Quadrupeds, what they are and where found, by Captain Mayne Reid.
This is a fairly short book, but it certainly hits the spot, for its aim is to inform young people about the four-legged animals of our planet, and this it does very competently.
Of course there is no reason why young ladies should not read this book: I am sure they would enjoy this just as much Reid's target readership, which was boys.
There are 24 chapters, each dealing with a kind of animal. Sometimes an animal genus is given two chapters, for instance domestic dogs, and wild dogs. One grouse: the phrase "well-known" occurs over forty times. Would the "well-known" fact be well-known to the book's intended readership? Probably not.
There are a score of very nice illustrations, most showing numerous animals of that chapter's genus.
QUADRUPEDS, WHAT THEY ARE AND WHERE FOUND, BY CAPTAIN MAYNE REID.
I have been called upon to write illustrative sketches to a series of engravings, designed by an eminent artist. In performing my part of the work I have thrown the Mammalia into twenty-four groups—corresponding more or less to the picture designs—and have dwelt chiefly on the geographical distribution of the animals. The Cetaceae and Vespertilionidae are properly omitted.
In the groups given there is no attempt made at any very scientific arrangement. The sketches are purely of a popular character, even the scientific nomenclature being avoided. It is hoped, however, that they may prove of service to the zoological tyro, and form as it were his first stepping-stone to a higher order of classification.
In reality, notwithstanding the prodigious speculations of learned anatomists, no truly good arrangement of the Mammalia has yet been arrived at; the deficiency arising from the fact that, as yet, no true zoologist has had the opportunity of a sufficiently extended observation of the natural habits of animals.
Now, however, that the great agent—steam—has as it were "brought the ends of the earth together," the opportunity is no longer wanting; and it is to be hoped that a better classification may soon be obtained. Who knows but that some ardent young zoologist, who has taken his first lessons from this little book, may be the man to supply the desideratum? Who knows?
Such a result would be a proud triumph for the author of these monographic sketches.
MONKEYS OF THE OLD WORLD.
The great family of the Monkeys, or the "Monkey tribe," as it is usually called, is divided by naturalists into two large groups—the "Monkeys of the Old World," or those that inhabit Africa, Asia, and the Asiatic islands; and the "Monkeys of the New World," or those that belong to America. This classification is neither scientific nor natural, but as it serves to simplify the study of these quadrupeds—or quadrumana, as they are termed—it is here retained. Moreover, as there is no genus of monkey, nor even a species, common to both hemispheres, such a division can do no harm.
The number of species of these animals, both in the Old and New Worlds, is so great, that to give a particular description of each would fill a large volume. It will be only possible in this sketch to point out the countries they inhabit, and to say a word or two of the more remarkable kinds.
In point of precedence, the great Ourang-outang contests the palm with the Chimpanzee. Both these creatures often attain the size of an ordinary man, and individuals of both have been captured exceeding this size; while, at the same time, in muscular strength, one of them is supposed to equal seven or eight men. It is remarkable how little is known of the habits of either. This is accounted for by the fact that they both inhabit regions still unexplored by civilised man, dwelling in thick impenetrable forests, where even the savage himself rarely penetrates.
Although many exaggerated stories are told of these great satyr apes, and many of these are only "sailors' yarns," yet it is easy to believe that animals approaching in structure, and even in intelligence, to man himself, must possess habits of the most singular kind. There is little more known of them than there was hundreds of years ago—indeed, we might say thousands of years; for it is evident that the Carthaginians came into contact with the chimpanzee on the western coast of Africa, and through them the Romans became acquainted with it; and no doubt it was this animal that gave origin to most of their stories of satyrs and wild men of the woods.
The chimpanzee is found only in the forests of tropical Africa—more especially along the west coast, the banks of the Gaboon, and other rivers. The ourang-outang is exclusively Asiatic—inhabiting Borneo, Sumatra, the peninsula of Malacca, Cochin China, and several others of the large Oriental islands. Of the ourang-outang there are two species—perhaps three—differing very little, except in point of size and colour.
A group of large tail-less apes, usually denominated Gibbons, or Long-armed Apes, come next in order. These are neither so large nor human-like as the ourang or the chimpanzee; nevertheless, they are capable of walking upon their hind legs, after the manner of bipeds. They are all long-armed apes, and generally use their fore-arms in walking, but more to assist them in clinging to the branches of trees, and swinging themselves from one to the other.
The gibbons are all Asiatic monkeys, and inhabit the same countries with the ourang, viz., the tropical forests of India and the Indian Archipelago. There are at least a dozen species of them, nearly half of which are found in the Island of Sumatra alone.
The Proboscis monkeys follow the gibbons. These are also long-armed apes, but with tails and sharp proboscis-like snouts, from which their name is derived. Only two species are known—both belonging to the great Island of Borneo, so rich in varieties of these human-like mammalia. One of the species of proboscis monkeys has also been observed in Cochin China. Another large tribe of Asiatic apes, containing in all nearly twenty different species, has been constituted into a genus called Semnopithecus. These also inhabit the Indian continent and the great islands; but they are not so exclusively tropical in their habits, since several of the species extend their range northward to Nepaul, and other districts among the Himalaya Mountains. It is a species, or more than one, of these ugly apes that is venerated by the Hindus; and they are permitted to live without molestation in the sacred groves and temples, though they often prove most troublesome protegees to their fanatical benefactors.
In Africa, the representatives of this last-mentioned tribe are found in the Colobus monkeys. Of these there are about a dozen species; and from several of them are obtained the long-haired monkey skins of commerce. They are all tropical animals, and inhabit the middle zone of Africa—their range extending from Abyssinia to the shores of the Atlantic.
Another very large tribe, containing in all as many as thirty species, and belonging exclusively to Africa, are the Guenons. They are closely allied to the colobus monkeys, but yet sufficiently different from them in habits and conformation to be classed into a separate genus. Most of the guenons inhabit the central regions of Africa; but they are not exclusively tropical, since several kinds belong to Kaffraria, and that region indefinitely called the Cape of Good Hope.
The Macaco apes constitute another genus, which forms the link between the guenons and the baboons, or dog-headed monkeys. They are neither exclusively African nor Asiatic monkeys, since species of macacoes are found in both these continents. They are usually subdivided into the macacoes with long tails, and those with short tails; and there is one species which wants this appendage altogether. This is the Magot— perhaps the most noted of all the macacoes, since it was the earliest known to European nations, and is, in fact, the only species that is indigenous to Europe. It is the magot that inhabits the Rock of Gibraltar. Much has been written as to whether this monkey is really indigenous to Europe—some naturalists alleging that it reached Gibraltar from Africa, where it is also common. But it is not generally known that, on European ground, the magot is not confined solely to the Gibraltar Rock. It is also found in other parts of the south of Spain; and, it is likely enough, has existed there long enough to claim the character of a native.
In the chain of natural affinities, the Baboons, or dog-headed monkeys, stand next to the macacoes. These are more of a quadruped form than any yet mentioned; and, both in a moral and physical sense, they are certainly the ugliest of animals. The hideous Drills and Mandrills, so well-known in our menageries, belong to this genus; as also the Chacma, or great dog-monkey of the Cape.
There are, in all, seven or eight species of baboons, and most of them inhabit Africa. One of the most singular of them, the Hamadryas, extends its range into Arabia; while another, the Black Baboon, is an inhabitant of the Philippine Isles.
With the baboons we close our list of the Monkeys of the Old World; but, in order to complete the account of these quadruped mammalia, it is necessary to find a place for those strange creatures usually known as Lemurs. These are usually grouped by themselves, and in a classification succeed the American monkeys—to some of which they have a greater resemblance than to those of the Old World; but, as they are all exclusively inhabitants of the latter, they may appropriately be noticed here.
The Lemurs are animals having very much the appearance and habits of monkeys, but with long snouts or muzzles, resembling that of the fox. Hence they are sometimes called fox-apes. There are many kinds of them, however; and, although classed in a group called lemurs, they differ exceedingly from one another, some of them having the appearance of foxes, others more resembling squirrels, and still others like flying squirrels—being possessed of a similar wing-like appendage, and capable, like them, of extended flight. They are known under different appellations, as Makis, Indris, Loris, Galagos, Tarsiers, Ay-ays, etcetera, and naturalists have subdivided them into a great number of genera. They are found both in Africa and Asia; but by far the greater number of them, as the Makis and Ay-ays, belong to the Island of Madagascar. The last are not to be confounded with an animal bearing the same name—the ay-ay of America. The latter is the singular creature known as the sloth, of which there are several distinct species, all inhabitants of the great forests of tropical America.
Of the lemurs, at least thirty different kinds are known, more than half of which belong to the Island of Madagascar. A few species are found on the west coast of Africa: and the others inhabit the Oriental islands— Ceylon, Java, Sumatra, Timor, Mindanao, and the Philippine Archipelago.
MONKEYS OF THE NEW WORLD.
