Animal Biography

Animal Biography:
Carnivores and Marsupials











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The Seals seem to bear a considerable alliance to the Manati; most of them having the same kind of elongated body, and fin-like feet. They also inhabit the waters, where they swim with great ease. In summer they live much on the shores, but in winter they confine themselves almost entirely to the sea. They are a dirty, and an inquisitive race of animals; and though courageous and quarrelsome among themselves, are capable of being rendered tame. They are polygamous, one male having many females. Their flesh is said to be juicy and delicate eating; and their fat and hides are of use both in an economical and commercial view. They walk very awkwardly; from the fore paws being set consi­derably backwards, and the hind ones being united. Their food consists of fish and other marine productions⁕2.


In the upper jaw they have six parallel, and sharp-pointed fore-teeth, the exterior of which are the largest; and in the lower jaw four, that are also parallel, distinct, and equal. There is one canine-tooth in each jaw; and five grinders above, and six below, all of which have three knobs or points⁕3.

⁕1 Linn. Gmel. i. 62.

⁕2 Linn. Gmel. i. 62.

⁕3 The Linnæan order Feræ commences with this tribe. The animals composing it, have generally six front-teeth, of a somewhat conical shape, both in the upper and under jaw. Next to these are strong and sharp canine-teeth; and the grinders are formed into conical or pointed processes. Their feet are divided into toes, which are armed with sharp hooked claws. This is a predacious order, the animals being all carniverous.—It consists of the Seal, Dog, Cat, Weesel, Otter, Bear, Opossum, Kanguroo, Mole, Shrew, and Hedgehog, tribes.

Notes and Corrections: The Seals

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Seals are a family, Phocidae, of dog-type carnivores. (So were walruses, but this time Linnaeus got it right.)

They are polygamous, one male having many females.
[Formally that’s polygynous, but I don’t suppose the Reverend Mr. Bingley has ever considered the possibility of one female having many males (polyandry).]

[Footnote] The Linnæan order Feræ
text has Linneæn

[Footnote] the animals being all carniverous
spelling unchanged

[Footnote] It consists of the Seal, Dog, Cat, Weesel, Otter, Bear, Opossum, Kanguroo, Mole, Shrew, and Hedgehog, tribes.
[Seals, dogs, cats, weasels, otters and bears: check. But why Linnaeus thought moles, shrews and hedgehogs—let alone opossums and kangaroos—were carnivores is anyone’s guess.]

engraving of “Common Seal” and “Pied Seal”, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 70:
Common Seal (top); Pied Seal var. (bottom)


These Seals are found on most of the rocky shores of Great Britain and Ireland, especially on the Northern coasts. They inhabit all the European seas, even to the farthest North; are found considerably within the arctic circle in the seas both of Europe and Asia, and even continue to those of Kamtschatka. They prey on fish, and are both excellent swimmers and ready divers⁕1.—Their usual length is five or six feet. The head is large and round; the neck small and short; and on each side of the mouth there are several strong bristles. From the shoulders the body tapers to the tail. The eyes are large: there are no external ears; and the tongue is cleft or forked at the end. The legs are very short; and the hinder ones placed so backward, as to be but of little use except in swimming, The feet are all webbed. The tail is very short. The animals vary in colour; their short thick-set hair being I.183 sometimes grey, sometimes brown or blackish, and sometimes even spotted with white or yellow⁕2.

Their dens or habitations are in hollow rocks or caverns near the sea, but out of the reach of the tide. In the summer they will leave the water, to bask or sleep in the sun on the large stones or shivers of rocks; and this is the opportunity that our countrymen take of shooting them. If they chance to escape, they hasten to the water, flinging stones and dirt behind them as they scramble along; at the same time expressing their fears by mournful cries. But if they are overtaken, they make a vigorous defence with their feet and teeth⁕3.

engraving of Seal, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 469:

Dr. Borlase says, that “they are very swift in their proper depth of water; dive like a shot, and in a trice rise at fifty yards distance. A person of the parish of Sennan, in Cornwall, saw, not long since, a Seal in pursuit of a Mullet. The Seal turned it to and fro, in deep water, as a Greyhound does a Hare. The Mullet, at last, found it had no way to escape but by running into shoal water: the Seal pursued; and the former, to get more surely out of danger, threw itself on its side, by which means it darted into shallower water than it could have swam in with the depth of its paunch and fins, and thus escaped⁕4.”

In swimming, the Seals always keep their head above water. They sleep on the rocks; and are extremely watchful, never sleeping long without moving; I.184 seldom longer than a minute; they then raise their heads, and if they see or hear nothing more than ordinary, again lie down, and so on, raising their heads a little and inclining them alternately at intervals of about a minute. Nature seems to have given them this precaution, as being unprovided with auricles or external ears; and consequently not hearing very quick, nor from any great distance⁕5.

Seals, if taken young, are capable of being tamed; they will follow their master like a Dog, and come to him when called by the name that is given to them. Some years ago a young Seal was thus domesticated:—It was taken at a little distance from the sea, and was generally kept in a vessel full of salt water; but sometimes was allowed to crawl about the house, and even to approach the fire. Its natural food was regularly procured for it; and it was taken to the sea every day, and thrown in from a boat. It used to swim after the boat, and always allowed itself to be taken back. It lived thus for several weeks; and probably would have lived much longer, had it not been sometimes too roughly used. A Seal that was exhibited in London, in the year 1750, answered to the call of his keeper, and attended to whatever he was commanded to do. He would take food from the man’s hand, crawl out of the water, and, when ordered, stretch himself out at full length on the ground. He would thrust out his neck and appear to kiss the keeper, as often as the man pleased; and, when he was directed, would I.185 again return into the water⁕6.—The following is an interesting communication on this subject from Dr. Hamilton of Ipswich. “Some time ago, a farmer of Aberdowr, a town on the Fifeshire side of the banks of the Frith of Forth, in going out among the rocks to catch Lobsters and Crabs, discovered a young Seal, about two feet and a half long, which he brought home. He offered him some pottage and milk, which the animal greedily devoured. It was fed in this manner for three days; when the man’s wife considering it an intruder in her family, would not suffer it to be kept any longer. Taking some men of the town along with him for the purpose, he threw it into the sea; but notwithstanding all their endeavours, it persisted in returning to them. It was agreed that the tallest of the men should walk into the water as far as he could, and having thrown the animal in, they should hide themselves behind a rock at some distance. This was accordingly done; but the affectionate creature returned from the water, and soon discovered them in their hiding-place. The farmer again took it home, where he kept it for some time; but at length growing tired of it, he had it killed for the sake of its skin.”

The Seals are taken for the advantage of their skins and oil. The time when this is done is generally in October, or the beginning of November. The hunters, provided with torches and bludgeons, enter the mouths of the caverns about midnight, and row in as far as they can. They then land; and, being properly I.186 stationed, begin by making a great noise, which alarms the animals, and brings them down from all parts in a confused hurry, uttering frightful shrieks and cries. In this hazardous employment much care is necessary on the part of the hunters, to avoid the throng, which presses down upon them with great impetuosity, and bears away every thing that opposes its progress; but when the first crowd has passed, they kill great numbers of young ones, which generally straggle behind, by striking them on the nose, where a very slight blow soon destroys them⁕7.

To the inhabitants of Greenland the different species of Seals are indispensably necessary towards their existence. The sea is to them, what corn-fields are to us; and the Seal-fishery is their most copious harvest. The flesh supplies them with their principal, most palatable, and substantial food. The fat furnishes them with oil for their lamps and fires: they use it also with their food; and barter it for other necessaries with the factor. They find the fibres of the sinews better for sewing with than thread or silk. Of the skins of the entrails they make their windows, curtains for their tents, and shirts; and part of the bladders they use in fishing, as buoys or floats to their harpoons. Of the bones they formerly made all those instruments and working tools that are now supplied to them by the introduction of iron. Even the blood is not lost; for they boil that, with other ingredients, as soup. Of the I.187 skins they form clothing, coverings for their beds, houses, and boats, and thongs and straps of every description.—To be able to take Seals, is the height of the Greenlanders’ desires and pride; and to this labour, which is in truth an arduous one, they are trained from their childhood. By this they support themselves; by this they render themselves agreeable to each other, and become beneficial members of the community⁕8.

The hunting of this animal also sets the courage and enterprize of the Finlander in the strongest possible light. The season for this chace begins when the sea breaks up, and the ice floats in shoals upon the surface. Four or five peasants will go out to sea in one small open boat, and often continue more than a month absent from their families. Thus do they expose themselves to all the horrors of the Northern seas, having only a small fire which they kindle on a sort of brick hearth, and living on the flesh of the Seals which they kill. The fat and skins are what they bring home. The perils with which these voyagers have to struggle, are almost incredible. They are every instant betwixt masses of ice, which threaten to crash their little bark to atoms. They get upon the floating shoals; and creeping along them, steal cautiously upon the Seal, and kill him as he reposes on the ice.—The following narrative will represent the extreme danger of this employment.—A few years ago two Finlanders set out in a boat together. Having got sight of some Seals I.188 on a little floating island, they quitted their boat, and mounted the ice, moving on their hands and knees to get near them without being perceived. They had previously fastened their boat to the little island of ice which they disembarked upon: but while they were busily engaged in the pursuit, a gust of wind tore it away; and meeting with other shoals, it was broken to pieces, and in a few minutes entirely disap­peared. The hunters were aware of their danger only when it was too late. They were now left without help, without any resource, and without even a ray of hope, on their floating island. They remained two weeks on this frail territory. The heat which diminished its bulk, and also its prominent surface, rendered their situation more alarming every moment. In the anguish of hunger they gnawed the flesh off their arms. At last they embraced each other, resolved to plunge together into the sea, and thus end their misery, for they had no prospect of escaping. The fatal resolution was just made, when they discovered a sail. One of them stripped off his shirt, and suspended it on the muzzle of his gun. The signal was observed from the vessel, which was a Whale-fisher. A boat was put out to assist them, and by this providential circumstance they were saved from otherwise inevitable destruction⁕9.

Seals, we are told, delight in thunder-storms; and during these times, sit on the rocks and contemplate, with seeming delight, the convulsions of the elements: in this respect differing widely from I.189 terrestrial quad­rupeds, which are extremely terrified on such occasions.—The voice of a full-grown Seal is hoarse, and not unlike the barking of a Dog: that of the young resembles in some measure the mewing of a Kitten.

The female Seals bring forth two young ones or more at a birth. These they deposit, even as soon as produced, in the cavities of the ice; and the male makes a hole through the ice near them, for a speedy communi­cation with the water. Into this they always plunge with their young the moment they observe a hunter approach; and at other times they descend into it spontaneously in search of food. The manner in which the male Seals make these holes is astonishing: neither their teeth nor their paws have any share in the operation; it is performed solely by their breath⁕10. When the females come out of the sea, they bleat like sheep for their young; and though they often pass through hundreds of other young ones before they come to their own, yet they will never suffer any of the strangers to suck⁕11. About a fortnight after their birth, the young are taken out to sea, and instructed in swimming and seeking their food: when they are fatigued, the parent is said to carry them on her back⁕12. The Seal hunters in Caithnes assured Mr. Pennant that their growth was so rapid, that in nine tides (about fifty-four hours) after their birth, they become as active as their parents. And it is generally understood that a Seal six weeks old, will sometimes yield about eight gallons of oil; a quantity much greater I.190 than that afforded by some of the emaciated dams⁕13.

The Seals eat their prey beneath the water. When they are devouring any oily fish, the place may be easily remarked by the smoothness of the waves immediately above⁕14.—The flesh of Seals formerly found a place at the tables of the great in our country; as appears from the bill of fare of that vast feast which Archbishop Nevill gave in the reign of Edward the Fourth⁕15.

The Icelanders have a strange superstition respecting these animals. They believe them to resemble the human species more than any other creature; and that they are the offspring of Pharoah and his host, who were converted into Seals when they were overwhelmed in the Red Sea.

Synonyms.—Phoca vitulina. Linn.—Seal, or Sea calf. Var.—Phoque. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 70.—Bew. Quad. 469.

⁕1 Penn. Brit. Zool. i. 139.

⁕2 Shaw, i. 251.

⁕3 Penn. Brit. Zool. i. 141.

⁕4 Brit. Zool. i. 143.

⁕5 Brit. Zool. i. 144.

⁕6 Parson’s. Phil. Tran. vol. 47, p. 118.

⁕7 Penn. Brit. Zool. i. 142. and Pontoppidan, ii. 126.

⁕8 Crantz, i. 180.

⁕9 Acerbi, i. 291.

⁕10 Acerbi, i. 187.

⁕11 Dampier, i. 89.

⁕12 Shaw, i. 253.

⁕13 Penn. Brit. Zool. i. 142, 143.

⁕14 Ibid. i. 139.

⁕15 Ibid. i. 141.

Notes and Corrections: The Common Seal

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Phoca vitulina still has that binomial; its everyday name is “harbor seal”.

Dr. Borlase says, that “they are very swift
text has says, that “that
[Corrected from 1st edition.]

the banks of the Frith of Forth
[The forms “frith” and “firth” once existed in parallel.]

the man’s wife considering it an intruder in her family, would not suffer it to be kept any longer
[Wife: It’s me or the seal. Pick one.]

a small fire which they kindle on a sort of brick hearth
text has brick earth

resolved to plunge together into the sea
text has they sea

they are the offspring of Pharoah and his host
spelling unchanged

engraving of “Ursine Seal”, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 72:
Ursine Seal


The Ursine Seals are inhabitants of the islands in the neighbourhood of Kamtschatka. Here they are seen from June to September, during which time they breed and educate their young. They are said then to quit their stations, and return, some to the Asiatic, and some to the American shore, generally however keeping between lat. 50 and 56.

The males are about eight feet in length, but the females are much smaller. Their bodies are thick, decreasing somewhat towards the tail. The nose I.191 projects like that of a Pug-dog; and the eyes are large and prominent. The fore-legs are about two feet long: and the feet are formed with toes, which are covered with a naked skin, and have only the rudiments of nails, bearing somewhat the appearance of Turtles’ fins. The hind-legs are rather shorter; but so fixed behind, that the animal can occasionally rub his head with them: these have five toes, separated by a web. The general colour of the hair is black; but that of the old ones is tipped with grey. The females are ash-coloured.

The Ursine Seals live in families. Every male is surrounded by a seraglio of from eight to fifty mistresses, whom he guards with the utmost jealousy. Each family keeps separate from the others, although they lie by thousands on the shores where they inhabit. These animals also swim in tribes when they take to the sea.—The males exhibit great affection towards their young, and equal tyranny towards the females. They are fierce in the protection of the former; and, should any one attempt to carry off their cub, they will stand on the defensive, while the female conveys it away in her mouth. Should she happen to drop it, the male instantly quits his enemy, falls on her, and beats her against the stones till he leaves her for dead. As soon as she recovers, she crawls to his feet in the most suppliant manner, and washes them with her tears: he, at the same time, brutally insults her misery, stalking about in the most insolent manner. But if the young is entirely carried off, he melts into the greatest I.192 affliction, shedding tears, and shewing every mark of sorrow.

Those animals that, through age or impotence, are deserted by the females, withdraw themselves from society, and grow excessively splenetic, peevish, and quarrelsome; they become very furious, and so attached to their own stations, as to prefer even death to the loss of them. If they perceive another animal approaching them, they are instantly roused from their indolence, snap at the encroacher, and give him battle. During the fight, they insensibly intrude on the station of their neighbour, who then joins in the contest; so that at length the civil discord spreads through the whole shore, attended with hideous growls, their note of war⁕1.—Mr. Steller, and his men, in order to try the experiment, wantonly attacked one of these seals, put out both his eyes, and irritated four or five of his neighbours by throwing stones at them. When these pursued him he ran towards the blind animal; who, hearing them approach, fell upon them with the utmost fury. Mr. Steller escaped to an adjoining eminence, from whence he observed the battle, which raged for several hours. The blind Seal attacked, without distinction, both friends and enemies; till, at length, the whole herd, taking part against him, allowed him no rest, either on shore or in the sea, out of which they more than once dragged him to land, till he was dead.

This is one of the causes of disputes among these I.193 irritable creatures. But the most serious one is when an attempt is made to seduce any of their mistresses, or a young female of the family: a battle is the sure consequence of the insult. The unhappy vanquished animal instantly loses his whole seraglio, who desert him for the victorious hero.

When only two of them are engaged they rest at intervals, lying down near each other; then, rising both at once, renew the battle. They fight with their heads erect, and turn them aside to avoid the blows. As long as their strength continues equal, they only use their fore-paws; but the moment one of them fails, the other seizes him with his teeth, and throws him upon the ground. The wounds they inflict are very deep, and like the cut of a sabre; and, it is said, that in the month of July scarcely one is to be seen that has not some mark of this sort. At the conclusion of an engagement, such as are able throw themselves into the sea to wash off the blood⁕2.—They are exceedingly tenacious of life, and will live a fortnight after receiving such wounds as would soon destroy any other animal.

Besides their notes of war, they have several others. When they lie on the shore, and are diverting themselves, they low like a Cow. After victory they make a noise somewhat like the chirping of a Cricket; and on a defeat, or after receiving a wound, they mew like a Cat.

When they come out of the water, they shake themselves, and smooth their hair with their hind-feet; I.194 apply their lips to those of the females, as if to kiss them; lie down and bask in the sun with their hind legs up, which they wag as a Dog does his tail. Sometimes they lie on their back; and sometimes roll themselves up into a ball, and thus fall asleep.—They often swim on their back, and so near the surface of the water as frequently to have their hind-paws quite dry. When they go from the shore into the water, or when they dive, after having breathed, they, in the manner of some other sea animals, whirl themselves round like a wheel. They cut through the waves with great rapidity, frequently swimming at the rate of seven or eight miles an hour.—Their cubs are as sportive as puppies; they have mock fights, and tumble one another on the ground. The male parent looks on with a sort of complacency, parts them, licks and kisses them, and seems to take a greater affection to the victor than to the other.

On Bering’s Island these animals were found in such numbers as to cover the whole shore; and travellers were obliged, for their own safety, to leave the sands and level country, and go over the hills and rocky parts. It is, however, remarkable, that they only frequent that part of the coast which is towards Kamtschatka.—In the beginning of June they retire to the southward, to bring forth their young; and return towards the end of August.—They seldom produce more than a single young one, which they nurse for three months⁕3.


The flesh of the old males is rank, but that of the females and young is said to be exceedingly good. The skins of the young ones cut out of the bellies of the females, are in esteem for clothing, and are nearly as valuable as those of the old animals.

Synonyms.—Phoca Ursina. Linn.—Sea Cat. Grieve.—Ursine Seal. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 72.

⁕1 Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 168.

⁕2 Grieve’s Kamtschatka, 127.

⁕3 Grieve, 129. Penn. Arct. Zool.

Notes and Corrections: The Ursine Seal

Phoca ursina is now Callorhinus ursinus. Technically it is a fur seal, in the same family as sea lions.

The nose projects like that of a Pug-dog
[The pug of 1804 looked significantly different from today’s pug. Notably, the nose and legs were about twice as long as they are today.]

engraving of “Bottle-Nosed Seal”, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 73:
Bottle-Nose Seal


The male of this species measures from fifteen to twenty feet in length; and is distinguished from the female by a large snout, projecting five or six inches below the end of the upper-jaw. This snout the animal inflates when he is irritated, giving it thus the appearance of an arched or hooked nose. The skin is scattered over with a rust-coloured hair. The feet are short, and the hinder ones so webbed as to appear like fins. In the upper jaw there are only four front teeth, and in the lower jaw no more than two.—These animals are found in the seas about New Zealand, on the island of Juan Fernandez, and the Falkland Islands.

Their fat is so very considerable, as to lie at least a foot deep between the skin and the flesh; and some of the largest afford as much as will fill a butt. When the Bottle-nosed Seals are in motion, they appear almost like immense skins filled with oil; the tremulous motion of the blubber being plainly discernible beneath the surface. They have also so much blood, that, if deeply wounded in a dozen I.196 places, it will gush out at every one, and spout to a considerable distance. Lord Anson’s sailors, to try the experiment, shot one of them, and obtained from it more than two hogsheads of blood.

They seem to divide their time nearly equally between the land and sea; continuing out during the summer, and coming on shore at the commencement of winter and residing there all that season. When ashore, they feed on the grass and verdure which grows on the banks of the fresh-water streams; and when not employed in feeding, they sleep in herds, in the most miry places they can find. Each herd seems to be under the direction of a large male; which the seamen ludicrously stile the Bashaw, from his driving off the other males from a number of females which he appropriates to himself. These Bashaws, however, do not arrive at this envied superiority without many bloody and dreadful contests, of which their numerous scars generally bear evidence. Their battles are very frequent; and when for the females, always extremely furious. Some of Lord Anson’s party observed, one day, on the island of Juan Fernandez, what they at first took for two animals of a kind different from any they had before seen; but, on a nearer approach, they proved to be two of these Seals, which had been goring each other with their teeth till both were completely covered with blood.

They are of a lethargic disposition, and when at rest are not easily disturbed. It is not difficult to kill them; being, in general, from their sluggish and unwieldy motions, incapable either of escaping I.197 or resisting. A sailor was, however, one day, carelessly employed in skinning one of the young; when the female from whom he had taken it, came upon him unperceived, and getting his head into her mouth, tore his skull so dreadfully, that he died in a few days afterwards.

It has been observed, that each herd places at a distance some of the males as sentinels, who never fail to give the alarm if any thing hostile approaches. The noise they make for this purpose is very loud, and may be heard at a considerable distance. Their usual voice is a kind of loud grunting; or sometimes a snorting, like horses in full vigour. The females produce two young ones in the winter, which they suckle for some time. These, when first brought forth are about the size of a full grown Common Seal.

Lord Anson’s people killed many of them, in the island of Juan Fernandez, for food. They called their flesh beef; to distinguish it from that of the common Seal, which they denominated lamb. The hearts and tongues were excellent eating; and, as they thought, preferable even to those of the Ox⁕1.

Synonyms.—Phoca Leonina. Linn.—Sea Lion. Anson.—Bottle-nosed Seal. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 73.

⁕1 Anson, 172-175.

Notes and Corrections: The Bottle-Nosed Seal

Not to be confused with the leonine seal, which comes next. Phoca leonina is now called Mirounga leonina, the southern elephant seal.

a large male; which the seamen ludicrously stile the Bashaw
[Now spelled Pasha, though the word did first enter English as Bashaw. The title is Turkish. But if it came ultimately from Arabic, as so many things did, “basha” would have been the original form. (“Those boor debrived beoble, they have no B”.)]

engraving of “Ursine Seal”, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 472:
The Ursine SEAL, or SEA-BEAR


The Leonine Seal has the head and eyes large. The nose turns up, somewhat like that of a Pug I.198 Dog. The ears are conical and erect; and along the neck of the male runs a mane of stiff curled hair. The whole neck is covered with long waved hair, not unlike that of the Lion. The hair of the other parts of the body is short and red: that of the female yellowish. At a certain age they become grey. The feet resemble those of the Ursine Seal. The weight of a large male is about sixteen hundred pounds; and these are frequently from sixteen to eighteen feet long, but the females seldom exceed eight.

Leonine Seals are found in great numbers on the eastern coasts of Kamtschatka. They do not migrate; but only change their place of residence, having winter and summer stations. They live principally among the rocks of the coast; and by their dreadful roaring, are frequently of use during foggy weather, in warning sailors of the danger of approaching in their direction.

engraving of “Leonine Seal” and “Great Seal”, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 74:
Leonine Seal (top); Great Seal from Phil. Transact. (bottom)

If a human being appears among them, they immediately run off; and when disturbed in sleep, they seem seized with horror, sigh deeply in their attempts to escape, fall into the utmost confusion, tumble down, and shake so violently as scarcely to be able to use their limbs. When, however, they are reduced to an extremity, and find it impossible to effect an escape, they become desperate, turn on their assailant with vast noise and fury, and will even put the most courageous man to flight.—When they find there is no intention to hurt them, they lose their fear of mankind. Steller, when he was on Bering’s Island, lived in a hovel surrounded I.199 by them, for six days. They were soon reconciled to him; and would observe, with great calmness, what he was doing, lie down near him, and even suffer him to seize and play with their cubs.—They often dispute for the possession of females; and he had an opportunity of seeing several of these conflicts. He once was witness to a duel between two males which lasted three days, and in which one of them received above a hundred wounds. The Ursine Seals which were among them never interfered, but always hastened out of the way of their battles.

They bring forth only a single young one at a birth; and, strange to say, the parents seem to exhibit towards this very little share of affection: they sometimes tread it to death through carelessness, and will suffer it to be killed before them without concern. The cubs are not sportive, like most other young animals, but seem entirely stupified by much sleep. The parents take them into the water, and teach them to swim: and when they are tired they climb on the back of their dam; but the male often pushes them off, to habituate them to this exercise.

Each male has from two to four females, which he treats with great kindness; and he seems very fond of their carresses. In their actions these animals seem much allied to the Ursine Seals. The old ones bellow like bulls, and the young bleat like sheep⁕1.—They live on fish, and several of the marine animals. During two of the summer months I.200 the old males abstain almost entirely from eating, and indulge in indolence and sleep, swallowing at intervals large stones to keep the stomach distended⁕2. At the end of this time they are excessively emaciated.

The chase of these animals is esteemed by the Kamtschadales an occupation of the highest honour. When they find one of them asleep, they approach it against the wind; strike a harpoon, fastened to a long cord, into its breast; and run off with the utmost precipitation. The other end of the cord being fastened to a stake, prevents the animal from running entirely off; and they principally effect his destruction by flinging their lances into him, or shooting him with arrows. As soon as he is exhausted, they venture near enough to kill him with their clubs. When one of them is discovered alone on the rocks, they shoot him with poisoned arrows. Immediately he plunges into the sea; but, unable to bear the poignancy of his wounds in the salt-water, swims to shore in the utmost agony. If a good opportunity offers, they transfix him with their lances; if not, they leave him to die of the poison.—Such is the stupidity of these people, that, esteeming it a disgrace to leave any of their game behind, they frequently overload their boats so much, as to send both their booty and themselves to the bottom. But they disdain the thought of saving themselves at the expence of any part of their prize.


The flesh of the young is said to be pleasant eating, and their fat resembles the suet of mutton, but is as delicious as marrow. The skin is used for the making of straps, shoes, and boots⁕3.

Synonyms.—Phoca Jubata. Linnæus.—Sea-lion. Cook. Forster.—Leonine Seal. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 74.—Bew. Quad. 472.

⁕1 Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 172.

⁕2 Penn. Quad. ii. 525.

⁕3 Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 172.

Notes and Corrections: The Leonine Seal

Phoca jubata is now Eumetopias jubatus, the Steller sea lion.

The nose turns up, somewhat like that of a Pug Dog.
[Again with the 1804-vintage pugs.]


All the animals belonging to this tribe are carnivorous, very swift, and well adapted for the chase; but, when urged by necessity, are able to live on vegetable food. None of them are able to climb trees. The females produce many young at a litter; and have generally ten teats, four of which are placed on the breast and six on the belly⁕1.

The generic characters of the Dog are these:—He has six cutting-teeth in the upper jaw; those at the sides longer than the intermediate ones, which are lobated. In the under jaw there are also six cutting-teeth, the lateral being lobated. There are four canine-teeth; one on each side, both above and below: and six or seven grinders.

⁕1 Kerr, i. 129.

Notes and Corrections: The Dog Tribe

Not everything in this section is a dog. Some aren’t even Carnivora.


To no animal are mankind so much indebted for services and affection as to the Dog. Among all the various orders of brute creatures, no one has hitherto I.202 been found so entirely adapted to our use, and even to our protection. There are many countries, both of the old and new continent, in which if man were deprived of this faithful ally, he would unsuccessfully resist the foes that surround him, seeking opportunities to destroy his labour, attack his person, and encroach upon his property. His own vigilance, in many situations, could not secure him on the one hand against their rapacity, nor on the other against their speed. The Dog, more tractable than any other animal, conforms himself to the movements and habits of life of his master. His diligence, his ardour, and his obedience, are inexhaustible; and his disposition is so friendly, that, unlike every other animal, he seems to remember only the benefits he receives. He soon forgets our blows; and instead of discovering resentment while we chastise him, he exposes himself to torture, and even licks the hand from whence it proceeds.

Dogs are found in a wild state in Congo, Lower Ethiopia, and towards the Cape of Good Hope; in South and North America, New Holland, and several other parts of the world. The female goes with young about sixty-three days, and commonly produces from four to ten at a litter. The young are usually brought forth blind: the two eye-lids are not simply glued together, but shut up with a membrane, which is torn off as soon as the muscles of the upper eye-lids acquire sufficient strength to overcome this obstacle to vision, and this is generally about the tenth or twelfth day. At this period the young animals are clumsy and awkward in their make. The I.203 bones of the head are not completed; the body and muzzle are bloated, and the whole figure is ill designed. But in less than two months, they acquire the use of all their senses. Their growth is rapid, and they soon gain strength. In the fourth month they lose their teeth; which, as in other animals, are soon replaced, and never fall out again.

There are no fewer than twenty-three varieties of the Dog, among which all our domestic kinds are included. Of these the following is an enumeration:—

1. New Holland Dog
2. Pomeranian Dog
⁕13. Siberian Dog
4. Iceland Dog
5. Water Dog
6. Great Water Spaniel
⁕17. Newfoundland Dog
8. King Charles’s Dog
9. Maltese Dog
⁕110. Hound
⁕111. Blood Hound
12. Pointer
13. Dalmatian, or Spotted Dog
14. Irish Greyhound
15. Common Greyhound
16. Italian Greyhound
17. Naked Dog
⁕118. Mastiff
19. Bull Dog
20. Pug Dog
⁕121. Terrier
22. Turnspit
23. Alco, or Peruvian Dog

To dwell on the description or particular qualities of this animal, so well known to both learned and unlearned readers, would be unnecessary. Instead therefore of any eulogium on his character or uses, I shall bring forward for their amusement and instruction such well authenticated instances of his I.204 sagacity, attachment, and perseverance, as I have been able to collect.

The care of the Dog in directing the steps of the blind, is highly deserving of notice. There are few persons who have not seen some of these unfortunate objects thus guided along through the winding streets of a town or city, to the spot where they are to supplicate charity of passengers. In the evening the Dog safely conducts his master back, and receives as the reward of its services that scanty pittance which wretchedness can bestow.—Mr. Ray, in his Synopsis of Quadrupeds, informs us of a blind beggar who was thus led through the streets of Rome by a middle-sized Dog. This Dog, besides leading his master in such a manner as to protect him from all danger, learned to distinguish both the streets and houses where he was accustomed to receive alms twice or thrice a-week. Whenever the animal came to any one of these streets, with which he was well acquainted, he would not leave it till a call had been made at every house where his master was usually successful in his petitions. When the beggar began to ask alms, the Dog lay down to rest; but the man was no sooner served or refused, than the Dog rose spontaneously, and without either order or sign, proceeded to the other houses where the beggar generally received some gratuity. “I observed (says he), not without pleasure and surprize, that when a halfpenny was thrown from a window, such was the sagacity and attention of this Dog, that he went about in quest of it, took it from the ground with his mouth, and put it into I.205 the blind man’s hat. Even when bread was thrown down, the animal would not taste it, unless he received it from the hand of his master.”

Dogs can be taught to go to market with money, to repair to a known shop, and carry home provisions in safety.—Some years since, the person who lives at the turnpike-house about a mile from Stratford on Avon, had trained a Dog to go to the town for any small articles of grocery, &c. that he wanted. A note mentioning the things, was tied round the Dog’s neck, and in the same manner the articles were fastened; and in these errands the commodities were always brought safe to his master⁕2.

A grocer in Edinburgh had a Dog, which for some time amused and astonished the people in the neighbourhood. A man who went through the streets ringing a bell and selling penny pies, happened one day to treat this Dog with a pie. The next time he heard the pieman’s bell, he ran to him with impetuosity, seized him by the coat, and would not suffer him to pass. The pieman, who understood what the animal wanted, shewed him a penny, and pointed to his master, who stood at the street-door and saw what was going on. The Dog immediately supplicated his master by many humble gestures and looks. The master put a penny into the Dog’s mouth, which he instantly delivered to the pieman, and received his pie. This traffic between the pieman and the grocer’s Dog continued to be daily practised for many months⁕3.


At a convent in France, twenty paupers were served with a dinner at a certain hour every day. A Dog belonging to the convent did not fail to be present at this regale, to receive the odds and ends which were now and then thrown down to him. The guests, however, were poor and hungry, and of course not very wasteful, so that their pensioner did little more than scent the feast of which he would fain have partaken. The portions were served by a person, at the ringing of a bell, and delivered out by means of what in religious houses is called a tour; which is a machine like the section of a cask, and, by turning round upon a pivot, exhibits whatever is placed on the concave side, without discovering the person who moves it. One day this Dog, who had only received a few scraps, waited till the paupers were all gone, took the rope in his mouth, and rang the bell. His stratagem succeeded. He repeated it the next day with the same good-fortune. At length the cook, finding that twenty-one portions were given out instead of twenty, was determined to discover the trick: in doing which he had no great difficulty; for lying perdu, and noticing the paupers as they came in great regularity for their different portions, and that there was no intruder except the Dog, he began to suspect the real truth, which he was confirmed in when he saw him wait with great deliberation till the visitors were all gone and then pull the bell. The matter was related to the community; and to reward him for his ingenuity, he was permitted to ring the bell every day I.207 for his dinner, when a mess of broken victuals was purposely served out to him⁕4.

In the year 1760, the following incident, illustrative of the sagacity of the Dog, occurred near Hammersmith:—While a man of the name of Richardson, a waterman of that place, was sleeping in his boat, the vessel broke from her moorings, and was carried by the tide, under a West-country barge. Fortunately for the man, his Dog happened to be with him; and the sagacious animal awakened him by pawing his face, and pulling the collar of his coat, at the instant the boat was filling with water: he seized the opportunity, and thus saved himself from otherwise inevitable death⁕5.

In the year 1791, a person went to a house in Deptford, to take lodgings, under pretence that he had just arrived from the West Indies; and, after having agreed on the terms, said he should send his trunk that night, and come himself the next day. About nine o’clock in the evening, the trunk was brought by two porters, and was carried into his bed-room. Just as the family were going to bed, their little house-dog, deserting his usual station in the shop, placed himself close to the chamber-door where the chest was deposited, and kept up an incessant barking. The moment the chamber-door was opened, the dog flew to the chest, against which it scratched and barked with redoubled fury. They attempted to get the dog out of I.208 the room, but in vain. Calling in some neighbours, and making them eye-witnesses of the circumstance, they began to move the trunk about; when they quickly discovered that it contained something that was alive. Suspicion becoming very strong, they were induced to force it open; when, to their utter astonishment, they found in it their new lodger, who had been thus conveyed into the house with the intention of robbing it.

A Dog that had been the favourite of an elderly lady, discovered some time after her death the strongest emotions on the sight of her picture, when it was taken down to be cleaned. Before this instant he had never been observed to notice the painting. Here was evidently a case either of passive remembrance, or of the involuntary renewal of former impressions.—Another Dog, the property of a gentleman that died, was given to a friend in Yorkshire. Several years afterwards, a brother from the West Indies, paid a short visit at the house where the Dog then was. He was instantly recognized, though an entire stranger, in consequence, most probably, of a strong personal likeness. The Dog fawned upon and followed him with great affection to every place where he went⁕6.

During M. Le Vaillant’s travels in Africa, he one day missed a favourite little Bitch that he had taken out with him. After much shouting and firing of guns, in order to make her hear, if possible, where the party was, he directed one of his Hottentots to I.209 mount a horse and return some distance in search of her. In about four hours the man appeared with her on his saddle, bringing with him at the same time a chair and a basket that had been unknowingly dropped from one of the waggons. The Bitch was found at the distance of about two leagues, lying in the road, and watching the lost chair and basket; and had the man been unsuccessful in his pursuit, she must unavoidably either have perished with hunger, or fallen a prey to some of the wild beasts, with which these plains abound⁕7.

Mr. C. Hughes, a son of Thespis, had a wig which generally hung on a peg in one of his rooms. He one day lent the wig to a brother player, and some time after called on him. Mr. Hughes had his Dog with him, and the man happened to have the borrowed wig on his head. Mr. Hughes stayed a little while with his friend; but when he left him, the Dog remained behind: for some time he stood, looking full in the man’s face; then making a sudden spring, leaped on his shoulders, seized the wig, and ran off with it as fast as he could; and, when he reached home, he endeavoured by jumping to hang it up in its usual place.—The same Dog was one afternoon passing through a field in the skirts of Dartmouth, where a washer woman had hung out her linen to dry. He stopped and surveyed one particular shirt with attention; then seizing it, he dragged it away through the dirt to his master, whose shirt it proved to be⁕8.


In December, 1784, a Dog was left by a smuggling vessel near Boomer, on the coast of Northumberland. Finding himself deserted, he began to worry the sheep; and did so much damage, that he became the terror of the country for a circuit of above twenty miles. We are assured, that when he caught a sheep, he bit a hole in its right side, and after eating the fat about the kidnies, left it. Several, thus lacerated, were found alive by the shepherds; and being properly attended to, some of them recovered and afterwards had lambs. From his delicacy in this respect, the destruction he made may in some measure be conceived; as it may be supposed, that the fat of one sheep a-day would hardly satisfy his hunger. The farmers were so much alarmed by his depredations, that various means were taken for his destruction. They pursued him with Hounds, Greyhounds, &c. but, when the Dogs came up to him, he lay down on his back, as if supplicating for mercy, and in that position they did not attempt to hurt him. He therefore used to lie quietly till the men approached; when he made off, without being followed by the hounds till they were again excited to the pursuit, which always terminated unsuccessfully. He was one day pursued from Howick to the distance of upwards of thirty miles; but returned thither and killed sheep the same evening. His constant residence during the day, was upon a rock on the Heugh-hill, near Howick, where he had a view of four roads that approached it; and in March, 1785, after many fruitless attempts, he was at last shot there⁕9.


In one part of his journey through North America, Mr. Bartram observed, on an extensive lawn, a troop of horses that were feeding, and under the controul only of a single black Dog, similar, in every respect to the Wolf of Florida, except that he was able to bark like a common Dog. He was very careful and industrious in keeping together his charge; and, if any one strolled from the rest to too great a distance, the Dog would spring up, head the horse, and bring him back to the company. The proprietor of these horses was an Indian, who lived about ten miles from this place; who, from a whim, and for the sake of experiment, had trained his Dog to this business from a puppy. He followed his master’s horses only, keeping them in a separate company where they ranged; and when he found himself hungry, or wanted to see his master, in the evening he returned to the town where he lived, but never stayed from home at night⁕10.

In South America multitudes of Dogs breed in holes like Rabbets. When these are found young, they instantly attach themselves to mankind, and never desert their masters to rejoin the society of wild Dogs, their former companions. These Dogs have the appearance of the Greyhound, carry their ears erect, are very vigilant, and excellent in the chace⁕11.


Some nations admire the Dog as food. In some of the South Sea islands Dogs are fattened with vegetables, which the natives savagely cram down their throats when they will voluntarily eat no more. They become exceedingly fat; and are allowed by Europeans who have overcome their prejudices, to be very palatable. They are killed by strangling; and the extravasated blood is preserved in cocoa-nut shells, and baked for the table⁕12.—The negroes of the coast of Guinea are so partial to these animals as food, that they frequently give considerable prices for them: a large Sheep for a Dog was formerly, and probably is now, a common article of exchange⁕13.—Even the ancients esteemed a young and fat Dog to be excellent eating. Hippocrates ranks it with mutton or pork. The Romans admired sucking whelps, esteeming them a supper in which even the Gods delighted⁕14.

