Herper.com Blog

The following account comes from an early text describing the hunting practices of the southeastern United States, as told by an Englishman who lived many years in that region. Being from that era, the inherant prejudices are apparent. The account is being related for its historical value. You will find a curious blend of fact and fancy in this writing. The natural history anecdotes may or may not be apocryphal.

From: A Hunter's Experiences in the Southern States of America
by Captain Flack
London: Longmans, Green, and Co. 1866.

Chapter XVI.

The Alligator.

Description. — Body long and thick, protected by regular transverse rows of bony plates; head long and flat, the mouth extremely large, extending behind the eyes, and furnished in each jaw with a single row of teeth; the tongue very short and fleshy; it is attached to the lower jaw throughout its whole extent; ears closed externally. The tail is long and taper, strongly compressed on both sides, and surmounted towards its origin with a double series of keel-like plates, which gradually converge towards the middle of the tail, there uniting and forming a single row to the extremity. On the hind-feet are four toes, more or less perfectly united with membranes; the forefeet have five long and separate.

Size. — It grows to the length of fourteen or fifteen feet.

The alligator, properly so called, inhabits the fresh waters of the Southern States of America. According to the account of Messrs. Dunbar and Hunter, they encountered one as high as latitude 32 1/2° N., but its particular and special haunts are the rivers, lagoons, and swamps, of Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, and Texas; preference being given to a stagnant pond, or sluggish creek, rather than a swift running stream or river.

In some districts they may be seen in numbers, protruding their long snouts through the leaves of aquatic plants, as they watch for their prey; sometimes basking in the sun on the bank, or floating on the surface of the water. They are seen ashore more during the hottest part of the day than at any other time, as during the night they are actively employed in catching fish.

Some idea of the general appearance of the alligator can be easily formed; yet the backwoodsmen of America, who have killed dozens — perhaps scores of them — know very little of the manner of life of the scaly monsters. If you ask for information from a regular 'swamper' — an amphibious man, who, from choice or necessity, has fixed his abode in the swamps about the mouths of the Mississippi, amongst creatures which in many points he resembles — he will give you anything but a satisfactory reply.

'What does an alligator look like?' you might ask.

'Mighty like an old log,' the squatter would reply.

'What do they live on?'

'Whatever they can get hold of; and when there's nothing to be had, they will go without.'

Nor has he anything further to say than that it grows ten, fifteen, or thirty feet in length, but he — the squatter — never took the trouble to measure one.

The name alligator has been applied by the British settlers in the Southern States to a species of reptile resembling, in many respects, the crocodile of Egypt.

By some etymologists the name is supposed to be derived from the Spanish term el legarto, while others assert that it is a corruption or modification of the Indian word legateer.

The alligator does not differ in any important respect from the crocodile of the East, though, of course, there are a few minor distinctions. In the opinion of Cuvier it is not a distinct genus, but a sub-genus of crocodile, differing from the last-named animal in habitat, but agreeing with it in all the essential parts of its structure and economy.

The alligator lives and thrives best in dense swamps, where stagnant water, confined air, and decaying vegetation engender a foul miasma that would destroy almost anything save the poisonous snake and the great water lizard. As his thick armour defends him from all weapons except the rifle bullet, he moves about his domain without experiencing a sensation of fear. The vast boa constrictor might twine his coils in vain attempts to crush him, the rattle-snake would waste its poison long before its fangs penetrated that scaly hide, while even the American wild hog, or peccary — an animal which fearlessly attacks and destroys snakes of all kinds — gives the alligator a wide berth. Nor is it the slightest use for a mosquito, or any stinging insect, to buz round and attempt to torment him; he will simply open his mouth and catch the little torments by hundreds, seeming to enjoy the sport rather than otherwise.

In many parts of the Southern States men have so far conquered their antipathy towards these reptiles as to tame them, and keep them in confinement. In this semi-domestic state, the beast is said to exhibit more intelligence than would be expected from its appearance.

