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circumstances they have been discovered, we shall see
that there is but little hope of ever finding those that
we have only seen as fossils.
Islands of moderate extent, situated at a distance
from extensive continents, have very few quadrupeds,
and those very small; when they have large ones, it is
because they have been brought from elsewhere.
Bougainville and Cook found only dogs and hogs on
the South Sea Islands; and the largest species of the
West India Islands was the agouti.
In fact, large territories, such as Asia, Africa, the
two Americas, and New Holland, have large
quadrupeds, and generally, species peculiar to each of
them; so that wherever it has been found that the
situation of these lands has kept them isolated from the
rest of the world, a class of quadrupeds has been there
found entirely different from any elsewhere existing.
Thus, when the Spaniards first overran South America,
they did not find one of the quadrupeds common to
Europe, Asia, or Africa. The puma, the jaguar, the
tapir, the cabiai, the lama, the vicuna, sloths,
armadilloes, opossurns, and all the species of monkeys,
were to them entirely strange, and beings of which
they had no idea. The same phenomenon occurred in
our time, when the first survey of the coast of New
Holland and the adjacent islands took place. The
different kangaroos, phascolomys, dasyurus, and
perameles, the flying phalangers, the ornithorynchi,
and echidnæ, have been found to astonish naturalists
by their strange conformations, which broke through
all rules and overthrew all systems.
If then there remained any extensive continent to
discover, we might hope to find new species, amongst
which some might be found more or less



resembling those of which the bowels of the earth have
presented us with the relics; but it is sufficient to cast
a glance over the mass of the world, and see the
numerous directions in which navigators have ploughed
the ocean, to judge that there cannot be any other large
tract of land, unless it be at the North Pole, where the
ice would not admit of any duration of existence.
Thus, we find that it is from the interior of the
large divisions of the world that we can expect
unknown quadrupeds.
But, on a little reflection, we shall soon see that this
expectation is hardly more likely to be realized here
than in the islands.
The European traveller does not easily effect his
passage through vast extent of countries, desert, or
only supporting a ferocious population, and this is
more particularly the case in Africa; but nothing
prevents animals from overrunning these countries in
every direction and approaching the coasts. Although
great mountainous chains may intervene between the
coasts and the deserts of the interior, they would be
broken in some places to allow of the passage of the
rivers; and, in these burning deserts quadrupeds give
the preference to the banks of the rivers. The
population of these coasts ascend these rivers, and soon
acquire a knowledge, either from experience, or by
commerce and tradition, of the more remote
population, and of all the renarka ble species which
live near the sources of the streams.
At no period have the civilized nations, who have
frequented the coasts of a great country, failed in
acquiring a knowledge of the largest animals, or those
whose formation is peculiar and striking.



Facts bear out this reasoning. Although the ancients
did not pass the Imaus or the Ganges, in Asia, and had
not got beyond Mount Atlas, in Africa, they yet knew
all the large. animals of these parts of the world, and
if they did not distinguish all these species, it was not,
because they could not have seen or heard speak of
them, but because the resemblance of the species would
not allow of their discriminating their peculiar
characteristics. The only great exception which may be
brought against me is the tapir of Malacca, recently
sent from India by two young naturalists, pupils of
mine, MM. Duvaucel and Diard, and which in fact is
one of the most brilliant discoveries with which
modern times have enriched natural history.
The ancients were acquainted with the elephant, and
the history of this quadruped is more exact in Aristotle
than in Buffon.
They were not even ignorant of the distinguishing
marks between the elephants of Africa and those of
Asia. (1)
They knew the double-horned rhinoceros, now no
longer living in modern Europe. Domitian exhibited
one at Rome, and had it engraved on medals. Pausanias
describes it with much exactness.
The unicorn rhinoceros, though very remote from
Rome, was equally well known there. Pompey
exhibited one. Strabo has accurately described another
at Alexandria. (2)
The rhinoceros of Sumatra, described by Mr. Bell,
and that of Java, discovered and sent over by Messrs.
Duvaucel and Diard, do not appear to live on the
continent. Therefore it is not astonishing

