To a superficial observer, the animals belonging to this tribe would seem entitled to a place with the Hedgehogs; but they have no farther similitude than in the spiny covering of their bodies. None of the species are supposed to be carnivorous.
The Porcupines have two front-teeth, cut obliquely, both in the upper and under jaw; and eight grinders. They have four toes on the fore, and five on the hinder feet; and the body is covered with spines, intermixed with hair⁕2.
⁕1 The Linnæan Order Glires commences with the Porcupines. In this order the animals are furnished with two remarkably large and long front teeth both above and below; but have no canine-teeth. Their feet have claws, and are formed both for bounding and running. They feed on vegetables.—The genera are the Porcupine, Cavy, Beaver, Rat, Marmot, Squirrel, Dormouse, Jerboa, Hare, and Hyrax.
⁕2 Linn. Gmel. i. 178.
As the author says, porcupines have nothing to do with hedgehogs. They are rodents, in the same infraorder as many New World rodents such as chinchillas, capybaras and guinea pigs. Old World and New World porcupines are different families within this group.
[Footnote] The Linnæan Order Glires
[Now known as rodents. In some systems, the name Glires (“dormice”) has been revived as a superorder to rodents and lagomorphs (hares and rabbits), which were classified as rodents until recently.]
[Footnote] The genera are the Porcupine, Cavy, Beaver, Rat, Marmot, Squirrel, Dormouse, Jerboa, Hare, and Hyrax.
[Apart from lagomorphs and hyraxes—famously the elephant’s closest relatives—everything on the list is still a rodent. Today the various groups range from suborder to genus; in some areas you will even find Tribes (in the modern taxonomic sense).]
The general length of the Common Porcupine, is about two feet and a half from the head to the end of the tail. The upper parts of the body are covered with hard and sharp spines, some of which I.406 measure from nine to fifteen inches in length. These are variegated with alternate black and white rings; and as some of them are attached to the skin only by a delicate pedicle, they easily fall off. They are formed of complete quills, wanting only the vane to be real feathers. The animal has the power of elevating or depressing them at will; and when he walks, they (particularly those about the tail) make a rattling noise, by striking against each other⁕1. The head, belly, and legs, are covered with strong dusky bristles, intermixed with softer hairs: on the top of the head, these are very long; and curved backwards, somewhat like a ruff or crest.
This animal is a native of Africa, India, and the Indian Islands; and is said sometimes to be found even in Italy and Sicily. It inhabits subterraneous retreats: which it is said to form into several compartments; leaving two holes, one for an entrance, and the other, in case of necessity, to retreat by. It sleeps during the day time and makes its excursions for food (which consists principally of fruits, roots, and vegetables) in the night. Although able to support hunger for a great length of time, and apparently without inconvenience, it always eats with a voracious appetite. In the gardens near the Cape of Good Hope, these creatures do much damage. When they have once made a path through a fence, they always enter by the same so long as it continues open; and this gives the inhabitants an opportunity of destroying them. When a breach is discovered, I.407 they place a loaded gun in such a manner that the muzzle will be near the animal’s breast when he is devouring a carrot or turnip, that is connected by a string with the trigger⁕2.—The teeth are very sharp and strong. M. Bosman, when on the coast of Guinea, put a Porcupine into a strong tub, in order to secure him; but, in the course of one night, he ate his way through the staves, even in a place where they were considerably bent outwards, and escaped⁕3.
In its manners, the Common Porcupine is very harmless and inoffensive, never itself becoming the aggressor; and, when pursued, it climbs the first tree it can reach, where it remains till the patience of its adversary is exhausted. If, however, it is roused to self-defence, even the Lion dares not venture to attack it⁕4.
The late Sir Ashton Lever had a live Porcupine; which he frequently turned out on the grass behind his house, to play with a tame Hunting Leopard, and a large Newfoundland Dog. As soon as they were let loose, the Leopard and Dog began to pursue the Porcupine, who always at first endeavoured to escape by flight: but, on finding that ineffectual, he would thrust his head into some corner, making a snorting noise, and erecting his spines; with which his pursuers pricked their noses, till they quarrelled between themselves, and thus gave him an opportunity to escape⁕5.
It has been asserted by many credulous travellers, I.408 that the Porcupines, when much provoked, dart their quills at the object by which they are enraged. This opinion, however, has been fully refuted by many accurate naturalists, who have taken pains to inquire into the matter. The usual method of defence adopted by these animals, is to recline themselves on one side; and, on the approach of their enemy, to rise up quickly, and gore him with the erected prickles of their other side. It is also said, that when the Porcupine meets with serpents, against whom he carries on a perpetual war, he closes himself up like a ball, concealing his head and feet, and then rolls upon and kills them with his bristles, without running any risk of being wounded himself⁕6.—M. Le Vaillant says, that, owing to some pernicious quality in the quills, one of his Hottentots, who had received a wound in the leg from a Porcupine, was ill for more than six months. He also informs us, that a Gentleman, at the Cape, in teazing one of these animals, received a wound in the leg, which nearly occasioned his loss of the limb; and notwithstanding every possible care, he suffered severely from it for above four months, during one of which he was confined to his bed⁕7.
When the animal is moulting, or casting its quills, it sometimes shakes them off with so much force, that they will fly to the distance of a few yards, and even bend their points against any hard substance they happen to strike.—It may have been this circumstance which gave rise to the report of its I.409 darting its quills against an enemy.—Claudian is the most ancient writer that has been cited for that strange opinion. The following is a translation of his lines:
Arm’d at all points, in Nature’s guardian mail,
See the stout Porcupine his foes assail;
And, urg’d to fight, the ready weapons throw,
Himself at once the quiver, dart, and bow.
The female goes with young about seven months; and produces one or two at a birth, which she suckles about a month. These she defends with the utmost resolution against all assailants, and will rather be killed than suffer herself to be deprived of them.—If taken early, it is said, Porcupines may be easily tamed.
In their stomachs, Bezoar-stones are frequently found. These are composed of a very fine hair, which has concreted with the juices of the stomach: they have one layer over another, so that they consist of several rings of different colours. Professor Thunberg says, he has seen them as large as a Hen’s egg, and that they are generally blunt at one end; but one that he saw was as big as a Goose’s egg, was of a brown colour, and perfectly globular⁕8.
The quills of the Porcupine are used by the Indians, to adorn many curious articles that they make; the neatness and elegance of which would not disgrace more enlightened artists. They dye them of various beautiful colours, cut them into I.410 slips, and embroider with them their baskets, belts, &c. in a great variety of ornamental figures⁕9.—The flesh is said to be excellent eating, and is frequently introduced at the politest tables at the Cape⁕10. According to Kolben, it is better when hanged a day or two in the chimney.
⁕ Synonyms.—Hystrix Cristata. Linn.—Crested Porcupine. Pennant.—Porc-epic. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 122.—Bew. Quad. 444.
⁕1 Buff. Quad. vii. 75.
⁕2 Kolben ii. 119.
⁕3 Bosman, 237.
⁕6 Shaw, ii.
⁕7 Vaillant’s Travels, i. 321.
⁕8 Thunberg, iv. 233.
⁕10 Vaillant, i. 321.
Linnaeus’s genus gave its name to the whole cascade: suborder Hystricomorpha, infraorder Hystricognathi, family Hystricidae, and finally genus Hystrix, of which Hystrix cristata is the North African crested porcupine. New World porcupines are a different family, Erethizontidae, featuring genus Erethizon (“provoking”).
The quills of the Porcupine are used by the Indians
[Not the quills of Hystrix cristata, though. North American porcupines, Erethizon dorsatum, are not just a different genus but a different family.]
Although Porcupines, in their general manners, are very harmless and inoffensive animals, yet they appear to have no particular attachment to their keeper. They will eat bread or roots out of his hand, or suffer him to lead them about by a string fastened to their collar. One that was in the Tower would even allow its keeper to take it up under his arm: to do this without wounding himself with its quills, required however considerable dexterity, since it was first necessary to close these to the animal’s body, by sweeping his arm along the direction in which they grew.
These animals usually sleep in the day, and become awake and active towards evening. Very little food will support them, and they are never known to drink. They gnaw the wood-work of their dens so much, that if there was not much iron about them they would soon escape, even from the strongest places.
Whenever they are irritated or offended they stamp forcibly on the ground with their hind-feet, somewhat in the manner of Rabbets. In this act they [I.501] shake all their quills, but more particularly those about the tail; and at the same time exert their voice, which is a kind of grunting noise.—The keeper informs me, that whenever a Porcupine attempts to injure any person who disturbs him in his cage, he turns round and runs backward upon him. This seems by no means improbable, since the direction of the quills is from the fore-part backward, and by this act alone he is enabled to act seriously on the offensive.
it was first necessary to close [the quills] to the animal’s body, by sweeping his arm along the direction in which they grew
[Exactly the same principle as grasping a nettle, in fact.]
These animals were arranged by Linnæus along with the mice; but that tribe having been thought much too extensive, and comprehending many animals that differed very materially both in form and habit, it was at length thought necessary to arrange the Cavies under a separate head; distinguishing them by the structure of their feet, the proportion of their limbs, &c. the teeth being nearly the same in all.—They have in each jaw two wedge-shaped front-teeth, and eight grinders. They have likewise four or five toes on the fore feet, and from three to five on the hinder. The tail is either very short, or altogether wanting. And they have no collar bones⁕1.
They seem to hold a middle place between the murine quadrupeds and the Hares. Nearly all the species, which are seven in number, have a slow, and some of them a leaping pace. Their habitations are burrows; which they form beneath the roots of trees, or in the ground. They live entirely on vegetable food, and are all natives of America: I.411 two or three of the species, however, are found also on the Old Continent.
⁕1 Linn. Gmel. i. 120.
Cavies are subfamily Caviinae, family Caviidae, within the same Hystricognathi infraorder as porcupines. (Capybaras are another subfamily in the same family.)
a middle place between the murine quadrupeds and the Hares
[There have been occasional attempts to put cavies in an order of their own, like the lagomorphs.]
the species, which are seven in number
[William, we’ve talked about these rash assertions before. And why is it always exactly seven?]
Few foreign quadrupeds are more generally known by us than this. It is a native of Brazil. In a state of domestication (for its habits and manners as a wild animal are mentioned in none of the accounts that I have been able to consult) it feeds on bread or grain, fruit, and other vegetable substances, but it gives a decided preference to parsley.—This little creature is easily rendered tame, and is very cleanly and harmless. In its disposition, it is timid: and it appears totally void of attachment, not only to its benefactors, but even to its own young; which it will suffer to be taken away, and even devoured, without discovering the least concern, or attempting resistance.
When kept in a room, it seldom crosses the floor, but generally creeps round by the wall. Its motions are, in a great measure, similar to the Rabbet: it strokes its head with its fore feet, and sits on its hind legs, like that animal. The male usually compels the female to go before him, and follows exactly in her footsteps. They are fond of dark and intricate retreats, and seldom venture out when danger is near. When about to quit their hiding places, they spring I.412 forward to the entrance; stop to listen and look round; and if the road is clear, they sally forth in search of food; but on the least alarm they run instantly back again.
In their habits, they are so exceedingly clean, that if the young, by any accident, are dirtied, the female takes such a dislike to them, as never again to suffer them to approach her. They may frequently be observed in the act of smoothing and dressing their fur, somewhat in the manner of a Cat. The principal employments of the male and female, seem to consist in smoothing each other’s hair: after this office has been mutually performed, they turn their attention to the young, whose hair they take particular care to keep unruffled and even; and they bite them, whenever they are in the least refractory.
They repose flat on their belly; but, like the Dog, turn several times round before they lie down. They sleep with their eyes half-open, and are very watchful. It is observed, that the male and female seldom sleep at the same time, but seem alternately to watch each other. They are exceedingly delicate, and impatient of cold or moisture. Their usual voice is a kind of grunting, like a young Pig; but their notes of pain are shrill and piercing.
Their manner of fighting is very singular, and seems extremely ridiculous. One of them seizes the neck of its antagonist with its teeth, and attempts to tear the hair from it. In the mean time, the other turns his posteriors to his enemy, kicks up behind like a horse, and, by way of retaliation, scratches the sides of his opponent with his hinder I.413 claws, in such a manner that both are frequently covered with blood⁕1.
The female goes with young about five weeks, and breeds pretty nearly every two months. Though furnished with only two teats, she usually produces three or four, and sometimes so many as twelve, at a birth. And as the young have been known to breed when only two months old, the produce of a single pair may amount to upwards of a thousand in the year.—In the space of twelve hours after their birth, the young ones are able to run about with as much agility as their parents.
⁕ Synonyms.— Cobaya. Linn. Gmel.—Mus Porcellus. Linn. Syst. Nat. Ed. xii.—Cochon d’Inde. Buffon.—Restless Cavy. Penn.—Guinea Pig. Edwards.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 126.—Bew. Quad. 345.
⁕1 Church’s Cabinet of Quadrupeds.
Bingley forgot to list Shaw’s name, Variegated Cavy, among the synonyms. As noted in the general introduction to the Cavy Tribe, Linnaeus originally put it in genus Mus, but it was subsequently reclassified. The guinea pig is now Cavia porcellus (“cavy piglet”). There are at least six species in the genus, but none of them is currently called C. cobaya.
[Synonyms] Cavia Cobaya
text has Cavi
Of the present tribe, there are but two species that have been hitherto discovered, the Common and the Chili Beavers; and even of these, it seems doubtful whether the latter ought not to be arranged with the Otters.
The Beavers have the front teeth in their upper-jaw truncated, and excavated with a transverse angle; and those of the lower jaw are transverse at the tips. There are four grinders on each side. The tail is long, depressed, and scaly; and there are collar bones in the skeleton⁕1.
⁕1 Linn. Gmel. i. 124.
Beavers, genus Castor, are the flagship of family Castoridae and suborder Castorimorpha. The genus currently contains two species: C. fiber, the Eurasian beaver, and C. canadensis, the American beaver.
Bingley’s “Chili Beaver” is further identified in Shaw as, among other things, Guillino. This alternative name led me to the coypu or nutria, Myocastor coypus. Although it is not exactly a beaver, it is definitely not an otter; it is more closely related to porcupines and cavies.
there are but two species that have been hitherto discovered
[Whew. Got it right, finally: “hitherto discovered”.]
