ANIMALS.—There are few of our animals in Australia, or of their animals in England. There is no hare, no rabbit, no nightingale, no thrush, in Australia. Once there were no horses, nor cows, nor sheep, nor pigs; but now there are a great many. Much terrified were the natives at the sight of the first horse which came from England; for they had never seen such a large animal before.
The largest beast in Australia is the Kangaroo, remarkable for its short fore-legs, and its great strong hind-legs, and for the pocket in which it shelters its little one. It is a gentle creature, and can be easily tamed. A pet kangaroo may often be seen walking about a settler’s garden, cropping the grass upon the lawn. But though easily tamed, a wild kangaroo is not easily caught; for it makes immense springs in the air, far higher than a horse could leap, though it is not as big as a sheep. When hunted by dogs, it gets, when it can, into the water, and turning round, and standing still, dips the dogs, one by one, till it drowns them.
There is another beast, called the opossum, not much bigger than a large cat, and it also has a pocket for its young ones. But instead of cropping the grass, it eats the leaves of trees. It has a gentle face like a deer, and a long tail like a monkey. It hides itself, as the squirrel does, in the hollows of trees. Like the owl, it is never seen in the day, but at night it comes out to feed. The blacks are very cunning in finding out the holes where the opossums are hidden, and they know how to drag them out by their long tails, without getting bitten by their sharp teeth. With the skin of the opossum the natives make a cloak.
The wild dogs, or dingoes, are odious animals. They may be heard yelling at night to the terror of the shepherd, and the farmer. They are bold enough to rush into a yard, and to carry off a calf, or a pig; and when they have dragged it into the woods, they cruelly eat the legs first, and do not kill it for a long while.
These three—the kangaroo, the opossum, and the dingo,—are the principal beasts of Australia.
Among the birds, the emu is the most remarkable. It is nearly as tall as an ostrich, and has beautiful soft feathers, though not as beautiful as the ostrich’s. But the most curious point in the emu is,—it has no tongue. You may suppose, therefore, that it is neither a singing bird, nor a talking bird; it only makes a little noise in its throat. But if it is silent, there are numbers of parrots, and cockatoos, to fill the air with their screams. In England, these birds are thought a great deal of, but in Australia, they are killed to make into pies, or into soup. Parrot-pie and cockatoo-soup, are common dishes there. However, many of the parrots and cockatoos, are caught by the blacks, and sold to the English, who send them to England in the ships.