Chinchillas live in burrows, and these subterranean dwellings undermine the ground in some parts of the Chilean Andes to such an extent as to cause danger to travellers on horseback.
The Indians in hunting them employ the grison (Galictis vittata), a member of the weasel family, which is trained to enter the crevices of the rocks where the chinchillas lie concealed during the day.
That chinchillas have not under such circumstances become rare, if not extinct, is owing to their extraordinary fecundity, the female usually producing five or six young twice a year.
The fur varies exceedingly in character, - in some, like the chinchillas and hares, being fine and soft, while in others it is more or less replaced by spines on the upper surface, as in spiny rats and porcupines; these spines in several genera, as Xerus, Acomys, Platacanthomys, Echinothrix, Loncheres and Echinomys, being flattened.
The Carnivora include bears, wolverines, wolves, raccoons, foxes, sables, martens, skunks, kolinskis, fitch, fishers, ermines, cats, sea otters, fur seals, hair seals, lions, tigers, leopards, lynxes, jackals, &c. The Rodentia include beavers, nutrias, musk-rats or musquash, marmots, hamsters, chinchillas, hares, rabbits, squirrels, &c. The Ungulata include Persian, Astrachan, Crimean, Chinese and Tibet lambs, mouflon, guanaco, goats, ponies, &c. The Marsupialia include opossums, wallabies and kangaroos.
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