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THE EGYPTIAN, OR CAPE GOOSE.
(CHENALOPEX EGYPTIACUS). Ο δε χηναλώπηξ πέπλεκται οι το όνομα, και είκότως εκ των του ζώου ιδιών τε και συμφυών. Έχει μέν γάρ το είδος το του χηνός, πανουργία δε δικαιότατα αντικρίνοιτο αν τη αλώπεκι" και έστι μεν χηνός βραχύτερος, ανδρειότερος δε, και χωρείν ομόσε δεινός. Αμύνεται γούν και αετόν, και αίλουρον, και τα λοιπά, όσα αυτού αντίπαλά ¿OT1.- Ælian. Lib. V., c. 39.
“ The Goose-Fox has had its name compounded, and rightly, from the peculiar and innate qualities of the creature. For it has indeed the outward appearance of the Goose, but might most justly be compared to the Fox in being up to every thing : and it is smaller than a Goose and stronger, and a terrible one for a set-to. It drives off at least the Eagle, and the Cat, and the rest of such things as are hostile to it.”
This bird is one of the most desirable and interesting pets that an ornithologist can possess.
Its mature plumage is gay and striking ; its habits and all its ways are so odd and amusing, as to excite the curiosity of any who have once caught a glimpse of it. Its Greek name, “ Chenalopex” (Goose-Fox), is most appropriate ; for, to the conjugal fidelity (as reputed, at least), long life, and other qualities of the Goose, it joins much of the cunning of the Fox, added to a certain degree of sly fun and humour, such as we find developed in Æsop's Fables. One that I had was very fond of insulting a large Turkey-cock, in the midst of his gobbling, strutting, and display, by laying hold of him by the tail, and twisting him round, or pulling him backwards, in the presence of his hens and all the other assembled poultry.
Indeed, the Egyptian Goose, with much apparent timidity, really fears no other domesticated fowl whatever. By its odd noises and strange grimaces it puzzles and frightens and worries them all, driving the heavy Canada Goose before it with as much of a matter-ofcourse air, as a farming lad would drive a lot of bullocks
to marsh. If, by any chance, it be itself attacked, it discreetly slips off in a curve -discretion being the better part of valour,--and returns shortly to enjoy the joke, if the danger be, in its opinion, no more than trifling ; but if a dog, or
a gun, or any other really serious enemy be apparent or audible, it steals away with long strides of its red stilt-like legs, and disappears and squats till none but friends are at hand. No tame bird would be a greater puzzle to fowl-stealers than the Egyptian Goose, if suffered to range at large, after it was once settled and acquainted with the premises which were to be its home.
In extreme cases of danger their cunning leads them to feign death, like the landrail and some species of beetles. A man who undertook to pinion a brood of four that had been brought up with a Hen, was much alarmed by finding that he had operated too severely on one of them, and “kilt” it by the operation. The patient had apparently died under the knife. He handled it and turned it about ; it dropped its neck, hung its wings, and suppressed all signs of life. Deeming the case past remedy, he tossed the poor thing into a pond close at hand; when, presto! down dived the Gosling—no Goose
after an exercise of self-command not surpassed by the most patient subjects of mesmeric practice, thinking, doubtless, that it had done the old gamekeeper, and saved itself from some still more severe treatment.
Their powers of voice are also remarkable. The ordinary conversation of a pair with each other is a low internal whispering, very distinct, but very faint, with much the effect of ventriloquism.
They will also address these confidential sort of remarks to the persons to whom they are attached by feeding and other acts of kindness, cocking their yellow eye in the driest way possible. Their cry of alarm is a short reedy note, of considerable loudness, which somewhat resembles the snappish barking of a cur dog. They make use of this to scold other animals, and to express their disapprobation
of what is going on about them. Mine sometimes took it into their heads that poor Cherry, our only cow, had no business in the meadow or on the lawn while they were present ; and one of them, the male bird, kept up this incessant barking by the half-hour together, walking round and round the creature, or scolding into her very ear as her head was down grazing, but producing no more apparent annoyance to the patient and philosophical cow, than the cawing of the rooks from the neighbouring rookery. There is a hissing sound, seemingly expressive of mutual confidence, which is very like the escape of steam from the boiler of a steam-engine. They have a fashion of standing opposite to each other, face to face, on tip-toe, as high as their webbed feet permit, with their wings displayed and expanded, as if they were about to embrace and hug one another—a gesture, as far I am aware, peculiar to, and characteristic of, the species; and during this demonstration of affection, which it undoubtedly is, one (the male ?) keeps up the bark, and the other (the female ?) the hissing noise ; so that it suggests the idea of a carrier's cart-dog making love to a safetyvalve.
