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The Wild Cat Of Britain








The wild cat is said to be now extinct in England, and only found in
some of the northern parts of Scotland, or the rocky parts of the
mountains of the south, where I am informed it may yet occasionally be
seen. The drawing I give above was made from one sent to the first
Crystal Palace Cat Show in 1871, by the Duke of Sutherland, from
Sutherlandshire. It was caught in a trap by the fore-leg, which was much
injured, but not so as to prevent its moving with great alacrity, even
with agility, endeavouring frequently to use the claws of both fore-feet
with a desperate determination and amazing vigour. It was a very
powerful animal, possessing great strength, taking size into
consideration, and of extraordinary fierceness.

Mr. Wilson, the manager of the show, though an excellent naturalist,
tried to get it out of the thick-barred, heavy-made travelling box in
which it arrived, into one of the ordinary wire show-cages, thinking it
would appear to better advantage; but in this endeavour he was
unsuccessful, the animal resisting all attempts to expel it from the one
into the other, making such frantic and determined opposition that the
idea was abandoned. This was most fortunate, for the wire cages then in
use were afterwards found unequal to confining even the ordinary
domestic cat, which, in more than one instance, forced the bars apart
sufficiently to allow of escape. As it was, the wild cat maintained its
position, sullenly retiring to one corner of the box, where it scowled,
growled, and fought in a most fearful and courageous manner during the
time of its exhibition, never once relaxing its savage watchfulness or
attempts to injure even those who fed it. I never saw anything more
unremittingly ferocious, nor apparently more untamable.

It was a grand animal, however, and most interesting to the naturalist,
being, even then, scarcely ever seen; if so, only in districts far away
and remote from the dwellings of civilisation. Yet I believe I saw one
among the rocks of Bodsbeck, in Dumfriesshire, many years ago, though of
this I am not certain, as it was too far away for accurate observation
before it turned and stood at bay, and on my advancing it disappeared.
The animal shown at the Crystal Palace was very much lighter in colour,
and with less markings than those in the British Museum, the tail
shorter, and the dark rings fewer, the lines on the body not much deeper
in tint than the ground colour, excepting on the forehead and the inside
of the fore-legs, which were darker, rather a light red round the mouth,
and almost white on the chest--which appears to be usual with the wild
cat; the eyes were yellow-tinted green, the tips of the ears, the lips,
cushions of the feet, and a portion of the back part of the hind-legs,
black; the markings were, in short, irregular thin lines, and in no way
resembled those of the ordinary black-marked domestic tabby cat,
possessing little elegance of line--in character it was bolder, having
a rugged sturdiness, being stronger and broader built, the fore-arms
thick, massive, and endowed with great power, with long, curved claws,
the feet were stout, sinewy, and strong; altogether it was a very
peculiar, interesting, and extraordinary animal. What became of it I
never learned.

In 1871 and 1872, a wild cat was exhibited at the Crystal Palace Cat
Show, by the Earl of Hopetoun, aged three years, also some hybrid
kittens, the father of which was a long-haired cat, the mother a sandy,
by a wild cat out of a long-haired tabby, which proves, if proof were
wanting, that such hybrids breed freely either with hybrids, the
domestic, or the wild cat.

Mr. Frank Buckland also exhibited a hybrid between the wild and tame
cat.

The Zoological Society, a pair of wild cats which did not appear to be
British.

In 1873, Mr. A. H. Senger sent a fine specimen of hybrid, between the
domestic cat and Scotch wild cat.

