The Story Of Wild Animals:
Sacred Monkeys Of India.
Story Of The Antelope
Gnu, Or Wildebeest
Pala Or Roy-bock
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Story Of The Antelope
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
No animal in a wild state appeals more strongly to my sympathy than the antelope. I have spent hours watching these timid, harmless, large-eyed creatures, of which there are about seventy different species. The love of the mother doe for her fawn is so tender and gentle as to be almost human, and the absolute faith of the little creature in its mother is ideal.
Although they are so timid and flee at the first approach of danger, there are times when certain species of antelope exhibit a high order of courage. I was once an eye witness to an act of bravery on the part of an antelope, a South African gemsbok, that was equal to that of any animal I know. We were stalking a lion in Cape Colony, when we saw the big beast suddenly crouch in a thicket of wait-a-bit thorns, his gaze intently fixed upon some object at right angles to where we were lying. Looking in the same direction we saw a pair of gemsboks walking unsuspectingly toward the ambush. Just in front of the lion was a huge ant-hill, and toward it came the gemsboks, occasionally twitching their black tails; but that was to rid their flanks of flies and not from any fear of danger.
As the antelopes drew near the ant-hill, the lion drew back his head until it was nearly concealed under his black, shaggy mane. They could not have possibly seen him where he lay, nor he them, and he now appeared to trust to his ears to inform him of their approach.
He waited till both were opposite, and broadside toward him, at the distance of less than twenty paces from the hill. Then his tail was seen to vibrate with one or two quick jerks, his head shot suddenly forth, his body spread out apparently to twice its natural size, and the next moment he rose like a bird into the air.
With one bound he cleared the wide space that separated him from the nearest of the gemsboks, alighting on the hindquarters Of the terrified animal A single blow of his powerful paw brought the antelope to his haunches; and another, delivered almost at the same instant, stretched its body lifeless on the plain.
Without looking after the other, or seeming to care further about it, the lion sprang upon the body of his victim, and clutching its throat between its jaws, commenced drinking its warm blood.
It was the bull gemsbok which the lion pulled down, as this was the one that happened to be nearest the hill.
As the lion sprang upon her companion, the cow, of course, started with affright, and we supposed we would see her the next moment scouring off over the plain. To our astonishment she did no such thing. Such is not the nature of the noble oryx. On the contrary, as soon as she recovered from the first moments of alarm, she wheeled around toward the enemy-and, lowering her head to the very ground, so that her long horns projected horizontally in front, she rushed with all her strength upon the lion.
The latter, in full enjoyment of his red draught, saw nothing of this manoeuvre. The first intimation he had of it was to feel a pair of spears pierced through his ribs, and it is not likely he felt much more.
For some moments a confused struggle was observed, in which both lion and oryx seemed to take part; but the attitudes of both appeared so odd, and changed so rapidly, that we could not tell in what manner they were combating. In a few moments the roar of the lion ceased, and we knew that he was dead.
We had crawled closer to witness the result of the battle, and were now within easy range for a shot, One of my Kaffir boys raised his rifle and aimed at the gemsbok, but before he could pull a trigger, I held up my hand in warning.
"Don't shoot !" I exclaimed at the same time. "That gemsbok is entitled to her life, and as far as I am concerned she shall have it."
We needed venison, too, but I am sure I would not have enjoyed eating that noble heroine.
Antelopes are characterized by their graceful build, and by the head being carried considerably above the level of the back. The horns, which may or may not be present in the females, are generally long, more or less round. They are frequently marked with prominent rings, and have an upright direction. Their bony cores, instead of being honeycombed, as in the oxen, sheep, and goats, are nearly solid throughout. These animals very generally have a gland beneath the eye, by which they are distinguished from the oxen and goats; but, as regards their teeth, some of them resemble the oxen, while others are more like those of the sheep and goats.