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The Story Of Wild Animals:
 Story Of The Llama

 Story Of The Carpincho

 Story Of The Ant-eater

 Story Of The Ostrich

 Story Of The Lizard

 Story Of The Kangaroo

 Story Of The Hedgehog.

 Story Of The Wild Goat

 Story Of The Musquash

 Story Of The Wart-hog

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Story Of The Kangaroo

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

In the summer of the year 1770, when Captain Cook was refitting his vessel at the mouth of the Endeavour River in New South Wales, a party of his crew who had landed to procure food brought back reports of a strange animal of large size, which sat upright on its hind-limbs and tail, and progressed by a series of enormous leaps. Excitement among those on board was naturally raised to the highest pitch by this account especially as a naturalist, Sir Joseph Banks, was a member of the expedition and soon after a specimen of the animal in question was killed. This creature was the one we know by the name of the great gray kangaroo and was the first member of the family which came fully under European notice.

The name kangaroo is said to be of Australian origin, although it appears to be now unknown to the natives. The kangaroos are characterized by the great length and powerful development of the hind-limbs as compared with the front pair; and the enormous size of the tail, which is regularly tapering, and evenly covered with fur from end to end.

All the members of the kangaroo family are purely vegetable feeders, and are mainly confined to Australia and Tasmania.

From the general form and structure of the kangaroo, there can be little doubt that its chief progressive motion must be by leaps ; in these exertions it has been seen to exceed twenty feet at a time, and this so often repeated as almost to elude the swiftness of the fleetest greyhound ; and it is able with ease to bound over obstacles as much as nine feet or more in height.

Kangaroos have vast strength in their tail. This they occasionally use as a weapon of defense; for they are able to strike with it so violent a blow as even to break a man's leg. But this is not their only weapon, for, when hunted, as they sometimes are, with greyhounds, they use both their claws and teeth. On the hounds' seizing them they turn, and catching hold with the nails of the fore-paws, strike the dog with the claws of their hind feet, and sometimes lacerate his body in a shocking manner.

The kangaroo generally feeds standing on its four feet, in the manner of other quadrupeds, and it drinks by lapping. In a state of captivity it has a trick of sometimes springing forward, and kicking, in a forcible manner, with its hind-feet, during which action it rests or props itself on the base of its tail.

The female seldom produces more than one young at a birth, and so exceedingly diminutive is this that it scarcely exceeds an inch in length, and weighs but twenty-one grains. It is received into the abdominal pouch of the mother. At this period of its growth its fore-paws are comparatively large and strong, and the claws extremely distinct, to facilitate its motion during its residence in its mother's pouch. The hind legs, which are afterwards to become very bony and stout, are then shorter and smaller than the others.

The young one continues to reside in the pouch till it has nearly attained maturity. It occasionally creeps out for exercise or amusement, and even after it has quitted this retreat it often returns to it for shelter on the least indication of danger. When they feed in herds of thirty and forty together, as they sometimes do, one of the herd is generally stationed as a guard at a distance from the rest. Their eyes are furnished with winking membranes, capable of being extended at pleasure over the ball.

In the dense tropical forests of New Guinea and the north of Queensland are found tree-kangaroos; and it is evident that these are specially modified types which have taken to this mode of life, and are in no way connected with the ancestral forms of the family. The tree-kangaroos are easily recognized by the general proportions of the two pairs of limbs to the body being normal; the length of the front pair being only slightly less than that of the hinder. The tail is very long, and thickly furred. Comparatively little is known of any of the species in their native haunts ; although it appears that they spend most of their time in the trees. Dr. Guillemard, who had two of these animals alive on board ship, which he had captured in New Guinea, writes that the tree-kangaroo "is as yet a tyro in the art of climbing, performing this operation in the slowest and most awkward manner. Our pets, for instance, would take a full minute or more in ascending the back of a chair, but their hold is most secure; and if we wished to pull them off, we had considerable difficulty in doing so, so tightly do they cling."

The natural walking position of this animal is on all four legs, although it constantly sits up on the hinder legs, or even stands on a tripod composed of its feet and tail, in order to look out over the tops of the luxuriant grass among which it lives. The leaping movements are required for haste or escape, the length of each leap being about fifteen feet.

Of course this swiftness would soon leave its pursuers behind, but the Australian is able to break one of its limbs, or strike it insensible to the ground with his boomerang, the most wonderful weapon that uncivilized man ever produced. This extraordinary missile is a flat, curved piece of wood, which the Australian natives can wield with wonderful skill, making it describe circles m the air, or rush at an object, and then return to its owner's feet; or throw it at the ground and make it leap over a tree and strike an object at the other side.

Hunting this animal is a very favorite sport with both colonists and natives. The latter either knock it down with the boomerang, spear it from be-hind a bush, or unite together and hem in a herd, which soon fall victims to the volleys of clubs, spears and boomerangs which pour in on all sides.

The colonists either shoot it or hunt it with dogs, a pack of which is trained for that purpose, just as fox-hounds are taught in England.

The "old man," or "boomer," as the colonists call the great kangaroo, in-variably leads the dogs a severe chase, always attempting to reach water and escape by swimming. It is a formidable foe to the dogs when it stands at bay, as it seizes the dog with its fore-legs, and either holds him under water until he is drowned, or tears him open with a well-directed kick of its powerful hind-feet, which are armed with a very sharp claw.

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