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Illustrated Description Of Russia

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CHAPTER VIII
THE STEPPES OF SOUTHERN RUSSIA


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Like the wolves, the dogs of the steppe burrow in the ground, where they dig roomy habitations, with narrow doors and spacious apartments, in which they find shelter against the heat of summer and the cold of winter. The half-savage state in which the dogs live, leads them often to pair with the wolves, and a kind of cross-breed ensues. These mongrels are useful in hunting wolves, whom they attack with greater animosity than any other dogs will do ; and, when old, they are usually destroyed, their skins being nearly of the same value as those of genuine wolves.

Bird-Hunting on the Steppes

Bird-Hunting on the Steppes
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Among birds, none abounds more on the steppe than the bustard, or drakhva, as the Russians call it, which may be seen grazing in every direction. It migrates from northern Russia on the approach of winter ; but near Odessa, and about the mouths of the Dniester and Dnieper, it generally remains all the year round. Bustards are usually seen in parties of from twelve to twenty, but their gregarious habits increase in proportion as the winter advances, when from eighty to a hundred will often be found together. This, however, arises not so much from the sociable propensities of the bird, as from the more limited extent of pasture to which it is then obliged to confine itself. If, terrified by the approach of a real or supposed enemy, one of these large flocks rises, the birds do not remain together, but fly away in different directions to their several nests. In June or July, they may be observed feeding with their young, and on those occasions the male bird is usually seen anxiously watching over the security of his mate and little ones, whom he never fails to apprize of any danger that may seem to be drawing near. His vigilance is so great, that it is extremely difficult to get a shot at them. The Russians maintain that the bustard knows exactly how far a gun will carry, and never gives the alarm a moment sooner or later than is really necessary! Nevertheless, the Cossacks, who are the chief sportsmen on the steppe, contrive to outmatch the bustard in cunning. Sometimes they creep like snakes through the long grass, and come unobserved upon their prey ; sometimes they lure the male birds by means of a little instrument made out of the windpipe of an ox, on which the treacherous hunter contrives to imitate with astonishing accuracy the cry of the female. The most remarkable kind of bustard-hunting, however, takes place in winter. The birds at that season creep under the thistles and other high weeds in search of some shelter against the severity of the cold. While in this position, if a hoar frost comeson, their wings become so incrusted with ice, that they lose the power of flying, and they then fall an easy prey to foxes, wolves, and, above all, to man. The Cossacks, on horseback, run them down with ease, and kill them with the blow of a whip. If the hunter has chosen his time well, and is nimble in the chase, he may expect good sport. Indeed, there are men among the peasantry of the steppe who have become comparatively rich by a few successful bustard-hunts. One man, it is said, killed a hundred and fifty bustards in one morning with his whip, and sold them at Odessa for four hundred and fifty roubles. In the north, ten or fifteen roubles are often given for one of these birds.

Eagles, vultures, and other birds of prey, are sufficiently abundant, and have probably always been so ; but of late years, since a portion of the steppe has been brought under the plough, a number of granivorous birds have made their appearance that were formerly altogether unknown there, and others that were formerly rare have multiplied in a striking manner. Of singing-birds, the lark is the only one known on the steppe ; but in the gardens about Odessa, the nightingale is occasionally heard.

Of reptiles there is no lack ; frogs, toads, and snakes, abounding in every part of the country, notwithstanding the dryness of the soil. Toads, particularly, display their ugly forms in every direction ; and after a shower of rain they sometimes show themselves in such numbers, that it is difficult to walk a dozen paces without becoming the involuntary instrument of destruction to several of them. Sometimes a remarkable phenomenon occurs in the summer months, known as the toad-shower. In June or July, and sometimes even in August, after a short but heavy shower of rain, the ground is suddenly covered with myriads of small toads, and no one can say whence they come, or whither, after a little while, they go. Of the numbers of these toads, strange stories are told. Millions and millions are seen covering the ground, like an army of locusts. It is quite disgusting to walk among them, for in stepping on the ground a man may crush forty or fifty of them at once. The wheels of a cart would be saturated with the juices of the dead toads, and incrusted with their loathsome bodies! In size they are stated to be all extremely diminutive, about as large as the young toads that appear early in the spring, but much more lively and active. Immediately after the shower, they are seen in the greatest numbers ; but they soon disappear, and on the following day not a trace is to be found of them, nor is it observed that, after one of these showers, the number of toads by which the rivers and ponds are peopled is ever materially increased.

