Page images

the more valuable. A single skin, though not above four inches broad, is often valued at ten or fifteen pounds; (8) the fur differing from others in this, that it has no grain ; so that, rub it which way you will, it is equally smooth and unresisting

Sables generally inhabit along the banks of rivers, in shady places, and in the thickest woods. They leap with great ease from tree to tree, and are said to be afraid of the sun, which tarnishes the lustre of their robes. They are chiefly hunted in winter for their skins, during which part of the year they are only in season. They are mostly found in Siberia, and but very few in any other country of the world; and this scarcity it is which enhances their value. The hunting of the sable chiefly falls to the lot of the condenined criminals, who are sent from Russia into these wild and extensive forests that, for a great part of the year, are covered with snow; and in this instance, as in many others, the luxuries and ornaments of the vain, are wrought out of the dangers and the miseries of the wretched. These are obliged to furnish a certain number of skins every year, and are punished if the proper quantity be not provided.

The sable is also killed by the Russian soldiers, who are sent into those parts to that end. They are taxed a certain number of skins yearly, like the former, and are obliged to shoot with only a single ball, to avoid spoiling the skin, or else with cross-bow and blunt arrows. As an encouragement to the hunters, they are allowed to share among themselves the surplus of those skins wbich they thus procure ; and this, in the process of six or seven years, amounts to a very considerable sum. A colonel, during his seven years stay, gains abont four thousand crowns for his share, and the common men six or seven hundred each for

THE ICHNEUMON.-The Ichneumon, which some have injudiciously denominated the Cat of Pharaoh, is one of the boldest and most useful animals of all the weasel kind. In the kingdom of Egypt, where it is chiefly bred, it is used for the same purposes that cats are in Europe, and is even more ser viceable, as being more expert in catching mice than they. This animal is usually of the size of the martin, and greatly resembles it in appearance, except that the bair, which is of a grisly black, is much rougher and less downy.

The Ichneumon, with all the strength of a cat, has more instinct and agility; a more universal appetite for carnage, and a greater variety of powers to pro cure it.(g) Rats, mice, birds, serpents, lizards and insects, are all equally pur. sued; it attacks every living thing which it is able to overcome, and indiscriminately preys on flesh of all kinds. Its courage is equal to the vehemence of its appetite. It fears neither the force of the dog nor the insidnous malice of the cat : neither the claws of the vulture nor the poison of the viper. It makes war upon all kinds of serpents with great avidity, seizes and kills them how venomous soever they be ; and we are told that when it begins to perceive the effects of their rage, it has recourse to a certain root, which the Indians call after its name, and assert to be an antidote for the bite of the asp or the viver.

But what this animal is particularly serviceable to the Egyptians for is, that it discovers and destroys the eggs of the crocodile. It also kills the young ones that have not as yet been able to reach the water; and, as fable usually goes hand in hand with truth it is said that the ichneumon sometimes enters the

(8) Regnard. (g) The rest of this description is extracted from Mr. Buffon, except where marked with commas.


mouth of the crocodile, when it is found sleeping on the shore, boldly attacks the enemy in the inside, and at length, when it has effectually destroyed it, eats its way out again.

The ichneumon when wild generally resides along the banks of rivers ; and in times of inundation makes to the higher ground, often approaching inhabited places in quest of prey. It goes forward silently and cautiously, changing its manner of moving according to its necessities. Sometimes it carries the head high, shortens its body, and raises itself upon its legs; sometimes it lengthens itself and seems to creep along the ground ; it is often observed to sit upon its hind legs like a dog when taught to beg; but more commonly it is seen to dart like an arrow upon its prey, and seize it with inevitable certainty: Its eyes are sprightly and full of fire, its physiognomy sensible, its body nimble, its tail long, and its hair rough and various. Like all of its kind, it has glands that open behind and furnish an odorous substance. Its nose is too sharp, and its mouth too small to permit its seizing things that are large ; however, it makes up by its courage and activity its want of arms; it easily strangles a cat though stronger and larger than itself; and often fights with dogs, which, though never so bold, learn to dread the ichnenmon as a formidable enemy. It also takes the water like the otter, and, as we are told, will continue under it much longer.