An alligator was once the cause of a very curious case being tried in New Orleans. A young lady brought an action against a neighbour for keeping an alligator in his yard, asserting that the beast was of extraordinary size and ferocity, that she had frequently occasion to enter his premises, and that, whenever compelled to do so, she was in fear of her life. The defendant, who had been arrested, being required to plead, stated that he kept the animal as a kind of house-dog, or night watchman, and that, unless provoked, it was a quiet peaceable reptile; furthermore, that the plaintiff had been in the habit of teasing the alligator, and exciting his anger by tickling him in the ribs with a long pole, throwing brickbats at him, and on one occasion going so far as to sear his back with a red-hot iron. Upon this, the defendant was discharged, while the lady was bound over to keep the peace towards the alligator and its owner.

The reporters of the New Orleans press do not inform us whether the alligator wept when its back was seared with that iron; but we are able to assert, that, although Shakespeare informs us that the 'tears of it are wet,' their lachrymal fountains have been sought in vain by cruel, though somewhat scientific, planters, who have actually squirted the juice and blown the smoke of tobacco into their eyes in order to test the truth of the old fable.

Very few of the backwoodsmen, even if they kill an alligator, trouble themselves to measure or examine it, and thus the reports with regard to its size are very conflicting. A gentleman, owning a plantation on the Red River, where alligators are very numerous, offered a reward of one hundred dollars to anyone who would bring him, dead or alive, an alligator twenty feet in length. Although the game was plentiful, and there was no lack of hunters, the reward was unclaimed, though I have no doubt it might have easily been obtained by anyone willing to devote a little time to the pursuit.

A man one morning hauled a live alligator which measured fifteen feet in length into the market-place at Galveston. He had taken the animal on the borders of a lake just below the town. A yoke of stout young oxen was required to drag the team along; but I am certain I have seen specimens of greater length.

In the breeding season the male alligators — bulls they are called — utter a loud bellowing which can be heard for miles; by listening very attentively, a perceptible vibration of the air can be felt. This sound will give no idea how far distant the listener may be from the reptile; for, while at one moment the sonorous bass rolls out clear and distinct as thunder, the next moment it will die away in a strange mysterious cadence, which harmonises with the dark gloom of the wild woods. This is the love-song of the alligator, and strange emotions it will sometimes awake in the bosom of the lonely hunter as he lies by his fire in the forest glade.

When several of them inhabit a lake, they may be heard to grunt much like the breathing of a fat pig. If penned up in a corner, or made angry, they will hiss with the vigour of a dozen geese.

The alligator is produced from an egg; the female lays thirty or forty in one place, which she covers with reeds and grass, or with sand, and then leaves them to be hatched by the heat of the sun. She never, however, moves very far from this nest, but endeavours, in its clumsy manner, to guard it from intruders. Vultures and other birds eagerly suck these eggs, and as soon as the young leave the shell, they are liable to the constant attacks of cranes, who evince a decided fondness for young alligator. The old 'bulls,' either from hunger or jealousy, or some other cause, destroy their own offspring; were it not so, the rivers of the South would be choked up with these hideous monsters.

The eggs of the alligator vary in size, most probably according to the age and size of the animal which produces them; they are longer and larger altogether than a hen's egg. It very often happens that two, three, or four females make use of one nest and lay their eggs together.

Frequently, while hunting on the coast regions of Texas, amongst the creeks and marshy pools, which are rather plentiful towards the Gulf of Mexico, I have seen low long-looking haycocks which, on inspection, proved to be the nests of alligators. More than once I have intruded rather rudely upon the old one, who has at once shuffled off into the neighbouring creek, leaving a very strong smell of musk behind.

The female alligator is said to be a very tender and careful mother: at least so says Chateaubriand, who, I am afraid, had more hankering after poetical effect in his writings than the habits of the beast, as it is to be found in the swamps of Texas, would justify. His words are:—

'Whatever may be the apparent deformity of the alligator, they possess many traits of divine goodness.

