Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 25, 1892
This text is also available in PDF
(3 MB) Opens in new window
– 17 –

Art. V.—The Moas and the Moa-hunters.

Translated from the French by Laura Buller. Communicated by Sir Walter L. Buller, K.C.M.G., F.R.S.

[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 15th February, 1893.]

When I published my first article in the “Journal des Savants” on New Zealand and its inhabitants, 1 we had received in Europe only the three first volumes of the “Transactions,” in which are incorporated the proceedings of the scientific societies of New Zealand. At that time I expressed a regret that this compilation only contained one, and that a very short, notice concerning the large brevipennate birds designated by the common name of “moa.” 2 Since then this deficiency has been remedied. The volumes which followed brought us numerous papers dealing with the different questions which the history of these birds has given rise to. I would like to resume here this line of investigation, interesting in so many respects, avoiding the too technical details, for which I can only refer the reader to the works of Drs. Haast, Hochstetter, and others, and especially to those of Professor Richard Owen, which have since become classic.


First of all, let us call to mind the most striking feature of the New Zealand fauna.

Those travellers who were the first to land on this distant soil 3 were surprised to find, in the way of mammals, only a domestic dog, and a rat which the natives hunted as game. Since then there have been discovered two bats of different genera. 4 The researches of geologists have traced back to

[Footnote] (1.) January, 1873. The present article appeared in the same journal (Nos. June and July, 1883).

[Footnote] (2.) “Address on the Moa,” by the Hon. W. B. D. Mantell (“Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute,” vol. i., p. 18). Mr. Mantell was the only one who occupied himself with the general history of the moas. But it is only right to add that Dr. Haast gave in the same volume an entirely technical paper, in which he made known the results of measurements taken from a great number of moa-bones. (Id., p. 80.)

[Footnote] (3.) New Zealand was discovered by Tasman the 13th December, 1642. It was forgotten for more than a century, and rediscovered by Cook the 6th October, 1769.

[Footnote] (4.) Scotophilus tuberculatus, Gray, identical with an Australian species, and the Mystacina tuberculata, which has never been found anywhere but in New Zealand. (Note communicated by M. Alphonse Edwards.)

– 18 –

palæontological times the same conclusions as those derivable, but with more effect, from a study of living animals. No fossil mammal has yet been discovered anywhere in New Zealand. That renders still more striking the exceptions which I have just pointed out. How are we to explain the existence of these four isolated species, each one representing one of the sub-types of the class, and not having been preceded by any other belonging to the fundamental group? It is a curious fact, and one not to be met with elsewhere. Nowhere else, in fact, do we see a whole class of animals totally wanting in the fossil fauna, and only represented in the existing fauna by a number of insignificant species belonging to distinct orders. On the contrary, there always exist affinities more or less close between the past and the present in the animal kingdom. We know, indeed, that these resemblances are advanced every day as arguments in favour of the doctrine of evolution.

The New Zealand fauna then presents a singular exception to one of the hitherto most generally accepted facts, rendering it thereby extremely difficult to admit the existence of exceptions of this kind. One was naturally impelled to ask whether some accidental phenomenon had not occurred here to disguise the natural features; whether these animals—the dog, the rat, and the two bats—belonged really to the New Zealand fauna, or were merely immigrants brought from a foreign land into a country in which they were previously unknown.

The presence of Chiroptera may easily have been attributed to the fact of accidental distribution, resulting from gales such as are still met with in these parts. 5 But the presence of the two terrestrial mammals has remained for a long time unexplained. This curious problem of zoological geography was only solved after Sir George Grey had discovered, translated, and published the historical songs which have furnished information as valuable as it is curious on the first origin of the Maoris. He tells us that in leaving Hawaïki for the land newly discovered by Ngahue the emigrating chiefs took with them the animals and plants the utility of which had been taught them by experience. The dog and rat figure in the list of these treasures of the native colonists, 6

[Footnote] (5.) The Zosterops lateralis, Latham, originally an Australian bird, was brought in this manner to New Zealand, and to the small Campbell Island. It did not exist in the Chatham Islands before 1861. At that time it suddenly appeared after a storm. (“Rapport sur 1′Exposition faite au Muséum des Objets d'Histoire Naturelle recueillis par MM. De L'lsle et Filhol,” par A. de Quatrefages; “Archives des Missions Scientifiques et Littéraires,” vol. v., p. 24.)

[Footnote] (6.) “Polynesian Mythology,” 1855 (“The Emigration of Turi,” pp. 212 and 214; “The Emigration of Manaia,” p. 228). I have analysed these documents, and all those which relate to this line of argument, in a work entitled, “Les Polynésiens et leurs Migrations,” with four accompanying maps. I shall not do more than recall the fact that Hawaïki, which is spoken of here, is one of the Manaia Islands, and most probably Armstrong or Bourouti in our present chart.

– 19 –

day the accuracy of the traditions for which we are indebted to a former Governor of New Zealand. They were not indigenous to these Islands, but they were imported by the newcomers. 7

The mammals which were missing in the natural fauna of this archipelago were somewhat replaced there by birds belonging to a special type, represented in a very small number of species in other parts of the world, and which here exhibited a most exceptional development. I am referring to the birds with rudimentary wings, with filamentary feathers, so to speak, incapable of flight, and bearing a strong resemblance to the ostrich or to the cassowary. 8 Four or five

[Footnote] (7.) There exist at present in New Zealand mammals brought there by Europeans, the acclimatisation of which was not without its disadvantages. Our rat has almost completely destroyed the rat imported by the immigrants from Hawaïki, the kiore of the Maoris. It is needless to say the mouse accompanied it. Our cat has become wild in these Islands, and it is probably one of these animals which has been mistaken for an indigenous otter, which appears to have once been seen. Our rabbit has multiplied there, as in Australia, to such an extent as to have become a pest to the farmers—so much so that some years ago the Acclimatisation Society of Paris received a request for a certain number of weasels, for which 100 francs a pair was offered. The intention was to liberate them in the hope that they would increase, and exterminate the rabbits. But it was feared the remedy might become worse than the evil. As to the pigs introduced by Cook in 1769, they are now so numerous, and occasion such ravages, that hands are engaged for the express purpose of destroying them. Hochstetter tells us that in twenty months three men, hunting over an extent of 250,000 acres, killed no less than 25,000 wild pigs, and undertook to kill 15,000 more on the same ground (“New Zealand,” p. 162). These wild pigs will in the end accomplish the complete extirpation of the last apterous birds, whose nests they destroy. Nevertheless the acclimatisation of foreign animals has progressed with a surprising rapidity in New Zealand. Fourteen species of birds from Europe, Asia, and America have made new homes for themselves in this ocean-girt country. The colonists have not only imported sparrows and larks, but also the pheasant and Californian quail. All the new arrivals have driven out the indigenous species, the representatives of which become more and more rare, several of them being threatened with a speedy extinction. We may add, by the way, that the invasion of New Zealand by foreign plants has been no less general nor less destructive to the indigenous growths. Our cereals and our vegetables everywhere replace the potato (kumara) and are causing the destruction of the fern-root on which the Maoris subsisted. Even our weeds, though involuntarily introduced, have so spread that they choke the plants of the country “In the Christchurch plain,” writes M. Filhol, “however close the search may be, not a Polynesian plant is to be found. One might as well go through our French province of Beauce” (“Rapport sur l'Exposition faite au Muséum des Objets d'Histoire Naturelle recueillis par MM. De L'Isle et Filhol,” loc. cit.).

[Footnote] (8.) Out of New Zealand the ornithological type of which we are speaking here is only represented by four species, each one of different habitat, and isolated from each other by vast distances. They are: the ostrich (Struthio camelus, Linnæus), which inhabits nearly the whole of Africa, Arabia, and the hot parts of Asia on this side of the Ganges; the rhea, or American ostrich (Rhea americana, Latham), which inhabits South America from Brazil to Patagonia; the crested cassowary (Casuarinus emeu, Latham; Struthio casuarius, Linnæus), which is only found in the Indian Archipelago, and principally in the forests of Ceram; lastly, the emu (Casuarius novœ-hollandiœ, Latham), which seems to have spread all over Australia, but is being rapidly destroyed by the European colonists, who will shortly annihilate it.

– 20 –

species of this group still exist in New Zealand. The natives call them “kiwi”; and they have been placed by naturalists in the genus Apteryx. The size of the body varies between that of a fowl and a turkey. But the number of extinct species is very considerable; and amongst them were found some of truly gigantic proportions. It is these extinct species which are called by the common name of “moa,” which is borrowed from the Maori language. 9 The first researches in this curious chapter of ornithology date from 1830. The celebrated English anatomist, Richard Owen, had received from a Mr. Rule the middle portion of a femur; and on examining this single fragment he drew conclusions which everything has since confirmed. 10 Materials more abundant and more complete soon enabled him to recognise five distinct species, which he united in the genus Dinornis. Later on this number was progressively increased to thirteen, and there were found in the representatives of an extinct fauna different characteristics more and more pronounced: so much so that Dr. Julius Haast, the eminent New Zealand geologist, thought he could distinguish four genera, which he divided into two groups or families. 11 It is easy to see that these palæontological dis

[Footnote] (9.) These species are A. australis, A. mantelli, A. oweni, A. haasti. A fifth species of large proportions perhaps exists in the remote districts of the Middle Island. It was actually described by Verreau, a travelling French naturalist. But he had only seen one skin, the feathers of which a Maori chief used for his mantle. (Note communicated by M. Alphonse Edwards.)

[Footnote] (10.) The kiwis lived at the same time as some species of moa. Their bones have been found intermixed in caves, and also in the kitchen-middens of which I will speak later on. The moas are not the only species that have disappeared from New Zealand. Owen has shown that it was the same with two species of rail of which he has made the genus Aptornis. Haast has described the remains of a large bird of prey which he called Harpagornis moorei. This is perhaps the “weka” mentioned in some of the Maori traditions. (“Notes on Harpagornis moorei,” by Julius Haast: Transactions, vol. iv., p. 192, pis. x. and xi.)

