These creatures are peculiar to the American continent. They are, in fact, "guinea-pigs" on a large scale, and bear the greatest resemblance to those well-known animals, except in size and colour; for the capivaras are of uniform sandy brown.
First, then, there were animals of the rodent kind. These were pacas, agoutis and capivaras. The pacas were creatures a little larger than hares, and not unlike them, except that their ears were shorter. They were whitish on the under parts, but above were of a dark brown colour, with rows of white spots along each side.
The same scarcity of toes is a characteristic of the agoutis, capivaras, and so called "Guinea pigs," all of which are cousins-german of the biscacha. But, strange to say, in these of the pampa there exists the same queer companionship as in those of the prairie a bird associating with the quadruped a species of owl, the Athene cunicularia.
These creatures are peculiar to the American continent. They are, in fact, "guinea-pigs" on a large scale, and bear the greatest resemblance to those well-known animals, except in size and colour; for the capivaras are of a uniform sandy brown.
"But the nobler beast, the tapir, occupied all our thoughts; and leaving the capivaras to be gathered in by the women, the hunters got back to their posts in a few seconds. "There was no doubt that a tapir would be roused. The island had all the appearance of being the haunt of one or more of these creatures, besides the tracks were evidence of their recent presence upon the spot.
Now would appear a flock of capivaras or chiguires, as they are also called the largest of rodent animals, basking upon some sunny bank, raising their great rabbit-like heads, and gazing curiously at the passing periagua. Perhaps before the travellers had lost sight of them, the whole gang would be seen suddenly starting from their attitudes of repose, and in desperate rush making for the water.
This was, in fact, the case, for the point was a favourite resting-place for the "chiguires," or "capivaras," on their passage to and from the water. There were tracks of tapirs, too, and peccaries, and many sorts of wading birds, that had been there while the mud was still soft.
The flesh of most species is very good eating, and they are therefore much sought after both by the natives and colonists. Along with these, near the juvia-tree, were several capivaras, already noticed. But still more singular creatures on the ground were the monkeys. Of these there were different kinds; but that which first drew the attention of our party was the great Capuchin monkey.
This gave them altogether a lighter appearance than hogs, and yet they did not run as fast, although when first noticed they appeared to be doing their best. Our travellers knew them at once, for they were animals that are common upon the rivers in all the warm parts of South America. They were "capivaras," or "chiguires," as they are also called.
Two more tapirs were killed; several capivaras; and a paca which is an animal much prized by the Indians for its flesh, as well as the teeth used by them in making their blow-guns. We also obtained a pair of the small peccaries, several macaws, and no less than a whole troop of guariba monkeys.