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BEHEMOTH. Amongst the “ fashionable arrivals” of the current year, none have excited so much interest as that of the living Hippopotamus, now in the gardens of the Zoological Society
This specimen, the first that has been brought over to our country alive, is especially interesting to all students of Scripture, as affording an illustration of the eloquent description given of this animal by Job, under the name of Behemoth (chap. xl. 15 et seq.) For by this appellation we do not hesitate to understand the Hippopotamus or River Horse, notwithstanding the conflicting opinions of commentators.
Bochart, a name standing deservedly high as a Biblical critic, brings forward many points in favor of this opinion, which is nevertheless questioned by Calmet, who supposes the Elephant to be the animal intended in the description given by the patriarch. But his own Editor and continuator, Mr. Taylor, has we think set the question at rest by his masterly arguments and illustrations in favor of the Hippopotamus, the well-known associate and companion of the Crocodile, which is without doubt the Leviathan of Scripture.
The safe arrival of a living Hippopotamus in the menagerie of the Zoological Society, was accomplished on the
25th of May last. The whole of the arrangements for his transport from Cairo, reflect the highest credit on the energy and ability of all who were concerned in them. It will be readily understood that no ordinary difficulties had to be surmounted in his maintenance at Cairo, in the first instance, during five months; and, afterwards, in getting him down to Alexandria, shipping him on board the Ripon, supplying him with the vast quantity of fresh water necessary for his bath, transferring him from the steamer to the railway, and thence to the gardens. It appears, however, that throughout the whole of his eventful journey, everything has conspired to give a favorable issue to the Viceroy's liberal desire to assist the Society in the most interesting and important enterprise which they have ever undertaken. Several attempts have been made within the last twenty years to obtain living specimens of this great amphibious quadruped, but with uniform ill success; so that the offer of an American agent at Alexandria to give £5,000. for an animal of this species delivered to him at that city, has entirely failed to induce any speculator to encounter the risk and labor of an expedition to the White Nile, with this object. Nothing perhaps more clearly demonstrates the value of the Pasha's gift, and of Mr. Murray's energetic advocacy of the interests of science, than the fact that even in Egypt, in the land of its nativity, the Hippopotamus is now so far removed from the observation of men, that the animal possessed by the Society created intense wonder and interest in Cairo, and could only be withdrawn from the curious gaze of ten thousand spectators who witnessed its debarkation from the canal boat at Alexandria by the intervention of a strong body of the Pasha’s troops, who accompanied it as a guard to the spot where the Ripon was moored.
The Hippopotamus has arrived in beautiful and healthy condition. His docility and attachment to his Arab attendant, and the evident enjoyment with which he plunged and gambolled in the water, gave satisfactory evidence of the care which had been bestowed on him, and the foresight with which the Society's arrangements had been laid for its reception. Although yet under a twelvemonth old, his massive proportions indicate the enormous power which will be developed in its maturer growth; and the grotesque expression of his physiognomy far exceeds all that can be imagined from the stuffed specimens in museums, and the figures which have hitherto been published from the reminiscences of travellers.
To see the Hippopotamus rightly, is to see him in the water; there his activity is only surpassed by the otter or the seal; and fortunate is the spectator who obtains his first impression of the creature as he emerges suddenly above the surface, after diving or lying tranquilly at the bottom of the tank, which occupies a large portion of the house in which he is exhibited. The beautiful adaptation of structure to peculiar habits is in no animal more beautifully conspicuous than in the Hippopotamus; and it is difficult to suppose a more convenient and complete opportunity of observing both, than in this last and greatest acquisition of the Zoological Society.
The following description is by Professor Owen:
“The young Hippopotamus was safely housed in the comfortable quarters prepared for it at the Zoological Gardens, having arrived by special train from Southampton, where it was landed from the Ripon steamer. The strong attachment of the animal to its keeper removed every difficulty in its various transfers from ship to train, and from wagon to its actual abode. On arriving at the gardens the Arab who has had the charge of it walked first out of the transport van, with a bag of dates over his shoulder, and the beast trotted after him, now and then lifting up its huge grotesque muzzle and sniffing at its favorite dainties, with which it was duly rewarded on entering its apartment. When I saw the Hippopotamus the next morning, it was lying on its side in the straw with its head resting against the chair on which its swarthy attendant sat. It now and then uttered a soft complacent grunt, and, lazily opening its thick smooth eyelids, leered at its keeper with a singular protruding movement of the eyeball from the prominent socket, showing an unusual proportion of the white, over which large conjunctival vessels converged to the margin of the cornea. The retraction of the eyeball is accompanied by a protrusion of a large and thick palpebra nictitans, and by a simultaneous rolling of the ball obliquely downwards and inwards or forwards.
The young animal was captured at the beginning of August,
1849, on the island of Fobaysch, in the White Nile, about 2,000 miles above Cairo; it was supposed to have been recently brought forth, being not much bigger than a new-born calf, but much stouter and lower. The attention of the hunters was attracted to the thick bushes on the river's bank, in which the young animal was concealed, by the attempt of its mortally wounded mother to return to the spot. When discovered, the calf made a rush to the river, and had nearly escaped, owing to the slipperiness of its naked lubricous skin, and was only secured by one of the men striking the boat-hook into its flank; it was then lifted by one of the men into the boat. The cicatrix of the wound is still visible on the middle of its left side; the attendant informed me that the scar was much nearer the haunch when the animal first arrived at Cairo; its relative position has changed with the growth of the body,
“ The young animal, which we may reckon to be 10 months old, is now 7 feet long and 6 feet in girth at the middle of the barrel-shaped trunk, which is supported, clear of the ground, on very short and thick legs, each terminated by four spreading hoofs. The naked hide covering the broad back and sides is of a dark india-rubber color, impressed by numerous fine wrinkles crossing each other, but disposed almost transversely. The ears are very short, conical, fringed with short scattered hairs along the lower half of their thick borders, and beset with a few clumps of short hairs upon the middle of their inner surface. It moves them about with much vivacity. The dark color of the body extends forwards along the middle of the upper part of the head, and more faintly along the cheeks. · The skin around the ears is of a light reddish brown color, and almost fleshcolored round the eyelids, which defend the peculiarly situated and prominent eyes. There is a single groove or fold above the upper eyelid, and two curved grooves below the lower one. At first sight they seem to be devoid of eyelashes, but on a close inspection a few very short hairs may be seen on the thick rounded margin of the upper lid. There is a caruncle or protuberance on the middle of the outer surface of the nictitating lid. The color of the iris is a dark brown; the pupil is a small transversely oblong aperture. The eyeball is relatively small, and is remarkable for the extent of the movements of pro