Volume 22 1913 > Volume 22, No. 85 > Notes and queries, p 42-43
                                                                                             Previous | Next   

- 42

[241] The Native Dog (Kuri Maori).

There has been reference made to the wild dog lately, both in your Journal and in other publications. Like others who have been about in the bush, in the earlier days, I have had opportunities of observing some of their habits. They were mostly a reddish fawn colour, and about the size of the ordinary cattle dog. It was very noticeable that when one of our tame dogs crossed the track of the wild ones, they became intensely excited and alarmed, far more so than when they encountered the trace of any other animal, such as dogs, pigs, cattle, etc. So it appears the wild dog had a smell peculiar to themselves. Wild dogs do not bark, always howl. I have heard them howling both night and day, and have known them to come near camps and howl at night.

There is another peculiarity of the wild dog. They bury their excrements like a tame cat does, covering it up by scratching leaves and debris over it. I have noticed this over and over again in the King Country and in the north, and a Mr. Patterson informs me that the same thing was observed by the settlers at Papamoa, between Opotiki and Motu, when wild dogs were very troublesome at one time amongst sheep. This fact about wild dogs burying their droppings is common knowledge amongst bushmen who have been in places infected with them. No one ever saw a tame dog do this, and it would be interesting to learn if this was a habit peculiar to the old native dog. Perhaps some of our members could throw some light on the subject.


[242] The Moa in the Wellington District.

When in Wellington a year ago Mr. J. W. Mackay, an officer of the A.M.P. Society, showed me a collection of fragments of various sizes of Moa egg-shells, together with some broken and perfect Maori stone tools—all of which he had collected on the Miramar Peninsula within the last seven years. A careful scrutiny of a quantity of the fragments presented to me by Mr. Mackay prove them unquestionably to have belonged to six or seven species of the Moa. The varying spherical size, thickness and substance, and form and size of the granulations of the numerous fragments collected by Mr. Mackay, fully illustrate their specific cological characters and distinction. The first reference to the occurrence of the Moa in the Wellington district was made by the late Mr. J. C. Crawford in one of his lectures on the geology of that district thirty-three years ago. Mr. Elsdon Best also mentions the occurrence of Moa bones in the Para swamp on the peninsula in his valuable paper “Te Whanganui-A-Tara,” published in Vol. X. of this Journal. When recently in Wellington I spent nearly two days traversing the magnificent peninsula, locating the sites of old pas as shown on the map of Port Nicholson, prior to 1840, in Percy Smith's “Taranaki Coast.” On examining the surrounding country from most of the sites of these ancient fortified pas, I was impressed that the warm, open sandy slopes, and partly swampy valleys of the - 43 Peninsula, with its formerly abundant vegetation, were ideal feeding and breeding grounds for the Moa. The traditions of the several powerful tribes who occupied the peninsula for centuries prove that they were acquainted with these gigantic struthious birds. Whether or no the Maori tribes contemporaneous with the Moa, ever protected or farmed any species of the birds for economic purposes, will probably never be fully ascertained. The general evidence, however, obtained from districts where the Maori and the Moa lived—especially in Mid and South Canterbury—tend to prove that they did so. The great Moa age in New Zealand has yet to be written by some competent scientist. The vast accumulations of broken Moa egg-shells occurring on and around the sites of ancient pas and kaingas will supply incontestable proof of the contemporaneity of the Maori and the Moa in both the North and South Islands.


[243] The Native Dog (Kuri Maori).

Judging from the large quantities of bones and teeth of the native dog to be found on the sites of old pas, the animals must have existed in large numbers in pre-Pakeka times. They are also very plentiful on the sandy sites of old cooking places on the Taranaki coast from Raglan (Whaingaroa) in the north to the mouth of the Waingongora River, near Hawera, in the south of the county. The size and form of the teeth with the structure of the jaws and cranial features would indicate the Kuri Maori to have had close affinities to the modern medium sized, bushy-tailed and prick-eared collie. When excavating in the deep fissures of the limestone rocks, and under the painted rock shelters and old Maori cooking places on the Albury Estate, for the late Sir Walter Buller twenty years ago, we found a quantity of native dogs' bones in the several places mentioned. Those occurring in the deep fissures were probably of considerable age. There is also little doubt but that the animals were frequently used for food by the old time Maoris—most probably in times of siege or in seasons of scarcity of other natural foods.


[244] The Maori Potato.

A native of the Wairau pa tells me that the name of the potato cultivated before Cook's visits to New Zealand was puna-karewau. This potato had ordinarily a stalk about six inches long, and half a dozen tubers. These had a peculiar taste which had to be acquired by the consumer. My informant had tasted them about forty years ago. I was not able to obtain information as to the species of potato left by Cook and cultivated by Ngai-tahu, but the following names were given of species cultivated since his time: Tatai-rangu, rapae, and raramu.