« السابقةمتابعة »
from a distance, the nature of many of these varieties is but very little known to the British farmer. The naturalist has hitherto rather directed his attention towards the discrimination of external appearances in living objects that may assist him in the mere classification, than in observing the economical uses to which they could be applied; so that it is only from mere hints which may be incidentally picked up in a devious course of reading, that any clue can be found for directing our pursuits in this respect. Nor do we meet with that accuracy that could be wished for on this head, even in the mere act of classification itself; for, although several strongly marked varieties have been enumerated that are very easily distinguishable from cach other by obvious peculiarities, such as the Buffalo, Bison, Zebu, &c. yet it is by no means ascertained, whether they are only varieties strictly so called, or whether some of them may not be distinct species. Leaving this as a point to be yet settled, I shall for the present consider them all under one head, as all the varieties are in a lesser or a greater degree capable of being serviceable to man as beasts of burden, or as furnishing food to him by their milk and carcase, and of affording materials for manufactures by their tallow, fur, and hides; and it is fit that he should know with certainty the comparative profit which he could derive from each of these in regard to all these particulars, if he ever wishes to know which of them it will be most his interest to rear. I shall therefore, with a view to avoid embarrassment on the subject, arrange what I have to say upon it under different heads; and,
Ist. On the varieties of cattle, considered as to the
external coating of hair, fur, or wool. We in Britain are, indeed, so little acquainted with some of those varieties that have nerer fallen under our own inspection, that it is with some diffidence I shall venture to mention certain peculiarities of these that have been incidentally discovered, lest it should excite some degree of ridicule. But ridicule of this sort is usually the attendant of ignorance alone. We may suppose that a native of Otaheite, who had by chance heard of or seen a horse, would have been laughed at as a being beyond measure credulous, who could seriously assert that an animal any where existed which had the powers and other well known qualities of the horse, in many respects so much superior to any of the animals he had ever seen; yet we know that such ridicule would have been highly displaced. If we were to set bounds to possibilities merely by the standard of our own knowledge alone, Would it not have been natural for the inhabitants of Madagascar to believe that though sheep were known throughout the greatest part of the globe, yet that this class of ani. mals, like the horse and the cow, afforded every where only a short coat of stiff hair that in no respect resembled the closer fur of the cat and many other furbearing animals. But if we know that this conclusion of his would have been erroneous, how shall we be able to free ourselves from the imputation of a prejudice equally blind and presumptuous, should we pretend to say, that because the cattle we have usu
ally reared in this country produce in general a kind of short hard hair, this must be deemed a never-failing characteristic of the whole species; and that the man lied who should pretend to say that a variety of cattle might possibly exist, though unknown to us, which, like the sheep, equally unknown to the inhabitants of Madagascar, may carry a close fleece of long hair or wool that may prove highly beneficial for the purposes of human life? Experience ought long ago to have taught us to be extremely cautious how we pretend to set bounds to the power of the almighty Creator of the universe, who, though he hath endowed man with powers capable of rendering himself the temporary lord of this globc, hath given him that distinguished privilege merely by endowing him alone with the faculty of observing facts as they fall under his view, of comparing them together, and of drawing from these deductions that may prove beneficial to himself. It seems to have been the will of Heaven that man should be more powerfully guarded from falling into the error specified above in regard to the particular which at present claims our attention, than most others; for it will be found, that among the animals which fall most immediately under his observation, the canine species in particular, who are his constant companions through life in every situation on the globe, in no peculiarity do the varieties differ more from each other than in regard to his native kind of clothing, which varies in every possible degree from the closest fur, or wool, to the shortest stiff hair. The sheep and the goat, the animals which he could next most easily subdue and bring into a state of domestic submission, we have
just seen exhibit a like diversity in this respect. Where then are we to seek for that law in nature which should deterniine that the los tribe should be a singular exception to an experience which, in as far as we have yet gone, should point at something like an universal rule? I cannot find it; and hence I conclude, that there is nothing so absurd in the idea that a variety of this class of animals may be found which affords a valuable facece or fur that may be useful to man, as to make us despise every hint that may point towards the discovery of such an animal. For if man hath derived greater profit from rearing the fur-bearing breeds of sheep than the naked, why shall we suppose that he would not perhaps be equally benefited by a surbearing race of cattle, if such should ever be discovered and generally reared by him?
These arguments are adduced chiefly with a view to guard against that propensity which the mind so naturally feels to reject as suspicious any idea on practical subjects to which it has not been familiarised from its infancy, and to awaken a spirit of unprejudiced inquiry on a very interesting subject, that has been, from accidental circumstances, too long repressed. The benefits that Britain has already derived from the introduction of foreign articles, both of the vegetable and the animal kingdom, are inestimable, and should stimulate us to farther exertions of a similar kind. Not to dwell upon the herbs, fruits, and flowers, cultivated in our gardens, most of which are of foreign origin, many of them from very distant regions; nor of the corns sown on our fields, not one of which was probably a native of this country, the
potatoe alone, which was introduced into common culture almost in our own day, is an acquisition which would have been cheaply purchased at any price. Among the animal tribes too, the poultry which stock our yards every where, and form the greatest delicacies of our table, are wholly of foreign origin. The horse also, now so peculiarly our own as to obtain the name emphatically of English, is known to have been imported into this island: nor have we reason to believe
hat the sheep, whose fleece in its raw or manufactured state, has long been the pride of this nation, can be called originally our own. The importation of small animals from distant regions is a matter of little difficulty when compared with those of a larger size, so that fewer opportunities have been given of bringing their respective merits to a comparative trial; and, of course, prejudices have taken deeper root with regard to them, and erroneous judgments may be difficult to eradicate. This will leave scope to improvements in future ages, of which we cannot now have a just idea; our business is, to prepare the way for others, as our predecessors have done for us; and to add as we go along, the little that falls within our reach, to the sum total of human knowledge.
In respect to covering, hair, fur, or wool, perhaps as great a diversity takes place among the different varieties of the bos tribe as among any of those already enumerated. The shortest and the closest hair I ever observed on any animal of so large a size was that of one of the varieties belonging to the division called Zebu. The hair did not exceed half an inch in length, but it was so close set in the skin as rather