(1) See in the 1st vol. of my Researches, the chapter on
(2) See vol. ii. of my work, chapter 1, on the rhinoceros.



that the ancients had no knowledge of them, and
perhaps if they had they would not have distinguished
The hippopotamus has not been so well described as
the preceding species;. but we find very exact
delineations of it on the monuments left by the
Romans, which represent things relative to Egypt, such
as the statue of Nilus, the Mosaic of Palestrina, and a
great many medals. In fact, the Romans saw them
often, they were exhibited by Scaurus, Augustus,
Antoninus, Commodus, Heliogabalus, Philip and
The two species of camels, that of Bactria, and that
of Arabia, are already well described and characterized
by Aristotle. (2) The ancients knew the giraffe or
camel-leopard; they even had a living one at Rome in
the circus under the dictatorship of Julius Cæsar, in the
year of Rome 708. Gordian III. had ten at one time,
which were killed at the secular games of Philip, (3)
which must astonish the moderns, who have only seen
one in the fifteenth century. (4)
If we read attentively the descriptions of the
hippopotamus, given by Herodotus and Aristotle, and
which are said to be borrowed from Hecatams of
Milelus, we shall find that they must have been
composed of two different animals, of which one
perhaps was the real hippopotamus, and the other
certainly the gnu, a quadruped of which our naturalists
have made no mention till the end of the

(1) See vol. i. of my Researches, chapter on the
(2) His. Anim. lib. ii. c. 1.
(3) Jul. Capitol. Gord. III. cap. 23.
(4) That which the soldan of Egypt sent to Lorenzo de
Medicis, and which is painted in the frescoes of Poggio Cajano.



eighteenth century. It was the same animal of which so
many fabled narratives were told under the name of
catoblepas or catablepon.(1)
The Ethiopian wild boar of Agatharchides, which
had horns, was the same as our Ethiopian wild boar,
whose enormous weapons of defence have almost as
much claim to the name of horns as the tusks of the
elephant. (2)
The bubalus and nagor are described by Pliny, (3)
the gazelle, by Elian;(4) the oryx, by Oppian;(5) the
axis was known in the time of Ctesias;(6) the algazel
and the corinna are perfectly depicted on Egyptian
monuments. (7).
Ælian well describes the yak or bos grunniens,
under the name of the ox, whose tail serves for a fly-
flapper. (8)
The buffalo has not been domesticated amongst the
ancients, but the ox of the Indies, of which Ælian(9)
speaks, and which had horns large enough to hold three
amphoræ, was a variety of the buffalo, called arni.
And even this wild ox, with depressed horns, whom
Aristotle places in Arachosia,(10) must be the common
The ancients knew the oxen without horns;(11) the
oxen of Africa, whose horns, attached to the

(1) See Pliny, lib. viii. cap. 32, and Elian, lib. vii. cap. 5.
(2) Ælian, Anim. v. 27.
(3) Pliny, lib. viii. cap. 15, and lib. xi. cap. 37.
(4) Ælian, Anim. 1. xw. c. 14.
(5) Op. Cyneg. ii. v. 445, et seq.
(6) Pliny, lib. viii. cap. 21.
(7) See the great work on Egypt, Antiq. iv. pl. 49 and 66.
(8) Ælian, Anim. xv. 14.
(9) Id. iii. 34.
(10) Arist. Hist. an. lib. ii. cap. 5.
(11) Ælian, ii. 53.



