This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Some people believe that Rats take a tenth of the farmer's produce. They are certainly very destructive pests, both in town and country; the person who would invent a certain mode of destroying them would confer a vast benefit on his species. The only approved methods are to employ tar around their holes and runs, and if possible to catch one of the enemy, tar him well and let him go, or so to balance the top of a barrel that it will turn easily, and deposit the vermin in water. Among the volumes on our table, is the new London book of Francis T. Buckland, son of the geologist, entitled "Curiosities of Natural History," in which we find two capital chapters; the first, "A Hunt in a Horse Pond," describing the wonders of insect life; and the second, an "Essay on Rats." On the subject of traps, he says:
" The iron wire cage traps, and the common hutch traps, are sometimes useful in houses, but they soon lose their efficacy, because after one or two rats are caught, the others find out that it is a dangerous machine and do not go into it. The traps then do more harm than good, because the rats smell the bait, come to it from all parts, and, as we have seen, news flies quickly among them, you get your neighbors rats as well as your own into your premises. They play round the bait, but do not go into the trap; then, being hungry, both the strangers and the original rats of the place begin foraging about, and make holes in the corn bins, cupboards, etc The same thing holds good with the fly-papers; it is true yon catch some of the flies, but you get double your share of flies in the room, as they are attracted by the poison placed for them".
Mr. Buckland tells a curious story of "the trumpet rat," which has deceived numbers of naturalists, but at last has been found out. They are manufactured for sale to amateurs! thus: take two rats, tie their hams firmly on a board, the nose of the one close to the end of the tail of the other; with a penknife or lancet make an incision into the nose of the rat which is hinder-most, and graft it into the incision of the nose; tie firmly the muzzle to the tail, and leave the rats in this position for forty-eight hours. At the end of the time the union has taken place, and the two parts have grown together; then cut off the tail of the rat which is in front to the required length, and let him go, but still keep the other tied to the board, but with his head loose, and give him something to eat. At the end of a month or more the wound is perfectly healed; and the eyes of the most curious would not see a trace of the grafting. This is done by Zouaves, it is said; it is true that the spur of a chicken may be grafted into its comb; but in the rat experiment, we must say the difficulty of holding the patients still and without biting renders the story apochryphal.
Our author is full of anecdote; of a certain caterpillar, he says: "There is a genuine case of a living creature becoming converted into a vegetable. It occurs in a caterpillar that lives in New Zealand and in Australia. There are several specimens at the College of Surgeons. We see a caterpillar as hard as if it was carved out of wood, and from it is growing a long stem. The history of it is as follows: The caterpillar eats a fungus, or the sporules of a fungus, and these immediately begin to grow in its inside. The beast feels uncomfortable, and possibly thinking it is going to turn into a chrysalis, buries itself in the ground, and there dies. The fungus goes on growing and absorbing the entire contents of the skin, taking the exact form of the creature. Having done this, it throws out a shoot, and this always at a certain fixed spot, namely, at the pole at the back of the head. This caterpillar is found also in China, where it is used for food".
A barber told Mr. Buckland that he was in the habit of selling the human hair clipped from customers at six pence a bushel to a farmer, who declared that the places where he had put the hair did not require manure for three years afterwards.