Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/383

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AGE—STRENGTH—SPEED—FOOD.

ungainly legs and feet, and diminutive organs of vision, the rhinoceros is the very image of ugliness.

I have no data that would enable me to determine the age of this animal, but if we are to judge from the length of time that the horns require to be perfected, and supposing the animal to continue to grow in the mean while, it may be safely conjectured that he is one of the most long-lived of beasts. Indeed, it is probable he attains the age of one hundred years.

In strength the rhinoceros is scarcely inferior to the elephant. Of its prodigious power sufficient evidence was shown in the manner in which it charged the missionary wagon, as mentioned at page 50 of this volume. It is on record, moreover, that the rhinoceros which Emanuel, King of Portugal, sent to the Pope in the year 1513, destroyed, in a paroxysm of fury, the vessel in which he was transported.

Ungainly and heavy as the rhinoceros looks, it is, nevertheless, so exceedingly swift of foot—at least as regards the black species—"that a horse with a rider," to quote the words of Gordon Cumming, "can rarely manage to overtake it." The testimony of Captain Harris is to the like effect; for, when speaking of the chase of this animal, and after telling us that it is most difficult to kill, he says, "From its clumsy appearance, one would never suppose it could dart about as it does, like lightning."

The food of the rhinoceros consists entirely, as mentioned, of vegetables, shoots of trees, grasses, &c. It is fond of the sugar-cane, and eats all kinds of grain;[1] but it does not seem to be a voracious feeder. Indeed, it would appear to be somewhat fastidious in the selection of its food, in search of which it wanders far and wide.

  1. The Asiatic specimen in the Zoological Gardens, Regent's Park, is fed on clover, straw, rice, and bran. His daily allowance is one truss of straw, three quarters of a truss of clover, one quart of rice, half a bushel of bran, and twenty to twenty-four gallons of water.