This animal grows fast and dies soon. It is found in great numbers in all the southern parts of Asia, from Egypt to Java; and it is also found in Africa, particularly at the Cape of Good Hope. It is domestic, as was said, in Egypt; but in our colder climates it is not easy to breed or maintain them, as they are not able to support the rigour of our winters. Nevertheless they take every precaution that instinct can dictate to keep theinselves warm ; they wrap themselves up into a ball, hiding the head between the legs, and in this manner continue to sleep all day long

This animal was one of those formerly worshipped by the Egyptians, who considered every thing that was serviceable to them as an emanation of the Deity, and worshipped such as the best representatives of God below. Indeed, if we consider the number of eggs which the crocodile lays in the sand at a time, which often amount to three or four hundred, we have reason to admire this little animal's usefulness as well as industry in destroying them, since otherwise the crocodile might be produced in sufficient numbers to over-run the whole earth.

THE STINKARDS.—This is a name which our sailors give to one or two animals of the weasel kind, which are chiefly found in America. All the weasel kind, as was already observed, have a very strong smell; some of them indeed approaching to a perfume, but the greatest number most insupportably foetid. But the smell of our weasels, and ermine, and polecats, is fragrance itself when compared to that of the squash and the skink, which have been

(The Skunk.) called the Polecats of America.

*THE SKUNK OR STINKARD.—The fluid of the animal—which has the power of ejecting this animal, which is of a deep yellow colour, it to the distance of upwards of four feet. " Î is contained in a small bag placed at the root have known a dead skink, thrown over the of the tail. Mr. Graham says that he knew stockades of a trading post, produce instant several Indians who lost their eye-sight in nausea in several women in a house with consequence of inflammation, produced by closed doors, upwards of a hundred yards this fuid, having been thrown into them by distant. The odour has some resemblance As to the perfumes of musk and civet, we know that a single grain will diffuse itself over a whole house, and continue for months to spread an agreeable odour, without diminution. However, the perfume of the musk or the civet is nothing, either for strength or duration, to the insupportable odour of these. It is usually voided with their excrement; and if but a single drop bappens to touch any part of a man's garment, it is more than probable that he can never wear any part of it more.


In describing the effects produced by the excrement of these animals, we often hear of its raising this diabolical smell by its urine. However, of this I am apt to doubt; and it should seem to me, that, as all the weasel kind have their excrements só extremely foetid from the cause above mentioned, we may consider these also as being fætid from the same causes. Besides, they are not furnished with glands to give their urine such a smeli; and the analogy between them and the weasel kind being so strong in other respects, we may suppose they resemble each other in this. It has also been said that they take this meihod of ejecting their excrement to defend themselves against their pursuers; but it is much more probable that this ejection is the convulsive effect of terror, and that it serves as their defence without their own concurrence. Certain it is, that they never smell thus horridly, except when enraged or atfrighted, for they are often kept tame about the houses of the planters of America.

without being very offensive.

The habitudes of all these animals are the same, living like all the rest of the weasel kind, as they prey upon smaller animals and birds' eggs. The squash, for instance, burrows like the polecat in the clefts of rocks, where it brings forth its young. It osten steals into farmyards, and kills the poultry, eating only their brains. Nor is it safe to pursue or offend it, for then it calls up all its scents, which are its most powerful protection. At that time neither men nor dogs will offer to approach it, the scent is so strong, that it reaches for half a mile round, and more near at band is almost stifling. If the dogs continue to pursne, it does all in its power to escape, by getting up a tree, or by some such means; but if driven to an extremity, it then lets fly upon the hunters; and if it should happen that a drop of this fætid discharge falls in the eye, the person runs the risk of being blinded for ever.(g)