The Monkeys of America differ in many respects from those of the Old World. In general they are smaller—none of the species being quite so large as the baboons. Their bodies and limbs are also more slender and spider-like; and their whole conformation seems intended to adapt them for dwelling in the great virgin forests of the New World. There is one particular in which they differ most remarkably from their congeners of the Old World; that is, in having prehensile tails. With these they are enabled to suspend themselves from the branches of trees, or swing their bodies from one to the other; and this prehensile power is far greater than could be obtained by any clutch of the hand. So great is it, that even after the animal has died from the effect of a shot or other wound, its tail will still remain hooped around the branch; and if the body is not taken down by the hunter, it will hang there till released by the decay of the tail!
Not all the monkeys of America possess this prehensile power of tail. Some are entirely without it, and approach nearer to certain kinds in the Old World; while there are a few species that very closely resemble the lemurs. These differences have led to a classification of the American monkeys; and they have been thrown into three groups, though it may be remarked that these groups are not very natural.
They are as follow:—The Sapajous, whose tails are not only prehensile, but naked underneath, and tubercled near the tips; the Sajoas, who possess the prehensile power, but have hairy tails; and the Sajouins, whose tails are not prehensile.
For want of a better, this classification may be adopted.
The Sapajous are subdivided into three genera, of which the Howlers form one. They are so denominated from their habit of assembling in troops, and uttering the most terrible howlings, so loud that the forest is filled with their sonorous voices. Their cries can be heard at a half-league's distance, and produce upon a stranger unaccustomed to such sounds a very disagreeable impression. The unusual strength of voice is accounted for by a peculiar drum-like construction of the os hyoides, common to all the genera of Sapajous, but more developed in some than in others; and those in whom the voice is loudest constitute the genus of Alouatles, or Howlers.
Of the true howlers there are about a dozen species known to naturalists. Most of them are denizens of the tropical forests of Guiana and Brazil; but some species are not so tropical in their habits, since one or two extend the kingdom of the monkeys into Mexico on the north, and southward to Paraguay.
Closely allied to the last, are the Ateles, or Spider monkeys. These derive their generic name from their singular spider-like appearance— caused by their disproportionately long and slender limbs, and the great length of their tails. None equal them in the prehensile power of the caudal appendage; and it is of them that that curious story is related— the story of the Monkeys' Bridge—where it is told how they pass over a stream: a number of the strongest joining their bodies together by means of their long tails, and thus forming a bridge, by which the whole troop are enabled to cross.
Of the spider monkeys there are about a dozen species; but three of these have been taken to form one of the three genera into which, as already stated, the Sapajous are divided. These three differ very little from the other spider monkeys, except in being covered with a soft, woolly hair; and, furthermore, in being much more rare than the others; at all events, they are more rarely seen, as they dwell only in the thickest forests, far remote from the habitations of man.
The third and last genus of the Sapajous is that termed Lagothrix. They are small monkeys, covered also with soft woolly hair; and their habitat is along the banks of rivers. They have a strange habit, not observable among their congeners, of collecting in small troops, and rolling or "clewing" themselves up together. This they do in cold weather, or on the approach of a storm. They summon each other by means of signals and cries; and selecting the convenient bifurcation of some tree, they there form the singular group. The jaguar and other beasts of prey take advantage of this habit, and often make victims of the whole tableau vivant! There are three species already described, all denizens of the Brazilian forests.
The Sajous form the second group of the American monkeys. These have also prehensile tails; but the power is not so highly-developed in them as in the Sapajous, nor are their tails naked. Moreover, the bodies of the Sajous are more robust, and their limbs of stouter make.
The Sajous are well-tempered creatures, and easily domesticated. Some of the species are favourite pets—on account of their pleasing manners, and the docility of their nature. The old males, however, scarcely deserve this reputation, as they will bite freely enough when provoked.
They are not subdivided; but permitted to constitute a single genus, of which there are nearly twenty species—all of them inhabiting equatorial America.
The Sajouins form the third group; but as the name merely signifies those monkeys that have not the power of suspending themselves by the tail, it can hardly be considered a natural group, since there are very varied and numerous genera who lack this power. The group of Sajouins must therefore be subdivided into several lesser groups.
First of all we have the true Sajouins; and of these the Saimiri or Titi is the most distinguished species. This pretty little creature is about equal in size to a squirrel, and possesses all the playful disposition of the latter. Its childlike innocence of countenance, as well as its pleasing and graceful manners, render it a favourite pet wherever it can be obtained. Its rich robe of yellowish-grey, mixed with green, adds to the attraction of its presence. There are several species of Sajouins, known as the Widow monkey, the Moloch, the Mitred monkey, and the Black-handed Sajouin—all of them dwellers in the tropical regions of America. The Doroucouli is another small species, that in the nocturnal forest often alarms the traveller by its singular cry; and an allied species of Doroucouli constitutes, with the one above-mentioned, a second genus of the Sajouins.
The Sakis form of themselves another and somewhat extensive family of the Sajouins. There are a dozen species of them in all; and they possess the peculiarity of being insect-eaters. They are fond of honey, too; and are often seen ranging the woods, in little troops of ten or twelve, in search of the nests of the wild bees, which they plunder of their luscious stores.
The Ouistitis also constitute a genus. These, like the Saimiris, are beautiful little creatures—many of the species not being larger than squirrels, and marked with the most lively colours: as bright red and orange. There are many different kinds of small squirrels known by this name, or by its abbreviation—Titi—some of them belonging to the group of Saimiris, and others to the Ouistitis, properly so called.
Last of all come the little Tamunus; some of which, in beauty of colours, in playfulness of disposition, and other amiable qualities, need not yield either to the Saimiris or Ouistitis. They are equally prized as pets; and among their Creole owners have equally applied to them the endearing appellation of Titi-titi.
Quadrupeds, what they are and where found—by Captain Mayne Reid
In the days of Linnaeus—that is, a century and a half ago—it was supposed there was only one kind of Bear in existence—the common Brown bear of Europe. It is true that Linnaeus before his death had heard of the great Polar bear, but he had never seen one, and was not certain of its being a distinct species. Not only has the Polar bear proved to be a very different animal from his brown congener, but other species have turned up in remote quarters of the globe: until the list of these interesting quadrupeds has been extended to the number of at least a dozen distinct species—differing not only in size, shape, and colour, but also in many more essential characteristics. Bears have been found in North America, and others in South America; some in Asia, and still others in the islands of the Indian Archipelago; entirely unlike the brown bear of Europe, as they are to one another.
As the Brown bear is the oldest of the family known to naturalists, I shall give him the precedence in this little monograph.
It is a misnomer to call him the brown bear of Europe, since he is even more common in many parts of Asia—especially throughout Asiatic Russia and Kamtschatka. But he is also met with in most European countries, where there are extensive ranges of mountains. In the mountains of Hungary and Transylvania—as well as in those of Russia, Sweden, and Norway—the brown bear is found. He is also met with as far south as the Alps—and even the Pyrenees, and Asturias, mountains of Spain; but the bear of these last-mentioned localities differs considerably from the real brown bear of the northern regions; and most probably is a different species.
Again, in North America—in a very remote and sterile region lying to the westward of Hudson's Bay, and known as the Barren Grounds—a large brown bear has been observed by travellers and traders of the Fur Company, supposed to be identical with the European bear. This, however, is a doubtful point; and in all likelihood the bear of the Barren Grounds is a new species, only found in that desolate region.
The brown bear is of solitary habits. During the summer season he roams about, growing fat upon roots, fruits, seeds, and wild honey—when he can procure it. At the approach of winter this animal has the singular habit of returning to his den, and there remaining dormant or torpid throughout the season of cold. During this prolonged slumber he takes no sustenance of any kind; and although exceedingly fat when going to rest, he comes forth in the spring-time as thin as a skeleton. The den is usually a cave or hollow tree; or, failing this, a lair, which the animal constructs for himself out of branches, lining it snugly with leaves and moss.
The brown bear is a long-lived animal. Individuals have been known of the age of fifty years. The cubs when first born are not much larger than the puppies of a mastiff. The people of Kamtschatka hunt this species with great assiduity, and obtain from it many of the comforts and necessaries of life. The skins are used for their beds and coverlets, for their caps, gloves, and boots. They manufacture from it harness for their dogs. From the intestines they make masks for their faces, to protect them from the glare of the sun; and they also use the latter stretched over their windows as a substitute for glass. The flesh and fat are among the most esteemed dainties of a Kamtschatkan cuisine. Even the shoulder-blades are used as sickles for cutting grass. The Laplanders, also—of whose cold country the brown bear is an inhabitant—have a great esteem for this animal. They regard its prowess as something wonderful, alleging that it has the strength of ten men, and the sense of twelve! The name for it, in their language, signifies the dog of God.
The White, or Polar bear, is, perhaps, the most interesting of the whole family: not so much on account of his superior size—since the brown and the grizzly are sometimes as large as he—but rather from his singular habits, and the many odd stories told about him, dining the last fifty years, by whalers and Arctic explorers.
