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The North, too, produces herds of wild horses, as Africa and Asia do of wild asses;1 there is, also, the elk, which strongly resembles our steers, except that it is distinguished by the length of the ears and of the neck. There is also the achlis,2 which is produced in the island of Scandinavia;3 it has never been seen in this city, although we have had descriptions of it from many persons; it is not unlike the elk, but has no joints in the hind leg. Hence, it never lies down, but reclines against a tree while it sleeps; it can only be taken by previously cutting into the tree, and thus laying a trap for it, as otherwise, it would escape through its swiftness. Its upper lip is so extremely large, for which reason it is obliged to go backwards when grazing; otherwise, by moving onwards, the lip would get doubled up. In Pæonia, it is said, there is a wild animal known as the bonasus;4 it has the mane of the horse, but is, in other respects, like the bull, with horns, however, so much bent inwards upon each other, as to be of no use for the purposes of combat. It has therefore to depend upon its flight, and, while in the act of flying, it sends forth its excrements, sometimes to a distance of even three jugera;5 the contact of which burns those who pursue the animal, just like a kind of fire.

1 We learn from various travellers, that there are troops of wild horses and asses in many parts of Tartary and the neighbouring countries; but it is doubtful whether they have proceeded from an original wild stock, or may not have been the produce of some individuals which had accidentally escaped from the domestic state.—B.

2 No doubt Pliny has fallen into an error on this subject, and his elk and achlis are, in reality, the same animal. The description of the latter, for the most part, applies to the former, with the exception of the want of joints in the legs, which is entirely without foundation. Cæsar's account of the elk, Bell. Gall. B. vi. c. 27, agrees generally with Pliny's account of the achlis; he also says, that the legs of the alces are "without articulations and joints."

3 The Romans had but a very imperfect knowledge of the Scandinavian peninsula. They supposed it to be surrounded by the ocean, and to be composed of many islands, which Ptolemy calls Scandiæ. Of these, the largest bore especially the name of Scandia or Scandinavia, by which name the modern Sweden was probably indicated. See B. iv. c. 30.

4 Pliny's account is from Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. ix. c. 45, but, as is often the case, with considerable exaggerations. Aristotle says, that these animals eject their excrements to a distance of four feet, and that it is of so acrid a nature, as to cause the hair of the dog to fall off. The word jugerum is generally used as a measure of superficial surface.—B.

5 Pliny here renders the Greek πλέθρον, by "jugerum," which is ordinarily a measure of superficies. In the present case, therefore, it must mean a measure of length, of 100 Grecian, or 104 Roman feet.

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  • Commentary references to this page (2):
    • E. T. Merrill, Commentary on Catullus, 63
    • J. B. Greenough, Benjamin L. D'Ooge, M. Grant Daniell, Commentary on Caesar's Gallic War, AG BG 6.27
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