The Beaver is a native of most of the northern parts of Europe and Asia, but is principally found in North America. There is some reason to suppose that it was once an inhabitant of Great Britain: for Giraldus Cambrensis says that these animals frequented the river Tievi in Cardiganshire, and that they had, from the Welsh, a name, signifying “the Broad-tailed animals.” Their skins were valued by the laws of Howel Dda, in the tenth century, at the great sum of a hundred and twenty pence each; and they seem to have constituted the chief finery and luxury of those days.
The general length of the Beaver is about three feet. The tail is oval, nearly a foot long, and compressed horizontally, but rising into a convexity on its upper surface: it is perfectly destitute of hair, except at the base, and is marked out into scaly divisions, like the skin of a fish. The hair is very fine, smooth, glossy, and of chesnut colour, varying sometimes to black; and instances have occurred, in which these animals have been found white, cream-coloured, or spotted. The ears are short, and almost hidden in the fur.
No other quadrupeds seem to possess so great a degree of natural sagacity as the Beavers. Yet when I.415 we consider that their history, as hitherto given to mankind, has been principally taken from the reports of the Beaver-hunters—whose object it is, not to study the nature or manners of the animals, but merely to seize them as articles of commerce; and whose accounts are often in themselves contradictory—it is necessary that we should not give implicit faith to every thing that has been written even by the most respectable authors concerning them, where these authors have not themselves witnessed the facts they relate.—Captain George Cartwright, who resided above fourteen years on the coast of Labrador, in order to collect the different furs of that dreary climate, saw more of the manners of the Beaver, than nearly all other writers whatever. To his work, therefore, and to that of M. Du Pratz, who in Louisiana was an eye-witness to their labours, I have principally had recourse, in endeavouring to give to the reader as faithful an account as possible of these wonderful animals.
“The front teeth of the Beavers,” says Capt. Cartwright, “are very strong, and well adapted to the purpose of gnawing wood. They feed on leaves and the bark of trees; and when they eat, they sit upright, and carry the food to their mouth, in the same manner as the Squirrel The French naturalist, singularly enough, asserts, that “the Beaver has a scaly tail, because he eats fish.” Mr. Cartwright pleasantly observes, “I wonder M. de Buffon has not one himself, for the same reason; for I am sure he has eaten a great deal more fish than all the Beavers in the world put together.” The I.416 fact seems to be, that Beavers subsist wholly on vegetable substances, and that they will eat no animal food whatever⁕1.
The Beavers generally live in associated communities, of two or three hundred; inhabiting dwellings which they raise to the height of six or eight feet above the water. They select, if possible, a large pond; in which they raise their houses on piles, forming them either of a circular or oval shape, with arched tops, thus giving them, on the outside, the appearance of a dome, while they within somewhat resemble an oven. The number of houses is, in general, from ten to thirty. If the animals cannot find a pond to their liking, they fix on some flat piece of ground, with a stream running through it. In making this a suitable place for their habitations, a degree of sagacity and intelligence, of intention and memory, is exhibited, approaching in an extraordinary degree to the faculties of the human race.
The first object is, to form a dam. To do this, it is necessary that they should stop the stream, and of course that they should know in which direction it runs. This seems a very wonderful exertion of intellect; for they always do it in the most favourable place for their purpose, and never begin at a wrong part. They drive stakes, five or six feet long, into the ground, in different rows, and interweave them I.417 with branches of trees; filling them up with clay, stones, and sand; which they ram so firmly down, that though the dams are frequently a hundred feet long, Capt. Cartwright says, he has walked over them with the greatest safety. These are ten or twelve feet thick at the base; gradually diminishing towards the top, which is seldom more than two or three feet across. They are exactly level from end to end; perpendicular towards the stream; and sloped on the outside, where grass soon grows, and renders the earth more united.
The houses are constructed with the utmost ingenuity; of earth, stones, and sticks, cemented together, and plastered in the inside with surprising neatness. The walls are about two feet thick; and the floors so much higher than the surface of the water, as always to prevent them from being flooded. Some of the houses have only one floor; others have three⁕2. The number of Beavers in each house is from two to thirty. These sleep on the floor, which is strewed with leaves and moss; and each individual is said to have its own place. When they form a new settlement, they begin to build their houses in the summer; and it costs them a whole season to finish the work, and lay in their winter provisions,—consisting principally of bark and the tender branches of trees, cut into certain lengths, and piled in heaps under the water⁕3.I.418
The houses have each no more than one opening⁕4; which is under the water, and always below the thickness of the ice. By this means they are secured from the effects of frost.
The Beavers seldom quit their residence unless they are disturbed, or their provisions fail. When they have continued in the same place three or four years, they frequently erect a new house annually; but sometimes merely repair their old one. It often happens that they build a new house so close to the old, that they cut a communication from one to the other; and this may have given rise to the idea of their having several apartments. When their houses are completely finished, they still carry on fresh works: nor do they desist even when the pond is frozen over; but continue their employment for some nights after, (if the frost is not too severe,) through a hole in the ice, which they keep open for the purpose.
During the summer, they forsake their houses, and ramble about from place to place; sleeping under the covert of bushes, near the water-side. On the least noise, they betake themselves into the water for security: and they have sentinels, who, by a certain cry, give notice of the approach of danger. In the winter they never stir out, except to their magazines under the water; and during that season, they become excessively fat.
In one of his excursions into the Northern parts of Louisiana, M. Du Pratz gives us an account of I.419 a colony of Beavers, to many of whose operations he was himself a witness. This is in some respects contradictory to that of Captain Cartwright; I have therefore no alternative but to give the sense of the writer, and leave the matter undecided⁕5.
At the head of one of the rivers of Louisiana, in a very retired place, M. Du Pratz found a Beaver dam. Not far from it, but hidden from the sight of the animals, he and his companions erected their hut, in order to watch the operations at leisure. They waited till the moon shone pretty bright; and then, carrying branches of trees in their front to conceal themselves, they went with great care and silence to the dam. Du Pratz ordered one of the men to cut, as silently as possible, a gutter, about a foot wide, through it; and retire immediately to the hiding place.
“As soon as the water through the gutter began to make a noise, (says our writer,) we heard a Beaver come from one of the huts and plunge in. We saw him get upon the bank, and clearly perceived that he examined it. He then, with all his force, gave four distinct blows with his tail; when immediately the whole colony threw themselves into the water, and arrived upon the dam. When they were all assembled, one of them appeared, by muttering, to issue some kind of orders; for they all instantly I.420 left the place, and went out on the banks of the pond in different directions. Those nearest to us were between our station and the dam, and therefore we could observe their operations very plainly. Some of them formed a substance resembling a kind of mortar; others carried this on their tails, which served as sledges for the purpose. I observed that they put themselves two and two, and that each of a couple loaded his fellow. They trailed the mortar, which was pretty stiff, quite to the dam, where others were stationed to take it; these put it into the gutter, and rammed it down with blows of their tails.
“The noise of the water soon ceased, and the breach was completely repaired. One of the Beavers then struck two blows with his tail; and instantly they all took to the water without any noise, and disappeared.”
M. Du Pratz and his companions afterwards retired to their hut to rest, and did not again disturb these industrious animals till the next day. In the morning, however, they went together to the dam, to see its construction; for which purpose it was necessary that they should cut part of it down. The depression of the water in consequence of this, together with the noise they made, roused the Beavers again. The animals seemed much disturbed by these exertions; and one of them in particular was observed several times to come pretty near the labourers, as if to examine what passed.—As M. Du Pratz apprehended that they might run into the woods, if I.421 farther disturbed, he advised his companions again to conceal themselves.
“One of the Beavers then ventured (continues our observer) to go upon the breach, after having several times approached and returned like a spy. He surveyed the place; and then struck four blows, as he did the preceding evening, with his tail. One of those that were going to work, passed close by me; and as I wanted a specimen to examine, I shot him. The noise of the gun made them all scamper off with greater speed than a hundred blows of the tail of their overseer could have done.”—By firing at them several times afterwards, they were compelled to run with precipitation into the woods. M. Du Pratz then examined their habitations.
Under one of the houses he found fifteen pieces of wood; with the bark in part gnawed off, apparently intended for food. And round the middle of this house, which formed a passage for them to go in and out at, he found no less than fifteen different cells.—These habitations were made by posts fixed, slanting upwards to a point; and in the middle was the floor, resting firmly on notches in the posts⁕6.
Notwithstanding all the sagacity and the extensive reasoning faculties of mankind, how often do we see their best-formed plans, their most dear and favorite contrivances fail, through some unlooked for event! We cannot then surely be surprised, when we are told, (as we are by one writer, in order I.422 to lessen our opinion of the sagacity of these animals), that a community of Beavers has in one or two instances been starved to death, in consequence of a failure of provisions, or some want of foresight in fixing upon a spot that was found not to contain sufficient food to support them: or that they have sometimes established their colony in a flat situation, where a sudden thaw has swelled the water to such a height as to flood the whole place, wash away their food, and thus destroy them. To suppose them capable of judging of probabilities to so great an extent, would be to rank them in intellect with Man. We must rather be astonished at the operations that we see them perform, than seek for them any higher situation than that in which they are placed.
Beavers bring forth their young towards the end of June; and generally have two at a time, which are, in nine instances out of ten, a male and a female. These continue with their parents till they are full three years old; when they pair off, and form houses for themselves. If, however, they are undisturbed, and have plenty of provisions, they remain with the old ones, and thus form a double society⁕7.
We cannot wonder that such sociable animals as the Beavers are, should also exhibit great attachment to each other. Two young ones that were taken alive, and brought to a neighbouring factory in Hudson’s Bay, were preserved for some time, and throve very fast, till one of them was killed by an accident. The survivor instantly felt the loss, and I.423 starved itself to death by voluntarily abstaining from food⁕8.
Instances have occurred of Beavers having been perfectly domesticated. Major Roderfort, of New York, related to Professor Kalm, that he had a tame Beaver above half a year in his house, where he went about, quite loose, like a Dog. The Major gave him bread; and sometimes fish, of which he was very greedy⁕9. As much water was put into a bowl as he wanted. All the rags and soft things he could meet with he dragged into the corner where he was accustomed to sleep, and made a bed of them. The Cat in the house, having kittens, took possession of his bed; and he did not attempt to prevent her. When the Cat went out, the Beaver often took the Kitten between his fore paws, and held it to his breast to warm it, and seemed to doat upon it; as soon as the Cat returned, he always restored to her the Kitten. Sometimes he grumbled; but never attempted to bite⁕10.
The skin of the Beaver has hair of two kinds: the lower, immediately next to the hide, is short, implicated together, and as fine as down; the upper hair grows more sparingly, and is both thicker and longer. The is of little value; but the flix or down is wrought into hats, stockings, caps, and other articles of dress:I.424
The Beaver’s flix
Gives kindliest warmth to weak enervate limbs,
When the pale blood slow rises through the veins.
The hunters prefer the winter season for seeking out the habitations of the Beavers. They stop up the entrance to these, on the side next the water, with stakes; and enlarge the vent-hole, which they find on the land side: this is done for the purpose of putting through it a Dog, who is so trained that he holds the Beaver with his teeth, and suffers himself to be drawn out by the hind-legs⁕11. The Indians about Hudson’s Bay first drain off the water of the dam, and then, covering the houses with nets, break in at the top; on which the affrighted Beavers running through the door to escape, become entangled in the meshes. The hunters immediately seize and skin them⁕12.
In some parts of Lapland, Beavers are caught in traps made of the twigs of fir-trees. The top of these the hunters fasten with a small branch of poplar, of which the animals are very fond. The Beaver gnaws away this fastening, is let down, and caught. But it is remarked, that wherever two have been together, the one has always set the other at liberty⁕13.
Beavers’ skins form a very considerable article of commerce, both with the northern countries of Europe and with America. Above fifty-four thousand I.425 have been sold by the Hudson’s Bay Company at one sale: and in the year 1798, a hundred and six thousand skins were collected in Canada and sent into Europe and China⁕14. Those of a black colour are preferred; and such as are taken during winter; especially if they have been worn for some time by the Indians, by which the long hairs fall off, leaving the fine downy fur perfectly free, and better fitted for every purpose of manufacture⁕15. A good skin will weigh about two pounds.
The medicinal substance called castor, is produced in the inguinal glands of these animals; and each individual, both male and female, has usually about two ounces. That produced by the Russian Beavers is more valuable, and sells at a much higher price, than what is imported from America⁕16.—The flesh is good eating. It is usually preserved (the bones being first taken out) by drying it in the smoke.
It frequently happens that single Beavers live by themselves in holes, which they make in the banks of rivers, considerably under the surface of the water, working their way upward to the height of many feet. These are called by the hunters Hermits, or Terriers. Like the rest, they lay up a store of provisions for the winter. It is supposed by Capt. Cartwright, that their separation from society originates in attachment and fidelity; that, having, I.426 by some accident lost their mate, they will not readily pair again. Whatever may be the causes, it has been remarked, that they have invariably a black mark on the skin of their backs; which is called a saddle, and by which they are easily distinguished from the others.
Their motions on land are very slow; and, being timid animals, they are easily killed, though possessing teeth so sharp and strong as to enable them to make a stout resistance. If they happen to be met on a shore by a Man, they sit down, and cry like a child⁕17.
⁕ Synonyms.—Castor Fiber. Linn.—Fiber. Belon.—Castor Beaver. Penn.—Castor. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 128.—Bew. Quad. 383.
⁕1 The faculty of medicine at Paris juridically declared the Beaver to be a fish; and as such it was, in consequence, declared lawful to be eaten on maigre days. Charlevoix says, it has been placed in the same class with Mackrel. Vol. i. 154.
⁕2 Du Pratz says, that in one he examined, he found no fewer than fifteen different cells.
⁕3 The Indians observe the quantity that the Beavers lay up; as a guide in judging what will be the mildness or severity of the approaching season.
⁕5 Du Pratz was settled sixteen years as a planter in Louisiana, and therefore must have had sufficient means of ascertaining the manners of these animals.
⁕6 Du Pratz, 142-147.
⁕8 Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 104.
⁕9 This is contrary to the assertion of Capt. Cartwright, who says that they live only on vegetables.
⁕10 Kalm, ii. 60.
⁕11 Tooke. This account too differs from that of Capt. Cartwright; who says they have only one hole for entrance, and that is from the water.
⁕12 Ellis, 161.
⁕13 Scheffer, 236.
⁕14 Mackenzie’s Travels, p. xxv.
⁕15 These skins are called green Beavers: the others dry Beavers.
