« ForrigeFortsett »
vengeance. Such seems to have been the object of the Lions which were kept by Darius, into whose den Daniel was thrown, by royal command, and which afterwards killed his accusers when thrown into the same den. It is plain that the Lions kept by Darius must have been exceedingly numerous, because they killed at once the accusers of Daniel, who were many in number, together with their wives and children, who, in accordance with the cruel custom of that age and country, were partakers of the same punishment with the real culprits. The whole of the first part of Ezek. xix. alludes to the custom of taking Lions alive and keeping them in durance afterwards.
Sometimes the Lion was hunted as a sport, but this amusement seems to have been restricted to the great men, on account of its expensive nature. Such hunting scenes are graphically depicted in the famous Nineveh sculptures, which represent the hunters pursuing their mighty game in chariots, and destroying them with arrows. Rude, and even conventional as are these sculptures, they have a spirit, a force, and a truthfulness, that prove them to have been designed by artists to whom the scene was a familiar one. Nothing can be better than the attitudes of the Lions; and, whether they are shown in the act of striking a blow, with all the talons thrust out and the toes spread as widely as possible; whether they are springing on the chariot of the hunter, or sinking lifeless beneath his arrows, every attitude is marvellously true to nature, and makes the spectator regret that the artist should have been trammelled by the exigencies of the work on which he was engaged.
The Leopard not often mentioned in the Scriptures — its attributes exactly
described-Probability that several animals were classed under the name How the Leopard takes its prey-Craft of the Leopard—its ravages among the flocks-The empire of man over the beast—The Leopard at Bay–Localities wherein the Leopard lives—The skin of the Leopard— Various passages of Scripture explained.
Of the LEOPARD but little is said in the Holy Scriptures.
In the New Testament this animal is only mentioned once, and then in a metaphorical rather than a literal sense. In the Old Testament it is casually mentioned seven times, and only in two places is the word Leopard used in the strictly literal sense. Yet, in those brief passages of Holy Writ, the various attributes of the animal are delineated with such fidelity, that no one could doubt that the Leopard was familiarly known in Palestine. Its colour, its swiftness, its craft, its ferocity, and the nature of its dwelling-place, are all touched upon in a few short sentences scattered throughout the Old Testament, and even its peculiar habits are alluded to in a manner that proves it to have been well known at the time when the words were written.
It is my purpose in the following pages to give a brief account of the Leopard of the Scriptures, laying most stress on the qualities to which allusion is made, and then to explain the passages in which the name of the animal occurs.
In the first place, it is probable that under the word Leopard are comprehended three animals, two of which, at least, were thought to be one species until the time of Cuvier. These three animals are the LEOPARD proper (Leopardus varius), the OUNCE (Leopardus uncia), and the CHETAH, or HUNTING LEOPARD (Gueparda jubata). All these three species belong to the same family of animals; all are spotted and similar in colour, all are nearly alike in shape, and all are „nhabitants of Asia, while two of them, the Leopard and the Chetah, are also found in Africa.
It is scarcely necessary to mention that the Leopard is a beast of prey belonging to the cat tribe, that its colour is tawny, variegated with rich black spots, and that it is a fierce and voracious animal, almost equally dreaded by man and beast. It inhabits many parts of Africa and Asia, and in those portions of the country which are untenanted by mankind, it derives all its sustenance from the herb-eating animals of the same tracts.
To deer and antelopes it is a terrible enemy, and in spite of their active limbs, seldom fails in obtaining its prey. Swift as is the Leopard, for a short distance, and wonderful as its spring, it has not the enduring speed of the deer or antelope, animals which are specially formed for running, and which, if a limb is
shattered, can run nearly as fast and quite as far on three legs as they can when all four limbs are uninjured. Instinctively knowing its inferiority in the race, the Leopard supplies by cunning the want of enduring speed.
It conceals itself in some spot whence it can see far around without being seen, and thence surveys the country. A tree is the usual spot selected for this purpose, and the Leopard, after climbing the trunk by means of its curved talons, settles itself in the fork of the branches, so that its body is hidden by the boughs, and only its head is shown between them. With such scrupulous care does it conceal itself, that none but a practised hunter can discover it, while any one who is unaccustomed to the woods cannot see the animal even when the tree is pointed out to him.
As soon as the Leopard sees the deer feeding at a distance, he slips down the tree and stealthily glides off in their direction. He has many difficulties to overcome, because the deer are among the most watchful of animals, and if the Leopard were to approach to the windward, they would scent him while he was yet a mile away from them. If he were to show himself but for one moment in the open ground he would be seen, and if he were but to shake a branch or snap a dry twig he would be heard. So, he is obliged to approach them against the wind, to keep himself under cover, and yet to glide so carefully along that the heavy foliage of the underwood shall not be shaken, and the dry sticks and leaves which strew the ground shall not be broken. He has also to escape the observation of certain birds and beasts which inhabit the woods, and which would certainly set up their alarm-cry as soon as they saw him, and so give warning to the wary deer, which can perfectly understand a cry of alarm, from whatever animal it may happen to proceed.
Still, he proceeds steadily on his course, gliding from one covert to another, and often expending several hours before he can proceed for a mile. By degrees he contrives to come tolerably close to them, and generally manages to conceal himself in some spot towards which the deer are gradually feeding their way. As soon as they are near enough, he collects himself for a spring, just as a cat does when she leaps on a bird, and dashes towards the deer in a series of mighty bounds. For a moment or two they are startled and paralysed with fear at the sudden
appearance of their enemy, and thus give him time to get among them. Singling out some particular animal, he leaps upon it, strikes it down with one blow of his paw, and then, couching on the fallen animal, he tears open its throat, and laps the flowing blood.
In this manner does it obtain its prey when it lives in the desert, but when it happens to be in the neighbourhood of human habitations, it acts in a different manner. Whenever man settles himself in any place, his presence is a signal for the beasts of the desert and forest to fly. The more timid, such as the deer and antelope, are afraid of him, and betake themselves as far away as possible. The more savage inhabitants of the land, such as the lion, leopard, and other animals, wage an unequal war against him for a time, but are continually driven farther and farther away, until at last they are completely expelled from the country. The predaceous beasts are, however, loth to retire, and do so by very slow degrees. They can no longer support themselves on the deer and antelopes, but find a simple substitute for them in the flocks and herds which man introduces, and in the seizing of which there is as much craft required as in the catching of the fleeter and wilder animals. Sheep and goats cannot run away like the antelopes, but they are penned so carefully within inclosures, and guarded so watchfully by herdsmen and dogs, that the Leopard is obliged to exert no small amount of cunning before it can obtain a meal.
Sometimes it creeps quietly to the fold, and escapes the notice of the dogs, seizes upon a sheep, and makes off with it before the alarm is given. Sometimes it hides by the wayside, and as the flock pass by it dashes into the midst of them, snatches up a sheep, and disappears among the underwood on the opposite side of the road. Sometimes it is crafty enough to deprive the fold of its watchful guardian. Dogs which are used to Leopardhunting never attack the animal, though they are rendered furious by the sound of its voice. They dash at it as if they meant to devour it, but take very good care to keep out of reach of its terrible paws. By continually keeping the animal at bay, they give time for their master to come up, and generally contrive to drive it into a tree, where it can be shot.
But instances have been known where the Leopard has taken advantage of the dogs, and carried them off in a very cunning