[Footnote] (11.) Professor Richard Owen made his first communication on this subject to the Zoological Society of London the 13th November, 1839 (Laurillard, article on “Dinornis,” in the “Dictionnaire Universel d'Histoire Naturelle” by D'Orbigny). Professor Owen was able to pro secute his studies mainly through the materials sent by Mr. W. Mantell. The results appeared in the “Transactions of the Zoological Society” of 1884 and following years.

– 21 –

coveries confirm the observations that I put forward just now, and make New Zealand conform to the general rule. This distant country has never produced mammals. The type of brevipennate birds has developed itself into an abundance and variety of subordinate groups, met with nowhere else. There is complete accord between its fossil fauna and its living fauna; and these faunæ by the very characteristics which are common to them further attest the universality of the law which everywhere links together the past and the present in the animal world. 12

The number of moa-bones collected by scientists or by amateurs living in New Zealand is very considerable; and it is only just to recognise the generosity with which these scientific treasures have been shared with other scientists all over the world. All the large museums of Europe and America possess more or less complete skeletons of these strange birds. Mr. Walter Mantell, who was one of the first to occupy himself with this question, sent Richard Owen more than a thousand bones. 13 When the learned geologist of

[Footnote] (12.) Here is Dr. Haast's classification, which only comprises eleven species:—I. Family of Dinornithidœ: Genus Dinornis, comprising D. maximus, D. robustus, D. ingens, D. struthioides, D. gracilis; genus Meionornis, comprising M. casuarinus, M. didiformis. II. Family of Palapterygidœ: Genus Palapteryx, comprising P. elephantopus, P. crassus; genus Euryapteryx, comprising E. gravis, E. rheides. (“Proceedings of the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury,” March, 1874; “Address,” by J. Haast, President; Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, vol. vi., p. 426.) Dr. Haast, basing himself upon the scale of dimensions, seems inclined to believe that he himself reunited, under the name of Meionornis casuarinus, two species which must hereafter be distinguished. He says the same with regard to Palapteryx elephantopus (p. 429). Professor Hutton, Director of the Otago Museum, criticized Dr. Haast's classification, contradicting some of the facts quoted by his colleague. He thinks, like Owen, that all the moas formed one natural family, that of Dinornithidœ. (Transactions, vol. ix., p. 363.) Owen and M. A. Edwards admit only two kinds, Dinornis and Palapteryx, the former tridactyle, the latter with a fourth finger, short and directed backwards.

[Footnote] (13.) The preceding observations do not only affect the history of the New Zealand fauna: they are closely related to the history of man himself. In themselves they are sufficient to refute a theory recently put forward by M. P. A. Lesson—in a book filled, however, with important documents and facts, three volumes out of four of which have appeared: “Les Polynésiens, leur Origine, leurs Migrations, et leur Langage:” Paris, 1882. The author admits that the whole of Polynesia—Tahiti, the Sandwich Islands, Samoa group, Tonga group, &c.—has been peopled through migrations; but, instead of considering the Malay Archipelago as a racial starting-point, he makes New Zealand the birthplace of the Polynesian. Thus he returns to the old idea of autochthonism, which is little to be relied on, as Mr. H. Hall's magnificent work has already shown; and at the same time he places the cradle of the insular Polynesian in the land to which an hypothesis of this kind is least applicable. I have already briefly examined M. Lesson's theory, and shown how, independently of the data furnished by the study of the faunæ, the historical records, for which we are indebted partly to the author himself, but especially to Sir George Grey, Thomson, Shortland, &c., prevent its being accepted (“Hommes Fossiles et Hommes Sauvages,” p. 483). I will return to this subject when M. Lesson's book is finished.

– 22 –

the “Novara,” Professor Hochstetter, proposed to explore in the marshes and bone-caves, he met everywhere with the most ready concurrence. It was the same with our compatriot, M. Filhol. 14 It is to the good-will and the liberality of our New Zealand fellow-workers—Dr. Julius Haast and Captain Hutton in particular—that we owe the magnificent skeletons which are now to be seen in our museum. No one will blame me for having given prominence to these facts, or for having here acknowledged publicly the services of the men who appreciate and act so fully up to the principles of scientific brotherhood.


This abundance of material enables one to form a very complete idea of what the moas were. It has been possible to reconstruct entire skeletons of several species, and thus to judge of their proportions. On the whole, and in spite of the minor differences which distinguish them, all these birds remind us, as I have already said, of the ostrich and cassowary. The head is small; and nothing belonging to it indicates the existence of a solid casque similar to that which distinguishes another struthious bird, and which has gained for it the name of “the helmet-headed cassowary.” The neck is very long, slender at first, thickening progressively towards the trunk, as in the cassowary. The skeleton of the body is robust. The sternum alone is relatively very small and flat. The reduction of this bone, so developed in birds which fly, is explained by the smallness of the wings, which are really rudimentary. On the other hand, all the parts of the skeleton belonging to the posterior members assume exceptional dimensions. The sacrum is massive; the bones of the thigh, leg, and toes have enormous epiphygeal heads, and the bone itself is relatively much thicker than in the living representatives of the type. These characteristics are especially marked in the Palapteryx elephantopus, which was rather smaller than our ostrich; notwithstanding which, the bones of its foot had a circumference nearly double that of the same member in the ostrich and cassowary. 15 The stature varied very per-

[Footnote] (14.) Hochstetter, loc. cit., p. 182.

[Footnote] (15.) MM. Filhol and De L'Isle were attached in 1874 as naturalists to the expedition sent to observe the transit of Venus in the Islands of St. Paul and Campbell, under command of Admirals Mouchey and Bouquet de Lagrye. Both of them brought back valuable collections. But M. De L'Isle, prevented by illness, could not realise all that his experience and zeal had given promise of. M. Filhol fulfilled his mission in a remarkable manner. After having thoroughly explored Campbell Island, he went twice to New Zealand, running through the principal provinces. He finally visited the Viti Islands, New Caledonia, the Sandwich Islands, returning to France by way of San Francisco. From every part he brought back remarkable collections, and observations full of interest. Captain Hutton, Director of the Otago Museum, gave M. Filhol, for our Museum, numerous moa-bones and two complete skeletons—one of Palapteryx elephantopus, the other of P. crassus. (“Rapport sur 1′Exposition faite au Muséum des Objets d'Histoire Naturelle recueillis par MM. De L'Isle et Filhol,” loc. cit.) Dr. Haast sent us, with a large number of inolated bones, four almost perfect skeletons, which have been mounted, of Dinornis crassus, giganteus, elephantopus, and didiformis. The Museum possesses, besides, a model in plaster of the magnificent Dinornis ingens procured by Hochstetter, which he reconstructed and figured in his book, pp. 187 and 188. The objects brought by MM. De L'Isle and Filhol were publicly exhibited, and filled the large hothouse of the Museum. A report was made on these collections, which I have often quoted.

– 23 –

ceptibly in the different species of moa. The smallest—Meionornis didiformis—was only three or four feet high. 16 It was therefore very inferior to the ostrich, the height of which varies from six to seven feet. But the Palapteryx ingens was of precisely similar size to the latter. Dinornis robustus was from eight to nine feet high, and Dinornis maximus nine or ten feet in height. It therefore exceeded our largest ostriches by about three feet. 17 According to Thompson, quoted by M. Alphonse Edwards in an unpublished paper which he was good enough to communicate to me, there existed individuals reaching to thirteen or fourteen feet in height. The accompanying plate* will give an idea of what these enormous brevipennate birds must have been. 18

In comparing a large number of bones of adult individuals of the same species, Dr. Haast recognised that they always formed two series of slightly different sizes. He attributed this inequality to the sex, and, guided by what exists in the Apteryx, he considered the larger bones as having belonged to

[Footnote] (16.) Hochstetter, loc. cit., p. 138.

[Footnote] (17.) I borrow all these figures from Hochstetter's table of measurements (loc. cit., p. 198). The learned traveller seems to have judged of the size, not by measuring the distance from the beak to the extremity of the feet, but by supposing the bird at rest in its natural position, the neck inclined forward and presenting a double curve, as he represented the Palapteryx ingens the skeleton of which is at Vienna (loc. cit., p. 188).

[Footnote] *Not republished.—Ed.

[Footnote] (18.) This figure, taken from a photograph, was published first by Dr. Haast, “Geology of the Provinces of Canterbury and Westland.” M. De Quatrefages reproduced it in a work recently published, “Hommes Fossiles et Hommes Sauvages,” 1 vol. in 8vo., 209 figures in the text, and a map (J.-B. Baillière). The editors were kind enough to put at our disposal the woodcuts, for which we here express our thanks.*

– 24 –

[The section below cannot be correctly rendered as it contains complex formatting. See the image of the page for a more accurate rendering.]

the females.19 The discovery has not been limited to osseous remains of moas of different sexes and ages. Myriads of fragments of egg-shells have been found, and some entire ones; but unfortunately most of the latter have got broken. However, a sufficient number of eggs have been restored.20 These eggs, of a pale-yellow colour, had the surface picked out, as it were, with minute pointed furrows.21 Their size was much superior to that of ostrich-eggs, without equalling, however, in this respect, the eggs of the Æpyornis.22 In one of them were found the bones of a young chick, and Dr. Hector was able to compare them with those of an emu chick of the same age.23 It is interesting to notice that in the birds belonging to this period the principal distinguishing characters are very manifest, and that the lower framework, the leg-bones, &c., are much more robust in the moa than in its near ally inhabiting Australia.

[Footnote] (19.) “Address,” Transactions, vol. vi., p. 428.

[Footnote] (20.) Mr. Mantell himself reconstructed a dozen of these eggs, which have for the most part been given to the British Museum and the Royal College of Surgeons. Amongst these, which highly illustrate the skill and patience of the manipulator, there are some which number no less than two or three hundred fragments. (“On Moa-beds,” Transactions, vol. v., p. 94.)

