« ZurückWeiter »
'It is not lawful either to quarrel or fight near the places which are inhabited by the mystical magistrate. When war is to be carried on in the neighbourhood, notice is given to the Simo and his retinue to retire. If two adversaries were to fight while he was near, they would be forced immediately to take him a present as a reparation for having disturbed him; if they were to omit this, they would fancy that some great calamity was continually impending over them.
· When they carry their gift to the Simo, they are obliged to turn their backs to him, and put their hands over their eyes; he receives the offering, pronounces a long prayer, and picks up a little earth, which he throws at them in token of absolution. After this ridiculous ceremony, the disturbers of the Simo's peace returned perfectly satisfied. During the few days that I was at Kakondy, I heard the Simo and his attendants howling horribly while dancing.'-vol. i. pp. 153-157. .
M. Caillié tells us nothing new of the districts of Africa which lie between the Rio Nunez and the French establishment at St. Louis, whence he set out upon his expedition.
Art. IV.--Field Sports of the North of Europe ; comprised in a Per
sonal Narrative of a Residence in Sweden and Norway, in the years 1827-28. By L. Lloyd, Esq. With numerous engravings. In two
volumes. 8vo. London. Colburn and Bentley. 1830. Our English sportsmen, who can only boast of a desperate leap, now. and then, in pursuit of reynard,-or of a hard run after the majestic stag ;-who can merely talk of bagging sundry braces of partridge, and of tenting it occasionally on the moors of Scotland or Yorkshire,-must allow, when they read these volumes, that their most renowned feats sink into insignificance, when compared with the wars that are waged against the savage inhabitants of the northern forests. Field sports indeed !--It is, in fact, a series of campaigns that Mr. Lloyd relates,—wherein the enemy, if not remarkable for discipline, was often formidable from his strength and his ferocity. The narratives of these engagements bring forcibly before us the times, when our own island was overrun with woods and wolves. These have long since vanished from England. But in Sweden and Norway, the bear still retains a considerable portion of his ancient empire. In those countries, we observe the past ages and the present on the confines of each other—the most polished refinement within a few leagues of barbarism. It is delightful to be able to step from a civilized state of society, into the gloomy and savage grandeur of the forest in a few hours. We envy Mr. Lloyd his facility of locomotion. He seems to have no care on earth, but to amuse hiniself with his gun and his dog's.
We should prefer a month's sporting with him to all the literature that Colburn can puff, or Bentley unrol from his steam-engine for a whole year.
But Mr. Lloyd is not contented with merely relating his triumphs over the wolf and the bear : he has made many valuable
additions to natural history; he has corrected several erroneous notions that have long been entertained, concerning these and other animals which he encountered in the course of his wanderings. He gives some interesting notices of the capercali, the black cock, and the hazel-hen-those most delicious of birds to our taste, whose fragrant approach to the dinner table we hail with ineffable joy. Our friend is also a tolerable fisherman, though we imagine that he still wants some lessons on that part of his subject. At least his pages do not reflect the lake and the brook,—the green bank and the neighbouring leaves, musical with the song of birds in that genial tone of enchantment which animated old Walton, and which breaks out now and then, though not so brightly, in the pages of Sir Humphry Davy.
Our author had once, it seems, entertained some notion of inflicting upon us,--we do not know how many volumes of a tour through the north of Europe ; having visited not only Sweden and Norway, but also Finland, Lapland, Denmark, and Russia. His better genius inspired him with a more moderate strain. He sagaciously bethought him, that we have recently a sufficient number of volumes upon all these countries-indeed many more than were required—and he therefore confined his work as much as possible to sporting subjects, ' more particularly
more particularly to the chasse of the bear, which, at any rate,' he correctly thought,' has the charm of novelty in its favour.' With these topics, he has occasionally mingled general descriptions of the country, and observations on its ivhabitants; and thus has he succeeded in producing a work which has attractions for the general reader, as well as for the sportsman and the naturalist.
Contrary to what we believe to be a general impression,-game, such as we pursue in this country, is scarce in Norway and Sweden. Mr. Lloyd informs us, that he has often walked for hours together • in the finest shooting grounds imaginable, without finding a bird or other animal !' This scarcity, however, is not attributable to the country itself, which produces game in abundance ; but to the exterminating, and, we may add, the unfair and barbarous war which is carried on against the birds in all quarters. In the summer, and often when the birds are hardly out of their shells, the slaughter is commenced both with traps and guns; and during the subsequent long winters of some five or six months' duration, every device which the ingenuity of man can invent, is put into execution to destroy them. Our disciplined and considerate sportsmen will shudder at the evidence which Mr. Greiff, who has lately published a little work on Scandinavian field sports, furnishes on this subject.
