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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 Gulo

Olaus Magnus thus describes the Gulo or Gulon:--"Amongst all creatures
that are thought to be insatiable in the Northern parts of Sweden, the
Gulo hath his name to be the principall; and in the vulgar tongue they
call him Jerff, but in the German language Vielfras; in the
Sclavonish speech Rossamaka, from his much eating, and the Latin name
is Gulo, for he is so called from his gluttony. He is as great as a
great Dog, and his ears and face are like a Cat's: his feet and nails
are very sharp; his body is hairy, with long brown hair, his tail is
like the Foxes, but somewhat shorter, but his hair is thicker, and of
this they make brave Winter Caps. Wherefore this Creature is the most
voracious; for, when he finds a carcasse, he devours so much, that his
body, by over-much meat, is stretched like a Drum, and finding a
streight (narrow) passage between Trees, he presseth between them,
that he may discharge his body by violence; and being thus emptied, he
returns to the carcasse, and fills himself top full; and then he
presseth again through the same narrow passage, and goes back to the
carkasse, till he hath devoured it all; and then he hunts eagerly for
another. It is supposed he was created by nature to make men blush, who
eat and drink till they spew, and then feed again, eating day and night,
as Mechovita thinks in his Sarmatia. The flesh of this Creature is
altogether uselesse for man's food; but his skin is very commodious and
pretious. For it is of a white brown black colour, like a damask cloth
wrought with many figures; and it shews the more beautiful, as by the
Industry of the Artist it is joyn'd with other garments in the likenesse
or colour. Princes and great men use this habit in Winter, made like
Coats; because it quickly breeds heat, and holds it long; and that not
onely in Swethland, and Gothland, but in Germany, where the rarity
of these skins makes them to be more esteemed, when it is prised in
ships among other Merchandise.

"The Inhabitants are not content to let these skins be transported into
other Countries, because, in Winter, they use to entertain their more
noble guests in these skins; which is a sufficient argument that they
think nothing more comely and glorious, than to magnifie at all times,
and in all orders their good guests, and that in the most vehement cold,
when amongst other good turns they cover their beds with these skins.

"And I do not think fit to overpasse, that when men sleep under these
skins, they have dreams that agree with the nature of that Creature, and
have an insatiable stomach, and lay snares for other Creatures, and
prevent them themselves. It may be that it is as they that eat hot
Spices, Ginger or Pepper seem to be inflamed; and they that eat Sugar
seem to be choked in water. There seems to be another secret of Nature
in it, that those who are clothed in those Skins, seem never to be

"The guts of this Creatures are made into strings for Musicians, and
give a harsh sound, which the Natives take pleasure in; but these,
tempered with sweet sounding strings, will make very good Musick. Their
hoofs made like Circles, and set upon heads subject to the Vertigo, and
ringing ears, soon cure them. The Hunters drink the blood of this beast
mingled with hot water; also seasoned with the best Honey, it is drunk
at Marriages. The fat, or tallow of it, smeered on putrid Ulcers for an
ointment is a sudden cure. Charmers use the teeth of it. The hoofs,
newly taken off, will drive away Cats and Dogs, if they do but see it,
as birds fly away, if they spy but the Vultur or the Bustard.

"By the Hunter's various Art, this Creature is taken onely in regard of
his pretious skin; and the way is this;--They carry into the wood a
fresh Carkasse; where these beasts are wont to be most commonly;
especially in the deep snows (for in Summer their skins are nothing
worth) when he smels this he falls upon it, and eats till he is forced
to crush his belly close between narrow trees, which is not without
pain; the Hunter, in the mean time, shoots, and kills him with an arrow.

"There is another way to catch this Beast, for they set Trees, bound
asunder with small cords, and these fly up when they eat the Carkasse,
and strangle them; or else he is taken, falling into pits dug upon one
side, if the Carkasse be cast in, and he is compelled by hunger to feed
upon it. And there is hardly any other way to catch him with dogs, since
his claws are so sharp, that dogs dare not encounter with him, that
fear not to set upon the most fierce Wolves."

Of this animal Topsell says:--"This beast was not known by the ancients,
but hath bin since discovered in the Northern parts of the world, and
because of the great voracity thereof, it is called Gulo, that is, a
devourer; in imitation of the Germans, who call such devouring Creatures
Vilsruff, and the Swedians Cerff, and in Lituania and Muscovia
it is called Rossomokal. It is thought to be engendered by a Hyaena
and a Lionesse, for in quality it resembleth a Hyaena, and it is the
same which is called Crocuta: it is a devouring and unprofitable
creature having sharper teeth than other creatures. Some thinke it is
derived from a wolf and a dog, for it is about the bignesse of a dog. It
hath the face of a Cat, the body and taile of a Foxe; being black of
colour; his feet and nailes be most sharp, his skin rusty, the haire
very sharp, and it feedeth upon dead carkases."

He then describes its manner of feeding, evidently almost literally
copying Olaus Magnus, and thus continues:--"There are of these beastes
two kindes, distinguished by coulour, one blacke, and the other like a
Wolfe: they seldom kill a man or any live beastes, but feede upon
carrion and dead carkasses, as is before saide, yet, sometimes, when
they are hungry, they prey upon beastes, as horses and such like, and
then they subtlely ascend up into a tree, and when they see a beast
under the same, they leape downe upon him and destroy him. A Beare is
afraide to meete them, and unable to match them, by reason of their
sharpe teeth.

"This beast is tamed, and nourished, in the courts of Princes, for no
other cause than for an example of incredible voracitie. When he hath
filled his belly, if he can find no trees growing so neare another, as
by sliding betwixte them, hee may expell his excrements, then taketh he
an Alder-tree, and with his forefeete rendeth the same asunder, and
passeth through the middest of it, for the cause aforesaid. When they
are wilde, men kill them with bowes and guns, for no other cause than
for their skins, which are pretious and profitable, for they are white
spotted, changeably interlined like divers flowers, for which cause the
greatest princes, and richest nobles use them in garments in the Winter
time; such are the Kings of Polonia, Swede-land, Goat-land, and
the princes of Germany. Neither is there any skinne which will sooner
take a colour, or more constantly retaine it. The outward appearance of
the saide skinne is like to a damaskt garment, and besides this outward
parte there is no other memorable thing woorthy observation in this
ravenous beast, and therefore, in Germany, it is called a foure-footed

As a matter of fact, the Glutton or Wolverine, which is not unlike a
small bear, can consume (while in confinement) thirteen pounds of meat
in a day. In its wild state, if the animal it has killed is too large
for present consumption, it carries away the surplus, and stores it up
in a secure hiding-place, for future eating.

Next: The Bear

Previous: The Rhinoceros

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