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[CHAP. VII
PAMPAS.

appeared level, but were not so in fact; for in various places the horizon was distant. The estancias are here wide apart; for there is little good pasture, owing to the land being covered by beds either of an acrid clover, or of the great thistle. The latter, well known from the animated description given by Sir F. Head, were at this time of the year two-thirds grown; in some parts they were as high as the horse's back, but in others they had not yet sprung up, and the ground was bare and dusty as on a turnpike-road. The clumps were of the most brilliant green, and they made a pleasing miniature-likeness of broken forest land. When the thistles are full grown, the great beds are impenetrable, except by a fisw tracks, as intricate as those in a labyrinth. These are only known to the robbers, who at this season inhabit them, and sally forth at night to rob and cut throats with impunity. Upon asking at a house whether robbers were numerous, I was answered, "The thistles are not up yet;"—the meaning of which reply was not at first very obvious. There is little interest in passing over these tracts, for they are inhabited by few animals or birds, excepting the bizcacha and its friend the little owl.

The bizcacha[1] is well known to form a prominent feature in the zoology of the Pampas. It is found as far south as the Rio Negro, in lat. 41°, but not beyond. It cannot, like the agouti, subsist on the gravelly and desert plains of Patagonia, but prefers a clayey or sandy soil, which produces a different and more abundant vegetation. Near Mendoza, at the foot of the Cordillera, it occurs in close neighbourhood with the allied alpine species. It is a very curious circumstance in its geographical distribution, that it has never been seen, fortunately for the inhabitants of Banda Oriental, to the eastward of the river Uruguay: yet in this province there are plains which appear admirably adapted to its habits. The Uruguay has formed an insuperable obstacle to its migration; although the broader barrier of the Parana has been passed, and the bizcacha is common in Entre Rios, the province between these two great rivers. Near Buenos Ayres these animals are exceedingly conmion. Their

  1. The bizcacha (Lagostomus trichodactylus) somewhat resembles a large rabbit, but with bigger gnawing teeth and a long tail: it has, however, only three toes behind, like the agouti. During the last three or four years the skins of these animals have been sent to England for the sake of the fur.