To describe the appearance of the Polar bear would be superfluous. Everybody has seen either a living individual in a menagerie, or a stuffed skin of one in a museum; and the long, low, tail-less body—with outstretched neck and sharp projecting snout—covered with a thick coat of white hair, renders it impossible to mistake the Polar bear for any other animal.
This quadruped is more of a sea than land animal. Sometimes, it is true, he wanders inland for fifty miles or so; but this he does in following the course of some river or marshy inlet, where he finds fish. His usual haunts are along the icy shores of the Arctic Ocean, and the numerous ice-bound islands of the great Polar Sea. There he roams about over the frozen banks, or floats upon icebergs and drifts; or, if need be, takes to the open water, where he can swim with almost the facility of a fish.
A proof of his natatory powers is found in the fact that Arctic voyagers have observed him swimming about in the open sea full twenty miles from the nearest land! He is equally expert as a diver; and uses this art for the purpose of capturing various kinds of marine animals, upon which he subsists. In regard to food, the Polar bear differs altogether from his congeners. He is almost wholly carnivorous in his habits. Indeed, were it otherwise, he could not exist in his icy kingdom—in many parts of which not a trace of vegetation is to be found. Fish of many kinds, birds, and their eggs, and four-footed beasts—when he can lay his claws upon them—all are welcome to his palate. Nor will he disdain to feast upon the carcass of the great whale—when chance, or the whale fishermen, leaves such a provender in his way. The seal is a particular favourite with him, and he hunts this creature with skill and assiduity. When he perceives the seal basking upon a ledge of ice, he slips quietly into the water, and swims to leeward of his intended victim. He approaches by frequent short dives—so calculating his distance, that at the last he comes up close to the spot where the seal is lying. Should the victim attempt to escape, by rolling into the water, it falls into the bear's clutches: if, on the contrary, it lies still, the bear makes a powerful spring, seizes it on the ice, and then kills and devours it at his leisure.
In swimming, the Polar bear not only moves rapidly through the water, but is also capable of darting forward in such a way as to seize a fish before it can escape beyond reach. On the land, also, he can move with rapidity—his slouching trot being almost as fast as the gallop of a horse.
Individuals have been shot that weighed as much as 1600 pounds!
Polar bears are found along the shores of the Arctic Ocean, both in Asia and America. They do not go to sleep in winter—that is, the males do not. The females with young, however, bury themselves in the snow— having formed a lair—and there remain until they bring forth their young. The cubs are often captured in these snow caves, which the Esquimaux discover by means of dogs trained for this peculiar purpose.
The Grizzly bear next merits attention. This formidable animal was, for a long time, supposed to be a variety either of the brown bear of Europe or the black bear of America; but his greater ferocity, so often and fatally experienced by travellers, drew the attention of naturalists upon him, when it was discovered that he was altogether distinct from either of the two. His name is usually coupled with that of the Rocky Mountains of America—for it is chiefly in the defiles and valleys of this stupendous chain that he makes his home. He wanders, however, far eastward over the prairies, and also to the Californian Mountains on the west; and in a latitudinal direction from the borders of Texas on the south, northward as far, it is supposed, as the shores of the Arctic Sea. At all events, a bear somewhat like him, if not identically the same, has been seen on the banks of the great Mackenzie River, near its mouth. Perhaps it may be the brown bear of the Barren Grounds, already noticed; and which last is, in many respects—in size and colour especially—very similar to the grizzly.
The grizzly bear is certainly the most ferocious of his tribe—even exceeding, in this unamiable quality, his white cousin of the icy north; and many a melancholy tale of trapper and Indian hunter attests his dangerous prowess. He is both carnivorous and frugivorous—will dig for roots and eat fruits when within his reach; but not being a tree-climber, he has to content himself with such berries as grow upon the humbler bushes. Indeed, it is a fortunate circumstance that the fierce animal is unable to ascend a tree. Many a traveller and hunter have found a neighbouring tree the readiest means of saving their lives, when pursued by this ferocious assailant. Another circumstance is also in favour of those pursued by the grizzly bear. In the region where he dwells, but few persons ever go afoot; and although the bear can overtake a pedestrian, his speed is no match for that of the friendly horse.
It is almost hopeless to think of killing a grizzly bear by a single bullet. There the deadly rifle is no longer deadly—unless when the shot is given in a mortal part; and to take sure aim from the saddle, with a horse dancing in affright, is a feat which even the most skilful marksman cannot always accomplish. As many as a dozen bullets have been fired into the body of a grizzly bear, without killing him outright.
The strength of this animal equals his ferocity. He pulls the huge buffalo, a thousand pounds in weight, to the ground; and then drags its carcass to some cave or crevice among the rocks, or to a hole which he has dug to receive it. To this place he repairs from time to time, till the exhausted store compels him to go in search of a new victim. Many an incident can be related—and on the best authority too—where man has been the victim of the grizzly bear; and the Indians esteem the killing of one of these animals a feat equal to that of taking the scalp of a human enemy. One of the proudest ornaments of a savage chief is a necklace of bears' claws: only to be worn by those who have themselves killed the animals from which they have been taken.
The Black, or American bear, is one of the best known of the family; and on account of his clean smooth head, tapering muzzle, and rich black fur, he is also one of the best looking of bears. He is found throughout the whole of the United States territory—from the Canadas to the Gulf of Mexico—and westward to the shores of the Pacific. He is sometimes met with in the same neighbourhood with the grizzly, but not often: since their haunts are essentially unlike—the black bear being a denizen of the heavy-timbered forest, while the other frequents the grassy hills or coppice-openings of the prairies and mountain valleys.
The black bear is a tree-climber; and ascends the loftiest trees in search of the honey of the wild bees, or to make his lair in some cavernous hollow of the trunks. His food is usually fruits and roots, but he is also fond of young corn, and often commits serious depredations on the maize plantation. In the backwood settlements, where clearings are apart from each other, the black bear is still occasionally met with; and the chase of this animal is one of the most favourite pastimes of the backwoods' hunter, whether amateur or professional. Generally there is little peril in the pursuit—unless when the bear is wounded and enraged, and the hunter chooses to risk himself at close quarters.
There are varieties in colour. Some with white throats, and some of a cinnamon brown, have been observed; but the colour of the species is usually jet black; and on this account the skins are much prized for military and other purposes.
The Spectacled bear is a native of South America, and frequents the forests upon the declivities of the Andes. This was long supposed to be a variety of the black bear, but later observations prove it to be a different species. Its habits are very similar to the last, to which it is also similar in shape. In colour it differs essentially. It is black, but with a buff snout, and buff rings round the eyes, which give it that appearance whence it derives its trivial name. Its throat and breast are whitish.
There is at least one other species of black bear indigenous to South America, inhabiting the tropical forests; but very little is known of it—further than that it is one of the smallest of the tribe.
We now reach the Asiatic bears, properly so called; and we have only space to say a word about each.
The Siberian bear is thought to be only a variety of the brown bear of Europe, differing slightly in colour. In the former there is a broad band, or collar, of white passing over the neck and meeting upon the breast. It is, as its name implies, an inhabitant of Siberia.
The Thibet bear is a dweller among the Himalayas—in Sylhet and Nepaul. Its general colour is black, with a white mark, shaped like the letter Y; so placed that the shank of the letter is upon its breast, and the forks running up the front of its shoulders. It is not carnivorous, and, generally, its disposition is harmless and playful. It is easily tamed.
The Sloth bear is another Indian species having this peculiar marking on the breast and shoulders. This animal is one of the oddest of creatures. Its short limbs and depressed head, with the long shaggy hair surmounting its back like a bullock, give it the appearance of being deformed. On this account it was the favourite of the Indian jugglers, who, depending on its ugliness as a source of attraction, trained it to a variety of tricks. It is therefore sometimes known as the jugglers' bear (Ours jongleur). It has also a peculiar prehensile power in its lips; and this, with its general shaggy mien, led to the belief of its being a species of sloth—hence its common name.
The Malayan bear is another black species, with a marking on the breast. This mark is of a semi-lunar shape, and whitish; but the colour of the muzzle is buff-yellow. This is a very handsome species, subsisting on vegetable diet; and very injurious to the plantations of young cocoa trees, of the shoots of which it is very fond. It is also a honey eater; and roams about in quest of the hives of the indigenous bees. It is a native of Malacca, Sumatra, and others of the East Indian islands.
The Isabella bear is so called from its colour—being of that fulvous white known as Isabella colour. It is another of the species belonging to the great range of the Himalayas, and is found in the mountains of Nepaul. Sometimes it is observed of nearly a white colour; which led to the mistaken belief that Polar bears existed in the Himalayas.
The Syrian bear is a species found in the mountainous parts of Asia Minor. It is of a fulvous-brown colour, sometimes approaching to yellowish white. It is partly carnivorous, but feeds also on fruits; and is most remarkable as being the species first mentioned in books— that is, it is the bear of the Bible.
