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,
nd 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.