3 SEPTEMBER 1898, Page 12


ON Tuesday the foreign and English members of the Zoological Congress were able to form some idea of the magnitude of the experiments in animal acclimatisation which the Duke of Bedford is now carrying out in the park of Woburn Abbey. In the spring of the present year some account of the general effect of this introduction of numbers of foreign birds and beasts of unusual form amid the scenery of an English park appeared in the Spectator. But the foreign deer and antelopes, and flocks of exotic wild fowl which range at liberty at Woburn Abbey, form only a por- tion of the gathering of the beasts from the uttermost parts of the earth which are there passing through their period of probation, to see what are, and what are not, suited to become dwellers in this island in the East Atlantic.

Omitting the herds of indigenous deer, red and fallow, a counting of heads in the paradise at Woburn Abbey would give a larger population to the subsidiary enclosures than to the open park. But it must not be supposed that their appearance is that of animals confined or secluded in compartments, or that the park suggests the idea of being cut up into allotments like the little paddocks in a zoological garden. This subdivided area is a part of the park itself, surrounded by light iron fencing, spaced out into divisions so large and ample that the eye scarcely notices the divisions. The herds of yak, wapiti, Japanese deer, and English deer roam outside the enclosures, while within them are the not yet domiciled species in almost equal freedom. The paddocks fringe the left hand of the northern road through the park for nearly a mile, becoming more open and spacious towards the hilltop north of the Abbey. At the time of the writer's last visit, the scene in this succession of minor deer parks was without a parallel in England. The dieavy rains and wet had driven the animals to the highest ground. There, on the sky-line of a rounded hill, outlined sharply against the light, were giant forms of North Ameri- can bison, their heavy heads, manes, and humps silhouetted, dying down in black against the sky, while just beyond the 'ridge were the heads and horns of a group of huge wapiti stags reposing over the summits. It might have been a scene from the illustrations of " Catlin's Journeys among the North American Indians," were it not that on the crest of an 'adjacent slope were seen the outlines of samba/. stags and ibex from the Indian hills.

The smaller and more artificial paddocks are grouped ,near to a large pinetum, and fringed by a deep border of moods of the ordinary mixed character of English planta- tions. These are full of pheasants, not only of the English .breeds, but also of that fine variety, the Reeve's pheasant, twice the size of the English bird, with tail 5 ft. long, and a body of gold, white, black, and rich chestnut-red. One portion of this wood is enclosed with a low covered way open on the inner side, but lightly roofed, so that the birds can run in and keep dry in bad weather. Near this a field of ,grain is sown, and there was seen the curious spectacle of Monal pheasants of the Himalayas, with plumage of iii. .descent purple, together with Reeve's pheasants and English pheasants and partridges, quietly scratching and feeding upon the stubble. From these woods these birds fly into the deer-paddocks, where they may be seen strolling, feeding, -sunning themselves, and occasionally fighting among the deer, antelopes, and ibexes. In the enclosure adjacent to 'the woods are a mixed population of deer and antelopes. 'The sable antelopes, tall, dark-brown animals, with recurved ,horns, have a very fine appearance in this semi-free condition. With them are Siberian roebuck, Chinese muntjac-deer, and Formosan hinds and stags. All these looked thoroughly 'healthy and vigorous. Generally speaking, the results of the .experiments at Woburn show that Chinese, Siberian. and Japanese animals are well suited to the English climate. The appearance of a number of Pekin deer, elk-deer, Chinese -swamp-deer, and some splendid Maral stags kept in other -divisions of the park bore out this theory. The Japanese stags thrive admirably here, as at Powerscourt, Colebrook, Leonardslee, and elsewhere, the best strain being those from 'Powerscourt, where they were first established by the present owner of that gem of Irish estates. If appearance is a -standard for acclimatisation, the Axis, or cheetul, deer of the Indian jungle can claim to be the most ornamental of all the thirty-six races of deer to be seen gathered together at Woburn. In the early summer, when all the other deer except the wapiti are either shedding their horns or " in the velvet," the Axis are in perfection, both of colour And antlers. The large herd of this species looks as if .carved out of ivory and red gold in the sunshine and verdure of English scenery. Their horns are almost white, their eyes and muzzles of jet black, their throats white, and their backs and sides a brilliant golden tan, spotted with round dots of purest white. It is worth a pilgrimage to Woburn to see these deer alone. They breed constantly, sometimes producing two fawns in the twelve- month. As a contrast to the bold and brilliant jungle stags we may take the elands. These large and gentle antelopes dwell in great seclusion, in one of the few enclosures which is enclosed by a solid fencing made of .split oak of considerable height. Here they enjoy absolute quiet, and can be seen without seeing their visitors. A peep through a loophole showed a herd of eleven elands lying down and placidly chewing the cud, bulls, cows, and calves, like satin-coated, mild-eyed Jersey cattle. Even in this enclosure the birds were present. A brace of Indian Chikore ,partridges, a pheasant, and a pair of English partridges were feeding among the elands. There is so much variety of .form among the animals, and such freedom and sp ace in the ,park, that the mind is in a constant state of pleasing antici- pation of some fresh surprise or striking juxtaposition of species from far distant lands, yet dwelling in perfect harmony. -Here a pair of white-tailed gnus, with gazelles and bright- red Chinese swamp-deer; there a mixed group of Mouffion rams, ,oheetnl-deer, and Pekin stags; and, again, the strange effect mountain animals ranged along the sky line, thar sheep, and ibex with their curling horns. Strange birds turn np in most unexpected places. Near the sheds and shelters quantities of gravel are laid to prevent mud accumulating. This graeeel, after the wet, was a favourite haunt of the Indian Chikore partridges, pairs of which were walking about on several of these dry patches. One pair were seen, perfectly tame, on the gravel opposite the entrance door of the Abbey. In the eland paddock were a number of tinamon, the partridge of South America. The largest species lay freely. Their curious eggs, like polished stones, are familiar objects at Woburn.

