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Mythical Creatures -

The race of Amazons or fighting women, is not yet extinct, ...

The antitheses of men--Dwarfs, and Giants--must not be over...

This last sentence seems almost a compendium of The History...

Early Men
On the antiquity of man it is impossible to speculate, beca...

Wild Men
Sometimes a specimen of humanity has got astray in infancy,...

Hairy Men
If, as we may conjecture from the above, the ancient Briton...

The Ouran Outan
Transition from hirsute humanity to the apes, is easy, and ...

He also mentions and delineates a curious Ape which closely...

The Sphynx
"The SPHYNGA or Sphinx, is of the kind of Apes, but his bre...

Sluper, who could soar to the height of delineating a Cyclo...

Animal Lore
We are indebted to Pliny for much strange animal lore--whic...

The Manticora
Of curious animals, other than Apes, depicted as having som...

The Lamia
The Lamiae are mythological--and were monsters of Africa, w...

The Centaur
This extraordinary combination of man and animal is very an...

The Gorgon
In the title-page of one edition of "The Historie of Foure-...

The Unicorn
What a curious belief was that of the Unicorn! Yet what myt...

The Rhinoceros
The true Unicorn is, of course, the Rhinoceros, and this pi...

The Gulo
Olaus Magnus thus describes the Gulo or Gulon:--"Amongst...

The Bear
As Pliny not only uses all Aristotle's matter anent Bears, ...

The Fox
By Englishmen, the Fox has been raised to the height of at ...

The Wolf
The Wolf, as a beast of prey, is invested with a terror pec...

But of all extraordinary stories connected with the Wolf, i...

The Antelope
When not taken from living specimens, or skins, the arti...

The Horse
Aldrovandus gives us a curious specimen of a horse, which t...

The Mimick Dog
"The Mimicke or Getulian Dogge," is, I take it, meant fo...

The Cat
Aldrovandus gives us a picture of a curly-legged Cat, but, ...

The Lion
Of the great Cat, the Lion, the ancients give many wonderfu...

The Leontophonus The Pegasus The Crocotta
The Lion has a dreadful enemy, according to Pliny, who says...

The Leucrocotta The Eale Cattle Feeding Backwards
"There are oxen, too, like that of India, some with one hor...

Animal Medicine
We have already seen some of the wonderfully curative prope...

The Su
Topsell mentions a fearful beast called the Su. "There is a...

The Lamb-tree
As a change from this awful animal, let us examine the Plan...

The Chimaera
Aldrovandus gives us the accompanying illustration of a ...

The Harpy And Siren
The conjunction of the human form with birds is very eas...

The Barnacle Goose
Of all extraordinary beliefs, that in the Barnacle Goose, w...

Remarkable Egg
No wonder that a credulous age, which could see nothing ...

Moon Woman
One would have imagined that this Egg would be sufficien...

The Griffin
There always has been a tradition of birds being existent, ...

The Phoenix
Pliny says of the Phoenix:--"AEthiopia and India, more espe...

The Swallow
"And is the swallow gone? Who beheld it? Wh...

The Martlet And Footless Birds
Of the Martin, or, as in Heraldry it is written, Martlet, G...

Snow Birds
But we must leave warm climes, and birds of Paradise, and s...

The Swan
The ancient fable so dear, even to modern poets, that Swans...

The Alle Alle
"There is also in this Lake (the White Lake) a kind of b...

The Hoopoe And Lapwing
Whether the following bird is meant for the Hoopoe, or the ...

The Ostrich
Modern observation, and especially Ostrich farming, has ...

The Halcyon
Of this bird, the Kingfisher, Aristotle thus discourses:--"...

The Pelican
The fable of the Pelican "in her piety, vulning herself,...

The Trochilus
This bird, as described by Aristotle, and others, is of a p...

Woolly Hens
Sir John Maundeville saw in "the kingdome named Mancy, whic...

Two-headed Wild Geese
Near the land of the Cynocephali or dog-headed men, there w...

Four-footed Duck
Gesner describes a four-footed duck, which he says is li...

Terrestrial and Aerial animals were far more familiar to th...

