Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/302

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aim." The average length of a full-grown specimen I believe to be about five feet.

The puff-adder (vipera inflata) was not uncommon in Namaqua-land and Damara-land. My saddle-ox had an exceedingly narrow escape from being bitten by one. The reptile was lying at length across the path, and I did not discover it until the ox almost trod on it. Any serpent less slow in its movements must have fixed its fangs in the animal. Another time a woman, the wife of a native servant of mine, found one of these horrid creatures comfortably sleeping in the folds of her skin apron.

Notwithstanding its venomous character, the puff-adder, from its inert, heavy, and sluggish habits, is comparatively harmless. The only real danger arises from treading on it. This, however, is not always easy to avoid, since its color so much resembles the ground.

When about to seize its prey or attack the enemy, the puff-adder is said to be unable to dart forward, but, on the other hand, to possess the faculty of throwing itself backward with unerring certainty.

Different species of what the Dutch term "schaap-steker," or sheep-stinger;[1] "boom-slang," or tree-snake; "ringel-hals," or ring-throat; "the spuig-slang," or spitting-snake;[2] the "zwart-slang," or black-snake,[3] &c., are also occasionally met with, but none of these are very poisonous. The spuig-slang, however, is much dreaded by the colonist, less for its bite—which, though venomous, is not fatal—but from its peculiar habit of projecting a jet of poison to a distance of several feet toward the eyes of any person who may happen to approach its haunts, the result of which is usually loss of sight.

The common people at the Cape have some very singular notions and superstitions about the different reptiles indigenous to the Cape Colony, but more especially with regard to

  1. Trimerorhinus rhombeatus.
  2. Naia haje.
  3. Columber canus.