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THE history of the birds1 follows next, the very largest of which, and indeed almost approaching to the nature of quad- rupeds, is the ostrich2 of Africa or3 Æthiopia. This bird exceeds in height a man sitting on horseback, and can surpass him in swiftness, as wings have been given to aid it in running; in other respects ostriches cannot be considered as birds, and do not raise themselves from the earth. They have cloven talons, very similar to the hoof4 of the stag; with these they fight, and they also employ them in seizing stones for the purpose of throwing5 at those who pursue them. They have the marvellous property of being able to digest6 every substance without distinction, but their stupidity7 is no less remarkable; for although the rest of their body is so large, they imagine, when they have thrust their head and neck into a bush, that the whole of the body is concealed. Their eggs8 are prized on account of their large size, and are employed as vessels for certain purposes, while the feathers of the wing and tail are used as ornaments for the crest and helmet of the warrior.

1 Cuvier remarks, that the accounts given by the ancients of birds, are enveloped in greater obscurity than their information on quadrupeds, or fishes. The quadrupeds, he says, are not so numerous, and are known from their characteristics. The fishes also, which the ancients so highly esteemed as an article of food, were well known to them in general, and they have repeated occasions to speak of them: but as to the birds, the augurs were their principal informants. Pliny, in fact, often quotes their testimony; and we find, from what he says, that these men had not come to any agreement among themselves as to what were the names of divers species of birds, the movements of which announced, according to them, the success or misfortune of states equally with individuals. This portion, in fact, of the works of Pliny, Cuvier remarks, is an excellent commentary on the remark of Cicero, who, an augur himself, asked the question, how two augurs could look each other in the face without laughing. There are also several passages from Aristotle, who has, however, given but very little attention to the exterior characteristics of birds: it is only from the similarity of their habits and present names that we are able, in many cases, to guess what bird it is that is meant.

2 "Struthiocamelus:" from the Greek, signifying a "little sparrow," and a "camel." Cuvier remarks, that Pliny's description is correct, and that he is only mistaken in a few slight particulars.

3 Pliny perhaps here uses the conjunction "vel" in the explanatory sense of "otherwise;" intending to distinguish Æthiopian Africa from the Roman province of that name.

4 Cuvier remarks, that there is some truth in this, so far as that the ostrich has only two toes, like the stag and other ruminating animals; but then they are unequal in size, and not covered with hoofs.

5 Father Lobo, in his account of Abyssinia, says that when the ostrich is running at great speed, it throws the stones behind with such violence, that they would almost seem to be thrown at those in pursuit.

6 An ostrich, Cuvier says, will swallow anything, but it is by no means able to digest everything. He says, that he has seen ostriches with the stomach ruptured by nails which they have swallowed, or dreadfully torn by pieces of glass.

7 It has been remarked by Diodorus Siculus, B. ii., that so far from displaying stupidity in acting thus, it adopts a wise precaution, its head being its most weak and defenceless part.

8 Cuvier states that its egg is equal to twenty-four to twenty-eight fowls' eggs, and that he had frequently eaten of them, and found them very delicate.

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