Harper's New Monthly Magazine,  11 (1885–86), 413–18.

Living Balls

Olive Thorne Miller



Relevant illustrations:

eng. [5]


Anatomy, Natural History, Zoology, Animal Behaviour, Amusement, Naturalists, Zoological Gardens, Monstrosities

    Reflects that 'Happy is the animal whose anatomy enables him to assume the shape of a sphere', for that 'perfect form' is 'protective alike from the malice of enemies and the impertinent curiosity of friends!'. Observes that the South American 'ball armadillo, or Dasypus apar of the naturalist' has a 'horny case curiously divided into hexagonal plates, with three bands around his body, giving him, when walking about, the droll appearance of wearing a decorated blanket held in place by three girdles'. (413) Suggests that while 'Monkeys, which, true to their love of fun, delight in teasing small and harmless animals by pulling them around by the tail, look in vain for a tail to take hold of', it is 'not unlikely that [the ball armadillo] enjoys some lively rolling about at the hands of these frolicsome quadrumana, although no such performance has been reported'. Noting that the 'sea furnishes more than one representative of the ball-makers', comments that 'Darwin says of [...] the Didion [in Darwin 1839], that it floats on the back when thus distended, and is able not only to swim, but to guide itself in this position'. States that the 'strangest animal of that land of unusual forms, Australia' is the 'duck-billed platypus, or Ornithorhynchus', which, as well as 'possessing features of both birds and beasts of the most opposite character', can also roll itself into the 'most perfect ball'. Indeed, an 'eminent English naturalist [i.e. George Bennett], who kept a pair in confinement and carefully studied their manners, presented to the London Zoological Garden a drawing of one of his pets in this common sleeping position', and 'His account of the manners of his strange pets [in Bennett 1860] is very readable. Like other young animals, they were extremely playful, and their antics being like those of puppies, were most ludicrous in creatures so oddly shaped as the Ornithorhynchus'. (417)

© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020

Printed from Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical: An Electronic Index, v. 4.0, The Digital Humanities Institute <http://www.sciper.org> [accessed ]