Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/501

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493
DOMESTICATION—KNOWN TO THE ANCIENTS.

it emerges into the shallows, it has the peculiar habit of performing some of the functions of nature, during which it keeps rapidly thumping the surface of the water with its stumpy tail, thereby creating a very great noise. I have known from twenty to thirty hippopotami thus occupied at once; and, to add to the din, they would at the same time grunt and bellow to such a degree as to deprive our party of the rest that exhausted nature but too much needed.

During the nocturnal excursions of the hippopotamus on land, it wanders at times to some distance from the water. On one occasion the animal took us by surprise, for, without the slightest warning, it suddenly protruded its enormous head within a few feet of our bivouac, causing every man to start to his feet with the greatest precipitation, some of us, in the confusion, rushing into the fire and upsetting the pots containing our evening meal.

The hippopotamus would seem to be easily domesticated. We may judge so, at least, from the fine specimens now in the Zoological Gardens, Regent's Park, which are as manageable as most of the larger animals of that magnificent establishment. Though these are the first living specimens that ever found their way into England, the ancient Romans (who, during their conquests in Northern Africa, became acquainted with the hippopotamus) held them in captivity.
MEDAL.
This may be safely inferred; for "on a medal of the Emperor Philip, or rather of his Queen Otacilla Severa is (as seen in the adjoining wood-cut) a very striking likeness of a young, and, perhaps, hungry hippopotamus, designed by some Wyon of the day. This is, perhaps, the earliest good figure of the creature; and its representation on such a place shows in what estimation, as a novelty, it was held."