The Bornean bear is the last to be mentioned, though it is certainly one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, of the genus. This beauty arises from its peculiar markings, especially from the large patch of rich orange colour upon the breast. It is a native of the great Island of Borneo, and little is known of its habits; but it is supposed to resemble the Malayan bear in these, as it does in many other respects.
In Africa there are no bears.
The Badger is a silent, solitary, carnivorous creature, having his representative, in some form or other, in almost every part of the world; though nowhere either numerous in species or plentiful in individuals. In Europe he appears in two forms, the Glutton and common Badger; in North America in three, viz., Wolverene, American, and Mexican Badgers; and, indeed, we might say a fourth belongs to that continent, for the Racoon is as near being a badger, both in appearance and habits, as he is to being anything else. For convenience, therefore, let us class him in this group: he will certainly be more at home in it than among the bears—where most of the naturalists have placed him.
In South America we find another form of badger in the Coati mondi, of which there are several varieties; and there, too, the racoon appears of a species distinct from those of the north. Some writers class the coati with the civets, but the creature has far more of the habits and appearance of a badger than of a civet cat; and therefore, whatever the anatomists may say, we shall consider the coati a badger.
But a truer form of the badger than either of the above, exists in South America—extending over nearly the whole of that continent. This is the Grison, which, in appearance and habits, somewhat resembles the wolverene. It also is found in two or three varieties—according to the part of the country it inhabits. The Taira is another South American species of badger-like animal, though usually referred to the weasels.
In Africa, the badger appears in the Ratel, or honey badger, common from Senegal to the Cape. In Asia, in its northern zone, we have the European badger and Glutton; and in the south, the Indian badger; while in the Himalaya chain dwells another animal, closely allied to the badgers, called the Wha or Panda. In Java, we find still another species, the Nientek; and in the other large Asiatic islands there are several kinds of animals that approach very near to badgers in their forms and habits, but which are usually classed either with the weasels or civets.
We shall now give some details respecting the different animals of this family; among which the Glutton, in point of size, as well as for other reasons, deserves precedence.
The Glutton is the Rosomak of the Russians, in whose country he is chiefly found—along high northern latitudes, both in Europe and Asia. He is supposed to be identical with the wolverene of North America; and if this be so, his range extends all round the Arctic zone of the globe: since the wolverene is found throughout the whole extent of the Hudson's Bay territory. There are good reasons to believe, however, that the two species differ considerably from each other—just as the European badger does from his American cousins. It was the writer Olaus Magnus who gave such celebrity to this animal, by telling a very great "story" about the creature—which, at a time when people were little studied in natural history, was readily believed. Olaus's report was, that whenever the glutton killed an animal, he was in the habit of feeding on the carcass till his belly became swelled out and tight as a drum; that then he would pass between two trees growing close together—to press the swelling inwards and ease himself—after which he would return to the carcass, again fill himself, and then back again to the trees, and so on, till he had eaten every morsel of the dead animal, whatever might have been its size! All this, of course, was mere fable; but it is not without some foundation in fact: for the Rosomak is, in reality, one of the greatest gluttons among carnivorous animals. So, too, is his cousin, the wolverene of America; as the fur trappers have had sad reasons to know—whenever the creature has come upon a store of their provisions. The name of Glutton, therefore, though based upon Olaus Magnus's exaggeration, is not so inappropriate.
The glutton and wolverene are, in fact, very like the common badger in their habits; except that being much larger and stronger animals, they prey upon larger game. The reindeer, and other large quadrupeds, are often the victims of both; and it is even said that they can overcome the great elk; but this is not confirmed by the observations of any trustworthy traveller. The young of the elk, or a disabled old one, may occasionally succumb to them, but not an elk in full vigour, nor yet a reindeer, except when they can surprise the latter asleep. Their game is usually the smaller quadrupeds; and in the fur countries no animal is a greater pest to the trapper than the wolverene or glutton. A single individual will in one night visit a whole line of traps, and rob them of the captured animals—whether they be polar hares, white or blue foxes, martens, or ermine weasels.
It is this creature that is usually represented lying in wait upon the limb of a tree, and springing upon deer as they pass underneath: but this story of its habits wants confirmation.
The fur of the wolverene is one of the staple articles of trade of the Hudson's Bay Company; though it is more prized among the Russians than with us—who esteem it in value as next to the ermine.
The Common, or European badger, need not be here described, since it is familiar to all. The same may be said of the two American badgers, and also that of India, all three of which are very similar in habits and appearance to the common kind.
But the African badger, or Ratel, merits a word or two. It is about the size of the true badger, and ordinarily lives on small game, as badgers do; but, in addition to this, it is fond of varying its diet with a little honey. This it procures from the nests of wild bees, common throughout the whole of Africa. The account given of the mode in which it finds these nests would be incredible, were it not that we have the testimony of reverend missionaries to confirm it. It is as follows:—In Africa there is a bird—a species of cuckoo—known as the Indicator bird, or honey guide. This little creature hops from tree to tree, itself apparently in search of the bees' nests. While doing so, it utters a shrill cry; and these cries are repeated until the honey hive is found. The ratel lies in wait for this bird; and, on hearing the cry, makes towards it, and keeps following its flights till the bees' nest is found. Should this prove to be in a tree and out of reach—for the ratel is not a climber—the animal vents his chagrin by tearing at the trunk with his teeth, as if he had hopes of felling the tree. The scratches thus made on the bark serve as a guide to certain other creatures, who are also fond of honey, viz., the Kaffir hunters and Bushmen.
Should the bees' nest prove to be on the ground, or under it, the ratel soon unearths the treasure with his strong claws, and takes possession of it, regardless of the stings of the bees, against which his thick skin defends him.
The Orison inhabits the forests of South America, from Guiana to Paraguay. It is quite as ferocious as any of the tribe; but its smaller size hinders it from attacking large animals, and its victims are birds, agoutis, and other small rodents—against all of which it wages a war of extermination. When surprised by the hunters and their dogs, it will battle furiously till life is extinct: all the while emitting a strong disagreeable smell, after the manner of the weasels and polecats. The Racoon, which we have grouped with the badgers, is both a North and South American animal; dwelling in dense forests, and making its lair in the hollow of a tree. This animal is a good tree-climber, and usually takes refuge among the higher branches when pursued. It is nocturnal in its habits, but in deep shady woods it may be seen prowling about in the daylight, in search of birds and their eggs, small rodents, fish, or frogs, all of which it eats indifferently. There are several distinct species.
The Coati is exclusively South American. This, unlike the racoon, sleeps at night, and prowls during the day. It is also an expert tree-climber, and has a peculiarity in this respect; viz., it descends a tree head foremost, which no other animal of its order can do. It is equally as fierce and carnivorous as any of the badgers; and its prey, as with the racoon, consists of birds, their eggs, and small quadrupeds. It feeds also upon insects; and will turn over the earth with its long proboscis-like snout. When drinking it laps like the dog. In eating, it uses its fore-paws to carry the food to its mouth, though not as squirrels and monkeys do. On the contrary, it first divides the flesh, or whatever it may be, into small morsels, and then raises these to its mouth by impaling them on its claws as on a fork!
It is not a solitary animal, but prefers the society of its companions, and usually goes about in troops or gangs. Its lair, like the racoon, is the hollow of a tree.
The Panda of the East Indies is an animal of very similar habits. It is found chiefly along the banks of streams that descend from the mountains; and subsists upon small quadrupeds and birds—which it is able to follow to the tops of the tallest trees. Its name of Qua, or Oua, or Wha, is derived from the cry which it utters, and repeats very often; and which is well represented by any of the syllables above written.
WEASELS, OTTERS AND CIVETS.
Fortunate it is that the quadrupeds composing this group are all animals of small dimensions. Were they equal in size to lions and tigers, the human race would be in danger of total extirpation: for it is well-known that weasels are the most ferocious and bloodthirsty creatures upon the earth. None of them, however, much exceed the size of the ordinary cat: unless we include the gluttons and wolverenes among the weasels, as naturalists sometimes do, notwithstanding that these animals differ altogether from them.
The civets, it is true, are not usually classed with the weasels, but form a group of themselves; however, they are much more nearly related to weasels than the gluttons; and where, as in the present case, it is desirable to divide the mammalia into large groups, they will stand very well together. In truth, the civets are much nearer in resemblance to weasels than the otters are; and these two last are generally classed together—the otters being neither more nor less than water weasels.
We shall first consider the true Weasels: that is, the Weasels, Stoats, Ferrets, Polecats, and Martens.
The habits of most of the species are well-known; and all resemble each other in the exceeding ferocity of their disposition. It will only be necessary to say a word about their geographical distribution, and to speak of a few of the more noted kinds.
In Great Britain, five species are natives: the Pine and Beech Martens, the Stoat, the Common Weasel (which is the type of the family), and the Polecat. The Ferret is not indigenous to the country, but has been introduced from Africa, and is trained, as is well-known, for the pursuit of the rabbit—which it can follow into the very innermost recesses of its burrow. The English species of weasels are also common to other countries of Europe and Asia.