⁕16 Kerr, i. 221.
Castor fiber (“beaver beaver” in two languages) is the Eurasian beaver; the American beaver is Castor canadensis.
in the same manner as the Squirrel tribe.”
close quote missing
the Northern parts of Louisiana
[Not, as you might reasonably think, the far reaches of the Louisiana territory; Du Pratz was a colonist, not an explorer. He lived in what is now central Louisiana and was then the domain of the Natchez Indians.]
M. Du Pratz gives us an account . . . in some respects contradictory to that of Captain Cartwright
[Du Pratz’s territory (modern Louisiana) is about as far from Cartwright’s (coastal Labrador) as England is from the Near East. There is plenty of room for both observers to be correct. I’ll pass on the beaver’s muttered orders, though.]
The latter is of little value
text has former
[Corrected from 1st edition. This was an odd error to introduce, but the meaning is pretty unambiguous: it was the beaver’s down or inner hair that was made into felt for the once-popular beaver hat.]
The Beaver’s flix
[John Dyer, The Fleece. Nope, I’d never heard of it either. John Dyer (1699–1758) was born in Wales, originally trained as an attorney, later worked as a painter—which took him to Rome—and ended up taking orders fairly late in life. In those pre-Clergy Residence Act days, he seems to have made a pretty comfortable living at it. The book-length poem The Fleece came out in 1757, the year before he died. And yes, it is all about sheep and shepherding.]
There are at present in the upper room at Exeter ’Change two male Beavers, which have been there about three years. They are very tame, and will suffer themselves to be handled by the visitors, but most persons are alarmed on approaching them by the animals’ uttering their small and plaintive cry. This noise they also frequently emit during their play with each other. They are at times exceedingly gay and frolicsome, wrestling and playing with each other, as far as the limits of their small apartment will admit. They often sit upright to look about them, or sometimes to eat; and, if any thing moveable be given them to play with, they drag it about, and seem highly pleased with it. They have in no instance been observed to drag any thing about on their tails, or to make any attempts to do so. In all their manners these animals are extremely cleanly. [I.502] They are fed with the bark of trees, and on bread; and such is their propensity to gnaw wood, that it is by no means safe, notwithstanding the natural gentleness of their disposition, to allow them the full range of a room, for they would soon eat their way out, and escape.
⁕1 See vol. i. p. 413.
This tribe contains all those animals which go under the denomination of Murine Quadrupeds; and, although the term Rat has been adopted, it includes not only the species that we know by the peculiar name of Rats, but also the Mice, and others called Beaver-rats.
These animals, in general, live in holes in the ground; and are very swift, and able to climb trees. Their food is chiefly vegetable; which most of them seek in the night, keeping in their retreats during the day. They feed in a somewhat upright position, carrying the food to their mouth in their fore-paws. They are very prolific.I.427
The front-teeth are wedge-shaped. There are generally three grinders on each side, but sometimes only two. All the species have clavicles, or collar-bones, in the skeleton⁕1.
⁕1 Linn. Gmel. i. 125.
Rats are genus Rattus and mice are genus Mus—some of them, anyway—and never the twain shall meet. They’re awfully close, though; both are in subfamily Murinae in family Muridae, superfamily Muroidea and finally suborder Myomorpha (“mouse-type things”), which encompasses rats, mice, gerbils, jerboas—and even muskrats.
Pictured is the Striped Mouse from Shaw’s Miscellany. Although not mentioned in Bingley, it was too cute to omit. Besides, it is not every day you meet a rodent that still has the exact binomial Linnaeus gave it: Mus striatus, formally the Typical Striped Grass Mouse.
This animal is about the size of a small Rabbet.—Its head is thick and short, and somewhat resembles that of the Water-rat. The eyes are large; the ears short, rounded, and covered both inside and outside with hair. Its fur is soft, glossy, and of a reddish-brown colour; and beneath this is a much finer fur, or thick down, which is very useful in the manufacture of hats. The tail is flattened laterally, and covered with scales.
Musk-rats are found in America, from Hudson’s Bay as far south as Carolina.—In the general form of their body, as well as in many of their habits, they bear a considerable resemblance to the Beaver. They construct their habitation of dry plants, but particularly of reeds, cement it with clay, and cover it with a dome. At the bottom and sides of this there are several pipes, through which they pass in search of food; for they lay up no provisions for winter. They have also subterraneous passages, into I.428 which they retreat whenever their houses are attacked.
Their habitations, which are intended only for the winter, are rebuilt annually. At the approach of this season they begin to construct them, as places of retirement from the inclemencies of the weather. Several families occupy the same dwelling, which is frequently covered many feet deep with snow and ice; the animals, notwithstanding, contrive to creep out, and feed on the roots that are also buried beneath. They feed too on the fresh-water muscles; and, when the season permits it, on fruit. Kalm, in his American Travels, says that apples are used as baits for them in traps. In winter, the male and female are seldom seen far from each other⁕1.
During the summer they wander about, generally in pairs, feeding voraciously on herbs and roots. They walk and run in an awkward manner, like the Beaver; and cannot swim well, their feet being unfurnished with webs⁕2.
The Musk-rats, as well as the Beavers, seem to have their Drones or Terriers, which are at no trouble in the common operation of building houses. These burrow like Water-rats, in banks adjacent to lakes, rivers, and ditches; and often do much damage by admitting the water through the embankments of meadows.
They are remarkable for a strong smell: whence they have their specific name.—Their nests are formed of sticks, lined on the inside with some I.429 soft materials; and they bring forth from three to six young ones at a time. When taken young, they are easily tamed; they are then very playful and inoffensive, and never bite.
The flesh is sometimes eaten; and the fur is used in the manufacture of hats⁕3.
⁕ Synonyms.—Mus Zibethicus. Linn. Gmel.—Castor Zibethicus. Linn. Ed. xii.—Ondatra, or Canadian Musk-rat. Sm. Buff.—Musk-beaver. Penn.—Musquash. Kerr.—Musk-rat. La Hontan.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 129.—Bew. Quad. 381.
⁕1 Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 107.
⁕2 Shaw, ii.
⁕3 Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 107. See also Charlevoix, Amer. i. 168.
Linnaeus seems to have been unsure whether the muskrat is a rat (genus Mus) or a beaver (genus Castor). Its current name is Ondatra zibethicus; it is a close relative of lemmings and voles (subfamily Arvicolinae), a slightly less close relative of hamsters (family Cricetidae), and a still less close relative of mice and rats (superfamily Muroidea). Its only connection to beavers is that they’re all rodents.
They feed too on the fresh-water muscles;
[Bingley uses this spelling consistently; we will meet it again in Volume III when we get to mollusks.]
They are remarkable for a strong musky smell
text has muksy
The Brown and the Black Rat are both of them species much too well known in most countries where they are found at all. The former, however, which was first introduced among us from Norway, has greatly diminished the number of the others; but has itself so excessively, and is so very strong and voracious, as to form no acceptable substitute.
In Ireland these Rats have very nearly destroyed even the whole race of Frogs; which the inhabitants were somewhat anxious to preserve, in order to clear their fields of insects, and render their waters more healthful. While the Frogs continued in great numbers, the Rats also multiplied; but since the latter are deprived of this considerable part of their subsistence, they also are become much less numerous⁕1.
During summer, they reside chiefly in holes on I.430 the banks of rivers, ditches, and ponds; but on the approach of winter they come to the farm-houses, and enter the corn-ricks and barns, where they devour much of the corn, but damage infinitely more than they eat. They have haunts in the walls and about the floors of old houses, where they frequently destroy the furniture; and they have even been known to gnaw the extremities of infants while asleep. They are also excessively destructive to eggs, poultry, pigeons, rabbets, and game of every description. They swim with ease, and even dive after fish.
Their produce is enormous; as they bring from ten to twenty at a litter, and this thrice a-year. Thus, their astonishing increase is such, that it is possible for the descendants of a single pair (supposing food to be sufficiently plentiful, and that they had no enemies to lessen their numbers) to amount at the end of about two years, to upwards of a million. But this baneful increase is counteracted, not only by numerous enemies among the other animals, but by their destroying and eating each other. A large and strong Rat is as much dreaded by its own species, as the whole species is dreaded by other creatures that are their prey. Thus has Providence kindly interfered in keeping them within due bounds.
Dogs and Cats destroy, but do not eat them. The Weesel is in perpetual enmity with them; and will pursue them into their holes, and fight with them there. This little creature endeavours to fix itself on their bodies, and suck their blood; which I.431 it very often effects. They are, however, so bold as to attack a small Dog, seize him by the mouth, and holding fast there, they make a wound very difficult to be healed on account of its depth and laceration.
In the Isle of France, Rats are found in such prodigious swarms, that it is said the place was entirely abandoned by the Dutch on account of their number. In some of the houses they are so numerous, that 30,000 have been known to be killed in a year. They make immense hoards under ground both of corn and fruit; and climb up the trees to devour the young birds. They pierce the very thickest rafters. At sun-set they may be seen running about in all directions; and in a single night they will frequently destroy a whole crop of corn. M. de Saint Pierre says, he has seen a field of maize, in which they had not left a single ear. They are supposed to have been originally brought to that island in some of the European vessels.
On the return of the Valiant man of war from the Havannah, in the year 1766, its Rats had increased to such a degree, that they destroyed a hundred-weight of biscuit daily. The ship was at length smoked between decks, in order to suffocate them: which had the desired effect; and six hampers were, for some time, filled every day, with the Rats that had thus been killed⁕2.
The following anecdote of a whimsical mode of clearing a house of these troublesome animals, may I.432 be new to many of my readers:—A gentleman travelling through Mecklenburg about thirty years ago, was witness to a very singular circumstance in the post-house at New Hargard. After dinner, the landlord placed on the floor a large dish of soup, and gave a loud whistle. Immediately there came into the room a mastiff, a fine Angora Cat, an old Raven, and a remarkably large Rat with a bell about its neck. They all four went to the dish, and, without disturbing each other, fed together; after which the Dog, Cat, and Rat, lay before the fire, while the Raven hopped about the room. The landlord, after accounting for the familiarity which existed among these animals, informed his guest that the Rat was the most useful of the four; for the noise he made had completely freed the house from the Rats and Mice with which it was before infested.
Pontoppidan says, that a short time previous to a fire, all the Rats and Mice that are in a house will instinctively forsake it!
Some of the Japanese tame these Rats, and teach them to perform many entertaining tricks; and, thus instructed, they are exhibited as a show for the diversion of the populace⁕3.
In Egypt, as soon as the Nile, after having fertilized the land, leaves it free for cultivation, multitudes of Rats and Mice are seen to issue in succession from the moistened soil. The Egyptians hence believe that they are generated from the earth itself. Some of those people even assert, and maintain I.433 with the utmost effrontery, that they have seen the Rats in their formation, one half of the bodies flesh, and the other half mud⁕4.
Rats swarm in Otaheite, where they feed on the fruits of the country; and they are there so bold, as even sometimes to attack the natives when asleep. The inhabitants hold them in abhorrence as unclean; and will even avoid killing them, lest they should be polluted by the touch⁕5.
⁕ Synonyms.—Mus decumanus. Linn.—Bandicote. Purchas.—Surmulot. Buffon.—Norway Rat. Brown Rat. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 130.—Bew. Quad. 377.
⁕1 Goldsmith, iv. 63.
⁕2 St. Pierre’s Voyage to the Isle of France, p. 76. and note.
⁕3 Kaempfer, i. 126.
⁕4 Sonnini, iii. 66.
⁕5 Penn. Quad. ii. 438.
Although no longer in genus Mus, rats are still in the Murinae subfamily. Genus Rattus contains dozens upon dozens of species. The brown rat is R. rattus, while the Norway rat—the former Mus decumanus—is R. norvegicus.
has itself multiplied so excessively
text has multipled
They swim with ease
[A fact which seems to have escaped the notice of the creators of the Pied Piper legend.]
the Isle of France
[Mauritius, I think.]
The Field Mouse is well known in all the temperate parts of Europe; where it frequents dry and elevated fields or woods. The general length of its body is about four inches and a half; and the tail is nearly four inches more. Its colour is yellowish brown above, and whitish on the under parts. The eyes are full and black.
These animals are found only in fields and gardens. They live in burrows, a foot or more under ground; where they lay up great quantities of acorns, nuts, and beech-mast. According to Buffon, a bushel of such substances has been sometimes found in a single hole. These habitations are often divided into two apartments; the one for living in with their young, and the other for their provisions.I.434
Often the little Mouse
Illudes our hopes; and, safely lodg’d, below
Hath form’d his granaries.
The nests of these little creatures may be discovered by the small heaps of mould thrown up at the entrance of their runs, which lead by winding paths to their magazine⁕1.
A very remarkable instance of sagacity in this animal, occurred to the Rev. Mr. White one day, as his people were pulling off the lining of a hot-bed, in order to add some fresh dung. From out of the side of this bed, leaped something with great agility, that made a most grotesque figure, and was not without much difficulty taken; when it proved to be a large Field Mouse with three or four young clinging to her teats by their mouths and feet. It was amazing that the desultory and rapid motions of the dam did not oblige her litter to quit their hold, especially when it appeared that they were so young as to be both naked and blind⁕2.
Field Mice are very prolific; breeding more than once a-year, and often producing litters of eight or ten at a time, They generally make the nest for their young very near the surface of the ground, and often in a thick tuft of grass.
⁕ Synonyms.—Mus Sylvaticus. Linn.—Wood Mouse. Shaw.—Long-tailed Field Mouse. Sm. Buff.—Bean Mouse, in some parts of England.—Mulot. Buffon.—Field Mouse. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 132.—Bew. Quad. 388.
⁕1 Trans. of Bath Soc. vol. vi.
⁕2 White’s Selborne.
Like genus Rattus, genus Mus contains dozens of species, even after you strip away the ones Linnaeus classified as Mus that have since been reassigned. When you consider that the Murinae subfamily contains over a hundred genera, you will appreciate that there are a lot of small rodents running around.
Mus sylvaticus is now known as Apodemus sylvaticus, the long-tailed field mouse, representing another of those hundred-plus Murinae genera. We never do get a writeup of Mus musculus (“little mousey”), the “common mouse”.
Often the little Mouse
[Bingley probably cribbed this from Pennant’s British Zoology (1776), where it is identified as a translation of Virgil’s Georgics I.181-182:
saepe exiguus mus
sub terris posuitque domos atque horrea fecit
Unlike the Georgics passage quoted in Volume II, this one isn’t Dryden’s translation. It also doesn’t seem to be Thomas Nevile’s 1767 translation. Did Pennant do it himself?]
