The Voyage of the Beagle
Charles Darwin

Part 3 out of 11

Among the Patagonian Indians in the Strait of Magellan,
we found a half Indian, who had lived some years with
the tribe, but had been born in the northern provinces. I
asked him if he had ever heard of the Avestruz Petise? He
answered by saying, "Why, there are none others in these
southern countries." He informed me that the number of
eggs in the nest of the petise is considerably less than in that
of the other kind, namely, not more than fifteen on an average,
but he asserted that more than one female deposited
them. At Santa Cruz we saw several of these birds. They
were excessively wary: I think they could see a person
approaching when too far off to be distinguished themselves.
In ascending the river few were seen; but in our quiet and
rapid descent, many, in pairs and by fours or fives, were
observed. It was remarked that this bird did not expand
its wings, when first starting at full speed, after the manner
of the northern kind. In conclusion I may observe, that
the Struthio rhea inhabits the country of La Plata as far
as a little south of the Rio Negro in lat. 41 degs., and that
the Struthio Darwinii takes its place in Southern Patagonia;
the part about the Rio Negro being neutral territory. M.
A. d'Orbigny, [16] when at the Rio Negro, made great exertions
to procure this bird, but never had the good fortune to
succeed. Dobrizhoffer [17] long ago was aware of there being
two kinds of ostriches, he says, "You must know, moreover,
that Emus differ in size and habits in different tracts
of land; for those that inhabit the plains of Buenos Ayres
and Tucuman are larger, and have black, white and grey
feathers; those near to the Strait of Magellan are smaller
and more beautiful, for their white feathers are tipped with
black at the extremity, and their black ones in like manner
terminate in white."

A very singular little bird, Tinochorus rumicivorus, is
here common: in its habits and general appearance, it nearly
equally partakes of the characters, different as they are, of
the quail and snipe. The Tinochorus is found in the whole
of southern South America, wherever there are sterile plains,
or open dry pasture land. It frequents in pairs or small
flocks the most desolate places, where scarcely another living
creature can exist. Upon being approached they squat close,
and then are very difficult to be distinguished from the
ground. When feeding they walk rather slowly, with their
legs wide apart. They dust themselves in roads and sandy
places, and frequent particular spots, where they may be
found day after day: like partridges, they take wing in a
flock. In all these respects, in the muscular gizzard adapted
for vegetable food, in the arched beak and fleshy nostrils,
short legs and form of foot, the Tinochorus has a close affinity
with quails. But as soon as the bird is seen flying, its
whole appearance changes; the long pointed wings, so different
from those in the gallinaceous order, the irregular
manner of flight, and plaintive cry uttered at the moment
of rising, recall the idea of a snipe. The sportsmen of the
Beagle unanimously called it the short-billed snipe. To this
genus, or rather to the family of the Waders, its skeleton
shows that it is really related.

The Tinochorus is closely related to some other South
American birds. Two species of the genus Attagis are in
almost every respect ptarmigans in their habits; one lives
in Tierra del Fuego, above the limits of the forest land; and
the other just beneath the snow-line on the Cordillera of
Central Chile. A bird of another closely allied genus, Chionis
alba, is an inhabitant of the antarctic regions; it feeds
on sea-weed and shells on the tidal rocks. Although not
web footed, from some unaccountable habit, it is frequently
met with far out at sea. This small family of birds is one
of those which, from its varied relations to other families,
although at present offering only difficulties to the systematic
naturalist, ultimately may assist in revealing the
grand scheme, common to the present and past ages, on
which organized beings have been created.

The genus Furnarius contains several species, all small
birds, living on the ground, and inhabiting open dry countries.
In structure they cannot be compared to any European
form. Ornithologists have generally included them
among the creepers, although opposed to that family in every
habit. The best known species is the common oven-bird of
La Plata, the Casara or housemaker of the Spaniards. The
nest, whence it takes its name, is placed in the most exposed
situations, as on the top of a post, a bare rock, or on
a cactus. It is composed of mud and bits of straw, and has
strong thick walls: in shape it precisely resembles an oven,
or depressed beehive. The opening is large and arched,
and directly in front, within the nest, there is a partition,
which reaches nearly to the roof, thus forming a passage
or antechamber to the true nest.

Another and smaller species of Furnarius (F. cunicularius),
resembles the oven-bird in the general reddish tint
of its plumage, in a peculiar shrill reiterated cry, and in an
odd manner of running by starts. From its affinity, the
Spaniards call it Casarita (or little housebuilder), although
its nidification is quite different. The Casarita builds its
nest at the bottom of a narrow cylindrical hole, which is
said to extend horizontally to nearly six feet under ground.
Several of the country people told me, that when boys, they
had attempted to dig out the nest, but had scarcely ever
succeeded in getting to the end of the passage. The bird
chooses any low bank of firm sandy soil by the side of a
road or stream. Here (at Bahia Blanca) the walls round
the houses are built of hardened mud, and I noticed that
one, which enclosed a courtyard where I lodged, was bored
through by round holes in a score of places. On asking the
owner the cause of this he bitterly complained of the little
casarita, several of which I afterwards observed at work.
It is rather curious to find how incapable these birds must
be of acquiring any notion of thickness, for although they
were constantly flitting over the low wall, they continued
vainly to bore through it, thinking it an excellent bank for
their nests. I do not doubt that each bird, as often as it
came to daylight on the opposite side, was greatly surprised
at the marvellous fact.

I have already mentioned nearly all the mammalia common
in this country. Of armadilloes three species occur
namely, the Dasypus minutus or _pichy_, the D. villosus or
_peludo_, and the _apar_. The first extends ten degrees further
south than any other kind; a fourth species, the _Mulita_,
does not come as far south as Bahia Blanca. The four species
have nearly similar habits; the _peludo_, however, is nocturnal,
while the others wander by day over the open plains,
feeding on beetles, larvae, roots, and even small snakes. The
_apar_, commonly called _mataco_, is remarkable by having only
three moveable bands; the rest of its tesselated covering
being nearly inflexible. It has the power of rolling itself
into a perfect sphere, like one kind of English woodlouse.
In this state it is safe from the attack of dogs; for the dog
not being able to take the whole in its mouth, tries to bite
one side, and the ball slips away. The smooth hard covering
of the _mataco_ offers a better defence than the sharp
spines of the hedgehog. The _pichy_ prefers a very dry soil;
and the sand-dunes near the coast, where for many months
it can never taste water, is its favourite resort: it often tries
to escape notice, by squatting close to the ground. In the
course of a day's ride, near Bahia Blanca, several were generally
met with. The instant one was perceived, it was
necessary, in order to catch it, almost to tumble off one's
horse; for in soft soil the animal burrowed so quickly, that
its hinder quarters would almost disappear before one could
alight. It seems almost a pity to kill such nice little animals,
for as a Gaucho said, while sharpening his knife on
the back of one, "Son tan mansos" (they are so quiet).

Of reptiles there are many kinds: one snake (a Trigonocephalus,
or Cophias [18]), from the size of the poison channel
in its fangs, must be very deadly. Cuvier, in opposition to
some other naturalists, makes this a sub-genus of the rattlesnake,
and intermediate between it and the viper. In confirmation
of this opinion, I observed a fact, which appears
to me very curious and instructive, as showing how every
character, even though it may be in some degree independent
of structure, has a tendency to vary by slow degrees.
The extremity of the tail of this snake is terminated by a
point, which is very slightly enlarged; and as the animal
glides along, it constantly vibrates the last inch; and this
part striking against the dry grass and brushwood, produces
a rattling noise, which can be distinctly heard at the distance
of six feet. As often as the animal was irritated or
surprised, its tail was shaken; and the vibrations were extremely
rapid. Even as long as the body retained its irritability,
a tendency to this habitual movement was evident.
This Trigonocephalus has, therefore, in some respects the
structure of a viper, with the habits of a rattlesnake: the
noise, however, being produced by a simpler device. The
expression of this snake's face was hideous and fierce; the
pupil consisted of a vertical slit in a mottled and coppery
iris; the jaws were broad at the base, and the nose terminated
in a triangular projection. I do not think I ever saw
anything more ugly, excepting, perhaps, some of the vampire
bats. I imagine this repulsive aspect originates from
the features being placed in positions, with respect to each
other, somewhat proportional to those of the human face;
and thus we obtain a scale of hideousness.

Amongst the Batrachian reptiles, I found only one little
toad (Phryniscus nigricans), which was most singular from
its colour. If we imagine, first, that it had been steeped in
the blackest ink, and then, when dry, allowed to crawl over
a board, freshly painted with the brightest vermilion, so
as to colour the soles of its feet and parts of its stomach, a
good idea of its appearance will be gained. If it had been
an unnamed species, surely it ought to have been called
_Diabolicus_, for it is a fit toad to preach in the ear of Eve.
Instead of being nocturnal in its habits, as other toads are,
and living in damp obscure recesses, it crawls during the heat
of the day about the dry sand-hillocks and arid plains, where
not a single drop of water can be found. It must necessarily
depend on the dew for its moisture; and this probably is
absorbed by the skin, for it is known, that these reptiles possess
great powers of cutaneous absorption. At Maldonado,
I found one in a situation nearly as dry as at Bahia Blanca,
and thinking to give it a great treat, carried it to a pool of
water; not only was the little animal unable to swim, but
I think without help it would soon have been drowned.
Of lizards there were many kinds, but only one (Proctotretus
multimaculatus) remarkable from its habits. It
lives on the bare sand near the sea coast, and from its mottled
colour, the brownish scales being speckled with white,
yellowish red, and dirty blue, can hardly be distinguished
from the surrounding surface. When frightened, it attempts
to avoid discovery by feigning death, with outstretched
legs, depressed body, and closed eyes: if further
molested, it buries itself with great quickness in the loose
sand. This lizard, from its flattened body and short legs,
cannot run quickly.

