The Jerboa or Mouse


You will not find the name of the Jerboa in the Bible; but it is
supposed to be the same animal that is called a mouse in the 17th verse
of the 66th chapter of Isaiah, "They that sanctify themselves, and
purify themselves in the gardens, eating swine's flesh, and the
abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the Lord;"
and also in Leviticus, where God is telling the children of Israel what
animals they may be allowed to eat, and also what they must not taste.
He says, "These also shall be unclean to you among the creeping things
that creep upon the earth; the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise
after his kind." Whether the Jerboa is the same animal or not, the
Israelites must have been well acquainted with it, for it is found in
great numbers in Syria and Egypt, and other countries mentioned in the
Bible. They like to live where the soil is sandy, and make their
burrows, or holes to live in, in the sides of sand-hills. These burrows
are often several yards long, and the part where they sleep is made soft
with grass.

The Jerboa is about as large as a rat, and its color is a tawny yellow,
something like that of dried lemon-peel. Its fur is very smooth and
soft; its eyes are full and round, and its head is much like that of a
young rabbit. When it eats, it sits and hold its food in its fore-paws,
very much as a squirrel does.

There is a very great and curious difference in the length of its legs;
those in front being so short that you would hardly notice them, and
those behind very long. It bounds along over the ground very rapidly;
so that the greyhound, which is one of the swiftest of dogs, is often
unable to overtake it. It seems, when you first look at it, to use only
its hind legs in jumping, but his is not so. When it is about to take a
leap, it raises its body upon the toes of its hind feet, keeping the
balance by the help of its long tail. It springs and comes down on its
short fore legs, but does it so very quickly that you can hardly see how
it is done, and the animal seems to be upright all the time.

They appear to be very fond of each other's company, and great numbers
are usually found together. They sleep during the day, but like the
hare and rabbit, go out of their burrows to eat and to play as soon as
it begins to be dark.