Abbildungen der Seite



The general history and statistics of the fur trade having been given

in the preceding chapter, detailed accounts are now furnished of the principal carnivorous animals and their economic relations to man-commencing with the felines or cat tribe, including the lion, puma, panther, leopard, jaguar, ocelot, wild and domestic cats, chetah, European lynx, American Bay lynx, Canadian lynx, and Civet cats.

CARNIVORA.— The distinguishing characteristics of the Carnivorous Mammals, it has been well observed, are found in the perfection of structure-arrangement, number, and development of the teeth, the canine teeth being especially adapted for destroying other animals, and tearing, crushing, and dividing the flesh upon which these animals subsist. In the bears and their allies, which exist on a more or less mixed diet, the crowns of the molar teeth are furnished with small tubercles or prominences, evincing an adaptation to a vegetable diet.

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors]

SKULL OF BEAR (Ursus), SHOWING THE DENTITION. The inquiry may possibly be made, What are the uses of the numerous carnivorous animals which roam over large tracts of



country, and are a terror to man and beast? But it has been often shown that the races of herbivorous animals, without a natural check from predatorial enemies or other slaughter, would soon become too numerous for the substances which have been allotted for their nourishment, and, by creating famine, would be the cause of their own destruction.

In their uses to man, this balancing of creation, as it were, is most important, by keeping down many that would desolate by their ravages pastoral regions. The more direct benefit will be found in the extensive commerce which is maintained with their skins, which form comfortable protections from cold and the inclemencies of the weather, and are beautiful and ornamental articles of winter dress.

There is a wholesale and retail trade in wild animals, and agents are at work for the wild beast dealers in every quarter of the globe. Travellers are dispatched to pick up strange animals in Central Africa, the Indian Archipelago, or South America, just as other traders send their buyers to Paris or London. They have dealings with the various Governments and Zoological Gardens of Europe. Zebras will be sold at £450 to £ 500 the pair ; gnus for £ 170; rhinoceroses at £1,200 the pair ; tigers at £ 300 each.

THE FELINES OR CAT TRIBE. —First in the list of the Felines stands the Lion, of which there are two marked species, Leo Africanus, and Leo Asiaticus, inhabiting the greater part of Africa, and the warmer districts of India. There appear to be several varieties, if not species, of the African lion, as Leo Barbarus and L. Gambianus.

It is principally for its skin that the lion is sought, although living animals are valuable for menageries and zoological collections. In some years 100 to 200 skins are secured. The flesh of the lion is eaten by the Hottentots; and a tribe of Arabs between Tunis and Algeria, according to Blumenbach, live almost entirely upon it when they can get it. When a lion has been killed and the skin removed, the flesh is divided, and the mothers take each





a small piece of the animal's heart, and give it their male children to eat in order to render them strong and courageous.

They take away as much as possible of the mane, in order to make armlets of it, which are supposed to have the same effect.

It would seem from the Journal of the Marquess of Hastings, that this superstition as to eating lion's flesh is as strong in India. On the death of a lion it is stated—“Anxious interest was made with our servants for a bit of the flesh, though it should be the size of a hazel-nut. Every native in the camp, male or female, who was fortunate enough to get a morsel, dressed it and ate it. They have a thorough conviction that the eating a piece of lion's flesh strengthens the constitution incalculably, and is a preservative against many particular distempers. This superstition does not apply to tiger's flesh, though the whiskers and claws of that animal are considered as very potent for bewitching people.” But the flesh of the lion has also been eaten with gusto by Europeans, for Madame Bedichon in her work on Algeria, states, that at Oran a lion was killed which three days before had eaten a man, and the Prefect gave a grand dinner, the principal dish being the lion, which the French gentlemen assembled ate with the greatest relish.

More recently still,—within the last year or two,-a magnificent quarter of lion, shot in the neighbourhood of Philippeville, Algeria, by M. Constant Cheret, was sent to the Restaurant Magny, Paris, and served up to a party of nineteen guests, who enjoyed with gusto “Estouffade de lion à la Méridionale” and “ Cour de lion à la Castellane."

PUMA OR COUGUAR (Felis concolor, Lin).—This animal, sometimes called the South American lion, is most common in the southern part of the continent, although its geographical range is said to extend to the north. The skins are chiefly used for carriage wrappers. The fur is thick, close, and of a reddish brown colour, approaching nearly to the colour of a fox on the back, and changing on the belly to a pale ash. When at a mature age,



however, its general colour s a silvery fawn. Three or four other species are said to inhabit Paraguay, Buenos Ayres, and Chili.

The puma is very destructive to sheep, and has been known to kill fifty in a night, merely to suck a portion of their blood. The length of the adult animal is a little over four feet, and its tail two, to two and a half feet. The flesh is said to be tender and well flavoured.

TIGER (Felis Tigris).—This animal is exclusively confined to the Asiatic continent, and the islands of the Eastern Archipelago. The peninsula of Hindostan seems to be its great nursing place, but it extends far up into the hill regions. The district of Goalparah in Assam is so infested by wild animals, that £1700 has been paid in a single season for the heads of beasts of prey. And yet the reward for tigers is only ten shillings per head. The Delhi Gazette states that 250 tigers' heads have been brought in by natives in a single month. They are mostly killed by poisoned arrows from spring bows fixed near their favourite haunts. In 1871, 1100 wild beasts were destroyed in the Madras Presidency, at a cost of £2,200, of which 666 were cheetahs, 205 tigers, 129 hyenas, 97 bears, 12 wolves, and a few jackals. On the Nielgherry Hills 16 tigers and 29 cheetahs were killed, and £110 paid in rewards. In Kistna and South Canara £73 were paid for killing 146 tigers and leopards, but not before they had destroyed over 1760 head of cattle.

In China the mandarins cover the seat of justice with the tiger skin, and the easterns are very proud of their tiger skin rugs. A good skin is worth £3 or £4, but varies according to size and condition. They are sometimes obtained exceeding 11 feet long. There are three good stuffed heads of the Bengal tiger (Tigris regalis) in the Bethnal Green Museum.

PANTHER (Felis Pardas). This animal, principally found in Africa, is believed to be only a variety of the leopard, but differs in its superior size and deeper colour from it. Its colour is of

« ZurückWeiter »