|The Burgess Animal Book for Children|
|by Thornton Burgess|
|To answer Peter Rabbit’s questions about his relatives, Old Mother Nature holds a school for the animals every day at sun-up for a month. Encouraging the animals to notice the differences between them and to offer their observa-tions of animal behavior, Old Mother Nature helps them all gain a greater understanding of the mammals of North America. Starting with the animals close to home, the school moves in ever-widening circles to encompass the animals of the far west and the extreme north, as well. A fine introduction to mammals for students in the primary grades. Ages 6-9 |
PIGGY AND HARDSHELL
 ALL the way to school the next morning Peter Rabbit did his best to
guess who it might be that they were to learn about that day. "Old
Mother Nature said that he is related to some one who lives in Farmer
Brown's barnyard," said Peter to himself. "Now who can it be?" But
try as he would, Peter couldn't think of any one. He asked Jumper
the Hare if he had guessed who it could be. Jumper shook his head.
"I haven't the least idea," said he. "You know I seldom leave the
Green Forest and I never have been over to that barnyard in my
life, so of course I don't know who lives there."
Danny Meadow Mouse and Whitefoot the Wood Mouse were no wiser, nor
was Johnny Chuck. But Chatterer the Red Squirrel, it was plain to
see, was quite sure he knew who it was. Chatterer had been over
to Farmer Brown's so often to steal corn from the corn crib that
he knew all about
 that barnyard and who lived there. But though
Peter and the others teased him to tell them he wouldn't.
So when Old Mother Nature asked who had guessed to whom she had
referred Chatterer was the only one to reply. "I think you must
have meant the Pig who is always rooting about and grunting in
that barnyard," said he.
"Your guess is right, Chatterer," she replied, smiling at the little
red-coated rascal, "and this morning I will tell you a little about
a relative of his who doesn't live in a barnyard, but lives in the
forest, as free and independent as you are. It is Piggy the Peccary,
known as the Collared Peccary, also called Wild Pig, Muskhog, Texas
Peccary and Javelina.
He is called Wild Pig and Muskhog.
"He is a true Pig and in shape resembles that lazy, fat fellow in
Farmer Brown's barnyard when he was little. You would know him for
a Pig right away if you should see him. But in every other way
excepting his habit of rooting up the ground with his nose, he is
a wholly different fellow. For one thing his legs, though short,
are more slender and he is a fast runner. There isn't a lazy bone
in him, and he is too active to grow fat.
"His head is large and his nose long, and his tail is almost no
tail at all; it is just a little
 rounded knob, as if he had at one
time had a tail and it had been cut off. His hair is coarse and
stiff, the kind of hair called bristles. From the back of his head
along his back the bristles are long and stout. They are black at
the tips so that he appears to have a black back. When Piggy is
angry he raises these long bristles so that they stand straight
up and this gives him a very fierce appearance.
"His color is so dark a gray that at a distance he appears black.
Indeed he is black on many parts of him. Just back of the neck a
whitish band crosses the shoulders, and this is why he is called
the Collared Peccary. You see he seems to be wearing a collar.
On each jaw are two great pointed teeth called tusks, the two
upper ones so long that they project beyond the lips. These tusks
are Piggy's weapons, and very good ones they are.
"The home of Piggy the Peccary is in the hot southwestern part of
this country, where live Jaguar and Ocelot, the beautiful spotted
members of the Cat family. They are two of his enemies. He never
likes to be alone, but lives with a band of his friends and they
roam about together. He is found on the plains and among low hills,
in swamps and dense forests, and among the thickets of cactus and
other thorny plants that grow in
 dry regions. Plenty of food and
shelter from the hot sun seem to be the main things with Piggy."
"What does he eat?" asked Peter Rabbit.
Old Mother Nature laughed. "It would be easier, Peter, to tell you
what he doesn't eat," said she. "He eats everything eatable, nuts,
fruits, seeds, roots and plants of various kinds, insects, Frogs,
Lizards, Snakes and any small animals he can catch. Sometimes he
does great damage to gardens and crops planted by man. He delights
to root in the earth with his nose and often turns over much ground
in this way, searching for roots good to eat.