The Sea-mouse
"The Sea-Mouse makes a hole in the Earth, and lays her Eggs...

The Sea-hare
"The Sea-Hare is found to be of divers kinds in the Ocean, ...

The Sea-pig
Again we are indebted to Gesner for the drawing of thi...

The Walrus
Of the Walrus, Rosmarus, or Morse, Gesner draws, and Ola...

The Ziphius
This Voracious Animal, whose size may be imagined by compar...

The Saw Fish
"The Saw fish is also a beast of the Sea; the body is huge ...

The Orca
is probably the Thresher whale. Pliny thus describes it:--"...

The Dolphin
Pliny says:--"The Dolphin is an animal not only friendly to...

The Narwhal
generally called the Monoceros or Sea Unicorn, is thus show...

The Swamfisck
The accompanying illustration, though heading the chapte...

The Sahab
"There is also another Sea-Monster, called Sahab, which hat...

The Circhos
"There is also another Monster like to that, called Circhos...

The Remora
Of this fish Pliny writes:--"There is a very small fish tha...

The Dog-fish And Ray
Olaus Magnus writes of "The cruelty of some Fish, and th...

The Sea Dragon
Of the Ray tribe of fishes, the Sea Dragon is the most ...

The Sting Ray
Pliny mentions the Sting Ray, and ascribes to it marvellous...

Senses Of Fishes
He also tells us about the senses of fishes, and first of t...

Writing on the lower phases of Marine Animal life, he says:...

"We find three kinds of sponges mentioned; the first are th...

The Kraken
This enormous monster, peculiar to the Northern Seas, is sc...

Crayfish And Crabs
Pliny tells us that in the Indian Ocean are Crayfish four c...

The Sea-serpent
Of the antiquity of the belief in the Sea-Serpent there can...

Of Serpents Topsell has written a "Historie," which, if not...

The Crocodile
The largest of the Saurians which we have left us, is the C...

The Basilisk And Cockatrice
Aldrovandus portrays the Basilisk with eight legs. Topse...

The Salamander
Many writers have essayed this fabled creature, but almost ...

The Toad
Toads were always considered venomous and spiteful, and the...

The Leech
The Leech has, from a very early age, been used as a means ...

The Scorpion
Of the Scorpion, Pliny says:--"This animal is a dangerous s...

The Ant
No one would credit the industrious Ant, whose ways we are ...

The Bee
The Busy Bee, too, according to Olaus Magnus, developed, in...

The Hornet
So also, up North, they seem to have had a special breed...

The Fox

By Englishmen, the Fox has been raised to the height of at least a
demigod--and his cult is a serious matter attended with great minutiae of
ritual. Englishmen and Foxes cannot live together, but they live for one
another, the man to hunt the fox, the fox to be hunted. If there be a
fox anywhere, even in the Campagna at Rome, and there are sufficient
Englishmen to get up a scratch pack of hounds, there must "bold Reynard"
be tortured with fear and exertion, only, in all probability, to die a
cruel death in the end. In the Peninsular War, a pack of foxhounds
accompanied the army; in India, failing foxes, they take the nearest
substitute, the jackal; and in Australia, faute de mieux, they hunt
the Dingo, or native dog. No properly constituted Englishman could ever
compass the death of a poor fox, otherwise than by hunting. The
Vulpecide--in any other manner--is, in an English county, a social
leper--he is a thing anathema. Running away with a neighbour's wife
may be condoned by county society, at least, among the men, but with
them the man that shoots foxes is a very pariah, and it were good for
that man had he never been born.

Every other nation, even from historic antiquity, has reckoned the Fox
as among the ordinary ferae naturae, to be killed, when met with, for
the sake only of his skin, for his flesh is not toothsome: and when he
arrives at the dignity of a silver or a black fox, his fur enwraps royal
personages, as being of extreme value.