Synonyms.—Canis familiaris. Linn.—Faithful Dog. Penn.

⁕1 Those marked with an asterisk I shall have occasion particularly to note.

⁕2 Daniel, i. 21.

⁕3 Smellie’s Philosophy of Natural History.

⁕4 Dibdin’s Observations in a Tour through England.

⁕5 Ann. Reg. iii. 90.

⁕6 Percival’s Father’s Instructions.

⁕7 Le Vaillant, vol. i. p. 251.

⁕8 Life of James Lackington.

⁕9 Bew. Quad. 305.

⁕10 Travels in North America.

⁕11 Pennant; who quotes Narr. of Distresses of Isaac Morris &c. belonging to the Wager Store-ship of Anson’s Squadron, p. 27.

⁕12 Daniel, i. 8.

⁕13 Bosman, 229.

⁕14 Daniel, i. 8.

Notes and Corrections: The Common Dog

Canis familiaris has recently been downgraded to a subspecies of Canis lupus, the wolf. Sorry, Bingley.

the body and muzzle are bloated
text has muzzel

after eating the fat about the kidnies
[Somehow this plural is a lot more distracting than “monkies”.]

In South America multitudes of Dogs breed in holes like Rabbets.
[Could he be talking about bush dogs? Speothos venaticus is a member of family Canidae. Admittedly they don’t much look like greyhounds.]

engraving of “Greenland Dog”, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 303:
The Greenland DOG

The Siberian Dog⁕1, which is not uncommon in any of the climates about the Arctic Circle, is used in Kamtschatka for drawing sledges over the frozen snow. These sledges generally carry only a single person, who sits sideways. The number of Dogs usually employed is five: four of them are yoked two and two, and the other acts as leader⁕2. The reins are fastened, not to the head, but to the collar; and the driver has, therefore, to depend principally I.213 on their obedience to his voice. Great care and attention are consequently necessary in training the leader; which, if he is steady and docile, becomes very valuable, the sum of forty roubles (or ten pounds) being no uncommon price for one of them.

The cry of tagtag, tagtag, turns him to the right; and hougha, hougha, to the left. The intelligent animal immediately understands the words, and gives to the rest the example of obedience. Ah, ah, stops the Dogs; and ha, makes them set off.

The charioteer carries in his hand a crooked stick, which answers the purpose both of whip and reins. Iron-rings are suspended at one end of this stick; by way of ornament, and to encourage the Dogs by their noise, for they are frequently jingled for that purpose. If the Dogs are well trained, it is not necessary for the rider to exercise his voice: if he strikes the ice with his stick, they will go to the left; if he strikes the legs of the sledge they will go to the right; and when he wishes them to stop, he has only to place the stick between the snow and the front of the sledge. When they are inattentive to their duty, the charioteer often chastizes them, by throwing this stick at them. The dexterity of the riders, in picking it up again, is very remarkable, and is the most difficult manœuvre in this exercise: nor is it, indeed, surprising that they should be skilful in a practice in which they are so materially interested; for the moment the Dogs find that the driver has lost his stick, unless the leader is both steady and resolute, they set off at full speed, I.214 and never stop till either their strength is exhausted, or till the carriage is overturned and dashed to pieces, or hurried down a precipice, when all are buried in the snow.

The manner in which they are generally treated, seems but ill calculated for securing their attachment. During the winter they are fed sparingly with putrid fish; and in summer are turned loose, to shift for themselves, till the return of the severe season renders it necessary to the master’s interest that they should be taken again into custody, and brought once more to their state of toil and slavery. When yoking to the sledge, they utter the most dismal howlings; but, when every thing is prepared, a kind of cheerful yelping succeeds, which ceases the instant they begin their journey⁕3.

These animals have been known to perform, in three days and a half, a journey of almost two hundred and seventy miles. And scarcely are Horses more useful to Europeans, than these Dogs are to the inhabitants of the frozen and cheerless regions of the North. When, during the most severe storm, their master cannot see the path, nor even keep his eyes open, they very seldom miss their way: whenever they do this, they go from one side to the other, till, by their smell, they regain it; and when in the midst of a long journey, as it often happens, it is found absolutely impossible to travel any farther, the Dogs, lying round their master, will keep him warm, and defend him from all danger. They I.215 also foretell an approaching storm, by stopping and scraping the snow with their feet; in which case it is always advisable, without delay, to look out for some village, or other place of safety⁕4.

⁕1 Greenland Dog. Bew. Quad. 303.

⁕2 In carrying baggage, or heavy burthens, the number of Dogs employed is seldom less than ten.

⁕3 Cook’s last Voyage. Lessep, i. 115.

⁕4 Grieve, 107.

Notes and Corrections: Siberian Dog

Under the Greenland Dog heading, Bewick says: “The Pomeranian (or Wolf Dog of M. Buffon) the Siberian, Lapland, and Iceland Dogs, are somewhat similar”.

engraving of Newfoundland Dog, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 326:
The Newfoundland DOG

The Newfoundland Dogs⁕1 were originally brought from the country of which they bear the name; where their great strength and docility render them extremely useful to the settlers, who employ them in bringing down wood, on sledges, from the interior parts of the country to the sea-coast. They have great strength, and are able to draw very considerable weights. Four of them yoked to a sledge will trail three hundred-weight of wood, with apparent ease, for several miles. Their docility is as material to their owners as their strength; for they frequently perform these services without a driver. As soon as they are relieved of their load at the proper place, they return in the same order to the woods from whence they were dispatched; where their labours are commonly rewarded with a meal of dried fish⁕2.

They are web-footed; and can swim extremely fast, and with great ease.—Their extraordinary sagacity and attachment to their masters, render them, in particular situations, highly valuable.

In the summer of 1792, a gentleman went to Portsmouth for the benefit of sea-bathing. He was conducted in one of the machines into the water; but being unacquainted with the steepness of the shore, and no swimmer, he found himself, the instant he I.216 quitted the machine, nearly out of his depth. The state of alarm into which he was thrown, increased his danger; and, unnoticed by the person who attended the machine, he would unavoidably have been drowned, had not a large Newfoundland Dog, which by accident was standing on the shore and observed his distress, plunged in to his assistance. The Dog seized him by the hair, and conducted him safely to the shore; but it was some time before he recovered. The gentleman afterwards purchased the Dog at a high price; and preserved him as a treasure of equal value with his whole fortune.

During a severe storm, in the winter of 1789, a ship belonging to Newcastle was lost near Yarmouth; and a Newfoundland Dog alone escaped to shore, bringing in his mouth the captain’s pocket-book. He landed amidst a number of people, several of whom in vain attempted to take from him his prize. The sagacious animal, as if sensible of the importance of the charge, which, in all probability, was delivered to him by his perishing master, at length leapt fawningly against the breast of a man who had attracted his notice among the crowd, and delivered the book to him. The Dog immediately returned to the place where he had landed; and watched with great attention for all the things that came from the wrecked vessel, seizing them, and endeavouring to bring them to land.

A gentleman, walking by the side of the River Tyne, observed, on the opposite side, that a child had fallen into the water: he pointed out the object I.217 to his Dog, which immediately jumped in, swam over, and, catching hold of the child with his mouth, landed it safely on the shore⁕3.

⁕1 Bew. Quad. 326.

⁕2 Church.

⁕3 Bew. Quad. 327.

engraving of Foxhound, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 318:

The following anecdote, among the immense numbers that have been recorded, affords a proof of the wonderful spirit of the Hound, in supporting a continuance of exertion:—“Many years since, a very large Stag was turned out of Whinfield Park, in the county of Westmoreland; and was pursued by the Hounds, till, by fatigue or accident, the whole pack was thrown out, except two staunch and favourite Dogs, which continued the chace the greatest part of the day. The Stag returned to the park from whence he set out; and, as his last effort, leapt the wall, and immediately expired. One of the Hounds pursued him to the wall; but being unable to get over, lay down, and almost immediately expired: the other was also found dead at a little distance.

“The length of the chace is uncertain: but, as they were seen at Red-kirks, near Annan in Scotland, (distant, by the post-road, about forty-six miles,) it is conjectured that the circuitous and uneven course they might be supposed to take, would not be less than one hundred and twenty miles!

“To commemorate this fact, the horns of the Stag, which were the largest ever seen in that part of the country, were placed on a tree of enormous size in the park (afterwards called Hart-horn tree).⁕1


The horns have been since removed; and are now at Julian’s-bower, in the same county.

⁕1 Brice’s Gazetteer.—Bew. Quad. 319.

Notes and Corrections: Hound

a tree of enormous size in the park (afterwards called Hart-horn tree).*”
close quote and footnote marker missing
[The first edition, anomalously, has a slightly longer version of this passage, concluding with a few lines of verse. When this was edited out, the author or his editor inadvertently cut both the close quote and the footnote marker.]

engraving of “Old English Hound”, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 320:
The The Old English HOUND

The Blood-hound was in great request with our ancestors; and as he was remarkable for the fineness of his scent, he was frequently employed in recovering game that had escaped wounded from the hunter. He would follow, with great certainty, the footsteps of a man to a considerable distance: and, in barbarous and uncivilized times, when a thief or murderer had fled, this useful creature would trace him through the thickest and most secret coverts; nor would he cease his pursuit till he had taken the felon. For this reason there was a law in Scotland, that whoever denied entrance to one of those Dogs in pursuit of stolen goods, should be deemed an accessary.

Blood-hounds were formerly used in certain districts lying between England and Scotland, which were much infested by robbers and murderers: and a tax was laid on the inhabitants, for keeping and maintaining a certain number of these animals. But as the arm of justice is now extended over every part of the country, and there are no secret recesses where villainy can lie concealed, their services are become no longer necessary.

Some few of these Dogs are kept in the northern parts of the kingdom, and are used in pursuit of Deer that have been previously wounded; they are I.219 also sometimes employed in discovering Deer-stealers, whom they infallibly trace by the blood that issues from the wounds of their victims.

A person of quality, (says Mr. Boyle,) to make trial whether a young Blood-hound was well instructed, caused one of his servants to walk to a town four miles off, and then to a market town three miles from thence. The Dog, without seeing the man he was to pursue, followed him by the scent to the above-mentioned places, notwithstanding the multitude of market-people that went along the same road, and of travellers that had occasion to cross it; and when the Blood-hound came to the chief market-town, he passed through the streets without taking notice of any of the people there; and ceased not till he had gone to the house where the man he sought rested himself, and where he found him in an upper room, to the wonder of those who had accompanied him in this pursuit⁕1.

The Blood-hounds are very tall, most beautifully formed, and superior to every other kind in activity, speed, and sagacity. They seldom bark, except in the chace. They are usually of a reddish, or brown colour.—Somerville has finely described their mode of pursuing the nightly spoiler:

Soon the sagacious brute, his curling tail

Flourish’d in air, low bending, plies around

His busy nose, the steaming vapour snuffs


Inquisitive, nor leaves one turf untried,

Till, conscious of the recent stains, his heart

Beats quick; his snuffling nose, his active tail,

Attest his joy: then with deep-opening mouth

That makes the welkin tremble, he proclaims

Th’ audacious felon: Foot by foot he marks

His winding way, while all the list’ning crowd

Applaud his reasonings: o’er the wat’ry ford,

Dry sandy heaths, and stony barren hills;

O’er beaten paths, with men and beast distain’d;

Unerring he pursues;—till at the cot

Arriv’d, and seizing by his guilty throat

The caitiff vile, redeems the captive prey.

So exquisitely delicate his sense!

⁕1 Boyle, i. 429.

Notes and Corrections: Blood-Hound

Somerville has finely described
[The Chase again, this time Book I.]

engraving of Mastiff, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 307:

Mastiffs⁕1 are peculiar to this country, where they are principally of use as watch Dogs; a duty which they discharge not only with great fidelity, but frequently with considerable judgment. Some of them will suffer a stranger to come into the inclosure they are appointed to guard, and will go peaceably along with him through every part of it, so long as he continues to touch nothing; but the moment he attempts to lay hold of any of the goods, or endeavours to leave the place, the animal informs him, first by gentle growling, or, if that is ineffectual, by harsher means, that he must neither do mischief, nor go away. He seldom uses violence unless resisted; and even in this case he will sometimes seize the person, throw him down, and hold him there for hours, or until relieved, without biting him⁕2.


A most extraordinary instance of memory in a Mastiff is related by M. D’Obsonville. This Dog, which he had brought up in India from two months old, accompanied himself and a friend from Pondicherry to Benglour, a distance of more than three hundred leagues. “Our journey (he continues) occupied nearly three weeks; and we had to traverse plains and mountains, and to ford rivers, and go along several bye-paths. The animal, which had certainly never been in that country before, lost us at Benglour, and immediately returned to Pondicherry. He went directly to the house of M. Beylier, then commandant of artillery, my friend, and with whom I had generally lived. Now the difficulty is, not so much to know how the Dog subsisted on the road, for he was very strong and able to procure himself food; but how he should so well have found his way, after an interval of more than a month⁕3! This was an effort of memory greatly superior to that which the human race is capable of exerting.”

The Mastiff is extremely bold and courageous. Stow relates an instance of a contest between three Mastiffs and a Lion, in the presence of King James the First. One of the Dogs, being put into the den, was soon disabled by the Lion; which took him by the head and neck, and dragged him about. Another Dog was then let loose; and was served in the same manner. But the third, being put in, immediately seized the Lion by the lip, and held him I.222 for a considerable time; till, being severely torn by his claws, the Dog was obliged to quit his hold. The Lion, greatly exhausted by the conflict, refused to renew the engagement; but, taking a sudden leap over the Dogs, fled into the interior part of his den. Two of the Dogs soon died of their wounds: the last survived, and was taken great care of by the king’s son; who said, “He that had fought with the king of beasts should never after fight with any inferior creature⁕4.”

This animal, conscious of his superior strength, has been known to chastise, with great dignity, the impertinence of an inferior.—A large Dog of this kind, belonging to the late M. Ridley, Esq. of Heaton near Newcastle, being frequently molested by a Mongrel, and teazed by its continual barking, at last took it up in his mouth by the back, and with great composure dropped it over the quay into the river, without doing any farther injury to an enemy so contemptible⁕5.

⁕1 Bew. Quad. 307.

⁕2 Kerr, i. 133.

⁕3 D’Obsonville, 74.

⁕4 Stow’s Annals.

⁕5 Bew. Quad. 308.

Notes and Corrections: Mastiffs

from Pondicherry to Benglour, a distance of more than three hundred leagues
[This implies a very circuitous route, since Pondicherry (modern Puducherry) to Bangalore is just over 300km (190 miles).]

engraving of Bulldog, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 306:

The Bull-dog⁕1 is the fiercest of the species, and is probably the most courageous creature in the world. His valour in attacking a Bull is well known. His fury in seizing, and his invincible obstinacy in maintaining his hold, are truly astonishing. Some years ago, at a Bull-baiting in the North of England, when that barbarous custom was more prevalent than it is at present, a young man, confident of the courage I.223 of his Dog, laid some trifling wagers that he would, at separate times, even cut off all the animal’s feet; and that, after every successive amputation, he would attack the Bull. The cruel and unmanly experiment was tried; and the Dog continued to seize the Bull with the same eagerness as before⁕2.

⁕1 Bew. Quad. 306.

⁕2 Goldsmith.

engraving of Terrier, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 315:

The Terrier⁕1 has a most acute smell; and is the natural enemy of the smaller quadrupeds, as Rats, Mice, Weesels. &c. He possesses so much courage as to attack even the Badger; and though sometimes very roughly used, he sustains the combat with determined fortitude.

An anecdote related by Mr. Hope, and well authenticated by other persons, shews also that this animal is both capable of resentment when injured, and of great contrivance to accomplish it. A gentleman of Whitmore in Staffordshire, used to come twice a-year to Town; and being fond of exercise, generally performed the journey on horseback, accompanied most part of the way by a faithful little Terrier Dog, which, lest he might lose it in Town, he always left to the care of Mrs. Langford, his landlady at St. Alban’s; and on his return he was sure to find his little companion well taken care of. The gentleman calling one time, as usual, for his Dog, Mrs. Langford appeared before him with a woeful countenance:—‘Alas! Sir, your Terrier is lost! Our great House-dog and he had a quarrel; and the poor I.224 Terrier was so worried and bit before we could part them, that I thought he could never have got the better of it. He however crawled out of the yard, and no one saw him for almost a week. He then returned, and brought with him another Dog, bigger by far than ours; and they both together fell on our great Dog, and bit him so unmercifully, that he has scarcely since been able to go about the yard, or to eat his meat. Your Dog and his companion then disappeared, and have never since been seen at St. Alban’s.’ The gentleman heard the story with patience, and endeavoured to reconcile himself to the loss. On his arrival at Whitmore, he found his little Terrier; and on enquiring into circumstances, was informed that he had been at Whitmore and had coaxed away the great Dog, who it seems had, in consequence, followed him to St. Alban’s and completely avenged his injury⁕2.

⁕1 Bew. Quad. 315.

⁕2 An enquiry respecting this circumstance, has lately been made, by Mr. Langford, surgeon, in St. Alban’s. He says that there is now living in St. Albans, one of the inn servants, who has a perfect recollection of the event.

In Japan the Dogs are amazingly numerous; they lie about the streets, and are very troublesome to passengers. In Kaempfer’s time the Emperor was so fond of these animals, as to cause huts to be built, and food to be provided for them, in every street; the utmost care was taken of them during sickness, and when they died they were carried to the usual burying places on the tops of mountains. This attention I.225 to the species arose merely from the superstitious whim of one of the late Emperors, who happened to be born under the sign of the Dog, one of the Japanese constellations. A poor fellow, that had lost his Dog by death, sweating under his load in climbing the mountain of interment, was overheard by his neighbour cursing, at a dreadful rate, the edict. “Friend, (said his neighbour,) you have reason to thank the Gods that the Emperor was not born under the Horse; for what would have then been your load!” If these animals happen to do any injury, none but the public executioner dare presume to punish them; and it is even necessary for him to receive a direct order for the purpose from some of the governors⁕1.

It is singular that the race of European Dogs shew as great an antipathy to the American species, as they do to the Wolf. They never meet with them without exhibiting every possible sign of dislike; they will fall on and worry them; while the Wolfish breed, with every mark of timidity, puts its tail between its legs, and runs from their rage. This aversion to the Wolf is natural to all genuine Dogs: for it is Well known that a Whelp, that has never seen a Wolf, will at first sight tremble and run to its master for protection; an old Dog will naturally attack it⁕2.

⁕1 Kaempfer, i. 125.

⁕2 Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 42.

The sagacity and attention of the Dog is so great, that it is not difficult to teach him to dance, hunt, I.226 leap, and exhibit a thousand pleasing dexterities. The dancing dogs at Sadler’s Wells were curiously instructed. After storming a fort, and performing various other feats, one of them was brought in as a deserter, was shot, and carried off as dead by his companions. The mode in which a Dog is taught to point out different cards that are placed near him (a common trick) is this.—He is first taught, by repeated trials, to know something by a certain mark; and then to distinguish one ace from another. Food is frequently offered to him on a card he is unacquainted with, after which he is sent to search it out from the pack; and after a little experience he never mistakes. Profiting by the discovery of receiving food and caresses as a reward for his care, he soon becomes able to know each particular card; which, when it is called for, he brings with an air of gaiety, and without any confusion: and in reality, it is no more surprising to see a Dog distinguish one card from thirty others, than it is to see him distinguish in the street his master’s door from those of his neighbours⁕1.

It is recorded of a Dog belonging to a nobleman of the Medici family, that it always attended at its master’s table; changed the plates for him; and carried him his wine in a glass placed on a salver, without spilling the smallest drop. It would also hold the stirrup in its teeth while its master was mounting his horse.


Plutarch relates, that, in the theatre of Marcellus, a Dog was exhibited before the Emperor Vespasian, so well instructed as to excel in every kind of dance. He afterwards feigned illness in so natural a manner as to strike the spectators with astonishment: first shewing symptoms of pain; then falling down as if dead, and suffering himself to be carried about in that state; and afterwards, at the proper time, seeming to revive as if waking from a profound sleep; and then sporting about and shewing every demonstration of joy.

But of all the educational attainments by which the Dog has been distinguished, that of learning to speak seems the most extraordinary. The French academicians, however, make mention of a Dog in Germany, which would call, in an intelligible manner, for tea, coffee, chocolate, &c. The account is from no less eminent a person than the celebrated Leibnitz, who communicated it to the Royal Academy of France. This Dog was of a middling size, and was the property of a peasant in Saxony. A little boy, the peasant’s son, imagined that he perceived in the Dog’s voice an indistinct resemblance to certain words; and therefore took it into his head to teach him to speak. For this purpose he spared neither time nor pains with his pupil, who was about three years old when this his learned education commenced; and at length he made such a progress in language, as to be able to articulate so many as thirty words. It appears, however, that he was somewhat of a truant, and did not very willingly exert his talents, being in a manner pressed into the service of literature; I.228 and it was necessary that the words should be first pronounced to him each time, which he then echoed from his preceptor. Leibnitz, however, declares that he himself heard him speak; and the French academicians add, that unless they had received the testimony of so great a man as Leibnitz, they should scarcely have dared to report the circumstance. This wonderful Dog was born at Zeitz in Misnia, in Saxony⁕2.

A little Dog, if advices from Sweden may be credited, was some years ago exhibited at Stockholm, which had been taught to speak many words, and to utter even complete sentences, in French and Swedish. Vive le Roi he uttered very gracefully⁕3.

⁕3 Gent. Mag. xxxv. 487.

Notes and Corrections: “Sagacity and Attention”

to utter even complete sentences, in French and Swedish. Vive le Roi he uttered very gracefully
[This would be funnier if it had taken place after the 1810 adoption of Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte by the king of Sweden.]

The sensibility ascribed to the faithful Dog of Ulysses, shews how deeply and justly mankind have been impressed with the noble character of these dutiful and affectionate creatures, even from the most remote periods of antiquity.

He knew his lord: he knew, and strove to meet;

In vain he strove to crawl and kiss his feet;

Yet—all he could—his tail, his ears, his eyes,

Salute his master, and confess his joys.

Oh had you seen him vigorous, bold, and young,

Swift as a Stag, and as a Lion strong!

Him no fell savage on the plain withstood,

None ’scap’d him bosom’d in the gloomy wood.

His eye how piercing, and his scent how true

To wind the vapour in the tainted dew!


This Dog, whom fate thus granted to behold

His lord, when twenty tedious years had roll’d,

Takes a last look, and, having seen him, dies—

So clos’d, forever, faithful Argus’ eyes.

Then pity touch’d the mighty master’s soul,

And down his cheek a tear unbidden stole.

⁕1 Goldsmith.

⁕2 Shaw’s Gen. Zool. vol. i. p. 289.

Notes and Corrections: “Sensibility”

“He knew his lord: he knew, and strove to meet”
[Pope’s translation. Bingley has cherry-picked the text from an episode in the middle of Book XVII. His last two lines (“Then pity touch’d . . .”) belong immediately after his fourth line (“. . . his joys.”); lines 5-10 and 11-14 each come later.]

engraving of Wolf, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 75:


The Wolf is larger, and more strong and muscular, than the Dog; and his colour is generally pale grey. These animals are natives of almost all the temperate and cold regions of the globe: and were formerly so numerous in this island, that King Edgar commuted the punishments for certain offences into a requisition of a number of Wolves’ tongues from each criminal; and he converted a very heavy tax on one of the Welsh princes, into an annual tribute of three hundred Wolves’ heads.

Cambria’s proud kings (though with reluctance) paid

Their tributary Wolves; head after head,

In full account, till the woods yield no more,

And all the ravenous race extinct is lost.

It appears from Hollinshed, that the Wolves were very noxious to the flocks in Scotland, in 1577: nor were they entirely destroyed till about a century afterwards; when the last Wolf fell in Lochaber, by the hand of Sir Ewen Cameron, of Locheil.


Wolves are now but rarely seen in the inhabited parts of America; yet the government of Pennsylvania some years ago allowed a reward of twenty shillings, and that of New Jersey of even thirty shillings, for the killing of every Wolf. Tradition informed them what a scourge these animals had been to the colonies, and by these means they wisely determined to prevent the evil. In the infant state of the colonies it is said that Wolves came down from the mountains, often attracted by the smell of the bodies of the hundreds of Indians who died of the small-pox: but the animals did not confine their insults to the dead, they even devoured, in their huts, the sick and dying natives⁕1.

engraving of Wolf, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 285:

When pressed by hunger, the Wolf, though naturally a coward, becomes courageous from necessity: he then braves every danger, and will venture to attack even the Buffalo. Sometimes whole droves of them descend upon the sheep-folds; and, digging the earth under the doors, enter with dreadful ferocity, and put to death every living creature before they depart.

“By wintry famine rous’d, from all the tract

Of horrid mountains which the shining Alps

And wavy Appenine and Pyrenees

Branch out stupendous into distant lands,

Cruel as death! and hungry as the grave!

Burning for blood! bony, and gaunt, and grim!

Assembling Wolves, in raging troops, descend;

And, pouring o’er the country, bear along,

Keen as the North wind sweeps the glossy snow:

All is their prize.”


Although the Wolf is the most gluttonous of quadrupeds, devouring even his own species when pressed by hunger, yet his rapacity does not exceed his cunning; always suspicious and mistrustful, he imagines every thing he sees is a snare laid to betray him. If he finds a Rein-deer tied to a post, to be milked, he dares not approach, lest the animal should be placed there only to entrap him; but no sooner is the Deer set at large, than he instantly pursues and devours it⁕2. Such however is his extreme cowardice, that should the animal stand at bay, and act on the defensive, he will scarcely dare to attack it. A Cow or Goat, by turning upon and butting him with its horns, has often been known to put him to flight⁕3.

In Norway the Wolves are frequently killed by means of a poisonous species of Lichen⁕4, which the inhabitants put into the dead body of some animal and lay in their haunt. Sometimes they are caught by means of a hole dug in the ground, and covered with a trap-door; which falls and lets them in, and afterwards shuts again. In these pits the cowardly animal has been found in a corner, along with other beasts, which his fears would not suffer him to touch. Instances have occurred even of peasants falling into these traps, and sitting quietly with a Wolf till released by the hunter⁕5.


The Wolf has great strength, especially in the muscles of his neck and jaws: he can carry a Sheep in his mouth, and run off with it without any difficulty. When reduced to extremity by hunger, we are told by Pontoppidan that he will swallow great quantities of mud, in order to allay the uneasy sensations of his stomach. His sense of smelling is peculiarly strong: he scents the track of animals, and follows it with great perseverance. The odour of carrion strikes him at the distance of near a league.

In the year 1764, an animal of this kind committed peculiar ravages in some particular districts of Gevaudan in Languedoc, and became the terror of the whole country. If the accounts then given in the Paris Gazette may be trusted, he was known to have destroyed at least twenty persons, chiefly women and children. With the usual aggravation of popular description, he was represented by some who had seen him, as far surpassing in size the rest of his species, and as striped somewhat in the manner of a Tiger. Public prayers are said to have been offered up for his destruction.

Notwithstanding the savage nature of the Wolf, he is still capable, when taken young, of being tamed. A remarkable instance of this, we are told, was exhibited in a Wolf belonging to the late Sir Ashton Lever; which, by proper education, was entirely divested of the ferocious character of its species. In the East, and particularly in Persia, Wolves are exhibited as spectacles to the people. When young, they are taught to dance, or rather to perform a kind I.233 of wrestling, with a number of men. Chardin tells us, that a Wolf well educated in dancing is sold for five hundred French crowns. The Comte de Buffon brought up several of them.—When young, or during the first year, (he informs us,) they are very docile, and even caressing; and if well fed, will neither disturb the poultry, nor any other animals: but, at the age of eighteen months, or two years, their natural ferocity begins to appear, and they must be chained to prevent them from running off and doing mischief. He brought up one till it was eighteen or nineteen months old, in a court along with fowls, none of which it ever attacked; but, for its first essay, it killed the whole in one night, without eating any of them. Another, having broken his chain, ran off, after killing a Dog with whom he had lived in great familiarity⁕6.

Wolves, sometimes in the Northern parts of the world, get on the ice of the sea, during the spring, in quest of the young Seals, which they catch asleep there. But this repast frequently proves fatal to them; for the ice, detached from the shore, carries them to a great distance from the land before they are sensible of it. It is said that, in some years, a large district is, by this means, delivered from these pernicious beasts; which are then heard howling in a most dreadful manner far out at sea.

Their time of gestation is about three months and a half; and when the females are about to bring forth, they search for some concealed place I.234 in the inmost recesses of the forests. After having fixed on the spot, they make it smooth and plain for a considerable space, by tearing up with their teeth all the brambles and brushwood. They then prepare a bed of moss, in which they bring forth five or six young. The mother suckles them for some weeks; and soon teaches them to eat flesh, which she prepares by tearing it into small pieces. She then brings them Field-mice, young Hares, Partridges, and living Fowls; which they at first play with, and then kill: when this is done, she tears them to pieces, and gives a part to each of her young. In about six weeks these leave their den, and follow the mother, who leads them abroad to some neighbouring pool to drink; she conducts them back again, or, when any danger is apprehended, obliges them to conceal themselves elsewhere. When they are attacked, she defends them with intrepidity; losing every sense of danger, and becoming perfectly furious. She never leaves them till their education is finished, and they have acquired talents fit for rapine.

In the Wolf there is nothing valuable but his skin, which makes a warm and durable fur. His flesh is so bad, that it is rejected with abhorrence by all other quadrupeds; and no animal but a Wolf will voluntarily eat a Wolf. The smell of his breath is excessively offensive: since, to appease hunger, he swallows, almost indiscriminately, every thing he can find; as corrupted flesh, bones, hair, and skins half tanned, and even covered with lime. In short, the Wolf is in an extreme degree disagreeable; his aspect I.235 is savage, his voice dreadful, his stench insupportable, his disposition perverse, his manners ferocious: destructive, and odious to mankind while living; and when dead, of little use.

Synonyms.—Canis Lupus. Linn.—Loup. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 75.—Bew. Quad. 285.

⁕1 Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 39.

⁕2 Schaeffer, 334.

⁕3 Pontoppidan, ii. 18.

⁕4 Lichen Vulpinum of Linnæus.

⁕5 Pontoppidan, ii. 19.

⁕6 Buff. Quad.

Notes and Corrections: The Wolf

skip to next section

Canis lupus still has that binomial. It has recently been joined by subspecies C. lupus familiaris and C. lupus dingo. (Bingley had heard of the dingo—it’s in Shaw—but didn’t consider it worth a mention.)

Cambria’s proud kings
[Somerville, The Chase, Book III.]

By wintry famine rous’d
[Bingley’s other favorite poem, Thomson’s Seasons, Winter:389ff., though Thomson spells it “Apennine”. (Bingley’s first edition had “Appennine”.)]

always suspicious and mistrustful, he imagines every thing he sees is a snare laid to betray him
[In the circumstances, I’m not convinced “imagine” is the right verb.]

Instances have occurred even of peasants falling into these traps
text has occured

Their time of gestation is about three months and a half
[Wonder why he thinks this is so? As might be expected, all subspecies of Canis lupus have the same gestation period.]

engraving of Hyena, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 78 (partial):


The Hyæna is a native of Asiatic Turkey, Syria, Persia, and many parts of Africa. It is about the size of a large Dog, of a pale greyish brown, and marked across with several distant blackish bands. The hair of its neck is erect, and is continued in a bristly mane along the back. The tail is rather short, and very bushy. The head is broad and flat, and the eyes have an expression of great wildness and ferocity.

The ancients entertained many absurd notions respecting this animal. They believed that its neck consisted of but one bone, which was without a joint; that it every year changed its sex; that it could imitate the human voice, and had thus the power of charming the shepherds, and rivetting them to the place on which they stood.

The Hyænas generally inhabit caverns and rocky places; prowling about in the night to feed on the remains of dead animals, or on whatever living prey they can seize. They violate the repositories of the dead, and greedily devour the putrid corpse. They likewise prey on cattle, and frequently commit great I.236 devastation among the flocks; yet, when other provisions fail, they will eat the roots of plants, and the tender shoots of the palms. They sometimes assemble in troops, and follow the march of an army, in order to feast on the slaughtered bodies.

engraving of Striped Hyena, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 271:
The Striped HYENA

The cry of the Hyæna is very peculiar. It begins with somewhat like the moaning of the human voice, and ends like that of a person making a violent effort to vomit.—His courage is said to equal his rapacity. He will occasionally defend himself with great obstinacy against much larger animals. Kaempfer relates, that he saw one which had put to flight two Lions; and that he has often known it to attack the Ounce and the Panther. There is something in its aspect that indicates a peculiar gloominess and malignity of disposition; and its manners correspond with its appearance.—Instances have occurred of this creature being tamed. Mr. Pennant says, that he saw a Hyæna as tame as a Dog; and the Comte de Buffon, that there was one shewn at Paris that had been tamed very early, and was apparently divested of all its natural ferocity. In Barbary, Mr. Bruce assures us that he has seen the Moors, in the day-time, take this animal by the ears and haul him along, without his offering any other resistance than that of drawing back. And the hunters will take a torch in their hand, go into his cave, and, pretending to fascinate him by a senseless jargon of words, throw a blanket over him and drag him out.

Mr. Bruce locked up a Goat, a Kid, and a Lamb, I.237 all day with a Barbary Hyæna, when it was fasting, and found them in the evening alive and unhurt; but on his repeating an experiment of this kind one night, it ate up a young Ass, a Goat, and a Fox, all before morning, so as to leave nothing but some fragments of the Ass’s bones.—In Barbary, therefore, the Hyænas seem to loose their courage, and fly from man by day; but in Abyssinia, they often prowl about in the open day, and attack, with savage fury, every animal they meet with.—“These creatures were (says Mr. Bruce) a general scourge to Abyssinia, in every situation, both in the city and in the field; and, I think, surpassed the Sheep in number. Gondar was full of them, from evening till the dawn of day; seeking the different pieces of slaughtered carcasses which this cruel and unclean people expose in the streets without burial, and who firmly believe that these animals are the evil genius Falasha, from the neighbouring mountains, transformed by magic, and come down to eat human flesh in the dark with safety. Many a time in the night, when the king had kept me late in the palace, and it was not my duty to lie there, in going across the square from the king’s house, not many hundred yards distant, I have been apprehensive lest they should bite me in the leg. They grunted in great numbers about me, although I was surrounded with several armed men, who seldom passed a night without wounding or slaughtering some of them.—One night in Maitsha, being very intent on an observation, I heard something pass behind me towards the bed; but, upon looking round, could perceive nothing. Having I.238 finished what I was then about, I went out of my tent, resolving directly to return; which I immediately did, when I perceived two large blue eyes glaring at me in the dark. I called up my servant with a light; and we found a Hyæna standing near the head of the bed, with two or three large bunches of candles in his mouth. To have fired at him, would have been at the risk of breaking my quadrant or other furniture; and he seemed, by keeping the candles steadily in his mouth, to wish for no other prey at that time. As his mouth was full, and he had no claws to tear with, I was not afraid of him; and, with a pike, stuck him as near the heart as I could. It was not till then that he shewed any sign of fierceness; but, upon feeling his wound, he let drop the candles, and endeavoured to run up the shaft of the spear to arrive at me, so that I was obliged to draw my pistol from my girdle and shoot him; and nearly at the same time, my servant cleft his skull with a battle-axe. In a word, the Hyæna was the plague of our lives, the terror of our night-walks, and the destruction of our Mules and Asses, which, above every thing else, are his favourite food.”

At Dar-Fûr, a kingdom in the interior of Africa, the Hyænas come in herds of six, eight, and often more, into the villages at night, and carry off with them whatever they are able to master. They will kill Dogs and Asses, even within the inclosure of the houses; and always assemble wherever a dead Camel or other animal is thrown, which (acting in concert) they drag to a prodigious distance; nor I.239 are they greatly alarmed at the sight of men, or the report of fire-arms. Mr. Brown was told, that whenever any one of them was wounded, its companions would always instantly tear it to pieces and devour it⁕1.

It is, as has been before remarked, a generally received opinion that the Hyæna cannot be tamed. The specimen now in the Ménagerie of the National Museum in Paris, which was bought in England and is supposed to be the variety observed by Bruce in Abyssinia, would seem to confirm this opinion. It continues to be excessively ferocious; and is even more enraged at the appearance of its keeper than of any other person. This man, however, had formerly the care of a Hyæna which was so gentle, that he suffered it to run loose in his room; and he knew its disposition so well, that after it had been devouring its food, he could venture even to clean its teeth.—The Hyæna now in the Ménagerie, eats five or six pounds weight of raw meat in the day. It is a singular fact, that, contrary to the nature of the same animals in a savage state, this sleeps in the night, and appears awake and active during the greater part of the day. It utters no cry except when any one irritates it; and its voice on these occasions, is not much unlike that of many other wild carnivorous animals⁕2.

A remarkable peculiarity in this animal is, that when he is first dislodged from cover, or obliged I.240 to run, he always appears lame for a considerable distance; and sometimes to such a degree, according to Mr. Bruce, as to induce the spectators to suppose that one of his hind-legs is broken; but after running some time, this affection goes off, and he escapes swiftly away.

The neck is so extremely stiff, that in looking behind, or in snatching obliquely at any object, he is obliged to move his whole body, somewhat in the manner of a Hog. When the Arabs take any of these animals, they are very careful to bury the head; lest the brain, according to their superstition, should be used in sorcery or enchantment⁕3.

Synonyms.—Canis Hyæna. Linn.—Striped Hyæna. Penn.—L’Hyæna. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 78.—Bew. Quad. 271.

⁕1 Brown.

⁕2 La Menagerie du Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, liv. 3.

⁕3 Shaw’s Trav. 246.

Notes and Corrections: The Hyæna

Canis hyæna now goes by Hyaena hyaena. While the hyena may look like a dog, it is in fact a cat. Well, on the Feliformia side of Carnivora, at least.

The cry of the Hyæna . . . begins with somewhat like the moaning of the human voice, and ends like that of a person making a violent effort to vomit.
[Cursory research suggests that this description is not far off.]

but in Abyssinia, they often prowl about in the open day
text has Abysssinia

(acting in concert)
text has in / in at line break


The Hyæna⁕1.

These animals are to be seen in most of the exhibitions of wild beasts in this country. They are excessively ravenous and ferocious; and their jaws are much stronger than those of the generality of their tribe. The keepers represent the old animals as invariably malignant and indocile. The keeper of the Tower, however, informed me that seven or eight years ago, there was one at Exeter ’Change, about six months old, so very tame that he was occasionally suffered to come out of his den, and run about the exhibition room⁕2. The animal would allow even strangers to approach and pat him with their hands, exhibiting no symptoms whatever of displeasure: he seemed fond of playing with any of the Dogs that happened to come into the room. Still, however, there was a considerable degree of sullenness and ill-nature in his disposition, which, with his age, appeared every day to increase. After being at Exeter ’Change about two months, he was sold to a Mr. Tennant of Pentonville, a dealer in animals. This person, with only a single string fixed to the animal’s collar, suffered him twice or thrice to go out with him into the fields. He was soon afterwards sold to the owner of a caravan, for the purpose of exhibition. From the unusual confinement, his disposition almost [I.492] immediately became fierce, and he would no longer admit of the approach and carresses of his visitors. He did not long survive this change of life, but gradually pined away till he died.