The dogs themselves instantly abate of their ardour, when they find this extraordinary battery played off against them; they instantly turn tail, and leave the animal undisputed master of the field ; and no exhortations can ever bring them to rally. * In the year 1749,” says Kalm,“ one of these animals came near the farm where I lived. It was in winter time, during the night; and the dogs that were upon the watch, pursued it for some time, until it discharged against them. Although I was in my bed a good way off, I thonght I should have been suffocated; and the cows and oxen, by their lowings, showed how much they were affected by the stench. About the end of the same year, another of these animals crept into our cellar, but did not exhale the smallest scent, because it was not disturbed. A foolish woman, however, who perceived it at night, by the shining of its eyes, killed it, and at that moment its stench began to spread. The whole cellar was filled with it to such a degree, that the woman kept her bed for several days after; and all the bread, meat, and other provisions, that were kept there, were so infected, that they were obliged to be thrown out of doors."

THE GENETTE.- From the sqnash, which is the most offensive animal in nature, we come to the genette, which is one of the most beautiful and pleasing. Instead of the horrid stench with which the former affects us, this has a most

to that of garlic, although much more dis. by recuring to the task at intervals. When agreeable. One may, however, soon become care is taken not to soil the carcass with any familiarized with it; for, notwithstanding of the strong smelling fluid, the meat is conthe disgust it produces at first, I have ma- sidered by the natives to be excellent food."-. naged to skin a couple of recent specimens RICHARDSON’s Nortu AMERICAN ZOOLOGY.

(8) Voyage de Kalm, as quoted by Buffon, vol. xxvii. p. 93.

grateful odour;, more faint than civet, but to some, for that reason, more agreeable. This animal is rather less than the martin : though there are genettes of different sizes ; and I have seen one rather larger. It also differs somewhat in the form of its body. It is not easy, in words, to give an idea of the distinction.

(Genette.) The genette, like all the rest of the weasel kinds, has glands, that separate a kind of perfume, resembling civet, but which soon flies off

. These glands open differently from those of other animals of this kind; for, as the latter have their apertures just at the opening of the anus, these have their aperture immediately under it; so that the male seems, for this reason, to the superficial observer to be of two sexes.

It resembles the martin very much in its habits and disposition ;(g) except, that it seems tamed much more easily. Belon assures us, that he has seen them in the bouses at Constantinople as tame as cats ; and that they were permitted to run every where about, without doing the least mischief. For this reason they have been called the cats of Constantinople; although they have little else in common with that animal, except their skill in spying out and destroying vermin. Naturalists pretend that it inhabits only the moister grounds, and chiefly resides along the banks of rivers, having never been found in mountains, nor dry places. The species is not much diffused; it is not to be found in any part of Europe, except Spain and Turkey; it requires a warm climate to subsist and multiply in; and yet it is not to be found in the warmer regions either of India or Africa. From such as have seen its uses at Constantinople, I learn, that it is one of the most beautiful, cleanly, and industrious animals in the world ; that it keeps whatever house it is in, perfectly free from mice and rats, which cannot endure its sinell. Add to this, its nature is mild and gentle, its colours, various and glossy, its fur valuable; and, upon the whole, it seems to be one of those animals that, with proper care, might be propagated amongst us, and might become one of the most serviceable of our domestics.

THE CÏVET.-Proceeding from the smaller to the greater of this kind, we come, in the last place, to the civet, wbich is much larger than any of the former; tor as the martin is not above sixteen inches long, the civet is found to be above thirty. Buffon distinguishes this species into two kinds; one of which be calls the civet, and the other the zibet. The latter principally differs from the former in having the body longer and more slender, the nose smaller, the ears longer and broader; no

(Civet.) mane or long hair running down the back in the latter; and the tail is longer and better marked with rings of different colours, from one end to the other.