[Footnote] (21.) “On the Microscopical Structure of the Eggshell of the Moa,” by Captain F. W. Hutton (Transactions, vol. iv., p. 166, pl. ix., figs. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). The eggshell, about 7/100in. in thickness, is composed of two layers. The outer part is marked by parallel furrows, the inner part up to the surface being formed of a kind of small perpendicular prism. Other observers speak of these eggs as being perfectly smooth. It is quite possible that the little furrows in question are due to the action of sand blown about by the wind. We know, really, that this action is exercised even on rocks, much more capable of resistance than eggshells, and this fact has been distinctly proved in New Zealand.

[Footnote] (22.) The Æpyornis maximus inhabited Madagascar. It was destroyed by man, but it is not known at what epoch. The eggs and some bones have been described for the first time by Isidore Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire (“Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences,” 1851, vol. xxxii., p. 101; and “Annales des Sciences Naturelles,” 3rd series, vol. xiv., pp. 206 and 213). M. Alphonse Edwards, having received new materials, has prepared a very complete work on this species, “Recherches sur la Faune Ornitho-logique Éteinte des Îles Mascareignes et de Madagascar,” p. 85: 1873. The result of the studies of this naturalist is that the Æpyornis was closely related to the moa, while presenting certain characteristics sufficient to constitute the type of a family comprising probably three species. In particular the bones of the metatarsus were still thicker and more massive than with P. elephantopus. It was about 6ft. high. The eggs, several specimens of which he possesses, have a capacity of about two gallons—that is, the volume of six ostrich-eggs or a hundred and forty-eight fowleggs.

[Footnote] (23.) “On Recent Moa-remains in New Zealand,” by James Hector, M.D., F.R.S. (Transactions, vol. iv., pl. vi., figs. 3 and 4). The same plate gives the drawing of moa- and emu-eggs reduced to a third (figs. 1 and 2). Letter from Mr. T. M. Cockburn-Hood to Dr. Hector (Transactions, vol. vi., p. 387).

– 25 –

From time to time, and in different localities, there have been found stray moa-feathers, belonging to different parts of the body, and even portions of skeletons to which still adhered muscles, tendons, and fragments of skin, as well as feathers, in a remarkable state of preservation.24 Later on I will refer to the conclusions which may be deduced from the above-stated facts. I only mention the subject now for the purpose of completing the description of these birds.

Captain Hutton has examined feathers found in two localities associated with moa-bones. These feathers belonged to the same species. They were as fresh, and the colours were as bright, as if they had only just been plucked out. But, with the exception of one which he figures, they were all broken.25 Their total length is about 6.⅓in. The tube is only about ⅕in., and has two very slender shafts, the barbs of which, although provided with barbules, remain disconnected. These barbs, at first very short, attain a length of about an inch, and the plume terminates in a rounded tip. For two-thirds of their length from the base the colour is a reddish-brown, which passes gradually into black, whereas the rounded extremity is of the purest white. Captain Hutton observes that the general effect of these characters appears to establish a close connection with the American and Australian brevipennates rather than with the African ostrich.26 Besides, one can understand that all the moas had not the same kind of plumage. Mr. Taylor White's discoveries have confirmed on this point all that might have been expected. In the cave of Mount Nicholas he found feathers of a pale brownish-yellow, darker along the edges. Some were of a blackish-brown. Feathers coming from another cave, near Queenstown, were of a reddish-brown, and marked by a dark-brown streak towards the extremity of the shaft.27 We know, therefore, at least partially, what the plumage was in, at any rate, three species of moa.28 The feathers I have just described were, no doubt, from the middle or hinder region of the body. The rare specimen described and figured by Dr. Hector shows the modifications which the anterior dorsal

[Footnote] (24.) “Address on the Moa” (extracts), by the Hon. W. B. Mantell (Transactions, vol. i., p. 19). “On some Moa-feathers,” by Captain F. W. Hutton (Transactions, vol. iv., p. 172). “On Recent Moa-remains in New Zealand,” by James Hector, M.D., F.R.S. (Transactions, vol. iv., p. 110). Similar facts are frequently mentioned in other papers to which I shall have occasion to return further on.

[Footnote] (25.) Loc. cit., pl. ix.

[Footnote] (26.) Loc. cit., p. 173.

[Footnote] (27.) Loc. cit., p. 114, pl. v., with five figures.

[Footnote] (28.) “Notes on Moa-caves in the Wakatipu District,” by Taylor White, Esq. (Transactions, vol. viii., p. 97).

– 26 –

region and the neck presented in this respect.29 This specimen comprises seven vertebræ—the first dorsal and the six last cervical—united by their ligaments, and having preserved on one side their muscles and other integuments. The author concludes that the neck of this moa was 18in. in circumference at its base. On the portion of the specimen corresponding to the dorsal vertebræ one sees the skin covered with large conical elevations or papillæ, which almost touch each other, and give to the whole the aspect of a grater. A certain number of these papillæ have feathers of a reddish-chestnut colour, with two shafts, and provided with barbs, similar to those mentioned above, the longest of which are more than 2in. in length. The papillæ diminish in size, and the feathers in length, on reaching the part overlying the cervical vertebræ. The feathers are then rapidly reduced to mere hairs, and they disappear entirely over about half the surface of the specimen. There the papillæ are much less pronounced, and are quite distinct from each other.

Keeping in view these varied data, and the characters which distinguish the brevipennate birds of other regions, we can form a very precise idea of what the large species of moa were. They presented the general form of the cassowary, but on a much larger scale.30 As with the latter, the greater part of the neck was bare, but the characteristic crest was absent, and consequently they approached more closely to the emu. Very probably the legs were bare and the body was covered with silky feathers, where tints of a dark reddish-brown predominated, varied with black and white, at least in some of the species.

Writings to which I shall have to refer later on enable us to complete the picture, and go to illustrate the manner of life of these strange birds.31 The moas were sluggish and stupid creatures, as attested by a proverb still in use.32 They were essentially sedentary, and walked in couples accompanied by their young. No doubt they sometimes disputed possession of the same feeding-ground, for the Maoris still say, speaking of a fight between two pairs of combatants,

[Footnote] (29.) Note added to the preceding by Captain F. W. Hutton (id., p. 101).

[Footnote] (30.) The cassowary is smaller than the ostrich.

[Footnote] (31.) Letter from Mr. John White to Mr. Travers (Transactions, vol. viii., p. 81). Mr. Travers tells us that his correspondent was engaged for more than thirty-five years in collecting every possible piece of information about the past history of the moas; that he had been initiated by their priests into all the mysteries of the native craft, so that he knew the history of their race better even than the natives themselves.

[Footnote] (32.) Extracts from a letter from F. L. Maning, Esq., relative to the extinction of the moas (Transactions, vol. viii., p. 102). The author translates the Maori proverb by the words “As inert (ngoikae) as a moa.”

– 27 –

“Two against two, like the moas.” Their nest was formed of various dry herbs, and of the débris of ferns, heaped together. They fed on different kinds of plants growing on the outskirts of the woods and along the borders of the swamps—on the young sprouts of various shrubs, &c.; but their principal food appears to have been the root of a species of fern, which they tore up either with the beak or the feet. To aid in the digestion of this food, the moas, like many other birds, swallowed little pebbles, which, rounded and polished by the friction in their stomach, assumed a peculiar form, and are called to this day “moa-stones” by the natives, who are familiar with them.33 But this polish rendered the stones useless for the purpose intended by the birds; whereupon they were disgorged, after the manner of the ostrich and the emu.34 These stones were not always of the same kind, and varied with the locality.35


The details I have just given lead us to suppose not only that man and the moa were cotemporary, but also that the disappearance of the latter dates from a recent epoch. Such, in fact, is the conclusion arrived at after a thorough investigation, carried on in New Zealand for nearly forty years, by a large number of inquirers and distinguished scientists. Nevertheless, until a few years ago it was possible to entertain doubts. One of the most distinguished New Zealand geologists, Dr. Julius Haast, expressed himself decidedly of a contrary opinion. Although accepting as proved the co-existence of men and moas at a very remote epoch, answering to our prehistoric times, he denied that the actual Maoris had ever known these large birds.36 On the other hand, Mr. W. Mantell, whose numerous researches render him on this point a safe authority, has clearly, and at different times, expressed an opposite view, arguing that these large brevipennates were hunted and exterminated, not long ago, by the present race of Maoris.37

[Footnote] (33.) Hochstetter, p. 186.

[Footnote] (34.) “Note on Discovery of Moas and Moa-hunters' Remains at Pataua River, near Whangarei,” by J. Thorne, jun. (Transactions, vol. iv., p. 66, 1872). A certain number of these moa-stones have been collected, and figure in the Auckland Museum and very probably in many other New Zealand collections.

[Footnote] (35.) Haast, loc. cit., p. 73.

[Footnote] (36.) “Moas and Moa-hunters,” address to the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, 1871, by Julius Haast (Transactions, vol. iv., p. 66, 1872). Dr. Haast maintained his first impressions in other memoirs and in the work which he published under the title of “Geology of the Provinces of Canterbury and Westland, New Zealand,” 1879.

[Footnote] (37.) “On the Fossil Remains of Birds collected in Various Parts of New Zealand by Mr. Walter Mantell, of Wellington,” by Gideon Algernon Mantell, Esq., LL.D., F.R.S. (“Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London,” vol. iv., p. 225, 1848). “Address on the Moas” (extracts), by W. B. Mantell (Transactions, vol. i., p. 18, 1869; with two plates). Nevertheless, in this last paper Mr. Mantell seems disposed to place farther back the time of the moa's extinction, relying on the obscure traditions which he collected on this subject. Mr. White's letter, which I have already quoted, and to which I shall soon return, responds plainly to this objection.

– 28 –

Finally, Mr. Stack, considered by his colleagues a very competent judge, has adopted an intermediate opinion. He regards the belief of the recent extermination of the moa as inadmissible, without wishing, however, to throw it back into a tooremote past.38

To show how the question has been elucidated, and in order to justify the opinion at which I have arrived, I must go into further particulars.

Moa-bones have been met with in deposits of very different kinds. Sometimes they are to be found lying on the surface, or are scarcely even covered with a few inches of sand;39 but generally one finds them buried at variable depths in the sand on the sea-coast, in alluvial deposits from rivers, in swamps, and also in caves. The quantity of these remains, and their accumulation on limited spaces, is sometimes very remarkable.