Lizards are also numerous, and sometimes not less than eighteen inches long. A Cossack looks upon them with great dread ; but a Cossack stands in awe of every animal formed differently from his horse, his ox, or his dog.

Of all reptiles, however, the snake is the most abundant, though much less so in those parts of the country that are most thickly settled, particularly in those where the German colonists have been located, for the southern Russian is generally too much afraid of a snake to kill it, even though it take up its abode under the same roof with him. "Let a snake alone," says the Russian, "and he will let you alone ; but if you kill it,its whole race will persecute you!" They believe in the existence of something of a corporation spirit among the snakes, and maintain that the relatives of a dead snake will never rest till they have avenged his death. The snake, they believe, is in the habit of dispensing poetical justice toward murderers in general, but more particularly toward those worst of murderers, the killers of snakes!

The largest snake of the steppe is the Coluber trabalis, which, according to some, has been seen of the length of eighteen feet, but instances of nine or ten feet long are of frequent occurrence. Legends are not wanting among the Cossacks of gigantic serpents that, at no very remote period, infested the reed-grounds of the Dniester, whence they sallied forth to kill men and oxen, and now and then to amuse themselves by running down a rider and his steed, no horse being fleet enough to effect its escape, if one of these ogre snakes had once fairly started in chase of it; but these fabulous embellishments were hardly wanting, the plain truth being often formidable enough. The colonists of two adjoining villages noticed for several weeks that large tracks were continually made through their grain-fields, as though a sack of flour had been dragged through them. They were at a loss to think who the trespasser could be, till one day a young foal was found half killed in the field, and from the appearance of the wounds it was immediately suspected that a large snake must be prowling about the villages. A few days afterward these suspicious were confirmed by the arrival of four or five carts that came galloping into the village. It was hard to say whether the drivers or the horses were most frightened. They had been camping out during the whole night on the steppe, as is commonly done by agricultural laborers, the great distance of the grain-fields from the farmer's house making it often impossible for his men to return home every day; indeed, during the busy season, they often remain on the steppe from Monday" morning till Saturday night, and spend only the Sunday at home. They gave so formidable an account of the huge snake by which they and their horses had been scared, that the schulze (the first magistrate of the village) thought it his duty to order a levy en masse, and invited the neighboring colonists to join in the snake-hunt. About a hundred young men were got together, who sallied forth, armed with guns and clubs, and spent the whole day in beating every corner where the insidious game was likely to lie concealed. They found nothing, however, and were quizzed and laughed at on their return. But the schulze kept his party on the alert, and the next day the snake was again seen by some shepherds, who had fled with their flocks in dismay, but not before the huge reptile had killed one of their horses before their faces. The schulze and his posse comitatus took the field again, and this time they succeeded in getting sight of the enemy. Several shots were fired. The snake was wounded, and immediately took to flight, leaving a track of blood to mark its course, which was pursued for some time till lost in the reed-grounds of the Dniester, where the creature probably died, for it was never heard of afterward. The length of the animal was estimated to be at least twenty feet.

In the vicinity of the German colonies, few snakes are now seen; but in the more remote parts of the steppe there are still districts in which they abound to such a degree, that no herdsman will venture to drive his cattle there.

The snake, however, is an enemy of little moment when compared to a small insect that visits the steppe from time to time, and often marks its presence by the most fearful devastation. This insect is the locust. It is sometimes not heard of for several years in succession, and then again it shows itself, more or less, every season for four or five years together. When the German colonists first came into the country, about forty years ago, the locusts had not been heard of for many years. There were two species of them known to exist, but they lived like other insects, multiplied with moderation, and were never spoken of as objects of dread. About 1820 it was first observed that the locusts had become decidedly more numerous. In 1824 and 1825 they began to be troublesome; but in 1828 and 1829 they came in such enormous clouds, that they obscured the sun, destroyed the harvests, and in many places left not a trace of vegetation behind them ! The poor colonists were in despair, and many of them thought the day of judgment must be at hand. They applied for advice as to what they ought to do, but their Russian and Tartar neighbors could suggest nothing, the oldest among them having no recollection of such scenes of devastation, though they remembered to have heard of similar calamities as having occurred in the days of their fathers. Under these circumstances, the Germans set their wits to work, and devised a system of operation, by means of which many a field was rescued from the devouring swarms.