The tameness of many of the deer is very remarkable. Except the acclimatised Japanese from Powersoourt, and elsewhere, they are wild creatures, caught in distant islands and continents, from the Moluccas and Formosa to the Altai Mountains, or the swamps of Canada. Yet the difficulty is to keep them wild enough. It is always dangerous to allow stags to become tame and familiar. If they lose their leer of man they are liable to become dangerous at certain seasons, and attack persons in a park or keepers as savagely as they do their own kind. Consequently, all familiarity has to he discouraged at other seasons when the deer are most anxious to be friendly. With the hinds this is not necessary, and their confidence is very pretty and engaging. In a new enclosure destined as a kind of feeding-place and shelter for deer in winter, were a number of Pekin and swamp deer, with a few other smaller species. These creatures crowded round their visitors, thrusting their muzzles into their hands and against their clothes in the most confiding manner possible. The Chinese swamp-deer, like the American species, are among the most elegant of their race. Their legs are as Blender in proportion to their size as those of a gazelle, their fur the rich red gold of a Canadian fox, and set off, like the fox skins, with bright black points. But perhaps the prettiest ornament of the American swamp-deer is the lining of its large and leaf-shaped ears. All the inner hollow, from side to side, is filled with a kind of filigree of white fur or hair, like lace or frosted silver, a most charming contrast to the large black eyes, and bright fulvous fur. Among the four hundred foreign deer collected in the park and enclo- sures some will necessarily prove more suitable to the soil than others. So far, it is said that the American species are less hardy in their new environment than those of the Old World. The Japanese flourish exceedingly, so do the Axis breed, and it is to be hoped that the Nilgai may also become thoroughly acclimatised. Among the little-known species recently introduced is a herd of Luedorf's deer from Northern Central Asia. They are said to be an intermediate species between the red-deer of Europe and the wapiti ; but their appearance scarcely bears out this view. They are large, tall, and rather elegant deer, with a very upright carriage of head and shoulders. A collection so wide in its range and so numerous gives a guarantee that all species will have a fair trial. In a few years the results will show what varieties are, and what are not, suited for acclimatisation, and in any case their establishment in the park at Woburn gives oppor- tunities to become familiar with their temperaments, habits, and ways of life which would never have been possible in the limited accommodation of a zoological garden.