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BATS.   99

 

dom. In the Mosaic law he is classed with birds : " The stork and heron, the lapwing and the bat," all unclean (Lev. 11 : 19). But bird he certainly is not, neither is he nearly related to birds. The Arabs, a kindred people to the Jews, call it Gessim-al-sheytan, meaning "devil's bird." The Germans call it Fledermaus, or "flying mouse." Always a creature of ill omen. Among the Greeks it was sacred to Proserpine, the queen of hell. Among the old Norse or Northmen it figures in their literature as a messenger of the Goddess of Darkness and Death. Painters always use the wings of bats for the Devil and his imps, and the wings of birds for angels, — not that there is any good reason for the choice, beyond the general dislike of the bats.

As a rule they are not only harmless but of no small service to mankind, for they live on insects, which they destroy in great numbers. I say as a rule, for there are bats in South America that alight on cattle and even sleeping people, and bite till. the blood starts, and fill themselves with it. In the Islands of the East-ern Ocean—Java and Batavia—there are fruit-eating bats, looking not unlike foxes and as large as a cat, with wings measuring four feet from tip to tip. They are fond of bananas


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