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Crotalus Horridus. Linn.
The Deer constitute a numerous and beautiful group of Ruminants, which are readily distinguished by the graceful symmetry of their form, by their long and slender, but firm and sinewy, legs, by their broad and pointed ears, and by the comparative shortness of their tails; but more especially by the generally large and branching horns which ornament the heads of the males. Like all the ruminating animals, with the exception of those mentioned in the preceding article, they are furnished with eight cutting-teeth in the lower jaw, opposed to a callous and toothless surface in the upper; and with expanded, flat, and deeply bifurcated hoofs, constituting two distinct and apparent toes, above which they have also the rudiments of two others. Some of the species have canine teeth in the upper jaw, generally in the males alone; and they have all six molars on each side. In the greater number of them the nostrils are surrounded by a naked muzzle; and most of them are also provided with a sinus or sac, of greater or less extent, immediately beneath the inner angle of the eye, called the sub-orbital sinus, the larmier of the French zoologists.
The Puma figured above is a female, about three years old, exceedingly sleek in her fur and lively in her colours, and equally mild and good-tempered with any of her race.
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.
But even in the East, where the qualities of the Chetah appear to be best appreciated, and his faculties to be turned to most account, it would seem that he is not employed in hunting by all classes of the people indiscriminately; but, on the contrary, that he is reserved for the especial amusement and gratification of the nobles and princes of the land, rather than used for purposes of real and general advantage. In this respect, and indeed in many others, as will be seen by the following brief account of the mode in which the chase with the Hunting Leopard is conducted, it bears a close resemblance to the ancient sport of hawking, so prevalent throughout Europe in the days of feudal tyranny, but scarcely practised at the present day except by the more splendid slaves of Asiatic despotism. The animal or animals, for occasionally several of them are employed at the same time, are carried to the field in low chariots, on which they are kept chained and hooded, in order to deprive them of the power and temptation to anticipate the word of command by leaping forth before the appointed time. When they are thus brought within view of a herd of antelopes, which generally consists of five or six females and a male, they are unchained and their hoods are removed, their keepers directing their attention to the prey, which, as they do not hunt by smell, it is necessary that they should have constantly in sight. When this is done, the wily animal does not at once start forwards towards the object of his pursuit, but, seemingly aware that he would have no chance of overtaking an antelope in the fleetness of the race, in which the latter is beyond measure his superior, winds cautiously along the ground, concealing himself as much as possible from sight, and, when he has in this covert manner nearly reached the unsuspecting herd, breaks forth upon them unawares, and after five or six tremendous bounds, which he executes with almost incredible velocity, darts at once upon his terrified victim, strangles him in an instant, and takes his fill of blood. In the meanwhile the keeper quietly approaches the scene of slaughter, caresses the successful animal, and throws to him pieces of meat to amuse him and keep him quiet while he blinds him with the hood and replaces him upon the chariot, to which he is again attached by his chain. But if, as is not unfrequently the case, the herd should have taken the alarm, and the Chetah should prove unsuccessful in his attack, he never attempts to pursue them, but returns to his master with a mortified and dejected air, to be again let slip at a fresh quarry whenever a fit opportunity occurs.
The individual figured is a fine specimen, but is not yet in perfect plumage.