The colonists established for themselves a kind of locust-police. Whoever first sees a swarm approaching is bound to raise an immediate alarm, and give the earliest possible information to the schulze, who immediately orders out the whole village, and every man, woman, and child, comes forth, armed with bells, tin-kettles, guns, pistols, drums, whips, and whatever other noisy instruments they can lay their hands on. A frightful din is then raised, which often has the effect of scaring away the swarm, and inducing it to favor some quieter neighborhood with its presence.

If the locusts have an aversion to noise, they are still greater enemies to smoking, against which King James I. of England himself did not entertain a more pious horror. The colonists, accordingly, on the first appearance of a fresh swarm, get together as much straw, vine-branches, and dry dung, as they can, and with these, fires are lighted about the fields and grounds which it is thought most desirable to protect. This expedient, however, is often a complete failure; for when one of these countless swarms has dropped upon the ground, and proceeds grazing along in the direction of the fire, the mere weight of the general mass forces the foremost ranks into the flames, where a few thousands of them perish, perhaps, but their bodies extinguish the fire, and leave a free field for the advancing enemy.

Sometimes the colonists succeed by means of smoke in scaring a swarm, and making it take to the air again, and then great skill is shown in making it fly away from the fields which it is wished to preserve. If a lake or the sea be near at hand, it is thought a great point to drive the locusts into the water, into which they fall in such enormous masses, that their bodies form at last little floating islands: upon these their more fortunate companions establish themselves, to the height of twenty or thirty inches! If a strong wind blow from the shore, these pyramids of locusts are, of course, driven but to sea, and nothing more is heard of them; but if the wind be not strong, they work their way back to the shore, where they soon dry their wings and prepare themselves for fresh depredations. The millions, meanwhile, that have found a watery grave, give a blackened hue to the foam of the breakers, and lie scattered along the coast in long lines, that look like huge masses of seaweed thrown up by the waves. The cunning of the locusts on these occasions is surprising. A swarm that, with the aid of a strong wind, has been driven out to sea, will often return to shore, not attempting to fly in the wind's teeth, but beating to windward, with a succession of tacks, in regular seamanlike style!

The locusts appear to be aware that, in the village-gardens, they will find many things to please their palates; and, accordingly, they seldom fail to go a little out of their way when they see a village to the right or left of their line of march. The terror of a village attacked by one of these swarms may be more easily imagined than described. Fancy a heavy fall of snow, each flake a little black., voracious insect, and these, as they fall, covering the ground to the depth of two or three inches, while the air still continues obscured by the myriads that remain fluttering about! The roofs of the houses, and every inch of ground about them, are covered by a thick mass of crawling vermin, crackling, hissing, and buzzing! Every aperture of the house may be carefully closed, yet they come down the chimney by thousands, and beat against the windows like hail! During the locust-years, many of these swarms settled upon Odessa, covering the streets and public places, dropping by hundreds into the kettles and saucepans in the kitchens, invading at once the ballroom and the granary, strutting in the public walks by millions, and displaying their ugly antics alike in the hovel of the beggar and the fine lady's boudoir.

INVASION OF THE STEPPES OF SOUTHERN RUSSIA BY LOCUSTS

INVASION OF THE STEPPES OF SOUTHERN RUSSIA BY LOCUSTS
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The locusts of southern Russia are divided into two species: the Russaki, or Russians (Gryllus migratorius), which are about an inch and a half, and the Saranni (Gryllus vastator), which are about two inches long. Both are equally voracious and equally dreaded, and both are equally produced from eggs deposited in the earth in August and September, by means of a piercing-tube or oviduct with which the female is provided. The animal does not, however, bore merely with its piercer, but thrusts its whole body into the ground, in order that the eggs may be deposited as deeply as possible. There the eggs continue through the autumn and winter, and it is not till the end of April or the beginning of May that the young locusts begin to creep out of their holes.

Egyptian Locust

Egyptian Locust
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The millions of mothers that in autumn sank under the load of their eggs, now start up sixty-fold into renewed life. They have no wings when first born, but their legs immediately acquire vigor, so that they are soon provided with the powers of locomotion. They at once begin to eat, and a rich, grassy plain, if they are undisturbed, will perhaps be eaten bare in a few days; if disturbed, they commence their peregrinations forthwith, and the army seems to increase as it marches along. They go on rustling and crackling, and crawling over one another in heaps. They almost always proceed in a straight line, scarcely any object sufficing to impede their course. They climb over the roofs of the low houses, over fences and walls, march through the streets of towns and villages, not avoiding either man or beast, so that the wheels of a cart will at times sink several inches deep into a mass of locusts, while a pedestrian walking through them will often have them up above his ankle! Enormous quantities of them fall down into the ravines, and are carried away by the streams, which are sometimes so thickly covered with the black carcasses, that the water is completely lost to sight! The march of these young locusts is more dreaded even than the flight of the old ones : not having yet got their wings, they are not to be frightened away either by guns or drums; and to attempt to destroy them were hopeless, on account of their numbers — a few hundred thousand, more or less, making but little difference. They are most greedy, too, when young; and, as the grass and grain are just then most tender, the devastation is the more difficult to repair. It is true that, while in this state, their ravages are confined within narrower limits, on account of the slow rate at which they advance, an army of young locusts being seldom able to march more than two miles in a day.

