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beneath the black arch, and then buries himself for hours in the recesses of the old keep. What sustains his interest in the survey of those time-grey stones and crumbling walls ? He knows the history of the place; the sieges it has undergone, what mighty baron perished before its walls, who was long imprisoned in yon roofless tower, and what monarch kept Christmas in the ruined hall. Thus he walks about, filling the silent courts with life, and peopling them with knights and barons of the middle ages. How different is it with the ignorant rustic, who passes through the same ruined court-yard every evening from his daily labour, climbing, for a short cut, over the crumbling remnants of an ancient wall, where once the watchful sentinel kept ward! The countryman has never stopped to examine a single portion of the pile, save to plunder the owl's nest in the ivied tower; he has no inducement to feel an interest in that of which he knows so little, although much more favourably placed for observation than the stranger who hurries from a distant part of the land to scan the fragments of the border stronghold. Now the case of this peasant is that of all ignorant persons; want of knowledge deprives them of a thousand sources of richest enjoyment, and leaves them to the stimulus of mere vulgar curiosity. Especially is this the case in Natural History, where some knowledge of the animals exhibited is essential in every spectator, who would pass an hour pleasantly and profitably in a zoological garden or menagerie. How differently shall we look upon the caged tiger after a view of the animal's strength and ferocity as witnessed in the Indian jungles ! And how altered will be our estimate of the sloth when we have seen him vaulting from tree to tree with the activity of a squirrel, whilst the storm shakes the branches !
The following pages make no pretensions to be regarded as an epitome of Natural History; the writer's object being rather to bring the more common and important facts relating to animals before the reader, than to conduct him through the vast circle of the zoological system, in which a man may study for years without finishing his lesson. The writer is aware that a long array of names of genera and species gives little pleasure or information to the general reader, who requires the life and habits of an animal to be detailed, rather than a discussion on its place in this or that scientific system. Such a treatment of the subject is necessary for all who wish
to enter upon a complete course of study; but would be most unsuitable in a treatise for non-professional readers.
This remark will account for the brief notices on such matters as the classification and anatomy of the various animals described : enough will be said upon such points to elucidate the subject in hand, but no more ; for the intelligent reader can fully comprehend the habits of the tiger or the eagle without an elaborate disquisition on the paw of the one, or the claw of the other. The twofold division of this volume -one part on Beasts, and the other on Birds -is selected with the express purpose of touching only upon some portions of Natural History. Thus the writer will not hunt for singular quadrupeds, or monstrous birds, unless these are in some way connected with the life and industry of man, or afford remarkable illustrations of important truths. To interest the reader in the life of the most common animals is an important task, since these are the very cases men are most likely to neglect, from the mere fact that we are too ready to imagine we know all about them. An eagle flying over London would have a million of eyes fixed on his course, whilst a rook passes
without examination ; yet the latter is of more importance to us, in many respects, than the eagle. The plan of this volume is therefore designed to comprehend both the common and the rare animals ; those indigenous to Britain, and those brought from the antipodes ; that so each reader may derive the fullest share of both pleasure and instruction.
The Cat Species. Some readers--very few, it is hoped—may here exclaim, " What can the author mean by selecting so common a subject? Surely we all know enough of such animals; though, perhaps, in the days of Whittington something new, if not important, might have been written upon creatures now found in every house.” We beg to inform such an objector, that we do not consider the term at the head of this chapter to refer simply to the mousing animal, the habits of which may have little attraction for the reader. The lions are not very common animals in England ; yet these are properly comprehended under the word "cats,” of which tribe they are but the largest specimens. This chapter will therefore be devoted to the history of the Lion, Tiger, and Domestic Cat. Before proceeding, it is proper to state that all animals of the cat kind are classed under the term Felidæ, a word derived from felis, the Latin for a cat; and all belong to the tribe of Digitigrades, comprehending those animals which walk on the toes instead of placing the whole foot flat on the ground. All the swift-footed beasts of prey are in this tribe, the structure of the foot enabling
them to bound and spring forwards with the utmost effect, as may
Those, however, who are surprised to find the tiger and lion placed in the same division with the domesticated cat, need but reflect for a moment on the form, habits, and dispositions of these animals, to see the propriety of such a classification. The common house-cat is in all these respects but a tiger in miniature, and the lion is but a gigantic cat. Indeed, the most skilful zoologists fully admit that the only differences are those dependent upon size, colour, and locality; and this is the case whether we examine the interior structure, or rest content with a superficial survey.
THE LION (Leo Felis). This is an aristocrat among the animal creation, and man has well named him “king of brutes.” The power and majesty of physical force are truly his; and were men to estimate living creatures by their bones and muscles, the “lords of the world” would themselves make but a sorry appearance in presence of the prince of animals. What a beautiful order do we see in nature, when we find that this giant of the plains is really of the same family as our domesticated cat, the general structure of the one answering to the organisation of the other! Hence the name Felis (cat) is added to that of Leo (lion), to express such a relationship between the two animals.
This noble beast has never penetrated to the New World. The vast pampas and forests of America have therefore no lions properly so termed; for the Puma, which is sometimes called the American lion, bears little resemblance to the king of beasts, and might with much more propriety be styled a panther. Those who wish to compare the puma with the lion may gratify their curiosity by an examination of these animals in the gardens of the Regent's Park, where he will find a puma on the north side of the - wild-beast dens." The difference between this animal
and the lion will then be at once perceived. The Old World is the true home of the lion, and Africa may especially be regarded as his central seat, where, in the burning solitudes of the deserts, the “king” wanders at will. Asia, though possessing many of these animals, does not exhibit them in their grander forms of power, -a result produced by the greater civilisation and popu. jousness of Asia when compared with Africa; for the lion loves not the sound of man, and retires from the sight of his tents and settlements. This will explain the former existence of these creatures in parts of the world where the modern traveller never sees them. That they formerly existed in Europe is clearly proved; and the soil of Greece itself was once the lion's hunting-ground. In Palestine too, it is evident from Scripture notices that such heasts were known; but from this country, and from nearly the whole region west of the river Indus, the Leo Felis has retired, leaving to man and civilisation the wilds once ravaged by him. Even the wastes of Persia and depse jungles of India have little attraction for the lion; for there his repose is broken by the flash of the rifle, which bids fair to drive the whole race into the depths of the African continent. The former abundance of the lion in regions near to Europe is proved by the multitudes once brought to Rome for the public spectacles, in one of which, exhibited by Pompey, six hundred lions were turned into the arena to fight. It would exhaust every menagerie in Europe to collect even a small part of such a host in our times.
Naturalists generally notice four varieties of this animal: the lion of Barbary, of Senegal, of the Cape, and of Persia; and these, it is clear, may be reduced to two-the African and the Asiatic lion. Amongst the latter are three varieties—the Bengal, the Persian, and the lion of Guzerat, the last being remarkable from the absence of a mane, with which our notions of a lion are usually connected.
The free action and natural ferocity of the lion can be seen only in his natural haunts, whether on the wide plains he awaits the approach of a troop of quaggas,' or, crouching amid the bushes on some river's bank, he watches for the deer or the giraffe. His roar in the menagerie is but a child's cry compared with the thunders of his voice when, uttered amid the bushes on some river's bank, he watches for the evening prey. Who can judge of his terrific spring on the buffalo from seeing him pounce on the piece of flesh thrown into his den by a keeper? The visitor who stops before the bars of the cage in the Zoological Garden when the lion and lioness tear their food through the bars at four o'clock each afternoon, has little conception of the feelings which the sudden appearance of the sanie animals from behind a bush in a wilderness would produce in the heart of the
"A species of wild ass found in Africa.