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It is a remarkable fact, that pards,1 panthers, lions, and other animals of this kind, walk with the points of their nails concealed in a sheath in the body, lest they should be broken or blunted; and that, when they run, their hooked claws are turned backwards, and are never extended, except in the act of seizing their prey.2

(16.) The noble appearance of the lion is more especially to be seen in that species which has the neck and shoulders covered with a mane, which is always acquired at the proper age by those produced from a lion; while, on the other hand, those that are the offspring of the pard, are always without this distinction. The female also has no mane. The sexual passions of these animals are very violent, and render the male quite furious. This is especially the case in Africa, where, in consequence of the great scarcity of water, the wild beasts assemble in great numbers on the banks of a few rivers. This is also the reason why so many curious varieties of animals are produced there, the males and females of various species coupling promiscuously with each other.3 Hence arose the saying, which was common in Greece even, that "Africa is always producing something new." The lion recognizes, by the peculiar odour of the pard, when the lioness has been unfaithful to him, and avenges himself with the greatest fury. Hence it is, that the female, when she has been guilty of a lapse, washes herself, or else follows the lion at a considerable distance. I find that it was a common belief, that the lioness is able to bear young no more than once, because, while delivering herself, she tears her womb with her claws.4 Aristotle, however, gives a different account; a man of whom I think that I ought here to make some further mention, seeing that upon these subjects, I intend, in a great measure, to make him my guide. Alexander the Great, being inflamed with a strong desire to become acquainted with the natures of animals, entrusted the prosecution of this design to Aristotle, a man who held the highest rank in every branch of learning; for which purpose he placed under his command some thousands of men in every region of Asia and Greece, and comprising all those who followed the business of hunting, fowling, or fishing, or who had the care of parks, herds of cattle, the breeding of bees, fish-ponds, and aviaries, in order that no creature that was known to exist might escape his notice. By means of the information which he obtained from these persons, he was enabled to compose some fifty volumes, which are deservedly esteemed, on the subject of animals; of these I purpose to give an epitome, together with other facts with which Aristotle was unacquainted; and I beg the kind indulgence of my readers in their estimate of this work of mine, as by my aid they hastily travel through all the works of nature, and through the midst of subjects with which that most famous of all kings so ardently desired to be acquainted.

Aristotle then informs us, that the lioness, at the first birth, produces five whelps, and one less every succeeding year, until, after having produced one only, she ceases to bear.5 The young ones, when first born, are shapeless and extremely small in flesh, being no larger than a weasel; for six months they are scarcely able to walk,6 and until they are two months old, they cannot move. Lions, he says, are found in Europe, but only between the rivers Achelous and Nestus; being much superior in strength to those which are produced in Africa or Syria.7

1 The pard of Pliny, as we shall find stated below, is the male of the panther.

2 Cuvier remarks, that all the feline animals have retractile claws, drawn by an elastic ligament into a sheath, and protruded when required for the purpose of prehension. The sheath is formed of a duplicature or fold of the skin and the subjacent cellular membrane.—B.

3 What Pliny states here, is without foundation. He supposes that the leopard is the produce of a pard, or male panther, and the female of the lion; but this is incorrect, the leopard being a distinct species of animal.—B.

4 Herodotus, B. iii. c. 108, gives the same account, which is refuted by Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. vi. c. 31. Aulus Gellius, B. xiii. c. 7, refers to Herodotus, and the refutation by Aristotle.—B.

5 The account here given of the lioness generally, Aristotle gives respecting the Syrian lioness only, Hist. Anim. B. vi. c. 31; there is some reason to believe that Aristotle is not correct in what he says. The account given by Ælian, Anim. Nat. B. iv. c. 33, is nearly the same with that of Pliny.—B.

6 There is much in this account that is incorrect. It is well ascertained that the cubs of the lion are proportionably as large and as perfectly formed as the young of other animals that belong to the same family.—B.

7 Herodotus, B. vii. c. 126, and Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. viii. c. 28, give a similar account of the district in which lions are found.—B. Littré remarks, that this statement of Pliny is probably formed, as originally suggested by M. Maury, upon the fact, that the lions of Europe, as we learn from Herodotus, attacked the camels of Xerxes, on his invasion of Europe.

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