The Red Book Of Animal Stories - online children's book

Stories of Animals, Fantastic and Mundane, Edited By Andrew Lang

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wearing the dress of their youth, or in clinging to habits long out of date. Well, this is precisely the impression produced by animals who have modified their ways and appearances as little as possible in conformity to a new state of things. Nature, as we learn if we study her, never works in jumps. She takes into consideration the kind of world the creature has to live in, the kind of food he has to eat, the kind of enemy he has to fight with, and every­thing about him is fitted for this special life, and this only. If conditions change, he slowly and gradually, but surely, changes with them. Some animals take much longer to adapt themselves than others, just as the Chinese have stuck to their own ways for thousands of years, while, in a quarter of a century, the Japanese have made themselves more European than the dwellers in Europe. Now, the badger, the elephant, and many more, are the Chinese of the kingdom of animals. The very sight of them makes us put our clocks back, and try to fancy what the earth was like in those far-away days. As we have seen, the elephant race lived under various names, in different regions from those where it dwells now, and developed a suitable skin-covering to protect it from the cold. At one time a great beast, in shape like an elephant, but with a certain relationship, too, to the Tapir family, wandered about a large part of Europe, and passed much of its existence in rivers or lakes. The lower jaw of this Dinotherium bent downward, and ended in two heavy tusks, which would only have been an encumbrance on land, but may have been very useful in grubbing up the roots of plants from the bottom of the river. Or he may have dug his tusks firmly into the bank and pulled himself out of the water with their help.
Then, as soon as the rhinoceros quitted the cold regions of the north, and went to live in Africa, he dropped the woolly coat that had protected him, and appeared from henceforward in his dark grey skin, which is much less becoming. As to crocodiles, the oldest known form, found
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