In digging watercourses for draining a swamp at Glenmark, the workmen extracted the remains of 144 adult birds and of twenty-seven young ones.40 I could quote many other examples, but I limit myself to recapitulating the details given by Mr. Booth on the discovery made by him at Hamilton in a little lagoon almost dried up.41 Apprised of the discovery of some bones, he had a pit opened measuring 4ft. square, and took out of it fifty-six femora, with a proportionate number of other bones. Regular excavations were then organized. It was proved that the place explored formed a sort of irregular crescent, measuring 40ft. from one end to the

[Footnote] (38.) “Some Observations on the Annual Address of the President,” by the Rev. J. W. Stack (Transactions, vol. iv., p. 107).

[Footnote] (39.) Dr. Hector, loc. cit., p. 115; Haast, loc. cit., p. 103; Stack, loc. cit., p. 109; the Rev. R. Taylor (Transactions, vol. v., p. 97). These bones, which were seen in great quantities scattered over the ground, have rapidly disappeared. Mr. Stack explains their permanence during centuries by saying that the Maoris carefully preserved the woods, while the European colonists did their best to destroy them. The latter, in destroying this shelter, facilitated the action of the atmospheric agents, and brought about the disappearance of these bones, which up till then had remained intact. I think it is useless to point out how ill-founded this interpretation of facts is, and how opposed to daily experience.

[Footnote] (40.) Haast, loc. cit., p. 89.

[Footnote] (41.) “Description of the Moa-swamp at Hamilton,” by B. S. Booth (Transactions, vol. vii., p. 123, pl. v.).

– 29 –

other, 18ft. in the centre, and from 2ft. to 4ft. in depth. In this very limited space about 3.½ tons weight of bones were collected, the number of moas piled up in this estuary being estimated at more than four hundred.

These bones were very unequally preserved. A large number fell to pieces at the least touch. They had evidently not been deposited at the same time. But, owing to the conditions under which the entombed remains were found at Hamilton, this instance scarcely furnished exact data respecting the relative ages of these deposits. It is different with regard to the caves scientifically explored by Hochstetter. Here, quite distinct beds, separated by layers of stalagmites, contained different species. At the top was found Meionornis didiformis, and below Palapteryx elephantopus. The bones of the former seemed to be still fresh, whilst those of the latter were half fossilised. This diversity of aspect corresponds with the difference in chemical composition, due to a more or less complete change in their tissue. The quantity of organic matter found in moa-bones which have been analysed is very variable. Sometimes it is only 10 per cent., while at other times it reaches 30 per cent.; this proportion being almost exactly the same as that found in fresh ostrich-bones.42

Hochstetter, arguing from his personal observations and from some already-known facts, came very near the opinions of the Messrs. Mantell (father and son). He thought that the extinction of the moa should not be carried back thousands of years.43 He considered that their existence alone could explain the development which the population of New Zealand had undergone,49 and attributed the origin of anthropophagy to the want of animal food, resulting from the extermination of these birds.45 He consequently identified the present race of Maoris with the moa-hunters. In support of his very opposite view, Dr. Haast takes geology for a basis. Moa-bones, he says, are principally found in the deposit formed during the glacial period, or immediately after it.46 Having himself collected a certain number of these bones in sitû, it seemed to him that these large birds represented in New Zealand the gigantic quadrupeds which inhabited the Northern Hemisphere during the Post-pliocene period. Therefore he did not hesitate to carry back the existence of the moa to an epoch quite as far removed from present times as that of the mammoth, rhinoceros, lion, and cave-bear, the bones

[Footnote] (42.) Hochstetter, p. 190.

[Footnote] (43.) P. 190.

[Footnote] (49.) Loc. cit., p. 194.

[Footnote] (45.) Id., p. 196.

[Footnote] (46.) Haast, loc. cit., p. 68.

– 30 –

of which are found in the Quaternary deposits of Europe; and he affirmed that if the moa had outlived these times, geologically different from ours, it had not been long in becoming extinct.47

One can see that Dr. Haast seemed to admit not only the analogy of the glacial phenomena operating alike in New Zealand and in Europe, but also their contemporaneity. But this is a question of pure geology, which is beyond my capacity. Nevertheless, if we accept these two propositions as true, and if we argue by analogy, we might make serious objections as to the conclusions which the New Zealand scientist draws with regard to the remote extinction of the moa.

It is quite true that these large mammals spoken of by Dr. Haast no longer exist, and are only known to us by their remains. But beside them lived other species, which have survived and are still existing. The monks of St. Gall still ate the urus in the fifteenth century; the reindeer, in the time of Pallas, descended in the depth of winter as far as the borders of the Caspian Sea; the auroch and the elk are still to be found in Poland; the chamois, the wild goat, and the dormouse still survive around us. Why, therefore, should all the different species of moa have been condemned to perish with the geological period which saw them appear?

Dr. Haast would no doubt reply that the European mammals above mentioned, and others which it is unnecessary to enumerate, have generally emigrated either in latitude or in altitude. But, without even making the action of man interfere, this change of habit might be caused by a radical change of climate. The latter, insular in the glacial times, had become continental. In New Zealand it was not so. Whatever may have been the upheaval or depression of the land,48 it has remained isolated in the midst of the ocean, and the climate has not varied, at any rate in the lower levels, except within very prescribed limits. Dr. Haast himself, in setting forth other facts besides those which I have indicated, urges similar views, and shows very clearly how in this large island the extension of glaciers by no means involves the

[Footnote] (47.) Loc. cit., p. 75.

[Footnote] (48.) The Transactions contain several memoirs giving an account of the glacial phenomena which occurred in New Zealand. I will merely mention those of Messrs. Travers and Dobson, who, in expressing their own views, have recapitulated those of their colleagues. “Notes on Dr. Haast's supposed Pleistocene Glaciation of New Zealand,” by W. T. L. Travers (Transactions, vol. vii., p. 409). “On the Date of the Glacial Period,” by A. Dudley Dobson (id., p. 440). But the work which ought especially to be consulted on this question is that of Dr. Haast on the geology of the Provinces of Canterbury and Westland.

– 31 –

existence of a climate much more rigorous than that of to-day. 51 The general conditions of existence remaining the same, what reason can the New Zealand palæontologist have for considering the extinction of all the moas a necessity?

In all his writings published up to this date which have come to my knowledge, Dr. Haast maintains the general opinions we indicated above.50 It appears that they have for him the value of so many axioms involving a certainty, and thus the positive or negative facts have value in his eyes only so far as they accord with his theory. If one mentions to him skeletons more or less complete, found on the surface beside a little heap of moa-stones, which seem to indicate that the bird died there and was never buried, he declares himself unable to comprehend that these bones have resisted the action of atmospheric agents during hundreds if not thousands of years.51 If one speaks to him of the traditions preserved by the natives relating to the existence of the moas—their external characters, their manner of life, and the means employed in killing them—he replies that the most civilised Europeans have no traditions connected with the mammoth and rhinoceros; and that an inferior race, which only reached a state similar to that of our Neolithic people, cannot have retained any recollection of a period of such remote antiquity.52 He adds that-eminent men have looked in vain for traditions of the class he refers to.53 He, like Mr. Colenso, dwells on the fables which are in New Zealand, as in every other country, mixed up with the true history in the memory of the people.54 He connects what is said about the moas with vague memories relating to the cassowary which had been brought by the Maoris from their first home,55 and also to information furnished by

[Footnote] (51.) Loc. cit., p. 72.

[Footnote] (50.) Independently of the address quoted above, Haast published in the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute the following memoirs on the same subject:—Vol. iv., 1872: “Additional Notes,” p. 90; “Third Paper on Moas and Moa-hunters,” p. 94, pl. vii. Vol. vii., 1875: “Researches and Excavations carried on in and near the Moa-bone Point Cave, Sumner Road, in the Year 1872,” p. 54; “Notes on an Ancient Native Burial-place near the Moa-bone Point Cave, Sumner,” p. 86, pls. iii. and iv.; “Notes on the Moa-hunters' Encampment at Shag Point, Otago,” p. 91; “Results of Excavations and Researches in and near the Moa-bone Point Cave, Sumner Road” (postscript), p. 528. Haast maintained, moreover, his theory, and the conclusions which he draws from it, in his book entitled “Geology,” &c., 1 vol. in 8vo, 1879.

[Footnote] (51.) Address, p. 71.

[Footnote] (52.) Address, p. 75.

[Footnote] (53.) P. 76, and following.

[Footnote] (54.) P. 75.

[Footnote] (55.) P. 77.

– 32 –

some accidental immigrants.56 The examination of the cooking-ovens, which are similar to those of the present natives, and the remains of feasts containing moa-bones, show him the contemporaneity of certain human beings and these birds;57 but the first are in his eyes a population absolutely savage, only knowing how to cut and not to polish the stone. If there have been found polished adzes mixed up in the ancient kitchen-middens,58 it is, he affirms, because they have been lost or intentionally hidden in modern times, long after the moa-hunters had disappeared.59 These, he says repeatedly, have never had anything in common with the Maoris who occupied New Zealand at the time of the arrival of Europeans.

I think I have sufficiently indicated the mode of reasoning and the nature of the arguments employed by Haast. I will not attempt to follow him here in the discussion of many subjects which he touches upon, but which relate only in an indirect manner to the principal question. Nevertheless I think I ought to quote verbatim the conclusions which terminate his third memoir:

“1st. The different species of the Dinornis, or moa, began to appear and flourish in the Post-pliocene period of New Zealand.

“2nd. They have been extinct for such a long time that no reliable traditions as to their existence have been handed down to us.

“3rd. A race of autochthones, probably of Polynesian origin,61 was cotemporaneous with the moa, by whom the huge wingless birds were hunted and exterminated.

“4th. A species of wild dog was cotemporaneous with them, which was also killed and eaten by the moa-hunters.

“5th. They did not possess a domesticated dog.