Mr. John Hunter had at Earle’s Court, an Hyæna, near eighteen months old, that was so tame as to admit strangers to approach and touch him. On Mr. Hunter’s death he was sold to a travelling exhibitor of animals. For a few months previously to his being carried into the country, he was lodged in the Tower. The keeper informs me that he there continued tolerably gentle, so much so as to allow a person who knew him, to enter the den and handle him. When he was confined in the caravan he soon exhibited symptoms of ferocity equal to those of the most savage Hyænas. He was at last killed by a Tiger, the partition of whose den from his own, he had torn down by the enormous strength of his jaws.

The Hyæna in confinement is allowed about four pounds weight of food in the day; and he laps about three pints of water.

The value of a full-grown Hyæna for exhibition is from ten to thirty pounds.

⁕1 See vol. i. p. 235.

⁕2 In this act he appeared always to run on one side, as though he had been weak in the loins.

engraving of Spotted Hyena, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 274:
The Spotted HYENA


The Spotted Hyæna has a considerable resemblance to the former species; but is larger, and marked with numerous roundish black spots. The face and upper part of the head are black; and along the neck extends an upright black mane. The ground colour of the body is reddish-brown⁕1.

These animals are natives of many parts of Africa; but are peculiarly numerous at the Cape, where they are described as being cruel, mischievous, and formidable. They have been frequently known to enter the huts of the Hottentots in search of prey, I.241 from whence they sometimes carry off even the children. One of them coming into a Negro’s house, on the coast of Guinea, laid hold of a girl; threw her, in spite of her resistance, on his back, holding fast by one of the legs; and was making off with her; when the men, whom her screams had roused from sleep, came to her relief. The beast dropped her, and made his escape, but she was considerably lacerated in different parts of her body by his teeth⁕2.

Numbers of them attend almost every dark night about the shambles at the Cape, to carry away the filth and offal left there by the inhabitants, who suffer these their scavengers to come and return unmolested. The Dogs too, with which at other times they are in continual enmity, do not now molest them; and on these occasions, it has been remarked, they are seldom known to do any material mischief. Thunberg informs us, that they are so excessively bold and ravenous, as sometimes even to eat the saddle from under the traveller’s head, and gnaw the shoes on his feet, while he is sleeping in the open air⁕3.

engraving of Spotted Hyena, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 78 (partial):
Spotted Hyæna

They utter the most horrid yells in the night, while prowling about for prey; and their propensity to these cries is so implanted in them by nature, that one which was brought up tame at the Cape, was often heard in the night to emit this dreadful noise⁕4.—During the day, they remain concealed in holes I.242 in the ground, or in clefts of the rocks; and in the night time they frequently descend upon the sheep-folds, in which, if not well defended by Dogs, they commit terrible ravages, killing (like most of their genus) many more than they devour⁕5. Some of the inhabitants of the Cape pretend that the Hyæna has the power of imitating the cries of other animals, and that by these means it often succeeds in decoying Lambs, Calves, &c. from the folds. It is also said, that a party of Hyænas half-flying and half-defending themselves, will decoy the whole of the Dogs from a farm to follow them to some distance; while their companions have an opportunity of coming from their retreats, and carrying off sufficient booty before the Dogs can return to prevent them⁕6.

Every kind of animal substance is a prize to them; and they will even rob the graves of their dead, unless these are secured and well covered with stones to prevent them⁕7. The gluttony and filthy habits of these animals, seem a kind interference of Providence, urging them to consume those dead and corrupting bodies which in very hot climates might otherwise seriously affect the health and comfort of the people.

The inhabitants of Guinea kill them by fixing guns on the outside of the villages, with a piece of carrion fastened to the trigger and placed near the muzzle, in such a manner, that the moment this bait is touched, the trigger is thereby pulled, and the piece discharged⁕8.


Dr. Sparrman relates a story of the Spotted Hyæna, for the truth of which he does not altogether vouch; yet it is so diverting, that I shall make no apology for introducing it. “One night, at a feast near the Cape, a trumpeter, who had got himself well filled with liquor, was carried out of doors in order to cool and sober him. The scent of him soon attracted a Tiger-wolf; which threw him on its back, and carried him away, thinking him a corpse and consequently a fair prize, towards Table Mountain. In the mean time, however, our drunken musician awaked; sufficiently sensible to know the danger of his situation, and to sound the alarm with his trumpet, which he carried fastened to his side. The beast, as may easily be imagined, was not less frightened in its turn⁕9.” Another writer observes, that any but a trumpeter, in such a situation, would doubtless have furnished the animal with a supper⁕10.

Synonyms.Canis Crocuta. Linn.—Tiger-wolf. Sparrm. Kollen.—Quumbengo, or Jackal. Barbot. 209-486.—Jackals, or Boshund. Ludolf.—Jackal, or Wild Dog. Bosman.—Spotted Hyæna. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 78.—Bew. Quad. 274.

⁕1 Kerr. i. 139.

⁕2 Barbot, v. 209.—Bosman, 295.

⁕3 Thunberg, ii. 57.

⁕4 Church.

⁕5 Kolben, ii. 108.

⁕6 Church.

⁕7 Kolben, ii. 108.

⁕8 Barbot, v. 209.—Bosman, ii. 35.

⁕9 Voyage to the Cape of Good Hope.

⁕10 Church.

Notes and Corrections: The Spotted Hyæna

Canis crocuta is now known as Crocuta crocuta. The Hyenidae family consists of three hyena genera—totaling four species—and the aardwolf.

[Synonyms] Canis Crocuta. Linn.
text has Cadis


The Spotted Hyæna⁕1.

This is a larger, more strong and voracious animal than the last. The strength of its jaws is so great that it eats without difficulty even the strongest [I.493] and hardest bones. It is usually fed with such as are the refuse of other animals. These in the stomach are perfectly digested. Whenever this Hyæna is interrupted or disturbed whilst eating, or even if any one is only looking on, it makes a singular kind of laughing noise, whence most of the exhibitors call it the Laughing Hyæna.

Of the strength in the muscles of the jaws and neck of this Hyæna, the following is a very remarkable instance. The den of the animal now in the Tower wanted some repairs. These the carpenter completed by nailing on the floor a thick oak plank, of seven or eight feet in length, with at least a dozen nails, each longer than the middle finger of the hand. At one end of this plank there was however a small piece left that stood up higher than the rest, and the man not having a proper chissel along with him to cut it off, he returned to his shop for one. During his absence some persons came in to see the animals, and this Hyæna was let down by the keeper from the other part of his den. He had scarcely been in the place a moment before he espied the piece that was left at the end of the plank, and seizing hold of it in his teeth, tore the plank completely up, drawing every nail.

This animal is, notwithstanding, much more gentle than most of the individuals of the other species. The keeper can venture to pat and caress him, and even to enter his cage at all times except when he is feeding. In suffering these liberties he seems, however, actuated by terror, rather than by his natural inclination, for in all these acts the man finds it necessary [I.494] to have a stick in his hand. He does not pay the same respect to animals that come in his way. A soldier who some time ago visited the Menagerie of the Tower, brought along with him a small terrier Dog. The fellow ridiculously held him up to the den of the Hyæna; and on seeing the animal, the Dog was irritated, barked at him, and in his rage thrust his head between the bars. The furious beast sprung upon him, dragged him through into the den and almost in an instant devoured him.

The keeper says that it is a very difficult thing to hit his animal through the bars of his den with a stick. His activity and strength are so great that he always seizes it in his teeth.

⁕1 See vol. i. p. 240.

Notes and Corrections: Appendix: The Spotted Hyæna

at all times except when he is feeding
text has he his

engraving of Jackal, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 292:


The body of the Jackal has a great resemblance to that of the Fox; the head, however, is shorter, the nose blunter, and the legs longer. The tail is thickest in the middle, tapers to a point, and is tipped with black. The hair, which is long and coarse, is of a dirty tawny colour, yellowish on the belly. The length of the body is about thirty inches, and of the tail eleven.—The Jackal is found in all the I.244 hot and temperate parts of Asia; and in most parts of Africa, from Barbary to the Cape.

In their manners these animals are much allied to the Dog, When taken young, they soon become domestic, attach themselves to mankind, wag their tails when pleased, and distinguish their masters from other persons. They love to be fondled, and patted with the hand; and when called by name, will leap on a table or chair. They eat readily from the hand; and drink as Dogs do, by lapping. They are fond of playing with Dogs; unlike most others of this genus, which run away from them. Although carnivorous in a wild state, they eat bread eagerly. Mr. Pennant seems of opinion, that they are the stock from whence have sprung the various races of these domestic animals.

engraving of Jackal, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 79 (partial):

In their native forests they associate in packs of from fifty to two hundred; where they hunt during the night, like Hounds, in full cry. They devour poultry and Lambs, ravage the streets of villages and gardens near towns, and are said even to destroy children which are left unprotected. They are bold and courageous; sometimes entering the tent of a traveller while he is asleep, and stealing away any thing that is eatable. If animal prey is not to be met with, they will feed on roots and fruit. In this case the most infected carrion comes not amiss to them. They greedily disinter the dead, and devour the most putrid bodies; on which account the graves are in many countries made of great depth. They also attend caravans, and follow armies, to feast on the remains of the dead.

In the night their howlings (for their voice is naturally I.245 a howl) are dreadful; and when they are near, these are so horribly loud, that persons can with difficulty hear each other speak. Dillon says, their voice is like the cries of many children of different ages mixed together: when one commences, the whole pack immediately afterward join in the howl. In the day-time they are silent. All the beasts of the forest are roused by the cries of the Jackal; and the Lion and other beasts of prey, by a kind of instinct, attend to it as a signal for the chace, and seize such timid animals as fly from the noise. From this circumstance it is that the Jackal has obtained the title of the Lion’s Provider.—Jackals burrow in the earth; and leave their habitations during the night only, to range for prey. The females breed once a-year, and produce from six to eight young at a birth⁕1.

Such is, pretty nearly, the account of Mr. Pennant: that of the Comte de Buffon is different. The latter says, that these are stupid and voracious animals, and very difficult to be tamed; and that with one kept nearly a-year, neither caresses nor food would soften its disposition, though taken young and reared with the utmost care. It would allow no one to touch it, and attempted to bite all persons indiscriminately. When suffered to be at liberty, nothing could prevent it from leaping on the tables, and carrying off every eatable it could lay hold of.—This writer also informs us, that whenever this animal meets with travellers, it stops to I.246 reconnoitre them without any symptoms of fear: that it is exceedingly voracious; and, when nothing better offers, will even eat the leather of harnessing, or boots and shoes. Whenever any of these creatures begin to utter their cry, all the rest do the same; so that when one has entered a house to steal, and hears his companions at a distance, he cannot refrain from adding his voice to the number, and is thus frequently detected⁕2.

Synonyms.—Canis aureus. Linn.—Schakal. Penn.—Chagal, in Persia.—Adil. Belon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 79.—Bew. Quad. 292.

⁕1 Penn. Quad. i. 244.

⁕2 Buff. Quad. vi. 257.

Notes and Corrections: The Jackal

The jackal is legitimately a dog, and thus retains the binomial Linnaeus gave it, C. aureus.

Mr. Pennant seems of opinion, that they are the stock from whence have sprung the various races of these domestic animals.
[He’s wrong—but not nearly as wrong as he might be. Wolves, jackals and coyotes are all species of Canis.]


The Barbary Jackal is about the size of the common Fox, and is of a brownish fawn-colour. From behind each ear runs a black line; which soon divides into two, extending downwards along the neck. The tail is bushy, and surrounded by three dusky rings.

This species is found in Egypt; never in flocks like the common Jackal, but always singly. It is a very adroit animal. He ventures to approach, even in the open day, the houses near which he has his subterraneous abode; and carefully concealed beneath thick bushes, he frequently creeps without noise, surprises the poultry, carries off their eggs, and leaves no traces of his exploits but the devastations themselves.—One of his principal talents consists in the hunting of birds; and in this he exhibits I.247 such surprising craft and agility, that very few are able to escape him.

His cunning is strongly depicted in the following narration of M. Sonnini:—“One day, as I was meditating in a garden, I stopped near a hedge. A Thaleb, hearing no noise, was coming through the hedge towards me; and when he had cleared himself, was just at my feet. On perceiving me, he was seized with such surprise, that he remained motionless for some seconds, without even attempting to escape, his eyes fixed steadily on me. Perplexity was painted in his countenance, by a degree of expression of which I could not have supposed him susceptible, and which denoted great delicacy of instinct. On my part, I was afraid to move, lest I should put an end to this situation, which afforded me much pleasure. At length, after he had taken a few steps, first towards one side and then the other, as if so confused as not to know which way to get off, and keeping his eyes still turned towards me, he retired; not running, but stretching himself out, or rather creeping with a slow step, setting down his feet one after another with singular precaution. He seemed so much afraid of making a noise in his flight, that he held up his large tail, almost in an horizontal line, that it might neither drag on the ground nor brush against the plants. On the other side of the hedge I found the fragments of his meal; that had consisted of a bird of prey, great part of which he had devoured.”

He is one of the prettiest of quadrupeds; and perhaps would be one of the most amiable, if his tricks I.248 and talents for depredation did not bear greatly too much the marks of knavery and falsehood⁕1.

Synonyms.—Canis Barbarus. Shaw.—Barbary Schakal. Penn.—Thaleb. Sonnini.—Barbary Jackal. Shaw.

⁕1 Sonnini, ii. 62.

Notes and Corrections: The Barbary Jackal

Nobody seems to be sure what the “Barbary jackal” (“Thaleb” or Canis barbarus) is. The main contenders are C. aureus again—maybe a subspecies—and the red fox, Vulpes vulpes, known for its enormous geographic distribution.

engraving of “Greyhound Fox”, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 279:
The Greyhound FOX


The Fox is a native of almost every quarter of the globe; and is of so wild and savage a nature, that it is impossible fully to tame him. He is esteemed the most sagacious and most crafty of all beasts of prey. The former quality he shews in his mode of providing himself an asylum, where he retires from pressing dangers, dwells, and brings up his young; and his craftiness is discovered by his schemes to catch Lambs, Geese, Hens, and all kinds of small birds. The Fox, when this is possible, fixes his abode on the border of a wood, in the neighbourhood of some farm or village. He listens to the crowing of the Cocks, and the cries of the poultry. He scents them at a distance; he chuses his time with judgment; he conceals his road as well as his design; he slips forward with caution, sometimes even trailing his body; and seldom makes a fruitless expedition. If he can leap the wall, or creep in underneath, he ravages the court-yard, puts all to death, and retires softly with his prey; which he either hides under herbage, or carries off to his kennel. He returns in a few minutes for more; which he carries off or conceals in the same manner, but in a different place. In I.249 this way he proceeds till the progress of the sun, or some movements perceived in the house, warn him that it is time to suspend his operations, and to retire to his den. He plays the same part with the catchers of Thrushes, Woodcocks, &c. He visits the nets and birdlime very early in the morning: and carries off successively the birds which are entangled; concealing them in different places, especially by the sides of highways, in the furrows, and under the herbage or brush-wood, where they sometimes are left two or three days, but where he knows perfectly to find them when he is in need. He hunts the young Hares in the plains; seizes old ones in their seats; digs out the Rabbets in the warrens; discovers the nests of Partridges and Quails, and seizes the mothers on the eggs; and destroys a vast quantity of game. He is exceedingly voracious; and when other food fails him, makes war against Rats, Field Mice, Serpents, Lizards, and Toads. Of these he destroys great numbers; and this is the only service that he appears to do to mankind. When urged by hunger, he will also eat roots or insects; and the Foxes near the coasts will devour Crabs, Shrimps, or Shell-fish. In France and Italy, they do incredible mischief by feeding on grapes, of which they are excessively fond⁕1.

We are told by Buffon, that the Fox sometimes attacks Bee-hives, and the nests of Wasps, for the sake of what he can find to eat: and that he frequently meets with so rough a reception here, as to I.250 force him to retire, that he may roll on the ground and crush those that are stinging him; but having thus rid himself of his troublesome companions, he instantly returns to the charge, and obliges them at length to forsake their combs, and leave them to him as the reward of his victory. When pressed by necessity, he will devour carrion. The Comte de Buffon one evening suspended on a tree, at the height or nine feet, some meat, bread, and bones. The Foxes had been at severe exercise during the night; for next morning the earth all around was beaten, by their jumping, as smooth as a barn-floor.

engraving of “Cur Fox”, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 280:
The Cur FOX

The Fox exhibits a great degree of cunning in digging young Rabbets out of their burrows. He does not enter the hole; for in this case he would have to dig several feet along the ground, under the surface of the earth: but he follows their scent above, till he comes to the end, where they lie; and then scratching up the earth, descends immediately upon and devours them⁕2.

Pontoppidan informs us, that when the Fox observes an Otter go into the water to fish, he will frequently hide himself behind a stone; and when the Otter comes to shore with his prey, will make such a spring upon him that the affrighted animal runs off and leaves his booty behind. “A certain person (continues this writer) was surprised on seeing a Fox near a fisherman’s house, laying a parcel of Torsks’⁕3 heads in a row. He waited the event; the Fox hid I.251 himself behind them, and made a booty of the first Crow that came for a bit of them⁕4.”

The Fox prepares for himself a convenient den, in which he lies concealed during the greater part of the day. This is so contrived, as to afford the best possible security to its inhabitant; being situated under hard ground, the roots of trees, &c. and is besides furnished with proper outlets, through which he may escape in case of necessity.—This care and dexterity in constructing for himself a habitation, is by M. de Buffon considered as alone sufficient to rank the Fox among the higher order of quadrupeds.

He is one of those animals, that in this country are made objects of diversion in the chace. When he finds himself pursued, he generally makes towards his hole; and penetrating to the bottom, lies till a Terrier is sent in to him. If his den is under a rock or the roots of trees, which is often the case, he is safe; for the Terrier is no match for him there, and he cannot be dug out by his enemies. When the retreat to his kennel is cut off, his stratagems and shifts to escape are as surprising as they are various. He always takes to the woody parts of the country, and prefers the paths that are most embarrassed with thorns and briars. He runs in a direct line before the hounds, and at no great distance from them; and if hard-pushed, seeks the low wet grounds, as though conscious that the scent does not lie so well there. I.252 When overtaken, he becomes obstinately desperate, and bravely defends himself against the teeth of his adversaries even to the last gasp⁕5.

Dr. Goldsmith relates a remarkable instance of the parental affection of this animal, which he says occurred near Chelmsford. A She-Fox that had, as it should seem, but one cub, was unkennelled by a gentleman’s Hounds, and hotly pursued. The poor animal, braving every danger rather than leave her cub behind to be worried by the Dogs, took it up in her mouth, and ran with it in this manner for some miles. At last, taking her way through a farmer’s yard, she was assaulted by a Mastiff; and was at length obliged to drop her cub, which was taken up by the farmer. And we are happy to add, that the affectionate creature escaped the pursuit, and got off in safety⁕6.—A female Fox was hunted near St. Ives, during three quarters of an hour, with a cub, about a fortnight old, all the time in her mouth, which she was at length compelled to leave to the ferocity of her pursuers⁕7.—It is not, however, by Hounds alone that this sagacious animal is destroyed:

The plunder’d warrener full many a wile

Devises, to entrap his greedy foe

Fat with nocturnal spoils. At close of day,

With silence drags his trail: then from the ground

Pares thin the close-graz’d turf; there with nice hand

Covers the latent death, with curious springs

Prepar’d to fly at once, whene’er the tread


Of man or beast unwarily shall press

The yielding surface. By th’ indented steel

With gripe tenacious held, the felon grins,

And struggles, but in vain: yet oft ’t is known

When ev’ry art has fail’d, the captive Fox

Has shar’d the wounded joint, and with a limb

Compounded for his life.—But if perchance

In the deep pitfall plung’d, there’s no escape:

But unrepriev’d he dies; and bleach’d in air,

The jest of clowns, his reeking carcase hangs.

Of all animals the Fox has the most significant eye; by which is expressed every passion of love, fear, hatred, &c. He is remarkably playful; but like all savage creatures half reclaimed, will on the least offence bite even those with whom he is most familiar. He is never to be fully tamed. He languishes when deprived of liberty; and if kept too long in a domestic state, he dies of melancholy. When abroad, he is often seen to amuse himself with his fine bushy tail, running sometimes for a considerable time in circles to catch it. In cold weather he wraps it about his nose⁕8.

The Fox is very common in Japan. The natives believe him to be animated by the Devil; and their historical and sacred writings are all full of strange accounts respecting him⁕9. New England is said to have been early stocked with Foxes by a gentleman who imported some from Europe for the pleasure of the chace. The present breed in that country are supposed to have sprung from these. I.254 They are there believed to be very destructive to Lambs; and a reward is given of two shillings a-head, for their extirpation⁕10.

The females produce only once a-year (except some accident befalls the first litter), and have from three to six at a time. If the dam perceives the place of her retreat to be discovered, she carries off her cubs, one by one, to a more secure habitation. The young are brought forth blind, like puppies; and are of a darkish-brown colour.—Foxes grow till they are eighteen months old, and live thirteen or fourteen years⁕11.—During winter, these animals make an almost continual yelping; but in summer, when they shed their hair, they are for the most part silent.

Synonyms.—Canis Vulpes. Linn.—Renard. Buffon.——Bew. Quad. 279, 280.

⁕1 Penn. Brit. Zool. ii. 73.

⁕2 Smith’s Directory for destroying Vermin, p. 2.

⁕3 A species of Cod.

⁕4 Pontoppidan, ii. 22. These seem such extraordinary instances of sagacity and intelligence, that we scarcely know how to credit them.

⁕5 Church.

⁕6 Goldsmith, iii. 330.

⁕7 Daniel, i. 169.

⁕8 Kaempfer, i. 126.

⁕9 Daniel, i. 161.

⁕10 Ibid. i. 165.

Notes and Corrections: The Fox

Foxes are in the Canidae family, but a separate genus. Canis vulpes, the red fox, is now Vulpes vulpes.

The plunder’d warrener full many a wile
[The Chase, Book III.]

engraving of Arctic Fox, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 283:
The Arctic FOX


The Arctic Fox is smaller than the Common Fox; and of a blueish-grey colour, which sometimes changes to perfect white. The hair is very thick, long, and soft. The nose is sharp; and the ears short, and almost hid in the fur. The tail is shorter, but more bushy, than that of the Common Fox.—These animals are met with only in the Arctic regions near the Polar Circle, and in the islands of the Frozen and Eastern Oceans; where they are found in incredible numbers.


Steller has given us an ample and entertaining description of their manners⁕1.

“During my unfortunate abode (says he) on Bering’s Island, I had but too many opportunities of studying the nature of these animals; which far exceed the common Fox in impudence, cunning, and roguery. The narrative of the innumerable tricks they played us, might vie with Albertus Julius’s history of the Apes on the island of Saxenburg.

“They forced themselves into our habitations by night as well as by day, stealing all that they could carry off; even things that were of no use to them, as knives, sticks, and clothes. They were so extremely ingenious, as to roll down our casks of provisions, several poods⁕2 in weight; and then steal the meat out with such skill, that, at first, we could not bring ourselves to ascribe the theft to them. While employed in stripping an animal of its skin, it has often happened that we could not avoid stabbing two or three Foxes, from their rapacity in tearing the flesh out of our hands. If we buried it ever so carefully, and even added stones to the weight of earth that was upon it; they not only found it out, but with their shoulders pushed away the stones, by lying under them, and in this manner helping one another. If, in order to secure it, I.256 we put any animal on the top of a high post in the air; they either dug up the earth at the bottom, and thus tumbled the whole down, or one of them climbed up, and with incredible artifice and dexterity threw down what was upon it.

“They watched all our motions, and accompanied us in whatever we were about to do. If the sea threw up an animal of any kind, they devoured it before we could arrive to rescue it from them; and if they could not consume the whole of it at once, they trailed it in portions to the mountains; where they buried it under stones before our eyes, running to and fro so long as any thing remained to be conveyed away. While this was doing, others stood on guard, and watched us. If they saw any one coming at a distance, the whole troop would combine at once and begin digging altogether in the sand, till even a Beaver or Sea-bear in their possession would be so completely buried under the surface, that not a trace of it could be seen. In the night-time, when we slept in the field, they came and pulled off our night-caps, and stole our gloves from under our heads, with the beaver-coverings, and the skins that we lay upon. In consequence of this, we always slept with our clubs in our hands, that if they awoke us we might drive them away or knock them down.

“When we made a halt to rest by the way, they gathered around us, and played a thousand tricks in our view; and when we sat still, they approached us so near that they gnawed the thongs of our shoes. If we lay down as if intending to sleep, they came I.257 and smelt at our noses, to find whether we were dead or alive. On our first arrival, they bit off the noses, fingers, and toes of our dead, while we were preparing the grave; and thronged in such a manner about the infirm and sick, that it was with difficulty we could keep them off.

“Every morning we saw these audacious animals patrolling about among the Sea-lions and Sea-bears⁕3 lying on the strand; smelling at such as were asleep, to discover whether some one of them might not be dead: if that happened to be the case, they proceeded to dissect him immediately, and soon afterwards all were at work in dragging the parts away. Because the Sea-lions sometimes in their sleep overlay their young, the Foxes every morning examined the whole herd of them, one by one, as if conscious of this circumstance; and immediately dragged away the dead cubs from their dams.

“As they would not suffer us to be at rest either by night or day, we became so exasperated against them that we killed them, young and old, and harassed them by every means we could devise. When we awoke in the morning, there always lay two or three that had been knocked on the head the preceding night; and I can safely affirm, that, during my stay upon the island, I killed above two hundred of these animals with my own hands. On the third day after my arrival, I knocked down with a club, within the space of three hours, upwards of seventy of them, and made a covering to my hut with their skins. I.258 They were so ravenous, that with one hand we could hold to them a piece of flesh, and with a stick or ax in the other could knock them down.

“From all the circumstances that occurred during our stay, it was evident that these animals could never before have been acquainted with mankind; and that the dread of Man is not innate in brutes, but must be grounded on long experience.

“Like the common Foxes, they were the most sleek and full of hair in the months of October and November. In January and February the growth of this was too thick. In April and May they began to shed their coat; in the two following months they had only wool upon them, and appeared as if they went in waistcoats.—In June they dropt their cubs, nine or ten at a brood, in holes and clefts of the rocks. They are so fond of their young, that, to scare us away from them, they barked and yelled like Dogs, by which they betrayed their covert; but no sooner did they perceive that their retreat was discovered, than (unless they were prevented) they dragged the young away in their mouths, and endeavoured to conceal them in some more secret place. On one of us killing the young, the dam would follow him with dreadful howlings, both day and night, for a hundred or more versts⁕4; and would not even then cease till she had done her enemy some material injury, or was herself killed by him.

“In heavy falls of snow, these animals bury themselves I.259 in that substance, where they lie as long as it continues of a sufficient depth. They swim across the rivers with great agility. Besides what the sea casts up, or what is destroyed by other beasts, they seize the Sea-fowl, by night, on the cliffs, where it has settled to sleep; but, on the contrary, they are themselves frequently victims to the birds of prey.—Though now found in such numbers on this island, they were probably conveyed thither from the continent, on the drift-ice; and being afterwards nourished by the great quantity of animal substances thrown ashore by the sea, they became thus enormously multiplied.”

We are informed by Mr. Crantz, that the Arctic Foxes exert an extraordinary degree of cunning in their mode of obtaining Fish for prey. They go into the water, and make a splash with their feet, in order to disturb the scaly tribes; and when these come up, immediately seize them. He says that in imitation of these animals, the Greenland women have adopted the same method with success⁕5.—Charlevoix, apparently alluding to this species, says that they exert an almost incredible degree of cunning in entrapping the different kinds of Water-fowl. They advance a little way into the water; and afterwards retire, playing a thousand antic tricks on the banks. The Fowl approach; and on their coming near, the Fox ceases, that he may not alarm them, only moving about his tail very gently: the former are said to be so foolish as to come up I.260 now and peck at it; when he immediately springs round upon them, and seldom misses his aim⁕6.

In Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla, Mr. Pennant tells us, these Foxes live also on the lesser quadrupeds: in Greenland, from necessity, on berries, shell-fish, or whatever the sea throws up: but in the north of Asia, and in Lapland, their principal food is the Lemming⁕7, the multitudes of which are sometimes so vast as to cover the whole face of the country. The Foxes follow these in their emigrations from place to place; and as the return of the Lemming is very uncertain, and frequently not till after long intervals of time, they are sometimes absent for three or four years in pursuit of this their favourite prey.—Mr. Pennant also tells us, that they are tame and inoffensive animals; and so simple that there have been instances of their standing by while the trap was baiting, and immediately afterwards putting their heads into it⁕8.

They are killed for the sake of their skins; the fur of which is light and warm, but not durable. They have at times appeared in such vast numbers about Hudson’s Bay, that four hundred have been taken in different ways between the months of December and March.—The Greenlanders sometimes eat the flesh, which they prefer to that of the Hare. They also make buttons of the skins; and, splitting the tendons, use them instead of thread.

Synonyms.—Canis Lagopus. Linn.—Isatis. Buffon.——Bew. Quad. 283.

⁕1 This description would seem to border somewhat on romance; but we know not how to contradict the statement of facts to which a respectable writer informs us he was an eye-witness.

⁕2 The pood is equal to 40 Russian pounds, each of which is somewhat less than the English pound.

⁕3 Leonine Seals, and Polar Bears.

⁕4 The Russian verst contains about 1166½ English yards.

⁕5 Hist. of Greenland.

⁕6 Charlevoix, Travels, i. 207.

⁕7 Mus Lemmus, of Linnæus.

⁕8 Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 43, 44.

Notes and Corrections: The Arctic Fox

skip to next section

Canis lagopus is now Vulpes lagopus.

the return of the Lemming is very uncertain, and frequently not till after long intervals of time
[The myth about lemmings throwing themselves off cliffs would not be invented for another century and a half.]

[Footnote] Leonine Seals, and Polar Bears.
[We learned earlier that what Bingley, following Shaw and Pennant, calls the Leonine Seal is now known as the Steller sea lion. All told, two birds and four mammals—to say nothing of assorted plants and invertebrates—are named after Steller. And now the bad news: apart from Steller’s jay, which is doing fine, the birds and mammals are all extinct or endangered.]

[Footnote] The Russian verst contains about 1166½ English yards.
[Most sources are content to define it as ⅔ mile.]

[Footnote] Mus Lemmus, of Linnæus.
[See next section.]



This tribe of animals is ferocious, and tolerably swift of foot. They hunt for their prey chiefly in the night, and seize it by surprize; lying in wait till it comes within reach, and then springing suddenly forwards upon it at one leap. While their prey is in sight, they frequently move their tail from side to side, keeping at the same time their eyes steadily fixed on the object. They never adopt vegetable food, except from necessity. Most of them are very agile in climbing trees; and have the remarkable property of alighting on their feet whenever thrown or falling from a height, by which the danger usually attendant on such accidents is often prevented. The females, producing a considerable number of young at a birth, have eight teats; four of which are situated on the breast, and the other four on the belly⁕1.

All the animals belonging to this tribe have six fore-teeth, the intermediate ones of which are equal. They have also three grinders on each side in both jaws. The tongue is furnished with rough sharp prickles, that point backwards. And the claws are sheathed and retractile⁕2: a necessary provision to keep them from being dulled while walking; for, being their principal weapons, as well of offence as defence, they are both hooked and sharp.

⁕1 Linn. Gmel. i. 76. Kerr. i. 145.

⁕2 Except in the Lion; which has them retractile, but not into sheaths.—See the following account.

Notes and Corrections: The Cat Tribe

Cats, family Felidae, are now divided picturesquely into two subfamilies, “roaring cats” and “small cats”.


engraving of Lion, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 81:


The Lion is chiefly found in the interior of Africa, and in the hotter parts of Asia. His form is strikingly bold and majestic. His large head and shaggy pendent mane, his strength of limb, and formidable countenance, exhibit a picture of terrific grandeur which no words can describe.

His length is from six to eight feet; and his tail, which is terminated by a tuft of blackish hair, is alone about four feet. The general colour is a pale tawny, inclining to white beneath. The claws are retractile; not into sheaths, but into the intervals between the toes by means of a particular articulation of the last joint. The last bone but one, by bending itself outwards, gives place to the last, which is only articulated to it; and to which the claw is fastened so as to bend itself upwards and sideways, more easily than downwards. So that the bone which is at the end of every toe being almost continually bent upwards, the point which rests upon the ground is not the extremity of the toe but the node of the articulation of the last two bones; and thus in walking, the claws remain elevated and retracted between the toes, those of the right paws towards the right and those of the left towards the left side of the toes. This admirable structure is not found in the great-toe; whose last joint bends only downwards, because this toe does not naturally rest upon I.263 the ground, being considerably shorter than the others⁕1.

engraving of Lioness, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 82:

The Lioness is smaller than the Lion, and destitute of a mane. She brings forth in the spring, in the most sequestered places, and produces four or five young at a time. These, on their first appearance, are about the size of a small pug Dog; and they continue at the teat nearly twelve months.

The strength of the Lion is so prodigious, that a single stroke of his paw is sufficient to break the back of a horse, and one sweep with his tail will throw a strong man to the ground. Kolben says, that when he comes up to his prey, he always knocks it down dead, and seldom bites it till the mortal blow has been given: this blow he generally accompanies with a terrible roar⁕2.

A Lion was once seen at the Cape to take a Heifer in his mouth; and though that animal’s legs dragged on the ground, yet he seemed to carry her off with as much ease as a Cat does a Rat: he likewise leaped over a broad ditch with her, without the least difficulty. A Buffalo, perhaps, would be too cumbersome for him, notwithstanding his strength, to seize and carry off in the manner above-mentioned. Two yeomen, however, of the Cape of Good Hope, gave Dr. Sparrman the following account on this subject.—“Being on a hunting party near Boshiesmans-river with several Hottentots, they perceived a Lion dragging a Buffalo from the plain to a wood upon a neighbouring hill. They, however, soon I.264 forced him to quit his prey, in order to make a prize of it themselves; and found that he had had the sagacity to take out the Buffalo’s large and unwieldy entrails, in order to be able the easier to make off with the fleshy and more eatable part of the carcase. And as soon as he saw, from the skirts of the wood, that the Hottentots had begun to carry off the flesh to the waggon, he frequently peeped out upon them, probably with no little mortification.

“The Lion’s strength, however, is said not to be sufficient alone to get the better of so large and strong an animal as the Buffalo: but, in order to make it his prey, he is obliged to have recourse both to agility and stratagem; and stealing on the Buffalo, he fastens, with both his paws, upon the nostrils and mouth of the beast, and continues squeezing them close together, till at length the victim is strangled, wearied out, and dies. It was said, that one of the colonists had had an opportunity of seeing a transaction of this kind; and others had reason to conclude that something of this nature had passed, from seeing Buffaloes which had escaped from the clutches of Lions, and which bore marks of the claws of these animals about the mouth and nose. It was asserted, however, that the Lion risqued his life in such attempts, especially if any other Buffalo was at hand to rescue that which was attacked; and that a traveller had once an opportunity of seeing a female Buffalo, with her calf, defended by a river at her back, keep at bay, for a long time, five Lions which had partly surrounded I.265 her, but which did not (at least as long as the traveller looked on) dare to attack her⁕3.”

engraving of Lion, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 179:

The Lion does not willingly attack any animal openly, unless provoked, or extremely hungry; in the latter case he is said to fear no danger, and to be repelled by no resistance. The method in which he takes his prey, is, almost always, to spring or throw himself on it, with one vast bound, from the place of his concealment: yet, if he chances to miss his leap, he will not (the Hottentots invariably assured Dr. Sparrman) follow his prey any farther; but, as though he were ashamed, turning round towards the place where he lay in ambush, slowly, and step by step, measures the exact length between the two points, in order to find how much too short, or how much beyond the mark, he had taken his leap.—“From all the most credible accounts that I could collect concerning Lions (continues this intelligent writer), as well as from what I saw myself, I think I may safely conclude, that this beast is frequently a great coward; or, at least, deficient in point of courage proportionate to his strength: on the other hand, however, he sometimes shews an unusual degree of intrepidity, of which I will just mention the following instance, as it was related to me.

“A Lion had broken into a walled inclosure for cattle, through the latticed gate, and had done considerable damage. The people belonging to the farm were well assured of his coming again by the same way. In consequence of this, they stretched I.266 a rope directly across the entrance, to which several loaded guns were fastened in such a manner, that they must necessarily discharge themselves into the Lion’s body as soon as ever he should push against the cord, as it was expected he would, with his breast. But the Lion, which came before it was dark, having probably some suspicions respecting the cord, struck it away with his foot; and without betraying the least fear in consequence of the reports made by the loaded pieces, went on steadily and careless of every thing, and devoured the prey he had left untouched before.”

Though the Lion generally springs upon his prey from some lurking-place, yet there have been instances where he has deviated from his usual method. Of these the following, related by Dr. Sparrman, is remarkable:—A Hottentot, perceiving that he was followed by a Lion, and concluding that the animal only waited the approach of night to make him his prey, began to consider of the best mode of providing for his safety, and at length he adopted the following. Observing a piece of broken ground with a precipitate descent on one side, he sat down by the edge of it; and found, to his great joy, that the Lion also made a halt, and kept at a distance behind him. As soon as it grew dark, the man, sliding gently forward, let himself down a little below the edge of the steep; and held up his cloak and hat on his stick, at the same time gently moving them backward and forward. The Lion, after a while, came creeping gently towards the object; and mistaking the cloak for the man himself, I.267 made a spring, and fell headlong down the precipice. By this means, the poor fellow was safely delivered from his horrible and rapacious enemy.

One of the Namaaqua Hottentots (whose country is about eighty leagues north of the Cape), endeavouring to drive his master’s cattle into a pool of water, enclosed between two ridges of rock, espied a huge Lion couching in the midst of the pool. Terrified at the unexpected sight of such a beast, which seemed to have its eyes fixed upon him, he instantly took to his heels. In doing this, he had presence of mind enough to run through the herd; concluding that if the Lion should pursue, he would take up with the first beast that presented itself. In this, however, he was mistaken. The Lion broke through the herd, making directly after the Hottentot; who, on turning round, and perceiving that the monster had singled him out, breathless and half-dead with fear, scrambled up one of the tree-aloes, in the trunk of which had luckily been cut out a few steps the more readily to come at some bird’s-nests that the branches contained. At the same moment the Lion made a spring at him; but, missing his aim, fell upon the ground. In surly silence he walked round the tree, casting at times a dreadful look towards the poor Hottentot, who had crept behind the nests. I should here remark, that these nests belong to a small bird of the genus Loxia⁕4; that lives in a state of society with the rest of its species, constructing I.268 a whole republic of nests in one clump, and under one cover. One of these clumps of nests sometimes extends a space of ten feet in diameter, and contains a population of several hundred individuals. It was under the cover of one of these structures, that the Hottentot screened himself from the view of the Lion. Having remained silent and motionless for a length of time, he ventured to peep over the side of the nest, hoping that the Lion had departed; when, to his great terror and astonishment, his eyes met those of the animal, which, as the poor fellow afterwards expressed himself, “flashed fire at him.” In short, the Lion laid himself down at the foot of the tree, and did not move from the place for four-and-twenty hours. At the end of this time, becoming parched with thirst, the beast went to a spring at some distance in order to drink. The Hottentot now, with trepidation, ventured to descend; and ran off to his home, which was not more than a mile distant, as fast as his feet could carry him, where he arrived in safety. The perseverance of the Lion was such, that, it appeared afterwards, he returned to the tree, and, finding the man had descended, hunted him by the scent to within three hundred paces of the house.