The Rev. Gilbert White seems to have been the first who examined this diminutive and slender species I.435 of Mouse, which hitherto appears to have been only found in Hampshire. It is, he says, somewhat of a Squirrel colour; with a white belly having a straight line along the sides, dividing the shades of the back and belly.
One of the nests of these little animals he procured. It was most artificially platted, and composed of the blades of wheat; perfectly round, and about the size of a cricket-ball; with the aperture so ingeniously closed, that there was no discovering to what part it belonged. It was so compact and well filled, that it would roll across the table without being discomposed, though it contained eight young Mice that were naked and blind. As this nest was perfectly full, how could the dam come at her litter respectively so as to administer a teat to each? Perhaps she opens the different places for that purpose, adjusting them again when the business is over; but she could not possibly be contained herself in the ball with her young, which moreover would be daily increasing in bulk. This wonderful proceant cradle, an elegant specimen of the efforts of instinct, was found in a wheat-field, suspended in the of a thistle.
Mr. White remarked, that though the Harvest Mice hang their nests above the ground, yet in winter they burrow deep in the earth, and make warm beds of grass; but their grand rendezvous seems to be in corn-ricks, into which they are carried at harvest.—This gentleman measured some of them; and found that from nose to tail they were two inches and a quarter, and their tails were two inches long. I.436 Two of them in a scale weighed down just one copper halfpenny, about the third of an ounce avoirdupois! whence he supposes them to be the smallest quadrupeds in this island. A full grown domestic Mouse would weigh at least six times as much as one of these⁕1.
⁕ Synonyms.—Mus Messorius. Kerr. Shaw.—Less Long-tailed Field Mouse. Harvest Mouse. Penn.
⁕1 White’s Selborne.
Mus messorius is now Micromys minutus (“teeny-weeny little mouse”), the Eurasian harvest mouse. As rodent genera go, it is an unexpectedly small one, with only a half-dozen or so species.
suspended in the head of a thistle.
“h” in “head” invisible
The Lemmings are inhabitants of the mountains of Norway and Lapland. They vary much both in size and colour; those of Norway being almost equal to Water Rats, while those of Lapland are scarcely as large as Mice. The former are elegantly variegated with black and tawny in the upper parts, having the sides of the head and the under parts white. The legs and tail are greyish; and the under parts of the body a dull white. The head of the Lemming is large, short, and thick. The body is also thick; the neck short, and the limbs stout and strong. The tail is very short.
These animals feed entirely on vegetables. In summer they form shallow burrows under the surface of the ground, and in winter they make long passages under the snow in search of food; for as they lay up no winter store, they are reduced to the necessity of hunting for it during all the rigours of the cold season.I.437
They seem to be endowed with a power distinguishing the approach of severe weather; for before the setting in of a cold winter they leave their haunts in the above countries, and emigrate in immense multitudes southwards towards Sweden, always endeavouring to keep a direct line. These emigrations take place at uncertain intervals, though generally about once every ten years: and, exposed as the travellers are to attack, they of course become the food of all the predacious animals. Multitudes also are destroyed in endeavouring to swim over the rivers or lakes. From these different causes, very few of them live to return to their native mountains; and thus a check is put to their ravages, as an interval of several years is necessary to repair their numbers sufficiently for another invasion. They are bold and fierce, and even will attack men and animals if they meet them in their course; and they bite so hard, as to allow themselves to be to a considerable distance hanging by their teeth, before they will quit their hold⁕1.
If they are disturbed or pursued while swimming over a lake, and their phalanx is separated by oars or poles, they will not recede; but keep swimming directly on, and soon get into regular order again. They have sometimes been known even to endeavour to board or pass over a vessel. This army of Rats moves chiefly by night, or early in the morning; and makes such destruction among the herbage, that the surface of the ground over which I.438 they have passed, appears as if it had been burned. Their numbers have at times induced the common people of Norway to believe that they had descended from the clouds⁕2; and the multitudes that are sometimes found dead on the banks of rivers, or other places, corrupt by their stench the whole atmosphere around, and thus produce many diseases. They are even thought to infect the plants which they gnaw; for cattle turned into pastures where they have been, are said frequently to die in consequence⁕3.
They never enter dwellings, of any description, to do mischief; but always keep in the open air. When enraged, they raise themselves on their hind-feet, and bark like little dogs. Sometimes they divide into two parties, attack each other, and fight like hostile armies. From these battles, the superstitions of the inhabitants of Sweden and Lapland pretend to foretell not only wars, but also their success, I.439 according to the quarters the animals come from, and the side that is defeated⁕4.
The females breed several times in the year, and produce five or six at once. It has been observed, that they have sometimes brought forth during their migrations; and they have been seen carrying some their young in their mouths, and others on their backs.—The flesh of the Lemmings is not used as food. The hair is very fine, but too thick to be of value as a fur.
⁕ Synonyms.—Mus Lemmus. Linn.—Lemmus Rat. Lapland Marmot. Penn. Leming. Buff.—Lemming. Pontoppidan.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 135.—Bew. Quad. 375.
⁕1 Pontoppidan, part ii. 31. Scheffer, 340.
⁕2 Pontoppidan, ii. 32. The following is the form of the exorcism, adopted by the Romish Clergy, to banish these and other plagues from countries infested by them—“Exorcismus. Exorcizo vos pestiferos vermes, mures, aves seu locustas, aut animalia alia; per Deum Patrem † Omnipotentem, et Jesum † Christum filium ejus, et Spiritum † Sanctum ab utroque procedentem: ut confestim recedatis ab his campis, seu vineis, vel aquis, nec amplius in eis habitetis; sed ad ea loca transeatis, in quibus nemini nocere possitis. Et ex parte Omnipotentis Dei, et totius curiæ cœlestis, et Ecclesiæ sanctæ Dei, vos maledicens quocunque ieritis: sitis maledicti, deficientes de die in diem in vos ipsos, et decrescentes; quatenus reliquiæ de vobis nullo in loco inveniantur, nisi necessariæ ad salutem et usum humanum. Quod præstare dignetur Ille, qui venturus est judicare vivos et mortuos et seculum per ignem. Amen.”
⁕3 Buff. Quad. vii. 320.
⁕4 Scheffer, 340.
Genus Lemmus—of which Linnaeus’s Mus lemmus is the flagship species L. lemmus, the Norway lemming—shares the large subfamily Arvicolinae with a few other lemming genera, a wide assortment of voles, and the muskrat, which we met earlier.
to allow themselves to be carried to a considerable distance
text has caaried
[Footnote] Pontoppidan . . . the form of the exorcism
[Since Scandinavia had not been “Romish” for several centuries, it would be interesting to know where Pontoppidan learned the text with such accuracy. It’s part of a generic prayer against unwanted vermin; the part given here as “vermes . . . aut animalia alia” should be adapted to suit present exigencies.]
The length of the Economic Rat is about four inches; and that of its tail, one inch. The limbs are strong; the ears short, naked, and almost hidden beneath the fur of the head. The general colour of the fur is tawny, somewhat whiter beneath than on the back.
These creatures inhabit Siberia and Kamtschatka, in vast abundance; making their burrows, with the utmost skill, immediately below the surface of a soft turfy soil. They form a low chamber, flattish arched form, about a foot in diameter, to which they sometimes add as many as thirty small passages or entrances. Near the chamber they often construct other caverns, in which they lodge their winter stores. These consist of plants; which they gather in summer, harvest and bring home; and even, I.440 at times, they bring them out of their cells to give them a more thorough drying in the sun. The chief labour is performed by the females⁕1.—They associate in pairs; and except during the summer (when the male leads a solitary life in the woods), the male and female are generally both to be found in the same nest.
The migrations of these animals are not less extraordinary than those of the Lemming. Both Dr. Grieve and Mr. Pennant have mentioned those of the Kamtschatka Economic Rats, but neither of them attempt to explain the cause. In the spring, says the former writer, they collect together in amazing numbers, and proceed in a direct course westward; swimming with the utmost intrepidity over rivers, lakes, and even arms of the sea. Many are drowned, and many destroyed by water-fowl or rapacious fish. Those that escape, on emerging from the water, rest awhile to bask, dry their fur, and refresh themselves. The Kamtschadales, who have a kind of superstitious veneration for these little animals, whenever they find any of them thrown upon the banks of the rivers, weak and exhausted, render them every possible assistance. As soon as they have crossed the river Penschinska, at the head of the gulph of the same name, they turn in a south-westerly direction; and, about the middle of July, generally reach the rivers Ochotska and Judoma—a distance of about a thousand miles! The flocks are also so numerous, that travellers have I.441 sometimes waited above two hours for them to puss. The retirement of these animals is very alarming to the Kamtschadales; but their return, which is generally in October, occasions the utmost joy and festivity, a successful chase and fishery being always considered as its certain consequence⁕2.
The Kamtschadales never destroy the hoards of these Rats. They sometimes take away part of their store; but, in return for this, they invariably leave either some caviare, or other food, to support them in its stead⁕3.
The manner in which the Economic Rats, in their foraging excursions, cross the rivers of Iceland, is thus related by Mr. Olaffen.—“The party, consisting of from six to ten, select a flat piece of dried cow-dung; on which they place the berries they have collected, in a heap in the middle. Then, by their united force, drawing it to the water’s edge, they launch it, and embark; placing themselves round the heap, with their heads joined over it, and their backs to the water, their tails pendent in the stream and serving the purpose of rudders⁕4.”
⁕ Synonyms.—Mus . Linn.—Economic Mouse. Penn.—Tegoulichitek. Grieve.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 134.
⁕1 Grieve, 105.
⁕2 Grieve, 105. Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 134.
⁕3 Kerr, i. 238.
⁕4 Shaw, ii.
Mus œconomus is now known as Microtus oeconomus, the tundra vole, where Microtus is another of those rodent genera with dozens of species. It’s in the same subfamily as lemmings and muskrats. The Animal Diversity Web tells me it is “one of only four Holarctic rodents and the only species of Microtus that is found on all northern continents”. Its mating patterns and territorial behavior seem to vary according to circumstances.
[Synonyms] Mus Œconomicus
[Printed as shown. It may be an error for “Mus Œconomus”, the only spelling I’ve seen elsewhere.]
a low chamber, of a flattish arched form
text has ofa without space
The manner in which the Economic Rats . . . cross the rivers of Iceland
[I think a “pics or it didn’t happen” is forgivable here.]
The Hamster is about the size of the Brown or Norway Rat; but much thicker, and its tail only I.442 about three inches long. Its colour is reddish brown above, and black beneath; but on each side of the body, there are three large oval white spots. The ears are rather large. On each side of the mouth are two receptacles for food: which, when empty, are so far contracted, as not to appear externally; but when filled, they resemble a pair of tumid bladders, with a smooth veiny surface which is concealed by the fur of the cheeks.
These, the only species of the pouched Rats found in Europe, are inhabitants of Austria, Silesia, and many parts of Germany. They live under ground, burrowing down obliquely. At the end of their passage, the male sinks one perpendicular hole; and the female several, sometimes seven or eight. At the extremity of these are formed various vaults; either as lodges for themselves and young, or as store-houses for their food. Each young one has its separate apartment; and each sort of grain its appropriate vault: the former are lined with straw or grass. The vaults are of different depths, according to the age of the animals. A young Hamster makes them scarcely a foot deep; an old one sinks them to the depth of four or five feet. The whole diameter of the habitation, with all its communications, is sometimes eight or ten feet.
The male and female have always separate burrows; for, except in their short season of courtship, they have no intercourse. The whole race are so malevolent, as constantly to reject all association. They will fight, kill, and devour each other. The female shews little affection even for her young; for I.443 if any person digs into the hole, she attempts to save herself by burrowing deeper into the earth, leaving them a prey to the intruder. They would willingly follow her; but she is deaf to their cries, and even shuts up against them the hole which she has made⁕1.
The Hamsters feed on grain, herbs, and roots; and, at times, even eat flesh. Their pace is extremely slow; but in burrowing in the ground they exhibit great agility. Not being formed for long journeys, their magazines are first stocked with such provisions as are nearest to their abode; which accounts for some of their chambers being filled with only one species of grain. After the harvest is reaped, they, from compulsion, go to greater distances in search of provisions, and carry to their storehouses whatever eatables they can lay hold of.
To facilitate the transportation of food to their hoards. Nature has provided them with pouches in their cheeks.—These, in the inside, are furnished with many glands; which secrete a certain fluid, that preserves the flexibility of the parts. They are each capable of containing about two ounces of grain; which the animal empties into its granary, by pressing its two fore-feet against its cheeks.—When its cheeks are full, it may easily be caught with the hand, without the risk of being bitten; as it has not, in this condition, the free motion of its jaws. If, however, a short time is allowed, it soon empties its pouch, and stands on the defensive.
On dissecting one of these animals, Dr. Russel I.444 found the pouch, on each side of its mouth, stuffed with young French beans, arranged lengthways, so exactly and close to each other, that it appeared strange by what mechanism this had been effected; for the membrane which forms the pouch, though muscular, is extremely thin, and the most expert fingers could not have packed the beans in more regular order. When they were laid on the table, they formed a heap three times the bulk of the animal’s body⁕2.
What these creatures lay up, is not for their winter’s support, (since during that season, they always sleep;) but for their nourishment, previously to the commencement, and after the conclusion, of their state of torpidity. The quantity in the burrows depends upon the size and sex of the inhabitants; the old ones frequently amassing upwards of a hundred-weight of grain, but the young and the females providing a quantity much smaller.
At the commencement of the cold season, the Hamsters retire into their hiding places, the entrances to which they close up. Here they repose for some months; and in this state they are often dug up by the peasantry, who at this season of the year employ much of their time in hunting for their retreats. These are easily known by the small mounts of earth raised at the end of the galleries. Here the men dig till the hoard is discovered; which often consists of a bushel, or a bushel and a half, of corn: and I.445 they are farther rewarded by the skins of the animals, which are esteemed valuable furs.
In some seasons, the Hamsters are so numerous, that they occasion a dearth of corn. In one year, about 11,000 skins; in a second 54,000; and in a third year 80,000; were brought to the Town-house of Gotha, as vouchers of claims to the rewards allowed for the destruction of the animals.