skin only, are shaken with it;(1) the oxen of India as
swift in flight as horses;(2) those no larger than a
goat;(3) sheep with a largetail;(4) and those of India as
large as asses. (5)
Although the ancient accounts of the aurochs, the
rein-deer, and the elk, are mixed with fable, they still
prove that they had some knowledge of them; but that
the knowledge, founded on the accounts of ignorant
persons, had not been submitted to a critical judgment.
(6) These animals dwell in the country assigned to
them by the ancients, and have only disappeared in
countries too much cultivated for their habits of life;
the aurochs and the elks still live in the forests of
Lithuania, which formerly joined the forest of
Hercynia. There are aurochs in the north of Greece, as
in the times of Pausanias. The reindeer inhabits the
north, in the cold regions which it has always
inhabited; there it changes colour, not according to its
will, but to the seasons. It was by a series of
inexcusable mistakes that it was thought they would be
found in the Pyrenees in the fourteenth century. (7)
The white bear was seen in Egypt during the reign of
the Ptolemies. (8)

(1) Ælian, ii. 20.
(2) Id. xv. 24.
(3) Id. ibid.
(4) Id. Anim. iii. 5.
(5) Id. iv. 32.
(6) See in my Researches, vol. iv. chapters on deer and oxen.
(7) Buffon having read in Du Fouilloux, a passage quoted
from Gaston-Phebus, Count de Foix, in which that prince
describes the rein-deer hunt, imagined that that animal existed
in the Pyrenees at that period; and the printed editions of
Gaston are so faulty, that it was with difficulty ascertained
what the author meant to say; but having reverted to the
original manuscript, which is preserved in the king's library, I
have found that it was in Xueden and Nourwergue (Sweden and
Norway,) that he says, he saw and partook of the chase of
(8) Athenée, lib. v.



Lions and panthers were common at Rome in the
games; they were exhibited by hundreds; there were
even tigers; the striped hyena, and the crocodile of the
Nile were there produced. There are in the artificial
mosaics preserved at Rome, excellent representations
of the rarest of these species, amongst others, the
striped hyena accurately depicted on a fragment
preserved in the museum in the Vatican, and when I
was in Rome (in 1809,) they discovered in a garden
beside the arch of Gallienus, a mosaic pavement of
natural stones arranged in the Florentine manner,
representing four Bengal tigers, admirably done.
The museum of the Vatican contains a basalt
crocodile, very nearly accurate,(1) we cannot doubt
but that the hipotigris was the zebra, which however is
only found in the southern parts of Africa.(2)
It would be easy to show that nearly all the most
remarkable species of apes have been accurately
defined by the ancients under the names of pitheci,
sphynxes, satyrs, cebi, cynocephali, cercopitheci.(3)
They knew and described even the smaller
descriptions of glires, when they had any peculiarity of
conformation or remarkable property. (4) But the
smaller species do not concern us; it is enough to have
shown that all the larger kinds, distinguished by some
marked characteristic, which we have now any
knowledge of in Europe, Asia and Africa, were already
known to the ancients; whence we may safely

(1) There is no error except that there is a nail too many at the
back of the foot. Augustus exhibited thirty-six. Dion. lib. xv.
(2) Caracalla killed one in the circus. Dion. lib. lxxvii. Cinf.
Gisb. Cuperi de Elipt. in nummis obviis, ex. ii. cap. 7.
(3) See Lichtenstein, Comment. de Simiarium quotquot
veteribus innotuerint formis. Hamburg, 1791.
(4) The jerboa is engraved on the medals of Cyrene, and
pointed out by Aristotle as the rat with two feet.