It seems to be a well-established fact, that the Lion prefers the flesh of a Hottentot to any other food. One of these people has been frequently singled out from a party of Dutch. The latter, however, being disguised in clothing, and the former going generally naked, may perhaps account for this distinction. The Horse, next to the Hottentot, seems I.269 to be his favourite prey; but on the Sheep, which perhaps he is too indolent to uncase from its woolly covering, he seldom deigns to fix his paw⁕5.

Where the Lion has become acquainted with human power, and experienced Man’s superiority, his courage has been so lost that he has been scared away even with a shout. In a tame state (but it is scarcely fair to draw any general inference from this) we have an instance of a Lion being overcome by a Goat. Mr. Bruce, director and commander-general of the Senegal company on the African coast, had near him a large full-grown tame Lion, four years old, when a flock of Goats was brought that had been just purchased. The sight of this tremendous animal so frightened them, that all, except one, ran off. This, however, looking stedfastly at the Lion, stamped with his foot upon the ground in a menacing attitude, then retreated three steps, and instantly returning, struck the Lion’s forehead so violently, with his horns, that the animal was stunned by the blow. The Goat repeated this several times before the Lion could recover himself; and the huge poltroon was thrown into such confusion, that he was obliged to conceal himself behind his master⁕6.

If we did not know somewhat of the natural disposition of this stately animal, we should feel a great degree of terror in seeing the keepers of wild beasts play with him, pull out his tongue, and even chastise I.270 him (as they sometimes do) without a cause. He seems to bear all with the utmost composure; and we very rarely have instances of his revenging these unprovoked sallies of impertinent curiosity. However, when his anger is at last excited, the consequences are terrible. Labat tells us of a gentleman who kept a Lion in his chamber, and employed a servant to attend it, who, as usual, mixed his blows with caresses. This ill-judged association continued for some time: till one morning the gentleman was awakened by a noise in his room, which he could not at first account for; but drawing the curtains, he beheld a horrid spectacle—the Lion growling over the man’s head, which he had separated from the body, and was tossing round the floor. The master immediately ran into the next room, called to the people without, and had the animal secured from doing farther mischief⁕7. This single account, however, is not sufficient to weigh against the many instances we every day witness, of this creature’s gentleness and submission. He is often bred up with domestic animals, and is seen to play innocently and familiarly among them; and if it ever happens that his natural ferocity returns, it is seldom exerted against his benefactors.—The following pleasing anecdotes afford very sufficient proofs of the Lion’s gratitude and affection.

In the reign of king James the First, Mr. Henry Archer, a watchmaker in Morocco, had two whelps given him, which had been stolen not long before I.271 from a Lioness near Mount Atlas. They were a male and female; and till the death of the latter, were kept together in the emperor’s garden. He, at that time, had the male constantly in his bed-room, till it grew as tall as a large Mastiff-dog; and the animal was perfectly tame and gentle in its manners. Being about to return to England, he reluctantly gave it to a Marseilles merchant; who presented it to the French king, from whom it came as a present to king James; and, for seven years afterwards, was kept in the Tower. A person of the name of Bull, who had been a servant to Mr. Archer, went by chance with some friends, to see the animals there. The beast recognized him in a moment; and, by his whining voice and motions, expressive of anxiety for him to come near, fully exhibited the symptoms of his joy at meeting with a former friend. Bull, equally rejoiced, ordered the keeper to open the grate; and he went in. The Lion fawned upon him like a dog, licking his feet, hands, and face; and skipped and tumbled about, to the astonishment of all the spectators. When the man left the place the animal bellowed aloud, and shook his cage in an extacy of sorrow and rage; and for four days afterwards refused to take any nourishment whatever⁕8.

About the year 1650, when the plague raged at Naples, Sir George Davis, the English Consul there, retired to Florence. He happened one day from curiosity to visit the Grand-duke’s dens. At the farther end of the place, in one of the dens, lay a I.272 Lion, which the keepers, during three whole years, had not been able to tame, though all the art and gentleness imaginable had been used. Sir George no sooner appeared at the gates of the den, than the Lion ran to him with all the marks of joy and transport he was capable of expressing. He reared himself up and licked his hand, which this gentleman, put in through the iron grate. The keeper, affrighted, pulled him away by the arm, intreating him not to hazard his life by venturing so near the fiercest creature of his kind that had ever entered those dens. Nothing, however, would satisfy Sir George, but in spite of all the keeper said to him he would go into the den. The instant he entered, the Lion threw his paws upon his shoulders, licked his face, and ran about his den, fawning, and as full of joy as a dog at the sight of his master. After several salutations had been exchanged, they parted very good friends.

The rumour of this interview between the Lion and the stranger, ran immediately through the city, and Sir George almost passed for a saint among the people. The Grand-duke, as soon as he had heard of it, sent for Sir George; who going with his highness to the den, gave him the following account of what had seemed so strange.

“A captain of a ship from Barbary gave me this Lion, when quite a whelp. I brought him up tame; but when I thought him too large to be suffered to run about the house, I built a den for him in my court-yard: from that time he was never permitted to be loose, except when brought into I.273 the house to be exhibited to my friends. When he was five years old, he did some mischief by pawing and playing with people in his frolicksome moods: having griped a man one day a little too hard, I ordered him to be shot, for fear of incurring the guilt of what might happen; on this, a friend, who happened to be then at dinner with me, begged him as a present: how he came here I know not.”

Here Sir George ended; and the Duke of Tuscany assured him, that the Lion had been given to him by the very person on whom Sir George had bestowed him.

An instance of recollection and attachment occurred not many years since in a Lion belonging to the Duchess of Hamilton. At is thus related by Mr. Hope: “One day I had the honour of dining with the Duchess of Hamilton. After dinner, the company attended her grace to see a Lion fed that she had in the court. While we were admiring his fierceness, and teazing him with sticks to make him abandon his prey and fly at us, the porter came and informed the Duchess that a Serjeant with some recruits at the gate, begged to see the Lion. Her grace, with great condescension and good-nature, asked permission of the company to admit the travellers. They were accordingly admitted at the moment the Lion was growling over his prey. The Serjeant, advancing to the cage, called ‘Nero, Nero, poor Nero, don’t you know me?’ The animal instantly turned his head to look at him; then rose up, left his prey, and came, I.274 wagging his tail, to the side of the cage. The man put his hand upon him, and patted him; telling us, at the same time, that it was three years since they had seen each other; and that the care of the Lion on his passage from Gibraltar, had been committed to him, and he was happy to see the poor beast shew so much gratitude for his attention. The Lion, indeed, seemed perfectly pleased; he went to and fro, rubbing himself against the place where his benefactor stood, and licked the Serjeant’s hand as he held it out to him. The man wanted to go into the cage to him; but was withheld by the company, who were not altogether convinced that it would be safe for him to do so⁕9.”

Citoyen Felix, about five years ago, brought two Lions, a male and female, to the national ménagerie at Paris. About the beginning of the following June, Felix was taken ill, and could no longer attend the Lions; another was, therefore, forced to perform this duty. The male, sad and solitary, remained from that moment constantly seated at the end of his cage, and refused to receive any thing from the stranger, whose presence was hateful to him, and whom he often menaced by bellowing. The company even of the female seemed now to displease him; and he paid no attention to her. The uneasiness of the animal afforded a belief that he was really ill, but no one dared to approach him. At length Felix recovered; and, with intention to surprize the Lion, he crawled softly to the cage, and I.275 shewed only his face between the bars: the Lion, in a moment, made a bound, leaped against the bars, patted him with its paws, licked his hands and face, and trembled with pleasure. The female also ran to him: but the Lion drove her back; and seemed angry; and, fearful that she should snatch any favours from Felix, a quarrel was about to take place, but Felix entered the cage to pacify them. He caressed them by turns; and was afterwards frequently seen between them. He had so great a command over them, that whenever he wished them to separate and retire to their cages, he had only to give the order: when he had a desire that they should lie down, and shew strangers their paws or throats, on the least sign they would lie on their backs, hold up their paws one after another, open their throats, and, as a recompence, obtain the favour of licking his hand. These animals were of a strong breed; and at the time above-mentioned, were five years and a half old⁕10.

We are assured, from numberless authorities, that the anger of this animal is noble, his courage magnanimous, and his disposition grateful. He has been often seen to despise contemptible enemies, and pardon their insults when it was in his power to have punished them. He has been known to spare the lives of such creatures as were thrown to be devoured by him, to live peaceably with them, to afford them part of his subsistence, and sometimes even to want food himself rather than deprive them of that life I.276 which his generosity had spared. I shall mention a single instance:—A Dog was put into the cage of a Lion in the ménagerie at the Tower, some years ago, for his food. The stately animal, however, spared its life; and they lived together for a considerable time in the same den, in the most perfect harmony, and appeared to have a great affection for each other. The Dog had sometimes the impudence to growl at the Lion, and even to dispute with him the food, which was thrown to them; so true is the old proverb, “Familiarity breeds contempt:” but the noble animal was never known to chastise the impertinent conduct of his little companion; but usually suffered it to eat quietly till it was satisfied, before he began his own repast⁕11.

A Lioness, at present in the Museum of Natural History at Paris, permits a Dog to live in her den, and is excessively fond of it. She seems both pleased and gratified by its caresses: she is attentive to all its wants; and is unhappy whenever it is removed, though for a few moments only, from her sight. The keepers assert that to this singular attachment alone, they are indebted for the tranquillity with which she has hitherto supported the loss of her liberty⁕12.

Instances have even occurred of his merely chastising his pursuers, without destroying them. A Hottentot of the Cape, was thus bit in the face by a Lion, who then stalked away. A farmer lay for I.277 some time under a Lion, and received several severe bruises from him; yet the animal spared his life. It is, however, a matter of some doubt, whether this merciful disposition towards Man is the effect of generosity, or whether it does not rather arise from caprice and want of appetite⁕13.

In the Museum of Natural History at Paris one of the Lionesses, about nine years of age, has three times had young. At the first litter she produced nine, at the second three, and at the third two. The young ones of the second litter, at the age of a month, are represented in the frontispiece, with their mother; from a painting by Maréchal, natural-history painter in Paris. The parents, which are about equal in age, and probably of the same litter, were caught together, when somewhat more than a year old, in a trap, made in a wood, in the north of Africa. They now live together, are extremely gentle, and exhibit great affection towards each other.—None of the young ones had at first either a mane, or tuft at the end of their tail; and we are well assured that these do not begin to appear till the animals are three years, or three years and a half, old. Their coat was somewhat woolly, and of a confused colour, between grey and red. They had several little brown transverse strokes on the upper part of the back; which were crossed on each side by a straight line of the same colour, that extended from the back of the head to the tail. As they increased in size, these by degrees disappeared; and I.278 with a more regular proportion of limbs, the hair assumed nearly the colour of that of the old animals. It was in October, 1800, that these whelps were littered. When they were some months old, they became very mischievous, and one in particular exhibited unpleasant signs of ferocity. The keeper one day, against the animal’s inclination, compelled him to go into the garden of the Museum; when he sprang at the man with so much violence, as to tear the sleeve of his coat. Two of these young Lions have fallen victims to the first effects of dentition, a period very dangerous to the young of all savage animals that are produced in a state of confinement.

The Lions in the Museum begin to roar at day-break, and the females follow their example. They continue this noise for six or seven minutes; and recommence it after feeding, for about the same length of time. At other times they are seldom heard; except to announce some change of weather, or when their keeper has been long absent.—In a state of nature, the Lion seldom leaves his den except during the night; but in the Museum the animals, being shaded from the too glaring light of the sun, are, on the contrary, always most active in the day.

In the den adjoining to that in which the above-mentioned Lioness is placed, there is another female, which was caught in the interior of Africa, at a much greater distance from the habitations of men than the places from whence any others in the Museum were brought. According to the account of Felix Cassel, the principal keeper, who travelled I.279 into Africa to collect animals, she came from the borders of the Great Desert. She is ferocious in the extreme, and all the care and attentions of the keepers have not hitherto in the least degree softened her natural disposition. This circumstance seems to confirm the opinion of Buffon and some other naturalists; who assert, that the Lions possess greater strength and ferocity as they are removed from the haunts of Man, and that the most formidable character is to be expected in those that frequent only the burning and sandy deserts of the interior of Asia and Africa.

The Lion which is figured in “La Ménagerie du Museum National,” is an uncommonly beautiful animal; and was caught seven years ago, between Constantine and Bonne, in the dominions of the Dey of Algiers, after a chace of three days. It was then only a-year old, but all its teeth were found perfect. The mane did not appear till two years and a half afterwards. It was presented by the Dey to the French Republic.

Felix Cassel, the keeper of the Lions, asserts that the tradition of these animals being terrified at the crowing of a Cock, is very far from being founded in fact. He has known a Lion catch two or three Cocks, and in a few minutes devour them with great eagerness.

Tavernier mentions, that, in some parts of the East, the inhabitants have a mode of taming Lions, which does not seem to be practised in any other part of the world. Four or five of these animals being brought together, are tied by their hind legs, to stakes, at the distance of twelve yards from I.280 each other. Another strong rope is put round the neck of each; and this is held by men, who stand behind the stakes. In the front, and in a line parallel with the animals but just beyond their reach when they are at the extent of the rope that ties their legs, another rope is placed; against which several people stand, who incessantly teaze them, by throwing stones and pieces of wood at them. The Lions, provoked at this outrage, spring with fury towards the people; when the man, who holds the ropes that are round their necks, pulls them back. Thus they are by degrees rendered familiar. Tavernier was himself a witness of this method⁕14.

Mr. Brown tells us, that, while he was resident at Dar Fûr, in Africa, he purchased two Lions, one of which was only four months old. By degrees, he rendered this latter animal so tame that it acquired most of the habits of a Dog. It satiated itself twice a-week with the offal of the butchers, and then commonly slept for several hours successively. When food was given them, they were not only furious to each other, but to any one who approached them; excepting, however, these intervals, though both were males, Mr. Brown never saw them disagree, nor exhibit any signs of ferocity towards men. Even lambs passed them unmolested. The Sultan had also two tame Lions, which, with their attendant, always came into the market to be fed⁕15.

Within the dominions of the Great Mogul, it is esteemed a royal privilege to hunt the Lion, and no I.281 one can do so without especial permission from the king. When Sir Thomas Roe was at this court, as ambassador from James the First, a Lion and a Wolf broke into the court-yard of his house; and it was not till he had sent to the palace, and obtained leave, that he dared to attack them⁕16.

The roaring of the Lion when in quest of prey, resembles the sound of distant thunder; and, being re-echoed by the rocks and mountains, appals the whole race of animals, and puts them to a sudden flight; but he frequently varies his voice into a hideous scream or yell.

He is commonly said to devour as much at once as will serve him for two or three days; and, when satiated with food, to remain in a state of retirement in his den, which he seldom leaves except for the purpose of prowling about for prey. His teeth are so strong, that he breaks the bones of animals with perfect ease, and often swallows them along with the flesh. His tongue is furnished with reversed prickles, so large and strong as to be capable of lacerating the skin. When he is enraged, or in want of food, he erects and shakes his mane, and beats his tail with considerable violence against his back and sides⁕17. In this state, the inhabitants of the Cape say, it is certain death to any person who happens unfortunately to approach him; but when the mane and tail are at rest, and the animal is in a placid humour, travellers may in general pass near him with safety⁕18.—The I.282 temper of the Lioness is said to be not so easily discovered: when, however, she is attacked with her young, she seems insensible to her own wounds; and with her head to the ground, and her eyes fixed upon those who would deprive her of her progeny, she seldom fails either to save them, or perish in their defence⁕19.

The royal dam looks round with proud disdain,

Lashes her sides, and curls her flowing mane;

No danger fears, but, willing to engage,

With chafing jaws she churns the frothy rage.

Redoubled fires flash from her rolling eyes,

Clods scatter’d fly, and dusty columns rise.

Roaring she frights the herd, and shakes the plain,

Mocks the slung stone, and snaps the spear in twain;

Still guards her young, the hunter’s motion thwarts,

And wrenches from her sides the reeking darts.

But when death hovers o’er her swimming eyes,

And clotted on the ground life’s wasted treasure lies;

When doubtful staggers own the killing wound;

Regardless of herself she looks around,

O’er her dear cub her sinking head reclines,

In death defends, nor at her fate repines:

But dreads to see the wretch a captive made,

To hear him roar, and call in vain for aid.

Kolben, who seems unaccountably to have been more partial to the flesh of rapacious animals than that of most others, says, that the Lion is frequently eaten at the Cape, and that the flavour is excellent, being greatly like that of venison.⁕20

Synonyms.Canis Leo. Linn.—Lion. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 81, 82.—Bew. Quad. 179.

⁕1 Memoirs of the Acad. of Scien. at Paris.

⁕2 Kolben, ii. 95.

⁕3 Sparrman’s Voyage to the Cape of Good Hope.

⁕4 Loxia Socia of Linnæus.

⁕5 Barrow’s Travels in Africa, 393.

⁕6 Astley’s Collection of Voyages, ii. 342.

⁕7 Labat’s Afrique Occidentale, ii. p. 11.

⁕8 Smith’s Travels, in Churchill’s Coll. ii. 395.

⁕9 Thoughts in Prose and Verse, by John Hope, 1782.

⁕10 Tilloch’s Phil. Mag.

⁕11 Church.

⁕12 La Menagerie du Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle.

⁕13 Church.

⁕14 Travels in India.

⁕15 Travels in Africa.

⁕16 Voyage to India, in Churchill’s Coll. i. 795.

⁕17 Grose, i. 275.

⁕18 Kolben.

⁕19 Grose, i. 275.

⁕20 Kolben, ii. 96.

Notes and Corrections: The Lion

skip to Appendix

Felis leo is now Panthera leo.

A Dog was put into the cage of a Lion in the ménagerie at the Tower
text has them énagerie

The young ones of the second litter, at the age of a month, are represented in the frontispiece
[Thanks to the wealth of detail in this paragraph, it was easy to locate assorted prints and engravings of the original painting, both color and monochrome.]

The royal dam looks round with proud disdain
[For variety’s sake, neither Thomson’s Seasons nor Somervile’s Chase, but Oppian’s Halieutica. We will see much more of this work in the third volume when we arrive at Fish.]

[Synonyms] Canis Leo. Linn.
[Linnaeus had his quirks, but this isn’t one of them. He called it Felis leo; “Canis” is probably a typo or rather a brain-o on the part of the printer. (The error is carried over from the first edition, rein­forcing the idea that Bingley was more interested in adding new material than in correcting errors.)]

[Synonyms] Bew. Quad. 179.
text has 169

[Footnote] Loxia Socia of Linnæus.
The Sociable Grosbeak is described in Volume II.


The Lion⁕1.

The Lion, in confinement, is usually allowed about four pounds weight of raw flesh for his daily subsistence; and he seldom laps more than a quart of water in the day. However gentle and docile these animals may have been rendered by their keepers, no one can approach them during the time they are feeding, without almost a certainty of their avenging the interruption. Even where the animals have become attached to Dogs that have been put into their dens, it has been generally considered necessary to separate them when the Lions were fed. A Lioness in the Tower would allow a Dog to eat with her, but not without occasional signs of displeasure. None of the animals can on any account [I.495] be fed from the hand even of their most intimate keeper.

A Lion and Lioness brought over together from Africa, about twelve years ago, were kept in the same den at Exeter ’Change. They were each about eighteen months old, and were attended by a negro who had reared them from whelps, and had come over along with them. This man would enter their den with the greatest safety, when they would fawn upon, and play round him, exactly like kittens. He frequently had a table in their den, with pipes and glasses; and sitting down there would quietly smoke his pipe. If on these occasions their frolicks were too boisterous, he had only to stamp his foot, and by his countenance to express his displeasure, and they would immediately cease, and quietly lie down by his side. But it was not on all occasions that even this man would venture himself with them. If they were irritated by the spectators, as through mere wantonness they sometimes were, he always refused to enter their den; and it is not recollected that he ever did it whilst they were feeding. When this man left Exeter ’Change the female took his loss so much to heart that she pined away, and died not long afterwards.

Lions have suffered Dogs to live in the same den with them, but no instances have occurred in England of their allowing so great a privilege to any other animals.—A Lion called Hector, now in the Tower, had been some days very ill, when to try the experiment, a live Rabbet was put into his den. It was suffered to remain here uninjured one whole [I.496] night and the next day; and some hopes began to be entertained that it would be permitted to share the apartment with the noble animal in quiet. But on the morning following the second night, it was found dead. The Lion had not, however, attempted to devour it, for the skin was not in the least lacerated; but when this was stripped off, there were on each side of the body the evident marks of his teeth.—In another instance, of a similar kind, a Cat had accidentally crept among the straw of his bed-place, but the moment he discovered her, he sprang upon and destroyed her. In this case also he left the body undevoured.

The Lions in the Tower generally begin to roar in the evening just before the night closes in. A Lioness that was bred in the Tower, regularly roars at six o’clock in the evening through both winter and summer. This is almost always within five minutes, one way or the other, of the striking of the clock. This practise is supposed to have originated in winter, and from the noise of the drums, which, during that part of the year, always beat at six o’clock. It is, however, somewhat strange that she should have continued this exactly at the same hour through the whole year, since, for several months, the drums are not beat till eight o’clock. These animals usually roar on the approach of rainy weather; and much more on Sunday than any other days, from the circumstance of their being then almost entirely by themselves.

The value of a full grown Lion in this country, [I.497] is now about 300l.; whilst that of a Lioness is not more than 100l.

⁕1 See vol. i. p. 262.


engraving of Tiger, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 83:


The Tiger is a native of Asia, and is met with as far north as China and Chinese Tartary; but he is principally found in India, and the Indian islands.—His general size is somewhat under that of a Lion. At the same time that this is the most ferocious, he is certainly the most beautiful of all quadrupeds; his colour being a fine orange-yellow, white on the face, throat, and belly, and marked throughout by many long transverse stripes.

His disposition is fierce and sanguinary in the extreme, and there is no animal that he will not venture to attack. Such furious combats have taken place between the Lion and Tiger, that both animals have frequently been known to perish, rather than give up the contest.

He commits horrid ravages among the flocks and herds, in the countries where he resides; and neither the sight nor the opposition of Man (in whose flesh he is said to delight) has any power to make him desist. When undisturbed, he plunges his head into the body of the animal, and drinks large draughts of blood, the sources of which are generally exhausted before his thirst is appeased.

His muscular strength is extremely great. We are informed, that a peasant in the East Indies had a Buffalo fallen into a quagmire; and while he went to call for assistance, an immense Tiger came, that I.284 immediately drew out the animal, on which the united efforts of several men had been of no effect. When the people returned, the first object they beheld was the Tiger with the Buffalo thrown over his shoulder: he was carrying it away with the feet upward, towards his den. As soon, however, as he saw the men, he let fall his prey, and instantly fled to the woods; but he had previously killed the Buffalo, and sucked its blood⁕1. It may be here observed, that some of the East Indian Buffaloes weigh above a thousand pounds, which is twice as heavy as the ordinary run of our black-cattle: whence we may form a conception of the enormous strength of this rapacious animal, that could thus run off with a weight double that of itself.

engraving of Tiger, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 186:

M. D’Obsonville was present at a terrible combat between a Tiger and an Elephant, in the camp of Hyder Ali. The Tiger, not yet of full strength (for he did not seem more than four feet high), was brought into the area, and fastened with a chain to a stake, round which he could turn freely. On one side, a strong and well-taught elephant was introduced by his keeper. The amphitheatre was enclosed by a triple rank of lance-men. The action, when it commenced, was furious; the Elephant, however, after receiving two deep wounds, proved victorious. But from an encounter like this, where the animal seemed a feeble one of its species, and was at the same time restrained by chains, we cannot form an accurate judgment of its powers in a I.285 state of liberty. M. D’Obsonville says, that although four or five Elephants would have nothing to fear from a greater number of Tigers, yet, from what he could remark from this exhibition, he was of opinion, that when the Tiger is in full possession of his faculties, he will be more than equal to the Elephant in single combat⁕2.

We are told, but probably without foundation, that the Tiger will encounter the Crocodile. It is said that, when he descends to the water to drink, the Crocodile raises its head above the surface, in order to seize him, as it does other animals that come there for that purpose. When this is the case, the Tiger strikes his claws into the eyes of the Crocodile, the only vulnerable part within his reach; and the latter, immediately plunging under the water, drags in the Tiger also, and by this means they are frequently both drowned.

The Tiger, if taken young, may for a short time at least, till his ferocity comes with his age, be in some measure domesticated, and rendered mild and playful to his keepers.—A beautiful young Tiger, brought not long ago from China, in the Pitt East-Indiaman, at the age of ten months, was so far domesticated, as to admit of every kind of familiarity from the people on board. It seemed to be quite harmless, and was as playful as a kitten. It frequently slept with the sailors in their hammocks; and would suffer two or three of them to repose their heads on its back, as upon a pillow, while it I.286 lay stretched out upon the neck. In return for this, it would, however, now and then steal their meat. Having one day stolen a piece of beef from the carpenter, he followed the animal, took the meat out of its mouth, and beat it severely for the theft; which punishment it suffered with all the patience of a Dog. It would frequently run out on the boltsprit; climb about the ship like a Cat; and perform a number of other tricks, with an agility that was truly astonishing. There was a Dog on board, with which it would often play in the most diverting manner. This animal was taken on board the ship when it was only a month or six weeks old, and arrived in this country before it had quite completed a year. How much longer its good-humour might have continued, it is impossible to say: but it is very much to be doubted, whether the same innocent playfulness would have formed apart of its character when arrived at its full state of maturity⁕3. D’Obsonville seems, however, of opinion, that the Tiger may be in some measure educated; but that the Eastern nations deem it useless to make subservient to their amusement an animal, whose strength is the more dangerous from its natural gloomy ferocity, which, roused by certain circumstances, might be found to have been by no means eradicated⁕4.

The method of the Tiger’s seizing his prey is, by concealing himself from view, and springing, with a horrible roar, on his object, which he carries off into the recesses of the forest; having first, if undisturbed, I.287 sucked out the blood. His cry, in the act of springing on the victim, is said to be hideous beyond conception; and we are told that, like the Lion, if he misses his object, he makes off without repeating the attempt. He seems to prefer mankind to any other prey, when he can procure them by surprise; but he seldom makes an open attack on any animal capable of resistance.

In the beginning of the present century, a company, seated under the shade of some trees near the banks of a river in Bengal, were alarmed by the unexpected sight of a Tiger, preparing for its fatal spring: when a lady, with almost unexampled presence of mind, unfurled a large umbrella in the animal’s face; which, being confounded by so extraordinary and sudden an appearance, instantly retired, and thus gave them an opportunity of escaping from its terrible attack⁕5.

Another party had not the same good-fortune; but, in the height of their enter­tainment, in an instant one of their companions was seized and carried off by a Tiger⁕6.—But the fatal accident which a few years ago occurred in the East Indies, must be still fresh in the memory of all who have read the dreadful description given by an eye-witness of the scene. “We went (says the Narrator) on shore on Sangar Island, to shoot deer; of which we saw innumerable tracks, as well as of Tigers: we continued our diversion till near three o’clock; when, sitting down by the side of a jungle to refresh ourselves, a roar I.288 like thunder was heard, and an immense Tiger seized our unfortunate friend⁕7, and rushed again into the jungle, dragging him through the thickest bushes and trees, every thing giving way to its monstrous strength; a Tigress accompanied his progress. The united agonies of horror, regret, and fear, rushed at once upon us. I fired on the Tiger; he seemed agitated. My companion fired also; and in a few moments after this, our unfortunate friend came up to us, bathed in blood. Every medical assistance was vain; and he expired in the space of twenty-four hours, having received such deep wounds from the teeth and claws of the animal, as rendered his recovery hopeless. A large fire, consisting often of twelve whole trees, was blazing near us at the time this accident took place, and ten or more of the natives were with us. The human mind can scarcely form any idea of this scene of horror. We had but just pushed our boat from this accursed shore, when the Tigress made her appearance, almost raging mad, and remained on the sand all the while we continued in sight.”

On the borders of Tartary, Tigers are very frequent; and in so populous an empire as China, it would seem impossible for them to have remained till the present day unextirpated. In the Northern roads, hundreds of travellers are seen with lantherns carried before them, to secure them from these ravenous I.289 animals⁕8.—In some parts of India, they are particularly fatal to wood-cutters and labourers about the forests; and they have been known to swim to boats at anchor at little distance from the shore, and snatch the men from aboard⁕9.—In Java, they are much dreaded, from their very frequently carrying off the travelling inhabitants. When any person of consequence goes out into the country, he has with him men who blow incessantly a kind of small French-horns, the shrill sound of which frightens these creatures entirely away⁕10.—The hunting of Tigers is a favourite amusement with some of the Eastern princes; who go in search of them, attended by considerable bodies of men well mounted and armed with lances. As soon as the animals are roused, they are instantly attacked on all sides, with pikes, arrows, and sabres, and are presently destroyed. This diversion is, however, always attended with danger; for if the Tiger feels himself wounded, he seldom retreats without sacrificing one of the party to his vengeance⁕11. There are men who, covered with a coat of mail; or even armed only with a shield, a poniard, and a short scymitar; will dare to attack these blood-thirsty animals singly, and fight with them life for life; for in combats of this nature, there is no other alternative, than to vanquish or to fall.

The inhabitants of these countries predict their success or losses by omens taken from this animal. I.290 If they are marching against an enemy, and a Tiger is seen flying nearly in the same direction, victory is always supposed to be certain. But as it must of course happen that the reverse frequently takes place, they are never in want of a subterfuge to justify a similar augury.

The Tigress, like the Lioness, produces four or five young at a litter. She is at all times furious; but her rage rises to the utmost extremity, when robbed of her young. She then braves every danger; and pursues her plunderers, who are often obliged to release one of their captives in order to retard her motion. She stops, takes it up, and carries it to the nearest covert; but instantly returns, and renews her pursuit, even to the gates of buildings, or the edge of the sea: and when her hope of recovering her offspring is lost, she expresses her agony by howlings so hideous as to excite terror wherever they are heard.

The roar of the Tiger is said to be exceedingly dreadful. It begins by intonations and inflections, deep, melancholy and slow: presently it becomes more acute; when suddenly exerting himself, the animal utters a violent cry, interrupted by long tremulous sounds, which, together, make a distracting impression upon the mind. It is chiefly in the night that this is heard; when silence and darkness add to the horror, and his roarings are repeated by the echoes of the mountains⁕12.

The skin is held in high, esteem in all the Eastern I.291 countries; and particularly in China, where the Mandarins cover their seats of justice with it. It is also applied to many other ornamental and useful purposes. The Indian physicians attribute medical virtues to various parts of the Tiger’s body⁕13.

Synonyms.—Felis Tigris. Linn.—Tigre. Buffon.—Royal Tiger. D’Obsonville.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 83.—Bew. Quad. 186.

⁕1 Hamilton, i. 264.

⁕2 D’Obsonville, 90.

⁕3 Bew. Quad. 187.

⁕4 D’Obsonville, 82.

⁕5 Penn. Quad.

⁕6 Ibid. i. 258.

⁕7 Mr. Monro, the son of Sir Hector Monro, bart. This fatal event took place in the year 1792.

⁕8 Penn. Outl. of Gl. iii. 90.

⁕9 Ibid. ii. 152.

⁕10 Thunberg, iv. 162.

⁕11 Church.

⁕12 D’Obsonville, 88.

⁕13 D’Obsonville, 82.

Notes and Corrections: The Tiger

skip to Appendix

Felis tigris is now Panthera tigris, in the same genus as lions. As far as Linnaeus was concerned, a cat’s a cat.

In the beginning of the present century
[That is to say, the beginning of the previous century. Bingley’s cited source, Pennant’s Quadrupeds, was published in 1781.]

seized and carried off by a Tiger
text has carrid

armed only with a shield, a poniard, and a short scymitar
text has poinard
[Corrected from 1st edition (which spells the following noun “scymetar”).]

[Footnote] Penn. Outl. of Gl. iii. 90.
[This footnote appears twice—at the bottom of page 288 and again as the first note on page 289—possibly thanks to a last-minute change in page breaks.]


The Tiger⁕1.

The Tiger that I have described in vol. i. p. 285, arrived in this country in the year 1790. He was brought over, when only ten months old, in the Pitt East Indiaman, belonging to Mr. Alderman Macauley, and given to Mr. Nepean, on condition that he should be presented to the king, which was accordingly done. He was afterwards deposited in the Tower, where he still remains. I have already mentioned his extremely playful and gentle disposition whilst on board the vessel which brought him over, and although he has now been kept in the Tower near thirteen years, he still continues tame. He has in no instance been guilty of any ill-natured or mischievous tricks. He is called Harry, and to that name answers all the commands of his keeper.

In the year 1801, one day after the Tiger had been fed, his keeper put into the den to him a small, rough, black, Terrier puppy, a female. The beast suffered it to remain uninjured, and soon afterwards became so much attached to it, as to be very restless and unhappy whenever the animal was taken away to be fed. On its return the Tiger invariably expressed the greatest symptoms of pleasure and delight, always welcoming its arrival by gently licking over every part of its body. In one or two instances, [I.498] the Terrier was left in the den by mistake, during the time the Tiger had his food. The Dog sometimes ventured to eat along with him, but seldom without his appearing dissatisfied with the liberty. This Terrier after a residence with the Tiger of several months, was removed to make way for a little female Dutch mastiff. It was thought adviseable before the Terrier was taken away, to shut up the little mastiff for three or four days among the straw of the Tiger’s bed, to take off, if possible, any smell that might be offensive to the animal. The exchange was made soon after the animals had been fed: the Tiger seemed perfectly contented with his new companion, and immediately began to lick it as he had before done the Terrier. It seemed at first in considerable alarm with so formidable an inmate, but in the course of the day became perfectly reconciled to its situation. This diminutive creature he would suffer to play with him, with the greatest good-nature. I have myself seen it bark at him, and bite him by the foot and mouth without his expressing the least displeasure. When the Dog, in its frolick seized his foot, he merely lifted it up out of its mouth, and seemed otherwise heedless of its attacks. During the time she was in the habit of daily visiting the Tiger, she happened to be with young, and at the time of parturition was necessarily absent from him two or three whole days. The Tiger in this absence was extremely agitated and uneasy, as he was afterwards whenever she happened to be detained from him a greater while than usual in feeding her young ones. She died about [I.499] five weeks after this time, supposed to have been trodden upon by some person who came to see the animals; and many days elapsed before the Tiger became reconciled to her absence.

Strange Dogs have several times been put into the Tiger’s den after his feeding, and he has in no instance attempted to injure them. Mr. E. Cross, the late keeper informs me that the animal’s docility is such, that he thinks he could himself with safety venture into the den.—The ship carpenter, who came over with the Tiger, after an absence of more than two years came to the Tower to see him. The animal instantly recognized a former acquaintance, rubbed himself backward and forward against the grating of his den, and appeared highly delighted. Notwithstanding the urgent request that he would not expose himself to the danger, the man begged to be let into the den with so much intreaty, that he was at last suffered to enter. The emotions of the animal seemed roused in the most grateful manner. He rubbed against him, licked his hands, fawned upon him like a Cat, and in no respect attempted to injure him. The man remained here for two or three hours; and he at last began to fancy there would be some difficulty in getting out alone. Such was the affection of the animal, towards his former friend, and so close did he keep to his person, as to render his escape by no means so easy as he had expected. With some care, however, he got the Tiger beyond the partition of the two dens, and the keeper watching his opportunity, closed the slide, and separated them.


Tigers are fed with raw meat, and they are usually allowed four or five pounds weight in the day: they lap about three pints of water.

The value of a full-grown Tiger, in this country, is from fifty to a hundred pounds.

⁕1 See vol. i. p. 283.

Notes and Corrections: Appendix: The Tiger

seldom without his appearing dissatisfied with the liberty
text has disatisfied

engraving of Leopard, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 85:


The Leopard is about four feet in length; of a yellowish colour, and marked with numerous annular black spots. The tail is about two feet and a half long.—It is an inhabitant of Senegal, Guinea, and most parts of Africa; delighting in the thickest forests, and frequenting the borders of rivers to wait for such creatures as resort thither to quench their thirst.

In general appearance, these animals are fierce. The eye is restless, the countenance cruel, and all the motions are short and precipitate. They attack and devour every thing they meet, sparing neither man nor beast; and when their wild prey is insufficient to satiate their cruel appetite, they descend in great numbers from their lurking-places, and commit dreadful slaughter among the numerous herds of cattle which are to be found in the plains. They tear their prey, both with their teeth and claws; and though continually devouring, their appearance is always thin and meagre⁕1.

engraving of Leopard, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 193:


In the year 1708, if we may believe the account of Kolben, two Leopards, a male and female, with three young ones, entered a sheep-fold at the Cape. The old ones killed nearly a hundred sheep, and regaled themselves with the blood. When they were satiated, they tore a carcase into three pieces, and gave one of these to each of their young ones. They then took each a whole sheep; and thus laden began to move off. Having been observed, however, they were way-laid on their return, and the female and three young ones killed; but the male effected his escape⁕2. The same writer also informs us, that the Leopard will not eat carrion, nor deign to touch what has been killed by any other beast.

The Negroes take these beasts in pitfalls; covered slightly over with hurdles, on which a piece of flesh is placed as a bait.

The late Sir Ashton Lever had a Leopard, which he kept in a cage at Leicester-house. It had become so tame, as always to seem highly pleased and gratified by caresses and attention, purring and rubbing its sides against the cage like a cat. Sir Ashton gave it to the royal ménagerie in the Tower; where a person, before acquainted with it, saw it after an interval of more than a year, notwithstanding which it appeared instantly to recognize him, and began as usual to renew its caresses⁕3.

The flesh is white and well-tasted; eating, says Kolben, much better than the finest veal. It is both nourishing and delicious; that of the young I.293 is as tender as chicken⁕4.—The skins are brought into Europe, where they are held in high estimation; some of the most beautiful selling for more than ten guineas each.

Synonyms.—Felis Leopardus. Linn.—Leopard. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 85.—Bew. Quad. 193.

⁕1 Penn. Quad.—Church.

⁕2 Kolben, ii. 98.

⁕3 Church.

⁕4 Kolben, ii. 97.

Notes and Corrections: The Leopard

Felis leopardus is now Panthera pardus.

[Synonyms] Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 85
text has 83
[Plate 83 was the Tiger.]

engraving of “Hunting Leopard”, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 86:
Hunting Leopard


The Hunting Leopard is about the height of a large Greyhound; of a light tawny brown colour, marked with numerous circular black spots. The legs and tail are long. Its form is more lengthened than that of the Tiger, and the chest is narrower. It is a native of India.

This animal is frequently tamed, and used in the chase of Antelopes. It is carried in a kind of small waggon, chained and hooded, lest, on approaching the herd, it should be too precipitate, or not make choice of a proper animal. When first unchained, it does not immediately spring towards its prey; but winds with the utmost caution along the ground, stopping at intervals, and carefully concealing itself till a favourable opportunity offers: it then darts on the herd with astonishing swiftness, and overtakes them by the rapidity of its bounds. If, however, in its first attempt, which consists of five or six amazing leaps, it does not succeed, it loses breath; and, finding itself unequal in speed, stands still for a while to recover: then giving up the point for that time, quietly returns to its keeper⁕1.

Synonyms.—Felis Jubata? Linn.—Le Guepard. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 86.

⁕1 Penn. Quad. i. 264.

