The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Prairie Dog
Story Of The Wild Boar
Story Of The Porcupine
Story Of The Hippopotamus
Story Of The Jackal
Story Of The Tapir
Story Of The Monkey
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( Originally Published Early 1900's )
With the true baboons we come to the most hideous and repulsive-looking members of the monkey tribe, their repulsive appearance being only equalled by the fierce and untamable disposition of several of the group. All the baboons are confined to Africa and the countries lying on the north of the Red Sea, so that they are totally absent from the Oriental region.
They are found over the whole of Africa; but, as is so generally the case, are represented by a greater variety on the west coast than elsewhere, and it is also in that region that the most hideous representatives of the group are to be found.
While agreeing with the gelada baboon in the great length of their stouts, the true baboons are readily distinguished by the nostrils being placed at the very extremity of their snout; indeed, in the Arabian baboon they actually project slightly beyond the upper lip, as is the case in most clogs. This canine form of countenance led the ancient Greeks and Romans to apply the name dog-headed to these animals. This great prolongation of the snout shows that the baboons are the lowest of the Old World monkeys, and they bear the most marked signs of relationship with the inferior orders of mammals.
In addition to their long snouts, baboons are likewise distinguished by the large proportionate size of their skulls, this being most markedly the case with some of the West African forms. Moreover, the bones forming the upper jaws are greatly inflated, so as to give a swollen look to this part of the face in some of the species. They may also carry prominent oblique ridges, which form the support for the peculiar fleshy tumor-like structures occurring in certain West African examples.
In all the baboons the callous places on the buttocks are unusually large, and may be very brightly colored. The tail is never very long, and often very short. The arms and legs, or, as they may be better termed, fore- and hind-legs, are nearly equal in length, and are thus far better adapted for progress on the ground than for climbing. Indeed none of the baboons appear to be adepts at climbing, and many of them pass almost their whole time on the ground. Several species of this group show an especial predilection for rocky ground, and are accustomed to go in large troops this association being probably necessary for defence against the attacks of leopards and other flesh eating animals.
Their defence does not, however, rest solely on the strength of numbers; for the male baboons, which are considerably superior in size and strength to their consorts, are armed with tusks of the most formidable dimensions. Indeed, a bite from one of these animals must be almost, if not quite. as severe and dangerous as a leopard's; and there are instances on record where leopards have been successfully attacked and mastered by a few old male baboons.
The mandrill, which is the most conspicuous of the baboon tribe, is a native of Guinea and Western Africa, and is chiefly remarkable for the vivid colors with. which it is adorned. Its cheeks are of a brilliant blue, its muzzle of a bright scarlet, and a stripe of crimson runs along the center of its nose. These colors are agreeably contrasted by the purple hues of the hinder quarters. It lives principally in forests filled with brushwood, from which it makes incursions into the nearest villages, plundering them with impunity. On this account it is much dreaded by the natives, who feel themselves incapable of resisting its attacks. It is excessively ferocious, and easily excited to anger; and when enraged, so boundless is its rage, that I have seen several of these animals expire from the violence of their fury.
The greenish-brown color of the hair of this and other monkeys is caused by alternate bands of yellow and black, which exist on each hair. The brilliant colors referred to above belong to the skin, and fade away entirely after death.
The chacma, or bear baboon is remarkable chiefly for its ability in discovering water. When the water begins to run short, and the known fountains have failed; the chacma is deprived of water for a whole day, until it is furious with thirst. A long rope is then tied to the baboon's collar, and it is suffered to run about where it chooses.
First it runs forward a little, then stops; gets on its hind feet, and sniffs up the air especially taking notice of the wind and its direction. It will then, perhaps, change its course; and after running for some distance, take another observation. Presently it will spy out a blade of grass, or smaller object, pluck it up, turn it on all sides, smell it, and then go forward again. Thus the animal proceeds until it leads the party to water guided by some mysterious instinct.
This species is an inhabitant of the countries bordering on the Red Sea littoral and the Upper Nile valley, but to reach its habitat we have to travel to the southern extremity of the African continent.
Like all the remaining representatives of the long-tailed baboons, the chacma differs from the Arabian baboon by the absence of the mane on the neck and shoulders of the males. We have, indeed, in this respect a gradual descending series from the gelada baboon, in which both sexes are maned, through the Arabian baboon, in which only the males are so ornamented, to the chacma, in which both males and females are maneless. In size the chacma is one of the largest of the group, and it has been compared in this respect, as well as in its bodily strength, with an English mastiff.
The doguera baboon is a closely allied species or variety, found in Abyssinia. It is of a more olive color than the sacred baboon. Dr. Anderson describes a male preserved in the museum at Calcutta as being of a uniform yellowish-olive color on- the whiskers and all over the body, above and below, except on the hands and feet, which are nearly black. The coarse hair on the fore-part of the body is about six inches in length, and is ashy-grey in color for the first two inches, while the remainder is banded with nine rings of orange and black.
It was long thought that the yellow baboon, which takes its name from the pale brownish-yellow hue of the fur, came from Nubia and the Sudan; it is now known to occur on the west coast; but there is a baboon found in the neighborhood of Kilima-Njaro, on the east coast, which is identified with this species. These baboons generally frequent the outlying parts of the plantations of the natives, subsisting largely on the maize and other products stolen therefrom. In certain localities they are extremely numerous, going about in troops composed of about fourteen individuals of both sexes and of all ages. They have but little fear of man, and instead of running away will turn round and face an intruder, with threatening gestures, at a distance of only a few yards. The natives are in the habit of driving them away from the crops, when the baboons retreat in a leisurely manner, with their cheek-pouches crammed full, and often dragging off some of the plunder in their hands.
There are few species of mammals that have given rise to more confusion in natural history literature than the Guinea baboon, of which examples have been described under at least two distinct names, and regarded as different species, though it is a well-ascertained fact that the common baboon belongs to one and the same species as the Guinea baboon.
The Guinea baboon is characterized by the uniformly reddish-brown color of its fur, which is washed with a yellowish tinge, more especially upon the head, shoulders, back, and limbs; the cheeks and throat being paler, and the whiskers fawn-colored. As in the chacma, the upper eyelids are white. The nose projects rather beyond the upper lip, but is somewhat less elongated than in the chacma, and has small swellings corresponding with those so enormously developed in the next species.
As its name indicates, it is an inhabitant of Guinea; and although, judging from the number of specimens that are imported into Europe, it must be common, there is no record of its habits and mode of life in a state of nature. Of those in a state of confinement there are, however, numerous accounts, the species being frequently carried about by itinerant showmen.