“ In many woods and districts where, fifty years ago, abundance of both capercali and black game was to be found, not a bird now exists. In the spring, when the birds assemble for the purpose of pairing, people place themsclves in ambush, and shoot without distinction cocks and hens, by
which means the birds are frightened and dispersed; and afterwards, when the spring is more advanced, and the hen is not found upon her
eggs, it is certain she will be sought after before her young are able to fly; by one shot, a whole brood of seven or eight birds are thus destroyed, which in the month of August would have been fit for table, and have reinforced the larder.”
Such a statement as this, would go far towards reconciling us to the game laws. In Sweden, a system of prohibition, not unlike our own subsists; but it seems to have fallen into desuetude, or at least to be universally violated with impunity.
We have already mentioned the capercali, the black cock, and the hazel-hen. Besides these birds, our author met also with the cock of the wood, the partridge, the woodcock, the snipe, and several other descriptions of wild fowl. The partridges were particularly scarce : pheasants were never seen, the climate being perhaps unfriendly to their existence during a long winter; neither were the common grouse, though a species of them, not unlike our ptarmigan, were found in abundance.
Of the four footed game, the elk, formerly so prolific in Scandinavia, is now very rare, except in some of the districts of Norway. The roebuck, the red deer, and the rein deer, still abound in Sweden. A few hares are met with, but no wild rabbits. Otters, and, in some rivers, beavers, have numerous habitations. Squirrels, Badgers, and the Lemming, are seen every where. The red, and sometimes, as it is said, the black fox makes his appearance. But of all the animals in the forest, the bear yields the noblest sport. We must allow Mr. Lloyd to describe him.
• The brown bear only is common to the Scandinavian forests; the white, or ice bear (Ursus Martimus) confines himself, as it is well known, to the Polar regions; it is asserted, however, that he formerly inhabited the northern parts of the Peninsula, and even now it is said that, once in a while, an ice-berg floats him to the Norwegian shores.
• Of the brown bear, it is said by many, and Mr. Professor Nilsson seems also to be of that opinion, there are two kinds common to Scandinavia. The large bear, or bear of prey, (Sw. Slag-Björn, or Ursus Arctos major,) which lives indiscriminately on vegetable or animal substances; and the smaller bear, Sw. Myr-Björn, or Ursus Arctos minor,) which never eats flesh, and which subsists entirely upon ants or vegetable matter. Others again, on the contrary, and among the rest Mr. Falk, seem to think that there is only one species, and that the difference of size observable among those animals is owing to their respective ages. For myself, I cannot venture an opinion; though certainly, in the bears that I have killed, or assisted others in destroying, no difference in formation was perceptible. Here I may remark, that Mr. Nilsson is decidedly of opinion, that, " even if there be two kinds in Scandinavia,” (of which he is by no means certain,)
they are both entirely distinct from the small black bear common to the American forests.” He farther observes that, " there is no European bear, as many naturalists, with Buffon at their head, have asserted, that is black; it is true,” he says, " that black bears are occasionally found, but these are
always very large, and it is therefore to be presumed that the bear does not become of that colour until he has attained to his full growth; besides,". he adds, and his observation is perfectly just, " they do not all seem to acquire it then, because one meets also with very large brown bears.'
• The general colour of Scandinavian bears is a dark brown; in some in-; stances however, as I have just observed, they are black; and in others again of a greyish colour: these last are commonly called silver bears. In point of fact, one seldom sees two skins altogether alike. Instances have occurred of perfectly white bears having been found in the Peninsula; but Mr. Nilsson thinks that “ these are accidental varieties of the species, like white squirrels, white swallows, and white crows.
• Bears have occasionly white rings round their necks. At this very time, indeed, I have two of these animals in my possession, whose mother I shot during the last winter in the Scandinavian forests. They are male and female: the female has that peculiar mark; the male, however, is without it: this contradicts the commonly received opinion that the ring is confined to male bears. On this subject Mr. Nilsson observes, that “ bears usually lose the ring after the second or third year; some few, however, preserve it all their lives, and these are called ring-bears."