The Hamster sleeps during the winter; and though neither respiration nor any kind of feeling can be perceived in this state, yet the heart has been discovered (by opening the chest) to beat fifteen times in a minute. The blood continues fluid: but the intestines are not irritable; and, in the open air, he does not become torpid. When found in a state of torpidity, his head is bent under his belly, between the two fore-legs, and the hind-legs rest upon his muzzle. The eyes are closed; and when the eye-lids are forced open, they instantly shut again. The members are all stiff, and the body feels as cold as ice; and if he is even dissected in this state, his lethargy is too strong to admit of his waking entirely.
The stupor of the Hamster has been ascribed solely to a certain degree of cold; but experience has proved, that to render him torpid, he must also be excluded from all communication with the external air: for when one of them is shut up in a cage filled with earth and straw, and exposed in winter to a degree of cold even sufficient to freeze water, he never becomes so. But when the case is sunk four or five feet under-ground, and well secured against the access of air, at the end of eight I.446 or ten days he is as torpid as if he had been in his own burrow. If the cage is brought up to the surface, he will awake in a few hours; and resumes his torpid state when put below the earth again.
When the animal is passing from a state of torpidity, his actions are very singular. He first loses the rigidity of his members; and then makes profound respirations, but at long intervals. His legs begin to move; he opens his mouth, and utters disagreeable and rattling sounds. After continuing these operations for some time, he opens his eyes, and endeavours to raise himself on his legs. But all these movements are still reeling and unsteady, like those of a man intoxicated with liquor; he, however, reiterates his efforts, till he is at length able to stand on his legs. In this attitude he remains fixed; as if he meant to reconnoitre, and repose himself after his fatigue. But he gradually begins to walk, to eat, and to act in his usual manner. This passage from a torpid to an active state, requires more or less time, according to the temperature of the air. When exposed to a cold air, he sometimes requires above two hours to awake; but, in a more temperate air, he accomplishes his purpose in less than one.
The life of a Hamster is divided between eating and fighting. He seems to have no other passion than that of rage; which induces him to attack every animal that comes in his way, without in the least attending to the superior strength of the enemy. Ignorant of the art of saving himself by flight, rather than yield he will allow himself to be beaten to I.447 pieces with a stick. If he seizes a man’s hand, he must be killed before he will quit his hold. The magnitude of the horse terrifies him as little as the address of the Dog, which last is fond of hunting him. When the Hamster perceives a Dog at a distance, he begins by emptying his cheek-pouches, if they happen to be filled with grain: he then blows them up so prodigiously, that the size of the head and neck greatly exceeds that of the rest of the body. He raises himself on his hind legs, and thus darts upon the enemy. If he catches hold, he never quits it, but with the loss of his life. But the Dog generally seizes him from behind, and strangles him. This ferocious disposition prevents the Hamster from being at peace with any animal whatever. He even makes war against his own species, not excepting the females. When two Hamsters meet, they never fail to attack each other, and the stronger always devours the weaker. A combat between a male and female commonly lasts longer than that between two males. They begin by pursuing and biting each other; then each of them retires aside, as if to take breath. After a short interval they renew the combat, and continue to fight till one of them falls. The vanquished uniformly serves for a repast to the conqueror⁕3.
The females bring forth twice or thrice a-year; each litter consisting of six or eight young: and their increase in some years is so rapid, as almost to occasion a dearth. In about three weeks after their I.448 birth, the young are able to seek their own provisions, which the dam compels them to do; and in fifteen or sixteen days, they begin to dig the earth.
⁕ Synonyms.—Mus Cricetus. Linn.—German Marmot. Hamster Rat. Penn.—German Hamster. Kerr.—Hamster. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 137.—Bew. Quad. 370.
⁕1 Penn. Quad. ii. 462.
⁕2 Russel’s Aleppo.
⁕3 Buff. Quad. viii. 194-197.
As so often, Linnaeus’s species name has become the genus name; his Mus cricetus is now Cricetus cricetus in subfamily Cricetinae of family Cricetidae. This is not the now-familiar Syrian or golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus, “warm furry staple gun”), which wasn’t discovered until the 1930s. What we have here is the German or black-bellied hamster. It is larger and even less sociable than M. auratus.
When they were laid loosely on the table
text has loosel
[Corrected from 1st edition. The spacing of this line is a bit off, as if the typesetter saw he had made a mistake, but compounded when trying to correct it.]
The Marmots have two wedge-shaped front teeth in each jaw; and five grinders on each side in the upper, and four in the lower. They have also collar bones in the skeleton⁕1.
This tribe, of which only eight species are yet known, does not differ in many particulars from that of the Rats. The animals have thick cylindrical bodies, and large roundish heads. The fore-feet have four claws, and a very small thumb; and the hind feet five claws. They reside in subterraneous holes, and pass the winter in sleep.
⁕1 Linn. Gmel. i. 141.
The rodents continue, but now we backtrack to the Sciuridae (squirrels) family. Marmots, along with chipmunks, ground squirrels and prairie dogs, are tribe Marmotini in subfamily Xerinae. Genus Marmota contains about a dozen species, including the flagship M. marmota.
The Alpine Marmot frequents the highest summits of the Alps and Pyrenean Mountains, and is also found in some parts of Asia. It is about sixteen inches in length, has a short tail, and bears some resemblance both to the Rat and the Bear. I.449 The colour is brownish above, and bright tawny on the under parts. The head is rather large, and flattish; the ears short, and hid in the fur; and the tail thick and bushy.
These singular quadrupeds delight in the regions of frost and of snow, and are seldom to be found but on the tops of the highest mountains. They remain in a torpid state during winter. About the end of September, or the early part of October, they retire into their holes, and do not come abroad again till the beginning of April. Their retreats are formed with much art and precaution. They do not make a single hole, nor either a straight or a winding tube; but a kind of gallery in the form of a Y, each branch of which has an aperture, and both terminate in a capacious apartment, where several of the animals lodge together. As the whole operation is performed on the declivity of a mountain, the innermost aperture alone is horizontal. Both the branches are inclined: one of them descends under the apartment, and follows the declivity of the mountain; this is a kind of aqueduct, and also receives and carries off all the filth that is produced within: the other, which rises above the principal apartment, is used for coming in and going out at. The place of their abode is well lined with moss and hay, of which they lay up great store during the summer.
It is affirmed, that this labour is carried on jointly: that some of the animals cut the finest herbage, which is collected by others; and that they transport it to their dens in the following manner. One, I.450 it is said, lies down on his back, allows himself to be loaded with hay, and extends his limbs; and others trail him, thus loaded, by the tail, taking care not to overset him. The task of thus serving as a vehicle, is divided alternately among the number. “I have often (says M. Beauplau) seen them practise this, and have had the curiosity to watch them at it for whole days together.” The repeated frictions arising from sustaining a passive part in the operation, are assigned as the reason why the hair is generally rubbed off from their backs. But it is more probable that this effect is produced by their frequent digging of the earth, which alone is sufficient to peel off the hair. However this may be, it is certain that they dwell together, and work in common in their habitations, where they pass three-fourths of their lives. Thither they retire during rain, or on the approach of danger; and never go out but in fine weather, and even then to no great distance.
One of them stands sentinel upon a rock, while the others gambol upon the grass, or are employed in cutting it in order to make hay. If the sentinel perceives a Man, an Eagle, a Dog, or other dangerous animal, he instantly alarms his companions by a loud whistle, and is himself the last that enters the hole⁕1.
As they continue torpid during the winter; and as if foreseeing, that they would then have no occasion I.451 for food; they lay up no provisions in their apartments. But, when they feel the first approaches of the sleeping season, they shut up both the passages to their residence; and this operation they perform with such labour and solidity, that it is more difficult to dig the earth in the parts they have thus fortified than in any adjacent spot. At this time they are very fat, weighing sometimes twenty pounds: and continue so for three months; but afterwards gradually decline, and by the end of winter become extremely emaciated. When seized in their winter retreats, they appear rolled up in the form of a ball, and are covered with hay. In this state they are so torpid, that they may be killed without seeming to feel the smallest pain. Like the Dormice, and all other animals which sleep during the winter, the Marmots are revived by a gradual and gentle heat. And those individuals that are fed in houses, and kept warm, never become torpid, but are equally active and lively through the whole year.
In their wild state, the old Marmots, at break of day, come out of their holes and feed; afterwards they bring out their young ones. The latter scamper on all sides; chase each other; sit on their hind-feet; and remain in that posture, facing towards the sun, with an air expressive of satisfaction. They are all particularly fond of warmth; and when they think themselves secure, will bask in the sun for several hours. Before they collect the grass, either for their food or for their winter habitations, they form themselves into a circle, sitting on their hind-legs, and look about on all sides. On the least alarm I.452 being given, they immediately hasten to their hiding places.
In the countries where the rhubarb⁕2 grows, it is said that the Marmot generally fixes its residence near those plants; and wherever ten or twenty of these are found near each other, there are always several of its burrows under the shade of their broad leaves. It is probable, that the manure thus laid about the root contributes, in a considerable degree, towards the increase of the plants; and that the casting up of the earth causes the young shoots to come forth more freely. The Mongols take very little care in the cultivation of rhubarb; therefore we seem to be in a great measure indebted to the Marmots for this useful root. Wherever the seed becomes scattered among grass it is generally lost, from not reaching the ground; but when it is thrown among the loose earth cast up by these little animals, it immediately takes root, and produces a new plant⁕3.
The Marmot has a quick eye, and discovers an enemy at a considerable distance. He never does the least injury to any other animal, and attempts to escape when attacked. In fact, when apprehensive of being followed, whole families of them quit their dwellings, and wander from mountain to mountain, although they have in consequence new habitations to construct. But, when flight is impossible, they defend themselves with spirit against even Men and Dogs, I.453 and assail both with their teeth and claws all those who approach them.
When taken young, the Marmot is easily domesticated. It will walk on its hind-feet, sit upright, and carry food to its mouth with its fore-feet. It will dance with a stick between its paws, and perform various tricks to please its master.—It has a singular antipathy to Dogs, and will maintain an attack from even the most formidable of them. Though small, it is extremely stout, and in addition to this, peculiarly dexterous; and notwithstanding it is able to bite most cruelly, it attacks no one unless previously irritated.
When they are on the ground, these creatures may be caught without difficulty; but except when torpid, they are not so easily taken in their holes, since they dig very deep when in danger.—In winter they are taken in great numbers; both on account of their flesh, which is very tender and delicate, and for their skins. Their fat is esteemed medicinal by the inhabitants of the Alps.
⁕ Synonyms.—Arctomys Marmota. Linn. Gmel.—Mus Marmota. Linn. Syst. Nat. Ed. xii.—Common Marmot. Kerr.—Marmotte. Buffon.—Alpine Marmot. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 143.—Bew. Quad. 366.
⁕1 Beauplau’s description of Ukraine.—This writer seems either to have mistaken the Marmot for the next following species, or to have confounded the two. The animals he describes, he calls Bobaques.
⁕2 Rheum Palmatum, of Linnæus.
⁕3 Bell, i. 338.
Mus marmota is now, predictably, Marmota marmota.
The Bobac is about the size of the Alpine Marmot. Its colour is grey above, and beneath fulvous or ferruginous. The tail is short, somewhat slender, and very hairy.—It is a native of Poland, Russia, and other mountainous parts of Europe.I.454
These animals burrow obliquely in the ground to the depth of two, three, or four yards: and form numbers of galleries, with one common entrance from the surface; each gallery ending in the nest of its inhabitants. Sometimes, however, the burrows consist of but one passage. Though these are found in the greatest numbers where the earth is lightest, yet they are very common even in the strata of the mountains. In very hard and rocky places, from twenty to forty of these animals join together to facilitate the work; and they live in society, each with its nest at the end of its respective gallery.—To their nests they collect (especially towards autumn) the finest hay they can procure; and in such plenty, that sufficient is often found in one of them for a night’s food for a Horse.
During the middle, or sunny part of the day, they sport about the entrance of their holes; but seldom go far from them. At the sight of Man, they retire with a slow pace; and sit upright near the entrance, giving a frequent whistle, and listening to the approach. In places where they live in large families, they always place a sentinel to give notice of any danger, during the time when the rest are employed in feeding⁕1.
They are mild, good-natured, and timid. They feed only on vegetables; which they go in search of in the morning, and about the middle of the day. They sit on their hams when they eat, and carry the food to their mouth with their fore-paws; I.455 and in this posture it is that they defend themselves when attacked. When they are irritated, or when any one attempts to lay hold of them, they bite desperately, and utter a very shrill cry.—In summer they eat voraciously: but remain torpid all winter, except when kept in very warm places;—and even then they eat but little, and will, if possible, escape into some comfortable place in which to pass this dreary season; but they return to their master in the spring. They very soon become tame, even when taken of full age; and the young ones are familiar from the moment they are caught.
The flesh is eatable; and, except that it is somewhat rank, resembles that of the Hare. The fat is used for dressing leather and furs; and the skins are employed by the Russians for clothing.—The female brings forth early in the spring, and has usually six or eight young ones at a litter.
⁕ Synonyms.—Arctomys Bobac. Linn. Gmel.—Bobak. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 144.
⁕1 Penn. Quad. ii. 400.
Arctomys bobac is now known as Marmota bobak, the bobak marmot.
The Squirrels are for the most part light, nimble, and elegant animals; climbing trees with the utmost agility, and springing with astonishing security from one branch to another. Some of them are provided with hairy membranes, extending from the fore to the hind-legs; which, when spread out, by rendering them more buoyant, enable them to leap considerable distances from tree to tree. Some I.456 of the species form their nests, and live almost entirely, in the trees; and others burrow under the ground. None of them are carnivorous. Many of the Squirrels may, with care, be rendered docile; but when they are in the least irritated, they attempt to bite. In confinement they are generally very frolicsome. When they are on the ground, they advance by leaps; and in eating they sit erect, and hold the food in their fore-paws.
They have two front-teeth in each jaw; the upper ones wedge-shaped, and the lower sharp: five grinders on each side of the upper-jaw, and four on each side of the under one. They have also collar-bones in the skeleton; and in most of the species, the tail spreads towards each side⁕1.
⁕1 Linn. Gmel. i. 145.
Tree squirrels are genus Sciurus of tribe Sciurini, subfamily Sciurinae, family Sciuridae.
This elegant little animal is equally admired for the neatness of its figure, and the activity and liveliness of its disposition. Though naturally wild and timid, it is soon reconciled to confinement, and easily taught to receive with freedom the most familiar caresses from the hand that feeds it.