I will here add a few remarks on the hybernation of animals
in this part of South America. When we first arrived
at Bahia Blanca, September 7th, 1832, we thought nature
had granted scarcely a living creature to this sandy and dry
country. By digging, however, in the ground, several insects,
large spiders, and lizards were found in a half-torpid
state. On the 15th, a few animals began to appear, and by
the 18th (three days from the equinox), everything announced
the commencement of spring. The plains were ornamented
by the flowers of a pink wood-sorrel, wild peas,
cenotherae, and geraniums; and the birds began to lay their
eggs. Numerous Lamellicorn and Heteromerous insects, the
latter remarkable for their deeply sculptured bodies, were
slowly crawling about; while the lizard tribe, the constant
inhabitants of a sandy soil, darted about in every direction.
During the first eleven days, whilst nature was dormant, the
mean temperature taken from observations made every two
hours on board the Beagle, was 51 degs.; and in the middle of
the day the thermometer seldom ranged above 55 degs. On the
eleven succeeding days, in which all living things became so
animated, the mean was 58 degs., and the range in the middle
of the day 7 between 60 and 70 degs. Here, then, an
increase of seven degrees in mean temperature, but a greater one
of extreme heat, was sufficient to awake the functions of life.
At Monte Video, from which we had just before sailed, in
the twenty-three days included between the 26th of July
and the 19th of August, the mean temperature from 276
observations was 58.4 degs.; the mean hottest day being
65.5 degs., and the coldest 46 degs. The lowest point to
which the thermometer fell was 41.5 degs., and occasionally
in the middle of the day it rose to 69 or 70 degs.
Yet with this high temperature, almost every beetle, several
genera of spiders, snails, and land-shells, toads and
lizards were all lying torpid beneath stones. But
we have seen that at Bahia Blanca, which is four degrees
southward and therefore with a climate only a very little
colder, this same temperature with a rather less extreme
heat, was sufficient to awake all orders of animated beings.
This shows how nicely the stimulus required to arouse hybernating
animals is governed by the usual climate of the
district, and not by the absolute heat. It is well known that
within the tropics, the hybernation, or more properly aestivation,
of animals is determined not by the temperature, but
by the times of drought. Near Rio de Janeiro, I was at first
surprised to observe, that, a few days after some little
depressions had been filled with water, they were peopled by
numerous full-grown shells and beetles, which must have
been lying dormant. Humboldt has related the strange accident
of a hovel having been erected over a spot where a
young crocodile lay buried in the hardened mud. He adds,
"The Indians often find enormous boas, which they call Uji
or water serpents, in the same lethargic state. To reanimate
them, they must be irritated or wetted with water."

I will only mention one other animal, a zoophyte (I believe
Virgularia Patagonica), a kind of sea-pen. It consists
of a thin, straight, fleshy stem, with alternate rows of polypi
on each side, and surrounding an elastic stony axis, varying
in length from eight inches to two feet. The stem at one
extremity is truncate, but at the other is terminated by a
vermiform fleshy appendage. The stony axis which gives
strength to the stem may be traced at this extremity into a
mere vessel filled with granular matter. At low water hundreds
of these zoophytes might be seen, projecting like stubble,
with the truncate end upwards, a few inches above the
surface of the muddy sand. When touched or pulled they
suddenly drew themselves in with force, so as nearly or quite
to disappear. By this action, the highly elastic axis must
be bent at the lower extremity, where it is naturally slightly
curved; and I imagine it is by this elasticity alone that the
zoophyte is enabled to rise again through the mud. Each
polypus, though closely united to its brethren, has a distinct
mouth, body, and tentacula. Of these polypi, in a large
specimen, there must be many thousands; yet we see that
they act by one movement: they have also one central axis
connected with a system of obscure circulation, and the ova
are produced in an organ distinct from the separate
individuals. [19] Well may one be allowed to ask, what is an
individual? It is always interesting to discover the foundation
of the strange tales of the old voyagers; and I have no doubt
but that the habits of this Virgularia explain one such case.
Captain Lancaster, in his voyage [20] in 1601, narrates that on
the sea-sands of the Island of Sombrero, in the East Indies,
he "found a small twig growing up like a young tree, and
on offering to pluck it up it shrinks down to the ground,
and sinks, unless held very hard. On being plucked up, a
great worm is found to be its root, and as the tree groweth
in greatness, so doth the worm diminish, and as soon as the
worm is entirely turned into a tree it rooteth in the earth,
and so becomes great. This transformation is one of the
strangest wonders that I saw in all my travels: for if this
tree is plucked up, while young, and the leaves and bark
stripped off, it becomes a hard stone when dry, much like
white coral: thus is this worm twice transformed into
different natures. Of these we gathered and brought home

During my stay at Bahia Blanca, while waiting for the
Beagle, the place was in a constant state of excitement, from
rumours of wars and victories, between the troops of Rosas
and the wild Indians. One day an account came that a small
party forming one of the postas on the line to Buenos Ayres,
had been found all murdered. The next day three hundred
men arrived from the Colorado, under the command of Commandant
Miranda. A large portion of these men were Indians
(mansos, or tame), belonging to the tribe of the Cacique
Bernantio. They passed the night here; and it was
impossible to conceive anything more wild and savage than
the scene of their bivouac. Some drank till they were
intoxicated; others swallowed the steaming blood of the
cattle slaughtered for their suppers, and then, being sick
from drunkenness, they cast it up again, and were besmeared
with filth and gore.

Nam simul expletus dapibus, vinoque sepultus
Cervicem inflexam posuit, jacuitque per antrum
Immensus, saniem eructans, ac frusta cruenta
Per somnum commixta mero.

In the morning they started for the scene of the murder,
with orders to follow the "rastro," or track, even if it led
them to Chile. We subsequently heard that the wild Indians
had escaped into the great Pampas, and from some
cause the track had been missed. One glance at the rastro
tells these people a whole history. Supposing they examine
the track of a thousand horses, they will soon guess the number
of mounted ones by seeing how many have cantered; by
the depth of the other impressions, whether any horses were
loaded with cargoes; by the irregularity of the footsteps,
how far tired; by the manner in which the food has been
cooked, whether the pursued travelled in haste; by the general
appearance, how long it has been since they passed.
They consider a rastro of ten days or a fortnight, quite
recent enough to be hunted out. We also heard that Miranda
struck from the west end of the Sierra Ventana, in a direct
line to the island of Cholechel, situated seventy leagues up
the Rio Negro. This is a distance of between two and three
hundred miles, through a country completely unknown.
What other troops in the world are so independent? With
the sun for their guide, mare's flesh for food, their saddle-
cloths for beds, -- as long as there is a little water, these
men would penetrate to the end of the world.

A few days afterwards I saw another troop of these banditti-like
soldiers start on an expedition against a tribe of
Indians at the small Salinas, who had been betrayed by a
prisoner cacique. The Spaniard who brought the orders
for this expedition was a very intelligent man. He gave
me an account of the last engagement at which he was present.
Some Indians, who had been taken prisoners, gave
information of a tribe living north of the Colorado. Two
hundred soldiers were sent; and they first discovered the
Indians by a cloud of dust from their horses' feet, as they
chanced to be travelling. The country was mountainous and
wild, and it must have been far in the interior, for the
Cordillera were in sight. The Indians, men, women, and children,
were about one hundred and ten in number, and they
were nearly all taken or killed, for the soldiers sabre every
man. The Indians are now so terrified that they offer no
resistance in a body, but each flies, neglecting even his wife
and children; but when overtaken, like wild animals, they
fight against any number to the last moment. One dying Indian
seized with his teeth the thumb of his adversary, and
allowed his own eye to be forced out sooner than relinquish
his hold. Another, who was wounded, feigned death, keeping
a knife ready to strike one more fatal blow. My informer
said, when he was pursuing an Indian, the man cried out
for mercy, at the same time that he was covertly loosing the
bolas from his waist, meaning to whirl it round his head and
so strike his pursuer. "I however struck him with my sabre
to the ground, and then got off my horse, and cut his throat
with my knife." This is a dark picture; but how much more
shocking is the unquestionable fact, that all the women who
appear above twenty years old are massacred in cold blood!
When I exclaimed that this appeared rather inhuman, he
answered, "Why, what can be done? they breed so!"

Every one here is fully convinced that this is the most
just war, because it is against barbarians. Who would
believe in this age that such atrocities could be committed in
a Christian civilized country? The children of the Indians
are saved, to be sold or given away as servants, or rather
slaves for as long a time as the owners can make them
believe themselves slaves; but I believe in their treatment
there is little to complain of.

In the battle four men ran away together. They were
pursued, one was killed, and the other three were taken alive.
They turned out to be messengers or ambassadors from a
large body of Indians, united in the common cause of
defence, near the Cordillera. The tribe to which they had
been sent was on the point of holding a grand council, the
feast of mare's flesh was ready, and the dance prepared: in
the morning the ambassadors were to have returned to the
Cordillera. They were remarkably fine men, very fair, above
six feet high, and all under thirty years of age. The three
survivors of course possessed very valuable information and
to extort this they were placed in a line. The two first being
questioned, answered, "No se" (I do not know), and were
one after the other shot. The third also said "No se;" adding,
"Fire, I am a man, and can die!" Not one syllable
would they breathe to injure the united cause of their country!
The conduct of the above-mentioned cacique was very
different; he saved his life by betraying the intended plan
of warfare, and the point of union in the Andes. It was
believed that there were already six or seven hundred Indians
together, and that in summer their numbers would be
doubled. Ambassadors were to have been sent to the Indians
at the small Salinas, near Bahia Blanca, whom I have mentioned
that this same cacique had betrayed. The communication,
therefore, between the Indians, extends from the
Cordillera to the coast of the Atlantic.

General Rosas's plan is to kill all stragglers, and having
driven the remainder to a common point, to attack them in
a body, in the summer, with the assistance of the Chilenos.
This operation is to be repeated for three successive years.
I imagine the summer is chosen as the time for the main
attack, because the plains are then without water, and the
Indians can only travel in particular directions. The escape
of the Indians to the south of the Rio Negro, where in such
a vast unknown country they would be safe, is prevented by
a treaty with the Tehuelches to this effect; -- that Rosas pays
them so much to slaughter every Indian who passes to the
south of the river, but if they fail in so doing, they
themselves are to be exterminated. The war is waged chiefly
against the Indians near the Cordillera; for many of the
tribes on this eastern side are fighting with Rosas. The
general, however, like Lord Chesterfield, thinking that his
friends may in a future day become his enemies, always
places them in the front ranks, so that their numbers may
be thinned. Since leaving South America we have heard
that this war of extermination completely failed.

Among the captive girls taken in the same engagement,
there were two very pretty Spanish ones, who had been carried
away by the Indians when young, and could now only
speak the Indian tongue. From their account they must
have come from Salta, a distance in a straight line of nearly
one thousand miles. This gives one a grand idea of the
immense territory over which the Indians roam: yet, great
as it is, I think there will not, in another half-century, be
a wild Indian northward of the Rio Negro. The warfare
is too bloody to last; the Christians killing every Indian,
and the Indians doing the same by the Christians. It is
melancholy to trace how the Indians have given way before
the Spanish invaders. Schirdel [21] says that in 1535, when
Buenos Ayres was founded, there were villages containing
two and three thousand inhabitants. Even in Falconer's
time (1750) the Indians made inroads as far as Luxan,
Areco, and Arrecife, but now they are driven beyond the
Salado. Not only have whole tribes been exterminated, but
the remaining Indians have become more barbarous: instead
of living in large villages, and being employed in the arts of
fishing, as well as of the chase, they now wander about the
open plains, without home or fixed occupation.

I heard also some account of an engagement which took
place, a few weeks previously to the one mentioned, at
Cholechel. This is a very important station on account of
being a pass for horses; and it was, in consequence, for
some time the head-quarters of a division of the army.
When the troops first arrived there they found a tribe of
Indians, of whom they killed twenty or thirty. The cacique
escaped in a manner which astonished every one. The chief
Indians always have one or two picked horses, which they
keep ready for any urgent occasion. On one of these, an old
white horse, the cacique sprung, taking with him his little
son. The horse had neither saddle nor bridle. To avoid the
shots, the Indian rode in the peculiar method of his nation
namely, with an arm round the horse's neck, and one leg
only on its back. Thus hanging on one side, he was seen
patting the horse's head, and talking to him. The pursuers
urged every effort in the chase; the Commandant three
times changed his horse, but all in vain. The old Indian
father and his son escaped, and were free. What a fine picture
one can form in one's mind, -- the naked, bronze-like
figure of the old man with his little boy, riding like a
Mazeppa on the white horse, thus leaving far behind him the
host of his pursuers!