In the high northern latitudes of the Old World, we find a very celebrated species—celebrated for a long time on account of its valuable fur—the Sable. The sable is a true marten: a tree-climber, and one of the most sanguinary of weasels. An account of its habits, and of the mode of hunting it, forms one of the most interesting chapters in natural history.
An allied species inhabits the Hudson's Bay territory, known as the American sable, and another, belonging to the Japanese islands, is called the Japan sable.
The Ermine is a species equally famous; and for a like reason—the value of its beautiful white fur, so long an article of commerce. The ermine is neither more nor less than a stoat in winter dress; but there are several varieties of it—some that turn to brown in summer, while another kind retains its snow-white covering throughout all the year. The ermine is common to Europe, Asia, and North America.
The Pekan is a larger species, belonging to North America, and semi-aquatic in its habits; while the Vison, or Mink, is a large black weasel that inhabits the borders of rivers in Canada and the United States, where it preys upon fish and aquatic reptiles.
In North America there is also a very large Pine marten, so called from its habit of dwelling in the pine forests—where it climbs the trees in pursuit of birds and squirrels. This is among the largest of the weasel tribe. In California, a new species has been described under the name of the Yellow-cheeked weasel, and in Mexico another, the Black—faced; so that North America has its full complement of these sanguinary quadrupeds. Nor is the southern division of that continent without its weasels, as there is one species or more in New Granada, one in Guiana, and two or three in Chili and Peru.
In India, there is the White-cheeked weasel, Hodgson's and Horsefield's weasels; and in Nepaul, the Nepaul weasel, and the Cathia. Further north in Asia, there is, in Siberia, the Vomela, the Chorok, and the Altai weasel of the Altai Mountains; and no doubt need exist that animals of the weasel tribe are to be found everywhere. Indeed, if we regard as weasels the various carnivorous quadrupeds of the glutton and badger family, which have been described elsewhere in these sketches— including the strange Teledu or Stinkard of Java, the Helietis of India and China, the Taira and Grison of Brazil, the Ratel or honey badger of Africa, the Zorille of the Cape, the Zorilla or Maikel of Patagonia, the Sand bear of India, and the numerous varieties of the celebrated Polecat, or Skunk, of North and South America—we may well say that there are weasels, or their representatives, in every hole and corner of the earth.
With regard to the Polecats of America, they form a sort of link between the weasels and civets; and although there was long supposed to be but one kind—as in the case of the opossum—it is now ascertained that there are several distinct species, with an endless list of varieties.
The Water Weasels, or Otters, are not so numerous either in species or individuals—though there are at least a dozen of them in all, and they are widely distributed over the world.
In Britain, there is but one—the Common or European otter; and in North America, a very similar species was supposed, until recently, to be the only one inhabiting that continent. The rivers of California, however, have presented us with a second, known as the Californian otter; and the singular Sea otter, whose beautiful fur is so prized under the name of Sea otter, is also an animal inhabiting the coasts of California—as it does most part of the western seaboard of the American continent.
The Grey otter is a South African animal, and in India we have the Wargul; while in the rivers of Nepaul—a country so rich in mammalia— there is the Golden brown otter. China, in common with other Indo-Chinese countries, possesses the Chinese otter; and South America has the Brazilian Contra, and in all probability several other species.
With regard to the Civet-Weasels—or Civet Cats, as they are commonly called—there is a still greater variety, both in genera and species: so many, indeed, that, as already stated, they have been arranged in a family by themselves. They may be regarded, however, as large weasels, distinguished from the others by their having a sort of pouch or gland under the tail, in which is secreted an unctuous and highly odorous substance. This, in some species, as in the true civets, is relished as a perfume or scent, while in others it is an extremely disagreeable odour. The true civet is a native of North Africa; where it is kept in a tame state, for the purpose of obtaining from it the well-known perfume of commerce. An allied species, the Rasse, belongs to Java—and is there also kept in cages for the same purpose—while in Asia—from Arabia to Malabar, and among the Malays and Arabs of Borneo, Macassar, and other islands of the Indian Archipelago—still another species of civet affords a similar perfumed substance.
The Aard Wolf (earth wolf) of South Africa is usually classed among the civets, but with very slight reason. It is far more like the hyena; and is certainly nothing else than a hyena.
The Delundung of Java is a creature that bears a resemblance to the civets; and may be regarded as forming a link between these and the true cats.
The Genets constitute a division of the civet-weasel tribe; and one of which there are numerous species. They are usually pretty spotted creatures, with immensely long tails; and but for their cruel and sanguinary habits would, no doubt, be favourites. They exist in South Europe; and, under different forms and appellations, extend over all Africa to Madagascar and the Cape—as well as through the countries of Southern Asia and the Asiatic islands.
The Ichneumons claim our attention next. These are celebrated animals, on account of the strange and fabulous tales related of the species known as the Egyptian ichneumon, which, among the people of Egypt, is domesticated, and was once held as a sacred animal. Besides the Egyptian ichneumon, there are several other species in Africa—one belonging to Abyssinia, and no less than six to the countries near the Cape. The Garangan of Java is an ichneumon; and so also are the Mongoos and Nyula of Nepaul; while in the Malay peninsula is a species known as the Malacca ichneumon. The Paradoxure is usually classed with the civets, though it wants the perfumed pouch; and the Suricate or Meer-cat, of the Cape colonists, takes its station in this group. A badger-like animal of Madagascar, the Mangu, is also regarded as a civet: so, too, are the Coatis of the New World, though these last are evidently of much nearer kin to the badgers.
Perhaps the curious creature known as the Potto, or Kinkajou, has more pretensions to a place among the civets: at all events, it deserves one in the general group of the weasels.
Perhaps of all other animals the dog has been the earliest and most constant companion of man. His swiftness and strength, but more especially his highly-developed power of smelling, have made him a powerful ally against the other animals; and these qualities must have attracted the attention of man at an early period—particularly in those times when the chase was, perhaps, the only pursuit of mankind.
No animal is more widely distributed over the earth. He has followed man everywhere; and wherever human society exists, there this constant and faithful attendant may be found—devoted to his master, adopting his manners, distinguishing and defending his property, and remaining attached to him even after death.
It is a question among naturalists as to what was the parent stock of the dog. Some allege that he has sprung from the wolf; others that he is a descendant of the jackal; while not a few believe that there were true wild dogs, from which the present domesticated race had their origin. These ideas are mere speculations, and not very reasonable ones either. It would not be difficult to show, that different kinds of dogs have sprung from different kinds of animals—that is, animals of the same great family—from wolves, foxes, jackals, zerdas, and even hyenas. This can be proved from the fact, that domesticated breeds among savage tribes, both in Asia and America, are undoubtedly the descendants of wolves and jackals: such, for instance, as the Esquimaux dog of the Arctic regions, the Dingo of Australia, the Indian dogs of North America—of which there are several varieties—and also one or two kinds existing in Mexico and South America.
Naturalists deny that there are any true dogs living in a wild state. This is simply an unreasonable assertion. Wild dogs of several species are to be met with in Asia and America; and if it be asserted that these originally came from a domesticated stock, the same cannot be said of the hunting dog of Southern Africa—which is neither more nor less than a wild hound.
Perhaps none of the animals that have submitted to the conquest of man have branched off into a greater number of varieties than this one. There are more kinds than either of horses or oxen. We shall not, therefore, attempt a description of each; but limit ourselves to speak of those breeds that are the most remarkable—or rather those with which the reader is supposed to be least familiar. To describe such varieties as the spaniel, the greyhound, the mastiff, or the terrier, would not add much to the knowledge which the English reader already possesses.
One of the most remarkable of dogs is the huge mastiff of Tibet. He is long-haired, and usually of a jet black colour. He is quite a match in size for either the Newfoundland or San Bernard breeds, and not unlike one or the other—for it may be remarked, that these in many points resemble each other.
The Tibet dog, as his name implies, is the property of the Tibetians: especially the Bhootees—the same people who own that curious species of cattle, the Yak, or grunting ox, and who reside on the northern slopes of the Himalaya mountains. It may be inferred, therefore, that the Tibet dog affects a cold climate; and such is in reality the case. He cannot bear heat; and does not thrive, even in the kingdom of Nepaul. Attempts to introduce the breed into England have resulted in failure: the animals brought hither having died shortly after their arrival.
The masters of these dogs—the Bhootees, or Bhoteas, are a singular race, of a ruddy copper colour, rather short in stature, but of excellent disposition. Their clothing consists of furs and woollen cloths, adapted to the cold climate which they inhabit. The men till the ground, and keep yaks and sheep, and sometimes come down into the warm plains to trade—penetrating even to Calcutta. The women remain at home, their only protectors being these great dogs, who watch faithfully over their villages and encampments, and fly fiercely at any stranger who may approach them. It is said that they are especially hostile to people who have a white face; but this disposition is also characteristic of the dogs belonging to the American Indians—and perhaps those possessed by all savages with a coloured skin.
