Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/133

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123
POPULAR MISCELLANY.

forward through their middle third, and, opposite the angle of the mouth, turning sharply upward at the tip. In the female they are placed farther apart in the skull, measure much less in circumference at the point of insertion, and, though they likewise fall down and present the same curve as those of the bull, the points are not in the least inclined upward, but rather down, or in the same plane with the lips. They are powerful weapons, however, serving both sexes equally well either for offense or defense. They are very broad next to the skull, but taper swiftly toward the points, which are very sharp, and present a dull whitish-yellow color, rough at the basal extremity, but smooth and shining beyond, and black at the tips. The average proportions of a pair of horns are two and a half feet across from tip to tip, and each two feet in length, measured from the median line of the forehead, to which they are attached by a characteristic boss or protuberance. A pair frequently weighs upward of sixty pounds. The tail is very small, and completely hidden by the long hair of the voluminous fleece. The legs, too, are short and greatly concealed by the long hair of the shoulders and flank. The feet are four-toed, and armed with hoofs like all ruminants, the two anterior and largest being broad and inflexed, with sharp cutting edges, and the posterior or lateral ones, which are but slightly developed in most quadrupeds, are considerably prolonged, almost reaching to the ground; this, with the upward curve and great expansion, of which the front hoofs are capable, presents a structure which, by giving the animal a broader base to stand upon, prevents its sinking too deep into the snow, or when traversing boggy ground. Without this, the musk-ox would have been as ill-fitted to tramp over the yielding snow-fields of the north as the camel to perform long marches through the burning sands of tropical deserts without his broad, elastic sole-pad.

 

Sagacity of the Beaver.—A Mississippi correspondent of Chambers's Journal recounts several interesting instances of the sagacity of the beaver, and of the readiness with which that animal grows accustomed to the presence of man. At a place near this correspondent's residence a railroad crosses some wet, springy ground, where there used to be several beaver-dams. The line of embankment supplied the place of these dams, and the beavers, taking the good the gods provided, worked no more on their own dams, but enjoyed the pond of four or five acres which the embankment had made for them. A year or two since, the railway-workmen undertook to put a culvert through the embankment and drain the pond, which, after running freely for a few days, and nearly emptying the pond, suddenly stopped one night: the flow had been arrested by the beavers. The men opened it again, but once more it was stopped up. This went on for some time. As the men passed that way they would open the entrance to the culvert, and at night the beavers would shut it up. At length, finding that closing at the entrance, where their work could so easily be broken down, did no good, the beavers moved their dam to the middle of the culvert, which was some forty feet long, out of the reach of the poles used to poke it down. Here was a community of beavers working with express-trains thundering over their heads!

 

A Useful Snake.—In "Notes on the Natural History of Fort Macon, North Carolina," contributed to the "Proceedings" of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Drs. Coues and Yarrow describe the king-snake (Ophibolus getulus), which is said by the residents frequently to destroy both rattlesnakes and moccasins, eating its victims after the conflict is over. For this reason the king-snake is in great esteem, and is carefully protected. The fight which takes place between the ophibolus and the rattlesnake has often been witnessed, and is described as follows: So soon as the rattlesnake sees his enemy, he endeavors to escape if possible, and, failing in this, he instantly throws his body into coils. The King-snake approaches swiftly, and moves around the rattlesnake in a circle, gradually drawing nearer and nearer, the rattlesnake following his motions with his head. The circular movement of his antagonist appears finally to disconcert him, for after a time it is noticed that his movements are less energetic, and at length, in an unguarded mo-