I saw one day a soldier striking fire with a piece of flint,
which I immediately recognised as having been a part of the
head of an arrow. He told me it was found near the island
of Cholechel, and that they are frequently picked up there.
It was between two and three inches long, and therefore
twice as large as those now used in Tierra del Fuego: it was
made of opaque cream-coloured flint, but the point and barbs
had been intentionally broken off. It is well known that no
Pampas Indians now use bows and arrows. I believe a small
tribe in Banda Oriental must be excepted; but they are
widely separated from the Pampas Indians, and border close
on those tribes that inhabit the forest, and live on foot. It
appears, therefore, that these arrow-heads are antiquarian [22]
relics of the Indians, before the great change in habits
consequent on the introduction of the horse into South

[1] Since this was written, M. Alcide d'Orbingy has examined
these shells, and pronounces them all to be recent.

[2] M. Aug. Bravard has described, in a Spanish work
('Observaciones Geologicas,' 1857), this district, and he
believes that the bones of the extinct mammals were washed
out of the underlying Pampean deposit, and subsequently became
embedded with the still existing shells; but I am not convinced
by his remarks. M. Bravard believes that the whole enormous
Pampean deposit is a sub-aerial formation, like sand-dunes: this
seems to me to be an untenable doctrine.

[3] Principles of Geology, vol. iv. p. 40.

[4] This theory was first developed in the Zoology of the
Voyage of the Beagle, and subsequently in Professor Owen's
Memoir on Mylodon robustus.

[5] I mean this to exclude the total amount which may have been
successively produced and consumed during a given period.

[6] Travels in the Interior of South Africa, vol. ii. p. 207

[7] The elephant which was killed at Exeter Change was
estimated (being partly weighed) at five tons and a half.
The elephant actress, as I was informed, weighed one ton less;
so that we may take five as the average of a full-grown
elephant. I was told at the Surry Gardens, that a hippopotamus
which was sent to England cut up into pieces was estimated at
three tons and a half; we will call it three. From these
premises we may give three tons and a half to each of the five
rhinoceroses; perhaps a ton to the giraffe, and half to the
bos caffer as well as to the elan (a large ox weighs from
1200 to 1500 pounds). This will give an average (from the above
estimates) of 2.7 of a ton for the ten largest herbivorous
animals of Southern Africa. In South America, allowing 1200
pounds for the two tapirs together, 550 for the guanaco and
vicuna, 500 for three deer, 300 for the capybara, peccari, and
a monkey, we shall have an average of 250 pounds, which I
believe is overstating the result. The ratio will therefore
be as 6048 to 250, or 24 to 1, for the ten largest animals
from the two continents.

[8] If we suppose the case of the discovery of a skeleton of
a Greenland whale in a fossil state, not a single cetaceous
animal being known to exist, what naturalist would have ventured
conjecture on the possibility of a carcass so gigantic being
supported on the minute crustacea and mollusca living in the
frozen seas of the extreme North?

[9] See Zoological Remarks to Capt. Back's Expedition, by Dr.
Richardson. He says, "The subsoil north of latitude 56 degs.
is perpetually frozen, the thaw on the coast not penetrating
above three feet, and at Bear Lake, in latitude 64 degs., not
more than twenty inches. The frozen substratum does not of
itself destroy vegetation, for forests flourish on the surface,
at a distance from the coast."

[10] See Humboldt, Fragments Asiatiques, p. 386: Barton's
Geography of Plants: and Malte Brun. In the latter work it is
said that the limit of the growth of trees in Siberia may be
drawn under the parallel of 70 degs.

[11] Sturt's Travels, vol. ii. p. 74.

[12] A Gaucho assured me that he had once seen a snow-white or
Albino variety, and that it was a most beautiful bird.

[13] Burchell's Travels, vol. i. p. 280.

[14] Azara, vol. iv. p. 173.

[15] Lichtenstein, however, asserts (Travels, vol. ii. p. 25)
that the hens begin sitting when they have laid ten or twelve
eggs; and that they continue laying, I presume, in another
nest. This appears to me very improbable. He asserts that four
or five hens associate for incubation with one cock, who sits
only at night.

[16] When at the Rio Negro, we heard much of the indefatigable
labours of this naturalist. M. Alcide d'Orbigny, during the
years 1825 to 1833, traversed several large portions of South
America, and has made a collection, and is now publishing the
results on a scale of magnificence, which at once places himself
in the list of American travellers second only to Humboldt.

[17] Account of the Abipones, A.D. 1749, vol. i. (English
Translation) p. 314

[18] M. Bibron calls it T. crepitans.

[19] The cavities leading from the fleshy compartments of
the extremity, were filled with a yellow pulpy matter, which,
examined under a microscope, presented an extraordinary
appearance. The mass consisted of rounded, semi-transparent,
irregular grains, aggregated together into particles of
various sizes. All such particles, and the separate grains,
possessed the power of rapid movement; generally revolving
around different axes, but sometimes progressive. The movement
was visible with a very weak power, but even with the highest
its cause could not be perceived. It was very different from
the circulation of the fluid in the elastic bag, containing
the thin extremity of the axis. On other occasions, when
dissecting small marine animals beneath the microscope, I have
seen particles of pulpy matter, some of large size, as soon as
they were disengaged, commence revolving. I have imagined, I know
not with how much truth, that this granulo-pulpy matter was in
process of being converted into ova. Certainly in this zoophyte
such appeared to be the case.

[20] Kerr's Collection of Voyages, vol. viii. p. 119.

[21] Purchas's Collection of Voyages. I believe the date was
really 1537.

[22] Azara has even doubted whether the Pampas Indians ever
used bows.



Set out for Buenos Ayres -- Rio Sauce -- Sierra Ventana --
Third Posta -- Driving Horses -- Bolas -- Partridges and
Foxes -- Features of the Country -- Long-legged Plover --
Teru-tero -- Hail-storm -- Natural Enclosures in the Sierra
Tapalguen -- Flesh of Puma -- Meat Diet -- Guardia del
Monte -- Effects of Cattle on the Vegetation -- Cardoon --
Buenos Ayres -- Corral where Cattle are Slaughtered.

SEPTEMBER 18th. -- I hired a Gaucho to accompany me
on my ride to Buenos Ayres, though with some difficulty,
as the father of one man was afraid to let him
go, and another, who seemed willing, was described to me
as so fearful, that I was afraid to take him, for I was told
that even if he saw an ostrich at a distance, he would mistake
it for an Indian, and would fly like the wind away.
The distance to Buenos Ayres is about four hundred miles,
and nearly the whole way through an uninhabited country.
We started early in the morning; ascending a few hundred
feet from the basin of green turf on which Bahia Blanca
stands, we entered on a wide desolate plain. It consists of
a crumbling argillaceo-calcareous rock, which, from the dry
nature of the climate, supports only scattered tufts of withered
grass, without a single bush or tree to break the monotonous
uniformity. The weather was fine, but the atmosphere
remarkably hazy; I thought the appearance foreboded
a gale, but the Gauchos said it was owing to the plain, at
some great distance in the interior, being on fire. After a
long gallop, having changed horses twice, we reached the Rio
Sauce: it is a deep, rapid, little stream, not above twenty-five
feet wide. The second posta on the road to Buenos Ayres
stands on its banks, a little above there is a ford for horses,
where the water does not reach to the horses' belly; but from
that point, in its course to the sea, it is quite impassable,
and hence makes a most useful barrier against the Indians.

Insignificant as this stream is, the Jesuit Falconer, whose
information is generally so very correct, figures it as a
considerable river, rising at the foot of the Cordillera. With
respect to its source, I do not doubt that this is the case
for the Gauchos assured me, that in the middle of the dry
summer, this stream, at the same time with the Colorado
has periodical floods; which can only originate in the snow
melting on the Andes. It is extremely improbable that a
stream so small as the Sauce then was, should traverse the
entire width of the continent; and indeed, if it were the
residue of a large river, its waters, as in other ascertained
cases, would be saline. During the winter we must look to
the springs round the Sierra Ventana as the source of its
pure and limpid stream. I suspect the plains of Patagonia
like those of Australia, are traversed by many water-courses
which only perform their proper parts at certain periods.
Probably this is the case with the water which flows into the
head of Port Desire, and likewise with the Rio Chupat, on
the banks of which masses of highly cellular scoriae were
found by the officers employed in the survey.

As it was early in the afternoon when we arrived, we
took fresh horses, and a soldier for a guide, and started for
the Sierra de la Ventana. This mountain is visible from
the anchorage at Bahia Blanca; and Capt. Fitz Roy calculates
its height to be 3340 feet -- an altitude very remarkable
on this eastern side of the continent. I am not aware
that any foreigner, previous to my visit, had ascended this
mountain; and indeed very few of the soldiers at Bahia
Blanca knew anything about it. Hence we heard of beds
of coal, of gold and silver, of caves, and of forests, all of
which inflamed my curiosity, only to disappoint it. The
distance from the posta was about six leagues over a level
plain of the same character as before. The ride was, however,
interesting, as the mountain began to show its true
form. When we reached the foot of the main ridge, we had
much difficulty in finding any water, and we thought we
should have been obliged to have passed the night without
any. At last we discovered some by looking close to the
mountain, for at the distance even of a few hundred yards
the streamlets were buried and entirely lost in the friable
calcareous stone and loose detritus. I do not think Nature
ever made a more solitary, desolate pile of rock; -- it well
deserves its name of _Hurtado_, or separated. The mountain
is steep, extremely rugged, and broken, and so entirely destitute
of trees, and even bushes, that we actually could not
make a skewer to stretch out our meat over the fire of thistle-
stalks. [1] The strange aspect of this mountain is contrasted
by the sea-like plain, which not only abuts against its steep
sides, but likewise separates the parallel ranges. The uniformity
of the colouring gives an extreme quietness to the
view, -- the whitish grey of the quartz rock, and the light
brown of the withered grass of the plain, being unrelieved
by any brighter tint. From custom, one expects to see in
the neighbourhood of a lofty and bold mountain, a broken
country strewed over with huge fragments. Here nature
shows that the last movement before the bed of the sea is
changed into dry land may sometimes be one of tranquillity.
Under these circumstances I was curious to observe how
far from the parent rock any pebbles could be found. On
the shores of Bahia Blanca, and near the settlement, there
were some of quartz, which certainly must have come from
this source: the distance is forty-five miles.