The Dingo, or dog of Australia, is an animal domesticated among the aborigines of that country. He is a dog of wolf-like shape, who does not bark, but utters only a mournful howling. He is used by the wretched natives both for the chase and as an article of food; and is a fierce and voracious creature—not hesitating to launch himself on the larger kinds of animals. He is especially employed in hunting the kangaroo; and sometimes terrible combats occur between the dingo and the larger species of kangaroos—resulting always in the death of the latter.
The San Bernard dog, supposed to be a cross between the mastiff and shepherd's dog, is too celebrated to require a description here. His sagacity in discovering travellers amid the Alpine snows, and guiding them upon their path, is the quality upon which the fame of this dog has been founded; but it may be remarked that many of the feats attributed to him have their origin in the fertile fancies of Parisian writers.
The Esquimaux dog is another celebrated variety. He is an animal with a fox-like face and thick coat of whitish hair, generally tinged with yellow. He is to the Esquimaux a most valuable companion: trained to draw their sledges over the surface of the snow, and enabling them to make long and rapid journeys—without which these singular people would be ofttimes in danger of perishing amid the inhospitable regions they inhabit.
The Indians of North America possess two or three varieties of domesticated dogs, evidently derived from the wolves of that region. Indeed, the common Indian dogs, found among the Sioux and other northern tribes, bear so close a resemblance to the large American wolf, that they are often taken for this animal, and in consequence shot, or otherwise killed by mistake. The Indians use them for carrying burdens: their tents and tent poles being transported by these animals on long journeys across the prairies. Their flesh is a favourite article of the savage cuisine; but it is too costly to be used as an every-day food; and is only served up on grand festive occasions. Like the dogs of Tibet, these Indian wolf dogs have the greatest antipathy to a white skin; so much so, that even a friend in that guise can rarely obtain either their confidence or friendship.
A smaller kind than the common one is found among certain tribes, and appears to have derived its origin from the prairie wolf—the jackal of America—while the Hare Indians of the Rocky Mountains possess a third variety; and it is known that still another exists among the tribes of Russian America. This last is short-haired and smooth-coated: therefore differing altogether from the Indian dogs of the prairies.
In Mexico, there are two or three native dogs: found there on the arrival of Europeans. One is the Alco—a dog remarkable for a curious hunch or protuberance upon the back and shoulders, a thick short neck, and small pointed muzzle. He is thinly covered with long hair, of a yellowish colour.
Another singular variety is the dog of Chihuahua and this is, perhaps, the smallest of all canine creatures. Full-grown specimens have been seen, whose dimensions did not exceed those of the common rat; and a singular fact, well authenticated, is, that this dog, when transported from Chihuahua to any other place—even to the city of Mexico itself— invariably becomes larger, or degenerates, as the Mexicans have it! There is also in Mexico a hairless dog. It is, no doubt, the same as that known by the name of Turkish dog; since this variety came originally from Spanish America.
In South America, there are several species of native dogs, found among the savages of the Orinoco and Amazon. They are small animals, usually of a whitish colour: but their owners follow the curious practice of dyeing them with annatto, indigo, and other brilliant dyes, for the purpose of rendering them more ornamental!
We can only find space to say that there are many other varieties of domesticated dogs, almost unknown beyond the countries in which they are found. Such are the Quao of Rhamgur, the Sumatran dog, the Poull of New Ireland, the dogs of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego—those of the South Sea Islands; and the Waht that inhabits some of the ranges of the Himalayas.
It is reasonable to suppose that there is not a nation upon earth, hardly a tribe—civilised or savage—that does not possess some variety of the canine race differing from all the others.
By Wild Dogs, we mean not only several sorts of true dogs, that in different parts of the world are found living in a wild state; but also Wolves, Foxes, Jackals, Hyenas, and Fennecs—for all these are but dogs in a state of nature.
First, we shall speak of the true dogs living in a wild state—that is, apart from the society of man.
It is not necessary here to go into the often-debated question, as to whether dogs were originally wolves, or what species of wolf the dog is descended from. This is all mere speculation, and answers no purpose. It is just as likely that wolves sprang from dogs, as that dogs came from wolves; and every one may perceive that two breeds of the dog species are often far more unlike each other—both in appearance and habits—than a dog is to a wolf itself. Again, foxes differ only from wolves in point of size; and a small wolf is in reality a fox, while a large fox may be equally regarded as a wolf. Furthermore, the jackal is nothing else than another form of the same animal—the wolf or dog, whichever you choose to term it; and the hyenas but a still uglier shape of the same carnivorous creature.
With regard to the true wild dogs—which are not regarded as wolves—we find them existing in various parts of the world. They usually live in communities, and have the habit of hounds—that is, they hunt in packs. Whether they were originally dogs in a domesticated state, and have since seceded from the society of man, is a question which naturalists are unable to agree upon.
In India there are two or three kinds of wild dogs living thus. One in the Deccan—called Kolsun by the Mahratta people—is a reddish-coloured animal, nearly as large as the common European wolf. It dwells in the forests, far remote from the villages—and of course lives by preying upon other animals—just as wolves and foxes do. Again, in the forests of the Himalaya mountains there is another species of wild dog, different from that of the Deccan. It is usually known as the wild dog of Nepaul, from its being found in many parts of that kingdom. A large community of these animals is often met with in the mountain forests— living in caves, or at the bottoms of cliffs, where there are deep crevices among the boulders of loose rocks, that afford them a secure asylum when pursued by their enemies. In these places the dogs sleep, and bring forth their young; and the puppies are taught to be exceedingly wary, and not stray far from their dens during the absence of the mothers. Indeed, so cunning do they become when only a few days old, that it is difficult to capture one of them outside its impenetrable lodging-place.
During many hours the old ones are abroad, in pursuit of the animals upon whose flesh they subsist; and, as already stated, these dogs follow their game not singly, but in bands or packs. In this way, instinct teaches them that they will have a better chance of success; since they are more able to head the pursued animal, turn it in different directions, and at length run it to the ground. A curious fact is related of the cunning of these wild dogs. It is stated that when in pursuit of the larger animals—such as stags and large antelopes that inhabit the same district—instead of running them down at once, the dogs manoeuvre so as to guide the game to their breeding place, before giving the final coup to the chase! The object of this is to bring the carcass within reach of their young; which, were it killed at a great distance off, would be obviously impossible. Such a habit as this would prove them possessed of something more than instinct; but for all that, it may be true. A fact seems to confirm it: the fact that a large quantity of bones is always observed in the immediate neighbourhood of the breeding places—some of these being of such a size as to preclude the belief that they could have been carried thither by the dogs themselves.
In Ramghur there is a wild dog called Quao, or Quaw, which lives in communities, just as those of Nepaul; and still another kind inhabits the forests of the Island of Sumatra.
None of these kinds are to be confounded with the half-wild dogs of India, called pariah dogs; since the latter, although not owned by individuals, dwell in the villages, and of course associate with man. Besides, the pariahs are of no particular breed—there being several sorts of pariah dogs. They are merely outcast curs, without owners, that pick up a living as they best can.
Passing from India to the tropical countries of America, we find another sort of wild dog in the forests of Guiana, known as the Koupara, or Crab-dog. It is not certain whether these dogs are indigenous to Guiana, or the progeny of some domestic variety introduced by the colonists. They dwell in small troops or families, of six or seven individuals each, and their food is furnished by the pacas, agoutis, and other small rodent animals of tropical America. They also find sustenance in several kinds of crabs, which they adroitly capture upon the banks of the rivers; and it is from their habit of feeding upon these they have derived the name of crab-dogs. They are easily tamed; and when crossed with other breeds, a variety is produced which is esteemed by the natives as the very best kind for the hunting of the agoutis, cavies, and capibaras.
The wild dogs of the Cape country, called Wilde Hunden (wild hounds) by the Dutch, are usually regarded as near akin to the hyenas. But they are more like real wild hounds than hyenas; and their colour—which is a mixture of black, white, and tan—almost points to them as the progenitors of that variety of dog known as the hound. Their habits, too, would seem to confirm this hypothesis: for it is well-known that these animals pursue their prey just after the manner of a pack of real hounds—doubling upon it, and using every artifice to run it down. The numerous species of ruminant animals—the antelope in particular—are the especial objects of their pursuit, and upon these they subsist. Like the Indian wild dogs, they live in communities—using the burrows of the wild hog and ant-eater, as also the hollow ant-hills, for their lairs and breeding places. Travellers passing across the plains of South Africa have often witnessed the splendid spectacle of a pack of these beautiful wild hounds in pursuit of a large antelope, and almost fancied themselves looking at a stag hunt, with a kennel of real hounds going at full view!
The true wild dog of all is that creature so well-known and celebrated in all our tales of childhood—the Wolf.
To describe the wolf, or even to give an account of his habits, would be superfluous. Almost every one is acquainted with the gaunt form, the shaggy hide, and tierce aspect of this formidable creature; and every one has heard of his fierce and savage disposition: for who is ignorant of the story of "Little Red Riding Hood?"