In three or four weeks they attain their full size. In the fifth week their wings are formed, and they begin to fly. From this time on, they cruise about the country in huge swarms, till about the middle of September, when, after an existence of four months, they all perish, but not before due provision has been made for their multiplication in the ensuing year. The largest swarms appear in the steppe about the middle of August, when they are supposed to be joined by considerable reinforcements from the south. Their flight is clumsy, and always accompanied by a rustling noise, which, when a swarm of them flies along, is as loud as that made by a strong wind blowing through a grove of trees. They can not fly against the wind, but, as has already been observed, they know how to work their way to windward, in true nautical fashion. The height to which they rise depends much upon the state of the weather. On a fine day they will raise themselves nearly two hundred feet above the ground. In gloomy weather they fly so near the ground, that a man walking through a swarm will often be unable to endure the blows inflicted by them as they fly up against his face, but will be obliged to crouch together and turn his back to the current till it has passed away. When flying at a great height, if they discover a fresh piece of pasture-ground, they sink slowly down till they are about six or seven feet from the surface, when they drop like a shower of stones. As soon as it rains, they always drop to the ground. They are rakish in their hours, for they often fly about merrily till near midnight, and seldom leave their roosting-places till eight or nine in the morning. A cloud of locusts is mostly of an oval form, some three hundred yards broad, and about two miles long. Sometimes a cloud will be seen to separate into two or three parties, that afterward unite again. What the thickness of such a cloud may be, it is difficult to say; but it must be considerable, for not a ray of sunshine can pierce the mass, and the shadow caston the ground is so dense, that, on a hot summer's day, it diffuses an agreeable coolness around. The sudden darkness occasioned by the appearance of a swarm of locusts on a fine day, is quite as great as that which would be caused by a succession of black, rainy clouds. In calm weather a cloud of locusts will fly about fourteen miles in eight hours.

The ground honored by the visit of one of these swarms always assumes the appearance of a field of battle. In their eagerness to feed, they often bite each other; and, when falling down, many break their wings, and are unable to rise again with the rest of the swarm. It is difficult to estimate the numbers of one of these winged armies. The people of the country maintain that, when a large cloud of locusts falls, it will cover a piece of ground nearly three miles long and one broad, and in many places the creatures will lie three and four deep, and scarcely an inch will remain uncovered! If there happen to be a tree near the place, it will seem ready to break under the sudden load. Now, allowing for each insect a surface of two inches by one, and making no account of the patches where they lie three or four deep, it would follow that a small swarm, covering only one square mile, must consist of not much less than two thousand millions of locusts ! And every one of them, as the Russians say, has the bite of a horse, the greediness of a wolf, and a power and rapidity of digestion unequalled by any other animal on the face of the globe!

Though there are some descriptions of food for which the locust shows a partiality, the creature is seldom difficult in its choice, but eats up every green plant that comes in its way. The leaves and young branches vanish from the trees in a trice ; a rich meadow is presently converted into a tract of black earth; the bank of a river is stripped with magical rapidity of its reedy fringe ; and not a particle of stubble is left to mark the place where the green grain was waving but an hour before ! The sound of the little animal's bite as it grazes, joined to the rustling of its wings, which it always keeps in motion while feeding, may be distinctly heard at a considerable distance : to any one near the spot, the noise is quite as great as that made by a large flock of sheep eagerly cropping the grass. If the grain is quite ripe, the lpcust can do it little harm ; but whatever is still green is certain to be devoured. Sometimes a farmer, on seeing the enemy's approach, will try to save a field of nearly ripe grain by cutting it down and carrying the sheaves home immediately, but the attempt rarely succeeds, for the invading host advances its line of march, undismayed by the mowers, and will eat away the blades faster than the scythe can cut them.