The dew, which in the early part of the night wetted the
saddle-cloths under which we slept, was in the morning
frozen. The plain, though appearing horizontal, had insensibly
sloped up to a height of between 800 and 900 feet
above the sea. In the morning (9th of September) the guide
told me to ascend the nearest ridge, which he thought would
lead me to the four peaks that crown the summit. The climbing
up such rough rocks was very fatiguing; the sides
were so indented, that what was gained in one five minutes
was often lost in the next. At last, when I reached the ridge,
my disappointment was extreme in finding a precipitous
valley as deep as the plain, which cut the chain transversely
in two, and separated me from the four points. This valley
is very narrow, but flat-bottomed, and it forms a fine horse-
pass for the Indians, as it connects the plains on the northern
and southern sides of the range. Having descended, and
while crossing it, I saw two horses grazing: I immediately
hid myself in the long grass, and began to reconnoitre; but
as I could see no signs of Indians I proceeded cautiously on
my second ascent. It was late in the day, and this part of
the mountain, like the other, was steep and rugged. I was
on the top of the second peak by two o'clock, but got there
with extreme difficulty; every twenty yards I had the cramp
in the upper part of both thighs, so that I was afraid I
should not have been able to have got down again. It was
also necessary to return by another road, as it was out of
the question to pass over the saddle-back. I was therefore
obliged to give up the two higher peaks. Their altitude was
but little greater, and every purpose of geology had been
answered; so that the attempt was not worth the hazard
of any further exertion. I presume the cause of the cramp
was the great change in the kind of muscular action, from
that of hard riding to that of still harder climbing. It is
a lesson worth remembering, as in some cases it might cause
much difficulty.

I have already said the mountain is composed of white
quartz rock, and with it a little glossy clay-slate is
associated. At the height of a few hundred feet above the plain
patches of conglomerate adhered in several places to the
solid rock. They resembled in hardness, and in the nature
of the cement, the masses which may be seen daily forming
on some coasts. I do not doubt these pebbles were in a similar
manner aggregated, at a period when the great calcareous
formation was depositing beneath the surrounding sea.
We may believe that the jagged and battered forms of the
hard quartz yet show the effects of the waves of an open

I was, on the whole, disappointed with this ascent. Even
the view was insignificant; -- a plain like the sea, but without
its beautiful colour and defined outline. The scene, however,
was novel, and a little danger, like salt to meat, gave
it a relish. That the danger was very little was certain, for
my two companions made a good fire -- a thing which is never
done when it is suspected that Indians are near. I reached
the place of our bivouac by sunset, and drinking much mate,
and smoking several cigaritos, soon made up my bed for the
night. The wind was very strong and cold, but I never slept
more comfortably.

September 10th. -- In the morning, having fairly scudded
before the gale, we arrived by the middle of the day at the
Sauce posta. In the road we saw great numbers of deer,
and near the mountain a guanaco. The plain, which abuts
against the Sierra, is traversed by some curious gullies, of
which one was about twenty feet wide, and at least thirty
deep; we were obliged in consequence to make a considerable
circuit before we could find a pass. We stayed the night
at the posta, the conversation, as was generally the case,
being about the Indians. The Sierra Ventana was formerly
a great place of resort; and three or four years ago there
was much fighting there. My guide had been present when
many Indians were killed: the women escaped to the top of
the ridge, and fought most desperately with great stones;
many thus saving themselves.

September 11th. -- Proceeded to the third posta in company
with the lieutenant who commanded it. The distance
is called fifteen leagues; but it is only guess-work, and is
generally overstated. The road was uninteresting, over a
dry grassy plain; and on our left hand at a greater or less
distance there were some low hills; a continuation of which
we crossed close to the posta. Before our arrival we met
a large herd of cattle and horses, guarded by fifteen soldiers;
but we were told many had been lost. It is very difficult to
drive animals across the plains; for if in the night a puma,
or even a fox, approaches, nothing can prevent the horses
dispersing in every direction; and a storm will have the
same effect. A short time since, an officer left Buenos Ayres
with five hundred horses, and when he arrived at the army
he had under twenty.

Soon afterwards we perceived by the cloud of dust, that
a party of horsemen were coming towards us; when far distant
my companions knew them to be Indians, by their long
hair streaming behind their backs. The Indians generally
have a fillet round their heads, but never any covering; and
their black hair blowing across their swarthy faces, heightens
to an uncommon degree the wildness of their appearance.
They turned out to be a party of Bernantio's friendly tribe,
going to a salina for salt. The Indians eat much salt, their
children sucking it like sugar. This habit is very different
from that of the Spanish Gauchos, who, leading the same
kind of life, eat scarcely any; according to Mungo Park, [2]
it is people who live on vegetable food who have an unconquerable
desire for salt. The Indians gave us good-humoured
nods as they passed at full gallop, driving before them a
troop of horses, and followed by a train of lanky dogs.

September 12th and 13th. -- I stayed at this posta two days,
waiting for a troop of soldiers, which General Rosas had
the kindness to send to inform me, would shortly travel to
Buenos Ayres; and he advised me to take the opportunity
of the escort. In the morning we rode to some neighbouring
hills to view the country, and to examine the geology. After
dinner the soldiers divided themselves into two parties for
a trial of skill with the bolas. Two spears were stuck in
the ground twenty-five yards apart, but they were struck
and entangled only once in four or five times. The balls can
be thrown fifty or sixty yards, but with little certainty.
This, however, does not apply to a man on horseback; for when
the speed of the horse is added to the force of the arm, it
is said, that they can be whirled with effect to the distance
of eighty yards. As a proof of their force, I may mention,
that at the Falkland Islands, when the Spaniards murdered
some of their own countrymen and all the Englishmen, a
young friendly Spaniard was running away, when a great
tall man, by name Luciano, came at full gallop after him,
shouting to him to stop, and saying that he only wanted to
speak to him. Just as the Spaniard was on the point of
reaching the boat, Luciano threw the balls: they struck him
on the legs with such a jerk, as to throw him down and
to render him for some time insensible. The man, after
Luciano had had his talk, was allowed to escape. He told
us that his legs were marked by great weals, where the thong
had wound round, as if he had been flogged with a whip.
In the middle of the day two men arrived, who brought a
parcel from the next posta to be forwarded to the general:
so that besides these two, our party consisted this evening
of my guide and self, the lieutenant, and his four soldiers.
The latter were strange beings; the first a fine young negro;
the second half Indian and negro; and the two others non-
descripts; namely, an old Chilian miner, the colour of mahogany,
and another partly a mulatto; but two such mongrels
with such detestable expressions, I never saw before.
At night, when they were sitting round the fire, and playing
at cards, I retired to view such a Salvator Rosa scene. They
were seated under a low cliff, so that I could look down
upon them; around the party were lying dogs, arms, remnants
of deer and ostriches; and their long spears were stuck
in the turf. Further in the dark background, their horses
were tied up, ready for any sudden danger. If the stillness
of the desolate plain was broken by one of the dogs barking,
a soldier, leaving the fire, would place his head close to the
ground, and thus slowly scan the horizon. Even if the noisy
teru-tero uttered its scream, there would be a pause in the
conversation, and every head, for a moment, a little inclined.

What a life of misery these men appear to us to lead!
They were at least ten leagues from the Sauce posta, and
since the murder committed by the Indians, twenty from
another. The Indians are supposed to have made their attack
in the middle of the night; for very early in the morning
after the murder, they were luckily seen approaching
this posta. The whole party here, however, escaped, together
with the troop of horses; each one taking a line for himself,
and driving with him as many animals as he was able to

The little hovel, built of thistle-stalks, in which they slept,
neither kept out the wind nor rain; indeed in the latter case
the only effect the roof had, was to condense it into larger
drops. They had nothing to eat excepting what they could
catch, such as ostriches, deer, armadilloes, etc., and their
only fuel was the dry stalks of a small plant, somewhat
resembling an aloe. The sole luxury which these men enjoyed
was smoking the little paper cigars, and sucking mate. I
used to think that the carrion vultures, man's constant
attendants on these dreary plains, while seated on the little
neighbouring cliffs seemed by their very patience to say,
"Ah! when the Indians come we shall have a feast."

In the morning we all sallied forth to hunt, and although
we had not much success, there were some animated chases.
Soon after starting the party separated, and so arranged
their plans, that at a certain time of the day (in guessing
which they show much skill) they should all meet from different
points of the compass on a plain piece of ground,
and thus drive together the wild animals. One day I went
out hunting at Bahia Blanca, but the men there merely rode
in a crescent, each being about a quarter of a mile apart
from the other. A fine male ostrich being turned by the
headmost riders, tried to escape on one side. The Gauchos
pursued at a reckless pace, twisting their horses about with
the most admirable command, and each man whirling the
balls round his head. At length the foremost threw them,
revolving through the air: in an instant the ostrich rolled
over and over, its legs fairly lashed together by the thong.
The plains abound with three kinds of partridge, [3] two
of which are as large as hen pheasants. Their destroyer,
a small and pretty fox, was also singularly numerous; in
the course of the day we could not have seen less than forty
or fifty. They were generally near their earths, but the dogs
killed one. When we returned to the posta, we found two
of the party returned who had been hunting by themselves.
They had killed a puma, and had found an ostrich's nest with
twenty-seven eggs in it. Each of these is said to equal in
weight eleven hen's eggs; so that we obtained from this one
nest as much food as 297 hen's eggs would have given.

September 14th. -- As the soldiers belonging to the next
posta meant to return, and we should together make a party
of five, and all armed, I determined not to wait for the expected
troops. My host, the lieutenant, pressed me much
to stop. As he had been very obliging -- not only providing
me with food, but lending me his private horses -- I wanted
to make him some remuneration. I asked my guide whether
I might do so, but he told me certainly not; that the only
answer I should receive, probably would be, "We have meat
for the dogs in our country, and therefore do not grudge it
to a Christian." It must not be supposed that the rank of
lieutenant in such an army would at all prevent the acceptance
of payment: it was only the high sense of hospitality,
which every traveller is bound to acknowledge as nearly universal
throughout these provinces. After galloping some
leagues, we came to a low swampy country, which extends
for nearly eighty miles northward, as far as the Sierra
Tapalguen. In some parts there were fine damp plains, covered
with grass, while others had a soft, black, and peaty soil.
There were also many extensive but shallow lakes, and large
beds of reeds. The country on the whole resembled the better
parts of the Cambridgeshire fens. At night we had some
difficulty in finding amidst the swamps, a dry place for our

September 15th. -- Rose very early in the morning and
shortly after passed the posta where the Indians had murdered
the five soldiers. The officer had eighteen chuzo
wounds in his body. By the middle of the day, after a hard
gallop, we reached the fifth posta: on account of some difficulty
in procuring horses we stayed there the night. As this
point was the most exposed on the whole line, twenty-one
soldiers were stationed here; at sunset they returned from
hunting, bringing with them seven deer, three ostriches, and
many armadilloes and partridges. When riding through the
country, it is a common practice to set fire to the plain;
and hence at night, as on this occasion, the horizon was
illuminated in several places by brilliant conflagrations.
This is done partly for the sake of puzzling any stray Indians,
but chiefly for improving the pasture. In grassy
plains unoccupied by the larger ruminating quadrupeds, it
seems necessary to remove the superfluous vegetation by fire,
so as to render the new year's growth serviceable.

The rancho at this place did not boast even of a roof,
but merely consisted of a ring of thistle-stalks, to break
the force of the wind. It was situated on the borders of an
extensive but shallow lake, swarming with wild fowl, among
which the black-necked swan was conspicuous.