The Fox is noted everywhere for its "craftiness," and was so famed
long before the epic of Reineke Fuchs was evolved, and, indeed, this may
be said to be its principal attribute. Many are the stories told by
country firesides of his stratagems, both in plundering and in his
endeavours to escape from his enemies. Indeed, no country ought to be
able to compare in Fox lore with our own. Its sagacity, cunning, or call
it what you like, dates far back. Pliny tells us that "in Thrace, when
all parts are covered with ice, the foxes are consulted, an animal,
which, in other respects, is baneful from its Craftiness. It has been
observed, that this animal applies its ear to the ice, for the purpose
of testing its thickness; hence it is, that the inhabitants will never
cross frozen rivers and lakes, until the foxes have passed over them and

The Fox is most abundant in the northern parts of Europe, and therefore
we hear more about him from the pages of Olaus Magnus, Gessner, and

The former says:--"When the fox is pressed with hunger, Cold and Snow,
and he comes near men's houses, he will bark like a dog, that house
creatures may come nearer to him with more confidence. Also, he will
faign himself dead, and lie on his back, drawing in his breath, and
lolling out his tongue. The birds coming down, unawares, to feed on the
carkasse, are snapt up by him, with open mouth. Moreover, when he is
hungry, and finds nothing to eat, he rolls himself in red earth, that he
may appear bloody; and, casting himself on the earth, he holds his
breath, and when the birds see that he breaths not, and that his tongue
hangs forth of his mouth, they think he is dead; but so soon as they
descend, he draws them to him and devours them.

"Again, when he sees that he cannot conquer the Urchin, for his
prickles, he lays him on his back, and so rends the soft part of his
body. Sometimes fearing the multitude of wasps, he counterfeits and
hides himself, his tail hanging out: and when he sees that they are all
busie, and entangled in his thick tail, he comes forth, and rubs them
against a stone or Tree, and kills them and eats them. The same trick,
almost, he useth, when he lyes in wait for crabs and small fish, running
about the bank, and he lets down his tail into the water, they admire at
it, and run to it, and are taken in his fur, and pull'd out. Moreover,
when he hath fleas, he makes a little bundle of soft hay wrapt in hair,
and holds it in his mouth; then he goes by degrees into the water,
beginning with his tail, that the fleas fearing the water, will run up
all his body till they come at his head: then he dips in his head, that
they may leap into the hay; when this is done, he leaves the hay in the
water, and swims forth.

"But when he is hungry, he will counterfeit to play with the Hare, which
he presently catcheth and devoureth, unlesse the Hare escape by flight,
as he often doth. Sometimes he also escapes from the dogs by barking,
faigning himself to be a dog, but more surely when he hangs by a bough,
and makes the dogs hunt in vain to find his footing. He is also wont to
deceive the Hunter and his dogs, when he runs among a herd of Goats, and
goes for one of them, leaping upon the Goat's back, that he may sooner
escape by the running of the Goat, by reason of the hatefull Rider on
his back. The other Goats follow, which the Hunter fearing to molest,
calls off his Dogs that many be not killed.

"If he be taken in a string, he will sometime bite off his own foot, and
so get away. But, if there be no way open he will faign himself dead,
that being taken out of the snare, he may run away. Moreover, when a dog
runs after him, and overtakes him, and would bite him, he draws his
bristly tail through the dog's mouth, and so he deludes the dog till he
can get into the lurking places of the Woods. I saw also in the Rocks of
Norway a Fox with a huge tail, who brought many Crabs out of the
water, and then he ate them. And that is no rare sight, when as no fish
like Crabs will stick to a bristly thing let down into the water, and to
dry fish, laid on the rocks to dry. They that are troubled with the
Gowt, are cured by laying the warm skin of this beast about the part,
and binding it on. The fat, also, of the same creature, laid smeered
upon the ears or lims of a gowty person, heals him; his fat is good for
all torments of the guts, and for all pains, his brain often given to a
child will preserve it ever from the Falling-sicknesse. These and
such-like simple medicaments the North Country people observe."

A portion of the above receives a curious corroboration from Mr. P.
Robinson in his book, The Poets' Beasts. Speaking of the Lynx, he
says:--"But it is not, as is supposed, 'untamable.' The Gaekwar of Baroda
has a regular pack of trained lynxes, for stalking and hunting pea-fowl,
and other kinds of birds. I have, myself, seen a tame lynx that had been
taught to catch crows--no simple feat--and its strategy was as diverting
as its agility amazing. It would lie down with the end of a string in
its mouth, the other end being fast to a stake, and pretend to be
asleep, dead asleep, drunk, chloroformed, anything you like that means
profound and gross slumber. A foot or so off would be lying a piece of
meat, or a bone.