“6th. This branch of the Polynesian race possessed a very low standard of civilisation, using only rudely-chipped stone implements, whilst the Maoris, their direct descendants,62

[Footnote] (56.) P. 106.

[Footnote] (57.) P. 82.

[Footnote] (58.) I quote the expression by which Haast evidently translates the word kjœkkenmœddings, which has become classical since the works of Danish scientists. We know that it means “kitchen remains.”

[Footnote] (59.) Pp. 85, 104.

[Footnote] (60.) “Third Paper” (Trans., vol. iv., p. 106).

[Footnote] (61.) “A race of Autochthones, probably of Polynesian origin.” It is difficult to understand the association of ideas which Dr. Haast wishes to express here.

[Footnote] (62.) “Their direct descendants.” Here, again, it is no easy matter to understand Dr. Haast's idea. Everywhere he carefully distinguishes the actual Maoris from the moa-hunters. Here he seems to regard the first as descendants of the latter.

– 33 –

had, when the first Europeans arrived in New Zealand, already reached a high state of civilisation in manufacturing fine polished-stone implements and weapons.

“7th. The moa-hunters, who cooked their food in the same manner as the Maoris of the present day do, were not cannibals.

“8th. The moa-hunters had means to reach the Northern Island, whence they procured obsidian.63

“9th. They also travelled far into the interior of this Island to obtain flint for the manufacture of their primitive stone implements.

“10th. They did not possess implements of nephrite (greenstone).64

“11th. The polishing process of stone implements is of considerable age in New Zealand, as more-finished tools have been found in such positions that their great antiquity cannot be doubted, and which is an additional proof of the long extinction of the moa.”

It would appear here that Dr. Haast claims to be absolutely certain on every point, and it is with an air of perfect confidence that he affirms or denies the several facts. But we shall see that he ought to have reconsidered his propositions, and acknowledged that some of them, at any rate, were wrongly founded. Nevertheless, the general convictions of the learned geologist have not been shaken, and we shall have now to ascertain whether this obstinacy is justifiable.


While making a distinct difference between the moahunters and the Maoris, Dr. Haast affirmed that the former limited themselves to rudely shaping their stone implements, whilst the latter knew how to give them a polish of which we can judge by numerous specimens.65 He added that the moa-hunters did not possess greenstone implements—that is to say, implements formed out of a stone often confounded with jade, and which the natives, when discovered by the early navigators, were found to value very highly.66

These two propositions had a very great importance from

[Footnote] (63.) Dr. Haast's researches were made principally in the Province of Canterbury, situated in the South Island.

[Footnote] (64.) It was with this stone, often called “jade,” that the Maoris made their tomahawks, their axes, and different ornaments. They were of great value in their eyes, and play a prominent part in their legends. I have given on this point a few details, borrowed from Sir George Grey, in the book entitled “Les Polynésiens et leurs Migrations.”

[Footnote] (65.) Sixth proposition.

[Footnote] (66.) Second proposition.

– 34 –

the point of view of the theory maintained by the New Zealand scientist. They tended to establish another point of connection with what had happened in Europe. We know that the rough-stone adze and the polished adze are among the number of characteristic features which in Europe distinguish two epochs. We know also that the populations of these two epochs belonged to different races, and that the more civilised one had attacked and vanquished that race which had preceded it. To find again in New Zealand our two ages, Palæolithic and Neolithic, characterized thus by implements indicating a difference of social status, was to bring a serious argument in favour of the ethnological distinction between moa-hunters and Maoris. But in excavating the Sumner Cave and the neighbouring cliffs Haast himself discovered, at different times, fragments of adzes and other highly-polished implements, as well as pieces in the rough, resembling in every respect those that we know to be the work of the Maoris. Some of these objects were in greenstone. They were all found under conditions attesting their cotemporaneity with the men who had hunted and eaten the large brevipennate birds. I shall confine myself to a reference to one adze which was placed immediately below some stones forming the oven which had served for cooking moas.67 In the face of these material proofs collected by himself, Dr. Haast does not hesitate to recognise with perfect candour that the moa-hunters had attained a degree of civilisation equal to that which the Maoris presented when the Europeans visited New Zealand for the first time.68

We are, I think, authorised to believe that this equality of social development, manifesting itself by similar industrial characteristics, ought to have inspired in the learned New-Zealander some doubt as to the correctness of his theory. All the same, Dr. Haast has not renounced any of his preconceived ideas. He persists in denying the ethnical identity of the moa-hunters and the Maoris, and in throwing back into a past which he considers as geological the period of the disappearance of the moa.69 As far as I can see, Mr. Colenso seems to be the only one who has accepted this doctrine in

[Footnote] (67.) “Researches in Sumner Moa-cave” (Transactions, vol. vii., p. 77).

[Footnote] (68.) Id., p. 80. Before Dr. Haast had retracted his views on this particular point, numerous discoveries had been made in different places of implements and weapons in polished stone, mingled with moa-remains. Higher up I mentioned how Dr. Haast had tried to explain and interprete these facts, so I will not repeat it. The clear and honest declaration of the eminent geologist absolves me from entering into any details here.

[Footnote] (69.) Haast, “Geology,” &c. Note especially the thirteen propositions set forth, p. 430, and chap. xvi. (c), p. 437.

– 35 –

its full appreciation.70 I have already mentioned how Mr. Stack refuses to assign a too remote antiquity for the destruction of moas. He recognises also that the Maori traditions contain some allusions to these birds. In his infancy he heard of moa-feathers being found on a rock where the last of these brevipennates had hidden itself. Nevertheless he also thinks that perhaps they were cassowary-feathers brought to New Zealand by the ancestors of the Maoris.71 We observe that Mr. Stack does not consider the latter as descendants of the autochthonous moa-hunters as contended for by Dr. Haast.

On this last point, besides, the opinions of the New Zealand geologist appear to have remained stationary. I have reproduced above the terms employed by Dr. Haast in the conclusions of his third memoir. I briefly pointed out all that seemed vague and contradictory about them, in spite of their apparent precision.72 In another paper he expresses a very different opinion, and considers the Melanesian negroes as having preceded the Maoris in New Zealand, and attributes to them the extermination of the moa.73 In support of this new theory he appeals to these very same traditions which he had rejected before in the most positive manner, and which he only became acquainted with through the Rev. Richard Taylor's work. It is from the latter that he borrows a quotation of Sir George Grey's, whose classical work he does not appear to have read.74 Finally, in his “Geology of the Province of Canterbury,” he distinctly adopts Mr. Colenso's views, and at different times he speaks of the predecessors of the Maoris as autochthonous natives, having lived in the Quaternary period. At the same time he admits that these children of the New Zealand soil had more or less close affinities with the Melanesians.75

I have too often combated this old idea of the autochthonism to make it necessary to refer to it again here. But quite apart from this question I shall be happy to enter the lists with Dr. Haast. The opinions held by him relative to

[Footnote] (70.) “An Account of some Enormous Fossil Bones of an Unknown Species of the Class Aves, lately discovered in New Zealand” (“Annals and Magazine of Natural History,” 1844).

[Footnote] (71.) “Notes on Moas and Moa-hunters” (Transactions, vol. iv., p. 108).

[Footnote] (72.) See notes at the foot of the page.

[Footnote] (73.) “Notes on an Ancient Native Burial-place” (Transactions, vol. vii., p. 91). Haast, later on, insisted on this idea, and sought to show, by what happens in Australia, that very inferior black tribes are familiar with the process of polishing stone (“Geology of the Provinces,” &c., ch. xvi., p. 411).

[Footnote] (74.) “Polynesian Mythology.”

[Footnote] (75.) “Geology,” first proposition, p. 430.

– 36 –

the existence of two races who inhabited New Zealand before the arrival of Europeans, and upon the nature of these two races, are well founded. Melanesian negroes did, in fact, occupy New Zealand before the Maoris. On this point the craniological observations have confirmed what I wrote eleven years before the publication of Dr. Haast's memoirs.76 But this ethnical duality of New Zealand populations in no way involves as a consequence the destruction of the moa by the first occupants. In Europe the people of the Stone Age did not exterminate the reindeer, the chamois, nor yet the urus.

To maintain his opinion, and to throw back the extinction of moas into a past which, he says, cannot be calculated even by hundreds of years,77 Haast does not fail to appeal to the results of his excavations in the Sumner Cave. He describes the cave as enclosing two beds, which, according to him, are entirely distinct. In the lower stratum the ovens were found to contain numerous moa-bones, which must have been the remains of the Melanesian feasts. The higher stratum, he affirms, only contained the shells of various mollusca, which had been eaten by other natives, who were the ancestors of the existing Maoris. Mr. McKay, member of the Geological Survey, who aided Dr. Haast in his researches, has published on his part a paper in which he professes almost the same opinions as his chief.78

But the difference on which so much stress is laid by Messrs. Haast and McKay, even if clearly proved, does not occur elsewhere. In several places an intermixture of shells and moa-bones has been met with. Moreover, the locality studied first by these geologists was explored later on by Captain Hutton and Mr. Booth, who had long been familiar with researches of this kind. Thus the facts established by them contradict in the most decided manner, and on several different points, the reports of the first explorers. Hutton and Booth have most often found moa-bones associated with beds of shells; they have proved over and over again that beds with

[Footnote] (76.) A. de Quatrefages, “Les Polynésiens et leurs Migrations” (Revue des Deux-Mondes, February, 1864). These articles, amplified, and accompanied by notes and four maps, were later on incorporated in one volume, which appeared under the same title. A. de Quatrefages and E. Hamy (“Crania ethnica,” p. 291). Among other proofs of the presence of two races in New Zealand, the Museum possesses a dried head of a Maori chief, whose origin is attested by the tattoo-marks, and whose hair is that of a pure Melanesian. I had it engraved in a book which I mentioned some way back (“Hommes Fossiles et Hommes Sauvages,” pp. 486 and 487, figs. 171 and 172).

[Footnote] (77.) Loc. cit. (Transactions, vol. vii., p. 81).

[Footnote] (78.) “On the Identity of the Moa-hunters with the Present Maori Race” (Transactions, vol. vii., p. 98).