There are few things locusts are fonder of than Indian corn, and it is said to be a curious sight to behold a field of it vanishing before their ravenous teeth. The maize grows to a great height on the steppe, and makes a very imposing appearance as it approaches maturity. A small number of locusts, however, are able, in a few seconds, to perforate the plant like a honeycomb, and in a few minutes not a trace of it is left. Each plant is quickly covered with insects, while others are industriously working away at the root. Blade falls rapidly on blade, and at each fall a little swarm rises, to settle quickly down again with renewed voracity. If the corn was nearly ripe, the farmer has, perhaps, the consolation of seeing a yellow stubble-field remaining, to tantalize him with the recollection of the hoped-for abundance.

In the costly gardens of the Odessa merchants, the locust is particularly destructive. It does not touch the melons, cucumbers, nor the growing fruit on the trees, but it ruthlessly devours the leaves and the stalks, leaving the fruit scattered on the ground, to wither with the bodies of the slam destroyers. The leaves, tendrils, and young branches of a vine, will be completely eaten away, but the grapes will be found scattered like so many berries below. Every tree in the garden, meanwhile, is bending under the unwelcome load; while the crackling of the branches, the tearing of the bark, and the rustling of the wings, raise a din quite as loud as that of a carpenter's workshop, in which a score or two of men are sawing, boring, and planing; and when at length the swarm takes its departure, it leaves behind it a scene of such perfect desolation as no other animal in the world can equal. Even the dung, of which it leaves an enormous quantity behind, is injurious to the soil on which it falls; and, for a long time after a field has been visited by a swarm of locusts, the cattle manifest the greatest aversion to the place.

"Here we are in the land of the tshabawns,'' * is a common expression with Russian travellers on entering the steppe, where the first objects that usually present themselves to the stranger are some of the numerous flocks of sheep belonging to the wealthy nobles of Russia, some of whom count their woolly treasures by hundreds of thousands ! To their owners, these flocks possess an interest beyond any that the steppe can offer; but, to a stranger, the wild and exciting life of the tabuntshiks is certain to present more attraction. We are accustomed to speak of the wild horses of the steppe, but the expression must be received with some allowance; for, in the proper sense of the word, wild horses have long ceased to inhabit any part of the steppe subject to Russia, nor have we any authentic,record of the time when this noble animal ranged free and uncontrolled over the plains bordering on the Euxine. At present, every taboon, or herd, has its owner, to whom the tabuntshik has to account for every steed that is lost or stolen; and it is not till we reach the heart of Tartary, or the wastes that stretch along the sea of Aral, that we meet, for the first time, the horse really in a state of nature.

* Tshabawn is the south Russian word for a shepherd. Tabuntshik is the name given to the man charged with the care of a herd of horses.

Although, in a statistical point of view, the sheep constitutes a more important part of the pastoral population of the steppe — ten flocks of sheep, at least, occurring for one herd of oxen or horses — yet we shall venture, in our remarks on the nomadic life of this part of the empire, to assign the prominent place to the taboons, or breeding-studs, which serve to mount nearly the whole of the imperial cavalry, and from which, in a moment of emergency, the government might derive, for the equipment of an invading army, resources the extent of which are but little dreamed of in the more civilized regions of Europe.

Many of the Russian nobles possess enormous tracts of land in the steppe. The scanty population has made it impossible to bring any very considerable portion of their estates under the plough; and most of the wealthy landowners have, consequently, found it to their interest to devote their chief attention to the breeding of sheep, cattle, and horses. Even at a very remote period it appears to have been the custom of the lords of the steppe to follow a similar course of practice. The horses, more light of foot than either sheep or oxen, may be easily made to range over a larger expanse of ground, and thus obtain support from land too poor to afford pasturage to any other description of cattle.

A small number of horses, placed under the care of a herdsman, are sent into the steppe, as the nucleus of a taboon. The foals are kept, and the herd is allowed to go on increasing until the number of horses is thought to be about as large as the estate can conveniently maintain. It is a very rare thing, however, for a taboon to contain more than a thousand horses; but there are landowners in the steppe who are supposed to possess eight or ten such taboons in different parts of the country. It is only when the taboon is said to be full, that the owner begins to derive a revenue from it, partly by using the young horses on the estate itself, and partly by selling them at the fairs, or to the travelling horse-dealers in the employ of the government contractors.