"The crows would very soon discover the bone, and collecting round in a
circle, would discuss the probabilities of the lynx only shamming, and
the chances of stealing his dinner. The animal would take no notice
whatever, but lie there looking so limp and dead, that at last one crow
would make so bold as to come forward. The others let it do so alone,
knowing that afterwards there would be a free fight for the plunder, and
the thief, probably, not enjoy it, after all. So the delegate would
advance with all the caution of a crow--and nothing exceeds it--until
within seizing distance. There it would stop, flirt its wings nervously,
stoop, take a last long look at the lynx to make sure that it really
was asleep, and then dart like lightning at the bone. But, if the crow
was as quick as lightning, the lynx was as swift as thought, and lo! the
next instant there was the beast sitting up with the bird in its

"Next time it had to practise a completely different manoeuvre. The same
crows are not to be 'humbugged' a second time by a repetition of the
being-dead trick. So the lynx, when a sufficient number of the birds had
assembled, would take the string in its mouth, and run round and round
the stake, at the extreme limit of its tether, as if it were tied. The
crows, after their impudent fashion, would close in. They thought they
knew the exact circumference of the animal's circle, and getting as
close to the dangerous line as possible, without actually transgressing
it, would mock and abuse the supposed betethered brute. But all of a
sudden, the circling lynx would fly out at a tangent, right into the
thick of his black tormentors, and, as a rule, bag a brace, right and

Topsell gives some curious particulars of the Fox, and, speaking of
their earths, he says:--"These dens have many caves in them, and
passages in and out, that when the Terrars shall set upon him in the
earth, he may go forth some other way, and forasmuch as the Wolfe is an
enemy to the Foxe, he layeth in the mouth of his den, an Herbe (called
Sea-onyon) which is so contrary to the nature of a Wolfe, and he so
greatly terrified therewith, that hee will never come neere the place
where it groweth, or lyeth; the same is affirmed of the Turtle to save
her young ones, but I have not read that Wolves will prey upon Turtles,
and therefore we reject that as a fable.... If a Foxe eat any meat
wherein are bitter Almondes, they die thereof, if they drinke not
presently: and the same thing do Aloes in their meate worke uppon them,
as Scaliger affirmeth upon his owne sighte or knowledge. Apocynon or
Bear-foot given to dogs, wolves, Foxes, and all other beasts which are
littered blind, in fat, or any other meat, killeth them, if vomit helpe
them not, which falleth out very seldome, and the seeds of this hearbe
have the same operation. It is reported by Democritus, that, if wilde
rue be secretly hunge under a Hen's wing, no Fox will meddle with her,
and the same writer also declareth for approoved, that, if you mingle
the gal of a Fox, or a Cat, with their ordinary foode, they shall
remaine free from the danger of these beasts.

"The medicinall uses of this beast are these: first, (as Pliny, and
Marcellus affirme) a Fox sod in water until nothing of the Foxe be
left whole except the bones, and the Legges, or other parts of a gouty
body, washed, and daily bathed therein, it shall drive away all paine
and griefe strengthening the defective and weake members; so also it
cureth all the shrinking up and paines in the sinnewes: and Galen
attributeth the same vertue to an Hyaena sod in Oyle, and the lame
person bathed therein, for it hath such power to evacuate and draw forth
whatsoever evill humour aboundeth in the body of man, that it leaveth
nothing hurtfull behinde.

"Neverthelesse, such bodies are soon againe replenished through evill
dyet, and relapsed into the same disease againe. The Fox may be boyled
in fresh or salt water with annise and time, and with his skin on whole,
and not slit, or else his head cut off, there being added to the
decoction two pintes of oyle.