The kind of plover, which appears as if mounted on
stilts (Himantopus nigricollis), is here common in flocks of
considerable size. It has been wrongfully accused of inelegance;
when wading about in shallow water, which is its
favourite resort, its gait is far from awkward. These birds
in a flock utter a noise, that singularly resembles the cry of
a pack of small dogs in full chase: waking in the night, I
have more than once been for a moment startled at the distant
sound. The teru-tero (Vanellus cayanus) is another
bird, which often disturbs the stillness of the night. In
appearance and habits it resembles in many respects our peewits;
its wings, however, are armed with sharp spurs, like
those on the legs of the common cock. As our peewit takes
its name from the sound of its voice, so does the teru-tero.
While riding over the grassy plains, one is constantly pursued
by these birds, which appear to hate mankind, and I
am sure deserve to be hated for their never-ceasing, unvaried,
harsh screams. To the sportsman they are most annoying,
by telling every other bird and animal of his approach: to
the traveller in the country, they may possibly, as Molina
says, do good, by warning him of the midnight robber. During
the breeding season, they attempt, like our peewits, by
feigning to be wounded, to draw away from their nests dogs
and other enemies. The eggs of this bird are esteemed a
great delicacy.

September 16th. -- To the seventh posta at the foot of the
Sierra Tapalguen. The country was quite level, with a
coarse herbage and a soft peaty soil. The hovel was here
remarkably neat, the posts and rafters being made of about
a dozen dry thistle-stalks bound together with thongs of
hide; and by the support of these Ionic-like columns, the
roof and sides were thatched with reeds. We were here told
a fact, which I would not have credited, if I had not had
partly ocular proof of it; namely, that, during the previous
night hail as large as small apples, and extremely hard, had
fallen with such violence, as to kill the greater number of the
wild animals. One of the men had already found thirteen
deer (Cervus campestris) lying dead, and I saw their _fresh_
hides; another of the party, a few minutes after my arrival
brought in seven more. Now I well know, that one man
without dogs could hardly have killed seven deer in a week.
The men believed they had seen about fifteen ostriches (part
of one of which we had for dinner); and they said that
several were running about evidently blind in one eye.
Numbers of smaller birds, as ducks, hawks, and partridges,
were killed. I saw one of the latter with a black mark on
its back, as if it had been struck with a paving-stone. A
fence of thistle-stalks round the hovel was nearly broken
down, and my informer, putting his head out to see what was
the matter, received a severe cut, and now wore a bandage.
The storm was said to have been of limited extent: we
certainly saw from our last night's bivouac a dense cloud
and lightning in this direction. It is marvellous how such
strong animals as deer could thus have been killed; but I
have no doubt, from the evidence I have given, that the
story is not in the least exaggerated. I am glad, however,
to have its credibility supported by the Jesuit Dobrizhoffen, [4]
who, speaking of a country much to the northward, says,
hail fell of an enormous size and killed vast numbers of cattle:
the Indians hence called the place _Lalegraicavalca_, meaning
"the little white things." Dr. Malcolmson, also, informs me
that he witnessed in 1831 in India, a hail-storm, which
killed numbers of large birds and much injured the cattle.
These hailstones were flat, and one was ten inches in
circumference, and another weighed two ounces. They
ploughed up a gravel-walk like musket-balls, and passed
through glass-windows, making round holes, but not cracking

Having finished our dinner, of hail-stricken meat, we
crossed the Sierra Tapalguen; a low range of hills, a few
hundred feet in height, which commences at Cape Corrientes.
The rock in this part is pure quartz; further eastward I
understand it is granitic. The hills are of a remarkable
form; they consist of flat patches of table-land, surrounded
by low perpendicular cliffs, like the outliers of a sedimentary
deposit. The hill which I ascended was very small, not
above a couple of hundred yards in diameter; but I saw
others larger. One which goes by the name of the "Corral,"
is said to be two or three miles in diameter, and encompassed
by perpendicular cliffs, between thirty and forty feet high,
excepting at one spot, where the entrance lies. Falconer [5]
gives a curious account of the Indians driving troops of
wild horses into it, and then by guarding the entrance, keeping
them secure. I have never heard of any other instance
of table-land in a formation of quartz, and which, in the
hill I examined, had neither cleavage nor stratification. I
was told that the rock of the "Corral" was white, and would
strike fire.

We did not reach the posta on the Rio Tapalguen till
after it was dark. At supper, from something which was
said, I was suddenly struck with horror at thinking that I
was eating one of the favourite dishes of the country
namely, a half-formed calf, long before its proper time of
birth. It turned out to be Puma; the meat is very white
and remarkably like veal in taste. Dr. Shaw was laughed
at for stating that "the flesh of the lion is in great esteem
having no small affinity with veal, both in colour, taste,
and flavour." Such certainly is the case with the Puma.
The Gauchos differ in their opinion, whether the Jaguar is
good eating, but are unanimous in saying that cat is excellent.

September 17th. -- We followed the course of the Rio
Tapalguen, through a very fertile country, to the ninth
posta. Tapalguen, itself, or the town of Tapalguen, if it
may be so called, consists of a perfectly level plain, studded
over, as far as the eye can reach, with the toldos or
oven-shaped huts of the Indians. The families of the friendly
Indians, who were fighting on the side of Rosas, resided
here. We met and passed many young Indian women, riding
by two or three together on the same horse: they, as
well as many of the young men, were strikingly handsome, --
their fine ruddy complexions being the picture of health.
Besides the toldos, there were three ranchos; one inhabited
by the Commandant, and the two others by Spaniards with
small shops.

We were here able to buy some biscuit. I had now been
several days without tasting anything besides meat: I did
not at all dislike this new regimen; but I felt as if it would
only have agreed with me with hard exercise. I have heard
that patients in England, when desired to confine themselves
exclusively to an animal diet, even with the hope of life
before their eyes, have hardly been able to endure it. Yet
the Gaucho in the Pampas, for months together, touches
nothing but beef. But they eat, I observe, a very large
proportion of fat, which is of a less animalized nature; and
they particularly dislike dry meat, such as that of the Agouti.
Dr. Richardson [6] also, has remarked, "that when people
have fed for a long time solely upon lean animal food, the
desire for fat becomes so insatiable, that they can consume
a large quantity of unmixed and even oily fat without
nausea:" this appears to me a curious physiological fact.
It is, perhaps, from their meat regimen that the Gauchos,
like other carnivorous animals, can abstain long from food.
I was told that at Tandeel, some troops voluntarily pursued
a party of Indians for three days, without eating or drinking.

We saw in the shops many articles, such as horsecloths,
belts, and garters, woven by the Indian women. The patterns
were very pretty, and the colours brilliant; the workmanship
of the garters was so good that an English merchant
at Buenos Ayres maintained they must have been
manufactured in England, till he found the tassels had been
fastened by split sinew.

September 18th. -- We had a very long ride this day. At
the twelfth posta, which is seven leagues south of the Rio
Salado, we came to the first estancia with cattle and white
women. Afterwards we had to ride for many miles through
a country flooded with water above our horses' knees. By
crossing the stirrups, and riding Arab-like with our legs
bent up, we contrived to keep tolerably dry. It was nearly
dark when we arrived at the Salado; the stream was deep,
and about forty yards wide; in summer, however, its bed
becomes almost dry, and the little remaining water nearly
as salt as that of the sea. We slept at one of the great
estancias of General Rosas. It was fortified, and of such an
extent, that arriving in the dark I thought it was a town
and fortress. In the morning we saw immense herds of
cattle, the general here having seventy-four square leagues
of land. Formerly nearly three hundred men were employed
about this estate, and they defied all the attacks of
the Indians.

September 19th. -- Passed the Guardia del Monte. This
is a nice scattered little town, with many gardens, full of
peach and quince trees. The plain here looked like that
around Buenos Ayres; the turf being short and bright green,
with beds of clover and thistles, and with bizcacha holes.
I was very much struck with the marked change in the
aspect of the country after having crossed the Salado. From
a coarse herbage we passed on to a carpet of fine green verdure.
I at first attributed this to some change in the nature
of the soil, but the inhabitants assured me that here, as
well as in Banda Oriental, where there is as great a difference
between the country round Monte Video and the
thinly-inhabited savannahs of Colonia, the whole was to be
attributed to the manuring and grazing of the cattle. Exactly
the same fact has been observed in the prairies [7] of
North America, where coarse grass, between five and six
feet high, when grazed by cattle, changes into common pasture
land. I am not botanist enough to say whether the
change here is owing to the introduction of new species,
to the altered growth of the same, or to a difference in their
proportional numbers. Azara has also observed with astonishment
this change: he is likewise much perplexed by the
immediate appearance of plants not occurring in the neighbourhood,
on the borders of any track that leads to a newly-
constructed hovel. In another part he says, [8] "ces chevaux
(sauvages) ont la manie de preferer les chemins, et le bord
des routes pour deposer leurs excremens, dont on trouve des
monceaux dans ces endroits." Does this not partly explain
the circumstance? We thus have lines of richly manured
land serving as channels of communication across wide districts.

Near the Guardia we find the southern limit of two European
plants, now become extraordinarily common. The
fennel in great profusion covers the ditch-banks in the
neighbourhood of Buenos Ayres, Monte Video, and other towns.
But the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) has a far wider
range: [9] it occurs in these latitudes on both sides of the,
Cordillera, across the continent. I saw it in unfrequented
spots in Chile, Entre Rios, and Banda Oriental. In the
latter country alone, very many (probably several hundred)
square miles are covered by one mass of these prickly plants,
and are impenetrable by man or beast. Over the undulating
plains, where these great beds occur, nothing else can now
live. Before their introduction, however, the surface must
have supported, as in other parts, a rank herbage. I doubt
whether any case is on record of an invasion on so grand
a scale of one plant over the aborigines. As I have already
said, I nowhere saw the cardoon south of the Salado; but
it is probable that in proportion as that country becomes
inhabited, the cardoon will extend its limits. The case is
different with the giant thistle (with variegated leaves) of
the Pampas, for I met with it in the valley of the Sauce.
According to the principles so well laid down by Mr. Lyell,
few countries have undergone more remarkable changes,
since the year 1535, when the first colonist of La Plata landed
with seventy-two horses. The countless herds of horses,
cattle, and sheep, not only have altered the whole aspect of
the vegetation, but they have almost banished the guanaco,
deer and ostrich. Numberless other changes must likewise
have taken place; the wild pig in some parts probably replaces
the peccari; packs of wild dogs may be heard howling
on the wooded banks of the less-frequented streams; and
the common cat, altered into a large and fierce animal, inhabits
rocky hills. As M. d'Orbigny has remarked, the increase
in numbers of the carrion-vulture, since the introduction
of the domestic animals, must have been infinitely great;
and we have given reasons for believing that they have extended
their southern range. No doubt many plants, besides
the cardoon and fennel, are naturalized; thus the islands
near the mouth of the Parana, are thickly clothed with
peach and orange trees, springing from seeds carried there
by the waters of the river.