Notes and Corrections: The Hunting Leopard

Felis jubata is not a Felis, though it is a cat: Acinonyx jubatus, the cheetah. In spite of its size, it is in the “small cats” (Felinae) subfamily, as are several other genera of wildcats, including the puma.

[Synonyms] Felis Jubata? Linn.
[Question mark in the original, carried over from the first edition.]


engraving of “Cape Cat”, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 88 (partial):
Cape Cat


This is an elegant animal; and is found in a wild state, in the mountains at the Cape of Good Hope. It is considerably larger than the Domestic Cat. The colour is a bright tawny; marked on the back with oblong black streaks, and in the other parts with blotches of the same. A skin measured by Mr. Pennant, was found to be three feet from the nose to the tail.

In their native mountains, these animals are very destructive to Rabbets, young Antelopes, Lambs, and even to all the different species of Birds. In disposition, however, they are not so fierce as the generality of their tribe; and when taken, they are easily rendered tame. Labat says, (as it seems though, without sufficient foundation,) that their appearance bespeaks cruelty, and their eyes a great degree of ferocity.

When Dr. Forster and his son touched at the Cape, in the year 1795, one of these animals was offered to him for sale. But from its having a broken leg, he refused it, under the apprehension that it would not be able to bear a passage to Europe. It was brought in a basket to his apartment, where he kept it above four-and-twenty hours; which gave him an opportunity, not only of describing it, but, in some measure, of observing its manners and economy. These I.295 seemed perfectly analogous to those of our domestic Cats. It ate raw fresh meat, and appeared to attach itself very much to its feeders and benefactors. In its disposition it was gentle, and had been rendered perfectly tame. After Dr. Forster had fed it a few times, it followed him like a tame favourite Cat. It was fond of being stroked and caressed, rubbed its head and back against the person’s clothes who fed it, and seemed very desirous of being noticed. It purred, as our domestic Cats do when they are pleased. At this time it was about nine months old, and had been taken when quite young in the woods⁕1.

Synonyms.—Felis Capensis. Linn.—Tiger Cat of the Cape of Good Hope. Forster.—Tiger Bush Cat. Kolben.—Nsussi. Labat.—Cape Cat. Pennant.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 88.

⁕1 Phil. Trail, vol. 71. p. 3. paper by Dr. Forster.

Notes and Corrections: The Cape Cat

Felis capensis is the serval, Leptailurus serval, another genus in the Felinae subfamily.

engraving of “Wild Cat”, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 205:


The Wild Cat, from which all the varieties of the Domestic Cat have proceeded, is a native both of Europe and Asia, and is even yet to be found in some of the woody and more unfrequented parts of our island. It has a larger head and stronger limbs than the Domestic Cat; and its colour is a pale yellowish-grey, with dusky stripes, those on the back running lengthwise, and those on the sides transversely and in a curved direction. The tail is shorter than in the domestic kinds, and is barred with dusky rings. It breeds in hollow trees, and produces four young at a litter; and, in the places where it inhabits, it makes destructive havock among the neighbouring Lambs, kids, and poultry.


The Wild Cats are sometimes taken in traps, and sometimes by shooting: in the latter mode it is dangerous to merely wound them, for they have frequently been known to attack the person who injured them; and their strength is so great as to render them no despicable enemy.—At Barnboro’, a village between Doncaster and Barnsley, in Yorkshire, there is a tradition extant of a serious conflict that once took place between a Man and a Wild Cat. The inhabitants say that the fight commenced in an adjacent wood, and that it was continued from thence into the porch of the church. I do not recollect in what manner it is reported to have begun; they tell us, however, that it ended fatally to both combatants, for each died of the wounds received. A rude painting in the church commemorates the event; and (as in many similar traditions) the accidentally natural red tinge of some of the stones has been construed into bloody stains which all the properties of soap and water have not been able to efface.

In Jamaica, from the quantity of food at all seasons to be procured in the woods and mountains, the Domestic Cat is very apt to become wild: to remedy this inconvenience, the country people frequently split or cut off its ears, the more to expose these tender organs to the rain or dews; and this is said to be generally effectual⁕1.—In England also the Domestic Cats will sometimes become wild; and when this happens to be the case, they prove themselves mortal foes to Pheasants at roost, and more I.297 injure the diversion of the sportsman than most species of naturally wild vermin. In Monshalm Thrift, a large cover belonging to Sir H. St. John Mildmay, sixteen of these animals were killed by a pack of Fox-hounds in four days drawing the cover for Foxes. They are usually caught in traps, having the bait sprinkled with Valerian, and Valerian scattered in and about the traps⁕2.

Synonyms.—Felis Catus. Linn.—Common Cat. Penn.—Chat Sauvage. Buffon.——Bew. Quad. 205, 208.

⁕1 Browne, 485.

⁕2 Daniel, i. 363.

Notes and Corrections: The Wild Cat

The name Felis catus is now applied to domestic cats, while wild cats are Felis silvestris. They may be due for reclassification, though, since the two—much like Canis lupus and its subspecies—can inter­breed.

engraving of Cat, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 208:
The Domestic CAT

The colours of the DOMESTIC CAT⁕1 are very various. Its manners and dispositions seem to be entirely changed by education; and although it does not exhibit the affectionate attachment of the Dog, yet it is not destitute of either gentleness or gratitude.—A very singular example of this is recorded in Mr. Pennant’s Account of London. Henry Wriothsly, earl of Southampton, the friend and companion of the earl of Essex in his fatal insurrection, having been some time confined in the Tower, was one day surprised by a visit from his favourite Cat; which, says tradi­tion, reached its master by descending the chimney of his apartment⁕2. In proof of the sagacity of these animals, I shall adduce the following instances.—A friend of mine possessed a Cat and a Dog, which, not being able to live together in peace, had several contentious struggles for the mastery; and in the end, the I.298 Dog so completely prevailed, that the Cat was driven away, and forced to seek for shelter elsewhere. Several months elapsed, during which the Dog alone possessed the house. At length, however, he was poisoned by a female servant, whose nocturnal visitors he had too often betrayed; and was soon afterwards carried out lifeless into the court before the door. The Cat, from a neighbouring roof, was observed to watch the motions of several persons who went up to look at him; and when all were retired, he descended, and crept, with some degree of caution, into the place. He soon ventured to approach; and, after having frequently patted the Dog with his paw, appeared perfectly sensible that his late quarrelsome companion could no more insult him; and from that time he quietly returned to his former residence and habits.

A Cat frequented a closet, the door to which was fastened by a common iron latch. A window was situated near the door. When the door was shut, the Cat gave herself no uneasiness. As soon as she was tired of her confinement, she mounted on the sole of the window, and with her paws dexterously lifted the latch and came out. This practice she continued for years⁕3.

A physician of Lyons, in July, 1800, was requested to inquire into a murder that had been committed on the body of a woman of that city. In consequence of this solicitation, he went to the residence of the deceased, where he found her extended lifeless I.299 on the floor and weltering in her blood. A large white Cat was mounted on the cornice of a cupboard, at the farther end of the apartment, where he seemed to have taken refuge. He sat motionless; with his eyes fixed on the corpse, and his attitude and looks expressing horror and affright. The following morning, he was found in the same station and attitude; and when the room was filled with officers of justice, neither the clattering of the soldiers’ arms, nor the loud conversation of the company, could in the least degree divert his attention. As soon, however, as the suspected persons were brought in, his eyes glared with increased fury; his hair bristled; he darted into the middle of the apartment, where he stopped for a moment to gaze at them; and then precipitately retreated under the bed. The countenances of the assassins were disconcerted; and they now, for the first time during the whole course of the horrid business, felt their atrocious audacity forsake them⁕4.

Few animals exhibit more maternal tenderness, or shew a greater attachment to their young, than the Cat. The assiduity with which she attends them, and the pleasure which she seems to take in all their playful tricks, afford a very grateful enter­tainment to every observer of nature. She has also been known not only to nurse with tenderness the young of different individuals of her own species, but even those of other kinds of animals.

“My friend (says Mr. White, in his Natural I.300 History of Selborne) had a little helpless Leveret brought to him, which the servants fed with milk from a spoon; and about the same time his Cat kittened, and the young were dispatched and buried. The Hare was soon lost; and was supposed to have been killed by some Dog or Cat. However, in about a fortnight, as the master was sitting in his garden, in the dusk of the evening, he observed his Cat, with tail erect, trotting towards him, and calling with little short inward notes of complacency, such as these animals use towards their kittens; and something gamboling after her, which proved to be the Leveret, that the Cat had nourished with her milk, and continued to support with great affection. Thus was a granivorous animal nurtured by a carniverous and predacious one!—This strange affection was probably occasioned by those tender maternal feelings, which the loss of her kittens had awakened; and by the complacency and ease she derived from the procuring of her teats to be drawn, which were too much distended with milk. From habit, she became as much delighted with this foundling as if it had been real offspring.”

“A boy (says the same gentleman) had taken three young Squirrels in their nest. These small creatures he put under a Cat who had lately lost her kittens; and found that she nursed and suckled them with the same assiduity and affection as if they had been her own progeny.—So many persons went to see the little Squirrels suckled by a Cat, that the foster-mother became jealous of her charge, and in pain for their safety; and therefore hid them over I.301 the ceiling, where one died.—This circumstance shewed her affection for these foundlings, and that she supposed the Squirrels to be her own young⁕5.”

Some years ago a sympathy of this nature took place, in the house of Mr. James Greenfield of Maryland, betwixt a Cat and a Rat. The Cat had kittens, to which she frequently carried Mice and other small animals for food; and among the rest she is supposed to have carried to them a young Rat. The kittens, probably not being hungry, played with it; and when the Cat gave suck to them, the Rat likewise sucked her. This having been observed by some of the servants, Mr. Greenfield was informed of it. He had the kittens and Rat brought down stairs, and put on the floor; and in carrying them off, the Cat was remarked to convey away the young Rat as tenderly as she did any of the kittens. This experiment was repeated as often as any company came to the house, till great numbers had become eye-witnesses of the preternatural affection⁕6.

These incidents form no bad solution of that strange circumstance, asserted by grave historians as well as poets, of exposed children being sometimes nurtured by female wild beasts that probably had lost their young. For it is no more marvellous that Romulus and Remus, in their infant state, should be nursed by a she Wolf; than that a sucking Leveret, a set of young Squirrels, or a Rat, I.302 should be fostered and cherished by a fierce Grimalkin.

To preserve their fur clean, and especially their whiskers, Cats wash their faces, and generally quite behind their ears, every time they eat. As they cannot lick those places with their tongues, they first wet the inside of the leg with the saliva, and then repeatedly rub them over with it. This Dr. Darwin, whimsically enough, esteems an act of reasoning; Because, says he, a means is used to produce an effect; which means seems to be acquired by imitation, like the greatest part of human arts.

A friend of the Doctor’s saw a Cat catch a Trout, by darting upon it in a deep clear water, at the mill at Weaford, near Litchfield. The Cat belonged to Mr. Stanley; who had often seen her catch fish in the same manner in the summer, when the mill-pool was drawn so low that the fish could be seen. Other Cats have been known to take fish in shallow water, as they stood on the bank. This he thinks a natural act of taking prey, which their acquired delicacy by domestication, has, in general, prevented them from using, though their desire of eating fish continues in its original strength.

These animals seem to possess something like an additional sense by means of their whiskers, which have perhaps some analogy to the antennæ of Moths and Butterflies. The whiskers of Cats consist not only of long hairs on their upper lips, but also of four or five long hairs standing up from each eyebrow, and also two or three on each check; all which, when the animal erects them, make with I.303 their extremities so many points in the periphery of a circle equal (at least), in extent, to the circumference of any part of their own bodies. With this instrument, it is supposed that, by a little experience, they can at once determine whether any aperture among hedges or shrubs (in which animals of this genus live in their wild state) is large enough to admit their bodies; which to them is a matter of the greatest consequence, whether pursuing or pursued. They have likewise a power of erecting and bringing forward the whiskers on their lips; which probably is for the purpose of feeling, whether a dark hole be farther permeable⁕7.

Cats are very seldom, like the Dog, attached to our persons: all their attachment seems to be confined to the houses where they have been brought up. Instances are very common of Cats returning, of their own accord, to the place from whence they have been carried; though at the distance of many miles, and even across rivers where they could not possibly have had any knowledge either of the road or the direction that would lead them to it. This may perhaps arise from their having been acquainted in their former habitations with all the retreats of the Mice, and the passages and outlets of the house; and from the disadvantage which they must experience in these particulars by changing their residence.

No experiment can be more beautiful than that of setting a kitten for the first time before a looking-glass. The animal appears surprised and pleased I.304 with the resemblance, and makes several attempts at touching its new acquaintance; and, at length, finding its efforts fruitless, it looks behind the glass, and appears highly astonished at the absence of the figure. It again views itself; and tries to touch the image with its foot, suddenly looking at intervals behind the glass. It then becomes more accurate in its observations; and begins, as it were, to make experiments, by stretching out its paw in different directions; and when it finds that these motions are answered in every respect by the figure in the glass, it seems, at length, to be convinced of the real nature of the image. The same is the case with the Dog at an early age.

The sleep of the Cat, though generally very slight, is, however, sometimes so profound, that the animal requires to be shaken pretty briskly before it can be awakened. This particularity takes place chiefly in the depth of winter, and on the approach of snowy weather. At such periods also, as well as at some others, the Cat diffuses a fragrant smell, somewhat like that of cloves.

It is generally supposed, that Cats can see in the dark: but, though this is not absolutely the case, it is certain that they can see with much less light than most other animals; owing to the peculiar structure of their eyes, the pupils of which are capable of being contracted or dilated in proportion to the degree of light by which they are affected. In the day-time, the pupil of the Cat’s eye is perpetually contracted, and sometimes into a mere line; for it is with difficulty that it can see by a strong light: I.305 but in the twilight the pupil resumes its natural roundness, and the animal enjoys perfect vision.—It appears somewhat singular, that, on plunging the head of a Cat into water, although the animal be exposed to a very bright light, the pupil should become immediately expanded to all its width. This, however, is to be accounted for on optical principles⁕8.

It has been remarked, that the eyes of Cats always shine with a bright light when they are in the dark. The Rev. William Jones was induced to make some experiments on this circumstance, from having observed, among the eyes of some Sheep and Oxen which he had procured for dissection, that one of them shone in the day-time much in the same manner as the eyes of Cats do in the dark. On examining into this, he found that if his hand was placed between the nearest window and the extremity of the optic nerve (a part of which, nearly an inch long, remained with the eye, and was accidentally pointed towards the window), the light immediately disappeared⁕9.—From this he was led to consider, whether the light that appears in the eyes of some animals in the night time, is really a reflection of light from the eye, as is commonly supposed; or, whether it does not rather pass into the eye, through the optic nerve, from the body of the animal? It is not easy to conceive how this shining light can be occasioned by a reflection of light from the bottom I.306 of the eye, when the light to be reflected (as in a dark night) is not visible before its entrance into the eye. If a candle be held before the eyes of a Dog, and a person places himself in a line of reflection, the light will be visibly reflected from the eyes, because the illumination is sufficiently strong; but where there is no visible illumination at all, this cannot account for the like effect. It is, therefore, more reasonable to suppose that this appearance is owing to the light from within the body of the animal; which, being weaker than the light of the day, but stronger than that of the night, is visible only in the dark. This light is probably similar to that which we observe in putrifying meat, fish, rotten-wood, phosphorus, and the Glow-worm.

The fur of the Cat, being generally clean and dry, readily yields electric sparks when rubbed; and if a clean and perfectly dry Domestic Cat be placed, in frosty weather, on a stool with glass feet or insulated by any other means, and rubbed for a little time in contact with the wire of a coated vial, the vial by this means will become effectually charged.

In the time of Howel Dda, Howel the Good, Prince of Wales, who died in the year 948, laws were made, both to preserve and fix the prices of different animals; among which the Cat was included, as being, at that early period, of great importance, on account of its scarcity and utility. The price of a kitten before it could see, was fixed at one penny; till proof could be given of its having caught a Mouse, two-pence; after which it was I.307 rated at four-pence, a great sum in those days, when the value of specie was extremely high. It was likewise required, that the animal should be perfect in its senses of hearing and seeing, should be a good mouser, have its claws whole, and, if a female, be a careful nurse. If it failed in any of these qualifications, the seller was to forfeit to the buyer the third-part of its value.—If any one should steal or kill the Cat that guarded the Prince’s granary, the offender was to forfeit either a milch ewe, her fleece, and lamb; or as much wheat as, when poured on the Cat suspended by its tail (its head touching the floor), would form a heap high enough to cover the tip of the tail.—From these circumstances we may conclude, that Cats were not originally natives of these islands; and from the great care taken to improve and preserve the breed of this prolific creature, we may with propriety suppose that they were but little known at that period⁕10.

When M. Baumgarten was at Damascus, he saw there a kind of hospital for Cats: The house in which they were kept was very large, walled round, and was said to be quite full of them. On enquiring into the origin of this singular institution, he was told, that Mahomet, when he once lived here, brought with him a Cat, which he kept in the sleeve of his gown, and carefully fed with his own hands. His followers in this place, therefore, ever afterwards paid a superstitious respect to these animals; and supported them in this manner by public alms, I.308 which were very adequate to the purpose⁕11. The patience, craft, vigilance, utility, and cleanliness, of the Cat, have also obtained for it the highest degree of protection in the Eastern mythology; so far indeed, that it is esteemed the noblest species of its tribe⁕12.

The following curious fact in the natural history of the Cat, is related by Dr. Anderson; in his entertaining work, the Recreations in Agriculture:—A Cat belonging to Dr. Coventry, the ingenious Professor of Agriculture in Edinburgh, which had no blemish at its birth, lost its tail by accident when it was young. It had many litters of kittens; and in every one of these there was one or more that wanted the tail, either wholly or in part.

“A Cat (says Browne) is a very dainty dish among the Negroes⁕13.”

⁕1 Chat Domestic. Buffon.

⁕2 Although this anecdote is brought forward on the authority of Mr. Pennant, I must confess that it seems too absurd to be allowed any degree of credit.

⁕3 Smellie.

⁕4 Monthly Magazine for January, 1801.

⁕5 White’s Naturalist’s Calendar, 91, 95.

⁕6 Letter from Mr. Brooke of Maryland, in Gent. Mag. xxii. 208.

⁕7 Zoonomia.

⁕8 Martyn, iii. 192.

⁕9 Essay on the First Principles of Natural Philosophy.

⁕10 Penn. Brit. Zool. i. 83.

⁕11 Baumgarten’s Travels. Churchill’s Coll. i. 477.

⁕12 D’Obsonville, 80.

⁕13 History of Jamaica, 485.

Notes and Corrections: The Domestic Cat

a sympathy of this nature . . . betwixt a Cat and a Rat
[I believe it.]

the eyes of Cats always shine with a bright light
text has alwayss hine

as much wheat as, when poured on the Cat suspended by its tail (its head touching the floor), would form a heap high enough to cover the tip of the tail
[I hope, for everyone’s sake, that somebody in tenth-century Wales had the sense to figure out that this is far more easily achieved by measuring the cat.]


The Angora Cat is a variety of the domestic species. When M. Sonnini was in Egypt, he had one of them in his possession for a long time. It was entirely covered with long silky hairs: Its tail formed a magnificent plume; which the animal elevated, at pleasure, over its body. Not one spot, nor a single dark shade, tarnished the dazzling I.309 white of its coat. Its nose and lips were of a delicate rose-colour. Two large eyes sparkled in its round head; one of which was a light yellow, and the other a fine blue.

This beautiful animal had even more loveliness of manners, than grace in its attitude and movements. With the physiognomy of goodness, she possessed a gentleness truly interesting. How ill soever any one used her, she never attempted to advance her claws from their sheaths. Sensible to kindness, she licked the hand which caressed, and even that which tormented her. On a journey, she reposed tranquilly on the knees of any of the company, for there was no occasion to confine her; and if M. Sonnini, or some other person whom she knew, was present, no noise whatever gave her the least disturbance.

In Sonnini’s solitary moments, she chiefly kept by his side; she interrupted him frequently in the midst of his labours or meditations, by little caresses extremely affecting, and generally followed him in his walks. During his absence, she sought and called for him incessantly, with the utmost inquietude: and, if he was long before he reappeared, she would quit his apartment, and attach herself to the person of the house where he lived; for whom, next to himself, she entertained the greatest affection. She recognized his voice at a distance; and seemed on each fresh meeting with him, to feel increased satisfaction. Her gait was frank, and her look as gentle as her character. She possessed, in a word, I.310 the disposition of the most amiable Dog, beneath the brilliant fur of a Cat.

“This animal (says M. Sonnini) was my principal amusement for several years. How was the expression of her attachment depicted upon her countenance! How many times have her tender caresses made me forget my troubles, and consoled me in my misfortunes! My beautiful and interesting companion, however, at length perished. After several days of suffering, during which I never forsook her, her eyes, constantly fixed on me, were at length extinguished; and her loss rent my heart with sorrow⁕1.”

Synonyms.—Felis Angorensis. Linn.—Chat d’ Angora. Buffon.—Angora Cat. Penn.

⁕1 Sonnini, i. 292.

Notes and Corrections: The Angora Cat

There is, of course, no such species as Felis angorensis; it’s just a breed of Felis catus.

beneath the brilliant fur of a Cat
text has brillant


The Weesel tribe was divided by Linnæus into two genera, Vivera and Mustela; the latter of which contained also the Otters. Mr. Pennant and Dr. Shaw have, however, with great propriety, united these two; and separated from them the Otters, as possessing webbed feet, a character sufficiently discriminating. To the latter, Dr. Shaw has appropriated the generic name of Lutræ.

The present genus therefore, as thus corrected, contains animals which have six sharpish cutting-teeth, with the canine-teeth somewhat longer; a I.311 long and slender body, with short legs; a sharpened visage; and, in most species, a longish tail. In some of this tribe also, the tongue is smooth; and, in others, it is furnished with prickles pointing backwards.

Notes and Corrections: The Weesels

The current classification has the family Mustelidae divided into two subfamilies, Lutrinae (otters) and Mustelinae (weasels and wolverines). The family is on the dog side—suborder Caniformia—of the carnivore order, a vast group that also contains seals, walruses, bears (including pandas), skunks, badgers, raccoons and (in a family of their own) red pandas. Viverridae, on the other hand, is the family name of civets, genets and so on, way over on the cat side—suborder Feliformia—of the carnivores, like mongooses and hyenas. Linnaeus’s genus Viverra is limited to Indian civets.

The Weesel tribe was divided by Linnæus into two genera, Vivera and Mustela . . . . Mr. Pennant and Dr. Shaw have, however
[As it turns out, Linnaeus was more-or-less right as far as the weasels and otters go. It’s the rest of the family that he messed up on.]

engraving of “Ichneumon”, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 92:
Egyptian Ichneumon


The Ichneumon is a native of Egypt, Barbary, and the Cape of Good Hope. Its length, from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail, is from twenty-four to forty-two inches, of which the tail occupies nearly one-half. Its colour is pale reddish-grey, each hair being mottled with brown or mouse-colour. The eyes are of a bright red; the ears almost naked, small, and rounded; and the nose long and slender. The tail is very thick at the base; from whence it gradually tapers to almost a point, where it is slightly tufted. The hair is hard and coarse; and the legs are short.

In Egypt, the Ichneumon is considered as one of the most useful and estimable of animals; being an inveterate enemy to the Serpents and other noxious reptiles which infest the neighbourhood of the Torrid zone. It attacks without dread that most fatal of Serpents, the Cobra di Capello or Hooded Snake⁕1; and when it receives a wound in the combat, instantly retires, and is said to obtain an I.312 antidote from some herb, after which it returns to the attack and seldom fails of victory. It is a great destroyer of the eggs of Crocodiles, which it digs out of the sand; and even kills multitudes of the young of those terrible creatures. It was not, therefore, without reason, that the ancient Egyptians ranked the Ichneumon among their deities.

It is at present domesticated, and kept in houses, in India and Egypt, where it is found more useful than a Cat in destroying Rats and Mice. It is easily tamed, is very active, and springs with great agility on its prey. It will glide along the ground like a Serpent, and seem as if without feet. It sits up like a Squirrel, eats from its fore feet, and catches any thing that is flung to it. It is a great enemy to Poultry, and will feign itself dead to attract them within its reach. It is said to be extremely skilful in seizing the Serpent by the throat, in such a manner as to avoid receiving any injury⁕2. Lucan has beautifully described the same address of this animal in conquering the Egyptian Asp.—

Aspidas ut Pharias cauda solertior hostis

Ludit, et iratas incerta provocat umbra:

Obliquansque caput vanas serpentis in auras

Effusæ toto comprendit guttura morsu

Lentiferam citra saniem: tunc irrita pestis

Exprimitur, faucesque fluunt pereunte veneno.

Thus oft th’ Ichneumon, on the banks of Nile,

Invades the deadly Aspic by a wile;


While artfully his slender tail is play’d,

The Serpent darts upon the dancing shade:

Then, turning on the foe, with swift surprise,

Full on the throat the nimble seizer flies;

The gasping Snake expires beneath the wound,

His gushing jaws with poisonous floods abound

And shed the fruitless mischief on the ground.

“I had (says M. D’Obsonville, in his Essays on the Nature of various foreign Animals) an Ichneumon very young, which I brought up.—I fed it at first with milk; and afterwards with baked meat, mixed with rice. It soon became even tamer than a Cat; for it came when called, and followed me, though at liberty, into the country.

“One day I brought to him a small Water Serpent alive, being desirous to know how far his instinct would carry him against a being with which he was hitherto totally unacquainted. His first emotion seemed to be astonishment mixed with anger, for his hair became erect; but in an instant after, he slipped behind the reptile, and with a remarkable swiftness and agility leaped upon its head, seized it, and crushed it between his teeth. This essay, and new aliment, seemed to have awakened in him his innate and destructive voracity; which, till then, had given way to the gentleness he had acquired from his education. I had about my house several curious kinds of fowls, among which he had been brought up, and which, till then, he had suffered to go and come unmolested and unregarded; but, a few days after, when he found himself alone, he I.314 strangled them every one, ate a little, and, as appeared, drank the blood of two⁕3.”

In a wild state, the Ichneumon is said to frequent principally the banks of rivers; and in times of flood, to approach the higher grounds and inhabited places in quest of prey. He is reported to swim and dive occasionally, in the manner of an Otter; and to continue beneath the water for a great length of time. His voice is very soft, somewhat like a murmur; but unless the animal is struck or irritated, he never exerts it. When he sleeps, he folds himself up like a ball; and is not easily awaked.—The Ichneumons are short-lived, but grow very rapidly. In our temperate climates, they cannot, without great difficulty, be either reared or preserved. Whatever care be taken, the frosts incommode them, and they generally fall victims to the change.

Synonyms.—Viverra Ichneumon. Linn.—Egyptian Ichneumon. Kerr.—Great Mangouste. Sm. Buffon.—Ichneumon. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 92.

⁕1 Coluber Naja of Linnæus.

⁕2 Penn. Quad. ii. 336.

⁕3 D’Obsonville, 76.

Notes and Corrections: The Ichneumon

skip to next section

The mongoose, family Herpestidae, is more closely related to the hyena than to any kind of weasel or otter. There are more than a dozen genera, including my favorite animal, the meerkat (genus Suricata). Viverra ichneumon, the Egyptian mongoose, is now known as Herpestes ichneumon.

Kipling’s “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” was published in 1894 as part of The Jungle Book.

Lucan has beautifully described
[Pharsalia IV:724ff. It isn’t so much a digression into natural history as an extended simile.]

Invades the deadly Aspic by a wile
[Not an editorial comment on culinary fashions, but an archaic form. I previously met it in English as She is Spoke, whose author was led astray by the fact that French still uses the same word for both.]

the Ichneumon is said to frequent principally the banks of rivers
text has is said, with superfluous comma

[Synonyms] Great Mangouste
[This is as close as we will get to its current name, mongoose.]

[Footnote] Coluber Naja of Linnæus.
[See Volume III.]

engraving of “Striated Weesel” and Chinche, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 94:
Striated Weesel (top and bottom); Chinche (middle)


This is one of three or four species of Weesel, natives of America, whose only mode of defence against their enemies (and it is a perfectly secure one) is to emit from their bodies a vapour so fetid that few animals can bear to come within its influence. Cattle that are near are so alarmed, as to utter the most dreadful bellowings. Dogs are indeed sometimes trained to hunt them; but, in I.315 order to relieve themselves, they are under the necessity of frequently thrusting their noses into the earth. The odour may be smelt to an amazing distance; and so abominable is its stench, as to affect provisions in such a manner that nothing can afterwards make them eatable. When the animal is irritated or killed near a dwelling, the whole place becomes infected; the clothes, provisions, and all the rooms, are, in a few minutes, so saturated with the vapour, that no one can live in or use them for a very long time. Clothes, although several times washed, soaked, and dried in the sun, retain their smell sometimes for weeks.

Professor Kalm says, that one of these creatures being one day perceived in its cave, a woman, unthinkingly, attacked and killed it. The whole place was in a moment filled with such a dreadful stench, that the woman was taken ill, and continued so for several days; and the provisions were so infected, that they were all thrown away⁕1.

These animals have, by travellers, had indiscriminately the names of Devil’s Children, and Stinking Beasts.—Strange as it may appear, they are sometimes domesticated; and as they never emit their fetor except when alarmed or irritated, they are not dreaded in this state: “but (an eminent Zoologist justly observes) they ought surely to be treated with the highest attention.”

Synonyms.—Viverra Putorius. Linn.—Skunk. Fiskatta. Polecat. Kalm. Catesby.—Striped Skunk. Kerr.—Coneparte. Buffon.—Striated Weesel. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 94.

⁕1 Kalm’s Travels.

Notes and Corrections: The Striated Weesel

With skunks, we return to the Caniformia side of carnivores. Skunks and stink badgers are the accurately named family Mephi­tidae. Linnaeus’s Viverra putorius is the Eastern spotted skunk, Spilogale putorius. (The familiar striped skunk is Mephitis mephitis.)

Shaw’s first and third illustrations are both captioned “Striated Weesel”. The body shape of the one on the bottom looks more like a stink badger.

[Synonyms] Skunk. Fiskatta. Polecat.
[The word “polecat” probably reflects some dialectal confusion; I’ve never seen it applied to anything other than (generically) weasels.]


engraving of Ratel (honey badger), no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 249:


This animal, which is a native of the Cape, is, from the nose to the tail, about two feet long. Its back is ash-coloured; and along its sides runs a light-grey stripe, that divides this from its belly, which is black. The legs are short; and the claws long, and formed for burrowing. It lives in holes under ground, and is said to be very fetid.

The Ratel seems formed by nature to be the adversary of the Bees, and the unwelcome visitor of their habitations; and is endued with a particular faculty of discovering and attacking them within their entrenchments.—As a man placed at the mast-head, can most easily descry a sail or land at a great distance in the evening, so probably this time of the day is the most convenient for the Ratel to look out for his food: for he is likewise said to be particularly attentive to his business about sun-set; when he will sit and hold one of his paws before his eyes, in order to modify the rays of the sun, and at the same time to procure a distinct view of the object of his pursuit: and when, in consequence of peering in this manner on each side of his paw, opposite to the sun, he sees any Bees fly, he knows that they are at this time going straight to their own habitation, and consequently takes care to keep in the same direction in order to find them. He has, besides, the sagacity to follow the Cuculus Indicator, a little bird, I.317 which flies on, by degrees, with a peculiar and alluring note, and guides him to the Bees’-nests.

As the Ratel’s hairs are stiff and harsh, so its hide is tough, and the animal itself difficult to kill. The Colonists and Hottentots both assert, that it is almost impossible to kill this creature, without giving it a great number of violent blows on the nose; on which account they usually destroy it by shooting it, or by plunging a knife into its body.—The shortness of his legs will not permit him to make his escape by flight, when pursued by the Hounds. He is able, however, sometimes to extricate himself from their clutches, by biting and scratching them in a most terrible manner: while, on the other hand, he is perfectly well defended from the assaults of their teeth by the toughness of his hide; for, when a Hound endeavours to bite him, it can lay hold only on this part, which instantly separates from the creature’s body or flesh, as it is reported to lie loose from the skin, as within a sack; so that, when any one also catches hold of him by the hind part of his neck, and that even pretty near his head, he can turn round, as it were, in his skin, and bite the arm that seizes him. It is a remarkable circumstance, that such a number of Hounds as are able collectively to tear in pieces a Lion of moderate size, are said to be sometimes obliged to leave the Ratel dead in appearance only. Is it not, therefore, probable, that Nature, which seems to have destined the Ratel for the destruction of Bees, may have bestowed on it a hide so much tougher than those she has given to other animals of the Viverra kind, for the I.318 purpose of defending it from the stings of these insects?

Those Bees’-nests that are built in trees, are in no danger whatever from the Ratel. In the first transports of his rage at having sought after these Bees in vain, he gnaws and bites the trunks of the trees; and these bites are sure marks for the inhabitants of the country, that a Bees’-nest is to be found there. I should myself, says Dr. Sparrman, have entertained many doubts concerning these properties attributed to the Ratel, had I not obtained various accounts of this curious animal, exactly corresponding with each other, from many experienced farmers and Hottentots living in different parts of the Cape of Good Hope⁕1.

Synonyms.—Viverra Mellivora. Linn.—Honey-weesel. Shaw.—Ratel. Sparrman.——Bew. Quad. 249.

⁕1 Sparrman’s Voyage.

Notes and Corrections: The Honey-Weesel Or Ratel

Linnaeus’s Viverra mellivora is now Mellivora capensis, the honey badger or ratel. Unlike so many animals in this section, it is not only in the Mustelidae family, but even in the Mustelinae subfamily.

discovering and attacking them within their entrenchments.
. invisible

Cuculus Indicator, a little bird
[See Volume III.]

Is it not, therefore, probable, that Nature
text has pro-/ble at line break

engraving of Civet, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 244:


The Civet is somewhat more than two feet long, and has a tail about half the length of its body. The ground colour is yellowish ash-grey, beautifully marked with large blackish or dusky spots. The hair is coarse; and, along the back, stands up, so as to form a sort of mane. The body is thickish; and the nose sharp, and black at the tip. Three black stripes proceed from each ear, and end at the throat and shoulders. The eyes shine in the dark. It is an inhabitant of several parts of Africa and India; and will not breed in more temperate regions, though I.319 it lives and appears in perfect health in them: in its own climate it is very prolific.

It is active and nimble; jumping about like a Cat, and running very swiftly. It feeds on small animals: but particularly on Birds, which it takes by surprize; and it sometimes commits depredations among poultry, when it can steal unperceived into a farm-yard. It is very voracious; and will often roll itself, for a minute or two, on its meat, before eating. One that Barbot had at Guadaloupe was, from the carelessness of his servant, kept without food for a whole day: the animal, on the following morning, gnawed his way through the cage in which he was kept, came into the room where M. Barbot was writing, and, staring about with his sparkling eyes for a few seconds, made a leap of five or six feet at a fine American Parrot, that was perched on a piece of wood put into the wall for the purpose. Before his master could run to the relief of the bird, the Civet had torn off its head, and begun to feast himself on his prey⁕1. Though the Civet is naturally savage, it is capable of being tamed, and rendered tolerably familiar. Its voice is stronger than that of a Cat, and somewhat resembles the cry of an enraged Dog.

engraving of Civet, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 95 (partial):

This animal is remarkable for the production of the drug called civet, sometimes erroneously confounded with musk. This substance is a secretion, formed in a large double glandular receptacle situated at some little distance beneath the tail, and I.320 which the creature empties spontaneously. The Dutch keep great numbers alive at Amsterdam, for the purpose of collecting the drug from them. When a sufficient time for the secretion has been allowed, the animal is put into a long wooden cage, so narrow that it cannot turn itself round. The cage being opened by a door behind, a small spoon, or spatula, is introduced through the orifice of the pouch, which is carefully scraped and its contents put into a proper vessel. This operation is performed twice or thrice a-week; and the animal is said always to produce the most civet after being irritated. The quantity depends in a great measure also on the quality of the nourishment which it takes, and the appetite with which it eats. In confinement, its favourite food is boiled meat, eggs, birds, and small animals, and particularly fish.

While the French army was in Egypt, the king of Dar-fûr sent four Civets to the generals; and some information was at the same time acquired respecting the treatment of the animals in that country. Since very few of them are found there, and these few are brought from a great distance, the inhabitants have found it expedient to adopt some modes of increasing the produce of the civet. They introduce into the bag a small quantity of butter or other fat; then shake the animal violently, and by beating, irritate and enrage it as much as possible. This, they say, greatly accelerates the secretion; and the fat also by these means imbibes so much of the civet, that the women of Dar-fûr use it upon their hair. To this barbarous usage it is in a great measure I.321 owing, that the animals become excessively ferocious.

A Civet is kept at present in the Museum of Natural History in Paris which has been there more than five years. Its odour is at all times very powerful, but unusually so whenever the animal is irritated. It sleeps with its body rolled round, and its head between its legs. This posture it seldom changes either in the night or day; and it sleeps so soundly that it cannot be roused without severe blows⁕2.

With respect to the civet procured from Amsterdam, it is less adulterated, and therefore held in higher estimation, than that imported from India or the Levant. Its average value in Holland is about fifty shillings an ounce; but this is subject to considerable fluctuations. The substance is accounted best when new, of a whitish colour, a good consistence, and of a strong disagreeable smell.—This perfume is excessively powerful; but in small quantities it is more pleasant than musk, to which it bears some resemblance.

Synonyms.—Viverra Civetta. Linn.—Civet Cat. Var.—Civette. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 95. Bew. Quad. 244.

⁕1 Barbot, v. 114, 211.

⁕2 La Menagerie du Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle.

Notes and Corrections: The Civet

Not a weasel. Not even remotely a weasel. Civets, family Viverridae, are way over on the Cat side of the Carnivore order. Linnaeus’s Viverra civetta is now known as Civettictis civetta, the African civet. But it’s possible Bingley garbled his sources and he really means something in the (modern) civet genus Viverra, which is found in India.

from the carelessness of his servant
text has carelessnes


The Mexican Weesel is about two feet and a half in length, with a long prehensile tail. The general colour is an olive-yellow, mixed with grey-brown, I.322 and lighter beneath than above. It is found in Mexico and New Spain.

Its manners in confinement are gentle and sprightly. During the day it generally sleeps; but awakes in the evening, and begins to climb about and search for food. It uses its tail with great dexterity, in seizing and securing such things as it cannot otherwise reach; but has been observed never to extend this, till its feet are perfectly secure. It tears every thing it finds; either for amusement, or in quest of insects. This mischievous propensity alone prevented one of these animals, that was kept by M. Chaveu, at Paris, from being suffered to range at liberty. Before this was discovered, he used to be let loose at night; and how far soever he might range in the dark, he was always found the next morning lying in the same place. He distinguished his master, whom he would follow and caress though not very tractable. He ate bread, meat, vegetables, and fruit; drank milk and water, and even spirits if sweetened, with which he would so intoxicate himself as to continue sick for several days. He was passionately fond of perfumes and sweetmeats. He frequently attacked the poultry, always seizing them under the wing; and seemed to drink their blood, but never devoured them. His voice, which was only exerted in the night, was somewhat like the barking of a Dog. When he was sporting about, or when he received any injury, he uttered a cry somewhat like that of a young Pigeon; and when he meant to threaten, he hissed like a Goose. He always seemed extremely afraid of going into the water.


