« PreviousContinue »
As to the rest, the civet is said to be a wild, fierce animal ; and, although sometimes tained, is never thoroughly familiar. Its teeth are strong and cutting, although its claws be fecble and inflexible. It is light and active, and lives by prey, as the rest of its kind, pursuing birds, and other small animals that it is able to overcome. They are sometimes seen stealing into the yards and outhonses, to seize upon the poultry: their eyes shine in the night, and it is very probable that they see better in the dark than by day. When they fail of animal food, they are found to subsist upon roots and fruits, and very seldom drink: for which reason they are never found near great waters. They breed very fast in their native climates, where the heat seems to conduce to their propagation ; but in our temperate latitudes, although they furnish their perfume in great quantities, yet they are not found to multiply.-A proof that their per. fumc has no analogy with their appetite for generation.
THE GLUTTON.-I will add but one animal more to this numerous class of the weasel kind; namely, the glutton; which, for several reasons, seems to belong to this tribe, and this only.* We have hitherto had no precise description of this quadruped; some resembling it to a badger, some to a fox, and some to a hyæna.
The glutton, which is so called from its voracious appetite, is an animal found as well in the north of Europe and Siberia, as in the north parts of America, where it has the name of the carcajou. Amidst the variety of descriptions which have been given of it, no very just idta can be formed of its figure ; and, indeed, some naturalists, among whom was Ray, entirely doubted
(Glutton.) of its existence. From the best accounts, however, we have of it, the body is thick and long, the legs short: it is black along the back, and of a reddish brown on the sides ; its fur is beld in the bighest estimation, for its softness and beautiful gloss; the tail is bushy, like that of the weasel, but rather shorter; and its legs and claws better fitted for climbing trees, than for running along the ground. Thus far it entirely resembles the weasel; and its manner of taking its prey is also by surprise, and not by pursuit.
It is chiefly in North America that this voracious creature is seen lurking among the thick branches of trees, in order to surprise the deer, with which the extensive forests of that part of the world abound. Endued with a degree of patience equal to its rapacity, the glutton singles out such trees as it observes marked by the teeth or the antlers of the deer; and is known to remain there watching for several days together. If it has fixed upon a wrong tree, and finds that the deer have either left that part of the country, or cautiously shun the place, it reluctantly descends, pursues the beaver to its retreat, or even ventures into the water in pursuit of tishes. But if it happens that, by long attention, and keep ing close, at last the elk or the rein-deer happens to pass that way, it at once darts down upon them, sticks its claws between their shoulders, and remains there unalterably firm. It is in vain that the large frighted animal increases its speed, or threatens with its branching horns; the glutton having taken possession of its post, nothing can drive it off; its enormous prey drives rapidly along amongst the thickest woods, rubs itself against the largest trees, and tears down the branches with its expanded horns ; but still its insatiable foe sticks
* Thx Glutton.—This animal is now Wolverine, is distinguished by its superior ascertained to be a species of bear. It is size, in the colour of its body, which is dull about three feet long, besides the tail, which ferruginous, with the front, throat, and longiis a fiot in length." The variety called the tudinal stripe on the body, whitish.
behind, eating its neck, and digging its passage to the great Llood-vessels thit lie in that part. Travellers who wander through those deserts, often see pieces of the glutton's skin sticking to the trees, against which it was rubbed by the deer. But the animal's voracity is greater than its feelings, and it never seizes without bringing down its prey. When, therefore, the deer, wounded, and feeble with the loss of blood, falls, the glutton is seen to make up for its former abstinence, by its present voracity. As it is not possessed of a feast of this kind every day, it resolves to lay in a store to serve it for a good while to come. It is, indeed, amazing how much one of these animals can eat at a time! That which was seen by Klein, although without exercise or air, although taken from its native limate, and enjoying but an indifferent state of health, was yet seen to eat thirteen pounds of flesh every day, and yet remained unsatisfied. We may, therefore, easily conceive how much more it must devour at once, after a long fast, of a food of its own procuring, and in the climate most natural to its constitution.
