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Saturday, 1 October 2011

Sumatran Tidbit From Richard Freeman

Size Comparison For Living Rhinoceros Species.
The Sumatran One-horned Rhino (Javan Rhino, Light Blue) is marginally longer and taller
than the more widely-known Sumatran Two-horned Rhinoceros (in Green)
Illustration from Wikipedia.

Baron Georges Cuvier, best-known in Cryptozoological
circles as the originator of
"Cuvier's Rash Dictum", title of one of Heuvelmans' chapters
Also an illustration from Wikipedia
 Richard Freeman sent me this link as pertinent to the discussion about unknown animals on Sumatra (I still haven't checked the fable about the monkey yet, Richard!)

"The folowing book on Sumatra contains a small piece about hippos in Sumatra. The author thinks the witness had mistook dugongs.
After which I sent in the reply (Which quotes the passage in question):

"The author makes the astute observation that Sumatra must have been the Taprobane of the ancients. This is the oldest affirmation of that idea that I have seen: I came to that conclusion independantly many years ago before I found that others had said so before me.
"Some evidence for Trans-Pacific diffusion in here, but unfortunately the length of time the different cultigens have been known locally is not indicated. I would like to know how long the natives have known maize and red pepper.
"The paragraph mentioning Hippopotamuses is as follows:

Hippopotamus, kuda ayer: the existence of this quadruped in the island of Sumatra having been questioned by M. Cuvier, and not having myself actually seen it, I think it necessary to state that the immediate authority upon which I included it in the list of animals found there was a drawing made by Mr. Whalfeldt, an officer employed on a survey of the coast, who had met with it at the mouth of one of the southern rivers, and transmitted the sketch along with his report to the government, of which I was then secretary. Of its general resemblance to that well-known animal there could be no doubt. M. Cuvier suspects that I may have mistaken for it the animal called by naturalists the dugong, and vulgarly the sea-cow, which will be hereafter mentioned; and it would indeed be a grievous error to mistake for a beast with four legs, a fish with two pectoral fins serving the purposes of feet; but, independently of the authority I have stated, the kuda ayer, or river-horse, is familiarly known to the natives, as is also the duyong (from which Malayan word the dugong of naturalists has been corrupted); and I have only to add that, in a register given by the Philosophical Society of Batavia in the first Volume of their Transactions for 1799, appears the article 'couda aijeer, rivier paard, hippopotamus' amongst the animals of Java."
From which it is plain to see that Cuvier simply chose to mistrust the accounts of explorers that specified the creature was a quadruped, as the author clearly also points out. The author feels that the natives know both the dugong and the Water-horse (Kuda ayer) well enough not to confuse the two. That the Water Horse in this case is clearly the one-horned rhinoceros is attested to by later zoologists. This is a very clear passage on the subject and I thank you for bringing it to my attention.
Best Wishes, Dale D.

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