Another of these animals, that was exhibited in 1773, at the fair of St. Germain, appeared for some time of a very mild disposition, and would lick the hand of any person who invited such a mark of familiarity. But by frequent irritations of the populace it was afterwards rendered mischievous, and always attempted to bite at the hand after licking it. This creature would often sit upright, and scratch itself with its fore paws; was very playful, would fold its paws into each other, and perform many apish tricks. It ate from its paws. When irritated, it always endeavoured to leap on the person from whom the affront came. It laid hold of any thing it wanted with its tail, and would frequently hang by this part: when walking, the tail was always carried horizontally⁕1.

The claws are long; by which it is enabled to climb trees with great ease, where it waits for prey, and from whence it sometimes darts upon small animals that are below. These have no other chance of escaping than by immediately rushing into the water, if there is an opportunity at hand; when the Weesel is obliged to let go his hold in order to save himself. When he seizes on any animal, he folds his tail round it; and gnaws a small hole in its neck, through which he sucks the blood.

Charlevoix says, it frequently leaps upon the neck of the Moose-deer, where it first fixes itself securely, then cuts into the jugular vein, and does not move from its station (unless forced by the animal’s I.324 plunging into the water) till the creature falls down from loss of blood⁕2.

He is hunted by Foxes; who search for him as he lies in wait for his prey, and seldom fail to carry him off⁕3.

Synonyms.—Viverra prehensilis. Kerr.—Kinkajou. Buffon.—Quincajou ou Carajou. Charlevoix.—Mexican Weesel. Penn.

⁕1 Buff. Quad. vii. 287-292.

⁕2 Charlevoix, Travels in America, i. 201.

⁕3 Buff. Quad.

Notes and Corrections: The Mexican Weesel

Also not a weasel, though at least we are in the right suborder. Viverra prehensilis is now Potos flavus, the kinkajou, in the same family as raccoons.

He was passionately fond of perfumes and sweetmeats.
[I wonder if this is a translation blunder? The earliest English translation of Brillat-Savarin’s Physiology of Taste similarly has “perfume, confectioneries” (two separate things) for “sucreries parfumés”.]

it frequently leaps upon the neck of the Moose-deer
[“Mouse-deer” seems more plausible, but the 1st edition has the same thing.]

engraving of “Pine-Weasel”, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 231:
The PINE-WEASEL, or Yellow-breasted MARTIN


Is about eighteen inches long. It is of a dark chesnut colour, and has a yellow throat and breast. It frequents the pine forests of all the northern regions, but particularly of America; and is found even in some parts of England.

Its general retreat is in the hollow of some tree; so high up, and in other respects so situated, as to afford it perfect security. The nest of the Squirrel is generally preferred: of this the Martin dispossesses the ingenious architect by killing him. The Martin now enlarges the dimensions of its new habitation; lines it with softer materials; and in that secure retreat, brings forth its young.

Its courage is so great, that it will attack animals much larger and stronger than itself. It sometimes seizes the Sheep and the Hare: and, if necessity obliges, will combat the fury of even the Wild Cat; which, though much stronger, is always worsted, and often killed.

Notwithstanding this ferocity of disposition, the Pine Martin is easily rendered docile. Gesner says I.325 he kept one, which was extremely playful and entertaining. It used to go to the houses of the neighbours, and always returned home when it wanted food. It was particularly fond of a Dog with which it had been bred up; and would play with him as Cats do, lying on its back, and pretending to bite him. Buffon had one, which, though it had lost its ferocity, did not however discover any marks of attachment, and continued so wild as to require being chained. It frequently escaped from its confinement: at first it returned after some hours absence, but without appearing pleased; the time of absence of each succeeding elopement gradually increased, and at last it took a final departure. During its confinement, it sometimes slept for two days without intermission. When preparing for sleep, it formed its body into a circle; and hid its head, which it covered with its tail.

These animals have a musky smell, which to many persons is very agreeable. Their cry is sharp and piercing; but is never uttered except when in pain or distress. Their principal food consists of Rats, Mice, and other small quadrupeds; poultry, game, &c. and they are also remarkably fond of honey.

The female produces three or four young, which soon arrive at a state of maturity. She is able to afford them but a small quantity of milk; but she compensates for this natural defect, by bringing home eggs and live birds to her offspring, and thus early accustoms them to a life of carnage and plunder. As soon as the young are able to leave the nest, she leads them through the woods; where I.326 they begin to seize on their prey, and to provide food for themselves.

Pine Martins are hunted in the North for the sake of their furs, which are held in great estimation: the most valuable part is that which extends along the back. In England these are used to line the robes of magistrates, and for several other purposes. They form a considerable article of commerce; above twelve thousand being annually imported into this country from Hudson’s Bay, and more than thirty thousand from Canada⁕1.

Synonyms.—Viverra Martes. Shaw.—Mustela Martes. Linn.—Marder. Ridinger.—Marte. Buffon.——Bew. Quad. 231.

⁕1 Church’s Cabinet of Quadrupeds.

Notes and Corrections: The Pine Martin

Viverra martes or Mustela martes, the European pine marten, is now the head of its own genus as Martes martes. As you might expect, martens are in the Mustelinae subfamily alongside weasels.

engraving of Sable, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 233:


The Sable is a native of North America, Siberia, Kamtschatka, and Asiatic Russia. It is about eighteen inches in length; and has a longish and rather sharpened head. Its general colour is a deep glossy brown.

The skin of the Sable is more valuable than that of any other animal. One of these, not above four inches broad, has sometimes been valued as high as fifteen pounds; but the general price is from one pound to ten, according to their quality. The Sable’s fur is different from all others, in the hair turning with equal ease either way. The bellies of Sables, which are sold in pairs, are about two fingers in breadth; and are tied together in bundles of I.327 forty pieces, which are sold at from one to two pounds a-bundle. The tails are sold by the hundred, at from four to eight pounds.

The manner in which the natives of Kamtschatka take these animals, is very simple. They follow the track of the Sable, in snow-shoes, till they have detected his covert, which is generally a burrow in the earth. As soon as the little creature is aware of his pursuers, he escapes into some hollow tree; which the hunters surround with a net, and then either cut it entirely down, or force the animal by fire and smoke to abandon his retreat, when he falls into the net and is killed. They sometimes surround the tree in which a Sable is lodged, with Dogs trained for the purpose; and then, making a running noose on a pretty strong cord, find means to get the creature’s head into the snare, and thus haul him down an easy prey⁕1.

In other parts, where these animals are less common, the contrivances to take them are more artificial. Of this kind is the Sable-trap of the Vogules, which is used in several parts of Siberia:—A place is found where two young trees stand not far asunder. These are immediately stripped of their branches about the bottom; and near one of them a post is stuck into the ground, on which a beam is placed horizontally, so fastened to both trees, that one end of it lies between the post and the tree. Over this beam another is laid, as a trap-fall; at the end of which a thin support is put, which, when the I.328 trap-fall is up, stands over the notched end of the post. At the extremity of the support is a mat-string, and another at the lower transverse beam, tied very short. Both are brought together; and a stick is put through them, having at its lower extremity a piece of flesh or wild-fowl attached, which, by its preponderance, keeps the stick down, and thus holds the two strings together. The Sable creeps cautiously along the lower beam, till he can reach the bait, and pull it to him; this looses the stick to which the bait is tied, and by which the strings were held together; the stay slips its hold, and consequently the upper beam falls upon the shoulders of the animal and holds him fast.

Sables frequent the banks of rivers, and the thickest parts of the woods. They live in holes under ground, and especially under the roots of trees; but they sometimes make their nest (consisting of moss, small twigs, and grass) in the hollows of trees. The female brings forth in the spring, and produces from three to five at a time. In winter they live on berries of different kinds; but in the summer-time, before these are ripe, they devour Hares, Weesels, Ermines, and other small animals⁕2.

The Sable is a lively and active animal; and leaps with great agility from tree to tree, in pursuit of birds or Squirrels. It is said to feed also on wild fruits and berries. M. Gmelin saw two of these animals that had been in some measure domesticated. Whenever they saw a Cat, they would rise on their I.329 hind feet to prepare for a combat. In the night, they were extremely restless and active; but during the day, and particularly after eating, they generally slept so sound for half an hour, or an hour, that they might be pushed, shaken, and even pricked, without being awakened.

The chase of the Sable, according to Mr. Pennant, was, daring the more barbarous periods of the Russian Empire, the principal task of the unhappy exiles who were banished into Siberia; and who, as well as the soldiers sent there, were obliged to furnish, within a given time, a certain quantity of furs: but as Siberia is now become more populous, the Sables have, in a great measure, quitted it, and retired farther to the north and east, into the desert forests and mountains⁕3.

Synonyms.—Viverra Zibellina. Shaw.Mustela Zibellina. Linn.—Sable Weesel. Penn.—Zibeline. Buffon.——Bew. Quad. 233.

⁕1 Lessep, i. 35.

⁕2 Grieve, 110.

⁕3 Penn. Quad. ii. 323.

Notes and Corrections: The Sable

Viverra zibellina or Mustela zibellina, the sable, now goes by Martes zibellina. As its name indicates, it’s a kind of marten. (So are fishers.)

[Synonyms] Mustela Zibellina. Linn.
text has Mestela

engraving of Weasel, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 219:


This is an active little animal, well-known in our own country. Its length, exclusive of the tail, is about seven inches; and its height, not above two and a half. The colour of its upper parts is a pale reddish-brown: and its breast and belly are white; but on each side, below the corners of the mouth is a brown spot. The ears are small and rounded, and the eyes black.


It is very destructive to young birds, poultry, Rabbets, and several other animals; and it sucks eggs with great avidity. In this latter operation, it begins by making a small hole at one end, from which it licks out the yolk, leaving the shell behind; whereas Rats, and some other animals, always drag the egg out of the nest, and either make a large hole in it or break it to pieces. By this circumstance the attacks of the Weesel may always be distinguished.—Its form is elegant, but, like some others of this genus, it has an unpleasant smell. It lives chiefly in cavities under the roots of trees, and in the banks of rivulets; from whence it sallies out on the approach of evening, to commit its devastations.

engraving of Weasel, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 98 (partial):
Common Weesel

M. de Buffon supposed the Weesel to be untameable; but Mademoi­selle de Laistre, in a letter on this subject, gives a very pleasing account of the education and manners of a Weesel which she took under her protection⁕1. This she fed with fresh meat and milk, the latter of which it was very fond of. It frequently ate from her hand, and seemed to be more delighted with this manner of feeding than any other. “If I pour (says this lady) some milk into my hand, it will drink a good deal; but if I do not pay it this compliment, it will scarcely take a drop. When it is satisfied, it generally goes to sleep. My chamber is the place of its residence; I.331 and I have found a method of dispelling its strong smell by perfumes. By day, it sleeps in a quilt, into which it gets by an unsewn place which it had discovered on the edge: during the night, it is kept in a wired box or cage; which it always enters with reluctance, and leaves with pleasure. If it be set at liberty before my time of rising, after a thousand little playful tricks, it gets into my bed, and goes to sleep in my hand or on my bosom. If I am up first, it spends a full half-hour in caressing me; playing with my fingers like a little Dog, jumping on my head and on my neck, and running round on my arms and body with a lightness and elegance which I never found in any other animal. If I present my hands at the distance of three feet, it jumps into them without ever missing. It shews a great deal of address and cunning in order to compass its ends, and seems to disobey certain prohibitions merely through caprice. During all its actions, it seems solicitous to divert, and to be noticed; looking, at every jump, and at every turn, to see whether it is observed or not. If no notice be taken of its gambols, it ceases them immediately, and betakes itself to sleep; and even when awaked from the soundest sleep it instantly resumes its gaiety, and frolics about in as sprightly a manner as before. It never shews any ill-humour, unless when confined, or teased too much; in which case it expresses its displeasure by a sort of murmur, very different from that which it utters when pleased.

“In the midst of twenty people, this little animal distinguishes my voice, seeks me out, and I.332 springs over every body to come at me. His play with me is the most lively and caressing; with his two little paws he pats me on the chin, with an air and manner expressive of delight. This, and a thousand other preferences, shew that his attachment to me is real. When he sees me dressed for going out, he will not leave me, and it is not without some trouble that I can disengage myself from him; he then hides himself behind a cabinet near the door, and jumps upon me as I pass, with so much celerity that I often can scarcely perceive him.

“He seems to resemble a Squirrel in vivacity, agility, voice, and his manner of murmuring. During the summer, he squeaks and runs about all night long; but since the commencement of the cold weather, I have not observed this. Sometimes, when the sun shines while he is playing on the bed, he turns and tumbles about and murmurs for a while.

“From his delight in drinking milk out of my hand, into which I pour a very little at a time, and his custom of sipping the little drops and edges of the fluid, it seems probable that he drinks dew in the same manner. He very seldom drinks water, and then only for want of milk; and with great caution, seeming only to refresh his tongue once or twice, and to be even afraid of that fluid. During the hot weather, it rained a good deal. I presented to him some rain water in a dish, and endeavoured to make him go into it, but could not succeed. I then wetted a piece of linen cloth in it, and put it near him; when he rolled upon it with extreme delight.


“One singularity in this charming animal is his curiosity; it being impossible to open a drawer or a box, or even to look at a paper, but he will examine it also. If he gets into any place where I am afraid of permitting him to stay, I take a paper or a book, and look attentively at it; when he immediately runs upon my hand, and surveys with an inquisitive air whatever I happen to hold. I must further observe, that he plays with a young Cat and Dog, both of some size; getting about their necks, backs, and paws, without their doing him the least injury.”

The method of taming these creatures is, according to M. de Buffon, to stroke them gently over the back; and to threaten, and even to beat them, when they attempt to bite. Aldrovandus tells us, that their teeth should be rubbed with garlic, which will take away all their inclination to bite!

The last mentioned author quotes from Strozza the following part of an elegy on the death of a tame Weesel.

Nil poterat puero te gratius esse; nec illi

Morte tua quicquam tristius esse potest.

Tu digitos molli tentabas improba morsu,

Porrecto ludens semisupina pede;

Et mollem e labiis noras sorbere salivam,

Et quiddam exiguo murmure dulce queri.

Loving and lov’d! thy master’s grief!

Thou could’st th’ uncounted hours beguile;

And, nibbling at his finger soft,

Watch anxious for th’ approving smile:


Or stretching forth the playful foot,

Around in wanton gambols rove;

Or gently sip the rosy lip,

And in light murmurs speak thy love⁕2.

The motion of the Weesel consists of unequal leaps; and, on occasion, it has the power of springing some feet from the ground. It is remarkably active; and will run up a wall with such facility, that no place is secure from it.—It is useful to the farmer in ridding him of Rats and Mice, which it will pursue into their holes and there kill; but its depredations are not altogether confined to these pernicious animals, as it also very frequently destroys young Poultry and Pigeons. It seizes its prey near the head; and but seldom eats it upon the spot, generally carrying it away to its retreat.—It often destroys the Moles in their habitations; as is proved by its being at times caught in the traps laid for those animals. We are told that when it pursues the Hare, that timid creature is terrified into a state of absolute imbecility; and gives itself up without the least resistance, making, at the same time, the most piteous outcries.

A story is related, that an Eagle, having seized a Weesel, mounted into the air with it, and was soon after observed to be in great distress. His little enemy had so far extricated itself, as to be able to bite him very severely in the neck; which presently brought the bird to the ground, and gave the Weesel an opportunity of escaping.


The female brings forth in the spring, and generally produces four or five at a litter. She prepares for them a bed of moss, leaves, and straw. Aldrovandus tells us, that when she suspects they will be stolen from her, she carries them in her mouth from place to place, changing her retreat even several times a-day.—M. de Buffon informs us, that, in his neighbourhood, a Weesel with three young ones was taken out of the body of a Wolf, that had been hung on a tree by the hind feet. The Wolf was in a state of putrefaction; and the Weesel had made a nest of leaves and herbage, in the thorax.

Among other curious particulars respecting this animal, it has been observed, that, when asleep, its muscles are in such a state of extreme flaccidity, that it may be taken up by the head, and swung backwards and forwards like a pendulum several times, before it will awake.

The Weesel is found in all the temperate parts of Europe, and also in Barbary: but in the bleak northern climates it is very scarce.—In Siberia there is a white variety, the skins of which are chiefly sent to China, where they are sold at the rate of three or four rubles each.

Synonyms.—Viverra Vulgaris. Shaw.—Mustela Vulgaris. Linn.—Weesel. Fitchit. Foumart, or Foulimart. Ray.—Whitret, or Whitred. Sibald.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 98.—Bew. Quad. 219.

⁕1 In general, however, when in confinement, they are in perpetual agitation, appear much disturbed by the sight of Man, and refuse to eat in the presence of any person; and usually, if they are not allowed some place where they can hide themselves, they soon die.

⁕2 Shaw, i. 422-425.

Notes and Corrections: The Common Weesel

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Mustela vulgaris seems to be Mustela nivalis, the least weasel. It is “least” because it is the smallest of all carnivores, weighing less than an adult rat.

Mademoiselle de Laistre, in a letter on this subject
[An oddity of this passage is that, although the whole thing is in quotation marks, no source is cited—and the wording is often different from the first edition. The whole thing is cribbed from Shaw, who is also vague about the source, though it seems to have come by way of Buffon.]

By day, it sleeps in a quilt
text has its sleeps

into which it gets by an unsewn place
text has unsown
[The spelling doesn’t seem to have offended Bingley, since he lifted it unchanged from Shaw, but it offends me.]

even when awaked from the soundest sleep it instantly resumes
text has awaked, with superfluous comma
[The comma seems to be a ghost of the 1st edition’s (and Shaw’s) wording of this passage: “and even when most asleep, if awaked, it instantly resumes its gaiety”.]

I presented to him some rain water in a dish
missing word “a” supplied from 1st edition

[Synonyms] Bew. Quad. 219
text has 229

[Footnote] Shaw, i. 422-425
[Shaw is not only the source of the immediately preceding poem but of the entire Weesel article. (The translation is also Shaw’s.)]

engraving of “Common Otter”, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 100:
Common Otter


The Otters differ from the Weesels, in living almost constantly in the water; from whence they principally derive their food, which consists of fish. I.336 Their bodies are very long, and their legs short. They burrow and form their dwellings in the banks of rivers and lakes, in the neigh­bourhood of the situations in which they find their prey.

They have, in each jaw, six sharpish cutting-teeth; the lower ones of which do not stand in an even line with the rest, but two are placed somewhat within. The canine-teeth are rather longer than the others. The animals of this tribe have all webbed feet.

Notes and Corrections: The Otter Tribe

Otters are subfamily Lutrinae within family Mustelidae; the other side of the family—which we have already met—includes weasels, badgers and wolverines.

engraving of Otter, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 451:


The Common Otter is about two feet in length, from the nose to the insertion of the tail; and the length of the tail is nearly sixteen inches. It is a native of almost every part of Europe, and is still to be met with in some parts of England. Its legs are short, but strong and muscular. The head is broad, oval, and flat on the upper part; and the body is long and round. The legs are so placed as to be capable of being brought into a line with the body, and of performing the office of fins. The toes are connected by webs. The general colour of these animals is a deep brown.

They inhabit the banks of rivers; and though they sometimes seize on the smaller quadrupeds and on poultry, their principal food is fish. “The Otter I.337 (says Mr. Pennant) shews great sagacity in forming its habitation. It burrows under-ground in the bank of some river or lake: and always makes the entrance of its hole under water, working upwards to the surface of the earth; and, before it reaches the top, it provides several holts, or lodges, that in case of high floods it may have a retreat (for no animal seems desirous of lying drier), and then makes a minute orifice for the admission of air. It is further observed, that this animal, the more effectually to conceal its retreat, contrives to make this little air-hole in the midst of some thick bush⁕1.”

In some parts of North America, Otters are seen in winter at a distance from any apparent open water, both in woods and on plains; but it is not known what leads them to such situations. If pursued, when among the woods where the snow is light and deep, they immediately dive, and make considerable way under it; but they are easily traced by the motion of the snow above them, and soon overtaken. The Indians kill numbers of them with clubs, by tracking them in the snow; but some of the old ones are so fierce, when closely pressed, that they turn upon and fly at their pursuers.

They are very fond of play; and one of their favourite pastimes is, to get on a high ridge of snow, bend their fore-feet backward, and slide down the side of it, sometimes to the distance of twenty yards⁕2.

Otters, though naturally of a ferocious disposition, I.338 may, if taken young and properly educated, be completely tamed. The training of them, however, requires both assiduity and perseverance: but their activity and use, when taught, sufficiently repay this trouble; and few animals are more beneficial to their masters. The usual method is first to teach them to fetch, in the same way as Dogs; but, as they have not an equal docility, so it requires more art and experience to instruct them. It is usually performed by accustoming them to take in their mouths a truss made of leather, and stuffed with wool, of the shape of a fish; to drop it at a word of command; to run after it when thrown forward, and to bring it to their master. Real fish are next employed; which are thrown dead into the water, and which they are taught to fetch from thence. From dead fish they are led to living ones, till at last they are perfectly instructed in the whole art of fishing. An Otter thus educated, is very valuable; he will catch fish enough to sustain not only himself but a whole family. “I have seen (says Dr. Goldsmith, from whom this information is taken) an Otter go to a gentleman’s pond at the word of command, drive the fish into a corner, and, seizing upon the largest of the whole, bring it off, in his mouth, to his master⁕3.”

A person of the name of Collins, who lived at Kilmerston, near Wooler, in Northumberland, had a tame Otter, which followed him wherever he went. He frequently took it to fish in the river; and I.339 when satiated, it never failed to return to its master. One day, in the absence of Collins, the Otter being taken out to fish by his son, instead of returning as usual, refused to come at the accustomed call, and was lost. The father tried every means to recover it; and, after several days search, being near the place where his son had lost it, and calling it by its name, to his inexpressible joy it came creeping to his feet, and shewing many marks of affection and firm attachment.

Some years ago, James Campbell, near Inverness, had a young Otter, which he brought up and tamed. It would follow him wherever he chose; and, if called on by its name, would immediately obey. When apprehensive of danger from Dogs, it sought the protection of its master, and would endeavour to spring into his arms for greater security. It was frequently employed in catching fish, and would sometimes take eight or ten Salmon in a day. If not prevented, it always made an attempt to break the fish behind the fin next the tail; and, as soon as one was taken away, it immediately dived in pursuit of more. When tired, it would refuse to fish any longer; and was then rewarded with as much as it could devour. Having satisfied its appetite, it always coiled itself round, and fell asleep; in which state it was generally carried home. The same Otter fished as well in the sea as in fresh water, and took great numbers of young Cod and other fish there.

Another person who kept a tame Otter, suffered it to follow him with his Dogs. It was very useful to him in fishing; by going into the water, and driving I.340 Trout and other fish towards the net. It was remarkable, that Dogs accustomed to Otter hunting, were so far from giving it the least molestation, that they would not even hunt any Otter while this remained with them; on which account the owner was under the necessity of disposing of it⁕4.

The method of fishing with a tame Otter, is mentioned in the Prædium Rusticum of Vaniere; in a passage which has been thus translated:

“Should chance within this dark recess betray

The tender young, bear quick the prize away.

Tam’d by thy care, the useful brood shall join

The wat’ry chace, and add their toils to thine;

From each close lurking-hole shall force away,

And drive within thy nets, the silver prey:

As the taught Hound the timid Stag subdues,

And o’er the dewy plain the panting Hare pursues.”

M. Poissonnier, considering the account of Vaniere as fabulous, procured a young Otter, which he tamed, in order to put it to the test; and to his great surprise, found that after a little instruction it would run to a small river, about a hundred yards from his house, and very seldom returned without a live fish in its mouth. He also brought it to such a state of domestication, that to whatever distance it went, it always returned, with the utmost punctuality, to its kennel.

This writer contradicts an assertion frequently made, that the Otter is amphibious; for his never plunged into the water but in search of prey, and I.341 it then always returned as speedily as possible to the bank, where it shook itself like a Water-spaniel. When it was obliged to continue in the water for any length of time, it frequently raised its head to the surface to breathe; and he believes it would have been killed had it been forced to remain under water for half an hour⁕5.

When the Otter, in its wild state, has caught a fish, it immediately drags it ashore, and devours the head and upper parts, leaving the remainder: and when domesticated, it will eat no fish except such as are perfectly fresh; but will prefer bread, milk, &c. It generally hunts against the stream; and when more than one are fishing at the same time, they are frequently heard to utter a sort of loud whistle to each other, as if by way of signal. When two of them (as sometimes happens) are hunting a Salmon, one stations itself above, and the other below the place where the fish is: and they continue to chase it, till, becoming perfectly wearied out, it surrenders itself a quiet prey⁕6. The Otter, when it hunts singly, has two modes of taking its prey. The first is by pursuing it from the bottom upwards: this is principally done with the larger fish; whose eyes being placed so as not to see under them, the animal attacks them by surprise from below, and, seizing them by the belly, drags them away. The other mode is by hunting them into some corner of the pond or lake, and there seizing them. The latter, however, can only be practised in water where there I.342 is no current, and on the smaller fish; for it would be impossible to force the large ones out of deep water⁕7. The Otter is as noxious in a fish-pond, as the Polecat in a hen-roost; he frequently kills more fish than he can eat, and then carries off but one in his teeth.

The female produces four or five young at a birth, and these in the spring of the year. Where there have been ponds near a gentleman’s house, instances have occurred of their littering in cellars or drains.—The male utters no noise when taken, but the pregnant females emit a shrill squeak⁕8.—Otters are generally caught in traps placed near their landing places, and carefully concealed in the sand. When hunted with Dogs, the old ones defend themselves with great obstinacy. They bite severely, and do not readily quit their hold where they have once fastened. An old Otter will never yield while it has life; nor make the least complaint, though wounded ever so much by the Dogs, nor even when transfixed with a spear.

In the northern parts of America, these animals change their colour in winter to white, like most of the other Arctic animals; and it is not till very late in the spring that they resume their brown summer dress.

The flesh is exceedingly rank and fishy; so much so, that the Romish Church permitted the use of it on maigre-days. In the kitchen of the Carthusian convent near Dijon, Mr. Pennant saw one of them I.343 cooking for the dinner of the religious of that rigid order; who by their rules are prohibited, during their whole lives, the eating of flesh⁕9.—The Kamtschadales use the Otter’s fur for garments; and the North American Indians manufacture their skins into pouches, which they ornament with bits of horn.

Synonyms.—Lutra Vulgaris. Shaw.—Mustela Lutra. Linn.—Greater Otter. Penn.—Loutre. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 100.—Bew. Quad. 451.

⁕1 Penn. Brit. Zool.

⁕2 Hearne, 375.

⁕3 Goldsmith, iv. 146.

⁕4 Bew. Quad. 452, 453.

⁕5 Le Moniteur Universel, Nivose 21, An vii.

⁕6 Penn. Brit. Zool.

⁕7 Church.

⁕8 Brit. Zool. i. 95.

⁕9 Penn. Brit. Zool. i. 94.

Notes and Corrections: The Common Otter

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Lutra vulgaris is now Lutra lutra, the European otter.

to make this little air-hole in the midst of some thick bush*.”
close quote missing

An Otter thus educated
text has Ot-/er at line break

the Prædium Rusticum of Vaniere
[The Prædium Rusticum by Jacques Vanière (1664–1739) was published and re-published many times in the course of the 18th century.]

The male utters no noise when taken
text has mail

In the kitchen of the Carthusian convent near Dijon
[There is an almost identical discussion in The Compleat Angler.]

[Footnote] Le Moniteur Universel, Nivose 21, An vii.
[Otherwise known as 10 January 1799.]

engraving of Sea Otter, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 101:
Sea Otter


The Sea Otter is found on the coast of Kamtschatka, and in the adjacent islands, as well as on the opposite coasts of America; but it is confined within a very few degrees of latitude. Its whole length is about four feet, of which the tail occupies thirteen inches. The fur is extremely soft, and of a deep glossy black. The ears are small and erect, and the whiskers long and white. The legs are short and thick, the hinder ones somewhat resembling those of a Seal. The weight of the largest Sea Otters is from seventy to eighty pounds.

In their manners these animals are very harmless; and towards their offspring they exhibit an uncommon degree of attachment. They will never desert them; and will even starve themselves to death on being robbed of them, and strive to breathe their last on the spot where their young have been destroyed.—The female produces only a single young one at a time; which she suckles almost a whole I.344 year, and till it takes to itself a mate.—The Sea Otters pair, and are very constant. They often carry their young between their teeth, and fondle them, frequently flinging them up and catching them again in their paws. Before these can swim, the old ones will take them in their fore feet, and swim about with them upon their backs⁕1.

engraving of Sea Otter, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 455:

The Sea Otters swim sometimes on their sides; at other times on their backs, or in an upright position. They are very sportive, embrace each other, and seem to kiss⁕2.—When attacked they make no resistance, but endeavour to save themselves by flight: if, however, they are closely pressed, and can see no means of escape, they scold and grin like an angry Cat. On receiving a blow, they immediately lie on their side, draw up their hind legs together, cover their eyes with their fore paws, and thus seem to prepare themselves for death. But if they are fortunate enough to escape their pursuer, they deride him as soon as they are safe in the sea, with various diverting tricks: at one time keeping themselves on end in the water, and jumping over the waves, holding their fore paw over the eyes as if to shade them from the sun while looking out for their enemy; then lying flat on their back, and stroking their belly; then throwing their young down into the water and fetching them up again. In their escape they carry the sucklings in their mouths, and drive before them those that are full-grown⁕3.

The skins of the Sea Otters are of great value, and I.345 have long formed a considerable article of export from Russia. They are disposed of to the Chinese at the rate of eighty or a hundred rubies each⁕4. The trade for this fur at Nootka, had, not many years ago, nearly produced a war between Great Britain and Spain.—They are sometimes taken with nets, but are more frequently destroyed with clubs and spears. The young animals are said to be delicate eating, and not easily to be distinguished from Lamb. The flesh of the old ones is insipid and tough.

Synonyms.—Lutra Marina. Shaw.—Mustela Lutris. Linn.—Sea Otter. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 101.—Bew. Quad. 455.

⁕1 Grieve, 131.

⁕2 Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 89.

⁕3 Tooke.

⁕4 Marchand, i. 207.

Notes and Corrections: The Sea Otter

Lutra marina or Mustela lutris has been promoted to its own genus and is now Enhydra lutris.

engraving of “Common Bear”, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 102:
Common Bear


The Bears have six front teeth in each jaw. The two lateral ones of the lower jaw are longer than the rest, and lobed with smaller or secondary teeth at their internal bases. There are five or six grinders on each side; and the canine teeth are solitary. The tongue is smooth, and snout prominent. The eyes are furnished with a nictitating or winking membrane⁕1.

The soles of the feet in all the animals belonging to this tribe are long, and extend to the heel; which gives them a very firm tread. Some of the species use their fore paws as hands. From the length and sharpness of their claws, they are all able to I.346 climb trees in search of prey, or to escape from their enemies.

⁕1 Linn. Gmel. i. 190.

Notes and Corrections: The Bear Tribe

Bears are the predictably named Ursidae family, still on the dog-side of Carnivora. There are five genera, but the bears Linnaeus and Bingley knew about are all Ursus: U. arctos, U. americanus and U. maritimus. They probably didn’t know about a fourth Ursus species, the Asiatic black bear.

engraving of “Common Bear”, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 261:
The Brown BEAR


The Common Bears are inhabitants of the forests in the northern regions of Europe, and are also found on some of the Indian Islands. They vary much in colour; some of them being brown, others black, and others grey. The Brown Bears live chiefly on vegetables; and the Black ones in a great measure on animal food, on Lambs, Kids, and even Cattle, which they destroy, sucking the blood in the manner of the Weesel tribe. They generally blow up the carcases of such animals as they kill, and hide in the marshes what they cannot devour.

They are said to be particularly fond of honey. In search of this they climb trees, in order to get at the nests of wild Bees; for the Bear, notwithstanding his awkward form, is expert in climbing, and sometimes takes up his residence in the hollow of a large tree. He will also catch and devour fish; and occasionally frequents the banks of rivers for that purpose.

He is a savage and solitary animal, living in the most retired and unfrequented parts of the forest. Great part of the winter he spends in his den, in a state of repose and abstinence. During this period the females bring forth and suckle their young. I.347 These are generally two in number: they are at first round and almost shapeless, with pointed muzzles; but are not, as the ancient naturalists supposed, licked into regular form by the mother. They are about eight inches long when produced, and are said to be blind for nearly a month⁕1.—The Bears go into their winter retreats extremely fat; but as they eat nothing during that season, they come out excessively lean in the spring: and from the circumstance of nothing but a frothy slime having been found in the stomachs of those that have been killed on their re-appearance, a general opinion has been maintained that they support themselves through the winter by sucking their paws⁕2.—Thomson has, with great truth and beauty, described the retreat of these animals in the frozen climate of the North:

There through the piny forest half absorpt,

Rough tenant of those shades, the shapeless Bear,

With dangling ice all horrid, stalks forlorn:

Slow-pac’d, and sourer as the storms increase,

He makes his bed beneath th’ inclement drift;

And, with stern patience, scorning weak complaint,

Hardens his heart against assailing want.


The Black Bears, we are told, are remarkably attached to each other. The hunters never dare to fire at a young one, while the dam is on the spot; for, if the cub happens to be killed, she becomes so enraged, that she will either avenge herself, or die in the attempt. If, on the contrary, the mother should be shot, the cubs will continue by her side long after she is dead, exhibiting the most poignant affliction. A man nearly lost his life, a few years ago, in Hungary, by firing at a young Bear, in the presence of its dam, who had indeed been concealed from his sight by some bushes; for, at one blow with her paw, she brought off a great part of his scalp⁕3. This animal seldom uses its teeth as weapons of defence, but generally strikes its adversary very strongly with its fore-paws like a Cat; and if possible, seizes him between its paws, and presses him to its breast with such force as almost instantly to suffocate him.

The most usual way of killing the Bears, is by means of fire-arms or arrows. The Laplanders easily overtake them, in their snow shoes, and knock them down with clubs; but they generally first shoot them and then dispatch them with spears.

In some parts of Siberia, the hunters erect a scaffold of several balks laid over each other; which fall altogether, and crush the Bear, upon his stepping on the trap placed underneath.—Another method is, to dig pits; in which a smooth, solid, and very sharp-pointed post is fixed into the ground, rising about a I.349 foot above the bottom. The pit is carefully covered over with sods; and across the track of the Bear, a small rope with an elastic figure is placed. As soon as the Bear touches the rope, the wooden figure starts loose; and the affrighted animal, endeavouring to save himself by flight, falls with a violent force into the pit, and is killed by the pointed post. If he escapes this snare, at a little distance several Caltrops⁕4 and other instruments of annoyance frequently await him; among which, a similar image is erected. The persecuted beast, the more he strives to get free, fixes himself faster to the spot; and the hunter who lies in ambush, soon dispatches him.

Yet not only beneath and upon the earth, but even in the air, has Man’s inventive genius contrived to lay snares for the liberty and the life of this animal. The Koriacks, for this purpose, find some crooked tree, grown into an arched form; at the bowed end of which they attach a noose, with a bait. The hungry Bear is tempted by this object, and eagerly climbs into the tree, where he becomes infallibly the victim of his attempt; for, on his moving the branch, the noose draws together, and he remains suspended to the tree, which violently springs back into its former position.

But still more singular and ingenious is the method adopted by the inhabitants of the mountainous I.350 parts of Siberia, to make this ferocious animal become his own destroyer. They fasten a very heavy block to a rope, that terminates at the other end with a loop. This is laid near a steep precipice, in the path on which the Bear is accustomed to go. On getting his neck into the noose, and finding himself impeded by the clog, he takes it up in a rage, and to free himself from it, throws it down the precipice: it naturally pulls the Bear after it, and he is killed by the fall. Should this, however, accidentally not prove the case, he drags the block again up the mountain, and reiterates his efforts; till, with increasing fury, he either sinks nerveless to the ground, or ends his life by a decisive plunge.

The Bear’s well-known partiality for honey, gives occasion to one of the Russian modes of taking him. To those trees where the Bees are hived, a heavy log of wood is hung at the end of a long string. When the unwieldy creature climbs up to get at the hive, he finds himself interrupted by the log; he pushes it aside, and immediately attempts to pass it; but in returning, it hits him such a blow, that in a rage, he flings it from him with greater force, which makes it return with increased violence upon himself; and he sometimes continues this, till he is either killed, or falls from the tree.

In some parts of the North, a single man will venture to attack a Bear in the open plains; and without any other instrument than a stiletto, pointed at both ends and fastened to a thong, and a sharp knife. The thong he wraps about his right arm, up I.351 to the elbow; and, taking his stiletto in this hand, and his knife in the left, he advances towards the animal, who on its hind-legs waits the attack. The hunter, the moment it opens its mouth, with great resolution and address thrusts his hand into its throat; and placing the stiletto there, not only prevents it from shutting its mouth, but also gives it such exquisite pain, that the Bear can make no further resistance, and suffers the hunter either to stab it with his knife, or to lead it about wherever he pleases⁕5.

These animals are so numerous in Kamtschatka, that they are often seen roaming about the plains in great companies; and they would infallibly have long since exterminated all the inhabitants, were they not here much more tame and gentle than the generality of Bears in other parts of the world. In spring, they descend in multitudes from the mountains (where they have passed the winter) to the mouths of the rivers, for catching fish, which swarm in all the streams of that peninsula. If there be plenty of this food, they eat nothing but the heads of the fish; and when, at any time, they find the fishermen’s nets, they dexterously drag them out of the water, and empty them of their contents.

When a Kamtschadale espies a Bear, he endeavours to conciliate its friendship at a distance, accompanying his gestures by courteous words. The Bears are indeed so familiar here, that the women and girls, when gathering roots and herbs, or turf I.352 for fuel, in the midst of a whole drove of Bears, are never disturbed by them in their employment; and if any of one of these animals comes up to them, it is only to eat something out of their hands. They have never been known to attack a man, except when roused on a sudden from sleep; and they very seldom turn upon the marksman, whether they be hit or not.—This humane character of the Kamtschadale Bear, who herein differs so remarkably from his brethren of most other countries, procures him however, no exemption from the persecutions of mankind. His great utility is a sufficient instigation to the avarice of Man, to declare eternal war against him. Armed with a spear, or club, the Kamtschadale goes in quest of the peaceful animal, in his calm retreat; who, meditating no attack, and intent only on defence, gravely takes the faggots which his persecutor brings him, and with them, himself chokes up the entrance to his den. The mouth of the cavern being thus closed, the hunter bores a hole through the top, and transfixes with the greatest security his defenceless foe⁕6.

They are sometimes cruel enough to lay a board driven full of iron hooks, in the Bear’s track; placing near it something heavy, which the animal must throw down as he passes. Alarmed by this, he runs upon I.353 the board with greater force than he would otherwise do; and, finding one of his paws wounded, and fixed by the hooks, he endeavours to free himself by striking it forcibly with the other. Both the paws being now fixed, bellowing with pain he rises on his hind feet; this motion immediately brings the board before his eyes, and so perplexes him, that he throws himself down in fury, and his violent struggles at length destroy him.

It would be difficult to name a species of animals, except the Sheep, so variously serviceable to man after its death, as the Bear is to the Kamtschadales. Of the skin, they make beds, covertures, caps and gloves, and collars for their sledge-dogs. Those who go upon the ice for the capture of marine animals, make their shoe soles of the same substance, which thus never slip upon the ice. The fat of the Bear is held in great estimation by all the inhabitants of Kamtschatka, as a very savoury and wholesome nourishment; and, when rendered fluid by melting, it supplies the place of oil. The flesh is esteemed a great delicacy. The intestines, when cleansed and properly scraped, are worn by the fair sex, as masks to preserve their faces from the effects of the sunbeams; which here, being reflected from the snow, are generally found to blacken the skin, but by this means the Kamtschadale ladies preserve a fine complexion. The Russians of Kamtschatka make of these intestines window panes, which are as clear and transparent as those made of Muscovy-glass. Of the shoulder-blades, are made sickles for cutting grass; and the heads and haunches are hung up by I.354 these people, as ornaments or trophies, on the trees about their dwellings⁕7.

