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January 2, 1843

Short Description:




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Some of the smaller herbivores hunted by trappers and Native Americans in the Rocky Mountains are described -- on the big horn "its flesh has a similar taste to Mutton but its flavor is more agreeable and the meat more juicy."





Journal of a Trapper

Osborne Russell


Important Text:


These animals answer somewhat to the description given by Naturalists of the Musmon or wild sheep which are natives of Greece Corsica and Tartary. The male and female very much resemble the domestic ram and Ewe but are much larger The horns of the males are much larger in proportion to the body than the domestic rams but those of the females are about in the same proportion to the domestic Ewe. In the Month of May after they have shed their old coat and the new one appears their color is dark blue or mouse color except the extremity of the rump and hinder parts of the thighs which are white. As the season advances and the hair grows long it gradually turns or fades to a dirty brown In the Mo. of Decr its hair is about 3 inches long thickly matted together rendering it impenetrable to the cold. Its hair is similar in texture to that of the Deer and like the latter it is short and smooth upon its forehead and legs. They inhabit the highest and most craggy mountains and never descend to the plains unless compelled by necessity. In the winter season the snow drives them down to the low craggy mountains facing the South but in the spring as the snow begin to recede they follow it, keeping close to where the grass is short and tender - Its speed on the smooth ground is slower than the Deer - but in climbing steep rocks or precipices it is almost incredible insomuch that the wolf lynx and panther give up the Chase when ever the sheep reach the rugged crags

The fearful height from which it jumps and the small points on which it alights without slipping or missing its footing is astonishing to its pursuers whether man or beast its hooves are very hard and pointed and it reposes upon the most bleak points of rocks both in summer & winter. The male is a noble looking animal as he stands upon an elevated point with his large horns curling around his ears like the coils of a serpent and his head held proudly erect disdaining the lower region and its inhabitants its flesh has a similar taste to Mutton but its flavor is more agreeable and the meat more juicy Their rutting season is in Novr. when the rams have furious battles with each other in the same manner as the domestic rams - The victor often Knocks his opponent over a high precipice when he is dashed to pieces in the fall. The sound of their heads coming in contact is often heared a mile distant - The Female produces from one to 3 at a birth the lambs are of a whitish color very innocent and playful. Hunting Sheep is often attended with great danger especially in the winter season when the rocks and precipices are covered with snow and ice but the excitement created by hunting them often enables the hunter to surmount obstacles which at other times would seem impossible The skins when dressed are finer softer and far superior to those of the Deer for clothing It is of them that the Squaws make their dresses which they embroider with beads and Porcupine quills dyed with various colors which are wrought into figures displaying a tolerable degree of taste and ingenuity


This animal for beauty and fleetness surpasses all the ruminating animals of the Rocky Mountains: its body is rather smaller than the common Deer: its color on the back and upper part of the sides is light brown the hinder part of the thighs and belly are white the latter having a yellowish east. The under part of the neck is white with several black stripes running across the throat down to the breast: its legs are very slim neat and small; its ears are black on the inside and around the edges with the remainder brown its horns are also black and flattened. the horns of the males are much longer than those of the females but formed in the same manner they project up about 8 inches on the males and then divide into 2 branches the one inclining backwards and the other forward with sometimes an additional branch coming out near the head inclining inward the two upper branches are 6 inches long the hindermost forming a kind of hook the nose is black and a strip of the same color runs round under the eyes and terminates under the ears: it runs remarkably smooth and in the summer season the fleetest horses but rarely overtake it. Its natural walk is stately and elegant but it is very timid and fearful and can see to a great distance but with all its timidity and swiftness of foot its curiosity often leads it to destruction if it discovers anything of a strange appearance (particularly anything red) it goes directly to it and will often approach within 30 paces they are very numerous in the plains but seldom found among timber, their flesh is similar to venison the female produces two at a birth and the young are suckled until a month old - They are easily domesticated


This animal is somewhat larger than the common Deer of the US: its ears are very long from which it has derived the appellation of Mule Deer: its color in summer is red but in the latter part of Aug. its hair turns to a deep blue ground with about half an inch of white on each hair one fourth of an inch from the outer ends which presents a beautiful grey color: it lives among the mountains and seldom descends among the plains: its flesh is similar in every respect to the common Deer. the tail is about 6 inches long and the hair's upon it smooth excep upon the end where there is a small tuft of black. The female goes six months with young and generally produces two at a birth the young is brot forth in April and remains in an almost helpless state for one month during its state of inability the mother secrets it in some secure Place in the long grass and weeds where it remains contented while she often wanders half a mile from it in search of food. The color of the fawn is red intermingled with white spots, and it is generally believed by Indians that so long as those spots remain (which is about 2 1/2 months) that no beast of prey can scent them - This I am inclined to believe as I have often seen wolves pass very near the place where fawns were laying without stopping or altering their course and were it not for some secret provision of nature the total anihilation of this species of animal would be inevitable in those countries invested by wolves and other beasts of prey as in the Rocky Mts - This safeguard is given by the Great Founder of nature not only to the Black Tailed Deer but all of the species including Elk and Antelope whose young are spotted at their birth I do not consider that the mere white spots are a remedy against the Scent of wild beasts. but they mark the period of inability for when those disappear the little animals are capable of eluding their pursuers by flight; the male like the common Deer drops its horns in Feby. it then cannot be distinguished from the female except by its larger size


This species of animals is very numerous and various in their sizes and colors. The large Hares of the plains are very numerous, the common sized rabbit are equally or more numerous than the others and there is also the small brown rabbit which does not change its color during the winter as do the others, but the most singular kind is the black rabbit it is a native of mountaneous forests its color is Coal black excepting two small white spots which are on the throat and lower part of the belly In winter its color is milk white: its body is about the size of the common rabbit with the exception of its ears which are much longer Another kind is the Black tailed Rabbit of the plains it is rather larger than the common rabbit and derives its name from the color of its tail which never changes its color

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Man The Fat Hunter
Man is a lipivore - hunting and preferring the fattiest meats they can find. When satisifed with fat, they will want little else.
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