck; and whererer she goes, the mules, like good children, follow her. The affection of these animals for their madrinas saves infinite trouble. If several large troops are turned into one field to graze, in the morning the muleteers have only to lead the madrinas a little apart, and tinkle their bells; and, although there may be two or three hundred together, each mule immediately knows the bell of its own madrina, and comes to her. It is nearly impossible to lose an old mule; for if detained for several hours by force, she will, by the power of smell, like a dog, track out her companions (or rather the madrina, for, according to the muleteer, she is the chief ob
ject of affection. I believe I am right, however, in saying that any animal with a bell will serve as a madrina). In a troop, each animal carries, on a level road, a cargo weighing four hundred and sixteen pounds, but in a mountainous country one hundred pounds less; yet with what delicate, slim limbs, without any proportional bulk of muscle, these animals support so great a burden! The mule always appears to me a most surprising animal. That the offspring of the horse and the ass should possess more reason, memory, obstinacy, social affection, powers of muscular endurance, and length of life, than either of its parents, seems to indicate that art has here outdone nature.
The chief trouble with an estancia (grazing farm) is driving the cattle twice a week to a central spot, in order to make them tame and to count them. This latter operation would be thought difficult where there are ten or fifteen thousand head together. It is managed on the principle that the cattle invariably divide themselves into little troops (tropillas) of from forty to a hundred. Each troop is recognized by a few peculiarly marked animals, and its number is known; so that, one being lost out of ten thou. sand, it is perceived by its absence from one of the tropi. llas. During a stormy night the cattle all mingle together, but the next morning the tropillas separate as before; so that each animal must know its fellow out of ten thousand others.