Natural History of the Mammalia of India and Ceylon - by Robert A. Sterndale F.R.G.S., F.Z.S. (1884)|
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GENUS PRESBYTES ó CUVIER'S GENUS SEMNOPITHECUS.
These monkeys are characterised by their slender bodies and long limbs and tails. Jerdon says the Germans call them Slim-apes. Other striking peculiarities are the absence of cheek pouches, which, if present, are but rudimentary. Then they differ from the true monkeys (Cercopithecus) by the form of the last molar tooth in the lower jaw, which has five tubercles instead of four; and, finally, they are to be distinguished by the peculiar structure of the stomach, which is singularly complicated, almost as much so as in the case of Ruminants, which have four divisions. The stomach of this genus of monkey consists of three divisions: 1st, a simple cardiac pouch with smooth parietes; 2nd, a wide sacculated middle portion; 3rd, a narrow elongated canal, sacculated at first, and of simple structure towards the termination. Cuvier from this supposes it to be more herbivorous than other genera, and considers this conclusion justified by the blunter tubercles of the molars and greater length of intestines and cścum, all of which point to a vegetable diet. "The head is round, the face but little produced, having a high facial angle."óJerdon.
But the tout ensemble of the Langur is so peculiar that no one who has once been told of a long, loosed-limbed, slender monkey with a prodigious tail, black face, with overhanging brows of long stiff black hair, projecting like a pent-house, would fail to recognise the animal.
The Hanuman monkey is reverenced by the Hindus. Hanuman was the son of Pavana, god of the winds; his strength was enormous, but in attempting to seize the sun he was struck by Indra with a thunderbolt which broke his jaw (hanu), whereupon his father shut himself up in a cave, and would not let a breeze cool the earth till the gods had promised his son immortality. Hanuman aided Rama in his attack upon Ceylon, and by his superhuman strength mountains were torn up and cast into the sea, so as to form a bridge of rocks across the Straits of Manar.
4 The legend, with native picture, is given in Wilkin's 'Hindoo Mythology.'
The species of this genus of monkey abound throughout the Peninsula. All Indian sportsmen are familiar with their habits, and have often been assisted by them in tracking a tiger. Their loud whoops and immense bounds from tree to tree when excited, or the flashing of their white teeth as they gibber at their lurking foe, have often told the shikari of the whereabouts of the object of his search. The Langurs take enormous leaps, twenty-five feet in width, with thirty to forty in a drop, and never miss a branch. I have watched them often in the Central Indian jungles. Emerson Tennent graphically describes this: "When disturbed their leaps are prodigious, but generally speaking their progress is not made so much by leaping as by swinging from branch to branch, using their powerful arms alternately, and, when baffled by distance, flinging themselves obliquely so as to catch the lower boughs of an opposite tree, the momentum acquired by their descent being sufficient to cause a rebound of the branch that carries them upwards again till they can grasp a higher and more distant one, and thus continue their headlong flight."
Jerdon's statement that they can run with great rapidity on all-fours is qualified by McMaster, who easily ran down a large male on horseback on getting him out on a plain.
A correspondent of the Asian, quoting from the Indian Medical Gazette for 1870, states that experiments with one of this genus (Presbytes entellus) showed that strychnine has no effect on Langursóas much as five grains were given within an hour without effect. "From a quarter to half of a grain will kill a dog in from five to ten minutes, and even one twenty-fourth of a grain will have a decided tetanic effect in human beings of delicate temperament."óCooley's Cycl. Two days after ten grains of strychnine were dissolved in spirits of wine, and mixed with rum and water, cold but sweet, which the animal drank with relish, and remained unhurt.
The same experiment was tried with one of another genus (Inuus rhesus), who rejected the poisoned fruit at once, and on having strychnine in solution poured down his throat, died.
The Langur was then tried with cyanide of potassium, which he rejected at once, but on being forced to take a few grains, was dead in a few seconds.
Although we may not sympathize with those who practise such cruel experiments as
these above alluded to, the facts elucidated are worth recording, and tend to
prove the peculiar herbivorous nature of this genus, which, in common with other
strictly herbivorous animals, instinctively knows what to choose and what to
avoid, and can partake, without danger, of some of the most virulent vegetable
poisons. It is possible that in the forests they eat the fruit of the Strychnos nux-vomica, which is also the favourite food of the
Pied Hornbill (Hydrocissa coronata).