– 37 –

bones and beds without bones often overlay each other, sometimes one, sometimes the other, being uppermost. 79 The increasing scarcity of moas at a certain period, the migration of the people in consequence, the fortuitous association of two kinds of food at the same feast, the necessity of having recourse to a food which up till then had been disdained, explain in the most simple manner the difference of the results furnished by excavations made in neighbouring localities by equally competent explorers. But it is evident that the general result was irreconcilable with Dr. Haast's interpretation.


Among the various propositions that Dr. Haast has maintained, that which touches on the history of the dog must arrest our attention. We have seen that in his third memoir he admits the existence of a wild dog cotemporary with Dinornis, and denies absolutely that the moa-hunters had possessed domestic dogs.80 On this last point the learned New-Zealander is far from being consistent with himself. In his earlier researches he had only found a few dog-bones amongst the remains of feasts, and he explained this scarcity by saying that this animal was only occasionally eaten—when, for instance, the owner was short of provisions.81 Here, therefore, he acknowledged that the domestication of the dog was customary with the moa-hunters. He added, it is true, that perhaps they were also hunted as game, which supposes that this animal lived in a wild state; and it is at this last opinion that he seems to have stopped short.

But, if this hypothesis were the true one, there would have been found, at some time or another, the bones of the dog associated with those of Dinornis, his cotemporaries. But we have said already that no land-mammal fossils have yet been met with in New Zealand.82 The dog is no excep-

[Footnote] (79.) Moa-bones were never found unassociated with beds of shells; and, although shell-beds did occur without moa-bones, these just as often underlaid beds with moa-bones as overlaid them (“Notes on the Maori Cooking-places at the Mouth of the Shag River,” by Captain F. W. Hutton, Transactions, vol. viii., p. 105).

[Footnote] (80.) Fourth and fifth propositions.

[Footnote] (81.) “Either when its owner was short of provisions, or perhaps ….” (“Address,” loc. cit., p. 89).

[Footnote] (82.) In an early article on the moas, speaking of the small number of mammals found in New Zealand, and of the absence of fossils of animals of this class, I forgot to add the epithet “terrestrial.” The reader probably filled up the gap. Fossil remains of cetaceous and other aquatic mammals have been found from time to time in New Zealand. (Haast, “Geology,” &c., chs. x. and xi.) I mentioned elsewhere that the cetaceans play a part in the Maori traditions (“Polynésiens et leurs Migrations,” ch. iv.), and that all animals of this kind cast up on the shore belonged by right to the ariki or chief of the territory (Journal des Savants, January, 1873).

– 38 –

tion.83 In fact, the bones of this animal have only been found in the ancient kitchen-middens, or among the débris scattered around these primitive ovens. But there, contrary to what Dr. Haast says, they are found in abundance. I can think of scarcely any explorer who has not recorded their existence, and they are always associated with moa-bones.

Here, however, a fact presents itself which seems singular at first sight, and upon which the learned New-Zealander has insisted at different times. The bones of all kinds lying about in the neighbourhood of the ovens are only very rarely gnawed.84 Haast inferred from that that the moa-hunters were not accompanied by dogs; for these latter, he says, would not have refrained from attacking the remains of their masters' feasts. But in expressing himself thus he forgets that the canine race taken to New Zealand was primarily intended to furnish food and clothing.85 The Maori dog, which came from the islands of Manaia, belonged to this Polynesian race, which all travellers describe as being vegetarian, and must have retained its natural habits in New Zealand.86 Besides, if the dogs had taken to eating meat, their masters would have quickly discovered that this food affected in anything but an agreeable manner the flavour of their flesh, and they would not have failed to guard the observance of the habitual course.87 It is quite natural, therefore, that the

[Footnote] (83.) Captain Rowan has discovered the skeleton of a dog in the hollow trunk of a tree in the bed of a river near the sea-coast. This tree was at a depth of 18ft. and underneath a bed of lignite. Beside the bones were found the hair of the animal, fibres of phormium, and a stalk of the same plant. It is evident that the body had been carried into this hollow by some overflow of the river, and that this event was of modern origin. That is Dr. Hector's view of the matter. This scientist adds that the circumstances under which these remains were found tend to refer them to a period further back than any previously obtained. (“On the Remains of a Dog found by Captain Rowan near White Cliffs, Taranaki,” Transactions, vol. ix., p. 243.)

[Footnote] (84.) The only fact of this kind that I have seen mentioned in the different memoirs written by the New Zealand scientists is that recorded by Hutton. Two moa-bones collected by his collaborator, Mr. Booth, near the ovens of the Shag River, had been gnawed by dogs. (Loc. cit., Transactions, vol. viii., p. 106.)

[Footnote] (85.) “They are carrying some dogs with them, as these would be very valuable in the islands they were going to, for supplying by their increase a good article of food and skins for warm cloaks” (Sir George Grey, “Polynesian Mythology,” p. 214).

[Footnote] (86.) The dog was called kuri by the Maoris. This local race was small in size, of a brown or yellowish colour, long ears, and bushy tails. It is extinct now, and replaced by the European dog.

[Footnote] (87.) The flesh of our European dogs, who all, more or less, eat meat, has a particular flavour, reminding one of the odour of a badly-kept kennel, as was only too well known during the siege of Paris.

– 39 –

Maori dogs did not behave like those which accompanied the old Danes of the kjœkkenmœddings, and that they did not leave, as these latter did, the trace of their teeth on the refuse bones around them.


Here, again, is a most important question in relation to which Dr. Haast disagrees with several of his colleagues. The eminent geologist has often declared that he has never found human bones amongst the scattered remains of feasts in the vicinity of the ovens; and from this negative evidence he concludes that the moa-hunters were not cannibals.88 But he himself declares that he was unable to find any more in the heaps of shells which were unquestionably left by the ancient Maoris.89 Moreover, the cannibalism of these latter is well known; and yet Dr. Haast's manner of reasoning would induce us to doubt it, and even to deny it. This simple remark destroys the entire value of Dr. Haast's argument. Besides, in both cases this absence of human remains is very easily understood. It is not when hunting, or when fishing peaceably for shells, that the most cannibal of the tribes regales itself on human flesh. To perpetrate an act of cannibalism under such conditions, and to leave the ground strewn with bones of men and moas, needed nothing less than some absolutely exceptional cause.

But, for all that Dr. Haast said, this occurred from time to time. Mr. W. Mantell was the first to establish this fact in the North Island,90 and his statements are amongst those that cannot be doubted. This talented and persevering explorer discovered in the Wanganui Valley small mounds covered with grass, which the natives declared were formed by the remains of their ancestors' feasts. In digging them out he found that they were composed of moa-bones, dogbones, and human bones mingled in confusion. All these bones had evidently suffered from the action of fire. Dr. Mantell (the father) tells us, moreover, that Mr. Taylor had come across similar mounds in the Whaingaehu Valley. These observations are not without corroboration. Mr. Thorne discovered in the northern part of the North Island, at the Pataua River, near Whangarei, alongside of remains of ancient Maori ovens, a medley of shells, cinders, coals, and bones of seals,

[Footnote] (88.) Seventh proposition.

[Footnote] (89.) Loc. cit., Transactions, vol. viii., p. 74.

[Footnote] (90.) “These consisted of moas', dogs', and human bones promiscuously intermingled” (“On the Fossil Remains of Birds collected in Various Parts of New Zealand by Walter Mantell,” by G. Algernon Mantell, Esq., F.R.S.: “The Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society,” vol. iv., 1848, p. 234).

– 40 –

fish, men, and moas, having evidently formed a native feast.91 Mr, Roberts also has found human bones mingled with moa-bones and cinders, close to stones which had evidently been used for the purpose of cooking them.92 Finally, Mr. Robson has made similar observations in the neighbourhood of Cape Campbell.93 Thus, contrary to the assumptions of Dr. Haast, the moa-hunters were cannibals.


I have just examined Haast's principal propositions which more directly bear upon the special question, the subject of the present inquiry. They are hardly consistent, as may be seen, with the actual facts which are beyond question. The same is true with respect to what he alleges as to the absence of local tradition relating to the moas.94 As far back as 1848 Dr. Mantell announced to the Geological Society of London that his son had found near Wellington distinct traces of these birds which were of higher stature than a man, and were at one time very abundant in the country; and, further, that some of the oldest Maoris affirmed that they had seen them.95 Later on, in 1870, Sir George Grey, in reply to an early paper by Dr. Haast, wrote a letter to the Zoological Society of London in which he declared that twenty-five years previously—that is, about 1845—the natives always spoke to him of the moas as having been known to their ancestors. He added that the Maori poems contain numerous allusions to these birds.96 In 1875 Mr. Hamilton published the report of a conversation which he had had with an old native, who said he had seen the last of the moas, and who described it in a manner which was vividly impressed on the mind of his English questioner.97 This Maori described, among other things, the curve of the neck with an exactness which could have been diagnosed by a well-informed European, but which nothing short of the actual appearance of the living animal could have suggested to the mind of a savage. I could multiply instances, but I shall

[Footnote] (91.) “Notes on the Discovery of Moa and Moa-hunters' Remains at Pataua River, near Whangarei,” by G. Thorne (Transactions, vol. viii. p. 85, pl. iii.).

[Footnote] (92.) “Notes on some Ancient Aboriginal Caves near Wanganui,” by H. C. Field (Transactions, vol. ix., p. 220).

[Footnote] (93.) “Further Notes on Moa-remains,” by C. H. Robson (Transactions, &c., vol. ix., p. 279).

[Footnote] (94.) Second proposition.

[Footnote] (95.) Loc. cit., p. 26.

[Footnote] (96.) Letter from Sir George Grey, quoted by Dr. Haast in his “Address,” p. 100.

[Footnote] (97.) “Notes on Maori Traditions of the Moa,” by J. W. Hamilton (Transactions, vol. vii., p. 121).

– 41 –

limit myself to quoting a few particulars given to Mr. Travers by Mr. White in the letters which I have referred to above.98 We have already seen, and it will be still more evident, that, far from being vague and obscure, these traditions are remarkably precise.