An early description of the wild cat in England is to be found in an old
book on Natural History, and copied into a work on "Menageries,"
"Bartholomoeus de Proprietatibus Rerum," which was translated into
English by Thomas Berthlet, and printed by Wynkyn de Worde as early as
1498. There is a very interesting description of the cat, which gives
nearly all the properties of the wild animal in an odd and very amusing
way. It states: "He is most like to the leopard, and hath a great
mouthe, and saw teeth and sharp, and long tongue, and pliant, thin, and
subtle; and lappeth therewith when he drinketh, as other beasts do, that
have the nether lip shorter than the over; for, by cause of unevenness
of lips, such beasts suck not in drinking, but lap and lick, as
Aristotle saith and Plinius also. And he is a full lecherous beast in
youth, swift, pliant, and merry, and leapeth, and riseth on all things
that is tofore him; and is led by a straw, and playeth therewith, and is
a right heavy beast in age, and full sleepy, and lieth slyly in wait for
mice; and is ware where they bene more by smell than by sight, and
hunteth and riseth on them in privy places; and when he taketh a mouse,
he playeth therewith, and eateth him after the play; and is a cruel
beast when he is wild, and dwelleth in woods, and hunteth there small
wild beasts as conies and hares."

The next appears in John Bossewell's "Workes of Armorie," folio, A.D.
1597:

"This beaste is called a Musion, for that he is enimie to Myse
and Rattes. He is slye and wittie, and seeth so sharpely that he
overcommeth darknes of the nighte by the shyninge lyghte of his
eyne. In shape of body he is like unto a Leoparde, and hathe a
great mouth. He dothe delight that he enioyeth his libertye; and
in his youthe he is swifte, plyante, and merye. He maketh a
rufull noyse and a gastefull when he profereth to fighte with an
other. He is a cruell beaste when he is wilde, and falleth on his
owne feete from most high places: and vneth is hurt therewith.

"When he hath a fayre skinne, he is, as it were, prowde thereof,
and then he goeth faste aboute to be seene...."

Those who have seen the wild cat of Britain, especially in
confinement, will doubtless be ready to endorse this description
as being "true to the life," even to the "rufull noyse," or his
industry in the way of fighting. Yet even this old chronicler
mentions the fact of his being "wilde," clearly indicating a
similar animal in a state of domestication. Later on we find
Maister Salmon giving an account of the cat in his
strangely-curious book, "Salmon's Compleat English Physician; or,
the Druggist's Shop Opened," A.D. 1693, in which he relates that
marvellous properties exist in the brain, bones, etc., of the
cat, giving recipes mostly cruel and incredible. He describes
"Catus the Cat" in such terms as these:

"The Cat of Mountain, all which are of one nature, and agree
much in one shape, save as to their magnitude, the wild Cat
being larger than the Tame and the Cat of Mountain much
larger than the wild Cat. It has a broad Face, almost like a
Lyon, short Ears, large Whiskers, shining Eyes, short, smooth
Hair, long Tail, rough Tongue, and armed on its Feet, with
Claws, being a crafty, subtle, watchful Creature, very loving and
familiar with Man-kind, the mortal enemy to the Rat, Mouse, and
all sorts of Birds, which it seizes on as its prey. As to its
Eyes, Authors say that they shine in the Night, and see better at
the full, and more dimly at the change of the moon; as also that
the Cat doth vary his Eyes with the Sun, the Apple of its Eye
being long at Sun rise, round towards Noon, and not to be seen at
all at night, but the whole Eye shining in the night. These
appearances of the Cats' Eyes I am sure are true, but whether
they answer to the times of the day, I never observed." "Its
flesh is not usually eaten, yet in some countries it is accounted
an excellent dish."

Mr. Blaine, in his excellent and useful work, the "Encyclopaedia of Rural
Sports"--a book no sportsman should be without--thus discusses the
origin of the domestic cat compared with the British wild cat:

