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 Weasel
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
No one would think, on seeing a weasel for the first time, that the graceful, slender little animal, with its brown back, pretty, white throat, funny face, and sparkling eyes, was such a fierce, bloodthirsty creature. But that little head is full of murderous designs, and has the courage of a giant. Rats and mice are everywhere hunted out and destroyed by the weasel. It inflicts a bite on the head which pierces the brain, and seldom fails to lay the victim dead at its feet by one stroke.
The weasel is also a destroyer of newly-hatched chickens and young ducks, as well as of the smaller feathered tribe; and although it does good service in keeping down the mice, it is a had neighbor to the hare and rabbit-warren. It is a most active and persevering hunter; few trees will stop it when in search of birds' nests, which it robs, not only by sucking the eggs, but by carrying off the young.
The weasel is excessively useful to farmers on account of its unrelenting war on rats and mice, and in an incredibly short space of time it extirpates them from a barn or stack. It hunts by scent like dogs, and tracks the unfortunate rat with the most deadly certainty. It is so courageous that it will even attack men, and is by no means a despicable antagonist, as its instinct invariably leads it to dash at the throat, where a bite from its long sharp teeth is always dangerous.
The weasel's nest is composed of dry leaves and herbage, and is made in a hollow tree, dry ditch or hole in the side of a bank. If any one approaches the nest while the young are helpless, the mother and often the male will attack the intruder with great fury, showing courage to a, remarkable degree.
The pretty little South African weasel is worthy of mention, not only on account of its remarkable coloration, but also as being the sole representative of the weasels in Africa south of the Sahara. This species is distinguished from all the other weasels by having the ground-color of the fur black, with the upper part of the head and neck white, and four pale brownish white stripes running along the back; the tapering tail being white.
I have on several occasions witnessed this animal tantalize the lion and other large animals of South Africa. It has a shrill cry, and, secure in its nest among the rocks, it comes to the entrance and sets up a peculiar moan. Should a lion be within hearing he proceeds to investigate, and the moan is lessened until the lion believes himself about to find a victim. When he approaches quite near, the little creature retreats to a secure place but continues its cry. The lion after a vain search gives up the attempt.
The weasel is very often called "wormlike," and a better name could scarcely be applied to it, for anything more wormlike could hardly be imagined in a hairy quadruped or four-footed animal. The legs are extremely short in relation to the body, which is slender in the highest degree, and almost regularly cylindrical from one end to the other. Then the neck is of most disproportionate length, and carries the head out so far, that the forelegs appear as if placed quite at the hinder end of the chest, instead of in the front of it. The head passes gradually into the neck, and the neck into the body. The head is flattened, and bears little, glittering savage-looking eyes, and small rounded ears. The length from snout to root of tail does not exceed eight inches. The tail is about two inches long. The fur is light reddish-brown above, and white below; in northern latitudes the brown parts assume a much lighter color in winter, so that the weasel undergoes a change of coat similar to, but less extensive than that under-gone by the ermine.
The weasel is a good climber, and makes use of his skill in this accomplishment to prey upon birds, their eggs, and young. It will pursue its prey over fields, in trees, in subterranean burrows, or across water. Like many of the wild cats, it kills far more than is necessary for its support, and in pursuance of its favorite occupation of slaughter shows an unequaled courage and pertinacity. Its power of keeping its presence of mind under very trying circumstances is well shown in the following anecdote: While riding through a field one day I saw at a short distance a kite pounce on some object on the ground, and rise with it in his talons. In a few moments, how-ever, the kite began to show signs of great uneasiness, rising rapidly in the air, or as quickly falling, and wheeling irregularly round, whilst it was evidently endeavoring to force some obnoxious thing from it with its feet.
After a sharp but short contest, the kite fell suddenly to the earth, not far from where I was intently watching the manoeuvre. I instantly rode up to the spot, when a weasel ran away from the kite, apparently unhurt, leaving the bird dead, with a hole eaten through the skin tinder the wing, and the large blood-vessels of the part cut through.