Online Encyclopedia

CASSOWARY (Casuarius)

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V05, Page 463 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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CASSOWARY (Casuarius), a genus of struthious birds, only inferior in size to the emeu and ostrich, and, according to Sir R. Owen, approximating more closely than any other living birds to the extinct moas of New Zealand. The species are all characterized by short rudimentary wings, bearing four or five barbless shafts, a few inches long, and apparently useless for purposes of flight, of running, or of defence; and by loosely webbed feathers, short on the neck, but of great length on the rump and back, whence they descend over the body forming a thick hair-like covering. They possess stout limbs, with which they kick in front, and have the inner toe armed with a long powerful claw. The common cassowary (C'asuarius galeatus) stands 5 ft. high, and has a horny, helmet-like protuberance on the crown of its head; the front of the neck is naked and provided with two brightly-coloured wattles. It is a native of the Island of Ceram,463 where it is said to live in pairs, feeding on fruits and herbs, and occasionally on small animals. The mooruk, or Bennett's cassowary (Casuarius Bennettii), is a shorter and more robust bird, approaching in the thickness of its legs to the moas. It differs further from the preceding species in having its head crowned with a horny plate instead of a helmet. It has only been found in New Britain, where the natives are said to regard it with some degree of veneration. When captured by them shortly after being hatched, and reared by the hand, it soon becomes tame and familiar; all the specimens which have reached Europe alive have been thus domesticated by the natives. The adult bird in the wild state is exceedingly shy and difficult of approach, and, owing to its great fleetness and strength, is rarely if ever caught. It eats voraciously, and, like the ostrich, will swallow whatever comes in its way. (See Esutu.)
End of Article: CASSOWARY (Casuarius)
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