'It is a miraculous and touching contrast to see an alligator make her nest and lay her eggs, and, after the little monsters are hatched, to notice the solicitude which the dam displays for her family. The amazon keeps vigilant watch while the fires of day glow upon them. As soon as they are hatched, the mother takes them under her protection, leads them to the river, bathes them in the running waters, teaches them to swim, catches fish for their subsistence, and protects them from the males, who would devour them as food.'

This is a very fine description of the affair, and it may be perfectly true. But the following reasons incline me to think otherwise.

In the first place, if the female alligator were to exhibit such care and fondness as Chateaubriand ascribes to her, the old lady would, after a time, find herself sadly bothered, for generally the young brood are not all hatched at the same time. Days, and sometimes weeks, elapse, between the respective appearances of the first and the last, and during this time the youngsters would suffer all kinds of evils, as indeed they do, while the mother watched by the remaining eggs. I have frequently seen them of various sizes, from four inches up to a foot in length, and I amused myself by pinning them to the ground with a forked stick, and watching their spiteful pugnacious looks and attitudes.

As for the young alligators requiring any tuition in the art of swimming, I should fancy it would be about as necessary to place a cork jacket on the body of a young duck, or to give a frog bladders with which to buoy himself up.

The teeth are of different sizes, though each jaw contains an equal number. As a general rule, a long tooth and a short one will be found alternately. These teeth are hollow within, and are successively pushed out by others as the animal increases in size. This shedding of the teeth is believed to take place every year, and if you knock one off, the young tooth will be found underneath. The hunters frequently carve these teeth into very pretty little trinkets, making powder-measures with which they charge their rifles, hanging them round their necks with a buckskin thong.

The alligator uses his long flexible tail not only to assist him in his rapid movement through the water, but as an offensive and defensive weapon. I have often witnessed its great power. While hunting one day in company with a man named Steadman, amongst some tall flags which grew along the banks of a small bayou, my companion observed some deer feeding upon the other side of the creek. He at once determined to try and get a shot at them from the shelter of the flags on the other side, and for that purpose dismounted, handing me the bridle of his horse to hold, while he waded through the mud and water. I waited impatiently expecting to hear his rifle; but in a few minutes I saw him returning with a corpse-like countenance and a limping gait. The unlucky hunter told me that he had by accident stepped upon or touched an alligator, who had resented the unintentional insult by a severe blow with its tail. Several days passed before he recovered from the effects of that knock-down blow.

On another occasion an alligator had been shot, and was supposed to be perfectly dead, when an inexperienced hunter, wishing to test the strength and hardness of its scaly plate-armour, attempted to drive his knife into the animals foreshoulder. Round came the tail, as if galvanised, to defend the wounded shoulder, making a terrific sweep. A stout sapling, which stood in the way, was instantly snapped off, and so would have been the legs of the thoughtless hunter, had he not fortunately stood upon the opposite side to that where the blow had been struck.

On paying a visit to Steadman, the hunter above-mentioned, who, by-the-bye, was my first tutor in prairie-shooting, we were both aroused from our siesta one hot day by the terrific cries of a pig. Of course we started up to see what was the matter, and upon reaching the door of his cabin discovered that the noise proceeded from an old sow, which was coming from the reeds of a pond at no great distance from the house. When the animal drew near, we saw that a large triangular piece of skin, reaching from her ribs to half-way up the hip, had been cut from the flesh as clean as though a knife had performed the operation, and was dangling about with every motion of the animal. Steadman quickly informed me that it had been done by a blow from the tail of an alligator, and, furthermore, that these reptiles are very partial to pork.

