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seven of such rows along its body. Between these animals there is, indeed, so little difference, that some naturalists have classed them in one species; and so great has been the confusion on this point, that authors have figured the leopard and jaguar under the name of a panther.
The Hunting Leopard (Felis jubata), called also the Chetah, is remarkable as forming the link between the cat and dog tribes, having for the most part the internal structure of the former, and the habits, sociability, and intelligence of the dog. The spots are very numerous, and perfectly black, not being broken into fragments and clusters like those of the leopard and panther. These animals are employed to hunt other beasts in the East, to which work they are regularly trained like our hounds. They are taken to the fields with their eyes covered by a hood, which, being taken off when the game has been approached, the leopard instantly starts towards the object pointed out by the hunter. "Mr. Bennet, in his work on the Tower Menagerie, thinks that this species is capable of perfect domestication; and suggests that their freedom from the suspicion and cruelty so characteristic of the cat family, might render them efficient servants to man. The following is the written character given by Mr. Bennet of a pair observed by him.
The chetah is a native of both Africa and Asia. “They are truly," writes Mr. Bennet, "an elegant and graceful pair, having, when led out into the court-yard in couples, very much of the air and manners of a brace of greyhounds. When noticed or fondled, they pur like a cat; and this is their usual mode of expressing pleasure. If, on the other hand, they are uneasy, whether that uneasiness arises from cold, from a craving after food, from a jealous apprehension of being neglected, or from any other cause, their note consists of a short, uniform, and repeated mew. They are extremely fond of play, and their manner of playing very much resembles that of a cat; with this difference, however, that it never, as in the latter animal, degenerates into malicious cunning or wanton mischief. Their character, indeed, seems to be entirely free from that sly and suspicious feeling of mistrust which is so strikingly visible in the manners and actions of all the cats, and which renders them so little susceptible of real or lasting attachment. The chetahs, on the contrary, speedily become fond of those who are kind to them, and exhibit their fondness in an open, frank, confiding manner."
THE JAGUAR (Felis Onca). This is the American panther; an animal of more powerful make than the leopards or panthers of the old world, from both of which it may be distinguished by the large spots on its skin, and the comparative shortness of the tail, which just reaches the ground when the animal is standing. It is rather a formidable creature in the dense American woods; for, though less ferocious than the tiger, it possesses a high degree of daring and great strength, which render it the dread of the roving Indian, whose solitary resting-place in the lonely forest is often disturbed by the approach of the active and determined jaguar. Birds, fish, and turtles, contribute to supply this animal's voracious appetite, to which, indeed, no living creature seems to come amiss. Thé . spots on the body of the jaguar resemble those on the leopard, but are much larger; and they who wish to note the differences in the markings of the two animals, may indulge their curiosity, and extend their information, by an inspection of those in the zoological collection in the Regent's Park, where the reader will find a fine specimen of the jaguar.
THE OCELOT. The beautiful Ocelot must not be forgotten in these notices of the smaller tiger cats; for the elegant dark spots, arranged lengthways along its body, render it an object of interest to the naturalist. Whilst gazing upon the imprisoned ocelot in the Regent's Park, we cannot refrain from contrasting its artificial condition in that cage with the localities of its species in a state of nature, where, in the depths of ancient forests, it bounds lightly from bough to bough in the still hours of night. This animal rarely appears abroad before surset, shewing, in this respect, the propensities of the cat, which are also evinced by its fondness for birds, which it surprises during their roost on the loftiest branches. It is needless to enter further into a description of the smaller tigers or leopards; and we may now close this chapter with some remarks on an animal known to every child, but the history of which may furnish us with some interesting additions to our knowledge.