In the spring these creatures seem peculiarly active; pursuing each other among the trees, and exerting various efforts of agility. During the warm summer nights they may also be observed in a similar I.457 exercise. They seem to dread the heat of the sun; for during the day, they commonly remain in their nests, and make their principal excursions by night.
The nest of the Squirrel is, in its construction, exceedingly curious. It is generally formed among the large branches of a great tree, where they begin to fork off into small ones. After choosing the place where the timber begins to decay, and where a hollow may the more easily be formed, the Squirrel begins by making a kind of level between these forks; and then bringing moss, twigs, and dry leaves, it binds them together with such art as to resist the most violent storm. This is covered up on all sides; and has but a single opening at the top, just large enough to admit the little animal; and this opening is itself defended from the weather by a kind of canopy, formed like a cone, so as to throw off the rain, however heavy it may fall. The nest thus formed, is very commodious and roomy below; soft, well knit together, and every way convenient and warm. The provision of nuts and acorns is seldom found in its nest; but in the hollows of the tree, carefully laid up together, and where it is never touched by the animals but in cases of necessity when no food is to be had abroad. Thus a tree serves both for a retreat and a storehouse; and without leaving it during the winter, the Squirrel possesses all those enjoyments that his nature is capable of receiving.
This little animal is extremely watchful: and it is said, that if the tree in which it resides is but touched I.458 at the bottom, it takes the alarm, quits its nest, at once flies off to another tree, and thus travels with great ease along the whole forest, until it finds itself perfectly out of danger. In this manner it continues for some hours at a distance from home, until the alarm is past; and then it returns by paths that, to nearly all quadrupeds but itself, are utterly impassable. Its usual way of moving is by bounds; these it takes from one tree to another at a very great distance; and if it is at any time obliged to descend, runs up the side of the next tree with astonishing facility.
It seldom makes any noise, except when it experiences either pain or pleasure: in the former case it makes a sharp piercing note; and in the latter, it makes a noise not unlike the purring of a Cat.—The tail of the Squirrel is its greatest ornament; and serves as a defence against the cold, being large enough to cover the whole body: it is likewise of use to the animal in taking its leaps from one tree to another.
In northern climates the Squirrels change their red summer coat, on the approach of winter, to grey; and it is singular that this alteration will take place in those climates, even within the warmth of a stove. Dr. Pallas had one, entirely red, brought to him on the 12th of September. It was placed in a stove. About the 4th of October many parts of its body began to grow hoary: and when it died, which was just a month afterwards, the whole body had attained a grey colour; the legs, and a small part of the face, alone retaining a reddish tinge⁕1.
The Eurasian red squirrel remains Sciurus vulgaris.
In case anyone wondered: Shaw has lots of squirrel pictures, but the “common squirrel” happens not to be one of them. Shaw, or his editors, seems not to have cared much for rodents of any kind; there are almost none in the Miscellany.
This species, both in its form and manners, very much resembles the Common Squirrel. It is about the size of a young Rabbet; and except the inside of the limbs, and the under parts of the body, which are white, its colour is an elegant pale grey.
The Grey Squirrels are said to be natives of Lapland, and some other northern climates. They often change the places of their residence; and sometimes not one of them can be found during a whole winter, where there were millions in the preceding year. In their journeys from one part of the country to another, when it becomes necessary to pass a lake or river (which is very frequently the case in Lapland), they lay hold of a piece of pine or birch bark, which they draw to the edge of the water, mount upon it, and abandon themselves to the waves. They erect their tails, to catch the wind; but, if it blows too strong, or the waves rise high, the pilot and the vessel are both overturned. This kind of wreck, which often consists of three or four thousand sail, generally enriches some Laplanders, who find the dead bodies on the shore; and, if these have not lain too long on the sand, they prepare the furs for sale. But when the winds are favourable, the adventurers make a happy voyage, and arrive in safety at their destined port⁕1.I.460
The Grey Squirrels are also natives of North America: where they do much mischief in the plantations, but particularly among the maize; for they climb up the stalks, tear the ears in pieces, and eat only the loose and sweet kernel which lies quite in the inside. They sometimes come by hundreds upon a maize-field, and thus destroy the whole crop of a farmer in one night. In Maryland therefore, some years ago, every person was compelled to procure and exhibit annually four fresh Squirrels; the heads of which, to prevent deceit, were given to the surveyor. In other provinces, every one who killed a Squirrel received from the public treasury two-pence on delivering up its head. Pennsylvania alone paid, from January 1749 to January 1750, no less a sum than eight thousand pounds, currency, in rewards for the destruction of these animals; consequently in that year as many as 640,000 must have been killed.
This species resides principally among the trees; in the hollows of which it makes its nest, with straw, moss, and other materials: and feeds on acorns, fir-cones, maize, &c. as well as on various kinds of fruit. It is said to amass great quantities of provision for winter; which it deposits in holes that it prepares beneath the roots of trees, and in other places.
When these animals are sitting on a bough, and perceive a Man approach, they instantly move their tails backward and forward, and make a chattering noise with their teeth. This renders them peculiarly odious to sportsmen, who often lose their game by the alarm they thus create.
The flesh of the Grey Squirrel is eaten by some I.461 persons, and is esteemed very delicate. The skins in America are used for ladies’ shoes; and are often imported into England for the lining or facing of cloaks⁕2.—They are very difficult to kill; changing their place on the trees with such expedition, as generally to elude the shot of the most expert marksman.—They are said to be easily tamed; and in that state to associate readily with other domestic animals.
⁕ Synonyms.—Sciurus Cinereus. Linn.—Petit gris. Buffon.—Grey Squirrel. Catesby. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 147.—Bew. Quad. 354.
⁕1 Scheffer, 338, who quotes Olaus Petri as a witness to one of these migrations.
⁕2 Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 117.
Sciurus cinereus has been downgraded to a subspecies of the following section’s Sciurus niger, so it is now S. niger cinereus. As so often, Bingley’s description seems to have mixed up two or more unrelated squirrels.
when it becomes necessary to pass a lake or river . . . they lay hold of a piece of pine or birch bark
[This account is lifted from Shaw on the Common (not Grey) Squirrel, and Bewick on squirrels-in-general. Shaw says frankly that he doesn’t believe it; Bewick doesn’t much care for the story, but says that if Linnaeus says so, it must be true. Take it from there.]
every one who killed a Squirrel received from the public treasury two-pence . . . Pennsylvania alone paid . . . eight thousand pounds . . . consequently in that year as many as 640,000 must have been killed
[I make it 960,000 (8000 × 120). To get 640,000 you would have to set the bounty at threepence (1/80 pound).]
The Black Squirrels are very nearly allied to the preceding species; differing principally in their coal-black colour, and somewhat shorter tail. The muzzle and the tip of the tail are sometimes white.
They are natives of America, and migrate from the territory of the United States. They take to the water when rivers lie in their route; but, as if conscious of their inability to cross the Niagara in its wide parts, they have been observed to bend their course along its banks, above the falls, and at its narrowest and most tranquil parts to cross into the British territory. In the year 1795, it was calculated that in the course of two or three days, fifty thousand of them passed that river; and they committed such depredations on arriving at the settlements on the opposite side, that in one part of the country the farmers deemed themselves very fortunate I.462 where they got in only one-third of their crop of corn.
“Some writers (says Mr. Weld) have asserted that these animals cannot swim; but that when they come to a river, each one provides itself with a piece of wood or bark, upon which, when a favourable wind offers, it embarks, spreads its bushy tail to catch the wind, and is thus wafted over to the opposite side. Whether they do or do not cross in this manner sometimes, I cannot take upon me to say; but I can safely affirm that they do not always cross so, as I have frequently shot them in the water while swimming. No animals swim better; and, when pursued, I have seen them eagerly take to the water. In swimming, their tail serves them by way of rudder, and they use it with great dexterity; owing to its being so light and bushy, the greater part of it floats upon the water, and thus helps also to support them. Their migration in large numbers, is said to be an infallible sign of a severe winter⁕1.”
⁕ Synonyms.—Sciurus Niger. Linn.—Ecureil noir. Buffon.—Black Squirrel. Catesby. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 147.
Sciurus niger is otherwise known as the Eastern fox squirrel, of which the previous section’s Grey Squirrel is a subspecies. The “Eastern” in its name means Eastern North America.
The length of the Striped Squirrel is about six inches; its tail, which is rather more, is not curved and bushy, but long and very narrow. The skin is of a reddish brown; and is marked with five black I.463 streaks, one of which runs along the back, and two on each side.—These animals eat all kinds of corn; and, like the Common Squirrel, collect provisions in autumn for the winter, and store them in their holes. They have two cheek pouches; which they fill with corn in the fields, and in this manner convey it home.
They are natives of America; and dig holes in the ground, which serve for their habitations, and to which they fly for shelter whenever danger is near. Their holes are deep; and commonly divided into many branches, from one of which they have an opening to the surface of the ground. The advantage they derive from this is, that when they ramble abroad for food, and are prevented from entering the hole at which they went out, they may not expose themselves to their pursuers, but immediately retreat into the other. But in autumn, when the leaves are falling from the trees, it is very diverting to observe their consternation when pursued:—for their holes being covered with leaves, they have then some difficulty in finding them: they run backward and forward, as though they had lost their way; and seem to know where their subterraneous haunts lie, but cannot discover the entrances. If they are pursued, and any sudden or loud noise is made, they are constrained to take refuge in the trees; but this they never do unless in cases of necessity⁕1.
Their subterraneous dwellings are formed with I.464 much art; being worked into long galleries, with branches on each side, and each terminating in an enlarged apartment in which they hoard their stock, of winter provision. Their acorns are lodged in one; in a second the maize; in a third the hickery-nuts; and in the fourth, perhaps their most favourite food, the chesnut. Nature has given them a fine convenience for collecting their provisions, in their cheek pouches; which they fill with different articles of their food, that are to be conveyed to their magazines. In Siberia they hoard up the kernels of the stone-pine in such quantities, that ten or fifteen pounds weight of them have been taken out of a single magazine⁕2.
As a Swede was some time ago making a mill-dike, pretty late in autumn, he took for that purpose the soil of a neighbouring hill, and met by chance with a subterraneous walk belonging to these Squirrels. By tracing it to some distance, he discovered a gallery on one side, like a branch parting from the main stem. It was nearly two feet long; and at its extremity was a quantity of remarkably plump acorns of the white oak, which the careful little animal had stored up against the winter. He soon afterwards found another gallery, on one side, like the former, but containing a store of maize; a third had hickery-nuts; and the last and most secret one contained as many excellent chesnuts as would have filled two hats⁕3.
In winter, these Squirrels are seldom seen; as I.465 during that season they keep within their holes. On a fine clear day, however, they sometimes come out.—They frequently dig through into cellars, where the country people lay up their apples; these they often eat or spoil in such a manner that few or none of any value are left.—In the choice of their food they are remarkably nice; having been observed, after filling their pouches with rye, to fling it out on meeting with wheat, and to substitute for it the superior grain⁕4.
They are not to be tamed without great difficulty; and even then it is always dangerous to handle them, as they will bite pretty keenly when a person is not aware of them.
They are caught merely on account of their skins; which, though forming but a slight or ordinary fur, have a very pleasing appearance when properly set off. These are said to be chiefly sold to the Chinese.
⁕ Synonyms.—Sciurus Striatus. Linn.—Striped Dormouse. Penn.—Ground Squirrel. Kerr.—Ecureil Suisse. Buffon.—Suisse Squirrel. La Hontan.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 148.—Bew. Quad. 356.
⁕2 Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 127.
⁕3 Kalm, i. 323.
⁕4 Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 127.
As you might guess from the synonyms, Sciurus striatus is not a squirrel at all. It now goes by Tamias striatus, the Eastern chipmunk. Genus Tamias, chipmunks, shares subfamily Xerinae and tribe Marmotini with marmots.
In Siberia they hoard up
[Not Tamias striatus, of course, but the only Old World chipmunk, the suitably named T. sibiricus or Siberian chipmunk. Its range includes much of North Asia—but not as far west as Sweden.]
This animal, which is a native of most parts of North America, has large black eyes, circular naked ears, and a hairy membrane extending nearly round the body. The tail, which tapers to a point, has its hairs disposed flatways on its sides. The upper parts of the body are of a cinereous brown: the belly is white, tinged with yellow. The membrane passes I.466 the fore and hind legs, to the tail: on the fore legs it adheres as far as the toes, and includes a peculiar bone which is attached to the wrist, and helps to stretch out this skin in flying; and on the hind leg it to the ancles⁕1.
These Squirrels inhabit hollow trees: where they sleep during the day, and from whence they only make their appearance in the night; at which latter time they are very lively and active. They associate in flocks; several living in the same tree, which they never willingly quit to run upon the ground, but almost constantly reside among the branches.—By means of their lateral membranes, they are able to leaps of ten or twelve yards, from tree to tree. In these efforts they extend their hind legs, and stretch out the intervening skin, by which they present a greater surface to the air, and become more buoyant. They are, however, still under the necessity of taking advantage of the lower branches of the trees; to which they leap, for their weight prevents them from keeping in a straight line. Sensible of this, they always take care to mount so high as to ensure them from falling to the ground. This extended skin acts upon the air somewhat in the manner of a paper kite, and not by repeated strokes like the wings of a bird. The animal, being naturally heavier than the air, must of course descend; the distance, therefore, to which it can jump, depends on the height of the tree on which it stands. When it is at rest, the skin is wrinkled up against its sides.I.467
These animals are generally seen in flocks of ten or twelve; and to persons unaccustomed to them, they appear at a distance, in their leaps, like leaves blown from the trees by the wind. “When I first saw them (says Catesby), I took them for dead leaves blown one way by the wind; but was not long so deceived, when I perceived many of them follow one another in the same direction. They will fly fourscore yards from one tree to another⁕2.”
The females produce three or four young at a time. This species use the same food, and form their hoards in the same manner, as others of the Squirrel tribe. They are easily tamed, and soon become familiar: they love warmth, and are very fond of creeping into the sleeve or pocket of their owner; and if thrown upon the ground, they instantly shew their dislike to it by running up and sheltering themselves in his clothes⁕3.
⁕ Synonyms.—Sciurus Volucella. Linn.—Flying Squirrel. Catesby.—Quimichpatlan. Fernand.—Polatouche. Buffon.—American Flying Squirrel. Shaw.
