Missionary Travels And Researches In South Africa By David Livingstone



 -   There is, it must be admitted,
considerable difference between the singing noise of a lion when full,
and his deep - Page 64
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There Is, It Must Be Admitted, Considerable Difference Between The Singing Noise Of A Lion When Full, And His Deep, Gruff Growl When Hungry.

In general the lion's voice seems to come deeper from the chest than that of the ostrich, but to this day I can distinguish between them with certainty only by knowing that the ostrich roars by day and the lion by night.

The African lion is of a tawny color, like that of some mastiffs. The mane in the male is large, and gives the idea of great power. In some lions the ends of the hair of the mane are black; these go by the name of black-maned lions, though as a whole all look of the yellow tawny color. At the time of the discovery of the lake, Messrs. Oswell and Wilson shot two specimens of another variety. One was an old lion, whose teeth were mere stumps, and his claws worn quite blunt; the other was full grown, in the prime of life, with white, perfect teeth; both were entirely destitute of mane. The lions in the country near the lake give tongue less than those further south. We scarcely ever heard them roar at all.

The lion has other checks on inordinate increase besides man. He seldom attacks full-grown animals; but frequently, when a buffalo calf is caught by him, the cow rushes to the rescue, and a toss from her often kills him. One we found was killed thus; and on the Leeambye another, which died near Sesheke, had all the appearance of having received his death-blow from a buffalo. It is questionable if a single lion ever attacks a full-grown buffalo. The amount of roaring heard at night, on occasions when a buffalo is killed, seems to indicate there are always more than one lion engaged in the onslaught.

On the plain, south of Sebituane's ford, a herd of buffaloes kept a number of lions from their young by the males turning their heads to the enemy. The young and the cows were in the rear. One toss from a bull would kill the strongest lion that ever breathed. I have been informed that in one part of India even the tame buffaloes feel their superiority to some wild animals, for they have been seen to chase a tiger up the hills, bellowing as if they enjoyed the sport. Lions never go near any elephants except the calves, which, when young, are sometimes torn by them; every living thing retires before the lordly elephant, yet a full-grown one would be an easier prey than the rhinoceros; the lion rushes off at the mere sight of this latter beast.

In the country adjacent to Mashue great numbers of different kinds of mice exist. The ground is often so undermined with their burrows that the foot sinks in at every step. Little haycocks, about two feet high, and rather more than that in breadth, are made by one variety of these little creatures. The same thing is done in regions annually covered with snow for obvious purposes, but it is difficult here to divine the reason of the haymaking in the climate of Africa.*

- * `Euryotis unisulcatus' (F. Cuvier), `Mus pumelio' (Spar.), and `Mus lehocla' (Smith), all possess this habit in a greater or less degree. The first-named may be seen escaping danger with its young hanging to the after-part of its body. -

Wherever mice abound, serpents may be expected, for the one preys on the other. A cat in a house is therefore a good preventive against the entrance of these noxious reptiles. Occasionally, however, notwithstanding every precaution, they do find their way in, but even the most venomous sorts bite only when put in bodily fear themselves, or when trodden upon, or when the sexes come together. I once found a coil of serpents' skins, made by a number of them twisting together in the manner described by the Druids of old. When in the country, one feels nothing of that alarm and loathing which we may experience when sitting in a comfortable English room reading about them; yet they are nasty things, and we seem to have an instinctive feeling against them. In making the door for our Mabotsa house, I happened to leave a small hole at the corner below. Early one morning a man came to call for some article I had promised. I at once went to the door, and, it being dark, trod on a serpent. The moment I felt the cold scaly skin twine round a part of my leg, my latent instinct was roused, and I jumped up higher than I ever did before or hope to do again, shaking the reptile off in the leap. I probably trod on it near the head, and so prevented it biting me, but did not stop to examine.

Some of the serpents are particularly venomous. One was killed at Kolobeng of a dark brown, nearly black color, 8 feet 3 inches long. This species (picakholu) is so copiously supplied with poison that, when a number of dogs attack it, the first bitten dies almost instantaneously, the second in about five minutes, the third in an hour or so, while the fourth may live several hours. In a cattle-pen it produces great mischief in the same way. The one we killed at Kolobeng continued to distill clear poison from the fangs for hours after its head was cut off. This was probably that which passes by the name of the "spitting serpent", which is believed to be able to eject its poison into the eyes when the wind favors its forcible expiration. They all require water, and come long distances to the Zouga, and other rivers and pools, in search of it. We have another dangerous serpent, the puff adder, and several vipers. One, named by the inhabitants "Noga-put-sane", or serpent of a kid, utters a cry by night exactly like the bleating of that animal. I heard one at a spot where no kid could possibly have been. It is supposed by the natives to lure travelers to itself by this bleating. Several varieties, when alarmed, emit a peculiar odor, by which the people become aware of their presence in a house. We have also the cobra (`Naia haje', Smith) of several colors or varieties. When annoyed, they raise their heads up about a foot from the ground, and flatten the neck in a threatening manner, darting out the tongue and retracting it with great velocity, while their fixed glassy eyes glare as if in anger.

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