Historical Event

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Date:

January 2, 1906

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With the exception of the kangaroo and the opossum there are no quadrupeds which the Australian native employs largely in his cuisine.

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The Natives of Australia

Topics: (click to open)

Roasting Meat
Hunting methods
Man The Fat Hunter
Hypocarnivory
Human Predatory Pattern
Pre-civilization races

Important Text:

In the hunting of animals the native can also call to his aid his skill in tracking. 


Like most savages, the Australian black is keen-sighted, and he makes use of his eyes when an enemy has to be followed or an animal hunted down. Many stories are told of the extraordinary powers of the trackers. Cunningham, an early writer, says that they will say correctly how long a time has passed since the track was made ; in the case of people known to them they will even recognise the footprint as we know a person's handwriting. A tracker has been known to say that the man, unknown to him, on whose track he was, was knock-kneed, and this turned out to be correct. On one occasion a white man had been murdered, and it was suspected that he had been thrown into a certain water-hole ; before it was dragged a native, who could have had no knowledge of the affair, was called in to pronounce on the signs ; decomposition of the body had already set in, it appears, and there were slight traces of this on the surface of the pool ; the native gave a sniff and pronounced that it was 'white man's fat,' and so it turned out to be.


 Grey tells a story of how he was galloping through the bush and lost his watch ; the scrub was thick and consequently the ground was unfavourable, but the watch was recovered in half an hour. 


But his powers of tracking are more important to him in the search for food. 


With the exception of the kangaroo and the opossum there are no quadrupeds which the Australian native employs largely in his cuisine. 

The kangaroo may be taken in wet weather with dogs ; but it is more often netted in the same way that emus are taken ; sometimes three nets form three sides of a square, and beaters drive the animal in. Somewhat similar is the method of firing the bush, which is also used for other animals ; in this case the flames take the place of the net, and in their advance drive the kangaroo towards the hunters. They may also be driven, men taking the place of the fire ; or, finally, the most sporting method, they may be stalked single-handed or even walked to a standstill ; but for the latter feat extraordinary physical powers are needed. For single-handed stalking great patience is needed ; sometimes the lubra (wife) helps by giving signals by whistling; at others the hunter will throw a spear right over the kangaroo, which believes that danger threatens it from the side on which his enemy is not ; then the hunter creeps up and spears it. Grey describes how the West Australian runs down a kangaroo ; starting on its recent tracks, he follows them till he comes in sight of it ; using no concealment, he boldly heads for it and it scours away, followed by the hunter. This is repeated again and again till nightfall, when the black lights a fire and sleeps on the track ; next day the chase recommences, till human pertinacity has overcome the endurance of the quadruped and it falls a victim to its pursuer. 


Before they prepare the kangaroo for cooking, the tail sinews are carefully drawn out and wrapped round the club for use in sewing cloaks, or as lashing for spears. Two methods of cooking the kangaroo were known in West Australia ; an oven might be made in the sand, and when it was well heated, the kangaroo placed in it, skin and all, and covered with ashes ; a slow fire was kept up, and when the baking was over, the kangaroo was laid on its back ; the abdomen was cut open as a preliminary and the intestines removed, leaving the gravy in the body, which was then cut up and eaten. The second method was to cut up the carcass and roast it, portion by portion. The blood was made into a sausage and eaten by the most important man present. 


In Queensland the preparations are more elaborate. After the removal of the tail sinews, the limbs are dislocated to allow of their being folded over ; then the tongue is drawn out, skewered over the incisors, which are used for spokeshaves, and would be damaged if exposed to direct heat ; the intestines are removed and replaced by heated stones, the limbs drawn to the side of the body and the whole tied up in bark ; then the bundle is put in the ashes and well covered over. 


In the Paroo district the kangaroo is steamed ; the oven is made of stones and wet grass, and the whole covered over with earth ; if the steam is not sufficient, holes are made and water is poured in. 


The wallaby is taken with nets or in cages placed along its path. When this little kangaroo makes for shelter, it runs with its head down and consequently does not see the trap. In some districts they are trapped in pits, primarily intended to break their legs. The most ingenious method was in use in South Australia : at the end of an instrument made of long, smooth pieces of wood was fixed a hawk skin, so arranged as to simulate the living bird. Armed with this the hunter set out, and when he saw a wallaby he shook the rod and uttered the cry of a hawk ; the wallaby took refuge in the nearest bush, and the hunter stealing up, secured it with his spear. 


The opossom may be hunted on moonlight nights or at any time with dogs, but the commonest method is to examine the tree trunks for recent claw marks. When these are found the native ascends the tree, cuts a hole at the spot where he believes the opossum to be, and drags the animal out. Another method is to smoke it out. 


Various ways of climbing trees are known, the most ordinary being perhaps that of cutting notches for the 1 feet ; then the native ascends, usually with the ball of the big toe of each foot nearest the tree ; but in South Australia he walked up sideways, putting the little toe of his left foot in the notch and raising himself by means of the pointed end of his stick stuck into the bark. In Queensland and New South Wales the rope sling is also found ; in some cases it fits round the man's waist and he uses his axe (PI. xx.) ; in other cases one end of the vine or bark rope is twisted round his right arm, then he tries to throw the other end round the trunk of the tree ; on the end is a knot, to prevent it from slipping from his hand ; and when he has caught it, he puts his right foot against the tree, leans back and begins to walk up, throwing the kaniin a little higher at each step. If the tree is very large, he carries his axe in his mouth and cuts notches for his big toe ; the kajiiin is taken off his right arm and wound round his right thigh when the hand is wanted for cutting notches. When not in use the kamin is not rolled up, as might be imagined ; it is simply dragged through the bush by its knotted end ; it is hard and smooth. This is really the most practical method. As a rule, men only ascend trees, but in some cases women and even women carrying children have been seen by explorers to do so. 


Other animals are of less importance. In the north of Australia the crocodile is taken with a noose, which a native will slip over his head, or by putting up screens in connection with a fence across a stream, in which an opening is left. The screen is made of split cane placed horizontally and all woven together with a very close mesh ; it can be rolled up like a blind. 


Rats are taken in traps or knocked over with sticks ; iguanas are speared in the open or dug from their burrows ; frogs are taken in the water in flood-time or dug out; and snakes are often found in iguana burrows. The wombat and bandicoot are dug out.

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