[Three Hundred Animals Contents]
IS a native of the new world; it grows to five, and sometimes to six feet in length, and is nearly as thick as a man’s leg; it is not unlike the Viper, having a large head and small neck, and inflicts a most dangerous wound. Over each eye is a large pendulous scale, the use of which has not yet been ascertained; the body is scaly and hard, variegated with several different colours. The principal characteristic of this justly-dreaded serpent, is the rattle, a kind of instrument resembling the curb chain of a bridle, and affixed at the extremity of the tail; it is formed of thin, hard, hollow bones, linked together and rattling at the least motion. When disturbed this creature shakes this rattle with a considerable noise and rapidity, striking terror into all other animals which are afraid of the destructive venom which this serpent communicates to the wounded limb with his bite. The wound he inflicts, through the uncommon sharpness and rapid fluency of his poison, does generally in the course of six or seven hours terminate the torment and life of the unhappy victim.
A snake of this kind exhibited in London, at a menagery of foreign beasts, in the year 1810, wounded a carpenter’s hand, who was repairing his cage, and seeking for his ruler; the man suffered the most excruciating pain, and his life could not be saved, although medical assistance was immediately applied, and all efforts were made to prevent the dire effect of the poison. The proprietor was condemned to pay a deodand for the guilt of the serpent.