No one can be long in the low-country without seeing jackals or hearing their unearthly cries. Their scientific name canis aureus, "golden dog" seems a trifle too grandiloquent for these forest-scavengers. The Sinhalese call them narriya and the Tamils narri. No sportsman will, of course, go out of his way to shoot one, but if a chance offers might bowl over the beast for the sake of its pretty yellow-grey skin.
They are found everywhere even in cultivated tracts of country, provided there are strips of jungle near, where they can lie up by day. They may often be seen crossing plains and dry fields with their peculiar slinking trot, stopping to look about every minute and breaking with a leisurely gallop if approached and into a headlong belly-to-ground race if fired at. Village dogs will not molest them, only responding with howls to their hideous yells. They are generally seen in families of about half-a-dozen, but often in pairs and sometimes alone. Large packs of them are very seldom met with. They can swim, but will not venture into the water unless very hard pressed, for fear of crocodiles.
Jackals hunt hares, mouse deer and other small animals and sometimes catch monkeys, also peafowl, jungle fowl and other birds. The remains of all the buffaloes and cattle which die of murrain, and of the deer and pigs killed by leopards, are devoured by these animals, in disposing of which offal they perform a useful office. They will dig up the bodies of natives buried on the outskirts of jungle villages, and the graves are consequently always protected by bushes and thorns being piled over them.
The bitches bring up their young in hollow trees. The pups are often found by the villagers and make amusing pets when young. Dogs, however, will not willingly associate with tame jackals, owing probably to the strong disagreeable odour they have.
Jackals do not attack human beings or cattle. Mad jackals have, however, being known to wander into villages and bite the dogs, causing much alarm.
The natives believe that the dog-jackal has sometimes on its head an excrescence which they call the "narri-kombu." Any person possessing a "jackal-horn" will be lucky in everything all his life. ! They believe too that jackals use their urine as a means of defence when pursued. Their flesh is sometimes prescribed as medicinal diet by native doctors.
SCALY ANT-EATERS. Sportsmen in the low-country sometimes come across the scaly ant-eater, manis pentadactyla, probably the queerest creature in the forest. The Sinhalese name is kabalawawâ and the Tamil üllunku.
They are burrowing animals and nocturnal in their habits. It is rather strange that these creatures should often be found in the water and that they can swim well. Large ones may measure 6 feet in length. They are covered with horny plates from head to foot and have a curious habit of rolling themselves up into a ball when alarmed. Their strength is great and it is almost impossible for one man to force one to unroll itself. When undisturbed they crawl about on their bandy legs licking up ants and other insects with their long sticky tongues. They make a sort of hissing noise if approached.
Natives believe that they sometimes kill elephants which molest them by coiling round their trunks. The flesh is eaten by them medicinally.
The scaly skin, if nailed on a wooden shield and varnished, makes rather a handsome hall ornament.