A life of necessity generally produces a good fertile invention. The glutton, continually pressed by the call of appetite, and having neither swiftness nor activity to satisfy it, is obliged to make up by stratagem the defects of nature. It is often seen to examine the traps and the snares laid for other animals, in order to anticipate the fowlers. It is said to practise a thousand arts to procure its porest
to steal upon the retreats of the rein-deer, the flesh of which animal it maimed by the hunters; to pursue the isatis while it is hunting for itself; and, when that animal has run down its prey, to come in and seize upon the whole, and sometimes to devour even its poor provider; when these pursuits fail, even to dig up the graves, and fall upon the bodies intered there, devouring them bones and all. For these reasons, the natives of the countries where the glutton inhabits, hold it in utter detestation, and usually term it the vulture of quadrupeds. And, yet it is extraordinary enough, that being so very obuoxious to man, it does not seem to fear him.(š). We are told by Gamelin of one of these coming up boldly and calmly where there were several persons at work, without testifying the smallest apprehension, or attempting to run until it had received several blows, that at last totally disabled it. In all probability it came among them seeking its prey; and, having been used to attack animals of interior strength, it had no idea of a force superior to its own. The glutton, like all the rest of its kind, is a solitary animal; and is never seen in company except with its female, with which it couples in the midst of winter. The latter goes with young about four months, and brings forth two or three at a time.(g) They burrow in holes as the weasel; and the male and female are generally found together, both equally resolute in defence of their young. Upon this occasion the boldest dogs are afraid to approach them; they tight obstinately, and bite most cruelly. However, as they are unable to escape by flight, the hunters come to the assistance of the doge, and easily overpower them. Their flesh, it may readily be supposed, is not fit to be eaten ; but the skins amply recompense the hunters for their toil and danger. The für has the most beautiful lustre that can be imagined, and is prefered before all others, except that of the Siberian fox, or the sable. Among other peculiarities of this animal, Linnæus informs us, that it is very difficult to be skinned; but from what cause, whether its abominable stench, or the skin's tenacity to the flesh, he has not thought fit to
ANIMALS OF THE HARE KIND.*
HAVING described in the last chapter a tribe of minute, fierce, rapacious animals, I come now to a race of minute animals, of a more harmless and gentle kind, that, without being enemies to any, are preyed upon by all. As nature has fitted the former for hostility, so it has entirely formed the latter for evasion : and as the one kind subsist by their courage and activity, so the other find safety from their swiftness and their fears. The bare is the swiftest animal in the world for the time it continues; and few quadrupeds can overtake even the rabbit when it has but a short way to run. To this class also we may add the squirrel, somewhat resembling the hare and rabbit in its form and nature, and equally pretty, inoffensive, and pleasing.
'If we were methodically to distinguish animals of the hare kind from all others, we might say that they have but two cutting teeth above and two below, that they are covered with a soft, downy fur, and that they have a bushy tail. The combination of these marks might perhaps distinguish them tolerably well; whether from the rat, the beaver, the otter, or any other most nearly approaching in form. But, as I have declined all method that rather tends to embarrass history than enlighten it, I am contented to class these animals together for no very precise reason, but because I find a general resemblance between them in their natural habits, and in the shape of their heads and body. I call a squirrel an animal of the bare kind, because it is something like a hare. I call the paca of the same kind, merely because it is more like a rabbit than any other animal I know of. In short, it is fit to erect some particular standard in the imagination of the reader, to refer bim to some animal that he knows, in order to direct him in conceiving the figure of such as he does not know. Still, however, he should be apprized that his knowledge will be defective without an examination of each particular species : and that saying an animal is of this or that particular kind is but a very trifling part of its history.
