Page:Descent of Man 1875.djvu/379

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Chap. XIII.
Law of Battle.

effect. It has been recorded by a trustworthy writer[1] that in Derbyshire a kite struck at a game-hen accompanied by her chickens, when the cock rushed to the rescue, and drove his spur right through the eye and skull of the aggressor. The spur was with difficulty drawn from the skull, and as the kite though dead retained his grasp, the two birds were firmly locked together; but the cock when disentangled was very little injured. The invincible courage of the game-cock is notorious: a gentleman who long ago witnessed the brutal scene, told me that a bird had both its legs broken by some accident in the cockpit, and the owner laid a wager that if the legs could be spliced so that the bird could stand upright, he would continue fighting. This was effected on the spot, and the bird fought with undaunted courage until he received his death-stroke. In Ceylon a closely allied, wild species, the Gallus Stanleyi, is known to fight desperately "in defence of his seraglio," so that one of the combatants is frequently found dead.[2] An Indian partridge (Ortygornis gularis), the male of which is furnished with strong and sharp spurs, is so quarrelsome, "that the scars of former fights disfigure the breast of almost every bird you kill."[3]

The males of almost all gallinaceous birds, even those which are not furnished with spurs, engage during the breeding-season in fierce conflicts. The Capercailzie and Black-cock (Tetrao urogallus and T. tetrix), which are both polygamists, have regular appointed places, where during many weeks they congregate in numbers to fight together and to display their charms before the females. Dr. W. Kovalevsky informs me that in Russia he has seen the snow all bloody on the arenas where the capercailzie have fought; and the black-cocks "make the feathers fly in every direction," when several "engage in a battle royal." The elder Brehm gives a curious account of the Balz, as the love-dances and love-songs of the Black-cock are called in Germany. The bird utters almost continuously the strangest noises: "he holds his tail up and spreads it out like a fan, he lifts up his head and neck with all the feathers erect, and stretches his wings from the body. Then he takes a few jumps in different directions, sometimes in a circle, and presses the under part of his beak so hard against the ground that the chin feathers are rubbed off. During these movements he beats his wings and turns round and round. The more ardent he grows the more lively he becomes, until at last the bird appears like a frantic

  1. Mr. Hewitt in the 'Poultry Book by Tegetmeier,' 1866, p. 137.
  2. Layard, 'Annals and Mag. of Nat. Hist.' vol. xiv. 1854, p. 63.
  3. Jerdon, 'Birds of India,' vol. iii. p. 574.