"We have yet, however, to satisfy ourselves with regard to the
origin of the true wild cat (Felis catus, Linn.), which,
following the analogies of the Felinae generally, are almost
exclusively native to countries warmer than our own. It is true
that occasionally varieties of the Felinae do breed in our
caravans and menageries, where artificial warmth is kept up to
represent something like a tropical temperature; but the
circumstance is too rare to ground any opinion on of their ever
having been indigenous here--at least, since our part of the
globe has cooled down to its present temperature. It is,
therefore, more than probable that both the wild and the tame cat
have been derived from some other extra-European source or
sources. We say source or sources, for such admission begets
another difficulty not easily got over, which is this, that if
both of these grimalkins own one common root, in which variety
was it that the very marked differences between them have taken
place? Most sportsmen, we believe, suspect that they own one
common origin, and some naturalists also do the same, contending
that the differences observable between them are attributable
solely to the long-continued action of external agencies, which
had modified the various organs to meet the varied necessities of
the animals. The wild cat, according to this theory, having to
contend with powerful enemies, expanded in general dimensions;
its limbs, particularly, became massive; and its long and strong
claws, with the powerful muscular mechanism which operated on
them, fitted it for a life of predacity. Thus its increased size
enabled it to stand some time before any other dogs than
high-bred foxhounds, and even before them also, in any place but
the direct open ground. There exist, however, in direct
contradiction to this opinion, certain specialities proper to the
wild, and certain other to the domestic cat, besides the simple
expansion of bulk, which sufficiently disprove their identity. It
will be seen that a remarkable difference exists between the
tails of the two animals; that of the domestic being, as is well
known, long, and tapering elegantly to a point, whereas that of
the wild cat is seen to be broad, and to terminate abruptly in a
blunt or rounded extremity. Linnaeus and Buffon having both of
them confounded these two species into one, have contributed much
to propagate this error, which affords us another opportunity of
adding to the many we have taken of remarking on the vast
importance of comparative anatomy, which enables us to draw just
distinctions between animals that might otherwise erroneously be
adjudged to be dependent on external agencies, etc. Nor need we
rest here, for what doubt can be entertained on the subject when
we point at the remarkable difference between the intestines of
the two? Those of the domestic are nine times the length of its
body, whereas, in the wild cat, they are little more than
three times as long as the body."

The food of the wild cat is said to consist of animals, and in the
opinion of some, fish should be added. Why not also birds' eggs? Cats
are particularly fond of the latter. In the event of their finding and
destroying a nest, they invariably eat the eggs, and generally the
shells.

Much has been written as to the aptitude of the domestic cat at catching
fish. If this be so, are fish necessarily a part of the food of the
native wild cat? Numerous instances are adduced of our "household cat"
plunging into water in pursuit of and capture of fish. Although I have
spent much time in watching cats that were roaming beside streams and
about ponds, there has never been even an attempt at "fishing." Frogs
they will take and kill, often greedily devouring the small ones. Yet
doubtless they will hunt, catch, and eat fish, for the fact has become
proverbial.



A writer in "Menageries" states: "There is no doubt that wild cats will
seize on fish, and the passionate longing of the domestic cat after this
food is an evidence of the natural desire. We have seen a cat overcome
her natural reluctance to wet her feet, and take an eel out of a pail of
water." Dr. Darwin alludes to this propensity: "Mr. Leonard, a very
intelligent friend of mine, saw a cat catch a trout by darting on it in
deep, clear water, at the Mill, Wexford, near Lichfield. The cat
belonged to Mr. Stanley, who had often seen it catch fish."

Cases have also been known of cats catching fish in shallow water,
springing on them from the banks of streams and ponds; but I take this
as not the habit of the domestic cat, though it is not unusual.

Gray, in a poem, tells of a cat's death through drowning, while
attempting to take gold-fish from a vase filled with water.

Of Dr. Samuel Johnson it is related, that his cat having fallen sick and
refused all food, he became aware that cats are fond of fish. With this
knowledge before him he went to the fishmonger's and bought an oyster
for the sick creature, wrapped it in paper and brought the appetising
morsel home. The cat relished the dainty food, and the Doctor was seen
going on the same kindly errand every day until his suffering feline
friend was restored to health.