If hog's flesh is not to be obtained, dog's flesh will do as well, or better. In the chase of bear or deer the hounds very frequently take to water after the game, and should any alligators be at hand, the pack will suffer severely, for the reptile is knowing enough to keep a good look-out as soon as it hears the baying of the dogs. Stories are told of alligators being outwitted by clever dogs, who would stand on the banks, and, keeping up a continual barking till the reptiles were all assembled in anticipation of the feast, would then run away and cross in safety a few hundred yards lower down. But this must be taken 'cum grano salis.'

The alligator possesses a keen scent, and will, if it has a chance, rob the hunter of his game. During my sojourn with my friend Steadman, we had once gone out in his boat to a stream known as Hall's Bayou, where for some time we fished in its sluggish waters, but growing tired of this tame sport, we fastened the boat to the bank, and went out on the prairies to look for deer. In a short time I had the good fortune to drive a fawn out of a clump of thick bushes; a charge of buckshot stopped its progress, and I carried my prize back to the boat, which was a tolerable-sized one, half decked, and used by the hunter to carry fish and game to market at Galveston, as well as to convey to his cabin whatever goods he required at home.

Feeling rather warm and fatigued, I indulged in a 'big drink' of cold grog, and, after arranging the sails so as to form a canopy over me (for the sun was very powerful), fell fast asleep upon the deck. I know not how long my slumbers lasted — not long I believe — but I was suddenly roused by a sensation as though something were pulling at my coat tails, which had hung down over the edge of the boat, and attempting to drag me into the water; at the same time I heard a scratching noise. Peeping over the side of the boat I saw a large alligator trying to reach my coat with its claw, but it happened to be at too great a height above the water. I seized my gun, and prepared for war, but the noise made in cocking the weapon frightened the ugly reptile; it sank down into the depths of the water, along with a companion which had been watching its motions. I informed my companion, Steadman, of what had occurred when he returned a few minutes after.

'It was the blood of the fawn that drew them here,' said he, when he had heard my tale; 'and your being so motionless made them attempt to get it. If you will lie down just as you were for a few minutes, I dare say I can get a shot at them; it is almost certain that they will try again for the venison.'

I lay down on my back as desired, and remained perfectly motionless for nearly a quarter of an hour. Then I heard the report of Steadman's rifle, and a great splashing about in the waters of the bayou told me that his bullet had reached its mark. The reptile went to the bottom dead; they always sink when killed in the water, and remain beneath the surface till decay takes place; but we never saw it again.

The legs of the alligator are feeble; they seem awkwardly set on, and are disproportionate to the size of the body, not being of greater thickness than the arm of a boy ten years of age. They can be easily held, so that the animal cannot withdraw them from the grasp; and thus no very great stretch of imagination is required to believe the story, in which a man is represented as mounted on the back of an alligator, and using, as a bridle, the two forelegs, which he had drawn up over the reptile's back.

The principal food of the alligator is fish, of which they devour thousands. In catching their food, the tail is a great adjunct to the mouth. The body of the alligator being placed in the proper position, at a suitable distance from the shore, assumes a curved form when the fish have come between him and the land, while the tail is run aground, and the huge jaws are opened under water. The only chance of escape for the poor fish is to run the gauntlet of that fearful mouth — a very poor chance indeed, for few have the good luck to get away.

If any animal, which the alligator seeks for prey, happens to be standing on the banks of the river or pond which it inhabits, the reptile will at once swim noiselessly towards it, occasionally bringing its head above the surface, to make sure that the victim has not been alarmed. When within striking distance it will suddenly rise, and, whirling round its tail with lightning velocity, it seldom, if ever, fails to bring the victim within reach of the wide jaws.

Many tales have been told by travellers of the ferocity of the American alligator; but of these stories few have been authenticated. A man dipping up water from a lake has had his arm seized and crushed in the jaws of a half-grown alligator; and children, playing by the side of shallow streams, sometimes fall victims to the rapacity of the reptile, but it is generally harmless. In some parts of the South, women and children will fearlessly bathe where the alligators are known to be numerous, exhibiting no fear whatever beyond splashing the water with their hands to drive the reptiles away. A hunter, while chasing a wounded deer in the neighbourhood of Baton Rouge, suddenly found himself in the midst of a number of alligators, which seemed to regard him with the utmost indifference; not only manifesting no desire to devour him, but also appearing to have no idea of fear.

