The total national investment in animal preservation will be less than the cost of a single battleship. The end result will be that a hundred years hence our descendants will be enjoying and blessing us for the trees and animals, while, in the other case, there will be no vestige of the battleship, because it will be entirely out of date in the warfare of the future.
Henry Fairfield Osborn.
Republished by permission from the Seventh Annual Report of the Forest, Fish and Game Commission of the State of New York.
The Scandinavian elk, which is closely related to the American moose, was known to classical antiquity as a strange and ungainly beast of the far north; especially as an inhabitant of the great Teutoborgian Forest, which spread across Germany from the Rhine to the Danube. The half mythical character which has always clung to this animal is well illustrated in the following quotation from Pliny’s Natural History, Book 8, chapter 16:
“There is also the achlis, which is produced in the island of Scandinavia. 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.” Pliny’s achlis and elk were the same animal.
The strange stiffness of joint and general ungainliness of the elk, however, were matters of such general observation as to apparently have become embodied in the German name eland, sufferer. Curiously enough this name eland was taken by the Dutch to South Africa, and there applied to the largest and handsomest of the bovine antelopes, Oreas canna.
In mediaeval times there are many references in hunting tales to the elk, notably in the passage in the Nibelungen Lied describing Siegfried’s great hunt on the upper Rhine, in which he killed an elk. Among the animals slain by the hero is the “schelk,” described as a powerful and dangerous beast. This name has been a stumbling block to scholars for years, and opinions vary as to whether it was a wild stallion—at all times a savage animal—or a lone survivor of the Megaceros, or Irish elk. In this connection it may be well to remark that the Irish elk and the true elk were not closely related beyond the fact that both were members of the deer family. The Irish elk, which was common in Europe throughout the glacial and post-glacial periods, living down nearly or quite to the historic period, was nothing more than a gigantic fallow deer.