253 BABYLONIA-CLIMATE AND PRODUCTS.
of old, Mesopotamia, Syria, alike in the desert and the hills. Next and most formidable
were the bear, the hyena, the panther, and the leopard. The herbivora were represented by
the wild ox, the wild ass, the stag, the antelope, the goat, and the sheep. Of the lesser
creatures may be named the fox, the hare, and the rabbit. A few of these animals are still
found, but rarely or in remote districts; others are common, and abound.
In modern times quite a number of additional animals not mentioned in the Assyrian
inscriptions have become prevalent in the countries once dominated by the Babylonians.
Such are the otter and the beaver, the lynx and the badger, the sable and the squirrel,
the jerboa and the porcupine. Some of these are found in some parts, and some in others.
Alligators have been seen in the Euphrates by travelers.
The birds of Babylonia were-and are-nearly identical with those now occupying the same
latitudes in Europe and America. The chief birds of prey are the eagle, the vulture, the
falcon, the owl, the hawk, and the crow. The smaller race consists of magpies, jack-daws,
blackbirds, thrushes, nightingales, larks, et id omne genus. Of the edible birds the most
prized and most abundant are pheasants, quails, and partridges. Of the river-fowl the
principal are geese and ducks. Of the ugly and fantastic species may be mentioned the
pelican, the flamingo, the stork, the heron, and the cormorant. Besides these are snipes,
woodcocks, sand-grouse, and. parrots. In the times of the Empire the ostrich was common in
Syria and Babylonia, though that phenomenal creature is not any longer found in those
regions. Perhaps the most peculiar bird of these countries is a kind of heron, unknown in
Europe. It inhabits Northern Syria and the districts about Aleppo. It is grayish white in
color, having rips of scarlet on the wings, and a large beak scarlet and black. The feet
are yellow and the eyes red. In shape it resembles the stork, but it Is four feet high,
and the expanded wings measure as much as nine feet! This strange creature goes in a flock
of his kind. They are semi-aquatic. In the rivers of Northern Syria they may be seen
standing in rows across the stream. They select a shallow. Here they squat with their
outspread tails upstream. The current is thus stopped; the water below runs away, leaving
bare the bed. When this feat is accomplished the birds all swoop down at signal and gather
up in their big beaks the fish and frogs that have been exposed in the bed of the river!
The fishes belonging to the waters of Assyria and Chaldaea have already been mentioned.
Some of the reptiles also have been noticed. Of insects, those most dreaded are scorpions,
tarantulas, and locusts. The last-named have been the dread of fifty generations. Coming
up from no one knows where, swarming across the sky in clouds that no one can measure,
settling like an inexorable plague on every green thing that springs from the goodness of
the earth, these devastating creatures are the veritable curse of the countries subject to
their ravages. In the locust-bird Nature has kindly provided an antidote with the bane.
The principal domestic animals of Babylonia may be briefly mentioned. The chief of these
were the camel, the horse, and the ass. The nature of the country was specially adapted to
the service of these creatures. The open plain, tending on the Arabian side to the desert,
gave opportunity for the endurance and sagacity of the camel, for the fleetness and spirit
of the horse, for the dogged patience and pertinacity of the ass. Next in importance were
the mules and the oxen. The former were large and strong, and as in other countries
combined in themselves the better qualities of their diverse ancestry. They were much used
alike in peace and war. The monuments of Assyria show them under the saddle, harnessed to
carts, drawing huge war-chariots on the way to battle. From their attitude in the
inscriptions they seem to have been large and full of spirit, plunging and rearing like
horses. The asses from which these animals were derived were larger and better in all
respects than the breeds known in Europe. The same can not be said for the horses of
Babylonia, for these were hardly equal to