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Fight of ichneumon and cobra

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Cobra and Mongoose
Cobra and Mongoose

Claudius Aelianus presents the struggle of ichneumon (Egyptian mongoose, also called the pharaoh’s rat) with a cobra. Ichneumon does not move to attack the enemy without caution and rashly. Just as a man can defend himself in full gear, the ichneumon is first rolled in the mud until it is covered with a hard shell, which serves him as a safe and tight protection. If the mud is missing, it is washed with water and the whole wet one dips deep into the sand – only then it starts to fight.

When it finds iself in trouble, thereis another strategy. The tip of the nose, sensitive and exposed to the cobra’s bite, protects in the way it has tried: it bends the tail forward and covers the nose, separating it from the attack of the cobra. If the cobra manages to reach him, the animal falls prey to it; if not, cobra sticks its teeth into a layer of mud, because the ichneumon sneaks in and suddenly throws itmself at the enemy, grabs it by the throat and suffocates. The one who hits the first wins.

  • McKeown J. C., A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Greatest Empire, 2010

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