+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error


GOSSIP can scarcely fail to be entertaining
when it dwells upon the deeds and habits of
bird, beast, or fish. They can do nothing
impertinent. When Mr. Dixon tells us how his tame
guans in winter sat upon the kitchen fender to
enjoy the roasting fire; how if a window or door
were left open, they would make themselves at
home upstairs and downstairs, and disturb the
house with their sonorous outcries; how one
morning while busy writing, he heard a great
clatter in the adjoining apartment, and on
inspecting the cause, found one of the guans
on the drawing-room mantel-piece, admiring
itself in the glass, and making room for its
mate by clearing off the china ornaments;—
when we hear such things told we almost
think that we should like to keep a pair of
guans. They must be pleasant birds.

We have been reading Mr. Dixon's book
upon the Dovecote and the Aviary. Our
thoughts are fluttering full of guans, curassows,
cassowaries, emeus, and the like; it is good
for our peace that we should let some of
them fly.

The curassow, for example. He is a bird
who will follow you about like a dog; his
ways are most engaging; he is a large fowl,
and pre-eminently eatable. Pheasant is not
so exquisite a meat as curassow. Well, there
be curassows in England; they will live here,
they will fatten here, they will appear to be
extremely happy here; why can't they be
acclimatised, and bred in our farm yards as
pheasants have been acclimatised, and turkeys?
The question has been often asked, and Mr.
Dixon gives in answer his experience upon
the matter.

The curassows are somewhat smaller than
turkeys, and they live in flocks. The guans,
which are a genus of the same familythe
Cracidæ—are somewhat larger than pheasants,
and they live in pairs. When caught young
and tamed, the curassows make themselves at
home, and become full of sly and sociable ways
with us, as is the case with parrots or monkeys.
They like to establish themselves in-doors as
members of the family, and they live on
friendly terms with all the poultry in a farm.
Why is it then, that although the curassow
has been introduced into Europe for two hundred
and fifty years, it still remains a curiosity
among us, while the turkeywhich was first
introduced at nearly the same timeis to be
found strutting alive in almost every farmyard,
and boiled or roasted upon almost every
dinner table about Christmas time. Why do
we not get the curassow to breed among us;
that is, in fact, the question. The taming of
it is an easy matter.

One difficulty lies in the fact, that they
are in this country greenhouse birds during
the winter; they may lose their toes through
dabbling over cold, wet soil, their home being
among the forest trees of a hot climate. It is
because of their dwelling in the dense forest,
where their forms are closely shrouded in the
luxuriant foliage, that these sociable birds are
provided with so loud a voice for trumpeting
their whereabouts to one another. The windpipe
of the curassow, or guan, is lengthened
out and twisted under the skin of the throat
into a form much like that of a trumpet, and
on account of this provision the bird is able
to produce a large volume of sound. From
the hot forests of South America to the cold
sloppiness of winter on an English farm, the
change is great for the most good-humoured
of birds, and it may well come down to be
roasted prematurely by the kitchen fire.

But when these birds are placed, by
artificial means, in the best circumstances as
to climate, they do indeed lay occasional eggs,
and now and then rear young; but they do
not increase and multiply freely in any
natural proportion. Nothing could have been
pleasanter than the arrangement for the
curassows in the menagerie at Knowsley.
Mr. Dixon describes what he found there in
the summer of 1849. "The curassows and
guans were lodged in a series of lofty and
charming aviaries, open to the air and sunshine,
and inclosed only by wire netting,
except at the back, which consists of a range
of houses to which the birds can retire at
pleasure, and which in cold and damp weather
are kept at an agreeable temperature. Their
enclosures are planted with shrubs and
flowers; green turf, varied with clean gravel,
covers the ground; a small, clear stream of
water is ever flowing through each separate
little garden; not cleanliness merely, but the
most pleasing neatness is preserved."
Nevertheless these birds did little in the way of
rearing young. "One male bird," we are