⁕1 Kerr, i. 267.
⁕2 Catesby, ii. 77.
⁕3 Penn. Arct. Zool. ii. 120.
Sciurus volucella doesn’t correspond to any one current species. Flying squirrels are tribe Pteromyini (“winged mice”) within the Sciurinae subfamily. American flying squirrels are genus Glaucomys (“light-grey mouse”) with two species, northern (G. sabrinus) and southern (G. volans), each with several subspecies.
on the hind leg it extends to the ancles
text has exstends
they are able to make astonishing leaps
text has makeastonishing without space
[Cursory research tells me quimichpatlan is Nahuatl for . . . bat. Maybe it was too dark to see.]
The European Flying Squirrel differs from the last species principally in having its tail full of hair, and rounded at the end: and in the colour of its body; the upper part of which is a fine grey, and the lower white. Its whole length is about nine inches, of which the tail occupies five.—It is found in the woods of Siberia, Lapland, and other northern I.468 regions, where it feeds principally on the young branches of the beech and pine.
Its nest is formed of moss, in the hollows, high among the branches; and, except during the breeding season, it is solitary. It always sleeps during the day-time, and seldom appears abroad in bad weather. It is active the whole winter; being frequently taken during that season, in the traps laid for the Grey Squirrels. Like the last species, it can leap to vast distances from tree to tree.
The females have two, three, and sometimes four, young at a time. When the mother goes out in search of food, she carefully wraps them up in the moss of her nest. She pays them the utmost attention; brooding over them, and sheltering their tender bodies, by her flying membrane, from the cold. When taken from the nest, it has been found very difficult to keep the young alive; owing probably to the want of proper food.—The skins of these Squirrels are not very valuable in a commercial view⁕1.
⁕ Synonyms.—Sciurus Volans. Linn.—Flying Squirrel. Penn.—Polatouche. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 149.—Bew. Quad. 361.
Sciurus volans is now Pteromys volans, the Siberian flying squirrel, in the same tribe as American flying squirrels. It’s quite a large tribe, so there may well be others mixed into the description.
These animals live in holes in the ground, where they always continue in a state of torpidity during the winter. Their pace is a kind of leap; in which, I.469 like the Jerboas, they are assisted by their tails. They feed entirely on vegetables, and eat only in the night. In this act they sit upright, and carry the food to their mouth with the paws. When they are thirsty, they do not lap (like most other quadrupeds); but dip their fore-feet, with the toes bent, into the water, and drink from them⁕1.
They have two front-teeth in each jaw; the upper wedge-shaped, the lower compressed; and in each jaw four grinders. The whiskers are long. The tail is cylindrical, hairy, and thickest towards the end. The fore and hind legs are of nearly equal length; and the fore-feet have each four toes⁕2.
Is it starting to feel as if we will never be done with rodents? Dormice are family Gliridae within the Sciuromorpha suborder, making them distant cousins of squirrels.
This animal is about the size of a Mouse; but more plump or rounded; and of a tawny red colour, with a white throat and full black eyes.—It lives in woods, or thick hedges; forming its nest of grass, dried leaves, or moss, in the hollow of some low tree, or near the bottom of a close shrub.
The Dormice have not the sprightliness of the Squirrel; but, like that animal, they form little magazines of nuts, acorns, and other food, for their winter provision. The consumption of their hoard, during the rigour of winter, is but small; for, retiring into their holes on the approach of the cold, I.470 and rolling themselves up, they lie torpid nearly all that gloomy season. Sometimes they experience a short revival in a warm sunny day; when they take a little food, and then relapse into their former state.
They make their nest of grass, moss, and dried leaves; this is six inches in diameter, and open only from above.—Their number of young, is generally three or four.
⁕ Synonyms.—Myoxus Muscardinus. Linn. Gmel.—Mus .—Linn. Syst. Nat. ed. xii.—Dormouse, or Sleeper. Ray.—Muscardin. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 154.—Bew. Quad. 360.
Myoxus muscardinus or Mus avellanarius has merged its older names to become Muscardinus avellanarius, the hazel dormouse.
The Dormice have not the sprightliness of the Squirrel
[This was written some 60 years before the Mad Tea Party. (“You might as well say ‘I breathe when I sleep’ is the same as ‘I sleep when I breathe’.” “For you it is the same.”)]
[Synonyms] Mus Avellanarius
text has Avelanarius
[Corrected from 1st edition, where the double l comes at a line break.]
The Jerboas seem, in many respects both of conformation and habit, much allied to the Kanguroos; but an adherence to artificial system will not allow them to be arranged together. They use their long hind legs in leaping, very seldom going on all-fours; and with their fore-legs, they both carry the food to their mouth, and make their holes in the ground. They are inhabitants principally of the warmer climates.
They have two front teeth above, and two below. The fore-legs are short, and the hind-ones very long; and they have clavicles, or collar bones.
With jerboas, we return to suborder Myomorpha (“mouse-type things”), this time in superfamily Dipodoidea. Fun fact: In spite of the similarity of names, gerbils are more closely related to mice than to jerboas. To make up for it, jumping mice (genus Zapus) are more closely related to jerboas than to mice.
This species is found in different parts of the Eastern deserts of Siberia: it also occurs in Barbary, I.471 Syria, and some parts of Tartary; but seldom in great plenty. It is of a pale-yellowish fawn colour on the upper parts, and white beneath. The length of the body is about eight inches; and of the tail, ten. It very much resembles the Egyptian Jerboa; except in the hind-feet, each of which has five instead of three toes.
The Jerboas inhabit dry, hard, and clayey ground. They dig their burrows very speedily, not only with their fore-feet, but with their teeth; and fling the earth back with their hind-feet, so as to form a heap at the entrance. The burrows are many yards long; and run obliquely and winding, but not above half-a-yard deep below the surface. They end in a large space or nest, the receptacle of the purest herbs. They have usually but one entrance; yet, by a wonderful sagacity, the animals work from their nest another passage, to within a very small space from the surface, which, in case of necessity, they can burst through, and so escape⁕1.
The sands and rubbish which surround modern Alexandria, are much frequented by the Jerboas. They live there in troops; and, in digging the ground, are said to penetrate even through a stratum of softish stone, which is under the layer of sand. Though not actually wild, they are exceedingly restless: the slightest noise, or any new object whatever, makes them retire to their holes with the utmost precipitation.
It is almost impossible to kill them, except when I.472 they are taken by surprise. The Arabs have the art of catching them alive, by stopping up the outlets to the different galleries belonging to the colony; one excepted, through which they force them out⁕2.
Though animals of a very chilly nature, they keep within their holes in the day, and wander about only during the night. They first come out at sun-set, and clear their holes of their filth; and they remain abroad till the sun has drawn up the dews from the earth⁕3.
They walk only on their hind legs, the fore-legs being very short; and, on the approach of any danger, they immediately take to flight, in leaps six or seven feet high, which they repeat so swiftly that a man mounted on a good horse can scarcely overtake them. They do not proceed in a straight line; but run first to one side, and then to the other, till they find either their own burrow, or some neighbouring one. In leaping, they bear their tails (which are longer than their bodies) stretched out. In standing or walking, they carry them in the form of an S; the lower part touching the ground, so that it seems a director of their motions. When surprised, they will sometimes go on all-fours; but they soon recover their attitude of standing on their hind-legs, like a bird. When undisturbed, they use the former posture; then rise erect, listen, and hop about like a crow. In digging or eating, they drop on their I.473 fore-legs; but in the latter action, they often sit up also like a squirrel⁕4.
The Arabs of the kingdom of Tripoli, in Africa, teach their Greyhounds to hunt the Antelope, by first instructing them to catch Jerboas: and so agile are these little creatures, that Mr. Bruce has often seen, in a large court-yard or inclosure, the Greyhound employed a quarter of an hour before he could kill his diminutive adversary; and had not the Dog been well trained, so as to make use of his feet as well as his teeth, he might have killed two Antelopes in the time of killing one Jerboa⁕5.
In their wild state, these animals are fond of tulip-roots, and nearly all the oleaginous plants; but in confinement, they do not refuse raw meat. They are the prey of most of the smaller rapacious beasts. It requires no difficulty to tame them, but it is necessary that they should be kept warm. They are so susceptible of cold, as to foretell bad weather by wrapping themselves close up in their cage before its commencement; and those that are abroad, always, on these occasions, stop up the mouths of their burrows. They sleep during the winter, but a warm day sometimes revives them. On the return of the cold they retreat again to their holes⁕6.
M. Sonnini fed for some time, while he was in Egypt, six of these animals, in a large cage of iron wire. The very first night they entirely gnawed asunder the upright and cross sticks of their prison; and he was under the necessity of having the inside I.474 of the cage lined with tin. They were fond of basking in the sun; and the moment they were put in the shade, they clung to each other, and seemed to suffer from the privation of warmth. They did not usually sleep during the day. Though they had much agility in their movements, gentleness and tranquillity seemed to form their character. They suffered themselves to be stroked with great composure; and never made a noise or quarrelled, even when food was scattered among them. No distinguishing symptoms of joy, fear, or gratitude were discoverable: and even their gentleness was by no means either amiable or interesting; it appeared the effect of a cold and complete indifference, approaching to stupidity. Three of these died, before Sonnini left Alexandria; two died on a rough passage to the island of Rhodes; and the last was lost, and, as he supposes, devoured by Cats, while he was at the island.
He says it is very difficult to transport these tender little creatures into other climates: but as an indispensable precaution to those who attempt it, he advises that they be close shut up in strong cages, or other conveniences, without any possibility of escaping; for their natural disposition inciting them to gnaw whatever comes in their way, they may occasion very considerable damage to a ship in the course of her voyage; and, being able to eat through the hardest wood, may even endanger her sinking⁕7.I.475
They breed several times in the summer, and bring seven or eight young at a time. The Arabs eat them, and esteem them among their greatest delicacies.
⁕ Synonyms.—Dipus Jaculus. Linn. Gmel.—Mus Jaculus.—Linn. Syst. Nat. ed. xii.—Egyptian Jerboa. Pennant.—Jerboa. Bruce.—Jerbo. Sonnini.—Gerboa, or Daman Israel. Shaw’s Travels.—Gerboise et Alagtaga. Buffon.—Erdhaase. Gmelin’s Travels.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 158.—Bew. Quad. 364.
⁕1 Penn. Quad. ii. 430.
⁕2 Sonnini, i. 162.
⁕3 Sonnini observes, that, as far as he could learn, the contrary is the case; and that their principal time of being abroad is during the day.
⁕4 Penn. Quad. ii. 430.
⁕6 Penn. Quad. ii. 431.
⁕7 Sonnini, i. 262.
Based on the description, Bingley—or his sources—has mixed up several different jerboas. Dipus jaculus or Mus jaculus is now Jaculus jaculus, the lesser Egyptian jerboa, while “Alagtaga” is most likely Allactaga sibirica.
Shaw’s General Zoology gives “Siberian Jerboa” and Dipus Jaculus as synonyms for “Alagtaga”, while the same author’s Miscellany shows a “Sibirian Jerboa” or Mus saliens, which is definitely A. sibirica. As jerboas go, they’re not very closely related: genus Dipus is the flagship of subfamily Dipodinae, which also includes genus Jaculus, while genus Allactaga gave its name to subfamily Allactaginae. Shaw’s previous plate showed yet another species, the “Common Jerboa”, identified there as Dipus sagitta—a binomial that is still in use.
The generic character of the Hares consists in their having two front-teeth, both above and below, the upper pair duplicate; two small interior ones standing behind the others: the fore-feet with five, and the hinder with four, toes.
These animals live entirely on vegetable food, and are all remarkably timid. They run by a kind of leaping pace, and in walking they use their hind-feet as far as the heel. Their tails are either very short (called in England scuts); or else they are entirely wanting⁕1.
⁕1 Kerr. ii. 277.
Hares and rabbits were promoted a few decades ago to their own order, Lagomorpha, which they share with pikas.
This little animal is found throughout Europe, and indeed in most of the northern parts of the world. Being destitute of weapons of defence, it is endowed by Providence in a high degree with the sentiment of fear. Its timidity is known to every one: it is attentive to every alarm, and is, therefore, furnished I.476 with ears very long and tubular, which catch the remotest sounds. The eyes are so prominent as to enable the animal to see both before and behind.
The Hare feeds in the evenings, and sleeps in his form during the day; and as he generally lies on the ground, his feet are protected, both above and below, with a thick covering of hair. In a moon-light evening many of them may frequently be seen sporting together, leaping about and pursuing each other; but the least noise alarms them, and they then scamper off, each in a different direction. Their pace is a kind of gallop, or quick succession of leaps; and they are extremely swift, particularly in ascending higher grounds, to which, when pursued, they generally have recourse: here their large and strong hind-legs are of singular use to them.—In northern regions, where, on the descent of the winter’s snows, they would (were their summer fur to remain) be rendered particularly conspicuous to animals of prey, they change their yellow-grey dress in the autumn, for one perfectly white; and are thus enabled, in a great measure, to elude their enemies.
In more temperate regions they chuse in winter a form exposed to the south, to obtain all the possible warmth of that season; and in summer, when they are desirous of shunning the hot rays of the sun, they change this for one with a northernly aspect: but in both cases they have the instinct of generally fixing upon a place where the immediately surrounding objects are nearly the colour of their own bodies.I.477
In one Hare that a gentleman watched; as soon as the Dogs were heard, though at the distance of nearly a mile, she rose from her form, swam across a rivulet, then lay down among the bushes on the other side, and by this means evaded the scent of the Hounds. When a Hare has been chased for a considerable length of time, she will sometimes push another from its seat, and lie down there herself. When hard pressed, she will mingle with a flock of Sheep, run up an old wall and conceal herself among the grass on the top of it, or cross a river several times at small distances. She never runs in a line directly forward; but constantly doubles about, which frequently throws the Dogs out of the scent: and she generally goes against the wind. It is extremely remarkable that Hares, however frequently pursued by the Dogs, seldom leave the place where they were brought forth, or that in which they usually sit; and it is a very common thing to find them, after a long and severe chase, in the same place the day following.
The females have less strength and agility than the males: they are, consequently, more timid; and never suffer the Dogs to approach them so near, before they rise, as the males. They are likewise said to practise more arts, and to double more frequently.
