Page:Madagascar - Phelps - 1883.djvu/28

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26

A SKETCH OF

which is the principal edible of the natives, and of which there are eleven varieties. It is the general belief of the people that this plant is of comparatively recent introduction into the island, although it has been Known there for several hundred years. So also with the cocoa-nut, which is supposed to have been washed ashore on the island by the waves some hundred and fifty years ago. The bread-fruit tree is of more recent introduction still. Plantains and bananas have been known from time immemorial. There are several kinds of yams, the manioc plant, Indian corn, large millet, beans, gourds, melons, pine apples and earth-nuts. Lemons, oranges, citrons, limes, peaches, and mulberries have long been introduced, and they flourish luxuriantly. Coffee has been found to succeed well. Wheat, barley, and oats have been produced, but are not much prized by the natives, and do not seem to flourish in their soil. The common potato is extensively cultivated and highly esteemed.

Honey and wax are abundant, and many kinds of oil, including that from the palma Christi, are obtained from the numerous vegetable productions of the country.

The ornithology of the island is but comparatively little known. Domestic poultry is abundant, and pheasants, partridges and guinea-fowl, both wild and tame, are common. Besides the birds which appear to be natives of the island, peacocks, turkeys, geese and ducks have been introduced. There are pigeons, turtle-doves, eagles, owls, kites, crows, hawks, paroquets with their gay plumage and querulous voices, etc., etc. Wild geese, ducks and other water-fowl abound in the lakes and rivers.

Although the quadrupeds of Madagascar extend to but few varieties, they comprehend the kinds most useful and essential t oa nation in the early stages of its civilization. Horned cattle are numerous, both tame and wild. Many of the latter resemble in shape and size the cattle of Europe. The former are of the zebu, or buffalo kind, and have a large hump or bunch on the back between the shoulders. Herds of cattle constitute the principal wealth of a number of the chiefs or nobles, and not only furnish a considerable portion of their means of subsistence, but are exported in large numbers to the islands of Bourbonand Mauritius, and furnished to the shipping visiting the coast for supplies. Besides cattle, sheep, swine, and goats are also abundant. The sheep, which appear to be aboriginal, resemble those of the Cape of Good Hope, covered