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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Fig. 339—Vultur percnopterus

An unclean bird (). The species of vulture, properly so called, have the head naked or downy, the crop external, and very long wings; they have all an offensive smell, and we know of none that even the scavenger-ants will eat. When dead they lie on the ground untouched till the sun has dried them into mummies. Those found in and about the Egyptian territory are Vultur fulvus, V. gyps (Savigny), V. Ægyptius (Savigny), V. monachus (Arabian vulture), V. cinereus, V. Nubicus, and a black species, which is often figured on Egyptian monuments as the bird of victory, hovering over the head of a national hero in battle, and sometimes with a banner in each talon. It is perhaps the gypaetus barbatus (peres), or lammer geyer; for though neither a vulture nor an eagle, it is the largest bird of prey of the old continent, and is armed like the eagle with formidable claws. The head is wholly feathered; its courage is equal to its powers, and it has a strength of wing probably superior to all raptorians, excepting the condor. It is found with little or no difference from Norway to the Cape of Good Hope, and from the Pyrenees to Japan. Most of the above-named species are occasionally seen in the north of Europe. The voice varies in different species, but those of Egypt, frequenting the Pyramids, are known to bark in the night like dogs. Excepting the carrion vultures, all the other species are of large size; some superior in bulk to the swan, and others a little less.

There can be no doubt that the White Carrion Vulture (Vultur percnopterus) is the bird called in Hebrew (as it still is in Arabic) Racham, rendered Gier-eagle in; . It forms a small group of Vulturidae, subgenerically distinguished by the name of Percnopterus and Neophron, differing from the other vultures in the bill being longer, straight, more attenuated, and then uncinated, and in the back of the head and neck being furnished with longish, narrow, suberectile feathers. In size the species is little bulkier than a raven, but it stands high on the legs. Always soiled with blood and garbage, offensive to the eye and nose, it yet is protected in Egypt both by law and public opinion for the services it renders in clearing the soil of dead carcasses putrefying in the sun, and the cultivated fields of innumerable rats, mice, and other vermin. It extends to Palestine in the summer season, but becomes scarce towards the north, where it is not specially protected; and it accompanies caravans, feasting on their leavings and on dead camels, etc.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Vulture'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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