Although the head of the alligator appears at first sight most hideous and repulsive, it is in reality wonderfully made, and has many beauties in it that would escape the notice of the casual observer. Its eyes, which resemble those of a Chinaman in shape, are really splendid, and when poets are tired of their old similes, they may find a new one in the eyes of the alligator. The construction of the jaws is wonderful. Their extreme length would render them very liable to fracture if they were of solid and continuous bone, as is the case in most anima]s. But, to provide against such accidents, they are composed of elongated sections, bound firmly together by strong sinews, like the many springs of a cross-bow A gentleman, whose word was generally believed, once asserted that he had seen the jaws of an alligator which, while the animal was alive, must have possessed a gape of at least five feet.

It would be quite impossible to form any idea of the habits of the alligator from a study of the animal in a state of captivity. Job himself could not be more patient and gentle under affliction than this ugly reptile. A naturalist, less humane than curious, once permanently fastened open the mouth of one, and the animal seemed perfectly satisfied to gape away its existence; he then fastened it in the most helpless manner, and then it made not the slightest resistance. After that he tried to drown it by sinking it beneath great weights under water, and still it remained passive. Another experiment was to cram it with food, even going so far as to thrust the huge meal down the animal's throat, where it remained for several days without being acted upon by the organs of digestion. By way of counteracting any evil that might have ensued from this, the worthy man deprived it of all food for a space of several weeks; but the alligator refused to die, actually increasing in size and fatness. Had it been well fed, it would in all probability have gone into a decline.

Sometimes, after having been most terribly wounded, the alligator will escape, full of life and vitality, while at other periods, a scratch, which would scarcely injure an infant, will be sufficient to kill it. At certain periods it feeds with the voracity of a shark, and then will for months refuse to touch food, and all this with no visible reason. The closest study of the alligator will give no idea of its desires, habits, or appetites.

The first movement of the alligator on being attacked is to crouch down with its head close to the ground. In this position it watches the intruder, till he finds that the enemy is determined to make it a fight or a race. Then, when anger begins to be in the ascendant, it rises to its feet, gradually arches up its scaly back, and hisses like a flock of geese with sore throats, or rather like the expiring notes from the forge-bellows of a blacksmith.

It may be described as a straightforward animal, inasmuch as it never turns aside out of its way for friend or foe. If the hunter meets one in a narrow pathway, he must either kill it or turn about himself. A gentleman, who sported in a long canoe on the waters of a lake, was just settling himself down in the craft when he saw a large alligator with its head towards him, evidently about to escape, if it could. The gentleman hesitated a moment, but he knew the invariable rule, and after standing for a moment with his feet on the boat's sides, like a second Colossus of Rhodes, thinking that the intruder would pass between his legs, he sprang over into the water from the side of the canoe, just as the alligator dived from the bows, seeming very much pleased at being allowed to make his escape.

During a stay at the town of Columbia on the Brazos river, I walked on a hot October day (in Texas, October is rather a hot month) to some lakes about six miles from the town, in pursuit of wild fowl. After some sport, I came across an alligator, which was lying asleep on a sand-bank, between twenty and thirty yards from the edge of the lake. The brute was ten or eleven feet in length, and I determined to have some fun with him. First of all, I disturbed his quiet nap by giving him a gentle tap on the nose with a cedar branch as thick as my wrist. Not much liking such treatment, he opened his jaws and treated me to a loud hiss, afterwards closing his mouth with a noise resembling the snap of a large steel trap. A second time I touched him on the nose, and, when his huge mouth opened, thrust my long pole into the aperture. In a moment he smashed the stout branch into chips no bigger than lucifer matches, and then gave another and louder hiss. He looked rather dangerous, and it struck me that if he were to charge me on his way to the lake, as he seemed inclined to do, I might get an ugly blow from his tail; so I poured the contents of one barrel of my gun into his head, and left him dead on the sand.