The Kamtschadales also owe infinite obligations to the Bears, for the little progress they have hitherto made, as well in the sciences, as even in the polite arts. They confess themselves indebted to these animals for all their knowledge of physic and surgery: by observing what herbs the Bears have applied to the wounds they have received, and what methods they have pursued when they were languid, and disordered, this people have acquired a knowledge of most of those simples which they have recourse to either as external or internal applications. But the most singular circumstance of all is, that they admit the Bears to be their dancing-masters; and, in what they call the Bear-dance, every gesture and attitude of that animal is so faithfully pourtrayed, as to afford sufficient indications to what they are indebted for this acquirement. They represent the Bear’s sluggish and stupid gait: and its different feelings and situations; as the young ones about the dam, the amorous sports of the male with the female, and its agitation when pursued. The tune to one of these dances I shall insert;—this is always sung by the dancers, to a jumble of words that are frequently devoid of any meaning.

two lines of printed (not engraved) music


All their other dances are similar to the Bear-dance, in many parti­culars; and those attitudes are always thought to approach nearest to perfection, which most resemble the motions of the Bear⁕8.

If the uses of the Bear be so various to the Kamtschadales, not less general is the wear of his fine and warm fur to persons of the higher classes in Russia. A light black Bear-skin is one of the most comfortable and costly articles in the winter wardrobe of a man of fashion, at Petersburg or Moscow.

Dr. Townson has remarked, in the Hungarian Bear, pretty nearly the same characteristics as I have just noticed in that of Kamtschatka. He says, that however savage these animals may be accounted, they seem to be considerably less so than Man: for the Hungarian children go into the woods, and collect the cranberries, &c. which is a depredation on the property of the Bears (who feed on them), without a single attack from those animals; nor has any person in that country been known to be hurt by them, without having first commenced the assault.

He was informed, by the peasantry of Hungary, (what, he says, he had often before heard,) that when the Bears leave the woods, and come into the corn-fields at night to feed, they draw the standing corn through their fore paws, then rub the detached ears between them, blow away the chaff, and eat the grain⁕9.—Mr. Pennant tells us, that Bears are very fond of peas; of which they will tear up great quantities, and, beating them out of the shells on I.356 some stone or hard spot of ground, eat the grain, and carry off the straw to their dens.

It is well known, that the Bear may, with some little difficulty, be rendered tame and docile; and it has then the appearance of being mild and obedient to its master; but it is not to be trusted, without caution. It may be taught to walk, to lay hold of a pole with its paws, and perform various tricks to entertain the multitude; who are highly pleased with the awkward measures of this rugged animal, which it seems to suit to the sound of an instrument, or to the voice of its leader. But, to give the Bear this kind of education, it is necessary to have it taken young, and to accustom it early to restraint and discipline. An old Bear will suffer no restraint without discovering the most furious resentment: neither the voice nor the menaces of his keeper have any effect upon him; he equally growls at the hand that is held out to feed, and at that which is raised to correct him.

The excessive cruelties practised on this poor animal in teaching it to walk upright, and to regulate its motions to the sound of the pipe, are such as make sensibility shudder. Its eyes are frequently put out; and an iron ring being passed through the cartilage of the nose, to lead it by, it is kept from food, and beaten, till it yields obedience to the will of its savage tutors. Some of them are taught to perform, by setting their feet upon heated iron plates, and then playing music to them while in this uneasy situation. It is truly shocking to every feeling mind, to reflect that such cruelties should be I.357 exercised upon any part of the brute creation by our fellow-men. That these should be rewarded by numbers of unthinking people, who crowd around to see the animal’s rude attempts to imitate human actions, is not to be wondered at: but it is much to be wished that the timely interference of the magistrate would prevent every exhibition of the kind; that in England, at least, we might not be reproached with tolerating practices so disgraceful to humanity⁕10.—Thanks to the improving taste of the times! the inhuman custom of Bear-baiting is nearly destroyed in our country. This was formerly one of the most favourite diversions in England, and esteemed deserving of the attention of people of fashion: even the British sovereign has sometimes given a sanction to the Bear-garden, by personal attendance. In Queen Elizabeth’s days, it was thought an enter­tainment suitable for a treat to a foreign ambassador; and when she visited Kenelworth castle, it was one of the various amusements prepared for her Majesty. Many of the nobility kept also their bear-ward, and animals for this brutal diversion, with which their Christmas gambols were principally enlivened⁕11.

Synonyms.—Ursus Arctos. Linn.—Ours. Buffon.—Common, or Brown Bear. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 102.—Bew. Quad. 261.

⁕1 The Authors of La Menagerie du Museum National assert, that, from observations made on the Bears in the marshes of Berne, the young ones, immediately on their birth, are covered with short and bright hair, and in their appearance are much more elegant than the parents. They assert also that these have always round their necks a circle of white hairs; and that they have themselves seen a Bear three feet in length, which still preserved this mark, only the hair was become yellowish. The latter animal was usually observed in the act of sucking its paws.

⁕2 Grieve, 103.

⁕3 Townson’s Travels, 371.

⁕4 Irons with four spikes; so formed that, whichever way they fall, one point always lies upwards. These are generally used for throwing into breaches, or on bridges, in time of war, to annoy an enemy’s cavalry.

⁕5 Grieve.

⁕6 A method nearly similar is practised by some of the North American Indians, with the Bears of that country. They block up the dens with logs of wood: and then break in at the top, and either kill the animal with a spear or gun; or else put a snare about his neck, and, drawing his head close to the hole, dispatch him with their hatchets. Hearne, 370.

⁕7 Tooke’s View of the Russian Empire.

⁕8 Lessep, i. 104. Cooke’s last Voyage, iv. 100.

⁕9 Townson, 391.

⁕10 Bew. Quad. 263.

⁕11 Penn. Brit. Zool. i. 79.

Notes and Corrections: The Common Bear

Then as now, it’s Ursus arctos (“bear bear” in two languages).

They are said to be particularly fond of honey.
[The boring modern-day explanation is that what bears are actually fond of is grubs and larvae; the accompanying honey sauce is just incidental.]

Thomson has, with great truth and beauty, described
[Seasons again: Winter 827ff.]


The American Bear differs from the European species, principally in being smaller; and in having a more lengthened head, pointed nose, and longer I.358 ears. The hair is also more smooth, black, soft, and glossy. The cheeks and throat are of a yellowish-brown colour.—It is found in all the northern parts of America: migrating occasionally southwards in quest of its food, which is said to be entirely vegetable; or sometimes, when pressed by excessive hunger, fish, and particularly Herrings.

These Bears arrive in Louisiana, driven thither by the snows of the more northern climates, towards the end of autumn. At this time they are always very lean; as they do not leave the north till the earth is covered with snow, when their subsistence of course becomes very scanty.

In the country near the Mississippi, they seldom venture to any great distance from the banks of that river; but on each side have in winter such beaten paths, that persons unacquainted with them would mistake them for the tracks of men. Du Pratz says he was once (though at a distance of nearly two hundred miles from any human dwelling,) for a while deceived by one of them, which appeared as though thousands of men had been walking along it bare-footed. Upon inspection, however, he found that the prints of the feet were shorter than those of a man, and that at the end of each toe there was the impression of a claw. “It is proper (he says) to observe, that in those paths the Bear does not pique himself upon politeness, and will yield the way to nobody; therefore, it is prudent for a traveller not to fall out with him for such a trifling affair⁕1.”


About the end of December, from the abundance of fruits they find in Louisiana and the neighbouring countries, the Bears become so fat and lazy, that they can scarcely run. At this time, when the animals are also in a condition to furnish a large quantity of oil, they are hunted by the American Indians. The nature of the chase is generally this. The Bear chiefly adopts for his retreat the hollow trunk of an old cypress; which he climbs, and then descends into the cavity from above. The hunter, whose business it is to watch him into his retreat, climbs by means of hooks a neighbouring tree, where he seats himself opposite to the hole. In one hand he holds his gun; and in the other a torch, which he darts into the cavity. Frantic with rage and terror, the Bear makes a spring from his station; but the hunter seizes the instant of his appearance, and shoots him through the head or shoulder⁕2.

Some of the Indian tribes adopt such singular ceremonies in their chase of the Bear, that I shall transcribe the curious account of them inserted in Charlevoix Travels in North America.

“The chase of these animals is a matter of the first importance, and is never undertaken without abundance of ceremony. A principal warrior first gives a general invitation to all the hunters. This is followed by a most strict fast of eight days, a total abstinence from all kinds of food; notwithstanding which, the day is passed in continual I.360 song. This is done to invoke the Spirits of the woods to direct the hunters to the places where there are abundance of Bears. They even cut the flesh in divers parts of their bodies, to render the Spirits more propitious. They also address themselves to the manes of the beasts slain in the preceding chases, as if these were to direct them in their dreams to plenty of game. One dreamer alone cannot determine the place of the chase; numbers must concur: but as they tell each other their dreams, they never fail to agree. This may arise either from contrivance; or from a real agreement in their dreams, on account of their thoughts being perpetually turned on the same thing.—The chief of the hunt now gives a great feast, at which no one dares to appear without first bathing. At this enter­tainment they eat with great moderation, contrary to their usual custom. The master of the feast alone touches nothing; but is employed in relating to the guests ancient tales of the wonderful feats in former chases; and fresh invocations to the manes of the deceased Bears conclude the whole.

“They then sally forth amidst the acclamations of the village; equipped as if for war, and painted black. Every able hunter is on a level with a great warrior: but he must have killed his dozen great beasts before his character is established; after which his alliance is as much courted as that of the most valiant captain.—They now proceed on their way in a direct line; neither rivers, marshes, nor any other impediments, stop their course; driving before them all the beasts they find. When they arrive I.361 at the hunting-ground, they surround as large a space as they can with their company; and then contract their circle, searching at the same time every hollow tree, and every place fit for the retreat of a Bear: and they continue the same practice till the time of the chase is expired.

“As soon as a Bear is killed, a hunter puts into his mouth a lighted pipe of tobacco, and blowing into it fills the throat with the smoke, conjuring the spirit of the animal not to resent what they are going to do to its body, nor to render their future chases unsuccessful. As the beast makes no reply, they cut out the string of the tongue, and throw it into the fire. If it crackles and shrivels up (which it is almost sure to do), they accept it as a good omen; if not, they consider that the spirit of the beast is not appeased, and that the chase of the next year will be unfortunate.

“The hunters live well during the chase, on provisions which they bring with them. They return home with great pride and self-compla­cency: for, to kill a Bear forms the character of a complete man. They give a great enter­tainment, at which they make it a point to leave nothing uneaten. The feast is dedicated to a certain Genius (apparently that of Gluttony); whose resentment they dread, if they do not eat every morsel, and even sup up the melted grease in which the meat was dressed. They sometimes eat till they burst, or bring on themselves some violent disorders. The first course is, the greatest Bear they have killed: without even taking out the entrails, or skinning it; contenting themselves I.362 with singeing the skin, as is practised with Hogs⁕3.”

It is common with the Southern Indians of America, to tame and domesticate the young cubs of the Bear; and these are frequently taken so young that they cannot eat. On such occasions the Indians often oblige their wives to suckle them; and one of the Company’s servants at Hudson’s Bay, whose name was Isaac Batt, willing to be as great a brute as his Indian companions, absolutely forced one of his wives, who had recently lost her infant, to suckle a young Bear⁕4.

Lawson, Catesby, and Brickell⁕5, all relate a very surprising circum­stance respecting this animal: they say that neither European nor Indian ever killed a Bear with young. In one winter upwards of five hundred were killed in Virginia; among which were only two females, and these not pregnant. The cause is, that the male has the same dislike to his offspring that the males of some other animals have; and therefore the females, before the time of their parturition, retire into the depth of the woods and rocks, to elude the search of their savage mates⁕6.

The flesh of the American Bears is said to taste like pork. Dr. Brickell ate part of a loin of it at a planter’s house in North Carolina, and mistook it for excellent pork; but such are the prejudices to which mankind are subject, that the next day, I.363 being undeceived, and invited to eat of another, he felt so much disgust, that he was not able to taste it⁕7.

Synonyms.—Ursus Americanus. Linn.—Black Bear. Penn.

⁕1 Du Pratz, 261.

⁕2 Pages, i. 49.

⁕3 Charlevoix, Travels in North America, i. 180-187.

⁕4 Hearne, 271.

⁕5 Nat. Hist. of North Carolina, 112.

⁕6 Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 60.

⁕7 Brickell, 111.

Notes and Corrections: The American Bear

Linnaeus, you’re on a roll. Ursus americanus it is.

The American Bear differs from the European species, princi­pally in being smaller
[The Lewis and Clark expedition set out in 1804, the very year this edition of Animal Biography was published. Even at its historical peak distribution, the grizzly bear—the accurately named Ursus arctos horribilis subspecies of the brown or “common” bear—was only found west of the Mississippi.]

In the country near the Mississippi
text has Missisippi
[Corrected from 1st edition]

[Footnote] Hearne, 271.
text has , for final .

engraving of Polar Bear, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 268:
The Polar or Great White BEAR


The Polar Bear inhabits only the coldest parts of the globe; being confined within eighty degrees of north latitude, as far as any navigators have hitherto penetrated. It is sometimes found of the length of twelve feet. It differs from the Common Bear, in having its head and neck of a more lengthened form, and the body longer in proportion to its bulk. The ears and eyes are small; and the teeth extremely large. The hair is long, coarse, and white; and its limbs of great strength. The tips of the nose and claws are perfectly black.

The immense numbers of these animals in the polar regions, are truly astonishing. They are not only seen at land, but often on ice-floats several leagues at sea. They are often transported in this manner to the very shores of Iceland; where they no sooner land, than all the natives are in arms to receive them. It often happens, that when a Greenlander and his wife are paddling out at sea, by coming too near an ice-float, a white Bear unexpectedly jumps into their boat; and, if he does not overset it, sits calmly where he first alighted, and like a passenger suffers himself I.364 to be rowed along. It is probable that the Greenlander is never very fond of his unwieldy guest; however, he makes a virtue of necessity, and hospitably rows him to shore.

engraving of Polar Bear, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 103:
Polar Bear

The Polar Bears are animals of tremendous fierceness. Barentz, in his voyage in search of a North East Passage to China, had the most horrid proofs of their ferocity in the Island of Nova Zembla; where they attacked his seamen, seizing them in their mouths, carrying them off with the utmost ease, and devouring them even in the sight of their comrades⁕1.

Not many years ago, the crew of a boat belonging to a ship in the Whale-fishery, shot at a Bear at a little distance, and wounded it. The animal immediately set up the most dreadful howl, and ran along the ice towards the boat. Before he reached it, a second shot was fired, which hit him. This served but to increase his fury. He presently swam to the boat, and in attempting to get on board, placed one of his fore feet upon the gunnel; but a sailor, having a hatchet in his hand, cut it off. The animal still, however, continued to swim after them, till they arrived at the ship; and several shots were fired at him, which took effect: but on reaching the ship, he immediately ascended the deck; and the crew having fled into the shrouds, he was pursuing them thither, when a shot laid him dead upon the deck⁕2.

The usual food of these animals consists of Seals, I.365 fish, and the carcases of Whales; but when on land, they prey on Deer, and other animals, as Hares, young birds, &c. They likewise eat various kinds of berries, which they happen to find. They go on the flakes of ice in search of Seals: and also attack the Arctic Walrus; but this creature makes a noble defence with its long tusks, and sometimes comes off victorious. They are said to be frequently seen in Greenland in great droves, allured by the smell of the flesh of Seals: and they will sometimes surround the habitations of the natives and attempt to break in⁕3; when, it is added, the most successful method of repelling them is by the smoke of burnt feathers⁕4.

The following story of the sagacity of these animals in searching for prey, is inserted from the works of the Hon. Robert Boyle: “An old Sea-captain told me that the White Bears in or about Greenland, notwithstanding the coldness of the climate, have an excellent nose; and that sometimes when the fishermen had dismissed the carcase of a Whale, and left it floating on the waves, three or four leagues from the shore, whence it could not be seen, these animals would stand as near the water as they could, and raising themselves on their hind legs, loudly snuff in the air, and with the two paws of their fore legs drive it as it were against their snouts; and when they were (as my relater supposed) satisfied whence the odour came, they would cast themselves into the sea, and swim directly towards I.366 the Whale: as this person and others observed, who had sometimes the curiosity to row at a distance after them, to see whether their noses would serve them for guides when their eyes could not.⁕5

During the summer, they reside chiefly on the ice-islands; and frequently swim from one to another, though six or seven leagues asunder⁕6. They lodge in dens formed in the vast masses of ice; where they breed, producing one or two young at a time. About the end of March they bring these out, and immediately bend their course towards the sea. At this time their young are not larger than a White Fox; and their steps on the snow not bigger than a crown-piece, while those of the dam will measure near fifteen inches in length and nine in breadth.—When the masses of ice are detached by strong winds or currents, the Bears allow themselves to be carried along with them; and as they cannot regain the land, nor abandon the ice on which they are embarked, they often perish in the open sea.

The affection between the parent and the young is so great, that they will sooner die than desert each other in distress. I shall relate an instance; one which probably the reader will recollect. “While the I.367 Carcase frigate, which went out some years ago to make discoveries towards the North Pole, was locked in the ice, early one morning the man at the mast-head gave notice that three Bears were making their way very fast over the Frozen Ocean, and were directing their course towards the ship. They had, no doubt, been invited by the scent of some blubber of a Sea-horse that the crew had killed a few days before; which had been set on fire, and was burning on the ice at the time of their approach. They proved to be a she Bear and her two cubs; but the cubs were nearly as large as the dam. They ran eagerly to the fire; and drew out of the flames part of the flesh of the Sea-horse, that remained unconsumed, and ate it voraciously. The crew from the ships threw great lumps of the flesh of the Sea-horse, which they had still remaining, upon the ice. These the old Bear fetched away singly, laid every lump before her cubs as she brought it, and dividing it gave to each a share, reserving but a small portion to herself. As she was fetching away the last piece, the sailors levelled their muskets at the cubs, and shot them both dead; and in her retreat, they wounded the dam, but not mortally. It would have drawn tears of pity from any but unfeeling minds, to have marked the affectionate concern expressed by this poor beast in the last moments of her expiring young. Though she was herself dreadfully wounded, and could but just crawl to the place where they lay, she carried the lump of flesh she had fetched away, as she had done others before; tore it in pieces, and laid it before them: and when I.368 she saw that they refused to eat, she laid her paws first upon one, and then upon the other, and endeavoured to raise them up: all this while it was pitiful to hear her moan. When she found she could not stir them, she went off, and when she had got to some distance, looked back and moaned; and that not availing her to entice them away, she returned, and, smelling round them, began to lick their wounds. She went off a second time as before; and, having crawled a few paces, looked again behind her, and for some time stood moaning. But still her cubs not rising to follow her, she returned to them again; and with signs of inexpressible fondness, went round, pawing them, and moaning. Finding at last, that they were cold and lifeless, she raised her head towards the ship, and uttered a growl of despair, which the murderers returned with a volley of musket-balls. She fell between her cubs, and died licking their wounds.”

The males, says Mr. Hearne, are, at a certain time of the year, so much attached to their mates, that he has often seen one of them, when a female was killed, come and put his two fore paws over her, and in this position suffer himself to be shot rather than quit her⁕7.

During the winter these animals retire and bed themselves deep in the snow, or under the fixed ice of some eminence; where they pass in a state of torpidity the long and dismal Arctic night, and re-appear only with the return of the sun.


Of all quadrupeds, the Polar Bear is one that has the greatest dread of heat. One of them described by Professor Pallas, would not stay in its house in the winter; although at Krasnojarsk in Siberia, where the climate is very cold. It seemed to experience great pleasure in rolling itself on the snow.—A Polar Bear that was kept in the Museum of Natural History, in Paris, suffered very greatly during the hot weather. The keepers, throughout the year, were obliged to throw upon it sixty or seventy pails of water a-day, to refresh it. This animal was fed only with bread, of which it daily consumed no more than about six pounds, notwithstanding which it became very fat.—It is not known to what age these animals live. One specimen has been in the Museum seven years, and it was full-grown when first brought. It is now blind, and appears to have many other infirmities⁕8.

White Bears are sometimes found in Iceland; but not being natives of the island, they are supposed to have floated from the opposite coast of Greenland, on some of the huge masses of ice that are detached from those shores. After so long an abstinence as they must necessarily have undergone in the voyage, they are reduced by hunger to attack even Man, if he should come in their way. But Mr. Horrebow informs us, that the natives are always able to escape their fury, if they can throw in their way something to amuse them. “A glove (he says) is very proper for this purpose; for the Bear I.370 will not stir till he has turned every finger of it inside out; and as these animals are not very dexterous with their paws, this takes up some time, and in the mean while the person makes off⁕9.”

They grow exceedingly fat; a hundred pounds weight of that substance having been sometimes taken from a single beast. The flesh is said to be coarse, and the liver very unwholesome. The skin is valued for coverings of various kinds; and the split tendons are said to form an excellent thread⁕10.

Synonyms.—Ursus Maritimus. Linn.—White Bear. Var.—White Sea Bear. Martens.—Ours Blanc. Buffon.—Polar Bear. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 103.—Bew. Quad. 268.

⁕1 Heemskirk’s Voyage, 14.

⁕2 Bew. Quad. 269.

⁕3 Crantz, i. 73.

⁕4 Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 55.

⁕5 Phil. Works of the Hon. Mr. Boyle.

⁕6 Bew. Quad. 269.—There seems considerable difference in opinion on this subject. Buffon says that they never swim more than a league at a time; that in Norway they are followed in small boats, and are soon fatigued: that also they sometimes dive, but this is only for a few seconds; and lest they should be drowned, they suffer themselves to be killed on the surface of the water.—Buff. Quad. 221.

⁕7 Hearne, 386.

⁕8 La Menagerie du Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle.

⁕9 Horrebow’s Iceland.

⁕10 Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 55.

Notes and Corrections: The Polar Bear

skip to next section

Three for three: Ursus maritimus.

The terms “white bear” and “polar bear” were used interchangeably in Bingley’s time and for a good while after; “polar bear” didn’t become standard until the 20th century. No, I don’t know why Shaw depicts the polar bear as just as dark as any other bear, when his text clearly says “The whole animal is white”.

serve them for guides when their eyes could not.*”
close quote missing
[Location of missing close quote confirmed from 1st edition.]

they cannot regain the land, nor abandon the ice on which they are embarked
[Why can’t they? Polar bears routinely swim 30 miles (50k); the record is 220 miles (350k).]

some blubber of a Sea-horse
[Thanks to Bingley’s thorough Synonyms lists, we know that a manatee is a sea cow while a walrus is a sea horse.]

and died licking their wounds.”
close quote missing
[The close quote is also missing in the 1st edition, but this seems to be where it belongs.]

and in the mean while the person makes off*.”
close quote missing; location confirmed from 1st edition

The flesh is said to be coarse, and the liver very unwholesome.
[Heed the part about the liver. It is absolutely true.]

engraving of “Glutton” (Wolverine), no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 104:


The Glutton is a native of all the countries bordering on the Northern Ocean; it is likewise found in Canada, and about Hudson’s Bay. Its length is about three feet; exclusive of the tail, which is one foot. The top of the head, and the whole of the back, as well as the muzzle and feet, are of a blackish brown. The sides are dusky, and the tail is the colour of the body.

The most material incident in the economy of these animals, is the singular stratagem they adopt in taking their prey, which is generally some species of Deer. They are said to climb into some tree, which they do with great facility, and carry along with them a quantity of moss, to which the Deer are very partial. When any one of this tribe approaches I.371 the tree, the Glutton throws down the moss. If the Deer stops to eat, the Glutton instantly darts upon its back; and, after fixing himself firmly between the horns, tears out its eyes: which torments the animal to such a degree, that, either to put an end to its torments, or to get rid of its cruel enemy, it strikes its head against the trees till it falls down dead. The Glutton divides the flesh of the Deer into convenient portions, and conceals them in the earth for future provisions⁕1. When the voracious animal has once firmly fixed himself by his claws and teeth, it is impossible to remove him. In vain does the unfortunate Stag seek its safety in flight: and if it does not, as has been asserted, kill itself, its enemy soon brings it to the ground by sucking its blood, and gradually devouring its body⁕2.

The Gluttons feed also on Hares, Mice, Birds, and even on putrid flesh; and it is said by the Norwegians (though certainly without foundation) that they carry their voracity to such a degree, as to be obliged to relieve themselves by squeezing their over-swoln bodies between two trees; by this means exonerating their stomachs of that food which has not time to digest. If this creature seizes a carcase, even bigger than himself, he will not desist from eating so long as there is a mouthful left.

Pontoppidan was assured by a friend, a man of probity, that he had taken a Glutton alive, a circumstance I.372 which seldom takes place; and when he was chained to a wall, his hunger drove him to attack even the stones and mortar.

He is so strong an animal, that three stout Greyhounds are scarcely able to overcome him. One that was put into the water, had two Dogs let loose at him. The Glutton soon fixed his claws into the head of one of them, and had the sense to keep the animal under water till it was suffocated.—When the Glutton is attacked, he makes a stout resistance; for he will tear even the stock from a gun with his teeth, or break the trap in pieces in which he is caught. He is, notwithstanding, capable of being rendered tame, and of learning many entertaining tricks.

In a state of nature, he suffers men to approach him without exhibiting the least signs of fear, and even without any apparent wish to avoid them. This may be the effect of living in desert countries; generally out of the sight, and consequently removed from the attacks, of Man.—He sometimes goes in quest of snares laid for other animals, but has too much sagacity to suffer himself to be taken. In countries where he is pretty common, the hunters complain heavily of his voraciousness in devouring their game from the traps⁕3.

He is hunted only for his skin, which is very valuable. The Kamtschadales esteem it so much, that they say the heavenly Beings wear garments made of no other fur than this; and they would describe I.373 a man as most richly attired, if he had on the skin of a Glutton. The women ornament their hair with the white paws of this animal, which they esteem an elegant addition to their dress; and for the two fore paws they will sometimes give a couple of Sea Otters. No Kamtschadale can make his wife or mistress a more valuable present than by giving her one of these skins⁕4.

Synonyms.—Ursus Gulo. Linn.—Gulo. Var.—Vielfrass, Jarf. Joerven. Genberg.—Glouton. Buffon.—Glutton. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 104.

⁕1 The Gluttons on the river Lena kill Horses in a similar manner.—Gaz. Lit. i. 481.

⁕2 Buff. Quad. vii. 277.

⁕3 Voy. de Gmel. iii. 492. quoted in Buff. vii. 279.

⁕4 Grieve, 99.

Notes and Corrections: The Glutton

Ursus gulo is now known as Gulo gulo. As you can see from the picture, it is not a bear at all but a wolverine, in the same subfamily as weasels and badgers. It has been suggested that “Glutton”, Glouton, Gulo and so on all arose from a misunderstanding of the wolverine’s German name, Vielfrass.

This may be the effect of living in desert countries
[Reminder: In Bingley’s vocabulary, “desert” means “deserted” (like “desert island”). Desert in the low-precipitation sense is spelled “desart”.]

engraving of Wolverine, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 105 (partial):


The Wolverine is not uncommon in the Northern regions of America. It resembles the Wolf in size, and the Glutton in the figure of its head. The upper parts and the belly are of a reddish brown: the sides are yellowish brown; and a band of this colour crosses the back near the tail, which is long and of a chesnut colour. The face is black. The legs are very strong, thick, short, and black; and the soles of the feet are covered with hair⁕1.

The pace of these animals is very slow; but their wonderful sagacity, strength, and acute scent, make ample amends for this defect. They burrow in the ground; and are said to be very fierce and savage, so much so as even to be a terror to the Wolves and Bears. They are also possessed of great courage and resolution. One of them has been known to seize on a Deer that an Indian had killed; and I.374 though the Indian advanced within twenty yards, he still refused to abandon his capture, and even suffered himself to be shot on the fallen animal. They have also been frequently seen to take a Deer from a Wolf, before the latter had time to begin his repast after killing it. Indeed their amazing strength, and the length and sharpness of their claws, render them capable of making a strong resistance against every other animal of their own country.

As a proof of their surprizing strength, there was one at Churchill, on Hudson’s Bay, some years since, that overset the greatest part of a pile of wood which measured upwards of seventy yards round and contained a whole winter’s firing, to get at some provisions that had been hidden there by the Company’s servants when going to the Factory to spend the Christmas Holidays. This animal had for many weeks been lurking about the neighbourhood of their tent: and had committed many depredations on the game caught in their traps and snares, as well as eaten many of the Foxes that were killed by guns set for the purpose; but he was too cunning to take either trap or gun himself. The people thought they had adopted the most effectual method to secure their provisions, by tying them up in bundles, and placing them on the top of the wood-pile. They could not suppose the Wolverine would even have found out where they were; and much less that he could get at them if he did discover them. To their astonishment, however, when they returned, they found the greatest part I.375 of the pile thrown down, notwithstanding some of the trees with which it was constructed were as much as two men could carry. The wood was very much scattered about; and it was imagined, that in the animal’s attempting to carry off his booty some of the small parcels of provisions had fallen down into the heart of the pile, and, sooner than lose half his prize, he was at the trouble of doing this. The bags of flour, oatmeal, and peas, though of no use to him, he tore all to pieces, and scattered the contents about on the snow; but every bit of animal food, consisting of beef, pork, bacon, venison, salted geese, and partridges, in considerable quantities, he carried away.

The Wolverines are great enemies to the Beavers, which they sometimes take as they come from their houses; but the manner of life of the latter renders them more difficult to come at than many other animals. They commit vast depredations on the Foxes during the summer, while the young ones are small. Their quick scent directs them to the dens; and if the entrance be not large enough, their strength enables them to widen it: when they go in, and kill both the mother and her cubs. They are, in short, nearly the most destructive animals of the country they inhabit⁕2.

Synonyms.—Ursus Luscus. Linn.—Quickhatch. Edwards.—Wolverine. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 105.

⁕1 Kerr, i. 189.

⁕2 Hearne, 370.

Notes and Corrections: The Wolverine

The previous section’s Ursus gulo and the present section’s Ursus luscus have been demoted to subspecies: Gulo gulo gulo (Old World) and Gulo gulo luscus (New World), respectively.

but every bit of animal food . . . he carried away.
final . missing


engraving of Raccoon, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 105 (partial):


The Raccoon is a native of North America, and several of the West India Islands, where it is said to inhabit the hollows of trees. Its colour is grey; and its head is shaped somewhat like that of a Fox, The face is white; and the eyes, which are large, are surrounded with a black band, from which a dusky stripe runs along the nose. The tail is very bushy, and is annulated with black. The back is somewhat arched; and the fore-legs are shorter than the others. The length of the Raccoon is about two feet, from the nose to the tail; and the tail is about a foot long.

Its food consists principally of maize, sugar-canes, and various sorts of fruits. It is also supposed to devour birds, and their eggs. When near the shores, the Raccoons live much on shell-fish, and particularly on Oysters. We are told, that they will watch the opening of the shell, dextrously put in their paw, and tear out the contents: sometimes however the oyster suddenly closes, catches the thief, and detains him, till he is drowned by the return of the tide. They feed likewise on Crabs; in the taking of which they exhibit much cunning. Brickell, who relates these circumstances, says, that the Raccoon will stand on the side of a swamp, and hang its tail over into the water; which the Crabs, mistaking for food, I.377 lay hold of; and as soon as the beast feels them pinch, he pulls them out with a sudden jerk. He then takes them to a little distance from the water’s edge; and, in devouring them, is careful to get them cross-ways in his mouth, lest he should suffer from their nippers. A species of Land Crab, found in holes of the sand in North Carolina, are frequently the food of the Raccoon. He takes them by putting one of his fore-paws into the ground, and hauling them out⁕1. These animals feed chiefly by night; as, except in dull weather, they sleep during the greatest part of the day.

The Raccoon is an active and sprightly animal, having a singularly oblique gait in walking. His sharp claws enable him to climb trees with great facility, and he ventures to run even to the extremities of the branches.—He is easily tamed, and is then good-natured and sportive; but is almost constantly in motion, and as unlucky and inquisitive as a Monkey,—examining every thing with his paws, which he uses as hands to lay hold of whatever is given to him and to carry the meat to his mouth. He sits up to eat; and is very fond of sweet things, and strong liquors, with which latter he will even get excessively drunk. He washes his face with his feet, like a Cat.

M. Blanquart des Salines had a Raccoon, of which he has given the following particulars:—Before it came into his possession, it had always been chained. In this state of captivity, it was very I.378 gentle, but had little inclination to fondness. His chain sometimes broke, and on such occasions liberty rendered him insolent. He took possession of an apartment, which he would allow none to enter; and it was with some difficulty, that he could again be reconciled to bondage. When permitted to be loosed from his confinement, however, he would express his gratitude by a thousand caressing gambols. But this was by no means the case when he effected his own escape. He would then roam about, sometimes for three or four days together, upon the roofs of the neighbouring houses; descend, during the night, into the court-yards; enter the hen-roosts, strangle all the poultry, and eat their heads. His chain rendered him more circumspect, but by no means more humane. When he was in confinement, he employed every artifice to make the fowls grow familiar with him: he permitted them to partake of his victuals; and it was only after having inspired them with the greatest notions of security that he would seize one, and tear it in pieces. Some young Cats met with the same fate.

He used to open Oysters with wonderful dexterity. His sense of touch was very exquisite; for in all his little operations, he seldom used either his nose, or his eye. He would pass an Oyster under his hind paws; then, without looking at it, search with his fore-paws for the weakest part; there sinking his claws, he would separate the shells, and leave not a vestige of the fish.

He was extremely sensible of ill-treatment.—A servant, one day, gave him several lashes with I.379 a whip; but the man ever afterwards endeavoured in vain to accomplish a reconciliation. Neither eggs, nor fish, of which he was exceedingly fond, could appease his resentment. At the approach of this servant, he always flew into a rage; his eyes kindled, he endeavoured to spring at the man, uttered the most dolorous cries, and rejected every thing presented to him, till the disagreeable object disappeared.—He never allowed hay or straw to remain in his nest; but chose rather to lie upon wood. When litter was put in, he instantly threw it out.

Every thing he ate, he used (as indeed the whole species do) to soften, or rather dilute, in water, by immersing it in the vessel that contained the water given him for drink. The defect of saliva, or having but a small quantity of it, is most probably the cause of his adopting this mode. This immersion he only practised with dry food; for fresh meat, peaches, and raisins, he ate without it.

He disliked children; their crying irritated him, and he made every effort to spring upon them. A small Bitch, of which he was fond, he chastised severely when she barked too load⁕2.—According to Linnæus, the Raccoon has a wonderful antipathy to Hogs’-bristles; and is much disturbed at the sight of a brush.—The female produces two young at a birth, which commonly takes place about May.

The animal is hunted for the sake of its fur; which is used by the hatters, and is considered as next in I.380 value to that of the Beaver; it is used also in linings for garments. The skins, when properly dressed, make good gloves, and upper-leathers for shoes.—The Negroes frequently eat the flesh of the Raccoon, and are very fond of it⁕3.

Synonyms.—Ursus Lotor. Linn.—Mapach. Var.—Le Raton. Buffon. Raccoon. Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 105.

⁕1 Brickell, 123.—Lawson, 121.

⁕2 Buff. Quad. v. 50.

⁕3 Brickell’s Nat. Hist. of Carolina.

Notes and Corrections: The Raccoon

Linnaeus’s Ursus lotor is now Procyon lotor. Raccoons are in a family of their own, Procyonidae, parallel to the bear family, the dog family, the weasel family and so on.

Crystal ball says the raccoon’s tail was accurately described to the artist—or an accurate drawing was presented to the engraver—but he assumed it was an exaggeration and redrew or engraved it according to his own judgement.

Fun fact: The Norwegian name for raccoon translates as “washing bear”. Skunks are, understandably, “stink animals”. Opossums are “pouch rats”. We can thank Norwegian-American immigrants for these descriptive names of animals that have never been found in Scandinavia.

engraving of Badger, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 106:


The Badger is an animal well known in this country. It general length is about two feet and a half; and that of the tail, six inches. Its body and legs are thick. The eyes and ears are small; and the claws of the fore legs long and straight. It is of an uniform grey colour above, and in the under parts entirely black. The face is white; and along each side of the head, runs a black pyramidal stripe, which includes the eyes and ears. The hair is coarse, and the teeth and claws peculiarly strong.—It is occasionally found in all the temperate parts of Europe and Asia.

Though in itself a harmless and inoffensive animal, living principally on roots, fruit, and other vegetable food, the Badger has been provided by Nature with such weapons, that few creatures can attack it with impunity. The address and courage with which it defends itself against beasts of prey, have caused it to be frequently baited with dogs, as a popular I.381 amusement. Though naturally of an indolent disposition, he now exerts the most vigorous efforts, and very frequently inflicts desperate wounds on his adversaries. The skin is so thick and loose, as not only to resist the impressions of the teeth, but also to suffer him, even when within their gripe, to turn round upon and bite them in the most tender parts. In this manner does he resist the repeated attacks, both of men and dogs, from all quarters; till, overpowered with numbers, and enfeebled by wounds, he is at last obliged to submit⁕1.

engraving of Badger, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 254:

The Badger inhabits woody places, in the clefts of rocks, or in burrows which he forms in the ground. He is a very cleanly animal, keeping his subterraneous mansions exceedingly neat. He continues in his habitation during the day, and does not make his appearance abroad till the evening. At times, from indulging in indolence and sleep, he becomes excessively fat. During the severe weather of winter he remains in a torpid state in his den, sleeping on a commodious bed formed of dried grass. Under the tail is a receptacle, in which is secreted a white fetid substance, that constantly exudes through the orifice, and thus gives him a most unpleasant smell⁕2.

These animals are not known to do any further mischief to mankind, than in scratching and rooting up the ground, in search of food; which is always performed during the night. From this circumstance arises one of the modes usually practised in I.382 taking them. Their den is discovered; and when they are abroad in the night, a sack is fastened at the mouth. One person remains near the hole to watch; while another beats round the fields with a dog, in order to drive them home. As soon as the man at the hole hears that one has run in for refuge, he immediately seizes the mouth of the sack, ties it, and carries it off. This mode, in many parts of the country, is called, “Sacking the Badger.” Sometimes they are caught in steel traps, placed in their haunts.

They live in pairs; and produce in the spring four or five young. If caught before they are grown up, they may be tamed.—The skin, dressed with the hair on, is used for various purposes; and the hairs are made into brushes for painters. The flesh, when the animals are well fed, makes excellent hams and bacon.

Synonyms.—Ursus Meles. Linn.—Common Badger. Penn.—Brock. Grey-pate. Ray.—Blaireu. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 106.—Bew. Quad. 254.

⁕1 Bew. Quad. 255.

⁕2 Kerr, i. 187.

Notes and Corrections: The Badger

Ursus meles is now Meles meles (“badger badger”), the Eurasian badger. Badgers are—stop me if you’ve heard this one—not bears, though they are in the Caniformes suborder of Carnivora. They are most closely related to the weasels, skunks and otters that we met earlier.

