Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/265

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257
OSTRICH PARASOLS—SKIN.

bird, only a small portion are of any value. In the pairing season, and it may be at other times, the ostrich, like the turkey-cock, the capercali, and many other birds, is in the habit of drooping its wings, so that the outer feathers trail on the ground, which soon destroys their beauty. The proper time to kill the ostrich for its plumes is shortly after the moulting season, or in the months of March and April.

The Damaras and the Bechuanas manufacture handsome parasols from the black feathers of the ostrich, which serve as signs of mourning, or are useful for the preservation of the complexion. "It is a beautiful sight," says Harris, "to behold a savage whose skin, somewhat coarser than the hide of a rhinoceros, might vie in point of color with a boot, protecting his complexion by the interposition of such an umbrella."

Some of the tribes of Southern Africa are said to employ ostrich parasols while hunting wild animals, with a similar purpose to that of a Spanish bull-fighter who uses a red cloth. Thus, in case of a wounded beast charging a man, the latter, just at the moment he is about to be seized, suddenly thrusts the supports of the nodding plumes into the ground, and, while the infuriated animal is venting its rage on its supposed victim, the native slips unperceived on one side and transfixes his antagonist.

The skin of the ostrich is also said to be held in great request, and forms no inconsiderable article of commerce. "The whole defensive armor of the Nasamones, inhabitants of Libya, was manufactured of the birds' thick skin, which, even at the present day, is used as a cuirass by some of the Arab troops."

The ostrich, though usually dwelling far from the haunts of men, occasionally approaches the homestead, and at such

    bird are said to be preferable to those obtained from the dead ostrich, as being less liable to the attack of worms.