Still this is no proof that the wild cat, in a pure state of nature,
feeds on fish. Again, it is nothing unusual for domestic cats to catch
and eat cockroaches, crickets, cockchafers, also large and small moths,
but not so all. In domesticity some are almost omnivorous. But is the
wild cat? Taking its anatomical structure into consideration, there is
doubtless a wide distinction, both as regards food and habit.

In Daniel's "Rural Sports," A.D. 1813, the wild cat is stated to be "now
scarce in England, inhabiting the mountainous and woody parts. Mr.
Pennant describes it as four times the size of the house cat, but the
head larger, that it multiplies as fast, and may be called the British
tiger, being the fiercest and most destructive beast we have. When
only wounded with shot they will attack the person who injured them, and
often have strength enough to be no despicable enemy."

Through the kind courtesy of that painstaking, excellent, observant, and
eminent naturalist, Mr. J. E. Harting, I am enabled to reprint a portion
of his lecture on the origin of the domestic cat, and which afterwards
appeared in The Field. Although many of the statements are known to
naturalists, still I prefer giving them in the order in which they are
so skilfully arranged, presenting, as they do, a very garland of facts
connected with the British wild cat (Felis catus) up to the present,
and which I deem valuable from many points of view, but the more
particularly as a record of an animal once abundant in England, where it
has now apparently almost, if not quite, ceased to exist.


"In England in former days, the wild cat was included amongst the beasts
of chase, and is often mentioned in royal grants giving liberty to
inclose forest land and licence to hunt there (extracts from several
such grants will be found in the Zoologist for 1878, p. 251, and 1880,
p. 251). Nor was it for diversion alone that the wild cat was hunted.
Its fur was much used as trimming for dresses, and in this way was worn
even by nuns at one time. Thus, in Archbishop Corboyle's 'Canons,' anno
1127, it is ordained 'that no abbess or nun use more costly apparel than
such as is made of lambs' or cats' skins,' and as no other part of the
animal but the skin was of any use here, it grew into a proverb that
'You can have nothing of a cat but her skin.'

"The wild cat is believed to be now extinct, not only in England and
Wales, but in a great part of the south of Scotland. About five years
ago a Scottish naturalist resident in Stirlingshire (Mr. J. A. Harvie
Brown) took a great deal of trouble, by means of printed circulars
addressed to the principal landowners throughout Scotland and the Isles,
to ascertain the existing haunts of the wild cat in that part of the
United Kingdom. The result of his inquiries, embodying some very
interesting information, was published in the Zoologist for January,
1881. The replies which he received indicated pretty clearly, although
perhaps unexpectedly, that there are now no wild cats in Scotland south
of a line drawn from Oban on the west coast up the Brander Pass to
Dalmally, and thence following the borders of Perthshire to the junction
of the three counties of Perth, Forfar and Aberdeen, northward to
Tomintoul, and so to the city of Inverness. We are assured that it is
only to the northward and westward of this line that the animal still
keeps a footing in suitable localities, finding its principal shelter
in the great deer forests. Thus we see that the wild cat is being
gradually driven northward before advancing civilisation and the
increased supervision of moors and forests. Just as the reindeer in the
twelfth century was driven northward from England and found its last
home in Caithness, and as the wolf followed it a few centuries later, so
we may expect one day that the wild cat will come to be numbered amongst
the 'extinct British animals.'

"A recent writer in the new edition of the 'Encyclopaedia Britannica'
(art. Cat) expresses the opinion that the wild cat still exists in
Wales and in the north of England, but gives no proof of its recent
occurrence there. From time to time we see reports in the newspapers to
the effect that a wild cat has been shot or trapped in some
out-of-the-way part of the country; but it usually turns out to be a
large example of the domestic cat, coloured like the wild form. It is
remarkable that when cats in England are allowed to return to a feral
state, their offspring, in the course of generations, show a tendency to
revert to the wild type of the country; partly, no doubt, in consequence
of former interbreeding with the wild species when the latter was common
throughout all the wooded portions of the country, and partly because
the light-coloured varieties of escaped cats, being more readily seen
and destroyed, are gradually eliminated, while the darker wild type is
perpetuated. The great increase in size observable in the offspring of
escaped domestic cats is no doubt due to continuous living on
freshly-killed, warm-blooded animals, and to the greater use of the
muscles which their new mode of life requires. In this way I think we
may account for the size and appearance of the so-called 'wild cats'
which are from time to time reported south of the Tweed.

