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M. Varro informs us that Quintus Axius, the senator, paid for an ass the sum of four hundred thousand sesterces;1 I am not sure whether this did not exceed the price ever given for any other animal. It is certainly a species of animal singularly useful for labour and ploughing,2 but more especially for the production of mules.3 In these animals also, the country in which they are born is taken into consideration; in Greece, those from Arcadia4 are the most valued; and in Italy, those of Reate.5 The ass is an animal which is unable to endure cold,6 for which reason it is that it is never produced in Pontus; nor is it allowed to cover at the vernal equinox, like other cattle, but at the summer solstice. The males are less proper for covering, when out of work. The earliest age at which the females are ever capable of bearing is the thirtieth month, but the usual time begins at the age of three years. The number to which it gives birth is the same as the mare, which it also resembles, in the length of its gestation, and in its mode of bringing forth; but the female will discharge the generative fluid from the womb, being unable to retain it, unless by blows she is forced to run immediately after being covered. They seldom bring forth two at one birth.7 When the she-ass is about to bring forth, she shuns the light and seeks darkness, in order to escape the observation of man. Asses are capable of breeding throughout the whole of their life, which extends to thirty years. Their attachment to their young is great in the extreme, but their aversion to water is still greater. They will pass through fire to get at their foals, while the very same animal, if the small- est stream intervenes, will tremble, and not dare so much as to wet even its feet. Nor yet in their pastures will they ever drink at any but the usual watering-place, and they make it their care to find some dry path by which to get at it. They will not pass over a bridge either, when the water can be seen between the planks beneath.8 Wonderful to relate, too, if their watering-places are changed, though they should be ever so thirsty, they will not drink without being either beaten or caressed. They ought always to have plenty of room for sleeping; for they are very subject to various diseases in their sleep, when they repeatedly throw out their feet, and would immediately lame themselves by coming in contact with any hard substance; so that it is necessary that they should be provided with an empty space. The profit which is derived from these animals exceeds that arising from the richest estate. It is a well-known fact, that in Celtiberia there are some sheasses which have produced to their owners as much as four hundred thousand sesterces.9 In the rearing of she-mules it is said to be particularly necessary to attend to the colour of the hair of the ears and the eyelids, for, although the rest of the body be all of one colour, the mule that is produced will have all the colours that are found in those parts. Mæcenas was the first person who had the young of the ass served up at his table;10 they were in those times much preferred to the onager or wild ass;11 but, since his time, the taste has gone out of fashion. An ass, after witnessing the death of another ass, survives it but a very short time only.

1 There is considerable difficulty in ascertaining the exact amount of sums of money mentioned by the ancients. We read in Varro, B. ii. c. 1, and B. ii. c. 8, of enormous prices said to have been given for asses, and the particular case of Axius is mentioned, B. iii. c. 2; according to the usual estimate, the sum here mentioned amounts to upwards of £3200 sterling,—B.

2 See B. xvii. c. 5.

3 Varro, B. i. c. 20, and B. iii. c. 16, and Columella, B. vii. c. 1, enlarge upon the valuable qualities of the ass for agricultural purposes; Columella, B. vi. c. 37, treats at length upon the production of mules.—B.

4 See a passage in Plautus, in which the superior excellence of the asses of Arcadia is referred to; Asinaria, A. ii. sc. 2, 1. 67.—B.

5 See B. iii. c. 17.

6 This property is mentioned by Herodotus, B. iv. c. 28, and by Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. viii. c. 27, also De Gener. Anim. B. ii. c. 8, and by Strabo, B. vii. The ass is a native of Arabia, and degenerates when brought into a cold climate.—B.

7 These circumstances appear to have been taken from Aristotle, Hist. Anitn. B. v. c. 14, and B. vi. c. 23.—B.

8 "Per raritatem eorum translucentibus fluviis."—B.

9 Upwards of £3200 sterling.—B.

10 An epigram of Martial, B. xiii. Ep. 97, appears to refer to the employment of the young ass as an article of food.—B. The famous sausages of Bologna are made, it is said, of asses' flesh.

11 The onager, according to Cuvier, is the same with the ass, in the wild state; it still exists in large herds in various parts of Southern Asia, and is called by the Tartars, Kulan.—B.

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