Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/315

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307
SUPERSTITION—CATTLE DESCRIBED—HORNS.

to be something to the following effect. "If I advance and do not find water within a certain period, it will be inevitable destruction. To retrace my steps to the last watering-place is not to be thought of, as, from the distance and the exhausted state of the cattle, it would never be reached. What remains for me but to lie down and die?"

The common people at the Cape entertain a notion that cattle refrain from feeding only once within the year, namely, on Christmas eve. Then, it is affirmed, they fall on their knees, and with closed mouths and half-shut eyes (a sign of placidity), silently thank the Giver of all good things for the grass and water they have enjoyed during the past twelve months. They say, moreover, that a person may witness this act of devotion by keeping well to leeward and out of sight of the animals.[1]

Our cattle consisted chiefly of the Damara breed, which, so far as I am aware, differs widely from any found in Europe. They are big-boned, but not particularly weighty; their legs are slender, and they have small, hard, and durable feet. The hair on the body is short, smooth, and glossy, and the extremity of the tail is adorned with a tuft of long, bushy hair, nearly touching the ground. This tuft constitutes the chief ornament of the Damara assegai.

But the horns are the most remarkable feature of the Damara cattle. They are usually placed on the head at an angle of from forty-five to ninety degrees, and are at times beautifully arched and twisted, but rarely bent inward. They are of an incredible length, and one often meets with oxen the tips of whose horns are from seven to eight feet apart.

  1. This superstition is common in Devonshire, in the western parts of which it used, till lately, to be affirmed, "that at twelve o'clock at night on Christmas eve, the oxen in their stalls are always found on their knees in an attitude of devotion; and that, since the alteration of the style, they continue to do this only on the eve of old Christmas day." Bravo, oxen!—(See Brand's "Popular Antiquities.")