While changing horses at the Guardia several people questioned
us much about the army, -- I never saw anything like
the enthusiasm for Rosas, and for the success of the "most
just of all wars, because against barbarians." This expression,
it must be confessed, is very natural, for till lately,
neither man, woman nor horse, was safe from the attacks
of the Indians. We had a long day's ride over the same
rich green plain, abounding with various flocks, and with
here and there a solitary estancia, and its one _ombu_ tree.
In the evening it rained heavily: on arriving at a posthouse
we were told by the owner, that if we had not a
regular passport we must pass on, for there were so
many robbers he would trust no one. When he read, however,
my passport, which began with "El Naturalista Don
Carlos," his respect and civility were as unbounded as his
suspicions had been before. What a naturalist might be,
neither he nor his countrymen, I suspect, had any idea;
but probably my title lost nothing of its value from that

September 20th. -- We arrived by the middle of the day at
Buenos Ayres. The outskirts of the city looked quite pretty,
with the agave hedges, and groves of olive, peach and willow
trees, all just throwing out their fresh green leaves. I rode
to the house of Mr. Lumb, an English merchant, to whose
kindness and hospitality, during my stay in the country, I
was greatly indebted.

The city of Buenos Ayres is large; [10] and I should think
one of the most regular in the world. Every street is at right
angles to the one it crosses, and the parallel ones being
equidistant, the houses are collected into solid squares of
equal dimensions, which are called quadras. On the other hand,
the houses themselves are hollow squares; all the rooms opening
into a neat little courtyard. They are generally only
one story high, with flat roofs, which are fitted with seats
and are much frequented by the inhabitants in summer. In
the centre of the town is the Plaza, where the public offices,
fortress, cathedral, etc., stand. Here also, the old viceroys,
before the revolution, had their palaces. The general assemblage
of buildings possesses considerable architectural beauty,
although none individually can boast of any.

The great _corral_, where the animals are kept for slaughter
to supply food to this beef-eating population, is one of
the spectacles best worth seeing. The strength of the horse
as compared to that of the bullock is quite astonishing: a
man on horseback having thrown his lazo round the horns
of a beast, can drag it anywhere he chooses. The animal
ploughing up the ground with outstretched legs, in vain
efforts to resist the force, generally dashes at full speed to
one side; but the horse immediately turning to receive the
shock, stands so firmly that the bullock is almost thrown
down, and it is surprising that their necks are not broken.
The struggle is not, however, one of fair strength; the
horse's girth being matched against the bullock's extended
neck. In a similar manner a man can hold the wildest horse,
if caught with the lazo, just behind the ears. When the
bullock has been dragged to the spot where it is to be
slaughtered, the matador with great caution cuts the hamstrings.
Then is given the death bellow; a noise more expressive
of fierce agony than any I know. I have often distinguished
it from a long distance, and have always known
that the struggle was then drawing to a close. The whole
sight is horrible and revolting: the ground is almost made of
bones; and the horses and riders are drenched with gore.

[1] I call these thistle-stalks for the want of a more correct
name. I believe it is a species of Eryngium.

[2] Travels in Africa, p. 233.

[3] Two species of Tinamus and Eudromia elegans of A. d'Orbigny,
which can only be called a partridge with regard to its habits.

[4] History of the Abipones, vol. ii. p. 6.

[5] Falconer's Patagonia, p. 70.

[6] Fauna Boreali-Americana, vol. i. p. 35.

[7] See Mr. Atwater's account of the Prairies, in Silliman's
N. A. Journal, vol. i. p. 117.

[8] Azara's Voyages, vol. i. p. 373.

[9] M. A. d'Orbigny (vol. i. p. 474) says that the cardoon
and artichoke are both found wild. Dr. Hooker (Botanical
Magazine, vol. iv. p. 2862), has described a variety of the
Cynara from this part of South America under the name of
inermis. He states that botanists are now generally agreed
that the cardoon and the artichoke are varieties of one plant.
I may add, that an intelligent farmer assured me that he had
observed in a deserted garden some artichokes changing into
the common cardoon. Dr. Hooker believes that Head's vivid
description of the thistle of the Pampas applies to the
cardoon, but this is a mistake. Captain Head referred to the
plant, which I have mentioned a few lines lower down, under
the title of giant thistle. Whether it is a true thistle I do
not know; but it is quite different from the cardoon; and more
like a thistle properly so called.

[10] It is said to contain 60,000 inhabitants. Monte Video, the
second town of importance on the banks of the Plata, has



Excursion to St. Fe -- Thistle Beds -- Habits of the Bizcacha --
Little Owl -- Saline Streams -- Level Plain -- Mastodon -- St.
Fe -- Change in Landscape -- Geology -- Tooth of extinct
Horse -- Relation of the Fossil and recent Quadrupeds of North
and South America -- Effects of a great Drought -- Parana --
Habits of the Jaguar -- Scissor-beak -- Kingfisher, Parrot,
and Scissor-tail -- Revolution -- Buenos Ayres State of

SEPTEMBER 27th. -- In the evening I set out on an
excursion to St. Fe, which is situated nearly three hundred
English miles from Buenos Ayres, on the banks of
the Parana. The roads in the neighbourhood of the city after
the rainy weather, were extraordinarily bad. I should never
have thought it possible for a bullock waggon to have
crawled along: as it was, they scarcely went at the rate of a
mile an hour, and a man was kept ahead, to survey the best
line for making the attempt. The bullocks were terribly
jaded: it is a great mistake to suppose that with improved
roads, and an accelerated rate of travelling, the sufferings of
the animals increase in the same proportion. We passed a
train of waggons and a troop of beasts on their road to
Mendoza. The distance is about 580 geographical miles, and
the journey is generally performed in fifty days. These
waggons are very long, narrow, and thatched with reeds;
they have only two wheels, the diameter of which in some
cases is as much as ten feet. Each is drawn by six bullocks,
which are urged on by a goad at least twenty feet long: this
is suspended from within the roof; for the wheel bullocks a
smaller one is kept; and for the intermediate pair, a point
projects at right angles from the middle of the long one.

The whole apparatus looked like some implement of war.

September 28th. -- We passed the small town of Luxan
where there is a wooden bridge over the river -- a most
unusual convenience in this country. We passed also Areco.
The plains appeared level, but were not so in fact; for in
various places the horizon was distant. The estancias are
here wide apart; for there is little good pasture, owing to
the land being covered by beds either of an acrid clover,
or of the great thistle. The latter, well known from the
animated description given by Sir F. Head, were at this
time of the year two-thirds grown; in some parts they were
as high as the horse's back, but in others they had not yet
sprung up, and the ground was bare and dusty as on a turnpike-
road. The clumps were of the most brilliant green, and
they made a pleasing miniature-likeness of broken forest
land. When the thistles are full grown, the great beds are
impenetrable, except by a few tracts, as intricate as those
in a labyrinth. These are only known to the robbers, who
at this season inhabit them, and sally forth at night to rob
and cut throats with impunity. Upon asking at a house
whether robbers were numerous, I was answered, "The thistles
are not up yet;" -- the meaning of which reply was not at
first very obvious. There is little interest in passing over
these tracts, for they are inhabited by few animals or birds,
excepting the bizcacha and its friend the little owl.

The bizcacha [1] is well known to form a prominent feature
in the zoology of the Pampas. It is found as far south as
the Rio Negro, in lat. 41 degs., but not beyond. It cannot,
like the agouti, subsist on the gravelly and desert plains of
Patagonia, but prefers a clayey or sandy soil, which produces a
different and more abundant vegetation. Near Mendoza, at
the foot of the Cordillera, it occurs in close neighbourhood
with the allied alpine species. It is a very curious
circumstance in its geographical distribution, that it has never
been seen, fortunately for the inhabitants of Banda Oriental, to
the eastward of the river Uruguay: yet in this province there
are plains which appear admirably adapted to its habits.
The Uruguay has formed an insuperable obstacle to its
migration: although the broader barrier of the Parana has
been passed, and the bizcacha is common in Entre Rios, the
province between these two great rivers. Near Buenos Ayres
these animals are exceedingly common. Their most favourite
resort appears to be those parts of the plain which during
one-half of the year are covered with giant thistles, to the
exclusion of other plants. The Gauchos affirm that it lives
on roots; which, from the great strength of its gnawing
teeth, and the kind of places frequented by it, seems probable.
In the evening the bizcachas come out in numbers, and quietly
sit at the mouths of their burrows on their haunches. At
such times they are very tame, and a man on horseback passing
by seems only to present an object for their grave
contemplation. They run very awkwardly, and when running
out of danger, from their elevated tails and short front legs
much resemble great rats. Their flesh, when cooked, is very
white and good, but it is seldom used.

The bizcacha has one very singular habit; namely, dragging
every hard object to the mouth of its burrow: around
each group of holes many bones of cattle, stones, thistle-
stalks, hard lumps of earth, dry dung, etc., are collected into
an irregular heap, which frequently amounts to as much as
a wheelbarrow would contain. I was credibly informed that
a gentleman, when riding on a dark night, dropped his
watch; he returned in the morning, and by searching the
neighbourhood of every bizcacha hole on the line of road,
as he expected, he soon found it. This habit of picking
up whatever may be lying on the ground anywhere near its
habitation, must cost much trouble. For what purpose it
is done, I am quite unable to form even the most remote
conjecture: it cannot be for defence, because the rubbish
is chiefly placed above the mouth of the burrow, which
enters the ground at a very small inclination. No doubt
there must exist some good reason; but the inhabitants of
the country are quite ignorant of it. The only fact which
I know analogous to it, is the habit of that extraordinary
Australian bird, the Calodera maculata, which makes an
elegant vaulted passage of twigs for playing in, and
which collects near the spot, land and sea-shells, bones
and the feathers of birds, especially brightly coloured
ones. Mr. Gould, who has described these facts, informs
me, that the natives, when they lose any hard object,
search the playing passages, and he has known a tobacco-
pipe thus recovered.

The little owl (Athene cunicularia), which has been so
often mentioned, on the plains of Buenos Ayres exclusively
inhabits the holes of the bizcacha; but in Banda Oriental it
is its own workman. During the open day, but more especially
in the evening, these birds may be seen in every direction
standing frequently by pairs on the hillock near their
burrows. If disturbed they either enter the hole, or, uttering
a shrill harsh cry, move with a remarkably undulatory
flight to a short distance, and then turning round, steadily
gaze at their pursuer. Occasionally in the evening they may
be heard hooting. I found in the stomachs of two which
I opened the remains of mice, and I one day saw a small
snake killed and carried away. It is said that snakes are
their common prey during the daytime. I may here mention,
as showing on what various kinds of food owls subsist,
that a species killed among the islets of the Chonos
Archipelago, had its stomach full of good-sized crabs. In
India [2] there is a fishing genus of owls, which likewise
catches crabs.

In the evening we crossed the Rio Arrecife on a simple
raft made of barrels lashed together, and slept at the post-
house on the other side. I this day paid horse-hire for
thirty-one leagues; and although the sun was glaring hot I
was but little fatigued. When Captain Head talks of riding
fifty leagues a day, I do not imagine the distance is equal
to 150 English miles. At all events, the thirty-one leagues
was only 76 miles in a straight line, and in an open country
I should think four additional miles for turnings would be
a sufficient allowance.

