THE HOMES OF THE VIZCACHAS 109
feet- of ground, and are so numerous in Patagonia that you can hardly ride half a mile without coming on one at any rate. The villages go on in the same place for generations, except that every now and then, when the dwelling is getting uncomfortably crowded, a vizcacha of unusual energy will look out for a suitable spot fifty or sixty yards from his old home, and form a new burrow; his lazy companions, however, taking care not to join him till all is ready, when they drop in by accident one by one.
When once the vizcachera is built, in nice soft ground, and its park (about half an acre in extent) of smoothly cropped grass is properly laid out, the vizcachas show themselves to be people of regular habits.
In winter it is their custom to stay in their burrows till dark, but in summer they come out before sunset, to take advantage of the evening air. First one of the elders will appear and sit quietly on the mound, and then, gradually, the doorways are filled with loungers, the males standing upright, and the females, smaller and livelier and lighter than their masters, sitting on their haunches. Like their two-legged sisters, they become eagerly curious at the sight of any passer-by, and make strange noises. If he approaches, they dash quickly into their burrows; but often their sharp eyes and little noses may be seen peering round the corner, longing for another look.
All vizcachas are very careful about their fur, and spend much time combing it out smooth with their paws. They are very sociable, but do not consider it good manners to enter each other's houses; visits are paid at the entrance, and even when pursued, a vizcacha will hardly ever seek refuge across his neighbour's threshold. They have no idea of self-control, and any sudden noise occurring when they are feeding gives rise to a perfect babel of cries and screams. A vizcacha has a great variety of notes, and can make