Memorandum on the «Bora Chung» of Bootan

A. Campbell

The announcement of any extraordinary fact connected with the habits of men or the lower animals, produces three states of mind in the mass of those addressed; 1st, an unenquiring and implicit credence; 2nd, wonder, without any lasting attention to the matter narrated; and 3rd, sceptical disbelief. I have no doubt that the notice of the «Bora Chung», by Dr. Pearson, in Vol. VIII. of the Journal of the Asiatic Society, p. 551 produced all these states, in a great number of readers, for I have heard many express themselves to this effect; and I confess, that although I did not disbelieve the account of this fish's habits, I have been very anxious to make further inquiry into them. When in Bootan last year, it was out of my power to do so, but this year I have been more fortunate; and the following is the substance of the information I have gained : - The «Bora Chung» is not found on the right bank, or Rungpoor side, of the Teesta; it is confined to the Bootan side. It inhabits jheels and slow running streams near the hills, living principally in the banks, into which it penetrates from one foot to five or six. The tubes leading from the water into the banks are generally a few inches below the surface of the water, and consequently filled, with water; they are sometimes of no greater diameter than sufficient to receive the fish, sometimes they are a foot wide; when of the smaller size, they terminate in a basin where the fish remains, returning to the water at pleasure. The usual mode of catching them is by introducing the hand under water into these recesses; two fish are generally found together, and they lie coiled up horizontally, resembling a wheel. They are eaten by the people of the Bootan Dooars, and are quite wholesome. It is not believed that they bore their own holes, or form their resting basins, but that they occupy the abandoned locations of land crabs. When in the waterpool or streams, they always remain close to the margin, and constantly move out and in, of their holes. They never leave the water, nor can they move on the grass more than any other fish. They are supposed to breed in the recesses described. I have not as yet succeeded in getting specimens of the «Bora Chung» but expect to do so. I saw those sent from Darjeeling to Calcutta for Dr. M' Clelland. They were each about twelve inches long, of a dark brown colour, and scaly. If Dr. M'Clelland described them 1 , they must be sufficiently known to Naturalists; but they may not have reached that gentleman; or, if so, their fate has been similar to that of fourteen species of fish collected in the Bootan Dooars last year, and forwarded by me to Calcutta for Dr. M. I have not had any acknowledgment of their receipt, and I conclude, therefore, that they never reached him.

Footnotes

1 In the same year as Campbell wrote this, McClelland has published a note on this fish, in which he thought to have a Channa barca . Campbell was probably not aware of McClelland's note on the «Bora Chung». Then, years later, in 1845, McClelland described the fish as Channa amphibeus . [snakeheads.org] Back

Acknowledgement and Source(s)

This text was originally published in: Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal , vol XI, Part II (July to December) 1842, pp. 963-964.

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