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Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919). Through the Brazilian Wilderness. 1914.

Page 88

small cayman about five feet long. I paid no heed to it at the moment. But shortly afterward when our horses went down to drink it threatened them and frightened them; and then Colonel Rondon and Kermit called me to watch it. It lay on the surface of the water only a few feet distant from us and threatened us; we threw cakes of mud at it, whereupon it clashed its jaws and made short rushes at us, and when we threw sticks it seized them and crunched them. We could not drive it away. Why it should have shown such truculence and heedlessness I cannot imagine, unless perhaps it was a female, with eggs near by. In another little pond a jacaré-tinga showed no less anger when another of my companions approached. It bellowed, opened its jaws, and lashed its tail. Yet these pond jacarés never actually molested even our dogs in the ponds, far less us on our horses.
  This same day others of our party had an interesting experience with the creatures in another pond. One of them was Commander da Cunha (of the Brazilian Navy), a capital sportsman and delightful companion. They found a deepish pond a hundred yards or so long and thirty or forty across. It was tenanted by the small caymans and by capybaras—the largest known rodent, a huge aquatic guinea-pig, the size of a small sheep. It also swarmed with piranhas, the ravenous fish of which I have so often spoken. Undoubtedly the caymans were subsisting largely on these piranhas. But the tables were readily turned if any caymans were injured. When a capybara was shot and sank in the water, the piranhas at once attacked it, and had eaten half the carcass ten