This animal is gentle, and susceptible even of education. He does not often, however, though he exhibits some degree of attachment to his master, become altogether domestic: for, even when taken very young, brought up in the house, and I.478 accustomed to kindness and attention, no sooner is he arrived at a certain age, than he generally seizes the first opportunity of recovering his liberty, and flying to the fields.
While Dr. Townson was at Göttingen, he had a young Hare brought to him, which he took so much pains with as to render it more familiar than these animals commonly are. In the evenings it soon became so frolicsome, as to run and jump about his sofa and bed: sometimes in its play it would leap upon him, and pat him with its fore-feet; or, while he was reading, even knock the book out of his hand. But whenever a stranger entered the room, the little creature always exhibited considerable alarm⁕1.
Mr. Borlase saw a Hare that was so familiar as to feed from the hand, lie under a chair in a common sitting-room, and appear in every other respect as easy and comfortable in its situation as a Lap-dog. It now and then went out into the garden; but after regaling itself, always returned to the house as its proper habitation. Its usual companions were a Grey-hound and a Spaniel; both so fond of Hare-hunting, that they often went out together without any person accompanying them. With these two Dogs this tame Hare spent its evenings: they always slept on the same hearth, and very frequently it would rest itself upon them⁕2.
Hares are very much infested with Fleas. Linnæus tells us that cloth made of their fur will attract I.479 these insects, and preserve the wearer himself from their troublesome attacks.
Dogs and Foxes pursue the Hare by instinct; Wild Cats, Weesels, and birds of prey, devour it; and Man, far more powerful than all its other enemies, makes use of every artifice to seize upon an animal which constitutes one of the numerous delicacies of his table. Even this poor defenceless beast is rendered an object of amusement, in its chase, to this most arrogant of all animals, who boasts his superiority over the brute creation in the possession of intellect and reason. Wretchedly indeed are these perverted when exercised in so cruel, so unmanly a pursuit:
Poor is the triumph o’er the timid Hare!
Yet vain her best precaution: though she sits
Conceal’d with folded ears; unsleeping eyes,
By nature rais’d to take th’ horizon in;
And head conceal’d betwixt her hairy feet,
In act to spring away. The scented dew
Betrays her early labyrinth; and deep
In scatter’d, sullen openings, far behind,
With ev’ry breeze she hears the coming storm:
But nearer, and more frequent, as it leads
The sighing gale, she springs amaz’d, and all
The savage soul of game is up at once.
In India the Hare is hunted for sport; not only with Dogs, but with Hawks, and some species of the Cat tribe. The flesh, though in esteem among the Romans, was forbidden by the Druids, and by the Britons of the early centuries. It is now, though very black, dry, and devoid of fat, much esteemed by the Europeans, on account of its peculiar flavour.I.480
The female goes with young about a month; she generally produces three or four at a litter, and this about four times in the year. The eyes of the young ones are open at their birth. The dam suckles them about twenty days, after which they leave her and procure their own food. They make forms at a little distance from each other, and never go far from the place where they were brought forth. The Hare lives about eight years.
⁕ Synonyms.—Lepus Timidus. Linn.—Lievre. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 162.—Bew. Quad. 337.
⁕1 Townson’s Tracts, p. 146.
⁕2 Borlase, p. 289.
The everyday name of Lepus timidus is “mountain hare”. There are a staggering number of subspecies; it is anyone’s guess which one Bingley and his sources had especially in mind. You can tell he drew on more than one source, because the hare toggles back and forth between “he” and “she”.
Poor is the triumph o’er the timid Hare!
[Thomson’s Seasons: Autumn 401, 410-420. (In the edition on Bingley’s shelf, the lines may well have been continuous and worded exactly as quoted.)]
This species has a very soft fur; which in summer is grey, with a slight mixture of tawny: the tail is always white. The ears are shorter, and the legs more slender, than those of the Common Hare; and the feet more closely and warmly furred. In size, this animal is always somewhat smaller.
Besides other cold parts of Europe, the Varying Hare is found on the tops of the highest Scots hills, never descending to the plains. It will not mix with the last described species, though common in the same neighbourhood. It does not run fast; and when alarmed, takes shelter in clefts of the rocks.
In September it begins to change its grey coat, and resume its white winter’s dress; in which only the tips and edges of the ears, and the soles of the feet, are black. In the month of April it again becomes grey. It is somewhat singular, that although I.481 this animal be brought into a house, and even kept in stoved apartments, yet it still changes its colour at the same periods as when among its native mountains.
In some parts of Siberia the Varying Hares collect together in such multitudes, that flocks of five or six hundred of them may be seen migrating in spring, and returning in the autumn. Want of sustenance compels them to this: in winter they therefore quit the lofty hills, the southern boundaries of Siberia, and seek the plains and northern wooded parts, where vegetables abound; and towards spring they again return to their mountainous quarters⁕1.
In their white state the flesh is extremely insipid.
⁕ Synonyms.—Lepus Variabilis. Linn.—Alpine Hare. Forster. Penn. Syn.—Varying Hare. Penn. Quad.
⁕1 Penn. Quad. ii. 371.
Lepus variabilis has been downgraded to a subspecies and is now L. timidus timidus.
The Rabbet lives in holes in the earth, where she brings forth her young. The fecundity of this animal is truly astonishing. It breeds seven times in the year, and generally produces seven or eight young ones at a time. Supposing this to happen regularly for about four years, the progeny from a single pair will amount to more than a million. Their numerous enemies prevent any increase likely to prove injurious to mankind; for besides their affording food to us, they are devoured also by animals I.482 of prey, of almost every description, which make dreadful havoc among them. Yet, notwithstanding this, in the time of the Romans they once proved such a nuisance in the Balearic islands, that the inhabitants were obliged to implore the assistance of a military force from Augustus to exterminate them.
The female goes with young about thirty days. A short time previously to her littering, if she does not find a hole suited to her purpose, she digs one; not in a straight line, but of a zig-zag form. The bottom of this she enlarges every way; and then, with a quantity of hair which she pulls from her own body, she makes a warm and comfortable bed for her young. During the whole of the first two days she never leaves them, except when pressed by hunger; and then she eats with surprising quickness, and immediately returns. She always conceals them from the male, lest he should devour them; and therefore when she goes out, she covers up the hole so carefully that its place is scarcely perceptible to the eye. In this manner she continues her attention for about a month; at the end of which period, the young are able to provide for themselves. Notwithstanding the unaccountable propensity which the male has to devour them when very young, yet when they are brought by the mother to the mouth of the hole, to eat such vegetables as she gets for them, he seems to know them, takes them betwixt his paws, smooths their hair, and caresses them with great tenderness.
Rabbets, as they cannot easily articulate sounds, I.483 and are formed into societies that live under ground, have a singular method of giving alarm. When danger is threatened, they thump on the earth with one of their hind feet; and thus produce a sound that can be heard a great way by animals near the surface. This, Dr. Darwin, from its singularity, and its aptness to the situation of the animals, concludes (though apparently upon false grounds) to be an artificial sign, and merely acquired from their having experienced its utility. He will not allow of any thing like an instinctive propensity.
We have the following account in Dr. Anderson’s Recreations of Agriculture, of the regular production of a singular variety of the Rabbet, with only one ear.—“A gentleman of my acquaintance chanced to find a Rabbet among his breed that had only one ear; he watched the progeny of that creature, and among them he found one of the opposite sex that had only one ear also: he paired these two Rabbets together; and has now a breed of Rabbets one-eared, which propagate as fast, and as constant produce their like, as the two-eared Rabbets from which they were originally descended.”
The fur of the Rabbet is very useful in the manufacture of hats. The flesh, which was forbidden to the Jews and Mahometans, is well known to be very delicate.
⁕ Synonyms.—Lepus Cuniculus. Linn.—Lapin Sauvage. Buffon.—Coney. Ray.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 162.—Bew. Quad. 341, 343.
Rabbits are no longer Lepus; that genus is reserved for hares—including jackrabbits, which are really hares. European rabbits are genus Oryctolagus (“digging hare”), consisting of the single species O. cuniculus (“bunnyrabbit”).
Their numerous enemies prevent any increase likely to prove injurious to mankind
[File under: Famous Last Words. Rabbits were successfully—for a given definition of “success”—introduced to Australia in 1859.]
The Alpine Hare is about nine inches in length. It has a long head and whiskers; and above each eye there are two very long hairs. The ears are short and rounded. The fur is dusky at the roots, of a bright bay at the ends, slightly tipped with white, and intermixed with long dusky hairs: at first sight, however, the animals seem of a bright, unmixed bay colour.
Their most southern residence is on the Altaic chain of mountains near lake Baikal, in Siberia; and they extend from thence as far northward as to Kamtschatka.—They are always found in the middle regions of the snowy mountains, where these are clad with woods, and where herbs and moisture abound. They sometimes burrow between the rocks, but more frequently lodge in the crevices. They are generally found in pairs; but in bad weather they collect together, lie on the rocks, and whistle so much like the chirp of Sparrows, as easily to deceive the hearer. On the report of a gun they run off into their holes; whence, however, if nothing more is heard, they soon return.
By the usual wonderful instinct of similar animals, they make a provision against the rigorous season in their inclement seats. A company of them, towards autumn, collect together vast heaps of favourite herbs and grasses, nicely dried; which they place I.485 either beneath the overhanging rocks, or between the chasms, or around the trunk of some tree. The way to these heaps is marked by a worn path; and in many places the plants appear scattered, as if to be dried in the sun and harvested properly. The heaps are formed like round or conoid ricks; and are of various sizes, according to the number of the society employed in forming them. They are sometimes about a man’s height, and usually three or four feet in diameter.
Thus they wisely provide their winter’s stock: without which they must, in the cold season, infallibly perish; being prevented by the depth of snow, from quitting their retreats in quest of food. They select the most excellent vegetables, and crop them when in the fullest vigour. These they make into the best and greenest hay, by the very judicious manner in which they dry them. The ricks they thus form are the origin of fertility among the rocks; for the relics, mixed with the dung of the animals, rot in the barren chasms, and create a soil productive of vegetation.
These ricks are also of great service to that part of mankind who devote themselves to the laborious employment of Sable-hunting; for, being obliged to go far from home, their horses would often perish for want, had they not the provision of these industrious little animals to support them. They are easily to be discovered by their height and form, even when covered with snow.
The people of Jakutz are said to feed both their I.486 Horses and Cattle on the remnant of the winter stock of these Hares.—As food, the Alpine Hares are themselves neglected by mankind; but they are the prey of the Sables and the Siberian Weesel.
⁕ Synonyms.—Lepus Alpinus. Linn.—Mountain Hare. Kerr.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 163.
“Were ev’ry falt’ring tongue of Man,
Almighty Father! silent in thy praise,
Thy works themselves would raise a general voice;
Even in the depth of solitary woods,
By human foot untrod, proclaim thy power.”
Lepus alpinus is another Lepus timidus subspecies. In fact, if I can believe the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, all of Bingley’s hares are really just L. timidus timidus, the flagship subspecies.
Were ev’ry falt’ring tongue of Man
[Thomson’s Seasons: Summer 185-189.]
Those marked with an * are varieties of some other species; and those printed in Italics are Synonyms.
|I.506 Beaver Tribe||413|
|—— common||413, 501|
|—— Castor||413, 501|
|—— Fiber||413, 501|
|—— * hermit||425|
|—— * terrier||425|
|—— Guinea Pig||411|
|I.507 —— Muscardin||470|
|—— Lapin Sauvage||481|
|—— Daman Israel||470|
|I.508 —— German||441|
|—— long-tailed field||433|
|—— less Long-tailed field||434|
|—— common||405, 500|
|—— crested||405, 500|
|—— Porc-epic||405, 500|
|—— brown, or Norway||429|
|—— Field Mouse||433|
|—— Harvest Mouse||434|
|I.509 —— Hamster German||441|
|—— Marmot Lapland||486|
|—— Mouse, bean||433|
|—— Mouse, long-tailed field||433|
|—— Mouse, less long-tailed field||484|
|—— Mouse, economic||439|
|—— Mouse, wood||433|
|—— Musk-rat, Canadian||427|
|—— American flying||465|
|—— European flying||467|
|—— Dormouse striped||462|
|—— Ecuriel noir||461|
|—— flying||465, 467|
|—— Petit gris||459|
|—— Polatouche||465, 467|
[Cavy Tribe] Cochon d’Inde
text has Cochen
spelling unchanged; body text has Lievre
[Entries under this head were alphabetized as shown.]
|—— cristata||405, 500|
|—— fiber||414, 504|
|—— zibethicus||414, 501|
Here are Bingley’s rodents as they are currently classified, along with a few other well-known rodents that didn’t make it into the book. Details of taxonomy may vary a bit from one source to another, but this will give a general idea. Rodents are one of the few areas where you still see the “tribe” (between subfamily and genus) as a taxonomic level.
|Castor:||C. fiber (Eurasian beaver)
C. canadensis (American beaver)
|Cavia:||C. porcellus (guinea pig)|
|Erethizontidae (New World porcupines)|
|Hystricidae (Old World porcupines)|
|Myocastor:||Myocastor coypus (coypu or nutria, “Chilli beaver”)|
|Allactaga:||A. sibirica (“Siberian jerboa”)|
|Jaculus:||J. jaculus (lesser Egyptian jerboa)|
|Arvicolinae (lemmings, voles, muskrats)|
|Lemmus:||L. lemmus (Norway lemming)|
|Microtus:||Microtus oeconomicus (tundra vole, “economic rat”)|
|Ondatra:||O. zibethicus (muskrat)|
|Cricetus:||C. cricetus (black-bellied hamster)|
|Mesocricetus:||M. auratus (Syrian or golden hamster, not in this book)|
|Muridae (rats and mice)|
|Apodemus:||A. sylvaticus (field mouse)|
|Mus:||M. musculus (house mouse, not in this book)
M. striatus (Typical Striped Grass Mouse, picture only)
|Micromys:||M. minutus (harvest mouse)|
|Rattus:||R. rattus (brown rat)
R. norvegicus (black or Norway rat)
|Muscardinus:||M. avellanarius (hazel dormouse)|
|Glaucomys (American flying squirrels)|
|Pteromys:||P. volans (Siberian flying squirrel)|
|Sciurus:||S. vulgaris (Eurasian red squirrel)
S. niger (black squirrel)
S. niger cinereus (grey squirrel)
|Marmota:||M. marmota (Alpine marmot)
M. bobak (bobak marmot)
|Tamias:||T. striatus (Eastern chipmunk, “striped squirrel”)|
The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.