Among the ancient Egyptians the Chenalopex was typical of parental affection.
Οι αυτοί δε Αιγύπτιοι και χηναλώπεκας και έποπας τιμώσιν, , επεί οι μεν φιλότεκνοι αυτών, οι δε προς γειναμένους ευσεβείς. - Ælian, lib. x., c. 16.
Φιλότεχνον δε άρα ζώον ήν και ο χηναλώπηξ, και ταυτόν τοις πέρδιξι δρα. Και γάρ ούτος προ των νεοττών εαυτόν κοιμίζει, και ενδίδωσιν ελπίδα ως θηράσoντι αυτόν το επίoντι» οι δε αποδιδράσκουσιν οι νεοττοι εν τω τέως όταν δε προ οδού γένωνται, και εκείνος εαυτόν τοις πτεροίς ελαφρίσας απαλNáttetal.-Idem., lib. xi., c. 38.
“ And these same Egyptians pay honour to GooseFoxes and Hoopoos, since the former are fond of their young, and the latter are pious towards their parents.'
" The Goose-Fox is a creature very fond of its young, and acts in the same manner as Partridges. For this bird sets itself down before its young ones, and inspires the fowler with hope in order that he may advance : the young run off in the meanwhile, and when they are advanced on the way, the parent, rising on its wings, escapes.'
The fury with which they defend their offspring from real or supposed danger is extreme. It is much more blind and violent, and less reasoning than that of the Hen. When they have young their jealousy is like King Herod's : they indiscriminately attack and slay the innocent young of other poultry, as well as of their own species ; on which account it is better not to let them hatch the eggs they have produced, but to depute that office to a common Hen, by which plan also a chance is given of obtaining a second laying.
Two pairs of Egyptian Geese had been permitted to hatch; the young of each brood were thrifty, and were conducted by their parents to the same pond. The two families met. The Capulets versus the Montagues did not manifest a more bitter hatred. Each couple insanely set to work to slaughter the rising hopes of the other. In a few minutes all was over ; the eggs might as well have been addled or eaten. All the unhappy Goslings were floating dead on the water, and the rival GooseFoxes had each had their revenge,—a good moral lesson for their betters.
The time of incubation is a month ; but the duration of this period varies slightly in probably all birds according to circumstances. The young are marked similarly to the old ones, but with duller colours. Brown back and tail, ash-coloured belly, a whitish band behind the ears, and a smaller one at the base of the bill. They may be reared in the same manner as those of the common Geese. If a Hen be selected for their nurse, she will not have the instinct to lead them to the tender grass by the waterside, and it may be as well to cram them for a time, once
a day, with “pegs," or long pellets made of egg and flour dried before a slow fire. After the first month or two they become perfectly hardy, but must be pinioned, lest they be seized with a migratory fit. They are said to be very good eating ; but it may be supposed that a bird, for which the London poultry-dealers ask 31. a pair, and which when roasted would not be much larger than a fine duck, does not often appear at ordinary tables. They are no doubt creatures of great longevity. Instances are not unfrequent of individuals remaining domesticated for fifteen or twenty years, and then being shot by mistake for wild birds, in consequence of having wandered from their usual haunts during some heavy gale or peculiarity of weather. In hard winters, when the ground is covered with snow, they are apt to stray in search of soft marshy spots and open water ; and at such seasons it is desirable that their keeper should have a more careful eye over them than usual. They do not attain their full plumage, nor breed, till their third year, and they continue to increase somewhat in size after that period — circumstances which, in birds, are, I believe, uniformly united with great length of life, probably as much as eighty or a hundred years.
The Egyptian Goose seems to be a connecting link between the waders and the gallinaceous birds in one direction, and the anatides in another. In its outline and attitude it bears considerable resemblance to that rare and curious bird, the Spur-winged Goose ; also a native of the same continent. It is very fond of standing up to the knees in water, like a heron. It eats worms, which, it has been remarked, the genuine and typical Geese never do ; and I have no doubt that any small eels or fry that came in its way would be swallowed. Its chief diet, however, is grass. It takes its share of grain when the other poultry are fed, and at that time amuses itself with teasing and chasing them, but more through fun than mischief-unless, indeed, it has a young family to protect, then it is a feathered tiger. It keeps itself