Camps and Trails in China eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 325 pages of information about Camps and Trails in China.

We could scan every inch of the hillside through our field glasses and watch the gorals as they moved about quite unconscious of our presence.  At this place they were feeding almost exclusively upon the leaves of low bushes and the new grass which had sprung up where the slopes had been partly burned over.  We found them browsing from daylight until about nine o’clock, and from four in the afternoon until dark.  They would move slowly among the bushes, picking off the new leaves, and usually about the middle of the morning would choose a place where the sun beat in warmly upon the rocks, and go to sleep.

Strangely enough they did not lie down on their sides, as do many hoofed animals, but doubled their forelegs under them, stretched their necks and hind legs straight out, and rested on their bellies.  It was a most uncomfortable looking attitude, and the first time I saw an animal resting thus I thought it had been wounded, but both Mr. Heller and myself saw them repeatedly at other times, and realized that this was their natural position when asleep.

When frightened, like our own mountain sheep or goats, they would run a short distance and stop to look back.  This was usually their undoing, for they offered excellent targets as they stood silhouetted against the sky.  They were very difficult to see when lying down among the rocks, but our native hunters, who had most extraordinary eyesight, often would discover them when it was almost impossible for me to find them even with the field glasses.  We never could be sure that there were no gorals on a mountainside, for they were adepts at hiding, and made use of a bunch of grass or the smallest crevice in a rock to conceal themselves, and did it so completely that they seemed to have vanished from the earth.

Like all sheep and goats, they could climb about where it seemed impossible for any animal to move.  I have seen a goral run down the face of a cliff which appeared to be almost perpendicular, and where the dogs dared not venture.  As the animal landed on a projecting rock it would bounce off as though made of rubber, and leap eight or ten feet to a narrow ledge which did not seem large enough to support a rabbit.

The ability to travel down such precipitous cliffs is largely due to the animal’s foot structure.  Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn has investigated this matter in the mountain goat and as his remarks apply almost equally well to the goral, I cannot do better than quote them here: 

The horny part of the foot surrounds only the extreme front.  Behind this crescentic horn is a shallow concavity which gives the horny hoof a chance to get its hold.  Both the main digits and the dewclaws terminate in black, rubber-like, rounded and expanded soles, which are of great service in securing a firm footing on the shelving rocks and narrow ledges on which the animal travels with such ease.  This sole, Smith states, softens in the spring of the year, when the snow is
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Camps and Trails in China from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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