Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/282

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constant persecution it suffers, and the advance of civilization, its numbers are now rapidly decreasing, and few at the present day are to be found within the boundaries of the British territory.

Judging from some ancient coats of arms, it would really seem that the gemsbok was known to Europeans even before the Portuguese discovered the passage round the Cape of Good Hope.[1] We are told that John of Lancaster, the great Duke of Bedford, bore his arms supported by this animal, which is still on the sinister side of the heraldic shield of the present ducal house of Bedford. Among various embellishments, which are painted in the Bruges style of the period, in a Prayer-book once the property of John of Lancaster, are found his armorial devices, with the antelope black, whose straight spiral horns, although placed almost at right angles with the head, are evidently intended for those of the oryx. The animal is adorned with gilded tusks, but in other respects is not ill drawn. It is conjectured that this book was illuminated on the marriage of the Duke of Bedford with Anne, Princess of Burgundy. Be this as it may, it can not well be later than the period of his death in the year 1435.

The gemsbok is a very remarkable animal, and, though possessed of many of those beautiful peculiarities which characterize antelopes, there is something anomalous about him. He has the mane and tail of the horse, the head and coloring of the ass, and the legs and feet of the antelope. The horns are about three feet in length, slightly curved backward, ringed at the base, and of a shining black color. Those of the female are somewhat longer than the male's, but of more slender proportions. About one third of their entire length is hollow, resting on a bony protuberance. When

  1. It is possible that heralds became acquainted with this animal, or at least with the leucoryx, through the Crusaders. Or perhaps the knowledge was obtained from the Romans, who, according to Martial, had the oryx at their games.