29th and 30th. -- We continued to ride over plains of the
same character. At San Nicolas I first saw the noble river
of the Parana. At the foot of the cliff on which the town
stands, some large vessels were at anchor. Before arriving
at Rozario, we crossed the Saladillo, a stream of fine clear
running water, but too saline to drink. Rozario is a large
town built on a dead level plain, which forms a cliff about
sixty feet high over the Parana. The river here is very
broad, with many islands, which are low and wooded, as is
also the opposite shore. The view would resemble that of a
great lake, if it were not for the linear-shaped islets, which
alone give the idea of running water. The cliffs are the most
picturesque part; sometimes they are absolutely perpendicular,
and of a red colour; at other times in large broken
masses, covered with cacti and mimosa-trees. The real
grandeur, however, of an immense river like this, is derived
from reflecting how important a means of communication
and commerce it forms between one nation and another; to
what a distance it travels, and from how vast a territory
it drains the great body of fresh water which flows past
your feet.

For many leagues north and south of San Nicolas and
Rozario, the country is really level. Scarcely anything which
travellers have written about its extreme flatness, can be
considered as exaggeration. Yet I could never find a spot
where, by slowly turning round, objects were not seen at
greater distances in some directions than in others; and
this manifestly proves inequality in the plain. At sea, a
person's eye being six feet above the surface of the water,
his horizon is two miles and four-fifths distant. In like
manner, the more level the plain, the more nearly does the
horizon approach within these narrow limits; and this, in
my opinion, entirely destroys that grandeur which one would
have imagined that a vast level plain would have possessed.

October 1st. -- We started by moonlight and arrived at the
Rio Tercero by sunrise. The river is also called the Saladillo,
and it deserves the name, for the water is brackish.
I stayed here the greater part of the day, searching for fossil
bones. Besides a perfect tooth of the Toxodon, and many
scattered bones, I found two immense skeletons near each
other, projecting in bold relief from the perpendicular cliff
of the Parana. They were, however, so completely decayed,
that I could only bring away small fragments of one of the
great molar teeth; but these are sufficient to show that the
remains belonged to a Mastodon, probably to the same species
with that, which formerly must have inhabited the Cordillera
in Upper Peru in such great numbers. The men
who took me in the canoe, said they had long known of these
skeletons, and had often wondered how they had got there:
the necessity of a theory being felt, they came to the
conclusion that, like the bizcacha, the mastodon was formerly
a burrowing animal! In the evening we rode another stage,
and crossed the Monge, another brackish stream, bearing the
dregs of the washings of the Pampas.

October 2nd. -- We passed through Corunda, which, from
the luxuriance of its gardens, was one of the prettiest
villages I saw. From this point to St. Fe the road is not very
safe. The western side of the Parana northward, ceases to
be inhabited; and hence the Indians sometimes come down
thus far, and waylay travellers. The nature of the country
also favours this, for instead of a grassy plain, there is an
open woodland, composed of low prickly mimosas. We
passed some houses that had been ransacked and since deserted;
we saw also a spectacle, which my guides viewed
with high satisfaction; it was the skeleton of an Indian
with the dried skin hanging on the bones, suspended to the
branch of a tree.

In the morning we arrived at St. Fe. I was surprised
to observe how great a change of climate a difference of only
three degrees of latitude between this place and Buenos
Ayres had caused. This was evident from the dress and
complexion of the men -- from the increased size of the
ombu-trees -- the number of new cacti and other plants --
and especially from the birds. In the course of an hour I
remarked half-a-dozen birds, which I had never seen at
Buenos Ayres. Considering that there is no natural boundary
between the two places, and that the character of the
country is nearly similar, the difference was much greater
than I should have expected.

October 3rd and 4th. -- I was confined for these two days
to my bed by a headache. A good-natured old woman,
who attended me, wished me to try many odd remedies. A
common practice is, to bind an orange-leaf or a bit of black
plaster to each temple: and a still more general plan is, to
split a bean into halves, moisten them, and place one on
each temple, where they will easily adhere. It is not thought
proper ever to remove the beans or plaster, but to allow
them to drop off, and sometimes, if a man, with patches on
his head, is asked, what is the matter? he will answer, "I
had a headache the day before yesterday." Many of the
remedies used by the people of the country are ludicrously
strange, but too disgusting to be mentioned. One of the
least nasty is to kill and cut open two puppies and bind
them on each side of a broken limb. Little hairless dogs are
in great request to sleep at the feet of invalids.

St. Fe is a quiet little town, and is kept clean and in good
order. The governor, Lopez, was a common soldier at the
time of the revolution; but has now been seventeen years
in power. This stability of government is owing to his
tyrannical habits; for tyranny seems as yet better adapted
to these countries than republicanism. The governor's favourite
occupation is hunting Indians: a short time since
he slaughtered forty-eight, and sold the children at the rate
of three or four pounds apiece.

October 5th. -- We crossed the Parana to St. Fe Bajada,
a town on the opposite shore. The passage took some hours,
as the river here consisted of a labyrinth of small streams,
separated by low wooded islands. I had a letter of introduction
to an old Catalonian Spaniard, who treated me with
the most uncommon hospitality. The Bajada is the capital
of Entre Rios. In 1825 the town contained 6000 inhabitants,
and the province 30,000; yet, few as the inhabitants are, no
province has suffered more from bloody and desperate
revolutions. They boast here of representatives, ministers, a
standing army, and governors: so it is no wonder that they
have their revolutions. At some future day this must be
one of the richest countries of La Plata. The soil is varied
and productive; and its almost insular form gives it two
grand lines of communication by the rivers Parana and

I was delayed here five days, and employed myself in examining
the geology of the surrounding country, which was
very interesting. We here see at the bottom of the cliffs,
beds containing sharks' teeth and sea-shells of extinct species,
passing above into an indurated marl, and from that
into the red clayey earth of the Pampas, with its calcareous
concretions and the bones of terrestrial quadrupeds. This
vertical section clearly tells us of a large bay of pure salt-
water, gradually encroached on, and at last converted into
the bed of a muddy estuary, into which floating carcasses
were swept. At Punta Gorda, in Banda Oriental, I found
an alternation of the Pampaean estuary deposit, with a
limestone containing some of the same extinct sea-shells; and
this shows either a change in the former currents, or more
probably an oscillation of level in the bottom of the ancient
estuary. Until lately, my reasons for considering the Pampaean
formation to be an estuary deposit were, its general
appearance, its position at the mouth of the existing great
river the Plata, and the presence of so many bones of
terrestrial quadrupeds: but now Professor Ehrenberg has had
the kindness to examine for me a little of the red earth,
taken from low down in the deposit, close to the skeletons
of the mastodon, and he finds in it many infusoria, partly
salt-water and partly fresh-water forms, with the latter
rather preponderating; and therefore, as he remarks, the
water must have been brackish. M. A. d'Orbigny found on
the banks of the Parana, at the height of a hundred feet,
great beds of an estuary shell, now living a hundred miles
lower down nearer the sea; and I found similar shells at a
less height on the banks of the Uruguay; this shows that
just before the Pampas was slowly elevated into dry land,
the water covering it was brackish. Below Buenos Ayres
there are upraised beds of sea-shells of existing species,
which also proves that the period of elevation of the Pampas
was within the recent period.

In the Pampaean deposit at the Bajada I found the osseous
armour of a gigantic armadillo-like animal, the inside
of which, when the earth was removed, was like a great
cauldron; I found also teeth of the Toxodon and Mastodon,
and one tooth of a Horse, in the same stained and decayed
state. This latter tooth greatly interested me, [3] and I took
scrupulous care in ascertaining that it had been embedded
contemporaneously with the other remains; for I was not
then aware that amongst the fossils from Bahia Blanca
there was a horse's tooth hidden in the matrix: nor was it
then known with certainty that the remains of horses are
common in North America. Mr. Lyell has lately brought
from the United States a tooth of a horse; and it is an
interesting fact, that Professor Owen could find in no species,
either fossil or recent, a slight but peculiar curvature
characterizing it, until he thought of comparing it with my
specimen found here: he has named this American horse Equus
curvidens. Certainly it is a marvellous fact in the history
of the Mammalia, that in South America a native horse
should have lived and disappeared, to be succeeded in after-
ages by the countless herds descended from the few introduced
with the Spanish colonists!

The existence in South America of a fossil horse, of the
mastodon, possibly of an elephant, [4] and of a hollow-horned
ruminant, discovered by MM. Lund and Clausen in the
caves of Brazil, are highly interesting facts with respect to
the geographical distribution of animals. At the present
time, if we divide America, not by the Isthmus of Panama,
but by the southern part of Mexico [5] in lat. 20 degs., where
the great table-land presents an obstacle to the migration of
species, by affecting the climate, and by forming, with the
exception of some valleys and of a fringe of low land on
the coast, a broad barrier; we shall then have the two
zoological provinces of North and South America strongly
contrasted with each other. Some few species alone have
passed the barrier, and may be considered as wanderers from
the south, such as the puma, opossum, kinkajou, and peccari.
South America is characterized by possessing many peculiar
gnawers, a family of monkeys, the llama, peccari, tapir,
opossums, and, especially, several genera of Edentata, the
order which includes the sloths, ant-eaters, and armadilloes.
North America, on the other hand, is characterized (putting
on one side a few wandering species) by numerous peculiar
gnawers, and by four genera (the ox, sheep, goat, and antelope)
of hollow-horned ruminants, of which great division
South America is not known to possess a single species.
Formerly, but within the period when most of the now existing
shells were living, North America possessed, besides
hollow-horned ruminants, the elephant, mastodon, horse, and
three genera of Edentata, namely, the Megatherium, Megalonyx,
and Mylodon. Within nearly this same period (as
proved by the shells at Bahia Blanca) South America possessed,
as we have just seen, a mastodon, horse, hollow-
horned ruminant, and the same three genera (as well as
several others) of the Edentata. Hence it is evident that
North and South America, in having within a late geological
period these several genera in common, were much
more closely related in the character of their terrestrial
inhabitants than they now are. The more I reflect on this
case, the more interesting it appears: I know of no other
instance where we can almost mark the period and manner
of the splitting up of one great region into two well-
characterized zoological provinces. The geologist, who is fully
impressed with the vast oscillations of level which have
affected the earth's crust within late periods, will not fear
to speculate on the recent elevation of the Mexican platform,
or, more probably, on the recent submergence of land
in the West Indian Archipelago, as the cause of the present
zoological separation of North and South America. The
South American character of the West Indian mammals [6]
seems to indicate that this archipelago was formerly united
to the southern continent, and that it has subsequently been
an area of subsidence.

