LITERATURE, AMUSEMENT, AND INSTRUCTION.
|Vol. 19. No. 552.]
||SATURDAY, JUNE 16, 1832
THE BRAHMIN BULL, IN THE ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS, REGENT'S PARK.
The Zoological Society possess several Zebus, or Indian oxen. These were formerly considered a distinct species, but zoologists are now of opinion that the Zebu is merely a variety of the common ox, "although," as Mr. Bennett observes, "it is difficult to ascertain the causes by which the distinctive characters of the two races have been in the process of time gradually produced."1 Their anatomical structure is precisely the same, and the only circumstances in which the two animals differ consist in the fatty hump on the shoulders of the Zebu, and in the somewhat more slender and delicate make of its legs.
The object of the Zoological Society in their collection of Zebus is the introduction of an improved breed of oxen. The larger specimens are kept at the farm at Kingston Hill, and only a pair of small ones are reserved for the Gardens, in addition to the Brahmin Bull, who occupies the central division of the Cattle Shed.
Brahmin Bull in Cattle Shed.
The specimen before us has been received by the Society from India, and is one of the largest that has ever been seen in Europe. It is equal in size to the larger breeds of our native oxen, and is of a slaty grey on the body and head; with cream-coloured legs and dewlap, the latter exceedingly long and pendulous; very short horns directed upwards and outwards; and ears of great proportional magnitude, and so flexible and obedient to the animal's will as to be moved in all directions with the greatest facility. Although a full-grown male, he is perfectly quiet, good-tempered, and submissive, and receives the caresses of strangers with apparent satisfaction.
The whole of the breeds of Zebus are treated with great veneration by the Hindoos, who hold it sinful to deprive them of life under any pretext whatever. They are in general used as beasts of draft, principally for purposes of husbandry, but a select number (of which the specimen before us is one,) are exempted from all services, and even idolized.
Bishop Heber,2 calls them Brahminy Bulls, and tells us they are turned out when calves, on different solemn occasions by wealthy Hindoos, as an acceptable offering to Siva. It would be a mortal sin to strike or injure them. They feed where they choose, and devout persons take great delight in pampering them. They are exceeding pests in the villages near Calcutta, breaking into gardens, thrusting their noses into the stalls of fruiterers and pastry-cook's shops, and helping themselves without ceremony. Like other petted animals, they are sometimes mischievous, and are said to resent with a push of their horns any delay in gratifying their wishes.
We may here in connexion with the Zoological Gardens, not inappropriately introduce the following graphic passage from the concluding Number of Mr. Landseer's "Characteristic Sketches of Animals." It appears as a "Note by the Editor," Mr. John Barrow, and represents the labours of the Zoological Society as very gratifying to the subscribers and the public.3
"By the spirit and perseverance with which they have succeeded in domiciling their magnificent collection of living animals in the Regent's Park—by the knowledge and experience they have evinced in the arrangements adopted in that establishment, and the good taste, skill, and industry, they have employed in carrying into effect its multiplied details—they have accomplished a task of far higher importance, and of infinitely nobler character, than that of merely providing for all classes of an enlightened metropolis an additional source of amusement and recreation. Such a collection, so maintained and so displayed, advances—slowly but certainly—the best interests of morals and philosophy. The curiosity which it excites, the gratification it affords, operate, though with differing degrees of intensity, on the most uncultivated and the best informed of those who visit it, to beget inquiry and awaken reflection; and in what can inquiry and reflection, thus originated, determine, but in producing or extending the most sublime impressions of the beneficence, the power, and the providence, of the Great Author of Creation? The physical mechanism of birds, the muscular energies of brutes, strike us at first with wonder, or move us with mingled terror and delight; but the activity of the human mind will not suffer us long to remain at this point of simple excitement. We involuntarily begin to analyze the properties of animals, the relations of their structure to those properties, the adaptation of the parts to the whole of that structure, and the conformity of their physical endowment and their instincts to the various habitats or regions in which they respectively exist. Whether we reason from causes to effects, as from instinct to habit; or endeavour, upon an inverted process, to arrive from the consideration of effects at causes, as from habit to instinct; or attempt, upon the analysis and analogies of admitted facts in the natural history of one animal, to deduce a theory of the history of another,—we shall find this mysterious but beautiful chain of relation and adaptation unbroken, impassable, perpetual.
"Observe how this infant colony, of which we are especially speaking, has already been peopled! The majestic rusa, captured in the sultry forests of Bengal, and the elegant gazelle, which has once bounded over the parching deserts of Barbary, have become intimate and make their couch with the white reindeer, brought from the icy wastes of Lapland. The misshapen but harmless kangaroo of New Holland is a fellow-lodger with the ferocious gnu of Southern Africa; and the patient llama, who has left the snowy sides and precipitous defiles of the Andes, contemplates without terror its formidable neighbours, the wolf of the Pyrenees, and the bear of the stupendous mountains of Thibet. In the immediate vicinity of the sacred bull, whose consecrated life has heretofore been passed in luxurious freedom or insolent enjoyment on the banks of the Ganges or the Jumna—feeds the gaunt and shaggy bison, which crops with sullen tranquillity a herbage more nutritious but less grateful to him than he loved to cull among the stony pastures of the Alleghany range, or of the howling solitudes surrounding Hudson's Bay. Though thousands of leagues have interposed between the arid sands from which they have been imported into this peaceful and common home, the camel of the Thebais, as he ruminates in his grassy parterre, surveys with composed surprise the wild dog