The following account of an alligator battue on a large scale may have some interest for the reader:—

'Some years ago, a gentleman in the southern part of Louisiana, on opening a plantation, found, after most of the forest trees had been cleared off, that in the centre of his land was a boggy piece of low soil nearly twenty acres in extent. This place was singularly infested with alligators. Amongst the first victims that fell a prey to their rapacity were a number of hogs and fine poultry. Next followed nearly all of a pack of fine deer-hounds.

It may easily be imagined that this last outrage was not passed over with indifference. The leisure time of every day was devoted to their extermination, till the cold of winter rendered them torpid, and buried them up in the mud.

The following. summer, as is usually the case, the swamp, from the intense heat, contracted in its dimensions; a number of artificial ditches drained off the water, and left the alligators little else to live in than mud, which was about the consistency of good mortar. Still the alligators clung with singular tenacity to their ancient homestead, as if perfectly conscious that the coming fall would bring rain.

While they were thus exposed, a general attack was planned and carried into execution, and nearly every alligator destroyed. It was a fearful and disgusting sight to see them rolling about in the thick sediment, striking their immense jaws together in the agony of death.

Dreadful to relate, the stench of these decaying bodies in the hot sun soon produced an unthought of evil. Teams of oxen were used in vain to haul them away; the progress of corruption, under the influence of a tropical sun, rendered the attempt useless.

On the very edge of the swamp, with nothing exposed but his head, lay one huge monster, evidently sixteen or eighteen feet in length; he had been wounded in the mêlée, and made incapable of moving, and the heat had actually baked the earth around his body as firmly as if he was embedded in cement. It was a cruel and singular exhibition to see so much power and destructiveness so helpless.

We amused ourselves by throwing various things into his great cavernous mouth, all of which he would grind up between his teeth. Seizing a large oak rail we attempted to run it down his throat, but it was impossible; he held it a moment as firmly as if it had been the bow of a ship, then with his jaws he crushed and ground it to fine splinters.

The old fellow had his revenge; the dead alligators were found more destructive than the living ones, and the plantation for a season had to be abandoned.

The alligator possesses, along with snakes and some other animals, the power of existing for a considerable space of time without food. This is one of its greatest peculiarities, and would be disbelieved by many, were there not numerous authenticated cases on record. At New Orleans, an alligator was kept in a dry yard for six months, during that time receiving neither food nor water; at the end of that time it seemed not to have suffered in the slightest degree from the enforced fast, but was as strong and lively as ever.

Others have been packed up in cages and sent long journeys by railroad and steamboat, in some instances all the way to Germany; and, though living during all that time — in one case a period of five months — on nothing but faith and fresh air, reached the consignees in as good condition as when dragged from the torpid waters of their native bayou.

The alligator hunter, who wishes to have good sport, should provide himself with a small dog or pig, the reptile being excessively fond of both animals. He will never fail to draw them to the surface of the water by making the animal utter cries of distress, even though he had fished in the same pool for a whole day without even catching a glimpse of one. When hogs are kept by the settlers in the neighbourhood of a river, the young roasters very rapidly disappear. Sometimes the old porkers will give battle to the invader of their homes, but they have very little chance against an antagonist which is shunned by nearly all the animal kingdom with the exception of man.

Even the bear sometimes falls a victim to its prowess. If the reptile can once fairly seize the bear, it will hold him under water and drown him.

I have never heard of a fight between the American buffalo and the alligator; but as the native rajahs in the East Indies have combats between wild oxen and crocodiles — in which the former are generally victorious, goring their enemy to death — I fancy there can be little doubt as to the result of a conflict between the Crocodilus Lucius and the fierce American wild bull.

