Because the body and tail are more round and smooth than the true crocodile; it is also smaller, and has smaller eggs. Like it, however, it has five toes on the fore feet, and four on the hinder, of which only the three inner ones are provided with claws.
Because (as the Indians on the Orinoco assert) they may acquire additional weight to aid them in diving and dragging their victims under water. A traveller being somewhat incredulous on this point, Bolivar, to convince him, shot three alligators with his rifle, and in each of them were found stones varying in weight according to the size of the animal. The largest killed was about 17 feet in length, and had within him a stone weighing about 60 or 70 pounds.
Because it is driven into the water by the tiger and other enemies ; whence it is made to scamper ashore by the porpess, the natural enemy and entire master of the cayman; so much so, indeed, that the natives enter the water without fear when the porpess is in sight.
Because eggs of crocodiles form the favourite food of the ichneumon, wherefore, this portion of its history became mingled in early times with the above fanciful notion. Divine honours were accordingly awarded to the ichneumon by the ancient Egyptians, and it became, and continued for ages, an object of superstitious reverence to a people prone to this symbolical worship of the powers of nature.
Ichneumons are still domesticated in Egypt, where they rid the houses of the smaller animals, and perform the office of our domestic cat.
* The hippopotamus is, strictly speaking, a quadruped, but its habits being amphibious, entitle it to mention here, especially in connection with the crocodile, to which it is a ferocious enemy.
Because it runs with astonishing swiftness, for its great bulk, at the bottom of lakes and rivers. At one time it was not uncommon in the Nile, but now is no where to be found in that river, except above the cataracts.
The head of a hippopotamus was brought to England about four years since, with all the flesh about it, in a high state of preservation. This animal was harpooned whilst in combat with a crocodile, in a lake in the interior of Africa. The head measures near four feet long, and eight feet in circumferenee: the jaws open two feet wide, and the cutting-teeth, of which it has four in each jaw, are above a foot long, and four inches in circumference. This formidable creature, when full-grown, measures about 17 feet long from the extremity of the snout to the insertion of the tail, above 16 feet in circumference round the body, and stands above seven feet high. When excited, it puts forth its full strength, which is prodigious. " I have seen," says a mariner, as we find it in Dampier, " one of these animals open its jaws, and seizing a boat between its teeth, at once bite, and sink it to the bottom". I have seen it, on another occasion, place itself under one of our boats, and rising under it, overset it with six men who were in it, but who, however, happily received no other injury."
Because it is said to keep in company with the crocodile, and to warn, by its whistling noise, of the proximity of its formidable associate.
Because it flies or takes short leaps from tree to tree, by having, on each side of the body, a membranaceous wing, scarcely connected with the legs. It is supported by the first six false ribs, which instead of being bent round towards the belly, for the protection of the viscera, proceed laterally from the body.