THE GREAT SEA-EAGLE.
In the number and form of his teeth, in the asperity of his tongue, in the conformation of his organs of sense, and in the number of his claws, he accurately corresponds with the legitimate species of the genus Felis. The principal character in which he differs from them consists in the slight degree of retractility of these latter organs. Instead of being withdrawn within sheaths appropriated for the purpose, as in the whole of the cats properly so called, the claws of the Hunting Leopard are capable of only a very limited retraction within the skin, and are consequently exposed to the action of the ground on which they tread, their points and edges being thus rendered liable to be blunted by the constant pressure to which they are subjected, almost to the same extent as in the dogs. The slightest consideration of the uses to which the claws are applied by the whole of the feline tribe, in whom they are, in fact, in consequence of their extreme power and sharpness, organs of offence if possible more deadly and more destructive than the teeth, will teach us that the modification which has just been described in so important a part of their organization, must of necessity be accompanied by a corresponding change in manners and habits; and that convenience alone, and the want of analogous structure in any other animal, could justify us in continuing to class the Chetah among the cats, from whom he differs in so essential a particular.
In the theology too of these dark ages many animals occupied a distinguished place, and were not only venerated in their own proper persons, on account of their size, their power, their uncouth figure, their resemblance[x] to man, or their supposed qualities and influence, but were also looked upon as sacred to one or other of the interminable catalogue of divinities, to whose service they were devoted, and on whose altars they were sacrificed. For these also Menageries must have been constructed, in which not only their physical peculiarities but even their moral qualities must have been to a certain extent studied; although the passions and prejudices of the multitude would naturally corrupt the sources of information thus opened to them, by the intermixture of exaggerated perversions of ill observed facts and by the addition of altogether imaginary fables.
Larger in size and more robust in stature than the Coatis, and approximating still more closely in their physical characters to the Bears, which may be considered as the typical group of the plantigrade Carnivora, the Racoons naturally occupy an intermediate station between the playful, timid, and harmless little creatures just noticed, and the powerful, clumsy, and dangerous animals next to be described. Like both Bears and Coatis they have in each jaw six sharp incisors, two strong canines, and twelve cheek teeth, six on each side. But these latter differ from those of the Bears, inasmuch as the whole six form a regular series, the three anterior ones of which are small and pointed, and the three posterior broad and surmounted by prominent and blunted tubercles; while in the Bears the three anterior appear rather to form a supplemental appendage, being placed irregularly and at unequal distances, and not unfrequently falling out altogether as the animal advances in age: the tubercles on the crowns of the posterior ones are also much less strongly marked. The Coatis exhibit nearly the same mode of dentition as the Racoons; but striking marks of distinction between them are afforded by the comparative length of the tail, which in the latter is scarcely half as long as the body; and by that of the snout, which, instead of being prolonged into an extensible muzzle, capable of being moved about in all directions, as in the Coatis, is scarcely produced beyond the lower lip, and has very little motion. The strongly marked difference in physiognomy arising from this circumstance is increased by the width of the head posteriorly, which is so great as to give to the general outline of the face of the Racoons the form of a nearly equilateral triangle. Their ears are of moderate length, upright and rounded at the tip; their legs strikingly contrast in their slender and graceful form with the strong and muscular limbs of the Bears; and their nails, five in number on each of the feet, are long, pointed, and of considerable strength. The whole body is clothed with long, thick, and soft hair; and its general shape, notwithstanding its intimate connexion with the Bears, and its short and thickset proportions, is not without a certain degree of elegance and lightness.下载
In captivity, however, especially if taken while yet young, his character frequently undergoes a change as favourable as that which takes place under the same circumstances in the generality of his tribe. The pair at present in the Tower are male and female; they are both Asiatic, and are confined in the same den, but they differ very materially in temper and disposition. The female, which is the older of the two, and has been a resident in the Menagerie for upwards of four years, is exceedingly tame, suffering herself to be patted and caressed by the keeper, and licking his hands. Strangers, however, especially ladies, should be cautious of approaching her too familiarly, as she has always evinced a particular predilection for the destruction of umbrellas, parasols, muffs, hats, and such other articles of dress as may happen to come within her reach, seizing them with the greatest quickness and tearing them into pieces almost before the astonished visiter has become aware of the loss. To so great an extent has she carried this peculiar taste that Mr. Cops declares that he has no doubt that during her residence in the Tower she has made prey of at least as many of these articles as there are days in the year. The agility with which she bounds round her cell, which is of considerable size, touching at one leap, and almost with the velocity of thought, each of its four walls, and skimming along the ceiling with the same rapidity of action, which is scarcely to be followed by the eye, is truly wonderful, and speaks more forcibly of the muscular power and flexibility of limb by which such extraordinary motions are executed than language can express.