Page images

Ch. XI.]



vantageous. My experience in tropical countries has led me to the conclusion that in such parts at least there is one serious drawback to the advantages of having the skin covered with hair. It affords cover for parasitical insects, which, if the skin were naked, might more easily be got rid of.

No one who has not lived and moved about amongst the bush of the tropics can appreciate what a torment the different parasitical species of acarus or ticks are. On my first journey in northern Brazil, I had my legs inflamed and ulcerated from the ankles to the knees, from the irritation produced by a minute red tick that is brushed off the low shrubs, and attaches itself to the passer-by. This little insect is called the “Mocoim” by the Brazilians, and is a great torment. It is so minute that except by careful searching it cannot be perceived, and it causes an intolerable itching. If the skin were thickly covered with hair, it would be next to impossible to get rid of it. Through all tropical America, during the dry season, a brown tick (Ixodes bovis), varying in size from a pin's head to a pea, is very abundant. In Nicaragua, in April, they are very small, and swarm upon the plains, so that the traveller often gets covered with them. They get up on the tips of the leaves and shoots of low shrubs, and stand with their hind legs stretched out. Each foot has two hooks or claws, and with these it lays hold of any animal brushing past. All large land animals seem subject to their attacks. I have seen them on snakes and iguanas, on many of the large birds, especially on the curassows, and they abound on all the larger mammals, together with some of the small ones. Sick and weak animals are


particularly infested with them, probably because they have not the strength to rub and pick them off, and they must often hasten, if they do not cause their death. The herdsmen, or “vacqueros,” keep a ball of soft wax at their houses, which they rub over their skin when they come in from the plains, the small “garrapatos” sticking to it, whilst the larger ones are picked off. How the small ones would be got rid of if the skin had a hairy coat I know not, but the torment of the ticks would certainly be greatly increased.

There are other insect parasites, for the increase and protection of which a hairy coating is even more favourable than it is for the ticks. The Pediculi are specially adapted to live amongst hair, their limbs being constructed for clinging to it. They deposit their nits or eggs amongst it, fastening them securely to the bases of the hairs. Although the pediculi are almost unknown to the middle and upper classes of civilized communities, in consequence of the cleanliness of their persons, clothing, and houses, they abound amongst savage and half-civilized people. A slight immunity from the attacks of acari and pediculi might in a tropical country more than compensate an animal for the loss of its hairy coat, especially in the case of the domesticated dog, which shelters with its master, has not to seek for its food at night, and is protected by being domiciled with man from the attacks of stronger animals. In the huts of savages dogs are greatly exposed to the attacks of

arasitical insects, for vermin generally abound in such localities. Man is the only species amongst the higher primates that lives for months and years, often from generation to generation, on the same spot. Monkeys change

C. XI.]



their sleeping places almost daily. The ourang-outang, that makes a nest of the boughs of trees, is said to construct a fresh one every night. The dwelling-places of savages, often made of, or lined with, the skins of animals, with the dusty earth for a floor, harbour all kinds of insect vermin, and produce and perpetuate skin disease, due to the attacks of minute sarcopti ; and if the dog by losing its hair should obtain any protection from these and other insect pests, instead of wondering that a hairless breed of dogs has been produced in a tropical country, I am more surprised that haired ones should abound. That they do so must, I think, be owing to man having preferred the haired breeds for their superior beauty and greater variety, and encouraged their multiplication.

[ocr errors]


Olamam-The “Sanate ”—Muy-nuy_Idleness of the people--Moun

tain road-The “bull rock”-The bull's-horn thorn-Ants kept as standing armies by some plants— Use of honey-secreting glands - Plant-lice, scale-insects, and leaf-hoppers furnish ants with honey, and in return are protected by the latter-Contest between wasps and ants—Waxy secretions of the homopterous hemiptera.

WE rode up to the large hacienda at Olama, and were asked to alight by a man whom I at first took to be the proprietor, but afterwards discovered was a traveller like ourselves, buying cattle for the Leon market. The owner of the house and his sister were away at a little town three or four miles distant; and I was a little nervous about the reception we should have when they returned and found us making ourselves at home at their house; but Velasquez had no apprehensions on that score, as he knew that throughout the central departments of Nicaragua it was the custom for travellers to expect and to receive a welcome at any house they might arrive at at nightfall. Excepting in the towns, and on some of the main roads, there are no houses where travellers can stop and pay for a night's

a night's lodging; but every one expects to be called on to give a night's shelter. This is all that is given, as travellers carry with them their hammocks and food. About an hour after dark, the owner and his

[blocks in formation]

sister returned on mules; and the gentleman seemed pleased at finding us at his house. I was going to offer a chair to the sister; but Velasquez told me it was not the custom to show any civilities to the ladies, as they would probably be misconstrued. After a while, the master had some chocolate brought to him by his sister, who waited upon him. The wife, the sister, and the daughter in the departments seldom sit down to their meals with the master of the house, but attend upon him like servants.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]
« EelmineJätka »