When America, and especially North America, possessed
its elephants, mastodons, horse, and hollow-horned ruminants,
it was much more closely related in its zoological
characters to the temperate parts of Europe and Asia than
it now is. As the remains of these genera are found on
both sides of Behring's Straits [7] and on the plains of
Siberia, we are led to look to the north-western side of North
America as the former point of communication between the Old
and so-called New World. And as so many species, both
living and extinct, of these same genera inhabit and have
inhabited the Old World, it seems most probable that the
North American elephants, mastodons, horse, and hollow-
horned ruminants migrated, on land since submerged near
Behring's Straits, from Siberia into North America, and
thence, on land since submerged in the West Indies, into
South America, where for a time they mingled with the
forms characteristic of that southern continent, and have
since become extinct.

While travelling through the country, I received several
vivid descriptions of the effects of a late great drought; and
the account of this may throw some light on the cases where
vast numbers of animals of all kinds have been embedded
together. The period included between the years 1827 and
1830 is called the "gran seco," or the great drought. During
this time so little rain fell, that the vegetation, even to the
thistles, failed; the brooks were dried up, and the whole
country assumed the appearance of a dusty high road. This
was especially the case in the northern part of the province
of Buenos Ayres and the southern part of St. Fe. Very
great numbers of birds, wild animals, cattle, and horses
perished from the want of food and water. A man told me
that the deer [8] used to come into his courtyard to the well,
which he had been obliged to dig to supply his own family
with water; and that the partridges had hardly strength to
fly away when pursued. The lowest estimation of the loss
of cattle in the province of Buenos Ayres alone, was taken
at one million head. A proprietor at San Pedro had previously
to these years 20,000 cattle; at the end not one remained.
San Pedro is situated in the middle of the finest
country; and even now abounds again with animals; yet
during the latter part of the "gran seco," live cattle were
brought in vessels for the consumption of the inhabitants.
The animals roamed from their estancias, and, wandering
far southward, were mingled together in such multitudes,
that a government commission was sent from Buenos Ayres
to settle the disputes of the owners. Sir Woodbine Parish
informed me of another and very curious source of dispute;
the ground being so long dry, such quantities of dust were
blown about, that in this open country the landmarks became
obliterated, and people could not tell the limits of their

I was informed by an eye-witness that the cattle in herds
of thousands rushed into the Parana, and being exhausted
by hunger they were unable to crawl up the muddy banks,
and thus were drowned. The arm of the river which runs
by San Pedro was so full of putrid carcasses, that the master
of a vessel told me that the smell rendered it quite impassable.
Without doubt several hundred thousand animals
thus perished in the river: their bodies when putrid were
seen floating down the stream; and many in all probability
were deposited in the estuary of the Plata. All the small
rivers became highly saline, and this caused the death of
vast numbers in particular spots; for when an animal drinks
of such water it does not recover. Azara describes [9] the
fury of the wild horses on a similar occasion, rushing into
the marshes, those which arrived first being overwhelmed
and crushed by those which followed. He adds that more
than once he has seen the carcasses of upwards of a thousand
wild horses thus destroyed. I noticed that the smaller
streams in the Pampas were paved with a breccia of bones
but this probably is the effect of a gradual increase, rather
than of the destruction at any one period. Subsequently
to the drought of 1827 to 1832, a very rainy season followed
which caused great floods. Hence it is almost certain that
some thousands of the skeletons were buried by the deposits
of the very next year. What would be the opinion of a
geologist, viewing such an enormous collection of bones, of
all kinds of animals and of all ages, thus embedded in one
thick earthy mass? Would he not attribute it to a flood
having swept over the surface of the land, rather than to
the common order of things? [10]

October 12th. -- I had intended to push my excursion further,
but not being quite well, I was compelled to return by
a balandra, or one-masted vessel of about a hundred tons'
burden, which was bound to Buenos Ayres. As the weather
was not fair, we moored early in the day to a branch of a
tree on one of the islands. The Parana is full of islands,
which undergo a constant round of decay and renovation.
In the memory of the master several large ones had disappeared,
and others again had been formed and protected
by vegetation. They are composed of muddy sand, without
even the smallest pebble, and were then about four feet
above the level of the river; but during the periodical floods
they are inundated. They all present one character; numerous
willows and a few other trees are bound together by a
great variety of creeping plants, thus forming a thick jungle.
These thickets afford a retreat for capybaras and jaguars.
The fear of the latter animal quite destroyed all pleasure
in scrambling through the woods. This evening I had not
proceeded a hundred yards, before finding indubitable signs
of the recent presence of the tiger, I was obliged to come
back. On every island there were tracks; and as on the
former excursion "el rastro de los Indios" had been the
subject of conversation, so in this was "el rastro del tigre."
The wooded banks of the great rivers appear to be the
favourite haunts of the jaguar; but south of the Plata, I
was told that they frequented the reeds bordering lakes:
wherever they are, they seem to require water. Their common
prey is the capybara, so that it is generally said, where
capybaras are numerous there is little danger from the
jaguar. Falconer states that near the southern side of the
mouth of the Plata there are many jaguars, and that they
chiefly live on fish; this account I have heard repeated. On
the Parana they have killed many wood-cutters, and have
even entered vessels at night. There is a man now living
in the Bajada, who, coming up from below when it was
dark, was seized on the deck; he escaped, however, with
the loss of the use of one arm. When the floods drive these
animals from the islands, they are most dangerous. I was
told that a few years since a very large one found its way
into a church at St. Fe: two padres entering one after the
other were killed, and a third, who came to see what was the
matter, escaped with difficulty. The beast was destroyed by
being shot from a corner of the building which was unroofed.
They commit also at these times great ravages
among cattle and horses. It is said that they kill their prey
by breaking their necks. If driven from the carcass, they
seldom return to it. The Gauchos say that the jaguar, when
wandering about at night, is much tormented by the foxes
yelping as they follow him. This is a curious coincidence
with the fact which is generally affirmed of the jackals
accompanying, in a similarly officious manner, the East Indian
tiger. The jaguar is a noisy animal, roaring much by night,
and especially before bad weather.

One day, when hunting on the banks of the Uruguay, I
was shown certain trees, to which these animals constantly
recur for the purpose, as it is said, of sharpening their
claws. I saw three well-known trees; in front, the bark
was worn smooth, as if by the breast of the animal, and on
each side there were deep scratches, or rather grooves,
extending in an oblique line, nearly a yard in length. The
scars were of different ages. A common method of ascertaining
whether a jaguar is in the neighbourhood is to
examine these trees. I imagine this habit of the jaguar is
exactly similar to one which may any day be seen in the
common cat, as with outstretched legs and exserted claws it
scrapes the leg of a chair; and I have heard of young fruit-
trees in an orchard in England having been thus much injured.
Some such habit must also be common to the puma,
for on the bare hard soil of Patagonia I have frequently
seen scores so deep that no other animal could have made
them. The object of this practice is, I believe, to tear off
the ragged points of their claws, and not, as the Gauchos
think, to sharpen them. The jaguar is killed, without much
difficulty, by the aid of dogs baying and driving him up a
tree, where he is despatched with bullets.

Owing to bad weather we remained two days at our moorings.
Our only amusement was catching fish for our dinner:
there were several kinds, and all good eating. A fish called
the "armado" (a Silurus) is remarkable from a harsh grating
noise which it makes when caught by hook and line,
and which can be distinctly heard when the fish is beneath
the water. This same fish has the power of firmly catching
hold of any object, such as the blade of an oar or the fishing-
line, with the strong spine both of its pectoral and dorsal
fin. In the evening the weather was quite tropical, the
thermometer standing at 79 degs. Numbers of fireflies were
hovering about, and the musquitoes were very troublesome.
I exposed my hand for five minutes, and it was soon black
with them; I do not suppose there could have been less than
fifty, all busy sucking.

October 15th. -- We got under way and passed Punta
Gorda, where there is a colony of tame Indians from the
province of Missiones. We sailed rapidly down the current,
but before sunset, from a silly fear of bad weather, we
brought-to in a narrow arm of the river. I took the boat
and rowed some distance up this creek. It was very narrow,
winding, and deep; on each side a wall thirty or forty feet
high, formed by trees intwined with creepers, gave to the
canal a singularly gloomy appearance. I here saw a very
extraordinary bird, called the Scissor-beak (Rhynchops
nigra). It has short legs, web feet, extremely long-pointed
wings, and is of about the size of a tern. The beak is flattened
laterally, that is, in a plane at right angles to that
of a spoonbill or duck. It is as flat and elastic as an ivory
paper-cutter, and the lower mandible, differing from every
other bird, is an inch and a half longer than the upper. In
a lake near Maldonado, from which the water had been
nearly drained, and which, in consequence, swarmed with
small fry, I saw several of these birds, generally in small
flocks, flying rapidly backwards and forwards close to the
surface of the lake. They kept their bills wide open, and
the lower mandible half buried in the water. Thus skimming
the surface, they ploughed it in their course: the water was
quite smooth, and it formed a most curious spectacle to behold
a flock, each bird leaving its narrow wake on the mirror-like
surface. In their flight they frequently twist about
with extreme quickness, and dexterously manage with their
projecting lower mandible to plough up small fish, which are
secured by the upper and shorter half of their scissor-like


bills. This fact I repeatedly saw, as, like swallows, they
continued to fly backwards and forwards close before me.
Occasionally when leaving the surface of the water their
flight was wild, irregular, and rapid; they then uttered loud
harsh cries. When these birds are fishing, the advantage
of the long primary feathers of their wings, in keeping them
dry, is very evident. When thus employed, their forms resemble
the symbol by which many artists represent marine
birds. Their tails are much used in steering their irregular

These birds are common far inland along the course of
the Rio Parana; it is said that they remain here during the
whole year, and breed in the marshes. During the day they
rest in flocks on the grassy plains at some distance from
the water. Being at anchor, as I have said, in one of the
deep creeks between the islands of the Parana, as the evening
drew to a close, one of these scissor-beaks suddenly appeared.
The water was quite still, and many little fish were
rising. The bird continued for a long time to skim the
surface, flying in its wild and irregular manner up and down
the narrow canal, now dark with the growing night and the
shadows of the overhanging trees. At Monte Video, I observed
that some large flocks during the day remained on the
mud-banks at the head of the harbour, in the same manner
as on the grassy plains near the Parana; and every evening
they took flight seaward. From these facts I suspect
that the Rhynchops generally fishes by night, at which time
many of the lower animals come most abundantly to the
surface. M. Lesson states that he has seen these birds
opening the shells of the mactrae buried in the sand-banks on
the coast of Chile: from their weak bills, with the lower
mandible so much projecting, their short legs and long
wings, it is very improbable that this can be a general habit.

In our course down the Parana, I observed only three
other birds, whose habits are worth mentioning. One is a
small kingfisher (Ceryle Americana); it has a longer tail
than the European species, and hence does not sit in so stiff
and upright a position. Its flight also, instead of being direct
and rapid, like the course of an arrow, is weak and
undulatory, as among the soft-billed birds. It utters a low
note, like the clicking together of two small stones. A small
green parrot (Conurus murinus), with a grey breast, appears
to prefer the tall trees on the islands to any other
situation for its building-place. A number of nests are
placed so close together as to form one great mass of sticks.
These parrots always live in flocks, and commit great ravages
on the corn-fields. I was told, that near Colonia 2500 were
killed in the course of one year. A bird with a forked tail,
terminated by two long feathers (Tyrannus savana), and


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