"Perhaps the last genuine wild cat seen in England was the one shot by
Lord Ravensworth at Eslington, Northumberland, in 1853;[A] although so
recently as March, 1883, a cat was shot in Bullington Wood,
Lincolnshire, which in point of size, colour, and markings was said to
be quite indistinguishable from the wild Felis catus. Bullington Wood
is one of an almost continuous chain of great woodlands, extending from
Mid-Lincolnshire to near Peterborough. Much of the district has never
been preserved for game, and keepers are few and far between; hence the
wild animals have enjoyed an almost complete immunity from persecution.
Cats are known to have bred in these woods in a wild state for
generations, and there is no improbability that the cat in question may
have descended directly from the old British wild cat. Under all the
circumstances, however, it seems more likely to be a case of reversion
under favourable conditions from the domestic to the wild type.

[A] "Trans. Tyneside Nat. Field Club," 1864, vol. vi. p. 123.

"In Ireland, strange to say, notwithstanding reports to the contrary,
all endeavours to find a genuine wild cat have failed, the so-called
'wild cat' of the natives proving to be the 'marten cat,' a very
different animal.

"We thus come back to the question with which we started, namely, the
question of origin of the domestic cat; and the conclusion, I think, at
which we must arrive is, that although Felis catus has contributed to
the formation of the existing race of domestic cats, it is not the sole
ancestor. Several wild species of Egyptian and Indian origin having been
ages ago reclaimed, the interbreeding of their offspring and crossing
with other wild species in the countries to which they have been at
various times exported, has resulted in the gradual production of the
many varieties, so different in shape and colour, with which we are now
familiar."

Before quitting the subject, I would point to the fact that when the
domestic cat takes to the woods and becomes wild, it becomes much
larger, stronger, and changes in colour; and there can be little doubt
that during the centuries of the existence of the cat in England there
must have been numberless crosses and intercrosses, both with regard to
the males of the domestic cat as with wild females, and vice
versa; yet the curious fact remains that the wild cat still retains its
peculiar colouring and form, as is shown by the skins preserved in the
British Museum and elsewhere.

Mr. Darwin, in his "Voyage of the Beagle," 1845 (p. 120), in his notes
of the first colonists of La Plata, A.D. 1535, says, among other animals
that he saw was "the common cat altered into a large and fierce
animal, inhabiting the rocky hills," etc.

Another point on which I wish to give my impressions is the act of the
cat in what is termed "sharpening its claws." Mr. Darwin notes certain
trees where the jaguars "sharpen their claws," and mentions the scars
were of different ages; he also thought they did this "to tear off the
horny points." This, I believe, is the received opinion among
naturalists; but I differ entirely from this view of the practice. It
is a fact, however, and worthy of notice, that all cats do so, even the
domestic cat. I had one of the legs of a kitchen table entirely torn
to pieces by my cats; and after much observation I came to the
conclusion that it has nothing whatever to do with sharpening the
claws, but is done to stretch the muscles and tendons of the feet so
that they work readily and strongly, as the retraction of the claws for
lengthened periods must tend to contract the tendons used for the
purpose of extending or retracting; therefore the cats fix the points of
their claws in something soft, and bear downwards with the whole weight
of the body, simply to stretch and, by use, to strengthen the ligatures
that pull the claws forward. It is also to be noted that even the
domestic cat goes to one particular place or tree to insert the claws
and drag forward the muscles--perhaps even in the leather of an
arm-chair, a costly practice. Why one object is always selected is that
they may not betray their presence by numerous marks in the
neighbourhood, if wild, to other animals or their enemies. I have
mentioned this to my brother, John Jenner Weir, F.L.S., and he concurs
with me throughout.