The presence of this much-disliked animal is almost universal: by which I mean, that in some form or other he is represented in almost every corner of the globe. You may say there are no wolves in Africa; but this is not true: for the hyenas are nothing more nor less than wolves, and wolves of the very ugliest kind.
Fortunately wolves are no longer found in Britain, though they were once plentiful enough in these islands; but all over the continent of Europe there are still numerous wolves in the forests and mountains.
The Common Wolf, that is, the wolf of Europe, is the type of the family; but this type offers many varieties—according to the different localities in which it is found. I shall here notice these varieties.
French wolves are generally browner and smaller than those of Germany; and the wolves of Russia, Sweden, and Norway are still stronger animals, and of a more sinister appearance. These differ very much in colour, which in winter is almost white. Again, the Alpine wolves are smaller than the French, and of a brownish-grey colour; while those of Italy and Turkey have a yellowish tinge. Black wolves are not uncommon, especially in the Pyrenees of Spain; but whether these, as well as the others, are all mere varieties of the common wolf, or whether there are two or three distinct species of European wolf, are questions to be left to the disputation of systematic naturalists.
Over all the continent of America, from the Arctic shores in the north to Tierra del Fuego in the south, wolves are found; and here again there are varieties in size, colour, and even habits, that may fairly entitle the different kinds to rank as separate species. Most certainly there are distinct species, for that known as the Prairie Wolf, and also the Coyote of Mexico, are two kinds that more resemble jackals than real wolves.
Besides, other wolves of the American continent, as the Brown Wolf of Mexico, the great Dusky Wolf of the Upper Missouri, the Aguara Dog of South America, the Wild Dog of the Falkland Islands, the Fox Wolves of Patagonia and Terra del Fuego, the Guazu of Paraguay and Chili, and the North American Common Wolf—are all animals of such different appearance and habits, that it is absurd to term them varieties of the same species. In Asia we have just the same series of varieties—that is, in every part of the great continent is found some representative of the tribe, which in reality is no variety, but an original and indigenous animal of the wolf kind—such as the Sandgah, or Indian wolf of the Himalayas; the Beriah, another Indian wolf; and the Derboom, a black species that inhabits the mountains of Arabia and Syria.
In Africa the wolf is represented by the hyenas, of which there are at least four species—one of them, the common hyena, belonging to the northern half of the African continent, and extending its range into several countries of Asia. At the Cape, and northward into Central Africa, three large species of hyena, and one small one (the Aard wolf), represent the lupine family. The Jackal, too—of which there are several distinct kinds in Asia and Africa—is only a wolf of diminutive size and gregarious habit.
This creature is fairly represented in America by the Coyote of Mexico, and the Barking Wolf of the prairies; and in Asia, upon the steppes of Tartary, by the Corsac.
Even in Australia, where new mammalia have turned up in such odd and fantastic forms, the wolf has his congener in that curious creature known as the Tasmanian wolf.
With regard to foxes, they, like the wolves, are distributed almost universally over the globe; and exhibit a like variety of forms and colours, according to the different localities which they inhabit. Their name is legion.
As the smallest representatives of the wild dogs, we find in Africa the curious little creatures known as the Fennecs. Of these there are also varieties; for, although very much alike in habits, the Fennecs of Abyssinia and those of the Cape are evidently distinct species.
The Lion is the king of cats; though there are some who think that the Tiger has a better claim to the throne. In point of size and strength, there is not much difference between these two animals. The lion appears larger, on account of his shaggy mane; but specimens of the tiger have been taken whose measurement was equal to that of the largest lion. Otherwise, the tiger is decidedly superior in courage, in address, and in beauty; in fact, the royal tiger is one of the most beautiful of animals; while the lion, notwithstanding the great fame he enjoys, is among the very ugliest of brutes.
These two powerful creatures often meet in the jungles of India, and try their strength in single combat. It is not decided which is superior in prowess, since victory is sometimes on one side and sometimes on the other. No doubt this depends on the individuals who may engage, for lions are not all alike, nor tigers neither. Both differ in strength and courage, just as men do; and this difference is caused by a variety of circumstances—such as age, size, season of the year, nature of the country and climate, and many like contingencies.
Remember that the lion is found both in Asia and Africa, and nowhere else. He inhabits the whole of Africa, from the Cape to the shores of the Mediterranean, and there are three well-marked varieties on that continent. In Asia he is only found in its southern part—that is, in the tropical and sub-tropical regions; and there are also two or three varieties of the Asiatic lion.
With regard to the tiger, he is altogether an Asiatic. There are no tigers in Europe, Africa, and America—of course we mean in their wild state; and the stories of tiger-hunts in Africa and America, frequently to be met with in books and newspapers, are the narratives of mere ignorant travellers, who confound the royal tiger with several species of spotted cats—of which we shall presently speak. We may add that the tiger, although exclusively Asiatic, is not exclusively tropical in his haunts. Tigers are more abundant in the hot jungles of India and some of the larger islands of the Indian Ocean than elsewhere; but they have also been observed far to the north of the Himalayan chain on the great steppes that extend almost to the confines of Siberia.
To continue the monarchical analogy; there are four cats that may be called the princes of the family. These are the Jaguar, the Leopard, the Panther, and the Hunting-leopard or Cheetah. The first of these is exclusively American; the other three, African and Asiatic. They are all four what are termed spotted cats; that is, having black markings on a buff or yellowish ground. I need not add that they are all beautiful creatures. A superficial observer would easily mistake the one for the other; and in common phrase, they are indifferently termed leopards, panthers, and even tigers; but the naturalist, and even the furrier knows that they are four distinct species.
I shall endeavour to point out as briefly as possible some marks that will enable you to distinguish them. In the spots we find a tolerably good criterion of the species. Those upon the body of the jaguar are not spots, but rather what may be termed rosettes. So, too, the black markings of the leopard and panther are rosettes; that is, irregular black rings enclosing an open space of the yellow ground. On the contrary, the spots upon the hunting-leopard are real spots, of a uniform black; and, consequently, this animal is easily distinguished from the other three. He differs from them also in shape. He is longer in the legs, stands more upright upon them, and can run more swiftly than any of the cat tribe. In fact, he has a tendency towards the nature and habits of the dog, and might be appropriately termed the cat-dog, or the dog-cat, whichever you please. It is on account of his canine qualities that he is sometimes trained to the chase: hence his specific name of the hunting-leopard. He inhabits both Asia and Africa.
But how are the jaguar, leopard, and panther to be distinguished from one another? The jaguar easily enough from the other two. His rosettes have a black point in the centre, which is wanting in the rings of the panther and leopard. Besides, the jaguar is a larger and more powerful animal. Humboldt and others have observed specimens of the jaguar nearly equal in dimensions to those of the royal tiger himself; and his feats of fierce prowess, in the forests of Spanish America, are scarce eclipsed by those of his congener in the jungles of India. Human beings are frequently his victims, and settlements have been abandoned on account of the dangerous proximity of the jaguars. His range in America is pretty nearly co-terminal with the Spanish territories—including, of course, Brazil and Guiana, and excluding the country of Patagonia, where a smaller species takes his place. In all these countries he is misnamed tiger (tigre)—hence the anomalous stories to which we have alluded. We may add that there is a black jaguar in tropical America, just as there is a black panther in Asia. In neither case is it a different species: only a variety as regards colour. In all other respects the black and yellow kinds are alike. Even on the black ones the spots are observable in a certain light, being of a deeper hue than the general ground colour of the skin.
Thus, then, it is easy to distinguish a cheetah from a jaguar, or either from a leopard or panther; but with regard to these last two, the distinction is more difficult. In fact, so much are they alike, that the two species are confounded even by naturalists; and it is yet an undecided point which is the leopard, and which the panther! That there are two distinct species is certain. The London furrier knows that there are two kinds of skins, which he distinguishes mainly by the feel; but the learned zoologist, Temminck, has pointed out a difference in the anatomical structure. Both animals are natives of Africa, and both were supposed to exist in Asia; but it is doubtful whether that known as the leopard extends beyond the limits of the African continent. The panther is that one which is a little heavier in the body, more cat-like in shape, and of a deeper yellow in the ground colour; but, perhaps, the truest distinction is found in the tail, which is longer in the panther than in the leopard, and consists of a greater number of vertebrae.
The panther is a well-known animal in India and the Asiatic islands; and, as already stated, there is a dark-skinned variety, commonly known as the Black Panther of Java.
Taking the cat family according to size, the next that deserves mention is the Couguar, or Puma. This is the panther of the Anglo-Americans, and the lion (leon) of the Mexicans and South Americans. His colour is a uniform tawny red, or calf colour; and he is inferior to the jaguar in size, strength, and courage. Notwithstanding, he is a formidable animal, and has been known to attack and destroy the larger mammalia. When wounded, or at bay, he will also defend himself against a human enemy; and there have been instances of hunters, both white and Indian, having succumbed to his strength. His range extends over nearly the whole continent of America; but he more particularly affects the deep shadow of the forests; and, like the jaguar, he is a tree-climber. He has no claim to the title of lion, except from some resemblance in colour; and no doubt it was this that led to his misnomer among the early settlers of Spanish America.
