Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/804

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

preceded that of Egypt, we might have presumed that the Egyptians received trained horses from abroad before taming the ass that lived wild in their land; but nothing authorizes us to suppose that this was the case. In all probability, the Egyptians made use of the indigenous species, or the ass, before they did of the horse, an exotic species that never came to Africa till it was domesticated.

M. George, in his "Études Zoologiques," brings evidence corroborative of these views. Real wild asses are now found, according to him, only in Abyssinia, where they have the slate-gray color and the cranial peculiarities typical of the species.

The name by which the Semitic peoples call the ass, hamar (ancient Assyrian, imeru), a name signifying red or bright fawn color, is applicable to the hemione and not to the ass, and indicates that, confounding the two species as modern naturalists and travelers have done, they gave to the introduced animal the name which they had long applied to the similar but not identical native animal. M. Sanson was therefore right in calling the Oriental domesticated beast the Egyptian breed, or Equus Caballus Africanus. M. Sanson has also made a distinct race, the European, of the asses which are native to the Hispano-Atlantic center; and, as their restricted geographical area leaves no doubt that their original home was there, the propriety of this distinction can hardly be called in question. Many documents also indicate that no race of asses is native to the northern regions of the old continent. Herodotus, Aristotle, and Strabo, all speak of the absence of asses from Scythia and Northwestern Europe, and account for it by the severity of the climate, which, they say, the animals are not able to endure. They were perfectly familiar with that part of those regions which lies north of the Black Sea; so their testimony as to that part is decisive. In the time of Diodorus, three hundred years after Aristotle, horses were employed in the transportation of tin from the shores of the British Channel to the mouth of the Rhine; and this indicates that asses were still unknown or rare in that part of Gaul. There is evidence, however, that the ass had been acclimated in the time of Aristotle in some of the most temperate parts of Central Europe; for Frontin, in his "Stratagems," tells that Atheas, King of the Scythians, a contemporary of Philip of Macedon, being at war with the Triballians and hard pressed, sent around his whole unarmed population, with the asses and cattle, to appear on the rear of his enemies and cause them to believe that he was receiving large re-enforcements.

Even now the ass does not live in, by any means, all of the northern part of the Eastern Continent. Ujfalvey says that the animals live and breed at Semipalatinsk, where the temperature falls to 15° below zero, but that at Omsk they are "fancy stock," and are kept alive only with great care; and he gives statistics to show that asses and mules are very few in comparison with horses all through Turkistan,