I find in Strutt's "Sports and Pastimes" that of the names applied to
companies of animals in the Middle Ages, several are still in use,
though many have become obsolete; and also a few of the beasts have
ceased to exist in a wild state. Some were very curious, such as a
skulk of foxes, a cete of badgers, a huske or down of hares, a
nest of rabbits, and a clowder of cats, and a kindle of young
cats. Now cats are said to kitten, and rabbits kindle.

The following shows the value of the cat nearly a thousand years ago; it
is to be found in Bewick's "Quadrupeds": "In the time of Hoel the Good,
King of Wales, who died in the year 948, laws were made as well to
preserve as to fix the different prices of animals; among which the cat
is included, as being at that period of great importance, on account of
its scarcity and utility.

"The price of a kitten, before it could see, was fixed at one penny;
till proof could be given of its having caught a mouse, twopence; after
which it was rated at fourpence, which was a great sum in those days,
when the value of specie was extremely high. It was likewise required
that it should be perfect in its sense of hearing and seeing, should be
a good mouser, have its claws whole, and, if a female, be a careful
nurse. If it failed in any of these good qualities, the seller was to
forfeit to the buyer a third part of its value. If any one should steal
or kill a cat that guarded the Prince's granary, he was either to
forfeit a milch ewe, her fleece and lamb, or as much wheat as when
poured on the cat suspended by its feet (its head touching the floor),
would form a heap high enough to cover the tip of the former." Bewick
remarks: "Hence we may conclude that cats were not originally natives of
these islands, and from the great care taken to improve the breed of
this prolific creature, we may suppose were but little known at that
period."

I scarcely think this the right conclusion, the English wild cat being
anatomically different. In Hone's popular works it is stated that "Cats
are supposed to have been brought into England from the island of Cyprus
by some foreign merchants, who came hither for tin." Mr. Hone further
says: "Wild cats were kept by our ancient kings for hunting. The
officers who had charge of these cats seem to have had appointments of
equal consequence with the masters of the king's hounds; they were
called Catatores."

Beaumont and Fletcher in The Scornful Lady allude to the hunting of
cats in the line,

"Bring out the cat-hounds, I'll make you take a tree."

But although large and ferocious, the wild cat was not considered a
match for some of the lesser animals, for in Salmon's "English
Physician," 1693, we read that "The weasel is an enemy to ravens, crows,
and cats, and although cats may sometimes set upon them, yet they can
scarcely overcome them."

Nevertheless, we find in Daniel's "Rural Sports," 1813, that "Wild
cats formerly were an object of sport to huntsmen. Thus, Gerard
Camvile, 6 John, had special licence to hunt the hare, fox, and wild
cat, throughout all the King's forests; and 23 Henry III., Earl
Warren, by giving Simon de Pierpont a goshawk, obtained leave to hunt
the buck, doe, hart, hind, hare, fox, goat, cat, or any other wild
beast, in certain lands of Simon's. But it was not for diversion alone
that this animal was pursued; for the skin was much used by the nuns
in their habits, as a fur."

Still it appears from Mr. Charles Darwin's "Voyage of the Beagle," that
tastes vary. "Doctor Shaw was laughed at for stating the flesh of the
lion is in great esteem, having no small affinity with veal, both in the
colour, taste, and flavour. Such certainly is the case with the puma.
The Guachos differ in their opinion whether the jaguar is good eating;
but were unanimous in saying the cat is excellent."

It is also stated that the Chinese fatten and eat cats with considerable
relish; but of this I can obtain no reliable information, some of my
friends from China not having heard of the custom, if such it is.