The Ounce comes next. Of all the large cats this is the least known, either to naturalists or hunters. We only know that such a species exists; that it is a native of Western Asia (Persia, and perhaps Arabia); that it is an animal nearly as large as the leopard or panther, but of stouter build and clumsier shape; that it is covered with long woolly hair of a pale-yellow colour, and spotted, not so distinctly as the true leopards, from which it is easily distinguished, both by its form and colour. The name Ounce is from Buffon; but this specific appellation is also applied to the jaguar of America, the Jaguarundi, or lesser jaguar of Paraguay, and even to the Ocelot.
The Rimau-dahan is one of the most beautiful species of cats. It is of a yellowish ground colour, not spotted like the leopard, but marked with broad black bands and patches; in other words, clouded. It is not so large as either of the species described. It is a tree-climber, and lies in wait for its prey in the forks of the lower limbs, where it also goes to sleep. From this habit it derives its name, Dalian; which, in the Sumatran language, signifies the fork of a tree.
Not unlike the Rimau-dahan, both in size and markings, is the Nepaul cat: a species, as its name imports, found in Nepaul, in the mountain forests.
The Serval is a spotted cat—black upon a pale-yellowish ground—and considerably larger than the domestic species. It is a native of South Africa; and its skin is prized among the Kaffirs, for making their fur cloaks or karosses.
The Ocelot is about equal in size to the last-named, and equally prized for its beautiful skin, which is clouded with an admixture of spots and stripes upon a ground of yellowish-grey. It belongs to Spanish America—more especially Mexico: and it is said to have been this animal that is represented on the hieroglyphical paintings of the ancient Aztecs. More probably its nobler congener, the jaguar, which is also found in Mexico, is the animal that held this distinction in the land of Anahuac.
In Central and South America there are a great many species of striped and spotted cats, known generally as tiger cats. The Ocelot is one of these; but there are also the Pampas cats, the Chati, the Jaguarundi, the Margay, the False Margay, and many others.
Numerous species, too, exist in the forests of India; as also in the great tropical islands of Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and the Philippines.
There is yet a section of the cat family to be described. These are the lynxes, or cats with short tails and long ears—the latter erect, and at the tips pointing inward, or towards each other.
Of the Lynxes three species are found in North America. The largest of these is the Canada lynx, which in point of size approaches the smaller species of leopards. The colour of this animal is of a reddish grey, with spots very indistinctly marked. Its fur is long, and its skins form one of the principal articles of the Hudson's Bay trade.
The Canada lynx is not found so far south as the United States; but its place is there occupied by the Bay lynx—a smaller species, and one very similarly marked, except that the rufous tint on the back and sides of the latter is deeper, and the spots more pronounced.
Still further south is a third species, only made known to naturalists within the last few years. It inhabits Texas, and is hence called the Texan lynx. It is of a darker red than either of the preceding; but in other respects—size, shape, and habits—it is almost identical with the Bay lynx. Both range to the Pacific.
Of the lynxes of the Old World, there is the common or European lynx, which is still found in several European countries; the Caracal, a native of Africa and part of Asia; the Booted lynx, also indigenous to both continents; the Chaus, belonging to the country of the Mahrattas; the Kattlo, a large species, of Northern Europe; the Nubian lynx, of North Africa; and the Southern lynx, a native of Spain.
It may be added that there is scarce one of these species of which there are not two or more varieties, known only to those who have made a study of the Kingdom of Nature.
RATS AND OTHER RODENTS.
In this group we include not only Rats, but a great many other small rodents, or gnawers, such as Mice, Marmots, Lemmings, Hamsters, Mole-Rats, Jerboas, and Jumping Mice. The Shrew-Mice and Moles may also be classed here—although naturalists separate them from rodents, because their food is not herbivorous, but consists of worms and insects. For all that, there is a certain general resemblance, both as to appearance and habits, among all these small quadrupeds; which, for purposes of classification, is, perhaps, of more value than mere difference of food, or tubercles upon the teeth; especially, as it can be proved, that the sort of food an animal eats, is often dependent on the circumstances in which it may be placed.
Of the Rats, properly so called, there are numerous species, as well as varieties. Their size is, in general, about the same as the Black and Norway rats—both of which belong to England, and have been introduced, by means of ships, into every country upon the habitable globe. They are said to have come originally from Asia. There is one species of rat, however, that is much larger than either of these—the Gigantic rat, found in Indian countries, and which in size quite equals a rabbit!
The habits of the rats are too well-known to require description. Some—as the Wood Rat and Florida Rat of America—dwell apart from the habitations of man, in the woods; where, instead of living in burrows, they construct large nests, by collecting together heaps of sticks, leaves, and grass.
Mice may be regarded as only a smaller kind of rats; and of these there are many distinct species—both in the Old and New Worlds.
The Marmots are, perhaps, the most interesting of the small rodents. They stand in a sort of connection with the squirrels, more especially the ground squirrels: on the other hand, they resemble rabbits; and they have still many points of identity with rats. They belong to the northern zones of Europe, Asia, and America. There are three or four species belonging to the Old World; and a great many to North America. Moreover there is a considerable difference in the habits of these species, which has led zoologists to separate them into several genera. One genus, called the Seed-eaters, is a very curious kind. The marmots of this genus have a pair of pockets or pouches—one on the outside of each cheek—in which they actually carry seeds and other articles of food to their burrows. These pouches, when filled, impart to the little creatures a most ludicrous appearance.
The marmots usually live in large communities—in burrows, as rabbits do. These burrows are sometimes very extensive—especially so, in the case of the prairie marmot of America—better known as the Prairie Dog— whose villages sometimes cover an extent of many square miles; and whose odd social habits have been repeatedly and accurately described by late travellers who have crossed the American continent.
The Mole-rats are a sort of combination between moles and rats: hence their common name. One species is found in Eastern Russia; where it burrows much after the fashion of the mole—living principally upon roots. Two other kinds belong to South Africa. Both these are of large size, nearly as big as rabbits. On the plains, they make extensive excavations, which often prove dangerous to the horse and his rider— causing the former to stumble. The Dutch of the Cape know them by the name of Sand Moles.
The Hamsters differ considerably from the marmots in their mode of burrowing. They make their underground dwellings very extensive—having a great many chambers and galleries. In these they collect vast stores of food—consisting of grain, peas, and seeds of various kinds. Sometimes two or three bushels of provision will be found in the storehouse of a single family. The hamsters do not confine themselves exclusively to a vegetable diet: since it is known that they will kill and eat birds, or even small quadrupeds. In this respect they resemble the common rats; and, therefore, it is idle to talk of mere herbivorous genera of animals. The hamsters are very fierce little creatures: constantly fighting with other quadrupeds, and even among themselves; but the polecat is their master and tyrant, and carries on a war of extermination against them—following them through the intricate ways of their burrows, and destroying them even in their dens!
There are several species of hamsters in Europe and Asia, and also in North America: for the animal known as the Canada Pouched Rat is of this kind, and so also is the Tucan of Mexico. So also is that very singular and beautiful creature, the Chinchilla of South America—so celebrated for its soft and valuable fur.
The Lemmings are another form of small rodent animals, celebrated for their extraordinary migratory habit; which resembles that of the grey squirrels of North America. There are several species of lemmings belonging to the northern section of the Old Continent—in Eastern Russia and Asia. One or two are found in North America—in that part of it known as the Hudson's Bay Territory.
The Spinous Rats are little animals much resembling ordinary rats; but with the peculiarity of having stiff spines growing among their hair, after the manner of porcupine quills. There are several species of them: all natives of tropical America.
The Jerboas are, perhaps, the most singular of all the rodents. They are noted for having the hind legs much longer than the fore ones—in fact, being shaped very much like the kangaroos—of which they might be termed Lilliputian varieties, were it not that they lack the pouch, which distinguishes these curious creatures. Like the kangaroos, they use their fore-feet only to rest upon. When in motion, or desirous of passing quickly over the ground, they make use of their hind-feet only: proceeding by long leaps or jumps, and sometimes springing to the distance of twelve or fifteen feet. Their tails being long and slender, were supposed not to assist them in this operation; but an experiment made by a cruel Frenchman—that of cutting off these appendages—proved that a considerable portion of the jumping power is derived from the tail.
Africa and Asia are the head-quarters of these quadrupeds—the most noted species being the Jerboas of Egypt, and the Leaping Hare of the Cape. They dwell in sandy deserts—burrowing in communities like the marmots. In America there are no true jerboas: they are there represented by the Jumping Mice of Labrador and the Hudson's Bay Territory; which resemble the jerboas in almost everything except size, the jumping mice being much smaller animals.
Field Mice and Dormice are other kinds of small rodents, differing from the common kind of mouse; but the habits and appearance of these little quadrupeds are well-known.