The Badger inhabits woody places, in the clefts of rocks, or in burrows which he forms in the ground.
final . missing (at line-end)


We now come to a race of Quadrupeds, so singular in their confor­mation, as, on their first discovery, to have excited the general surprise and admiration of mankind. The females of most of the species are furnished with abdominal pouches, for the protection and preservation of their young. In some of these there are two, in others three, distinct cavities; which can be shut or opened at pleasure, being provided with two bones for that purpose. In these pouches the young remain, hanging to the I.383 nipples, till they are large enough to run about.—The Opossums are principally confined to the New Continent, and only one species has yet been discovered as a native of Europe.

Besides the abdominal pouch already mentioned, the characters of the present tribe are, ten front-teeth in the upper, and eight in the lower jaw; in the former of which the two middle ones are the longest, but in the latter are broader and very short. The canine-teeth are long, and the grinders indented. The tongue is somewhat rough, being furnished with pointed papillæ.

Notes and Corrections: The Opossum Tribe

Enter the marsupial. This is where Linnaeus’s grouping system—Class, Order, Genus, and-that’s-all—really breaks down. Today mammals are first divided into two subclasses. On one side are egg-laying mammals (monotremes); on the other side is . . . everything else, divided into two infraclasses, placental mammals and marsupials. (At least this week. As noted elsewhere, the overall Great Divide is subject to change.) Within the marsupials, opossums form an order to themselves.

engraving of “Virginian Opossum”, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 107:
Virginian opossum


Is about the size of a small Cat: from the upright growth of its fur, it appears however, to be much thicker. Its general colour is a dingy white. The head is long, and sharpened; and the mouth wide. The tail is about a foot long; prehensile; hairy at its origin, but afterwards covered with a scaly skin which gives it very much the appearance of a snake. The legs are short, and blackish; and all the toes (except the two interior ones, which are flat and rounded, with nails like those of the Monkey tribe) are armed with sharp claws.

When it is on the ground this Opossum appears to be very helpless. The formation of its hands prevents it from either running or walking very fast: I.384 but in recompence for this apparent defect, it is able to ascend trees with the utmost facility and expedition; in which situation, by the help of its prehensile tail, it is more active than most quadrupeds. It hunts eagerly after birds and their nests; and is very destructive to poultry, of which it sucks the blood without eating the flesh. It also eats roots and wild fruits⁕1.

When it is pursued and overtaken, it will feign itself dead, till the danger is over: and, if we may believe the account of Du Pratz, it will not when seized in this condition, exhibit any signs of life, though even placed on a red-hot iron; and when there are any young in the pouch of a female, she will suffer both herself and them to be roasted alive rather than give them up. These creatures never move till their assailant is either gone to a distance, or has hidden himself; on which they endeavour to scramble, with as much expedition as possible, into some hole or bush⁕2.

They are very tenacious of life. In North Carolina it is a well-known adage, “If a Cat has nine lives, the Opossum has nineteen⁕3.”

When the female is about to litter, she chooses a place in the thick bushes, at the foot of some tree. Assisted by the male, she then collects together a quantity of fine dry grass; this is loaded upon her belly, and the male drags her and her burthen to the nest, by her tail⁕4. She produces from four to I.385 six young ones at a time. As soon as these come into the world, they retreat into her pouch or false belly, blind, naked, and exactly resembling little fœtuses. They fasten as closely to the teats as if growing to them. To these they continue to adhere apparently inanimate, till they arrive at some degree of perfection in shape, and obtain their sight, strength, and hair; after which they undergo a sort of second birth. From that time they use the pouch merely as an asylum from danger. The mother carries them about with the utmost affection, and they may frequently be seen sporting in and out of this secure retreat. Whenever they are surprized, and have not time to retire into the pouch, it is said, they will adhere to the tail of the parent, and thus still endeavour to escape with her⁕5.

The American Indians spin the hair of the Opossum, and dye it red; then weave it into girdles, and other parts of their dress. The flesh is white, and well-tasted, and is preferred by the Indians to pork: that of the young eats very much like sucking pig⁕6.

Synonyms.—Didelphis Virginiana. Shaw.—Didelphis Marsupialis. Didelphis Opossum? Linn.—Opossum. Phil. Trans.—Virginian Opossum. Shaw.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 107.

⁕1 Church.

⁕2 Du Pratz, 265.

⁕3 Brickell, 125.—Lawson, 120.

⁕4 Du Pratz, 265.

⁕5 Penn. Arct. Zool. i. 74.

⁕6 Brickell, 125.—Du Pratz, 265.

Notes and Corrections: The Virginian Opossum

If you live in the U.S., Didelphis virginiana is the opossum you have seen. In full: order Didelphimorphia (American marsupials) contains the single family Didelphidae, which includes subfamily Didelphinae, which includes genus Didelphis. Linnaeus may have lost the battle for species name, but his genus is rock solid.

They are very tenacious of life.
final . missing

it sucks the blood without eating the flesh
[I am not absolutely certain that sucking blood is as common a practice as Bingley would have us believe. It crops up in the descrip­tions of at least ten different animals.]

engraving of “Merian Opossum” and “Molucca Opossum”, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 108:
Merian Opossum (top); Molucca Opossum (bottom)


We have little other description of this small animal, than what is inserted in the splendid Illustration of the Insects of Surinam, by Madame Merian, from whom it has received its name. The following I.386 is her account of it. “By way of filling up a plate, I have represented a kind of Wood-rat, that always carries her young ones (of which there are commonly five or six) upon her back. She is of a yellow-brownish colour, and white beneath. When these Rats come out of their hole, either to play or to seek their food, the young run about with their mother; and when satisfied with food, or apprehensive of danger, they climb on her back, and twist their tails round that of the parent, who thus runs with them into her hole again.”

The paws resemble those of the Ape; having four fingers and a thumb, with small rounded nails. The hind feet have four sharp claws, and a round nail on the thumb of each⁕1.

Synonyms.—Didelphis Dorsigera. Linn.—Surinam Opossum. Kerr.—Philandre de Surinam. Buffon.—Merian Opossum, Penn.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 108.

⁕1 Kerr, i. 195.—Shaw, i. 485.

Notes and Corrections: The Merian Opossum

“Madame Merian” is Swiss-German-Dutch (she moved around a lot) scientific illustrator Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717). She produced a number of gorgeously illustrated books, notably Insects of Surinam. Linnaeus’s Didelphis dorsigera is now boringly called the mouse opossum, Marmosa murina, another genus in the Didelphinae subfamily.

color picture of “Great Kanguroo”, no later than 1804

Shaw Miscellany plate 33:
Great Kanguroo


The Kanguroos (of which only two species have yet been discovered, and both of these in New Holland) are furnished, like the Opossums, with an abdominal pouch. This, and a few other characters that they have in common with that tribe, caused them to be arranged by Linnæus, along with the Opossums. They have, however, since been taken into a separate tribe with the following characteristics:—Six front teeth in the upper jaw, emarginated; and two in the lower, very large, long, and I.387 sharp, pointing forwards: five grinders on each side in both jaws, distant from the other teeth. The fore legs short, and the hinder ones very long; and in the female an abdominal pouch containing the teats⁕1.

⁕1 Shaw, i. 505.

Notes and Corrections: The Kanguroo Tribe

Australian marsupials, order Diprotodontia, fall into three suborders: kangaroos; wombats and koalas; and possums (not to be confused with American opossums). If you include wallabies and tree kangaroos, there are over 50 species of kangaroo. And now the bad news: The story about Captain Cook pointing to a local critter and saying “What the devil is that?” only to be answered with the local form of “I have no idea what you’re talking about” . . . is probably not true.

This . . . caused them to be arranged by Linnæus, along with the Opossums. They have, however, since been taken into a separate tribe
[It would take a long time before zoologists accepted that you need more layers. Even the “family”, let alone narrower subdivisions, was several decades away. The reason Linnaeus thought kanga­roos had to be in the same genus as opossums, and not just the same order, is that we are still in Ferae, his version of the carnivore order.]

engraving of Kangaroo, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 115:
The Kanguroo


This singular quadruped, which was first discovered in New Holland, in the year 1770, by Captain Cook, has frequently been seen nearly nine feet in length from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail; some of the species have been found to weigh a hundred and fifty pounds, and this is generally believed to be by no means the largest size they will arrive at. The greatest circumference of the animal is round the bottom of the belly and hips; being very small about the head and neck, and increasing gradually downwards. The fore legs of the largest are about nineteen inches in length; the hinder ones three feet seven inches. The shortness of the former would seem to prevent their being applied to the purpose of walking: and it has been universally conjectured, that they were of use to the animal merely in digging its burrows in the ground, and in carrying food to its mouth; but M. Labillardiere says that one of his crew shot a young Kanguroo upon the shore, and he was much surprised to observe I.388 that it used all its four feet in running, and did not support itself on the hinder feet only⁕1. The hind legs, which are perfectly bare and callous beneath, are very strong; and when sitting, the animal rests on the whole of their length, its rump being elevated several inches from the ground. The claws are only three in number, the middle one exceeding the others greatly in length and strength: but the inner one is of a peculiar structure; at first sight appearing single, though on farther inspection it is seen to be really divided down the middle, and even through the ball of the toe belonging to it, appearing as if separated by a sharp instrument.

From the make of the animal, there can be little doubt that its principal progressive motion must be (notwithstanding the remark of M. Labillardiere) by leaps: in these exertions it has been seen to exceed twenty feet at a time, and this so often repeated as almost to elude the swiftness of the fleetest Greyhound; besides which, it will frequently bound over obstacles of nine feet or more in height, with the greatest ease.

engraving of Kangaroo, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 404:

The Kanguroos have also vast strength in their tail, which they occasionally use as a weapon of defence; for with it they can strike with such astonishing force as even to break the leg of a man. The colonists for some time considered this as the animals’ chief defence; but having of late hunted them with Greyhounds, it was soon discovered that they use both their claws and teeth. On the I.389 Hound’s seizing them, they turn, and catching hold with the nails of their fore paws, strike the Dog with the claws of their hind feet, which are wonderfully strong, and tear him to such a degree that the hunters are frequently under the necessity of carrying him home on account of the severity of his wounds⁕2.—The native Dogs of the country hunt and kill the Kanguroo; but these are more fierce than our Greyhounds. In the year 1788, one of them was seen, by one of the colonists, in this pursuit; and the person, till he had shot the Dog, mistook them both for Kanguroos⁕3.

The Kanguroo generally feeds standing on its four feet, in the manner of other quadrupeds. It drinks by lapping. When in a state of captivity, it has sometimes a trick of springing forwards and kicking with its hind-feet in a very forcible manner; during which action it rests or props itself on the base of its tail⁕4.

The female has two mammæ, or breasts, in the abdominal pouch, on each of which are two teats: yet, so far as has been hitherto observed, she produces but one young one at a birth; and so exceedingly diminutive is this at its first exclusion from the uterus, that it scarcely exceeds an inch in length, and weighs but twenty-one grains. At this early period of its growth, the mouth is merely a round hole, just large enough to receive the point of the nipple; but it gradually extends with age, till capable of receiving the whole nipple, which then I.390 lies in a groove, formed in the middle of the tongue, and well adapted to that purpose. It seems probable that in the first state it is attached to the teat by a viscid gelatinous substance, which is always found in the uterus. At this time, feeble as it may appear in other respects, the fore paws are, comparatively, large and strong, and the claws extremely distinct, to facilitate the motion of the little animal during its residence in the large pouch: while the hind legs, which are afterwards to become very long and stout, are now both shorter and smaller than the others, The young one continues to reside in the pouch till it has attained its full maturity, occasionally running out for exercise or amusement; and even after it has quitted this maternal retreat, it often runs into it for shelter on the least appearance of danger⁕5.

The Kanguroos live entirely on vegetable substances, and chiefly on grass. In their native state they are said to feed in herds of thirty or forty together; and one is generally observed to be stationed, apparently on watch, at a distance from the rest. According to Labillardiere, they seem to be nocturnal animals. They have the eye furnished with nictitating or winking membranes, situated at the interior angle, and capable of being extended at pleasure entirely over the ball.—They live in burrows which they form in the ground⁕6.

One of the most remarkable peculiarities of this animal, is the extra­ordinary faculty which it has of I.391 separating, to a considerable distance, the two long fore teeth in the lower jaw. This, however, is not absolutely peculiar to the Kanguroo; but takes place also in an animal of a very different and distinct genus, the Mus Maritimus⁕7.

The flesh of the Kanguroo is said to be somewhat coarse, and such as to be eaten rather from want of other food than as an article of luxury. Mr. Hunter, however, calls it good mutton; but owns it is not quite so delicate as what he has sometimes seen bought in Leadenhall-market⁕8.

The Kanguroo may now be considered as in a great degree natur­alized in England; several having been kept for some years in the royal domains at Richmond, which, during their residence there, have produced young, and apparently promise to render this most elegant animal a permanent acquisition to our country; though it must, no doubt, lose, by confinement and alteration of food, several of its natural habits, and exhibit somewhat less of that bounding vivacity which so much distinguishes it in its native wilds of New Holland⁕9.

Synonyms.—Macropus Major. Shaw.—Macropus Giganteus. Nat. Miscell.—Didelphis Gigantea. Linn.—Gigantic Jerboa. Zimmerman.—Kanguru. Var.—Great Kanguroo. Shaw.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 115.—Bew. Quad. 404.

⁕1 Labillardiere, i. 177.

⁕2 Hunter, 66.

⁕3 Ibid. 67.

⁕4 Shaw, i. 510.

⁕5 Phil. Tran. for 1795. Part i. p. 21.

⁕6 Labillardiere, i. 177. ii. 18.

⁕7 Linn. Gmel. i. 149.

⁕8 Hunter, 66.

⁕9 Shaw, i. 512.

Notes and Corrections: The Great Kanguroo

Macropus giganteus (“bigfoot gigantic”) is familiarly known as the eastern gray kangaroo.

weigh a hundred and fifty pounds
text has huudred

weighs but twenty-one grains
[Where 20 grains = 1 scruple, 3 scruples = 1 dram, and 8 drams = 1 ounce. Or, if you prefer, around 1.36 grams. (I would have said 1⅓ grams, but the whole point of the metric system is that you are not allowed to divide by anything but 10.)]

Mus Maritimus
[Now known as Bathyergus suillus, the Cape Dune Mole Rat.]

engraving of “Common Mole”, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 117:
Common Mole


The animals composing this tribe are easily distinguished from all others; their external appearance and habits being alone sufficient to mark them. I.392 The body is thick, and somewhat cylindrical; and their snout formed like that of the Hog, for rooting in the ground in search of worms and the larvæ of insects, their principal food. The fore-feet are strong, and well calculated for digging those subterraneous retreats in which they entirely reside. They have no external ears; and the eyes are very small, and completely hidden in the fur. There are seven species.

In the upper jaw the Moles have six unequal front-teeth, and in the lower jaw eight. There is one canine-tooth on each side, in both jaws, the upper ones of which are the largest; with seven grinders above, and six below⁕1.

⁕1 Linn. Gmel. i. 110.

Notes and Corrections: The Moles

Moles are insectivores, order Soricomorpha; the family Talpidae is moles-and-similar. This is one of the few places in animal taxonomy where you see Tribe as a layer of classification (rodents are another). After the family Talpidae and the subfamily Talpinae comes the tribe Talpini, further divided into five genera. (Makes sense to me. Small animals like moles breed so fast, they’ve had plenty of time to branch out. But why can’t they call them infrafamilies?)

There are seven species.
[Bingley, you really shouldn’t make such absolute assertions. Under Talpinae (Old World moles) alone, I find six tribes, of which Talpini alone has five genera, with over 20 species, most of them in genus Talpa. New World moles give us several more, including the star-nosed mole—the one that looks like a rodent trying to perform an unnatural act on a sea anemone.]

engraving of Mole, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 392:


Is so well-known in our country, that any particular description of its figure is unnecessary. Destined by nature to seek a subsistence under the surface of the ground, its fore-legs, which are very short and excessively strong and broad, are situated outwards, and furnished with large claws, by which it is enabled to work away the earth from before it with the utmost ease. Its hind-feet, which are much smaller, are calculated for throwing back the mould during its subterraneous progress. The snout is also slender, strong, and tendinous; and I.393 there is no appearance of a neck. Its general length is between five and six inches.

The eyes of the Mole are exceedingly small; so much so, that many have doubted whether they were intended for distinct vision, or only to afford the animal so much sensibility of the approach of light as sufficiently to warn it of the danger of exposure. They have, however, been proved to contain every property necessary to distinct sight. The faculty of hearing is said to be possessed by the Mole in a very eminent degree; and if at any time it emerges from its retreat, it is by this means enabled instantly to disappear on the approach of danger.

The females bring forth, about the month of April, four or five young; and the habitations in which these are deposited are constructed with peculiar care and intelligence. The parent animals begin their operations by raising the earth and forming a pretty high arch. They leave partitions, or a kind of pillars, at certain distances; beat and press the earth; interweave it with the roots of plants; and render it so hard and solid, that the water cannot penetrate the vault, on account of its convexity and firmness. They then elevate a little hillock under the principal arch; upon which they lay herbs and leaves as a bed for their young. In this situation they are above the level of ground, and consequently beyond the reach of ordinary inundations. They are at the same time defended from the rains by the large vault that covers the internal one, upon the summit of which last they rest along with their I.394 young. This internal hillock is pierced on all sides with sloping holes; which descend still lower, and serve as subterraneous passages for the mother to go out in quest of food for herself and her offspring. These bye-paths are beaten and firm; they extend about twelve or fifteen paces, and issue from the principal mansion like rays from a centre. Under the superior vault we likewise find remains of the roots of the meadow-saffron, which seem to be the first food given to the young.

In summer, the Mole descends to the low hillocks and flat land; and, above all, makes choice of meadows for the place of its residence, because it finds the earth there fresher and softer to dig through. If the weather continues long dry, it repairs to the borders of ditches, the banks of rivers and streams, and places contiguous to hedges.

It seldom forms its hole more than five or six inches under the surface. In the act of doing this, it scrapes the earth before it on one side, till the quantity becomes too great for it to labour onwards with ease: then works towards the surface; and by pushing with its head, and the assistance of its nervous paws, gradually raises the mould which incommodes it,—and thus produces those small hills so common in our fields. After getting rid of the earth in this manner it proceeds forwards, and continues its labour as before; and a person may easily discover how many Moles are contained in a certain space of ground, by counting the new-raised Molehills, which have no communication with each other.


Moles, like the Beavers and some other quadrupeds, live in pairs; and so lively and reciprocal an attachment subsists between them, that they seem to disrelish all other society. In their dark abodes they enjoy the placid habits of repose and of solitude; they also have the art of securing themselves from injury, of almost instantaneously making an asylum or habitation, and of obtaining a plentiful subsistence without the necessity of going abroad. They shut up the entrance to their retreats; and seldom leave them, unless compelled by the admission of water, or when their mansions are demolished.

The Mole is chiefly found in grounds where the soil is loose and soft, and affording the greatest quantity of Worms and insects. During the summer, these animals run in search of food, in the night, among the grass; and thus frequently become the prey of Owls. They exhibit a considerable degree of art in skinning the worms, which they always do before they eat them; stripping the skin from end to end, and squeezing out all the contents of the body.

The verdant circles in the meadows and pastures, called by country people fairy-rings, are supposed to be owing to the operations of the Moles; who, at certain seasons, perform their burrowing by circumgyrations; and this, loosening the soil, gives to the surface directly over these tracks greater fertility and rankness of grass than is seen in other parts⁕1.

When Moles are first taken, either by digging or I.396 otherwise, they utter a shrill scream, and prepare for their defence by exerting the strength of their claws and teeth. They are said to be very ferocious animals; and however contented they may be together underground, yet when above they will sometimes tear and eat one another. In a glass case, in which a Mole, a Toad, and a Viper were inclosed, the Mole has been known to dispatch the other two, and to devour a great part of each.

The skin of the Mole is exceedingly tough; the fur is close-set, and softer than the finest velvet, or, perhaps than the fur of any other animal.—This is usually black: but Moles have been found spotted with white;—and sometimes, though only rarely, altogether white.—This animal is said to be entirely unknown in Ireland.

Linnæus says that the Mole passes the winter in a state of torpidity. In this assertion, however, he is directly contradicted by the Comte de Buffon; according to whom it sleeps so little in the winter, that it raises the earth in the same manner as during the summer.

The following is a very remarkable instance, related by Arthur Bruce, Esq. in the Transactions of the Linnean Society, of the exertions which the Mole make towards crossing even broad waters. “On visiting (says this gentleman) the Loch of Clunie, which I often did, I observed in it a small island at the distance of one hundred and eighty yards from the nearest land, measured to be so upon the ice. Upon the island, Lord Airly, the proprietor, has a castle and a small shrubbery. I remarked I.397 frequently the appearance of fresh Mole-casts or hills. I for some time took them for those of the Water-mouse; and one day asked the gardener if it was so. No, he said, it was the Mole; and that he had caught one or two lately. Five or six years ago he caught two in traps; and for two years after this he had observed none. But about four years ago, coming ashore one summer’s evening in the dusk, he and another person (Lord Airly’s butler) saw, at a short distance, upon the smooth water, some animal paddling to, and not far from, the island. They soon closed with this feeble passenger: and found it to be our Common Mole; led by a most astonishing instinct, from the nearest point of land (the Castle-hill), to take possession of this desert island.—It had been, at the time of my visit, for the space of two years quite free from any subterraneous inhabitant; but the Mole has, for more than a year past, made its appearance again, and its operations I have since been witness to.”—The depth of water in this lake is seldom less, either in summer or winter, than six feet in the shallowest and from thirty to forty in the deepest parts.

People in general are not aware of the great mischief occasioned in fields and gardens by these animals. We are, however, informed by M. de Buffon, that in the year 1740 he planted about sixteen acres of land with acorns, the greater part of which was in a very short time carried away by the Moles to their subterraneous retreats. In many of these were found half a bushel, and in some even a bushel. Buffon, after this circumstance, caused a great number of I.398 iron traps to be constructed; by which, in less than three weeks, he caught 1300 Moles.—To this instance of devastation we may add the following: In the year 1742 they were so numerous in some parts of Holland, that one farmer alone caught between five and six thousand of them. The destruction occasioned by these animals is, however, no new phenomenon. We are informed that the inhabitants of the island of Tenedos, the Trojans, and the Æolians, were infested by them in the earliest ages; and for this reason a temple was erected to Apollo Smynthius, the Destroyer of Moles.

I shall conclude this article with Dr. Darwin’s description of the habitations of Moles; and an account of the methods in which they are to be taken.—“The Moles (says this writer) have cities underground; which consist of houses, or nests, where they breed and nurse their young. Communicating with these are wider and more frequented streets, made by the perpetual journeys of the male and female parents: as well as many other less frequented alleys or by-roads, with many diverging branches, which they daily extend to collect food for themselves or their progeny.

“This animal is most active in the vernal months, during the time of its courtship; and many more burrows are at this time made in the earth for their meeting with each other. And though they are commonly esteemed to be blind, yet they appear to have some perception of light, even in their subterraneous habitations; because they begin their work as soon as it is light, and consequently before the I.399 warmth of the sun can be supposed to affect them.—Hence one method of destroying them consists in attending to them early, before sunrise; at that time the earth or the grass may frequently be seen to move over them; and with a small light spade their retreat may be cut off by striking it into the ground behind them, and they may be immediately dug up⁕2.”

If a fresh Mole-hill, says another writer, is found by itself, that appears to have no communication with any other, (which is always the case when the Mole has worked from the surface downwards, as it frequently does in endeavouring to procure a more convenient habitation;) after the hill has been turned up by a spade, a bucket of water should be poured over the mouth of the passage. By these means the animal, which is at no great distance, will be obliged to come forth, and may be easily caught with the hand.—It is very easy to discover whether a hill has any communication with another; by applying the ear to it, and then coughing or making a loud noise: if it has no communication, the terrified animal may be heard by its motion. It will then be almost impossible for it to escape; and water may either be poured into the hole, or the earth may be turned up with a spade till the Mole is found, for it does not often go deeper into the earth than from fifteen to eighteen inches.

In the moist beds of a garden, (which it is very fond of,) the Mole makes a passage at the depth of scarcely an inch below the surface. In this case it I.400 is easily caught. When seen at work here, it is only necessary to tread behind the animal with the foot, on the passage, to prevent its retreat, and then turn it up with a spade.

“The Mole (continues Dr. Darwin, whose account I resume) suckles four or five, and sometimes six young ones; which are placed considerably deeper in the ground than the common runs; and the Mole-hills near them are consequently larger, and generally of a different colour. These nests are to be dug up: having first intercepted the road between them and the Mole-hills in the vicinity, to cut off the retreat of the inhabitants.

“The next important circumstance is, to discover which are the frequented streets, and which the bye-roads; for the purpose of setting subterraneous traps. This is effected by making a mark on every new Mole-hill, by a light pressure of the foot; and the next morning, observing whether a Mole has again passed that way, and obliterated the foot-mark. This is to be done for two or three successive mornings. These foot-marks should not be deeply impressed; lest the animal be alarmed on his return, and thus induced to form a new branch of road rather than open the obstructed one.

“The traps are then to be set in the frequented streets, so as to fit nicely the divided canal. They consist of a hollow semi-cylinder of wood; with grooved rings at each end, in which are placed nooses of horsehair, fastened loosely by a peg in the centre, and stretched above ground by a bent stick. When the Mole has passed half-way through one of I.401 the nooses and removes the central peg in his progression, the bent stick rises by its elasticity, and strangles him⁕3.”

Synonyms.—Talpa Europea. Linn.—European Mole. Penn.—Mole. Mold-warp, or Want. Ray.—Taupe. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 117.—Bew. Quad. 392.

⁕1 Penn. Brit. Zool. i. 131, 132.

⁕2 Darwin’s Phytologia, 370.

⁕3 Darwin’s Phytologia, 371, 372.

Notes and Corrections: The Common Mole

The European mole is still Talpa europea.

contained in a certain space of ground, by counting the new-raised Molehills,
text has grouud . . . Molehill

caused a great number of iron traps to be constructed
text has iraps

which is always the case when the Mole has worked from the surface downwards
text has casewhen

engraving of Hedgehog, no later than 1804

Shaw Zoology Vol. I plate 121 (partial):
Common Hedgehog


The Hedgehogs have two front teeth, both above and below; of which those in the upper jaw are distant, and those of the lower are placed near together. On each side there are canine teeth; in the upper jaw five, and in the lower three. There are also four grinders on each side, both above and below; and the body is covered on the upper parts with spines⁕1. The tail and feet are very short; and the snout is somewhat cartilaginous.

There are seven species; none of which are carnivorous. Of these only one is found in Europe, and this is common in several parts of England.

⁕1 Linn. Gmel. i. 115.

Notes and Corrections: The Hedgehog Tribe

We are still in the Linnean order Ferae—his verion of Carnivora—though the end is in sight.

Query: What the heck is a gymnure? Answer: No idea, but they share the order Erinaceomorpha—consisting of the single family Erinaceidae—with hedgehogs, who are subfamily Erinaceinae. (The other subfamily consists of gymnures and the even more delightfully named “moonrats”.) One of the subfamily’s five genera is Erinaceus.

There are seven species
[It really would be wiser to say “there are seven known species”.]

engraving of Hedgehog or Urchin, no later than 1804

Bewick Quadrupeds page 448:


These animals are natives of most of the temperate parts of Europe and Asia. They are generally about ten inches long, and of a greyish brown colour.—Their usual residence is in small thickets: and they feed on fallen fruits, roots, and insects; I.402 they are also very fond of flesh-meat, either raw or roasted. They chiefly wander about by night, and during the day lie concealed in their holes.

Naturalists have alleged that they enter gardens; where they mount trees, and descend with pears, apples, or plums, stuck upon their bristles. This however is a mistake: for, if kept in a garden, they never attempt to climb trees; nor even to stick fallen fruit upon their bristles, but lay hold of their food with the mouth.—They also are undeservedly reproached with sucking cattle and injuring their udders; for the smallness of their mouths renders this altogether impossible.

Mr. White says, that the manner in which the Hedgehogs eat the roots of the plantain in his grass-walks is very curious. With their upper jaw, which is much longer than the lower, they bore under the plant; and gnaw the root off upwards, leaving the tuft of leaves untouched. In this respect they are serviceable, as they destroy a very troublesome weed; but they in some measure deface the walks, by digging in them small round holes.

The Hedgehog has a very uncommon method of defending itself from the attacks of other animals. Being possessed of very little strength or agility, he neither attempts to fly from, nor to assail his enemies; but erects his bristles, and rolls himself up like a ball, exposing no part of his body that is not covered with these sharp weapons. He will not unfold himself unless thrown into water; and the more he is frightened or harassed, the closer he shuts himself up. While in this state, most Dogs, instead of biting I.403 him, stand off and bark, not daring to seize him; and, if they attempt it once, their mouths are so pricked with his bristles, that it is with difficulty they can be prevailed upon to do it a second time. He is easily taken; for he neither attempts to fly, nor to defend himself by any other means than this.

The Hedgehog may be rendered in a considerable degree domestic; and it has been frequently introduced into houses for the purpose of expelling those troublesome insects the Blattæ, or Cock-roaches, which it pursues with avidity, and on which it is fond of feeding. By the Calmuc Tartars these animals are kept in their huts instead of Cats.—There was a Hedgehog in the year 1799, in the possession of a Mr. Sample, of the Angel-inn at Felton in Northumberland, which performed the duty of a turn-spit, as well in every respect as the Dog of that denomination. It ran about the house as familiarly as any other domestic quadruped, and displayed an obedience till then unknown in this species of animals. It used to answer to the name of Tom.

In the winter the Hedgehog wraps itself up in a warm nest of moss, dried grass, and leaves; and sleeps out the rigours of that season. It is frequently found so completely encircled with herbage, that it resembles a ball of dried leaves; but when taken out, and placed before a fire, it soon recovers from its state of torpidity.—It produces four or five young ones at a birth; which are soon covered with prickles, like those of the parent animal, but shorter and weaker. The nest formed for these is large, and is composed principally of moss.


The Hedgehog is occasionally an article of food and is even said to be very delicate eating. The skin was used by the ancients for the purpose of a clothes-brush.

This animal differs very materially from the Porcupine, (which at first sight it seems much to resemble) both in the structure of its teeth, and in the shortness of its spines or quills.

Synonyms.—Erinaceus Europæus. Linn.—Common Hedgehog. Common Urchin. Penn.—Hérisson. Buffon.——Shaw’s Gen. Zool. pl. 121.—Bew. Quad. 448.

Notes and Corrections: The Common Hedgehog

The western European hedgehog remains Erinaceus europaeus. In spite of its familiar name, it is found well into central Asia.

stand off and bark, not daring to seize him;
text has seizehim

to the

Those marked with an * are varieties of some other species; and those printed in Italics are Synonyms.

Adil 243
Badger 364
Bear Tribe 345
—— common 346
—— American 357
—— Polar 363
—— Glutton 370
—— Wolverene 373
—— Racoon 376
—— Badger 380
—— black 357
—— Blaireu 380
—— Brock 380
—— brown 346
—— Gulo 370
—— Glouton 370
—— Jarf 370
—— Joerven 370
—— Mapach 376
—— Ours 346
—— Ours blanc 363
—— Quickhatch 373
—— Le Raton 376
—— Vielfrass 370
—— white 362
Blaireu 380
* Bloodhound 218
Boshund 240, 492
Brock 380
* Bull-dog 222
Carajou 321
Cat Tribe 261
—— Lion 262, 494
—— Tiger 283
—— Leopard 291
—— Hunting Leopard 293
—— Cape 291
—— common 295
—— * Angora 308
—— * domestic 297
—— Le Guepard 293
—— Nsussi 294
—— Tigre 283
—— wild 295
Chagal 243
Chat Sauvage 295
—— domestique 297
—— d’ Angora 308
Civet 318
Civette 318
Civet Cat 318
Conepate 314
Dog Tribe 201
—— common 201
—— * Siberian 212
—— * Newfoundland 215
—— * Hound 217
—— * Blood-hound 218
—— * Mastiff 220
—— * Bull-dog 222
—— * Terrier 223
—— Wolf 229
—— Hyæna 235, 491
—— Spotted Hyæna 240, 492
—— Jackal 243
—— Barbary Jackal 246
—— Fox 248
—— Arctic Pox 254
—— Adil 243
—— Boshund 240, 492
—— Chagal 243
—— faithful 201
—— L’Hyæna 235, 491
—— Jachals 240, 492
—— Jackal 240, 492
—— Isatis 254
—— Loup 229
—— Quembengo 240, 492
—— Renard 248
—— Schakal 243
—— Thaleb 246
—— Tiger-wolf 240, 492
Fiskatta 314
Fitchet 329
Foulimart 329
Foumart 329
Fox 248
—— Arctic 254
Glouton 370
Glutton 370
Grey-pate 380
Guepard 293
Gulo 370
Hedgehog Tribe 401
—— common 401
—— Herison 401
—— Common Urchin 401
* Hound 217
Hyæna 235, 491
—— spotted 240, 492
Hyæna, striped 235, 491
Jackal 243
Jackal, Barbary 246
Joerven 370
Jarf 370
Ichneumon 311
—— Egyptian 311
—— gigantic 387
Isatis 254
Kanguroo Tribe 386
—— great 387
—— gigantic 387
Kinkajou 321
Leopard 291
—— hunting 293
Lion 262, 494
Loup 229
Loutre 336
Mangouste, great 311
Mapach 376
Marder 324
Marte 324
Martin, Pine 324
* Mastiff 220
Mole Tribe 391
—— common 392
—— European 392
—— Mold-warp 392
—— Taupe 392
—— Want 392
Mold-warp 392
Nsussi 294
Opossum Tribe 382
—— Virginian 383
—— Merian 385
—— Philandre de Surinam 385
—— Surinam 385
Otter Tribe 335
—— common 336
—— sea 343
—— greater 336
—— Loutre 336
Ours 346
—— blanc 363
Philandre de Surinam 385
Phoque 182
Quickhatch 373
Quincajou 321
Quumbengo 240, 492
Raccoon 376
Ratel 316
Le Raton 376
Renard 248
Sable 326
Schakal 243
—— Calf 182
—— Cat 190
—— Lion 195, 197
Seal Tribe 181
—— common 182
—— ursine 190
—— bottle-nosed 195
—— Leonine 197
—— Phoque 182
—— Sea Calf 182
—— Sea Cat 190
—— Sea Lion 195, 197
Skunk 314
—— striped 314
—— Ecuriel Suisse 402
Surinam Opossum 385
Taupe 392
* Terrier 223
Thaleb 246
Tiger 283, 497
Tiger-cat of the Cape of Good Hope 294
Tiger bush-cat 294
Tiger-wolf 240, 492
Vielfrass 370
Urchin, common 401
Want 292
Weesel Tribe 310
—— Ichneumon 311
—— striated 314
—— honey, or Ratel 316
—— Civet 318
—— Mexican, or Kinkajou 321
—— Martin, pine 324
—— Sable 326
—— common 329
—— Carajou 321
—— Civet Cat 318
—— Civette 318
—— Conepate 314
—— Fiskatta 314
—— Fitchet 329
—— Foulimart 329
—— Foumart 329
—— Ichneumon, Egyptian 311
—— Kinkajou 321
—— Mangouste, great 311
—— Marder 324
—— Marte 324
—— Quincajou 321
—— Skunk 314
—— Striped Skunk 314
—— Whitred 329
—— Whitret 329
—— Zibelline 326
Whitred 329
Whitret 329
Wolf 229
Wolverine 373
Zibelline 326
Notes and Corrections: Index

[Bear Tribe] Joerven
text has Jæerven
[Here and below, if it had been printed “Jærven” I would have left it, but the sequence -æe- is clearly a mistake.]

[Cat Tribe] domestic
text has domesic

[Dog Tribe] Boshund
text has Boshoud

text has Jæerven
[Alphabetized with the misspelling.]


Phoca Genus 181
—— vitulina 181
—— ursina 190
—— leonina 195
—— jubata 197
Canis Genus 201
—— familiaris 201
—— lupus 229
—— hyæna 235, 491
—— crocuta 240, 492
—— aureus 243
—— barbarus 246
—— vulpes 248
—— Lagopus 254
Felis Genus 261
—— Leo 262, 494
—— Tigris 283, 497
—— Leopardus 291
—— Jubata 293
—— Capensis 294
—— Catus 295
—— —— var. Angorensis 308
Viverra Genus 310
—— Ichneumon 311
—— putorius 314
—— Mellivora 316
—— Civetta 318
—— Prehensilis 321
—— Martes 324
—— Zibellina 326
—— vulgaris 329
Mustela Martes 324
—— Zibellina 326
—— vulgaris 329
—— lutra 336
—— lutris 343
Lutra Genus 335
—— vulgaris 336
—— marina 343
Ursus Genus 345
—— Arctos 346
—— Americanus 357
—— Maritimus 363
—— gulo 370
—— luscus 373
—— lotor 376
—— meles 380
Didelphis Genus 382
—— virginiana 383
—— Dorsigera 385
—— marsupialis 383
—— opossum 383
—— gigantea 389
Macropus Genus 386
—— major 389
—— giganteus 389
Talpa Genus 391
—— Europæa 391
Erinaceus Genus 401
—— Europæus 401


Here are the parts of Linnaeus’s order Ferae that overlaps with today’s order Carnivora. I’ve also shown walruses, which Linnaeus put in his order Brutae along with manatees. Details of taxonomy may vary a bit from one source to another, but this will give a general idea.

Canidae (dogs)
Canis: C. lupus (subspp. familiaris, dog; lupus, wolf)
C. aureus (jackal)
Vulpes: V. vulpes (red fox)
V. lagopus (arctic fox)
Mephitidae (skunks)
Spilogale: S. putorius (Eastern spotted skunk, “striated weasel”)
Mustelidae (weasels and otters)
Enhydra: E. lutris (sea otter)
Lutra: L. lutra (otter)
Gulo: G. gulo (wolverine, subspp. gulo “glutton” and luscus)
Martes: M. martes (European pine marten)
M. libellina (sable)
Meles: M. meles (badger)
Mellivora: M. capensis (ratel, honey badger)
Mustela: M. nivalis (least weasel, “common weasel”)
Odobenidae (walruses)
Odobenus: O. rosmarus (walrus, “Arctic walrus”)
Otariidae (sea lions)
Callorhinus: C. ursinus (northern fur seal, “ursine seal”)
Eumetopias: E. jubatus (Steller sea lion, “leonine seal”)
Phocidae (seals)
Mirounga: M. leonina (southern elephant seal, “bottle-nosed seal”)
Phoca: P. vitulina (harbor seal, “common seal”)
Procyonidae (raccoons)
Potos: P. flavus (kinkajou, “Mexican weesel”)
Procyon: P. lotor (raccoon)
Ursidae (bears)
Ursus: U. arctos
U. americanus
U. maritimus (polar bear)
Felidae (cats)
Felinae (small cats)
Acinonyx: A. jubatus (cheetah, “hunting leopard”)
Felis: F. catus (domestic cat)
F. silvestris (wild cat)
Leptailurus: L. serval (serval, “Cape cat”)
Pantherinae (big cats)
Panthera: P. leo (lion)
P. tigris (tiger)
P. pardus (leopard)
Herpestidae (mongooses)
Herpestes: H. ichneumon (mongoose)
Hyaenidae (hyenas)
Crocuta: C. crocuta (spotted hyena)
Hyaena: H. hyaena (striped hyena)
Viverridae (civets)
Civettictis: C. civetta (African civet)

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.