Again referring to the skin of the cat, vide Strutt: "In the
thirty-seventh year of the reign of Edward III., it was decreed, after
enumerating the various kinds of cloth that were to be worn by the
nobles, knights, dames, and others, that (Article 2) tradesmen,
artificers, and men in office, called yeomen, their wives and children,
shall wear no kind of furs excepting those of lambs, of rabbits, of
cats, and of foxes." Further: "No man, unless he be possessed of the
yearly value of forty shillings, shall wear any furs but black and white
lambs' skins." Lambs' and cats' skins were equivalent in value and
order.

In the twenty-second year of this monarch's reign, all the former
statutes "against excess in apparel" were repealed.

My old friend Fairholt, in his useful work on costume, says of the
Middle Ages: "The peasants wore cat skins, badger skins, etc."

One of the reasons why the skin of cats was used on cloaks and other
garments for trimming, being that it showed humility in dress, and not
by way of affectation or vanity, but for warmth and comfort, it being of
the lowest value of any, with the exception of lambs' skin and badgers';
and adopted by some priests as well as nuns, when wishing to impress
others with their deep sense of humility in all things, even to their
wearing-apparel. The proof of which Strutt's "Habits of the
Anglo-Normans," circa twelfth century, fully illustrates:

"William of Malmesbury, speaking of Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester,
assures us that he avoided all appearance of pride and ostentation in
his dress, and though he was very wealthy, he never used any furs finer
than lambs' skin for the lining of his garments. Being blamed for such
needless humility by Geoffrey, Bishop of Constans, who told him that 'He
not only could afford, but even ought to wear those of sables, of
beavers, or of foxes,' he replied: 'It may indeed be proper for you
politicians, skilful in the affairs of the world, to adorn yourselves in
the skins of such cunning animals; but for me, who am a plain man, and
not subject to change my opinion, the skins of lambs are quite
sufficient.' 'If,' returned his opponent, 'the finer furs are
unpleasant, you might at least make use of those of the cat.' 'Believe
me,' answered the facetious prelate, 'the lamb of God is much oftener
sung in the Church than the cat of God.' This witty retort put Geoffrey
to the blush, and threw the whole company into a violent fit of
laughter."

Of a very different character was the usage of the cat at clerical
festivals. In Mill's "History of the Crusades," one reads with some
degree of horror that "In the Middle Ages the cat was a very important
personage in religious festivals. At Aix, in Provence, on the festival
of the Corpus Christi, the finest he-cat of the country, wrapped like a
child in swaddling clothes, was exhibited in a magnificent shrine to
public admiration. Every knee was bent, every hand strewed flowers or
poured incense; and pussy was treated in all respects as the god of the
day. On the festival, however, of St. John (June 24), the poor cat's
fate was reversed. A number of cats were put in a wicker basket, and
thrown alive into the midst of a large fire, kindled in the public
square by the bishop and his clergy. Hymns and anthems were sung, and
processions were made by the priests and people in honour of the
sacrifice."

While the foregoing was about being printed, Mr. Edward Hamilton, M.D.,
writing to The Field, May 11th, 1889, gives information of a wild cat
being shot in Inverness-shire. I therefore insert the paragraph, as
every record of so scarce an animal is of importance and value,
especially when it is descriptive. He states: "A fine specimen of the
wild cat (Felis sylvestris) was sent to me on May 3rd, trapped in
Inverness-shire on the Ben Nevis range. It was too much decomposed to
exhibit. Its dimensions were: from nose to base of tail, 1 foot 11
inches; length of tail, 1 foot; height at shoulder, 1 foot 2 inches; the
length of small intestine, 1 foot 8-1/2 inches; and the large intestine, 1
foot 1 inch." It will be seen by these measurements that the animal was
not so large as some that have been taken, though excelling in size many
of the domestic varieties.





Next: Concerning Cats

Previous: Poison



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