The civet resembles animals of the weasel kind in the long slenderness of its body, the shortness of its legs, the odorous matter that exudes from the glands behind, the softness of its fur, the number of its claws, and their incapacity of being sheathed. It differs from them in being much larger than any hitherto

(8) Buffon, vol. xix. p. 187.


described; in having the nose lengthened, so as to resemble that of the fox: the tail long and tapering to a point; and its ears straight, like those of a cat. The colour of the civet varies : it is commonly ash, spotted with black: though it is whiter in the female, tending to yellow; and the spots are much larger, like those of a panther. The colour on the belly, and under the throat, is black ; whereas the other parts of the body are black or streaked with grey This animal varies in its colour, being sometimes streaked, as in our kind of cats called tabbies. It has whiskers, like the rest of its kind; and its eye is black and beautiful.

The opening of the pouch or bag, which is the receptacle of the civet, differs from that of the rest of the weasel kint, not opening into, but under, the anus. Beside this opening, which is large, there is still another lower down; but for wliat purposes designed, is not known. The pouch itself is abont two inches and a half broad, and two long ; its opening makes a chink, from the top downwards that is about two inches and a half long; and is covered on the edges, and within, with short hair: when the two sides are drawn asunder, the inward cavity may be seen, large enough to hold a small pullet's egg: all round this are small glands, opening and furnishing that strong perfume which is so well known, and is found, in this pouch, of the colour and consistence of pomatum. Those who make it their business to breed these animals for their perfume, usually take it from them twice or thrice a week, and sometimes oftener. The animal is kept in a long sort of box in which it cannot turn round. The person, therefore, opens this box behind, drags the animal backwards by the tail, keeps it in this position by a bar before, and with a wooden spoon, takes the civet from the pouch, as carefully as he can; then lets the tail go, and shuts the box again. The perfume, thus procured, is put into a vessel, which be takes care to keep shut; and when a sufficient quantity is procured, it is sold to very great advantage.

The civet,(g) although a native of the warmest climates, is yet found to live in temperate, and even cold countries, provided it be defended carefully from the injuries of the air. Wherefore, it is not only bred among the Turks, the Indians, and Africans, but great numbers of these animals are also bred in Holland, where this scraping people make no small gain of its perfume. The perfume of Amsterdam is reckoned the purest of any; the people of other countries adulterating it with gums, and other matters, which diminish its value, but increase its weight. The quantity which a single animal affords generally depends upon its health and nourishment. It gives more in proportion as it is more delicately and abundantly fed. Raw flesh, hashed small, eggs, rice, birds, young fowls, and particularly fish, are the kinds of food the civet most delights in. These are to be changed and altered, to suit and entice its appetite, and continue its health. It gets but very little water; and although it drinks but rarely, yet it makes urine very frequently ; and, upon such occasions, we cannot, as in other animals, distinguish the male from the female.

The perfume of the civet is so strong that it communicates itself to all parts of the animal's body; the fur is impregnated thereby, and the skin penetrated to such a degree, that it continues to preserve the odour for a long time after it is stript off.*

* The Musk PoucH OF THE Civet.—The giously diminished. It used to be brought odoriferous substance produced by the civet, from the Indies and from Africa, into Europe, forms, especially in the east, an object of con- by the way of Alexandria and Venice. siderable commerce. Its virtues are greatly In the East the civet is brought up in a vaunted among ourselves, and it was once state of domestication for the purpose of gathe fashion among those who piqued them. thering its perfume Father Poncet says, selves on their elegance, to use it as a per. that Enfras, a town of Abyssinia, is celefume; as it has since been to use musk and brated for the civet trade, and that an immense amber for the same purpose. It still enters number of these animals are ther. domestiinto the composition of some medicament catel. He has seen upwards of three hun. and perfumes, but its consumption is prodi. dred with some merchants.-CUVIER.

(8) Buffon, vol. xix.

« PreviousContinue »