Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/258

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

we found it necessary to be contented with what we had bagged.[1]

On returning to the Bay, however, the next morning in a mule-cart, Mr. Galton again encountered the same birds with the remainder of the family, and, after a short race, captured six more of the chicks.

The ostrich (which, from possessing the rudiments of a gall-bladder, and the absence of wings fit for flight, seems to form a kind of connecting link between the two great families of mammalia and aves) is an inhabitant of a large portion of Africa, but rarely extends farther east than the deserts of Arabia. Throughout the Indian Archipelago, the family of birds (of which the ostrich is the leading type) is represented by the cassowary; in Australia by the emeu; in the southern extremity of the western hemisphere by the rhea; and even in Europe, though somewhat departing from the type, it has its representative in the stately bustard.

Any thing like a scientific description of the ostrich would here be out of place; but it may be proper to mention that the lower part of the neck and the body of the mature male bird are of a deep glossy black, intermingled with a few whitish feathers, only visible when the plumage is ruffled. "In the female the general color of the feathers is of a grayish or ashy brown, slightly fringed with white. In both sexes the large plumes of the wings and tail are beautifully white."

The ostrich, when full grown, stands no less than from seven to eight feet, and instances are recorded where individual birds have attained as much as nine. Its weight is proportionate. Judging from what I have experienced in carrying the dead body, it is not less, perhaps, than two or three hundred pounds. Indeed, there are persons who believe that the mature bird, when in prime condition, as a butcher would say, will attain a weight of thirty stone.

  1. The wood-cut on the preceding page is a faithful representation of the chase described, which took place shortly before sunset.