Animals of the hare kind, like all others that feed entirely upon vegetables, are inoffensive and timorous. As nature furnishes them with a most abundant supply, they have not that rapacity after food remarkable in such as are often stinted in their provision. They are extremely active and amazingly swift, to which they chiefly owe their protection; for being the prey of every voracious animal, they are incessantly pursued. The hare, the rabbit, and the squirrel, are placed by Pyerius, in his Treatise of Ruminating Animals, among the number of those that chew the cud; but how far this may be true, I will not pretena to determine. Certain it is that their lips continually move whether sleeping or waking. Nevertheless, they chew their meat very much before they swallow it, and for that reason I should suppose that it does not want a second mastication. All these animals use their fore-paws like hands; they are remarkably salacious, and are furnished by nature with more ample powers than most others for the business of propagation. They are so very prolific, that were they not thinned by the constant depredations made upon them by most other animals, they would quickly overrun the earth.t
* ANIMALS OF THE Hare KIND.-The + Tue Genus LEPUS. — This genus inanimals of this family have two front teeth includes many species, which are widely spread each jaw; those in the upper jaw are dou- over the earth's surface, in the new world, as bled, having two smaller ones standing be- well as the old. All the species are alike hind the others; they feed entirely on vege- under the continued influence of fear, and as tables, are very small, and run by a kind of their eyes are presumed not to be perfect leaping; they have five toes on the fore-feet, during daylight, and their lateral direction and four on the hinder.
prevents the animal seeing directly forward, THE HARE.—Of all these the bare is the largest, the most persecuted, and the most tirnorous; all its muscles are formed for swiftness; and all its senses scem only given to direct its flight. It has very large, prominent eyes placed backwards in its head, so that it can almost see behind it as it runs. These are never wholly closed; but as the animal is continually upon the watch, it sleeps with them open. The ears are still more remarkable for their size; they are movable, and capable of being directed to every quar
(Hare.) ter; so that the smallest sounds are readily received, and the animal's motions directed accordingly. The muscles of the body are very strong, and withont fat, so that it may be said to carry no superfluous burthen of flesh about it; the hinder feet are longer than the fore, which still adds to the rapidity of its motions; and almost all animals that are remarkable for their speed, except the horse, are formed in the same manner.
An animal so well formed for a life of escape, might be supposed to enjoy a state of tolerable security ; but as every rapacious creature is its enemy, it hut very seldom lives out its natural term. Dogs of all kinds pursue it by instinct, and follow the hare more eagerly than any other animal. The cat and the weasel kinds are continually lying in ambush, and practising all their little arts to seize it; birds of prey are still more dangerous enemies, as against them no swiftness can avail, nor retreat secure ; but man, an enemy far more powerful than all, prefers its flesh to that of other animals, and destroys greater numbers than all the rest. Thus pursued and persecuted on every side, the race would long since bave been totally extirpated, did it not find a resource in its amazing fertility
The bare multiplies exceedingly; it is in a state of engendering at a few months old; the females go with young but thirty days, and generally bring forth three or four at a time.(g) As soon as they have produced their young they are again ready for conception, and thus do not lose any time in continuing the breed. But they are in another respect fitted in an extraordinary manner for multiplying their kind; for the female, from the conformation of ber womb, is often seen to bring forth, and yet to continue pregnant at the same time; or in other words, to have yonng ones of different ages in her womb together. Other animals never receive the male when pregnant, but bring forth their young at once. But it is frequently different with the hare ; the female often, though already impregnated, admitting the male, and thus receiving a they rather rely on their hearing, the organ susceptibility of danger. Lively timidity must of which is very perfect, to warn them of ap- be attended with pain, however; and if there proaching danger. Perfectly defenceless, in- be any disparity in the distribution of good deed, and exposed to countless enemies, they and evil to inferior creation, all except sportshave no chance of safety but in the expedi- men, must pity creatures which exist con. tion of their flight, and unless forewarned by stantly, under the excitement of acute fear. the acuteness of one or more of their senses, The heart is said to be larger relatively of the approach of an enemy, they would in- to their parts in these than in most other variably fall the victim of surprise. Their animals ; and it has been noticed, that Pliny Creator, while he has left them a prey to so observed generally, that all animals of a fearmany other animals, has provided them with ful disposition have the heart of considerable one inode of self-defence in a rapid locomo- size.—'Griffith, in Cuvier's Animal Kingtion, rendered more efficacious by a quick dom.