A Southern gentleman, who was once an eye-witness of an encounter between a black bear and an alligator, has given the following vivid description of the combat:—

'While fishing on the banks of a beautiful stream in Western Louisiana, I was startled by the roaring of some animals in the cane-brake close by, who were apparently getting ready for action. These notes of warlike preparations were succeeded by the sound of feet trampling down the canes, and scattering the shells on the ground.

'Rushing to the trysting-place, or field of battle, there, instead of being, as was supposed, two prairie bulls, mixing impetuously in the fray was a large black bear raised upon his hind legs, his face besmeared with white foam, sprinkled with blood, which, dropping from his mouth, rolled down his shaggy breast. On a bank of snow-white shells, in battle array, was bruin's foe — a huge alligator.

'He appeared as if he had just been dipped in the Teche, and had emerged like Achilles from the Styx, with an invulnerable coat of mail. He was standing on tiptoe, his back curved upwards, and his mouth — where no tongue was visible — open to its greatest extent, displaying his wide jaws, two large tusks, and rows of teeth. His tail, six feet long, raised from the ground, was constantly waving about like the arm of a prizefighter, to gather force; his big eyes, starting from his head, glared upon bruin, while at times he uttered loud hissing cries, and then roared like a bull.

'Bruin, though evidently baffled, had a firm look, which showed he had not lost confidence in himself. If the difficulty of the undertaking had once deceived him, he was preparing to go at it again.

'Accordingly, letting himself down upon all fours, he ran furiously at the alligator, which, being prepared for him, threw its head and body partly round, to avoid the onset, and met bruin half-way with a blow of the tail, that sent him rolling on the sands and shells. But the bear was evidently not to be scared by one defeat.

'Three times in succession he rushed at the alligator, and was as often repulsed in the same manner, being knocked back by each blow just far enough to give the alligator, before he returned, time to recover the swing of his tail. The tail of the alligator sounded like a flail against the coat of hair on the bear's head and shoulders, but bruin bore it without flinching, still pushing on boldly, in the hope of coming to close quarters with his scaly foe.

'Finally, he made his fourth charge, with a degree of dexterity which those who have never seen this apparently clumsy animal exercising, would suppose him incapable of. This time he got so near to the alligator before the tail struck him, that the blow came with but half of its usual effect. The alligator was upset by the charge, and before it could recover its feet, bruin had grasped him round the body below the forelegs, and holding him down on his back, seized one of the reptile's legs in his mouth. The alligator was now in a desperate situation; he attempted in vain to bite, for his neck was so stiff that he found it impossible to turn his head round.

'Seized with desperation, the huge amphibious beast gave a loud scream of despair; but, being by nature a warrior both 'by flood and field,' he was not yet entirely vanquished. Writhing his tail in agony, he happened to strike it against a small tree which grew near the edge of the bayou, and aided by this purchase, he made a convulsive flounder, which precipitated himself and bruin, locked together, into the river.

'The bank from which they fell was four feet high, and the water below seven feet in depth. The tranquil stream received the combatants with a loud splash, then closed over them in silence. A volley of ascending bubbles announced their arrival at the bottom, where the battle ended. Presently bruin rose again, scrambled up the bank, cast a glance back at the river, and then, all dripping, made off to the cane-brake.'

Another kind of alligator rarely found is the Crocodilus Sclerops, or spectacled alligator, so named from the peculiar formation of the head around the eyes, which gives it the appearance of wearing glasses. The jacare, as it is called, is not to be found in the United States, its haunts being chiefly the tropical regions of Brazil, Surinam, and other parts of South America, where it grows to a large size, and is said to be fierce in its habits. Of this animal, however, it is not my place to speak, inasmuch as I have only to do with the alligators of Texas and other sunny states, where this saurian of the swamps alone reminds us of the gigantic brutes of a long past geological age.