“The Maoris,” writes Mr. White, “as a rule, were afraid of it, as a kick from the foot of one would break the bones of the most powerful brave;99 hence the people made strong spears of maire or manuka wood, 6ft. or 8ft. long, and the sharp end of which was cut so that it might break and leave about 6in. or 8in. of the spear in the bird.100 With these the men would hide behind the scrub on the side of the track, and when the birds were escaping, from the fear of the noise of those who had driven them from the lakes, those spears were thrown at them, thus sticking in the bird; the scrub on the sides of the track would catch the spears, and break the jagged end off, leaving it in the bird. As it had to pass many men, the broken spear-points thus put into the bird caused it to yield in power when it had gained the open fern-country, where it was attacked in its feeble condition by the most daring of the tribe. When taken it was cut up with the stone tuhua waiapu (obsidian, flint).101 The hunters carry with them a block of tuhua, and as it is chipped off and used it is not used again for any other bird or anything else, but left at the spot where used.”

Before preparing themselves for the moa-hunt the Maoris went through one of the incantations or prayers which with them preceded all important acts. Mr. White could not recall exactly the terms, but he gives the sense of one of them: “The mists of the hills102 most cele-

[Footnote] (98.) Transactions, vol. viii., p. 79.

[Footnote] (99.) Mr. Travers adds in a note that a hill on the East Coast, called Karanga na Hape, is said to derive its name from the circumstance that Hape, a chief of the Arawa, pursued a wounded moa up the hillside and attacked it with a taiaha, when the bird kicked him and broke his thigh, and he rolled down the hill. Thus it is shown how all these popular traditions accord with each other.

[Footnote] (100.) The Maoris, like all the Polynesians, ignored or despised the use of the bow.

[Footnote] (101.) Mr. White tells us that the Maoris distinguished three kinds of obsidian, characterized by the colour. That which was used to cut off moas' flesh was of a light colour; another, a grey one, tuhua aneto, was used by the natives for gashing themselves in their funeral ceremonies. If the body was that of a chief or a child, the third kind, tuhua kahurangi, which is red, was used.

[Footnote] (102.) Contrary to the statements so constantly put forward, the Maoris had a very intricate mythology, and a very numerous, although perhaps not so well classified as that of the Tahitian (see Mœrenhout, “Voyage aux Îles du Grand Océan”). Every day the publications of New Zealand scientists prove the truth of this. The natives, among other things, believed in innumerable kinds of sprites, gnomes, or fairies, and to which they attributed the greater part of what happened to them, whether good or bad. Thus it was necessary to be constantly propitiating them. Hence arose the multitude of prayers and incantations which are so frequently spoken of in Maori traditions. On all these questions those who ought chiefly to be consulted are the following: Grey, “Polynesians Mythology;” Rev. J. F. Wohlers, “Mythology and Traditions of the Maoris” (Transactions of New Zealand Institute, vol. viii., p. 108); Colenso, “Historical Incidents and Traditions of the Olden Times, now for the First Time faithfully translated from old Maori Writings and Recitals” (id., vol. xiii., p. 38, and vol. xiv., p. 3); Colenso, “Contributions towards a Better Knowledge of the Maori Race” (id., p. 33); and Rev. R. Taylor, “Te Ika a Maui; or, New Zealand and its Inhabitants.”

– 42 –

brated in the locality of the hunt are invoked to make the birds' fat flow as the globules of dew that run down the leaves of the trees at dawn on a summer's day, and the God of Silence is cautioned not to allow fear or dread to come near the moa.” “The last moa-hunt known or remembered was in the North Island, at or near Whakatane, in the Bay of Plenty.103 The feathers of the birds killed there were till a late period in the possession of a chief called Apanui.”104 Several material facts prove the truth of the account given by Mr. White. Thus, all the memoirs recording the researches made near the old moa-ovens speak of flakes of obsidian which had evidently been used for cutting up these birds: all of them refer to the great number and the similarity of these primitive knives. Mr. Thorne has, moreover, found one of the blocks of obsidian carried by the Maoris to meet their requirements, and recognised by the abundance of chips the precise spot where for the time being they manufactured these flakes.105 On the other hand, Dr. Hector discovered on an elevated plateau near Jackson's Bay, at an altitude of 4,000ft, numerous paths intersecting the thick scrub. These paths were not formed by man; they were well beaten, and about 16in. wide. They were, in fact, tracks such as are made by wild animals. In New Zealand they were evidently the work of birds. Owing to the height of the scrub they could only have been made by animals much larger than the Apteryx, which alone frequented them at the time of Dr. Hector's visit, the imported mammals not yet having penetrated so far.106 Do not these paths correspond perfectly with the idea one forms of those used by the moa-hunters when

[Footnote] (103.) Bay of Plenty.

[Footnote] (104.) Mr. White adds the name of another known individual, and enters into details unnecessary for reproduction here.

[Footnote] (105.) Loc. cit., p. 86.

[Footnote] (106.) “On Recent Moa-remains in New Zealand,” by J. Hector, M.D., F.R.S. (Transactions, vol. iv., p. 119). Dr. Hector's visit to these mountains took place in 1863.

– 43 –

laying their ambuscades? and does not their state of preservation attest the fact that they could not have been unused for centuries?


But the most decisive proof in favour of the recent disappearance of the moa is furnished by the discóveries, made from time to time, of bones with fragments of flesh, muscles, and integuments still adhering to them. No less than three such discoveries have been made. The Colonial Museum possesses a portion of the neck, but whence it came I have never yet heard.107 In 1871 Mr. Low informed Dr. Hector that he had just been given a piece of moa-flesh, covered with fluff and numerous quill-tubes.108 About the same time Dr. Thompson obtained from a gold-digger, who had discovered them in a cave under a heap of mica-schist, the bones of a moá to which still adhered the ligaments, muscles, and shreds of skin. The portion of the neck to which I have just alluded was part of this find, and was forwarded to Dr. Hector, who figured it and described it with great fidelity.109

In these various pieces the tissues do not seem to have undergone any alteration; they are simply shrivelled. The flesh is no way fossilised, and the fibres were easily detached.110 Dr. Millen Coughtrey, to whom Dr. Thompson sent the specimens which he had collected, made an anatomical examination of the neck, and was able to distinguish the different muscles; on the right femur he found the fibres and tendons of nine muscles. The other bones only showed the remains of tendons.111

In answer to the objections against his theory furnished by the foregoing facts, Dr. Haast affirms that the neck-bones described by Dr. Hector are in a state of semi-fossilisation, similar to that of the greater part of moa-bones. He ascribes the existence of muscles and integuments to their accidental position in a bed of dry sand.112 But how are we to understand that the bones could become fossilised whilst the flesh remained intact? Besides, on the first point the learned geologist is plainly contradicted by Dr. Hector, who repre-

[Footnote] (107.) Haast, “Third Paper,” loc. cit., p. 102.

[Footnote] (108.) Note added to Dr. Hector's memoir, p. 114.

[Footnote] (109.) “On Recent Moa-remains in New Zealand” (Transactions, vol. iv., p. 111, and pl. v.).

[Footnote] (110.) Low, loc. cit.

[Footnote] (111.) “Notes on the Anatomy of the Moa-remains found at Earnscleugh Cave,” by Millen Coughtrey (Transactions, vol. vii., p. 141). To judge by the details given by Mr. Thomson all the muscles and integuments which this cave contained have not yet been collected. See Dr. Hector's memoir, loc. cit., p. 112.

[Footnote] (112.) “Additional Notes,” p. 93; “Third Paper,” p. 102.

– 44 –

sents these same neck-bones as being in a state of perfect preservation, and not in the least mineralised.113 Mr. Low affirms the same thing of the specimens which came into his possession. How can we doubt the accuracy of this account, seeing that the muscles adhering to these bones were capable of being dissected? Dr. Haast replies, it is true, to observations of this kind, that in Europe bones dating from the Quaternary epoch have sometimes shown a remarkable degree of preservation. He quotes particularly the facts established by Messrs. De Ferry and Arcelin at Clos-du-Charnier, where the bones and horns of the reindeer had retained the greater part of their gelatine;114 but he forgets that none of these bones have ever shown the least trace of muscles or tendons. At Solutré, as in every other place where fossil bones have been collected, the fleshy parts have entirely disappeared.

It is just the preservation of the latter that gives to the moa-remains studied by Dr. Hector their great historical significance. It is, however, evident that there must have been some exceptionally favourable circumstances so that a portion of muscular and cutaneous tissue had escaped destruction, whilst the greater part had disappeared. But it seems to me impossible to imagine a combination of physical circumstances capable of preserving the tissues during centuries under the conditions inseparable from the insular position of New Zealand.115

Thus all things concur to prove the final extinction of moas as having taken place at a not distant period. There is consequently no difficulty in accepting as true the information collected by Sir George Grey and Messrs. Mantell, White, and Hamilton. On the contrary, in admitting that some of the large brevipennate birds still lived about a century ago, one easily explains several well-established facts quite incompatible with Dr. Haast's theory, such as the existence of tracks still quite discernible, the preservation of the shreds of

[Footnote] (113.) “Without being in the least degree mineralised” (loc. cit., p. 114).

[Footnote] (114.) “L'Age du Renne en Maconnais” (International Congress of Prehistoric Archæology, 1868); quoted by Dr. Haast, “Geology,” p. 442).

[Footnote] (115.) Such is also the opinion of M. Alphonse Edwards, whose authority is unquestionable, in consequence of his position at the Museum and his studies on fossil birds. This is what he was kind enough to write to me on the subject: “Dr. Haast (‘Geology,' &c.) recalls in aid of his theory the discoveries made in Siberia of entire bodies of mammoths, whose deaths took place in the Quaternary period. I do not share Dr. Haast's opinion on this point, for, if these animals can be preserved indefinitely in the frozen soil of Asia, it is not so in New Zealand, where, since the prehistoric times, the temperature has been very mild and the humidity considerable. These conditions ought to facilitate the putrefaction of bodies, whatever may have been the natural conditions of burial.”

