Elephas Indicus. Cuv.
The beautiful bird, the portrait of which is prefixed to the present article, is one of the rarest of its tribe, and has until very lately been confounded by ornithologists with the Hyacinthine Macaw, a fine but much less splendid species. It is figured by M. Spix in his Brazilian Birds under the name which we have adopted; but is there given without either characters or description. Its claim to generic distinction would seem to depend on the excessive length and powerful curvature of its claws and upper mandible, and on the slight developement of the toothlike process of the latter. Its colour is throughout of a deep and brilliant blue; the beak, legs, and claws, are black; and the cere and a naked circle round each of the eyes are of a bright yellow. Our specimen measures two feet four inches from the top of the head to the extremity of the tail, and the expansion of his wings is four feet. The length of the upper mandible is five inches, and that of the lower, two.
The generic characters of this well known group, comprehending not only the various races of the Dog, the Wolf, and the Jackal, but also the numerous species of Foxes, which differ from the rest only in the form of the pupils of their eyes (which are round in the former, and transversely linear in the latter) may be shortly enumerated as follows. They are all furnished in the upper jaw with six sharp incisors and two canine teeth in front, and with six molars on each side; the same number of each description is also to be found in the lower, with the addition of a seventh grinder. Their tongue is perfectly smooth, the papill? which cover it being soft and velvety to the touch, instead of rough and pointed as in the Hy?nas and Cats. They have five toes to each of the fore feet, of which only the four outermost touch the ground, the fifth being always more or less elevated. On the hind feet the number of the toes is no more than four, for although the rudiment of a fifth is distinctly visible in the skeleton, it is rarely observable in the living animal. On these toes they constantly support themselves in walking, the soles of their feet, or rather that part of the legs which corresponds to the soles of plantigrade animals, never being applied to the surface of the ground on which they tread. Their claws are blunt, strong, but little curved, and not at all retractile; and their use is evidently limited to turning up the earth. Their muzzle is more or less elongated to afford space for the ample series of lateral teeth; and the strength of their jaws, as well as the extent of opening between them, is by this means much diminished. In most of these particulars they exhibit a striking contrast with the more perfect of the carnivorous races, and afford grounds for expecting an equally manifest falling off from their ferocious and sanguinary propensities. The dogs are in fact by no means equally carnivorous with the cats; and their teeth, especially the grinders, are fitted as well for the demolition of vegetable as of animal substances.
The purposes for which they are commonly employed are rather those of pomp, of luxury, and of ostentation, than of utility. As a means of warlike offence they have been, since the introduction of firearms, absolutely disused; and it is only as beasts of burden that they are turned to any useful account. In this respect the services of a single Elephant are equal to those of five or six horses, as they will carry from fifteen to twenty hundred weight, and travel from forty to fifty miles a day. They generally consume a hundred weight and a half or two hundred weight of solid food, and thirty or forty gallons of fluid, in the course of the day. They are fond of wine, spirits, and other intoxicating articles, by the attraction of which they are frequently induced to exert their powers, and to perform various feats of dexterity, when all other methods have failed to render them tractable. They become strongly attached to their keepers; but, if irritated by ill usage, their hatred is as violent as their affection, and is carefully stored up until a favourable opportunity occurs, when they seldom fail to remember an insult or an injury, even at very distant periods of time.