The tabuntshik, to whose care the taboon is intrusted, must be a man of indefatigable activity, and of an iron constitution, proof alike against the severest cold and the most burning heat, and capable of living in a constant exposure to every kind of weather, without the shelter even of a bush. When on duty, he scarcely ever quits the back of his steed. He eats there, and even sleeps there ; but he must beware of sleeping at the hours when other men sleep, for, while grazing at night, the horses are most apt to wander away from the herd: and at no time is it more necessary for him to be on his guard against wolves, and against those adventurous dealers in horse-flesh who usually contrive that the money which they receive at a fair shall consist exclusively of profit (a characteristic specimen of which gentry, who are mostly gipsies, may be seen in the engraving overleaf). During a snowstorm, the poor tabuntshik must not think of turning his back to the tempest; this his horses are but too apt to do, and it is his business to see that they do not take fright, and run scouring before the wind.

The dress of a tabuntshik is chiefly composed of leather, fastened together by a leathern girdle, to which the whole veterinary apparatus, and a variety of little fanciful ornaments, are usually appended. His head is protected by a high, cylindrical Tartar cap, of black lambskin, and over the whole he throws his sreeta, a large, brown, woollen cloak, with a hood to cover his head. This hood, in fine weather, hangs behind, and often serves its master at once for pocket and larder.

The tabuntshik has a variety of other trappings, of which he never divests himself. Among these, his harabnik holds not the least important place. This is a whip, with a short, thick stem, but with a thong often fifteen or eighteen feet in length. It is to him a sceptre that rarely quits his hand, and without which it would be difficult for him to retain his riotous subjects in anything like proper order. Next comes his sling, which he uses like the South American lasso, and with which he rarely misses the neck of the horse whose course he is desirous of arresting. The wolf-club is another indispensable part of his equipment. This club, which generally hangs at the saddle, ready for immediate use, is three or four feet long, with a thick iron knob at the end. The tabuntshiks acquire such astonishing dexterity in the use of this formidable weapon, that, at full gallop, they will hurl it at a wolf, and rarely fail to strike the iron end into the prowling bandit's head. The club skilfully wielded carries almost as certain death with it as the rifle of an American backwoodsman. A cask of water must also accompany the tabuntshik on every ride, for he can never know whether he may not be for days without coming to a well. A bag of bread and a bottle of brandy are likewise his constant companions, besides a multitude of other little conveniences and necessaries, which are fastened either to himself or his horse. Thus accoutred, the tabuntshik sallies forth on a mission that keeps his dexterity and his powers of endurance in constant exercise. His thousand untamed steeds have to be kept in order with no other weapon than his harabnik, and this, as may easily be supposed, is no easy task.

The hardships to which they are constantly exposed, and the high wages which they consequently receive, make the tabuntshiks the wildest "dare-devils" that can be imagined; so much so, that it is considered a settled point that a man who has had the care of horses for two or three years is unfit for any quiet or settled kind of life. No one, of course, that can gain a tolerable livelihood in any other way, will embrace a calling that subjects him to so severe a life ; and the consequence is, that it is generally from among the scamps of a village that recruits are raised for this service.. They are seldom without money, and, when they do visit the brandy-shop, they are not deterred from abandoning themselves to a carouse by the financial considerations likely to restrain most men in the same rank of life. They ought, it is true, never to quit the taboon for a moment; but they will often spend whole nights in the little brandy-houses of the steppe, drinking and gambling, and drowningin their fiery potations all recollections of the last day's endurance. When their senses return with the returning day, they gallop after their herds, and display no little ingenuity in repairing the mischief that may have accrued from the carelessness of the preceding night.

The tabuntshik lives in constant dread of the horse-stealer, and yet there is hardly a tabuntshik on the steppe that will not steal a horse if the occasion present itself. The traveller who has left his horses to graze during the night, or the villager who has allowed his cattle to wander away from his house, does well to ascertain that there be no taboon in the vicinity, or in the morning he will look for them in vain. The tabuntshik, meanwhile, takes care to rid himself, as soon as possible, of his stolen goods, by exchanging them away to the first brother-herdsman that he meets, who again barters them away to another: so that in a few days a horse that was stolen on the banks of the Dnieper, passes from hand to hand till it reach the Boug or the Danube; and the rightful owner may still be inquiring after a steed, which has already quitted the empire of the czar, to enter the service of a moslem, or to figure in the stud of a Hungarian magnate!

Itinerant Horse-Dealer

Itinerant Horse-Dealer
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Sears, Robert. An Illustrated Description of the Russian Empire. New York: Robert Sears, 1855