Herodotus: Giant Gold-mining Ants of India

The following dubious story is quoted from Herodotus' The Histories, 3.102-5:

102. There are others of the Indians who are neighbors of the city of Caspatyrus and the Pactyic country, north of the rest of India, and these live much like the Bactrians. They are the most warlike of the Indians, and it is they who go in quest of the gold; for in these parts all is desert because of the sand. In this desert, and sand, there are ants that are in bigness lesser than dogs but larger than foxes. Some of them have been hunted and captured and kept at the palace of the Persian king. These ants make their dwelling underground, digging out the sand in much the same fashion as ants do in Greece, and they are also very like them in form. The sand that they dig out has gold in it. The Indians start off into the desert to get at this sand. Each of the hunters harnesses together three camels, a male on either side, on a trace, and the female in the middle, on which the rider is mounted. He takes care that this mare camel should have offspring as young as possible, from which she has been taken away for the ride. Among these people, camels are every bit as quick as horses, apart from being far more capable of carrying burdens.

103. The Greeks know camels, so I will not write to describe their shape; but I will tell somehting that is not known. The camel in the hind legs has four thighs and four knees, and its genitals are turned toward the tail, between its hind legs.

104. Such is the gear of the Indians and such their method of harnessing when they go after the gold. They go expressly at that hour of day that will allow them to be in their hunt for gold when the heat is greatest; for by reason of the heat the ants will have vanished underground. In India the sun is hottest early in the morning - not, as among other people, at midday; in India it is hottest from sunrise till the breaking-up of the market. During this period it is far hotter than at midday in Greece, so that it is said the inhabitants at this time wet themselves over with water. The midday heat is in India about the same as it is among other men. But, as the afternoon comes on, the Indian sun becomes much as it is elsewhere in the early morning, and from then it grows cooler and cooler, till at sunset it is indeed exceedingly cold.

105. The Indians then come to the place with bags, and after they have filled their bags with sand, they make off for home as fast as they can. For, as the Persians say, the ants become aware of them by smell and pursue them. There is nothing quicker than these ants, and so, if the Indians did not get well ahead of them while the ants were collecting, not one of the men would escape alive. The male camels, which are inferior to the females in quickness, begin to lag behind and are cut loose by the riders, one at a time. But the mare camels, as they think of their young, do not slack off at all. This is how, say the Persians, the most of the gold is won by the Indians. The rest of it, a smaller amount, is mined in their country.