ANACONDA, s. This word for a great python, or boa, is of very obscure origin. It is now applied in scientific zoology as the specific name of a great S. American water-snake. Cuvier has “L’Anacondo (Boa scytale et murina, L.—Boa aquatica, Prince Max.),” (Règne Animal, 1829, ii. 78). Again, in the Official Report prepared by the Brazilian Government for the Philadelphia Exhibition of 1876, we find: “Of the genus Boa .… we may mention the .…sucuriù or sucuriuba (B.anaconda), whose skins are used for boots and shoes and other purposes.” And as the subject was engaging our attention we read the following in the St James’ Gazette of April 3, 1882:—“A very unpleasant account is given by a Brazilian paper, the Voz do Povo of Diamantino, of the proceedings of a huge water-snake called the sucuruyu, which is to be found in some of the rivers of Brazil.… A slave, with some companions, was fishing with a net in the river, when he was suddenly seized by a sucuruyu, who made an effort with his hinder coils to carry off at the same time another of the fishing party.” We had naturally supposed the name to be S. American, and its S. American character was rather corroborated by our finding in Ramusio’s version of Pietro Martire d’Angheria such S. American names as Anacauchoa and Anacaona. Serious doubt was however thrown on the American origin of the word when we found that Mr H. W. Bates entirely disbelieved it, and when we failed to trace the name in any older books about S. America.
In fact the oldest authority that we have met with, the famous John Ray, distinctly assigns the name, and the serpent to which the name properly belonged, to Ceylon. This occurs in his Synopsis Methodica Animalium Quadrupedum et Serpentini Generis, Lond. 1693. In this he gives a Catalogue of Indian Serpents, which he had received from his friend Dr Tancred Robinson; and which the latter had noted e Museo Leydensi. No. 8 in this list runs as follows:—
“8. Serpens Indicus Bubalinus, Anacandaia Zeylonensibus, id est Bubalorum aliorumque jumentorum membra conterens,” p. 332.
The following passage from St Jerome, giving an etymology, right or wrong, of the word boa, which our naturalists now limit to certain great serpents of America, but which is often popularly applied to the pythons of E. Asia, shows a remarkable analogy to Ray’s explanation of the name Anacandaia:—

c. A.D. 395-400.—“Si quidem draco mirae magnitudinis, quos gentili sermone Boas vocant, ab eo quod tam grandes sint ut boves glutire soleant, omnem late vastabat provinciam, et non solum armenta et pecudes sed agricolas quoque et pastores tractos ad se vi spiritus absorbebat. In Vita Scti. Hilarionis Eremitae, Opera Scti. Eus. Hieron. Venetiis, 1767, ii. col. 35.

Ray adds that on this No. 8 should be read what D. Cleyerus has said in the Ephem. German. An 12. obser. 7, entitled: De Serpente magno Indiae Orientalis Urobubalum deglutiente. The serpent in question was 25 feet long. Ray quotes in abridgment the description of its treatment of the buffalo; how, if the resistance is great, the victim is dragged to a tree, and compressed against it; how the noise of the crashing bones is heard as far as a cannon: how the crushed carcass is covered with saliva, etc. It is added that the country people (apparently this is in Amboyna) regard this great serpent as most desirable food.

The following are extracts from Cleyer’s paper, which is, more fully cited, Miscellanea Curiosa, sive Ephimeridum Medico-Physicarum Germanicarum Academiae Naturae Curiosorum. Dec. ii.—Annus Secundus, Anni MDCLXXXIII. Norimbergae. Anno MDCLXXXIV. pp. 18–20. It is illustrated by a formidable but inaccurate picture showing the serpent seizing an ox (not a buffalo) by the muzzle, with huge teeth. He tells how he dissected a great snake that he bought from a huntsman in which he found a whole stag of middle age, entire in skin and every part; and another which contained a wild goat with great horns, likewise quite entire; and a third which had swallowed a porcupine armed with all his “sagittiferis aculeis.” In Amboyna a woman great with child had been swallowed by such a serpent.…

“Quod si animal quoddam robustius renitatur, ut spiris anguinis enecari non possit, serpens crebris cum animali convolutionibus caudâ suâ proximam arborem in auxilium et robur corporis arripit eamque circumdat, quo eo fortius et valentius gyris suis animal comprimere, suffocare, et demum enecare possit.…”

“Factum est hoc modo, ut (quod ex fide dignissimis habeo) in Regno Aracan .… talis vasti corporis anguis prope flumen quoddam. cum Uro-bubalo, sive sylvestri bubalo aut uro .… immani spectaculo congredi visus fuerit, eumque dicto modo occiderit; quo conflictu et plusquam hostili amplexu fragor ossium in bubalo comminutorum ad distantiam tormenti bellici majoris .… a spectatoribus sat eminus stantibus exaudiri

  By PanEris using Melati.

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