"The flesh of a Foxe sod and layed to afore bitten by a Sea hare, it
cureth and healeth the same. The Foxe's skinne is profitable against all
moyste fluxes in the skinne of the body, and also the gowt, and cold in
the sinnewes. The ashes of Foxe's flesh burnt and drunk in wine, is
profitable against the shortnesse of breath and stoppings of the liver.

"The blood of a Foxe dissected, and taken forth of his urine alive, and
so drunk, breaketh the stone in the bladder, or else (as Myrepsus
saieth) kill the Foxe, and take the blood, and drink a Cupfull thereof,
and afterward with the same wash the parts, and, within an houre the
stone shall be voyded: the same vertue is in it being dryed and drunke
in wine with sugar.

"Oxycraton and Foxes blood infused into the Nostrils of a lethargick
Horsse, cureth him. The fat is next to a Bul's and a Swine's, so that
the fat or larde of Swine may be used for the fat of Foxes, and the fat
of Foxes for the Swines grease in medicine. Some do herewith annoynte
the places which have the Crampe, and all trembling and shaking
members. The fatte of a Foxe and a Drake enclosed in the belly of a
Goose, and so rosted, with the dripping that commeth from it, they
annoynt paralyticke members.

"The same, with powder of Vine twigs mollified and sod in lye,
attenuateth, and bringeth downe, all swelling tumours of the flesh. The
fat alone healeth the Alopecias and looseness of the haire; it is
commended in the cure of all sores and ulcers of the head, but the gall,
and time, with Mustard-seede is more approved. The fat is also respected
for the cure of paine in the eares, if it be warmed and melt at the
fire, and so instilled; and this is used against tingling in the eares.
If the Haires rot away on a Horse's taile, they recover them againe, by
washing the place with urine and branne, with Wyne and Oyle, and
afterward annoynt it with foxe's grease. When sores or ulcers have
procured the haire to fall off from the heade, take the head of a young
foxe burned with the leaves of blacke Orchanes and Alcyonium, and
the powder cast upon the head recovereth againe the haire.

"If the braine be often given to infants and sucking children, it maketh
them that they shall remaine free from the falling evill. Pliny
prescribeth a man which twinkleth with his eies, and cannot looke
stedfastly, to weare in a chaine, the tongue of a foxe; and Marcellus
biddeth to cut out the tongue of a live foxe, and to turne him away, and
hang uppe that tongue to dry in purple thred, and, afterward put it
about his necke that is troubled with the whitenesse of the eies, and it
shall cure him.

"But it is more certainely affirmed, that the tongue, either dryed, or
greene, layed to the flesh wherein is any Dart or other sharpe head, it
draweth them forth violently, and rendeth not the flesh, but, only where
it is entred. The liver dryed, and drunke cureth often sighing. The
same, or the lights drunke in blacke Wine, openeth the passages of
breathing. The same washed in Wyne, and dryed in an earthen pot in an
Oven, and, afterward, seasoned with Sugar, is the best medicine in the
world for an old cough, for it hath bin approved to cure it, although it
hath continued twenty years, drinking every day two sponfuls in Wine.

"The lightes of foxes drunke in Water after they have beene dryed into
powder, helpeth the Melt, and Myrepsus affirmeth, that when he gave
the same powder to one almost suffocated in a pleurisie it prevailed for
a remedy. Archigene prescribeth the dried liver of a Fox for the
Spleneticke with Oxymell: and Marcellinus for the Melt, drunke after
the same manner; and Sextus adviseth to drinke it simply without
composition of Oxymell. The gall of a Foxe instilled into the eares with
Oyle, cureth the paine in them, and, mixed with Hony Atticke, and
annointed upon the eies, taketh away al dimnes from them, after an
admirable manner. The melt, bound upon the tumors, and bunches of the
brest, cureth the Melt in man's body. The reynes dried and mingled with
Honie, being anointed uppon Kernels, take them away. For the swelling of
the Chaps, rub the reines of a Fox within the mouth. The dung, pounded
with Vineger, by annointment cureth the Leprosie speedily. These and
such other vertues medicinal, both the elder and later Phisitians have
observed in a Fox,--wherewithal we wil conclude this discourse."

Next: The Wolf

Previous: The Bear

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