Animal Medicine

We have already seen some of the wonderfully curative properties of

animals--let us learn something of their own medical attainments--as

described by Pliny. "The hippopotamus has even been our instructor in

one of the operations of medicine. When the animal has become too bulky,

by continued overfeeding, it goes down to the banks of the river, and

examines the reeds which have been newly cut; as soon as it has found a

tump that is very sharp, it presses its body against it, and so wounds

one of the veins in the thigh; and by the flow of blood thus produced,

the body, which would otherwise have fallen into a morbid state, is

relieved; after which, it covers up the wound with mud.

"The bird, also, which is called the Ibis, a native of the same country

of Egypt, has shewn us some things of a similar nature. By means of its

hooked beak, it laves the body through that part by which it is

especially necessary for health, that the residuous food should be

discharged. Nor, indeed, are these the only inventions which have been

borrowed from animals to prove of use to man. The power of the herb

dittany, in extracting arrows, was first disclosed to us by stags that

had been struck by that weapon; the weapon being discharged on their

feeding upon this plant. The same animals, too, when they happen to have

been wounded by the phalangium, a species of spider, or by any insect

of a similar nature, cure themselves by eating crabs. One of the very

best remedies for the bite of the serpent, is the plant with which

lizards treat their wounds when injured in fighting with each other. The

swallow has shown us that the chelidonia is very serviceable to the

sight, by the fact of its employing it for the cure of its young, when

their eyes are affected. The tortoise recruits its powers of effectually

resisting serpents by eating the plant which is known as cunile

bubula; and the weasel feeds on rue, when it fights with the serpent

in pursuit of mice. The Stork cures itself of its diseases, with wild

marjoram, and the wild boar with ivy, as also by eating crabs, and,

more particularly, those that have been thrown up by the sea.

"The snake, when the membrane which covers its body, has been contracted

by the cold of winter, throws it off in the spring, by the aid of the

juices of fennel, and thus becomes sleek and youthful in appearance.

First of all it disengages the head, and then it takes no less than a

day and a night in working itself out, and divesting itself of the

membrane in which it has been enclosed. The same animal, too, on finding

its sight weakened during its winter retreat, anoints and refreshes its

eyes by rubbing itself on the plant called fennel, or marathrum;

but, if any of the scales are slow in coming off, it rubs itself against

the thorns of the juniper. The dragon relieves the nausea which

affects it in spring, with the juices of the lettuce. The barbarous

nations go to hunt the panther, provided with meat that has been rubbed

with Aconite, which is a poison. Immediately on eating it, compression

of the throat overtakes them, from which circumstance it is, that the

plant has received the name of pardalianches (pard-strangler). The

animal, however, has found an antidote against this poison in human

excrements; besides which, it is so eager to get at them, that the

shepherds purposely suspend them in a vessel, placed so high, that the

animal cannot reach them, even by leaping, when it endeavours to get at

them; accordingly, it continues to leap, until it has quite exhausted

itself, and at last expires: otherwise, it is so tenacious of life that

it will continue to fight, long after its intestines have been dragged

out of its body.

"When an elephant has happened to devour a chameleon, which is of the

same colour with the herbage, it counteracts this poison by means of the

wild olive. Bears, when they have eaten of the fruit of the

Mandrake, lick up numbers of Ants. The Stag counteracts the effect of

poisonous plants by eating the artichoke. Wood pigeons, jackdaws,

blackbirds, and partridges, purge themselves once a year by eating bay

leaves; pigeons, turtle-doves, and poultry, with wall pellitory, or

helxine; ducks, geese, and other aquatic birds of a similar nature,

with the bulrush. The raven, when it has killed a chameleon, a contest

in which even the conqueror suffers, counteracts the poison by means of