Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/208

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186

SNOW-STORM ON NORTHERN TIBET.

that their beasts were dying by the score every day, they were compelled to abandon first their merchandise, and such things as were not absolutely indispensable, then part of their supplies, until they were actually reduced to trudge on foot and to carry their own food on their backs. Of the entire force of camels only three were kept alive by feeding them on barley. The argols were buried so deep beneath the snow that it was almost impossible to find them, and the travellers had to cut their clothes to pieces and burn them for fuel to keep themselves warm. Every day one of their number fell down dead, and the sick were left to their fate.

But notwithstanding their sterility and the unfavourable conditions of climate, the deserts of Northern Tibet abound with animal life. Had we not seen with our own eyes it would have been impossible to believe that in these regions, left so destitute by nature, such immense herds of wild animals should be able to exist, and find sufficient nourishment to support life by roaming from place to place. But though food is scarce, they have no fear of encountering their worst enemy, man; and far removed from his bloodthirsty pursuit, they live in peace and liberty.[1]

The characteristic animals belonging to the order of Mammalia, which are most numerous in the Tibetan deserts, are the wild yak (Poëphagus grunniens), the white-breasted argali (Ovis Poli?),

  1. The rarefied atmosphere apparently has no effect on the Tibetan animals born and bred in it.