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In this latter point alone, so far at least as we can at present judge, does the animal from which our figure was taken offer any remarkable discrepancy from the foregoing account. He could never be prevailed on to touch flesh either raw or cooked; and bread and fruits were the substances on which he was constantly fed. In his disposition he was moderately tame, and particularly fond of play, after his own rough and ludicrous fashion.

Such is a brief outline of the history up to the present period of the establishment known as the Tower Menagerie.[xvi] Of the animals contained in it during the summer of 1828, and of two others which had then recently died, the succeeding pages offer delineations, descriptions, and anecdotes. Among so numerous a collection of inhabitants, of such dissimilar habits, and brought together into one spot from such distant and various climes, some changes have almost necessarily taken place even while our work has been passing through the press; yet so excellent is the management of Mr. Cops, especially as regards cleanliness, that essential security of animal health, that not a single death has occurred from disease, and one only from an accidental cause: the secretary bird, having incautiously introduced its long neck into the den of the hy?na, was deprived of it and of its head at one bite. Other removals are owing to the spirit of commerce. The Cape lion, the chetahs, the Thibet bear, and the deep-blue macaw, have passed into foreign hands, and are now on the continent of Europe. Two of the wolves and one of the Javanese civets have been transferred to the Zoological Society; and the white antelope has also exchanged its habitation in the Tower for the delightful Garden created by that Society in the Regents Park.

The Racoons are natives of America, and the species which has been most frequently observed by naturalists,[113] and which we are now to describe, is most frequent in the northern division of that continent. Indeed it may admit of doubt whether it ever advances further south than the Isthmus of Darien, the animal described by M. DAzara as identical with it being evidently a distinct species. Its fur is usually of a deep grayish black, resulting from the intermixture of those two colours in successive rings on each individual hair. The shades of colour vary on different parts of the body, and are as usual much lighter below and on the inside of the legs. The face, which is nearly white, is surrounded by a black band of unequal breadth, passing across the forehead, encircling the eyes, and descending obliquely on each side towards the angle of the jaw. The whiskers are of moderate length; and the hair of the face generally, as well as of the legs, is short and smooth. The tail, which is thick at the base, tapering gradually to the tip, and covered with long hairs, has five or six brownish rings, alternating with an equal number of the lighter colour which is prevalent on the lower parts of the body.

Happily for England this formidable beast has long been extirpated from its woods; but the comparative extent of his domain has been thereby but little reduced. It may be roughly stated as comprehending the whole[92] northern hemisphere, of which only very small portions are exempted from his ravages. He is easily tamed when young, and may even (according to M. F. Cuvier, who has published a history of a domesticated individual bordering in many particulars very closely on the marvellous, but of the truth of which the well known character of that scientific naturalist is a sufficient guarantee) be rendered susceptible of the highest degree of attachment to his master, whom he will remember after prolonged and repeated absence, and caress with all the familiar fondness of a dog. Such traits as this are, however, to say the least, very uncommon; and he is, even in captivity, generally speaking, ill tempered and morose. The old male, the father of the litter now in the Tower, was extremely savage; the female, on the contrary, is very tame, and, which is more remarkable, continued so even during the period of suckling her young, which were five in number. Neither before, at, nor after this period did her temper undergo any change: she suffered her keepers to handle her cubs, of which she was excessively fond, and even to remove them from the den, without evincing the smallest symptom either of anger or alarm.

This tremendous animal appears to be most commonly found in the neighbourhood of the Rocky Mountains, especially on the well wooded plains which skirt the eastern declivity of that lofty and extensive range, among thick copses of brush and underwood, and on the banks of the water-courses which descend in innumerable petty streams from their sources in the hills. In these wild solitudes, rarely trodden by the foot of civilized man, and visited only by the savage Indians of the neighbouring tribes, who have not yet learned to bow the neck beneath the yoke of the exterminating conqueror, he reigns the almost undisputed tyrant of the forest. Few among the animals which share with him his barbarous habitation are fleet enough to escape him in the chase; and none, when fairly placed within his reach, are powerful enough to withstand his overwhelming force. Even the sturdy and formidable Bison, the wild bull of North America, is incapable of offering any effectual resistance to the furious impetuosity of his attack; and[125] an illustration of the extent of his muscular power is afforded by the fact that after having destroyed his victim, he will drag its ponderous carcase to some convenient spot, where he will dig a pit for its reception, and deposit it for a season, returning to his feast from time to time as the calls of hunger may dictate, until his store is exhausted and he is again reduced to the necessity of looking abroad for a fresh supply.

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From the unsuspecting credulity with which this textbook of the naturalists of the middle ages continued to be received, it is evident that the science remained stationary, if it did not actually retrograde, during the lapse of fourteen or fifteen centuries. The want of[xiii] opportunities of investigation may be regarded as the principal cause of this lamentable deficiency. Some of the rarer animals, it is true, were occasionally to be seen in Europe; but Menageries constructed upon a broad and comprehensive plan were as yet unknown. The first establishment of modern days, in which such a plan can fairly be said to have been realised, was the Menagerie founded at Versailles by Louis the Fourteenth. It is to this institution that we owe the Natural History of Buffon and his coadjutor Daubenton; the one as eloquent as Pliny, with little of his credulity, but with a greater share of imagination; and the other a worthy follower of Aristotle in his habits of minute research and patient investigation, but making no pretensions to the powerful and comprehensive mind and the admirable facility of generalising his ideas which so preeminently distinguished that great philosopher.