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Being a water-loving animal, the Buffalo always inhabits the low-lying districts, and is fond of wallowing in the oozy marshes in which it remains for hours, submerged all but its head, and tranquilly chewing the cud while enjoying its mud-bath. While thus engaged the animal depresses its horns so that they are scarcely visible, barely allowing more than its eyes, ears, and nostrils to remain above the surface, so that the motionless heads are scarcely distinguishable from the grass and reed tufts which stud the marshes. Nothing is more startling to an inexperienced traveller than to pass by a silent and tranquil pool, where the muddy surface is unbroken except by a number of black lumps and rushy tufts, and then to see these tufts suddenly transformed into twenty or thirty huge beasts rising out of the still water as if by magic. Generally, the disturber of their peace had better make the best of his way out of their reach, as the Buffalo, whether wild or tame, is of a tetchy and irritable nature, and resents being startled out of its state of dreamy repose.
In the Jordan valley the Buffalo is found, and is used for agriculture, being of the Bhainsa, or domesticated variety. Being much larger and stronger than the ordinary cattle, it is useful in drawing the plough, but its temper is too uncertain to render it a pleasant animal to manage. As is the case with all half-wild cattle, its milk is very scanty, but compensates by the richness of the quality for the lack of quantity.
THE WILD BULL.
The Tò, Wild Bull of the Old Testament-Passages in which it is mentioned—The
Wild Bull in the net-Hunting with nets in the East—The Oryx supposed to be the Tô of Scripture-Description of the Oryx, its locality, appearance, and habits—The points in which the Oryx agrees with the Tô– The “snare” in which the foot is taken, as distinguished from the net.
In two passages of the Old Testament an animal is mentioned, respecting which the translators and commentators have been somewhat perplexed, in one passage being translated as the “ Wild Ox," and in the other as the “ Wild Bull.” In the Jewish Bible the same rendering is preserved, but the sign of doubt is added to the word in both cases, showing that the translation is an uncertain one.
The first of these passages occurs in Deut. xiv. 5, where it is classed together with the ox, sheep, goats, and other ruminants, as one of the beasts which were lawful for food. Now, although we cannot identify it by this passage, we can at all events ascertain two important points—the first, that it was a true ruminant, and the second, that it was not the ox, the sheep, or the goat. It was, therefore, some wild ruminant, and we now have to ask how we are to find out the species.
If we tum to Isa. li. 20, we shall find a passage which will help us considerably. Addressing Jerusalem, the prophet uses these words, “ By whom shall I comfort thee? Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull in a net; they are full of the fury of the Lord, the rebuke of thy God.” We now see that the Tô or Teô must be an animal which is captured by means of nets, and therefore must inhabit spots wherein the toils can be used. Moreover, it is evidently a powerful animal, or the force of the simile would be lost. The prophet evidently refers to some large and strong beast which has been entangled in the hunter's nets, and which lies helplessly struggling in them. We are, therefore, almost perforce driven to recognise it as some large antelope.
The expression used by the prophet is so characteristic that it needs a short explanation. In this country, and at the present day, the use of the net is almost entirely restricted to fishing and bird-catching; but in the East nets are still employed in the capture of very large game.
A brief allusion to the hunting-net is made at page 27, but, as the passage in Isaiah li. requires a more detailed account of this mode of catching large animals, it will be as well to describe the sport as at present practised in the East.
When a king or some wealthy man determines to hunt game without taking much trouble himself, he gives orders to his men to prepare their nets, which vary in size or strength according to
, the particular animal for which they are intended. If, for example, only the wild boar and similar animals are to be hunted, the nets need not be of very great width ; but for agile creatures, such as the antelope, they must be exceedingly wide, or the intended prey will leap over them.
will leap over them. As the net is much used in India for the purpose of catching game, Captain Williamson's description of it will explain many of the passages of Scripture wherein it is mentioned.
The material of the net is hemp, twisted loosely into a kind of rope, and the mode in which it is formed is rather peculiar. The meshes are not knotted together, but only twisted round each other, much after the fashion of the South American hammocks, so as to obtain considerable elasticity, and to prevent a powerful animal from snapping the cord in its struggles. Some of these nets are thirteen feet or more in width, and even such a net as this has been overleaped by a herd of antelopes. Their length is variable, but, as they can be joined in any number when set end to end, the length is not so important as the width.
The mode of setting the nets is singularly ingenious. When a suitable spot has been selected, the first care of the hunters is to stretch a rope as tightly as possible along the ground. For this purpose
stout wooden stakes or truncheons are sunk crosswise in the earth, and between these the rope is carefully strained. The favourite locality of the net is a ravine, through which the animals can be driven so as to run against the net in their efforts to escape, and across the ravine a whole row of these stakes is sunk. The net is now brought to the spot, and its lower edge fastened strongly to the ground rope.
The strength of this mode of fastening is astonishing, and, although the stakes are buried scarcely a foot below the surface, they cannot be torn up by any force which can be applied to them ; and, however strong the rope may be, it would be broken before the stakes could be dragged out of the ground.
A smaller rope is now attached to the upper edge of the net, which is raised upon a series of slight poles. It is not stretched quite tightly, but droops between each pair of poles, so that a net which is some thirteen feet in width will only give nine or ten feet of clear height when the upper edge is supported on the poles. These latter are not fixed in the ground, but merely held in their places by the weight of the net resting
When the nets have been properly set, the beaters make a wide circuit through the country, gradually advancing towards the fatal spot, and driving before them all the wild animals that inhabit the neighbourhood. As soon as any large beast, such, for example, as an antelope, strikes against the net, the supporting pole falls, and the net collapses upon the unfortunate animal, whose struggles—especially if he be one of the horned animals -only entangle him more and more in the toils.
As soon as the hunters see a portion of the net fall, they run to the spot, kill the helpless creature that lies enveloped in the elastic meshes, drag away the body, and set up the net again in readiness for the next comer. Sometimes the line of nets will extend for half a mile or more, and give employment to a large staff of hunters, in killing the entangled animals, and raising afresh those portions of the net which had fallen.
Allusions to this mode of hunting are plentiful in the Old Testament. Take, for example, Job xviii. 7: “The steps of his strength shall be straitened, and his own counsel shall cast him down; for he is cast into a net by his own feet, and he walketh upon a snare.” And again in the next chapter, ver. 6, “ Know now that God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with His net,” in which is depicted forcibly the helpless state of one on whom the net has fallen, and who is lying on the ground vainly struggling in the meshes.
See also Ps. lvii. 6, “They have prepared a net for my steps, my soul is bowed down ;” and Ps. lxvi. 11, “Thou broughtest us into the net, thou laidest affliction upon our loins.” In the prophet Ezekiel are several passages which refer to the hunting net, and make especial mention of the manner in which it falls over its victim. One of these occurs in chap. xii. 13, “My net also will I spread upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare.” Again in chap. xix. 8, “Then the nations set against him on every side from the provinces, and spread their net over him." In this passage a forcible allusion is made to the manner
WILD BULL, OR ORYX.
in which the wild animal is surrounded by the hunters, who surround and gradually close in upon them, as they drive their victims into the toils. The same combination of the hunters is also referred to by the prophet Micah, vii. 2, “ There is none upright among men : they all lie in wait for blood ; they hunt every man his brother with a net.”
Accepting the theory that the Tô is one of the large antelopes that inhabit, or used to inhabit, the Holy Land and its neigh