« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
in a cottage at Botafogo Bay. An old Portuguese priest took me out to hunt with him.
The sport consisted in turning into the cov. er a few dogs, and then patiently wait. ing to fire at any animal which might appear. My com- . panion, the day be fore, had shot two large bearded mon. keys. These animals have prehensile tails, the extremity of which, even after death, can support the whole weight of the body. One of them thus remained fast to a branch, and it was neces. sary to cut down a large tree to procure
it. soon done, and down came tree and monkey with an awful crash. Our day's sport, besides the monkey, was confined to some small green parrots and a few toucans.
The guanaco, or wild llama, is the characteristic quadruped of the plains of Patagonia; it is the South American representative of the camel of the East. It is an elegant
animal in a state of nature, with a long slender neck and fine legs. It is very common over the whole of the temperate parts of the continent, as far south as the islands near Cape Horn. It generally lives in small herds of from half a dozen to thirty in each; but on the banks of the Santa Cruz we saw one herd which must have contained at least five hundred. They are generally wild and extremely wary.
The sportsman frequently receives the first notice of their pres.
ence by hearing from a long distance their peculiar shrill neighing note of alarm. If he then looks attentively, he will probably see the herd standing in a line on the side of some distant hill.
On approaching nearer, a few more squeals are given, and off they set at an apparently slow, but really quick canter, along some narrow beaten track to a neighboring hill. If, however, by chance he abruptly meets a single animal, or several together, they will gener
ally stand motionless and intently gaze at him; then perhaps move on a few yards, turn round, and look again. What is the cause of this difference in their shyness? Do they mistake a man in the distance for their chief enemy, the puma? or does curiosity overcome their timidity? That they are curious is certain; for if a person lies on the ground, and plays strange antics, such as throwing up his feet in the air, they will almost always approach by degrees to examine him. It was a trick repeatedly practised by our sportsmen with success, and it had, moreover, the advantage of allowing several shots to be fired, which were all taken as parts of the performance. On the mountains of Tierra del Fuego I have more than once seen a guanaco, on being approached, not only neigh and squeal, but prance and leap about in the most ridiculous manner, apparently in defiance, as a challenge. These animals are very easily tamed, and I have seen some thus kept in Patagonia near a house, though not under any restraint. They are in this state very bold, and readily attack a man by striking him behind with both knees. The wild guanacos, however, have no idea of defence; even a single dog will secure one of these large animals till the huntsman can come up.
In many of their habits they are like sheep in a flock. Thus, when they see men approaching in several directions on horseback, they soon become bewildered, and know not which way to l'un. This greatly favors the Indian mode of hunting, for they are thus easily driven to a central point and surrounded.
The guanacos readily take to the water; several times
at Port Valdes they were seen swimming from island to island. Byron, in his voyage, says he saw them drinking salt water. Some of our officers likewise saw a herd apparently drinking the briny fluid from a salina (salt-marsh) near Cape Blanco. I imagine that, in several parts of the country, if they do not drink salt water they drink none at all.
In the middle of the day they frequently roll in the dust, in saucer-shaped hollows. Herds sometimes seem to set out on exploring parties. At Bahia Blanca, where, within thirty miles of the coast, these animals are extremely infrequent, I one day saw the track of thirty or forty, which had come in a direct line to a muddy salt-water creek. They then must have perceived that they were approaching the sea, for they had wheeled with the regularity of cavalry, and had returned back in as straight a line as they had advanced. The guanacos, like sheep, always follow the same line.
The puma, with the condor and other carrion-hawks in its train, follows and preys upon these animals. On the banks of the Santa Cruz the footsteps of the puma were to be seen almost everywhere; and the remains of several guanacos, with their necks dislocated and bones broken, showed how they had met their death.
The puma, or South American lion (Felis concolor), is not uncommon in Chile. This animal has a wide geographical range, being found from the equatorial forests,