draw the conclusion, that if they do not describe the
smaller, or if they do not discriminate between those
which closely resemble each other, as the gazelles and
others, they were prevented by carelessness or want of
method, rather than by opposition from the climate.
We shall also determine, that if eighteen or twenty
ages, and the circumnavigation of Africa and the
Indies, have added nothing in this species to what the
ancients already knew, that there is no likelihood that
ages to come will bring much additional information to
our posterity.
But perhaps an inverse argument may be used
against us, and it will be said, that not only the
ancients, as we have just proved, have known as many
animals as ourselves, but they have described many
which we now have not; that we are too hasty in
regarding these animals as fabulous; that we should
again search for them, before we decide in exhaust ing
the history of the existing creation; that, indeed,
amongst these pretendedly fabulous animals, we shall
detect, when we know them better, the originals of our
remains of unknown species. Some may even surmise
that, those different monsters, the essential ornaments
of the heroic age amongst nearly all people, are
precisely those which it has been necessary to destroy,
to admit of the progress and establish inent of
civilization. Thus Theseus and Bellerophon, who
bravely defeated these noxious animals, must have
been far more fortunate than the existing race, but
have not yet contrived to exterminate any one species,
but only to drive them back.
It is easy to reply to this objection, by examining
the descriptions of these unknown beings, and
searching into their origin.
The most numerous have a source purely
mythological, and of that their descriptions bear the



impress; for we see in nearly all, only portions of
known animals, united by an unrestrained fancy, and in
opposition to every law of nature. Those invented or
put together by the Greeks are certainly graceful in
their composition; like those arabesques which
ornament the remains of some ancient edifices, and
which the fertile pencil of Raphael has multiplied:
forms are there united, totally repugnant to reason,
offering to the eye agreeable proportions; these are the
light productions of happy dreams; perhaps emblems of
the oriental taste, in which they pretended to veil
beneath mystic imagery, the refined suggestions of
metaphysics and morals. Let us excuse those who
endeavour to employ their time in unravelling the
wisdom concealed in the Sphynx of Thebes, the
Pegasus of Thessaly, the Minotaur of Crete, or the
Chimera of Epirus; but let us hope that no one would
seriously seek for them in nature: as well might we
expect to find the animals of Daniel, or the beasts of
the Apocalypse. Let us not attempt to seek for the
mythological animals of the Persians, offsprings of a
still more heated imagination; the martichore, or
destroyer of men, which has the head of a man on the
body of a lion, terminated by a scorpion's tale,(1) the
griffin, or treasure-keeper, half eagle half lions:(2) the
cartazonon,(3) or wild ass, whose head is armed with a
long horn.
Ctesias, who has described these as existing animals,
has passed with many for an inventor of fables, whilst
he only attributed a reality to

(1) Plin. viii. 31; Arist. lib. ii. cap. 11. Phot. Bibi. art. 72.
Ctes. Indic. Ælian, Anim. iv. 21.
(2) Ælian, Anim. iv. 37.
(3) Id. xvi. 20; Photius Bibi. art. 72. Ctes. Indic.



emblematical figures. These fantastic sculptures have
been found in the ruins of Persepolis.(1) What is their
meaning? Most probably we shall never learn, but they
certainly do not represent real creatures.
Agatharchides, another fabricator of animals,
probably drew from an analogous source. The
monuments of Egypt show us still numerous
combinations of the parts of different species: the gods
are there of ten represented with a human body and an
animal's head: we see animals with human heads,
which have produced the cynocephali, the sphynxes,
and the satyrs of ancient naturalists. The custom of
depicting in the same painting men of different
heights, the king or the conqueror gigantic, the
conquered or people three or four times smaller, may
have given birth to the fables of the pygmies. It is in
some recess of one of these monuments that
Agatharchides must have seen his carnivorous bull, —
whose mouth, cleft to his ears, spared no other
animal;(2) but surely natuaralists will not assert that
there can be such; for nature never unites either cloven
feet or horns with cutting teeth.
There were most probably other figures equally
strange, either in those monuments which were not
able to withstand the ravages of time, or in those
temples of Ethiopia and Arabia which the Mahometans
and Abyssinians, in the excess of their religious zeal,
have destroyed. Those of India swarm with them; but
the combinations are too

(1) See Corneille Lebrun, Voyage en Muscovy, en Perse, et aux
Indes, t. ii.; and the German work of M. Heeren on the
Commerce of the Ancients.
(2) Photius Bibl. art. 250; Agatharchid. Excerpt. Hist. cap.
xxxix.; ÆIian, xvii. 35; Film. viii, 21.

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