the taming of the shrew

Shrews have a very high rate of metabolism and therefore need to devour enormous quantities of food. To be impressed by the appetite of a shrew you only have to capture one and try to keep it fed. You will soon weary of any attempt to catch enough worms, grubs and insects to satiate it and will have to resort to teaching the shrew to eat dog food and ground meat.

Elephant Shrew found here

C. Hart Merriam, an American mammalogist, once confined three shrews under a glass tumbler. Two of them promptly attacked and ate the third. Eight hours later only a single shrew, with a slightly bulging stomach, remained.

fat shrew found here

Gerald Durrell wrote about his delightful encounter with a shrew here

I witnessed an extraordinary comedy that almost seemed performed for my own special benefit. On the tree-trunk where I was sitting, out of the undergrowth, up over the bark, there glided slowly, laboriously and regally a giant land-snail, the size of an apple.

image found here

I realised that as the snail was making its rather vague progress along the trunk it was leaving behind it a glistening trail, and this trail was followed by one of the most ferocious and bloodthirsty animals, for its size, to be found in the West African forest.

image found here

Out on to the log strutted a tiny creature only as long as a cigarette, clad in jet-black fur and with a long slender nose that it kept glued to the snail’s track, like a miniature black hound.┬áIt was one of the forest’s shrews, whose courage is incredible and whose appetite is prodigious and insatiable.

Wedgwood black cigarette jar found here

Chittering to himself, the shrew trotted rapidly after the snail and very soon overtook it. Uttering a high-pitched squeak, it flung itself on the portion which protruded from the back of the shell and sank its teeth into it. The snail, finding itself unceremoniously attacked from the rear, did the only possible thing and drew its body rapidly inside its shell. The muscular contraction of the snail was so strong, that as the tail disappeared inside the shell the shrew’s face was banged against it and his grip was broken. The shell, having now nothing to balance it, fell on its side, and the shrew, screaming with frustration, rushed forward and plunged his head into the interior, in an effort to retrieve the retreating mollusc. However, the snail was prepared for his attack and greeted the shrew with a sudden fountain of greenish-white froth that bubbled out and enveloped its nose and head. The shrew leapt back with surprise, knocking against the shell as it did so. The snail teetered for a moment and then rolled sideways and dropped into the undergrowth beneath the log. The shrew meanwhile was sitting on its hind legs, almost incoherent with rage, sneezing violently and trying to wipe the froth from its face with its paws.

frothy minted sake found here

The whole thing was so ludicrous that I started to laugh, and the shrew, casting a hasty and offended glance in my direction, leapt down into the undergrowth and hurried away……

Published in: on June 18, 2012 at 8:36 am  Comments (62)  
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