* The Scandinavian bear (even assuming it to be of the larger, or destructive species) does not subsist for the most part, as many naturalists have asserted, upon flesh; for ants and vegetable substances compose his principal food; indeed Mr. Falk justly observes, “ that an animal which is able to devour a moderate sized cow* in twenty-four hours, would, if flesh formed the chief of his sustenance, destroy all the herds in the country. The destruction which the bear commits among cattle,” that gentleman farther remarks,“ is often owing to the latter attacking him in the first instance; for, when provoked by their bellowing, and pursuit of him, which not unfrequently commence as soon as they get a view of him, he then displays his superior strengh.- For years, however," says the same author, “ bears may reside in the neighbourhood of cattle, without doing them any injury; alihough,” as is notoriously the fact, “ They will sometimes visit herds solely from the desire of prey.” Young bears seldom molest cattle; but old bears, after having tasted blood, often become very destructive, and, unless their career be put an end to, commit no little havoc in the line of country they are in the habit of ranging.
66. The bear,” Mr. Nilsson observes, though for the truth of the statement I cannot vouch,“ is more or less noxious as the weather varies; for, if it be clear and dry, his attacks upon cattle are less frequent than when the summer is wet and cloudy.”
• The bear feeds on roots, and the leaves and small branches of the aspen, mountain-ash, and other trees; he is also fond of succulent plants, such as angelica, mountain-thistle, &c.; to berries he is likewise very partial, and during the autumnal months, when they are ripe, he devours vast quantities of cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cloudberries, and other berries common to the Scandinavian forests. Ripe corn he also eats, and
* • The cattle in the northern parts of Sweden 'are of a rather small breed ; indeed, few of them are larger than those of the Highlands of Scotland. The bear, however, does not confine himself to cattle, for he devours indiscriminately horses, pigs, sheep, or goats.'
he sometimes commits no little havoc amongst it; for seating himself, as it is said, on his haunches in a field of it, he collects with his outstretched arms nearly a sheaf at a time, the ears of which he then devours.
• The bear, as is well known, feeds on honey; and according to Professor Nilsson, he sometimes plunders the peasants of their bee-hives; of ants, also, he devours vast quantities : " probably he likes them,” Mr. Nilsson observes, in consequence of their pungent taste. If any of these little creatures sting him in a tender part, he becomes angry immediately, and scatters around the whole ant-hill.”
* The latter circumstance may be perfectly true, for all I know to the contrary: if so, however, I apprehend the bear is generally in an ill-humour with the ants; because, whenever I have met with any of their nests at which the bear had been feeding, they had most commonly been turned inside out.
· Bears are not often to be met with in poor hilly countries, for in these it is not easy for them to find sustenance; but the wildest recesses of the forest, where there are morasses, are his favourite haunts.
• During the summer the bear is always lean; but in the autumn, when the berries are ripe, and he has consequently a greater facility of obtaining food, he generally becomes very fat. "Towards the end of October, however, he ceases for that year to feed; his bowels and stomach become quite empty, and contracted into a very small compass, whilst the extremity of them is closed by an indurated substance, which in Swedish is called tuppen. This is composed, as it is said, of the last substances, such as pine-leaves, and what he obtains from the ant-hills, of which the bear has eaten.
• In the beginning, or towards the middle of November, the bear retires to his den, which he has usually prepared beforehand, and of the nature of which I shall have occasion to speak more hereafter ; here, if undisturbed, he passes the whole of the winter months in constant repose.
• But though during all this time, he does not take one particle of nourishment, still he retains his condition tolerably well; indeed, Mr. Falk asserts, and Mr. Nilsson coincides with him, that up to the end of February, (after which time they imagine he becomes lean,) he continues to get fatter. In the latter assertion, however, I cannot at all agree, as in the first place it seems contrary to reason ; and in the next, I do not know how the point is to be ascertained. One thing, however, is certain, that let the bear be killed at what period of the winter he may, he is usually pretty fat; indeed experienced Chasseurs have stated to me, that if he has been undisturbed in his lair, no perceptible difference is observable in his condition, whether he is shot in the early part of the winter, or immediately before he rises in the spring.
As the spring approaches, the bear begins to shake off his lethargy ; and about the middle of April, though the time depends more or less upon the severity of the weather, he leaves his den. He now parts with the tappen, of which I have just made mention; and his stomach resuming its functions, he once more roams the forest in search of food.
• If in the course of the winter, however, the bear be frightened out of his den and very severely hunted, he once in a while passes the tappen ; in which case, it is said, he immediately grows excessively thin ; this, nevertheless, I do not assert from experience ; for, though at different times I have given some of those animals rather a hard run, I never knew a circumstance