"On the lower part of his back he carries a little bag of musky
scent, and from this he gets the name of Muskhog. While as a rule
he wisely runs from danger, he is no coward, and will fight fiercely
when cornered. His friends at once rush to help him and surround the
enemy, who is usually glad to climb a tree to escape their gnashing
tusks. However, he is not the fierce animal he has been reported to
be, ready to attack unprovoked. He will run away if he can. Mr. and
Mrs. Peccary have two babies at a time.
"This is the last of the hoofed animals and the last but one of the
land animals of this great country, so you see we are almost to the
 school. This last one is perhaps the queerest of all. It
is Hardshell the Armadillo, and belongs to the order of Edentata,
which means toothless."
"Do you mean to say that there are animals with no teeth at all?"
asked Happy Jack Squirrel, looking as if he couldn't believe such
Old Mother Nature nodded. "That is just what I mean," said she.
"There are animals without any teeth, though not in this country,
and others with so few teeth that they have been put in the same
order with the wholly toothless ones. Hardshell the Armadillo is
one of these. He has no teeth at all in the front of his mouth
and such teeth as he has got do not amount to much."
This is the nine-banded
Armadillo of the southwest.
"But why do you call him Hardshell?" asked Peter impatiently.
"Because instead of a coat of fur he wears a coat of shell," replied
Old Mother Nature, and then laughed right out at the funny expressions
on the faces before her. It was quite clear that Peter and his
friends were having hard work to believe she was in earnest. They
suspected her of joking.
"Do—do you mean that he lives in a sort of house that he carries
with him like Spotty the Turtle?" ventured Peter.
"It is a shell, but not like that of Spotty,"
ex-  plained Old Mother
Nature. "Spotty's shell is all one piece, but the Armadillo's shell
is jointed, so that he can roll up like a ball. Spotty isn't a
mammal, as are all of you and all those we have been learning about,
but is a reptile. Hardshell the Armadillo, on the other hand, is a
"Well, all I can say is that he must be a mighty queer looking
fellow," declared Peter.
"He is," replied Old Mother Nature. "He is about the size of Unc'
Billy Possum, and if you can imagine a pig of about that size with
very short legs, a long tapering tail, feet with toes and long claws
and a shell covering his whole body, the front of his face and even
his tail, you will have something of an idea what he looks like.
"He lives down in the hot Southwest where Piggy the Peccary lives.
His coat of shell is yellowish in color and is divided in the middle
of his body into nine narrow bands or joints. Because of this he
is called the Nine-banded Armadillo. In the countries to the south
of this he has a cousin with three bands and another with six.
Hardshell's head is very long and he carries it pointed straight
down. His small eyes are set far back, and at the top of his head
are rather large upright ears. The shell of his tail is divided
into many jointed rings so that he can move it at will.
 "His tongue is long and sticky. This is so that he can run it
out for some distance and sweep up the Ants and insects on which
he largely lives. His eyesight and hearing are not very good,
and having such a heavy, stiff coat he is a poor runner. But he
is a good digger. This means, of course, that he makes his home
in a hole in the ground. When frightened he makes for this, but
if overtaken by an enemy he rolls up into a ball and is safe from
all save those with big and strong enough teeth to break through
the joints of his shell. He eats some vegetable matter and is
accused of eating the eggs of ground-nesting birds, and of dead
decayed flesh he may find. However, his food consists chiefly of
Ants, insects of various kinds, and worms. He is a harmless
little fellow and interesting because he is so queer. He is
sometimes killed and eaten by man and his flesh is considered very
good. He has from four to eight babies in the early spring. The
baby Armadillo has a soft, tough skin instead of a shell, and as
it grows it hardens until by the time it is fully grown it has
become a shell.
"Now this finishes the lessons about the land animals or mammals.
There are other mammals who live in the ocean, which is the salt
water which surrounds the land, and which, I guess, none of you
have ever seen. Some of these come on
 shore and some never do.
To-morrow I will tell you just a little about them, so that you
will know something about all the animals of this great country
which is called North America. That is, I will if you want me to."
"We do! Of course we do!" cried Peter Rabbit, and it is plain that
he spoke for all.
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