Some readers will perhaps learn with surprise, that “ Pussy” las engaged the earnest attention, not only of the devout believers in the adventures of Whittington and his cat, but of grey-headed men, philosophers even, and students in the wide science of nature. The relationship existing between the kitten nursed by “ Little Mary” and the Bengal tiger or African lion, must alone entitle the common cat to some attention. That softly-treading, purring thing, resting in the sunniest place of our gardens, or gliding so gently between our feet to nestle before the fire in winter, is but a dwarf representation of the gigantic creatures which prowl in all the might of physical energy through the untrodden jungles of the East, or the burning sands of the
South. But an additional interest is given to the history of this inhabitant of our kitchens and parlours, by the inability of zoologists to answer the question, whence came the cat ? Puss has made good her footing amongst us, but her ancient whereabouts, and primitive mousing-land, is provokingly hidden from view. Whether its pedigree is to be traced to the vulgar and freebooting wild-cat of our woods, or to some nobler race once inhabiting the palaces of the Pharaohs, and the mummies of which have been found in the recesses of the pyramids, is a point not easy of solution. For though some adopt the former view, and thus degrade the blood of our noble “ tabbies and tortoiseshells,” there are not wanting others who search for the ancestors of puss in Egypt, and assert that the Egyptian cat (Felis maculata) is the parent-stock of the domesticated species. To enter into the arguments of foreign or English naturalists on the subject would be superfluous for most readers, who probably care as little respecting the ancestry of the cat, as the Heralds' College for the pedigree of a Hottentot. It is not, however, useless to know that such a point has engaged the thoughts of distinguished zoologists, and that the former rarity of the cat
in Europe is adduced as a strong argument by those who contend for its foreign origin. Whatever we may think of this reasoning, the fact is undoubtedly curious, and suggests several questions ; such as, how did our forefathers manage to keep their mice within limits ? how teach good manners to the rats ? did cheese possess no temptations in those days to the busy nibblers? The rarity of puss in olden times, in certain parts of Britain, seems sufficiently proved by the fact, that a price was set by law upon the animals by the Welsh legislators, as if they had been sheep, oxen, or other valuable stock. The qualities deemed essential to a good mouser were also as minutely laid down in the laws, as the properties of a race-horse in a modern stud-book. It would not, therefore, in those days, have sounded strange to hear of an action brought for defects in a cat purchased, and warranted sound by the seller. Such provisions clearly shew that the cat must then have been a valuable animal, and the inference that it was also scarce is just. Pennant, in his British Zoology, cites the passage relating to the cat from the laws of the prince nared Howel the Good; and though the market price of the cat may seem but a trifling sum to us, being a penny for a kitten before catching its first mouse, and two-pence afterwards, this was really a large sum in an age when the value of a penny was so much more than that of the coin now bearing the name. In times subsequent to the period of Howel the Good, the price of a sheep in England was but fourpence; this would make the price of a cat one-fourth the cost of a sheep.
The term by which the animal is known through the greater part of Europe is also in favour of the theory which derives it from some foreign region ; for had it been natural to earh country, names would have been drawn from the languages of these countries. The word cat is probably derived from the Latin term, catus, denoting subtle or sly; for in most countries the name is composed of the same primary letters; the cat of the English taking the kindred form chat in French, gato in Spanish, gatto amongst the Italians, gatze in Germany, kat in Dutch, and katta in Swedish. The same general sound, and the same class of consonants, are traceable through all these names, and suggest the transmission of the epithet with the animal itself from Rome, whither it could easily have come from Egypt, when a close connexion existed between that country and Italy.
The wild-cat appears to have been once very numerous in England, and was hunted for its fur. In a book of monastic rules, drawn up in the twelfth century, abbesses are prohibited from wearing more costly furs than those procured from the skins of lambs or wild-cats. The former abundance of the wild, contrasted with the scarceness of the domestic cat, is alleged by some to prove the original diversity between the two, and that the one did not proceed from the other. Matters are reversed now; the domestic cat being the more numerous, whilst the wild variety is rarely found in England, save in some of the wooded districts of the North. In Ireland it is more numerous, though the hatred of the whole race of gamekeepers is every day diminishing its numbers.
One peculiarity of the domestic cat, which also suggests a warm region as its original home, is the love for basking in warm places, in the sunny sides of streets, and before the fire in the house. This tendency is the very thing to be expected from the Egyptian cat, though rather surprising it the animal is deemed indigenous to these islands.
There are some particulars in the structure of the cat which, though daily presented to our observation, call for notice in this chapter. The digestive organs are remarkably small, especially the stoniach: a fact which accords with the carnivorous habits of the animal, and its natural repugnance to a vegetable diet, which requires a more complicated structure for its digestion than flesh. Bearing this circumstance in inind, we cannot but wonder at the change produced in the natural tastes of the domestic cat by its long connexion with man; for many individuals of the species are able to exist upon food into which much vegetable matter enters, though probably in such cases a stray mouse does now and then furnish a supper. Some cats, however, gladly take vegetable food, picking up even the raw potato-peelings as they fall from the hands of the cook. This illustrates the great changes which domestication produces in the natural tastes of animals; for the structure of the stomach in a cat would no more prepare us to expect a fondness for vegetable food in that animal, than the organisation of a sheep would lead us to infer a preference for flesh. Man is a consumer of mixed food, partaking of the animal and vegetable, and the cat has imitated his customs in this respect, through the effects gradually wrought by many ages of domestication.
The great variety in the colours and markings on the fur of the tame cat is another result of what may be called its civilisation ; for the numerous tints, from coal black to snow white, and the almost endless varieties of the dun, tabby, and bright tortoiseshell, would no more have been produced in a state of nature, than red negroes or black Englishmen. But, notwithstanding those visible badges of the subjection of the cat to man, no animal will more readily return to a wild state. Let Puss find her daily commons short, or her lodging unsuitable, and she takes, like a freebooter, to the roads; depending for subsistence upon birds, mice, and such like creatures.
The attachment of the cat to man, after so many ages of intercourse, is very precarious, and evinced rather for the fire, food, and shelter, tban for the provider of these luxuries. The anxiety which the cat shews to become acquainted with every nook and cranny of a fresh house, proves the value it attaches to place in