Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/267

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a sight of them, hastily shut up her house, taking the key of the door in her hand. No sooner, however, had she arrived on the spot where the birds were kept, when one of them stalked gravely up to the lady, and, snatching the iron instrument out of her hand, deliberately, and to her great horror, swallowed it, actually shutting her out of her own house!

"Nothing," says Methuen, in his "Life in the Wilderness," when speaking of a female ostrich that came under his immediate notice, "disturbed the ostrich's digestion: dyspepsia was a thing 'undreamt of in its philosophy.' One day, a Muscovy duck brought a promising brood of ducklings into the world, and with maternal pride conducted them forth into the yard. Up, with solemn and measured stride, walked the ostrich, and, wearing the most mild, benignant cast of face, swallowed them all, one after the other, like so many oysters, regarding the indignant hissings and bristling plumage of the hapless mother with stoical indifference."

The ostrich is gregarious, and is met with in troops varying from a few individuals to as many as fifty. Singularly enough, it is never known to associate with other birds, but, preferring quadrupeds, is often found in company with the zebra, the springbok, the gnoo, &c. Indeed, in many respects it bears a striking resemblance to four-footed animals, such as in its strong, jointed legs and cloven hoofs, its long, muscular neck, its gruff voice, the absence of the elevated central ridge of the breast bone, so generally characteristic of birds, besides other similarities already mentioned. But, perhaps, when compared with the camel, the affinity becomes still more striking. Both are "furnished with callous protuberances on the chest and on the abdomen, on which they support themselves when at rest, and they both lie down in the same manner." In both, the feet and stomach are somewhat similarly constructed; and if we add to this their capabilities of subsisting on a scanty and stunted vegetation, their endurance of thirst, and their formation in general,