The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Shrew
Story Of The Tenrec
Story Of The Rabbit
Story Of The Chamois
Story Of The Duckbill
Story Of The Peccary
Story Of The Linsang
Story Of The Aard-vark
Story Of The Gorilla
Story Of The Weasel
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Story Of The Chamois
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The chamois is a strongly-built animal, with relatively long and stout limbs, and a very short stumpy tail; in height it stands about two feet at the withers. It is closely akin to the antelope.
The general notion is that the chamois is an essentially Alpine animal; that is, one frequenting the glaciers and snowy peaks above the forest-level. This, however, is a mistaken idea; the truth being that the chamois is really a forest-dwelling animal, and that moist individuals of the species live from year's end to year's end within the limits of the forest. A certain number during the summer always leave, however, the main flock, to take up their abode for a period of weeks or months among the glaciers and snow-fields above the upper limits of forests. These adventurous individuals are known to the hunters as glacier-chamois, in contradistinction to wood-chamois ; but a short spell of severe weather is sufficient to drive even these back to the shelter of the forests. The favorite haunts of the chamois are the western and north-western slopes of the Alps in summer ; while in the winter they prefer the spots with an easterly or southerly aspect.
Chamois associate together in herds of fifteen or twenty individuals. They repose during the night, but with the first glimmer of dawn commence feeding; towards the middle of the day they again seek the shelter of rocks or trees, where they lie in the shade till evening, when they once more issue forth to feed. Their chief food consists of lichens and the scanty mountain herbage. '
All who have seen chamois in their native haunts are agreed as to their extreme agility and wariness; and their sure-footedness has become proverbial. When alarmed, they utter a shrill whistling sound, which at once sets the whole flock in rapid motion. A chamois is able to stand on the summit of a pinnacle of rock with all its four feet gathered into a space of the size of a silver half dollar.
Their sight is very penetrating, and their sense of smelling and hearing is remarkably acute. When the wind blows in a proper direction, they are said to be able to scent a man at the distance of a mile or upwards. Their voice somewhat resembles that of a hoarse domestic goat; by means of this they are called together. When alarmed they adopt a different noise, and apprise each other by a kind of whistle. This the animal on watch continues as long as he can blow without taking breath ; it is at first sharp, but flat-tens toward the conclusion. He then stops for a moment, looks round on all sides, and begins whistling afresh, which he continues from time to time. This is done with such force that the rocks and forests re-echo the sound.
His agitation is extreme. He strikes the earth with his feet. He leaps upon the highest stones he can find, again looks around, leaps from one place to another, and when he discovers anything seriously alarming flies off. This whistling is performed through the nostrils, and consists of a strong blowing, similar to the sound which a man may make by fixing his tongue to the palate, with his teeth nearly shut, his lips open and somewhat extended, and blowing long, and with great force.
In appearance the chamois is an attractive animal. The whole body is covered with long hair, hanging down over the sides, of a deep-brown color in winter and brownish fawn-color in summer, being in spring slightly mixed with gray; the head is of a very pale yellow or straw-color, with a dark-brown band on each side, passing from the root of the ears to the corners of the mouth, and encircling the eyes and base of the horns; the tail is short and black, and the edges of the hips and interior of the thighs and ears alone white. The face is straight, as in the goat; the ears small, erect, and pointed; and the chin without a beard. In old individuals, particularly during the severe colds of winter, the cheeks, chin, and throat turn white, and the breast and belly are at all times of a light silvery brown or yellow. Underneath the external covering there is a short, thick coat of fine wool, which lies close to the skin, and protects the animal from the rigors of the cold mountain regions which it inhabits. The colors of both sexes are the same, but the females are rather smaller than the males, and have horns less abruptly hooked backward.
The food of the chamois consists of mountain herbs, flowers, and the tender shoots of trees and shrubs; it seldom drinks. Nothing can be more admirable than the agility with which it ascends and descends rocks apparently perpendicular. It does not descend at a single bound nor in a vertical direction, but projecting itself obliquely or diagonally forward, striking the face of the rock three or four times with its feet for the purpose of renewing its force, or directing it more steadily to the point it aims at.
The chamois is found in all the high mountain-chains of Europe and western Asia, in the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Carpathian and Grecian mountains, the chains of Caucasus and Tauras, and probably it exists in other situations.