The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Armadillo
Story Of The Lynx
Story Of The Elephant
Story Of The Leopard
Story Of The Reindeer
Story Of The Coyote
Story Of The Wild Sheep
Story Of The Mungoose
Story Of The Zebra
Story Of The Yak
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Story Of The Armadillo
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
In Central and South America dwells a little creature that might properly be called an animal battleship. It is the armadillo, and as may be inferred from its Spanish name it is protected by heavy armor which covers it so completely that by drawing in its head and legs no part of its person is exposed except the tail.
While riding over the pampas, accompanied by several gauchos (which are, the native cowboys) I had a severe fall by reason of my horse stepping into an armadillo's burrow. An examination of the ground showed me that there were numerous burrows in the soft earth, but so cleverly concealed that they could only be discovered by searching for them.
All armadillos burrow in the ground; and so rapid is the act of burrowing, that, as the writer has witnessed, if a horseman sees one of the animals, it is almost necessary for him to tumble off his horse in order to capture it before it disappears. in the soft soil of the pampas.
Though its claws are not of very great size, they are yet most formidable weapons, and an armadillo, if brought to bay, will sometimes use them upon its foe with terrible effect, rolling over upon its back, and striking so fiercely and rapidly at its enemy with its armed feet as often to inflict very severe wounds.
It is not very easy, however, to bring an armadillo to bay, for its smaller claws give it so great an advantage that it can run with wonderful speed, and, if not quickly overtaken, is sure to make its escape into its burrow, whence it cannot be tinned out except by many an hour of hard digging. And its ears, moreover, are so sharp that a hunter finds it very difficult even to catch sight of the wary little animal, so that nature has furnished it with very useful means of protection from its foes.
Sometimes, however, before they can become quite concealed, they are caught by the tail; and then they resist so powerfully, that the tail often breaks short off, and is left in the hands of the pursuers. To avoid this the hunter has recourse to artifice; and, by tickling the animal with a stick, it looses its hold, and suffers itself to be taken without further trouble. When caught, the armadillo rolls itself into a ball, and will not again extend itself unless placed near the fire.
These animals are hunted with small dogs, which are trained for this purpose. The hunters know when they are concealed in their holes, by the number of flies which then hover round; and their usual mode of forcing them out is by smoking the burrows, or pouring in water. If they begin to dig, the animal digs also; and by throwing the earth behind it, so effectually closes up the hole, that the smoke cannot penetrate.
A moonlight night is the best time to. hunt armadillos for they are then abroad searching for food ants, mice, worms, larvas, insects, birds eggs and snakes, besides many different vegetable fibres. The hunter needs no weapon but a stout club, and no assistant but a good dog.
As soon as the armadillo perceives the dog, it either makes straight for its burrow, or endeavors to bury itself by digging a hole where it stands. If the dog come up with the creature before it gain its retreat, its fate is sealed. As the shell which covers the upper part of its body affords no hold, the dog generally seizes the armadillo by the head, or a paw, and holds it till the arrival of his master, by whom it is despatched with a blow on the head from his stick. A specially clever dog will, however, endeavor to overthrow the armadillo as it runs by thrusting his nose under the edge of the shell. The creature is then promptly seized by the soft under-parts, and soon killed.
The bony covering which is such a powerful means of defense to the armadillo is sometimes used as a weapon of attack.' I once saw an armadillo kill a snake by rushing upon it and using the jagged edge of its armor as a saw. The reptile was sawed into pieces. The struggles of the snake were all in vain, as its fangs could make no impression upon the panoply of its assailant; and eventually the reptile slowly dropped and died, to be soon after devoured by the armadillo, which commenced the meal by seizing the snake's tail in its mouth, and gradually eating forward.
Despite its diet, the flesh of the armadillo has a pleasant flavor, and the natives are very fond of them baked in the shell.
The armadillo are all small, except the gigantic armadillo, which is but rarely found. There was a great commotion in our camp one day and on investigating I found that an armadillo of gigantic size had caused the commotion. It was lying, a round, misshapen mass, its head partly buried under its armor, the feet drawn together, and its body pierced by numerous arrows. It offered not the slightest resistance to its tormentors, whom I desired to end its sufferings by a heavy stroke of a club. Two men were required to carry it. It weighed one hundred and twenty pounds; its height was about three feet, its length five and a half. Its tail was about fourteen or sixteen inches long, and its root nearly as thick as a man's thigh, tapering very abruptly. The middle one of the five toes of the fore-foot was seven and a half inches in length. In size it greatly surpasses the largest giant armadillo known.