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J. How cruel !
U. O. I do not see that. It does not seem to me more cruel to kill it at its birth, for the sake of its skin, than to kill it when it has grown up for the sake of its flesh. The longer the animal is allowed to live the coarser the fleece becomes, and the skin of the full-grown sheep is only made into caps for poor people. The lamb may be allowed to live, however, for a fortnight, without much injury to its skin, provided that during that time it is carefully guarded by having linen sewed around it.
Now that we are speaking about sheep, I should not forget to mention that in Persia is found the argali, or wild sheep, from which some naturalists think that all the different sorts of sheep are descended, although others think that it has more of the nature of a goat than a sheep. It is taller and larger than the common sheep, and is generally of a greyish colour: the tail is very short, but the horns are extremely large; they are planted on the top of the head, standing close at the base, rising first upwards, then bending down and twisting forwards as in the common ram. Those of the old males, in particular, often grow to a vast size, and have been
found of the length of four feet, and weighing fifteen pounds each. The body is not covered with wool, but with hair; and the throat has two hairy dewlaps hanging down. The male is a fine, bold, strong, and portly animal, the appearance of which, about the head and shoulders, has been compared to that of a lion. From spring to autumn these animals feed in the small valleys in the higher regions of the mountains upon the young shoots of plants, on which they become very fat. As the winter comes on they descend into lower regions, and live on grass and other vegetables. They prefer to resort to those places in the neighbourhood of which salt is found, and they are in the habit of scraping up the ground to get at it. They are very timid creatures, but frequently fight among themselves, and in their battles are often thrown over the precipices. I may here add, that it is among the favourite amusements in Persia to make bold and powerful rams fight together. The force with which they strike their heads against each other in these combats is almost frightful to witness. But the heads of rams will, it seems, bear harder knocks than ours.
The Persian goat does not much differ from
our own mountain goat, except in its horns, which are more round, smooth, and upright. Its ears are small and erect, and a large tuft of hair stands forward between the horns, like the forelock of a horse. It has long, coarse hair, of an ashy-brown colour, with reddish tips. The female is without the beard, and has no horns, or only very small ones. A specimen of this goat was brought to England by the Persian ambassador as a present to the king. Wild goats are hunted in Persia; and I remember to have seen, near the town of Khoi, in the north of that country, two large pillars faced with the skulls of these animals. A king, called Ishmael, is said to have killed an immense number of them in one hunt, and ordered their skulls to be used in this manner for a memorial of the event. Some, however, allow that they were the produce of a year's sport, which I think is the most likely to be true. The heads and horns are arranged in lines around a hollow pillar of brick, which thus garnished make a very curious appearance, particularly as they both lean so much on one side, that I thought a very slight shock of an earthquake would be enough to throw them down.
F. How horrid these pillars must look, with the grim heads all round them!
U.O. Things much more horrid are to be seen in Persia. It has been from very ancient times a practice in that country, and on its borders, to make pillars and pyramids of human heads the heads of enemies slain in battle. Besides old pillars of this description, there are some which have been erected within these few years. Near one of the gates of Bagdad
H. That is in Turkey.
U. O. Yes ;-on each side of the road there are two low, round pillars inlaid with the heads of two hundred Arab robbers, who had been killed in an engagement, or taken prisoners and afterwards killed, by the troops of the governor. I have seen still worse than this. On a plain near Mount Sevelund, in the northernmost province of Persia, there is a small hill on which no less than five pillars of human heads have been erected within these few years. They are built with brick and lime, with niches all around, in which are placed the heads of about a thousand Russians. During the war with Russia, the King of Persia offered to give three pounds for every Russian head that was brought to his camp. So these heads were pickled and sent to him; and he had these pillars built to receive them, considering them as so many monuments of his glory.
H. What monuments !
U. O. Aye, indeed! It is impossible to imagine a more horrid spectacle than that which these barbarous trophies present. All war, however, is full of such horrors, if we could but see them. The Persians make a parade of those revolting things which we draw a veil over.
With regard to dogs, you must understand that they are considered unclean animals by all Mahomedans. Their valuable qualities have, however, so far overcome this prejudice in Persia, that more attention is paid to them there than in any other Mahomedan country. They are not perhaps admitted on such familiar terms about the house as in England; but they are much employed by the country people in watching the flocks, and guarding the tents and villages. There are several breeds, the most common being strong wolfish-looking animals, which are so exceedingly fierce towards strangers that, when near the vil. lages guarded by them, I never thought it prudent to walk about without a heavy stick in my