(8) Buffon, vol. xiii. p. 12.
second impregnation. The reason of this extraordinary circumstance is, that the womb in these animals is divided in such a manner that it may be considered as a double organ, one side of which may be filled while the other remains empty. Thus these animals may be seen to couple at every period of their pregnancy, and even while they are bringing forth the young laying the foundation of another brood.
The young of these animals are brought forth with their eyes open, and the dam suckles them for twenty days, after which they leave her, and seek out for themselves.(8) From this we observe, that the education these animals receive is but trifling, and the family connexion but of short duration. In the rapacious kinds the dam leads her young forth for months together; teaches them the arts of rapine ; and, although she wants milk to supply them, yet keeps them under her care until they are able to hunt for themselves. But a long connexion of this kind would be very unnecessary as well as dangerous to the timid animals we are describing; their food is easily procured; and their associations, instead of protection, would only expose them to their pursuers. They seldom, however, separate far from each other, or from the place where they were produced ; but make each a form at some distance, having a predilection rather for the place than each other's society. They feed during the night rather than by day, choosing the more tender blades of grass, and quenching their thirst with the dew. They live also upon roots, leaves, fruits and corn, and prefer such plants as are furnished with a milky juice. They also strip the bark of trees during the winter, there being scarce any that they will not seed on, except the lime or the alder. They are particularly fond of birch, pinks, and parsley. When they are kept tame, they are fed with the lettuce and other garden herbs : but the flesh of such as are thus brought up is always indifferent.
They sleep or repose in their forms by day, and may be said to live only hy pight.(8) It is then that they go forth to feed and couple. They do not pair, however, but in the rutting season, which begins in February; the male pursues and discovers the female by the sagacity of its nose. They are then seen, by moonlight, playing, skipping, and pursuing each other; but the least motion, the slightest breeze, the falling of a leaf is sufficient to disturb their revels; they instantly fly off, and each takes a separate way.
As their limbs are made for running, they easily outstrip all other animals in the beginning ; and could they preserve their speed it would be impossib'e to overtake them; but as they exhaust their strength at their first efforts, and double back to the place they were started from, they are more easily taken than the fox, which is a much slower animal than they. As their hind legs are longer than the fore, they always choose to turn up hill, by which the speed of their pursuers is diminished while theirs remains the same. Their motions are also without any noise, as they have the sole of the foot furnished with hair: and they seem the only animals that have bair on the inside of their mouths.
They seldom live above seven or eight years at the utmost; they come to their full perfection in a year; and thus multiplied by seven, as in other animals, gives the extent of their lives.(g) They are not so wild as their dispositions and their habits seem to indicate ; but are of a complying nature, and easily susceptible of a kind of education. They are easily tamed. They even become fond and caressing, but they are incapable of attachment to any particular person, and never can be depended npon ; for, though taken never so young, they regain their native freedom at the first opportunity.*
* DOMESTICATION OF Hares.-Although familiar, at least to all it knew, but of stranthe hare is solitary and silent, it is not alto- gers it was still fearful In winter it sat before gether so wild as its habits seem to indicate. the fire between two large Angora cats, and a Their disposition is gentle, and if taken sporting dog, with whom it lived on the best young, they are capable of training and edu- of terms; at table it was generally close to cation. M. Desmarest had one a considera- its master, looking for food, and if thwarted ble time in his house; it lost all its natural in its expectations, would beat with its fore. wildness, and its habits had become quite paws in rapid succession on the hand or arm
(8) Buffon, vol. xiii. p. 12.