Figures: Smiling Sengi


The Naturalist’s Pocket Magazine, Vol. IV.  1800.  Image credit: Biodiversity Heritage Library via Flickr.

Oh gawd — do I really look like that when I smile?!?

About this image

For whatever reason, elephant shrews — or sengis — have long suffered from poor static representation.  This figure comes from a rather charming compendium called The Naturalist’s Pocket Magazine that was published in 7 volumes from 1798 to 1802.  The illustration itself was an embellished copy from an earlier work, Thomas Pennant’s (1726 – 1798) History of Quadrupeds, which featured two sengis.


Figure of the “Elephant Shrew” from Pennant’s 3rd edition of History of Quadrupeds (1793).  Pennant’s description of the animal is sparse, noting that the animal is “with a very long, slender and little nose:  the whole animal of a deep brown color.”  The editors of The Naturalist’s Pocket Magazine opted not reproduce the top image, which looks rather like a juvenile individual.  Super cute!  Image credit:  Biodiversity Heritage Library.

The Naturalist’s Pocket Magazine says of the sengi:

Of this curious Shrew Mouse very little is known; and, till lately, it does not appear to have been noticed by naturalists. . . . One of the figures engraved by Pennant represents the animal with it’s snout turned upwards, the other is that which we have adopted. . . . If this Shrew has the faculty of dropping as well as elevating its snout, of which we have some doubt; it would, perhaps, have been best figured in that action, as most resembling the Elephant’s proboscis, from which it is named.

Though not as flexible as the elephant’s trunk, we now know that the sengi’s snoot is quite capable of wiggling!


Where are your doubts now?  Image source: BBC Nature.  Gif from via Giphy.


Image Source

The Naturalist’s Pocket Magazine; or, Compleat Cabinet of the Curiosities and Beauties of Nature.  Vol. IV.  1800.  Printed for Harrison, Cluse, and Co. by W. Justins, London.


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