These peculiarities of habit, by which the Vultures are strikingly contrasted not merely with the Eagles, but even with the smallest of the Falcon tribe, are the necessary result of their organisation. Their beak, it is true, is like that of the Eagles strongly curved at the point alone, and they also possess all the technical characters of the Rapacious Order; but their talons are far inferior, both in size and in the degree of their curvature, and they are consequently unable to grasp their prey with sufficient force to transport it through the air. Their diminished power of flight renders them incapable of soaring upwards to search abroad with piercing eye for the objects of their rapacity; and they are therefore left dependent upon the acute sensibility of their nostrils, which amply supplies the deficiency. Of the external characters which they exhibit the most remarkable is derived from the want of plumage on the head and neck, which are covered in the greater number of the species by nothing more than a sort of down or by short and smooth hairs. The object of this provision appears to be to enable them to bury as it were their heads in the carrion on which they feed, without exposing their plumage to be soiled by the filth which it might otherwise contract. Their eyes are placed on a level with their cheeks; their heads are rounded above; they have most frequently a ruff of considerable extent round the lower part of their necks; and their legs are usually bare of feathers and covered with large scales. Their very attitudes offer the most perfect contrast to those of the Eagles; the latter constantly maintaining a bold upright posture, with their wings closely pressed to their sides, and their tails elevated, while the Vultures on the contrary are always seen bending forwards in a crouching position, with their wings depressed and separated from their bodies, and their tails trailing upon the ground.
THE CHETAH, OR HUNTING LEOPARD.
The structure of the trunk is entirely muscular, and the fibres of which it is composed are arranged in such a manner that it is capable of being inflected in almost any direction; but to twist itself spirally inwards appears to be its most natural action. In this manner it will grasp with the utmost firmness, for its strength is fully equal to its flexibility, whatever it may seize; and it is by this means that the Elephant conveys his food to his mouth. Being purely herbivorous, but encumbered with a head and appendages so weighty as to require all the support to be derived from an excessively short and almost unyielding neck, it would be utterly impossible for him to browse upon the herbage from which his sustenance is chiefly derived, and he would consequently run no small risk of absolute starvation, were it not for this admirable provision, by means of which he collects and enfolds his food, and conveys it to his mouth with as much ease and precision as a Monkey would execute the same motions with his hands. In drinking too the trunk offers the same facilities and performs the same useful and necessary office. Placing its extremity in the fluid which he is about to drink, the Elephant pumps up, or rather inhales, a sufficient quantity to fill its cavities, and then transferring it to his mouth pours its contents quietly down his throat. When his thirst is satisfied he will frequently continue the same process of filling his trunk for the purpose of discharging the liquid contained in it over his body, an indulgence in which he appears to take no little pleasure; and will even sometimes amuse himself by directing the fluid to other objects.
Africa, as we have already observed, is truly the native country of the Lion; and in no part of that vast continent, we may add, does he attain greater size, or exhibit all his characteristic features in fuller and more complete developement, than in the immediate vicinity of the settlements which have been formed in the interior of its southern extremity by the Dutch and English colonists of the Cape. In speaking of the Bengal Lion, we have also pointed out the more striking characteristics by which the Asiatic race is distinguished from that of Southern Africa; consisting principally in the larger size, the more regular and graceful form, the generally darker colour, and the less extensive mane of the African. It remains, however, to be mentioned that, even in this latter race, there are two varieties, which have been long known to the settlers under the names of the Pale and the Black Lion, distinguished, as their appellations imply, by the lighter or darker colour of their coats, and more particularly of their manes. This variation, there can be little doubt, is entirely produced by the different character of the districts which they inhabit, and of the food which they are enabled to procure. The black Lion, as he is termed, is the larger and the more ferocious of the two, more frequently attacking man himself, if less noble prey should fail him; and sometimes measuring the enormous distance of eight feet from the tip of the nose to the origin of the tail, which is generally about half the length of the body. He is, however, of less frequent occurrence than the pale variety.
But of all the peculiarities by which the Elephant is distinguished, the most singular and at the same time the most useful is the projection which is formed by the blending and extension of the nose and upper lip into an elongated and tapering tube, considerably longer than the head, and truncated at the extremity, where it is surrounded by a slightly elevated margin, which is prolonged anteriorly and superiorly into a finger-like appendage of various and invaluable use. This trunk or proboscis, as it is called, is divided throughout its whole extent into two equal cavities, which are continuous with the nostrils, but appear to have no other connexion with the organ of smell than as being the medium of the passage of odours to the olfactory apparatus, which is confined within the bones of the head, and is indeed seated much higher than usual in consequence of the large space occupied by the roots of the tusks and by the cavities of the maxillary bones. The real uses of the trunk are far higher and more important; and it is to this unique and unexampled structure that the Elephant owes whatever superiority he possesses over other beasts. In general capacity he is inferior to most, and the intellectual qualities of a dog or a horse are unquestionably of a far more elevated order; but with the assistance of this curious organ, with some little sagacity, a tolerable memory, and a certain degree of docility, the Elephant is enabled to execute such a variety of actions, either of his own accord or at the command of his keeper, as have gained him the credit not only of being the cleverest of brutes, but of possessing qualities of a superior cast and even the divine gift of reason itself.