– 45 –

flesh, and skin, &c. Moreover, the information collected by Mr. Hamilton seemed to relate to the same period. Haumatangi, the old Maori of whom he speaks, was one of the oldest of his race in 1844. He said he had seen Cook.116 We know that this illustrious sailor rediscovered New Zealand—which had been almost forgotten since Tasman's discovery—on the 6th October, 1769. Haumatangi was consequently more than seventy-five years old when Mr. Hamilton questioned him, and not seventy only, as some printer's error makes it appear. Supposing that he was twelve years old when he observed the large bird which he remembers so well, New Zealand would still have possessed living moas towards 1770 or 1780.


I regret having been compelled up to this point to controvert Dr. Haast's theory. I am only too glad now to acknowledge the incontestable services which he has rendered to science in solving some of the most interesting questions which the history of the moas has given rise to. The result of his persevering and successful researches is that all the large and small brevipennates which have inhabited, and still inhabit, New Zealand were found to have been cotemporary. In exploring the alluvial deposits and the swamps at Glenmark the learned geologist found side by side bones of Apteryx, as well as the remains of larger and more singular species of moa, just as we find in Europe bones of mammoths and rhinoceri intermingled with those of the reindeer and chamois.117

In our country also the disappearance of now extinct species did not occur at the same time. If there were some that survived until the end of the eighteenth century, others had perished at an epoch more or less remote. New researches, of a kind up to this time too much neglected by New Zealand scientists, will be necessary to give a precise idea of these successive disappearances. In order to solve the numerous questions raised by this problem archæology and geology should help each other. Dr. Haast seems to me to be the

[Footnote] (116.) Dr. Haast quotes, in favour of his opinion, Cook's silence with regard to moas; but it is evident that at that time they were very nearly extinct. Now, as all the coasts were inhabited, the last of these birds would no longer have been found except in the interior, and it is very natural that the great English navigator should have heard nothing of them. The same remark applies a fortiori to the explorers who came after Cook, and whose silence is likewise adduced by Dr. Haast in support of his theory (“Geology,” &c., ch. xvi.)

[Footnote] (117.) “Geology,” Glenmark, ch. xvi. (d), p. 442. Dr. Haast estimates at more than a thousand the number of moas whose remains had been found in this locality. It is from there had come the greater part of the specimens which enrich museums in all parts of the world.

– 46 –

only one who has already collected some data of this kind, and we ought to be grateful to him.118

The information published by him shows that the bones of Dinornis giganteus have never been found among the remains of feasts in the neighbourhood of the ancient ovens. The largest of the birds seems therefore to have been extinct before the arrival of man in New Zealand. Dr. Haast only once found the remains of a Dinornis robustus in the kitchen-middens. This latter species, somewhat smaller than the former, had probably almost disappeared when the hunters killed one of its last representatives at Shag Valley. At Rakaia the remains of three Palapteryx ingens were found, the bones of which had been intentionally broken; but this bird has not been encountered elsewhere. The Palapteryx crassus shows itself very abundantly at Shag Valley and at Rakaia. Palapteryx elephantopus has been found in the same two localities, but in less quantities than the preceding ones.

It is therefore noticeable that man has eaten some of the largest and most remarkable species of moa. Moreover, he seems to have exterminated them in a very short time. None of those which I have just mentioned were to be found at Point Cave. They are replaced by the Euryapteryx and the Meionornis, especially by the Meionornis didiformis, which the natives—although they sometimes killed it—seem to have passed by so long as they could hunt Palapteryx.119 I put here in a tabular form the results of the researches made by Dr. Haast in some of the localities where man fed on the moa, adding the indications given by the author of the greater or less abundance of bones belonging to the different species.

Genus Dinornis.

D. robustus (Shag Valley, a few bones).

D. gracilis (Rakaia, prevailing).

D. struthioides (Rakaia, prevailing).

Genus Palapteryx.

P. ingens (Rakaia, three skeletons).

P. crassus (Shag Valley, prevailing; Rakaia, plentiful).

P. elephantopus (Shag Valley, less; Rakaia, few).

Genus Meionornis.

M. casuarinus (Shag Valley, very few; Rakaia, prevailing; Point Cave, 15.05).

M. didiformis (Shag Valley, very few; Rakaia, numerous; Point Cave, 53.03).

[Footnote] (118.) “Address,” p. 86; “Third Paper,” P. 97; “Researches in Sumner Moa-cave,” p. 85; “On a Moa Encampment,” p. 99.

[Footnote] (119.) Letter from Mr. W. H. G. Roberts (Transactions, vol. vii., p. 548).

– 47 –

Genus Euryapteryx.

E. rheides (Shag Valley, prevailing; Point Cave, 49.01).

E. gravis (Shag Valley, few; Point Cave, 33.03).

Thus, about two-thirds of the known species of moas have been found in the débris of the native feasts.

If the Maoris had hunted the moas only according to the modes described by Mr. White, it is very probable that Europeans would have been able to see some species of the large brevipennates. But they employed much more effective means. They placed slip-knots in the moa's path, running into which the birds were snared.120 They also organized large hunting-parties in which the whole population acted as beaters. The birds were driven into a lake, where hunters, in canoes, killed them without difficulty.121 Finally they went as far as to set fire to vast tracts of forest, in which the birds must have perished in hundreds, and often, no doubt, without any profit to those who lighted the fires. Thus is explained the fact mentioned by Mr. Taylor and many other writers, who speak of extensive areas covered with little mounds composed of moa-bones.122 It ought to be mentioned that the Maoris were rather fond of the eggs, as almost everywhere there have been found immense numbers of broken egg-shells.

Thus hunted down and prevented from reproducing themselves, the moas were bound to disappear. But their extinction is certainly recent. In arguing to the contrary—in contending that the total destruction of these large birds goes back to an epoch as ancient as our European Neolithic times—Dr. Haast was mistaken. He has been carried away by analogies of a purely geological character, perhaps more apparent than real.

In any case, one would not be able to establish a true parallel between the zoological facts presented in Europe and in New Zealand. The New Zealand Quaternary fauna was altogether of local origin. It is different with us. The mammoth and the rhinoceros were emigrants which had been driven by the cold of the northern regions of Asia towards warmer countries.123 The extinction of these species must have been hastened by circumstances quite different from those

[Footnote] (120.) Rev. Mr. Taylor, quoted by Mr. Travers (Transactions, vol. viii., p. 77).

[Footnote] (121.) Roberts, loc. cit.

[Footnote] (122.) Taylor, loc. cit,

[Footnote] (123.) Murchison, De Verneuil, Keyserlink, and D'Archiac regard the mammoth and the rhinoceros with divided nostrils as having lived in Siberia in the Tertiary epoch. According to Lartète the reindeer was their contemporary.

– 48 –

of their native country, and by the severe changes of climate which they had to submit to towards the end of the glacial period. Nothing of the kind happened in New Zealand. There the moas were really indigenous; they never quitted their centre of original creation; they only underwent the slightest modifications in their conditions of existence, as Dr. Haast himself plainly shows.124

The natural extinction of these birds is consequently difficult to understand. However, it must be admitted that physical causes opposed themselves to the indefinite survival of certain species. To judge by the known facts, it seems proved that the largest Dinornis no longer existed when man reached these insular lands in the midst of the ocean. The other species of the same genus, and the Palapteryx, appear to have been scarce from that period, and not to have long survived the advent of the moa-hunters. A natural decay was then in operation. The Meionornis and the Euryapteryx seem, on the contrary, to have been very numerous prior to the time when the war of extermination was carried on with so much recklessness. 125

In consequence of geographical conditions, they could not migrate like the reindeer, and their manner of life prevented them from going to seek a retreat in the centre of glaciers, as the chamois has done in Europe. They were therefore exterminated—but only recently, like the dodo and other birds belonging to the Mascarene Islands, the history of which M. Milne-Edwards has restored and completed.126

P.S.127—It seemed to me that it would be interesting for those who are well up in the subject to be informed of a document which brings fresh evidence in favour of the opinion which I have always upheld. I am indebted for it to the well-known ornithologist Sir Walter Buller, who kindly communicated to me a copy of the New Zealand Times of the 1st November, 1888. At a meeting of the Philosophical Society

[Footnote] (124.) “Address,” loc. cit., and “Geology,” passim.

[Footnote] (125.) Here are, according to Haast, the proportions in which the different species of moa are represented at Glenmark: The Meionornis casuarinus alone represents a quarter, and the M. didiformis a fifth, of the total number of individuals discovered; afterwards, in decreasing numbers, the Palapteryx elephantopus, Euryapteryx gravis, P. crassus, Euryapteryx rheides; the Dinornis gracilis, struthioides, maximus, and robustus are about equal in number; the D. ingens is only represented by a small number of individuals.

[Footnote] (126.) “Recherches sur la Faune Ornithologique Éteinte des Îles Mascareignes et de Madagascar,” by M. Alphonse Milne-Edwards; 1866–1879.

[Footnote] (127.) “Nouvelle Preuve de l'Extinction Récente des Moas” (Le Naturaliste, No. 53, May 15, 1889, p. 117), by M. A. de Quatrefages.

– 49 –

Colonel McDonnell informs us generally of an incident which he witnessed himself in 1866 in the north-west part of the North Island: “Sir George Grey, then Governor of New Zealand, was at the time visiting this locality; and an olid Maori called Kawana Paipai told him that when a young man he had often joined in moa-hunts with his countrymen on the Waimate Plains. He described the way in which the hunt was conducted. When a certain number of young men had discovered a moa they pursued it till they were exhausted. Another party then took their place, and so on. When the moa got tired they killed it with stones or sticks. Some doubt having been expressed about Paipai's testimony, he got very angry, and said that if a few men were sent with him, and brought picks along with them, he would show them where moa-bones could be found in the ancient ovens. So it was done; and accordingly moa-bones were found 3ft. deep among ancient ovens. Kawana added that when the moas were hunted down they fought with great fury, striking with their feet.” Colonel McDonnell calculated that this hunt must have taken place at the beginning of this century. It is therefore clear that, far from being too bold, I had under-estimated the time of the disappearance of the moa in carrying it back so far as the end of the last century.