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extravagant to deceive any one; monsters with a hun
dred arms, and twenty different heads, are too
monstrous to find belief.
It is not the Japanese and Chinese only who have not
the imaginary animals, which they represent as real,
and even exhibit in their religious books; the Mexicans
have them also: it is the custom of all people, either at
the time when their idolatry has not become
sufficiently refined, or when the meaning of these
emblematical combinations have been lost. But who
will pretend to find in nature these offsprings of
ignorance and superstition?
Certain travellers, however, anxious to establish a
character of renown, have asserted that they have seen
these fantastic animals, or that, for want of due
attention, and deceived by a slight resemblance, they
have taken real creatures for them. Large apes have
appeared real cynocephali; baboons, as men with tails;
and thus St. Augustin said that he had seen a satyr.
Some real animals, scarcely seen, and badly
described, may have caused these monstrous ideas,
slightly founded on reality. Thus we cannot, doubt the
existence of the hyena, though this animal has not a
neck supported by one single bone,(1) and that he does
not change sex every year, as Pliny(2) says;

(1) I have even seen, in the cabinet of the late M. Adrian
Camper, a hyena's skeleton, in which many of the vertebra of
the neck were soldered together. It is probable that it is some
similar individual which has caused this character to be given to
all hyenas. This animal must be more subject to this accident
than any other, in consequence of the prodigious force of its
neck, and the frequent use it makes of it. When the hyena has
seized any thing, it is easier to drag it along, than to tear from
it what it holds: this is why the Arabs have selected it as the
emblem of insuperable obstinacy.
(2) It does not change the sex; but has at the perinæum an



thus perhaps the carnivorous bull is only a rhinoceros
with his two horns. M. de Weltheim asserts, that the
auriferous ants of Herodotus are corsacs.
One of the most famous amongst the animals of the
ancients is the unicorn. Naturalists were fully bent,
even down to our times, on finding it, or at least in
seeking arguments in favtur of its existence. Three
animals are frequently mentioned by the ancients as
having only one horn in front. The oryx of Africa,
which has at the same time cloven feet, the hair
reversed,(1) is of great size, equal to the ox,(2) or
even the rhinoceros,(3) and which it is agreed
approaches sheep or goats in form ;(4) the ass of the
Indies, which is solid footed; and the monoceros,
properly so called, whose feet are sometimes compared
with those of a lion,(5) sometimes with those of an
elephant,(6) and consequently cloven-footed. The
horse(7) and the unicorn oxen have a mutual relation
certainly to the ass of the Indies,(8) for the ox is
mentioned as even solid footed. I ask, if these animals
existed as distinct species, should we not at least have
their horns in our collections? And what single horns
have we but those of the rhinoceros and the narwal?
How, after this, can we refer to the coarse figures

orifice which has given rise to the opinion of its being an
(1) Arist. Anim. ii. 1. iii. 1; Plin. xl. 46.
(2) Herod. iv. 192.
(3) Oppian Cyneg'. ii. verB. 551.
(4) Plin. viii. 53.
(5) Philostorge, iii. 11.
(6) Plin. viii. 21.
(7) Onesicrite, ap. Strab. lib. xv. ; Ælian, Anim. xiii. 42.
(8) Plin. viii. 31.



traced by savages on the rocks?(1) Ignorant of
perspective, and wishing to present in profile the
horned antelope, they could only give it one horn, and
thus originated the oryx. The oryx of the Egyptian
monuments are most probably but the productions of a
similarly crude style, which the religion of the country
imposed on the artist. Many of the profiles of
quadrupeds have only one leg before and one behind;
why then should they show two horns? It is possible
that individual animals might be taken in the chase,
whom accident has despoiled of one horn, as it often
happens to chamois and the Scythian antelope (siaga;)
and that would suffice to confirm the error which these
pictures originally produced. It is thus, probably, that
we find anew the unicorn in the mountains of Thibet.
All the ancients, besides, have not reduced the oryx
to a single horn; Oppian(2) expressly gives it several;
and Ælian mentions some of the oryx who had four.
(3) Now if this animal were ruminating and cleft-
footed, it certainly had the frontal bone divided in
two, and could not, according to the accurate remark
of Camper, have had a horn on the suture.
But, we may be asked, what two-horned animal
could give the idea of the oryx, and present the
features which are given of its confirmation, even in
depriving it of its unity of horn? I reply with Pallas, it
is the horned antelope, improperly called the pasan by
Buffon. It inhabits the deserts of Africa, and would
have reached the confines of

(1) Barrow, Voyage to the Cape.
(2) Oppian Cyneg, lib. ii. v. 468, ~nd 471~
(3) De An. lib. xv. cap. 14.



Egypt; it is that which the hieroglyphics seem to
represent; its figure is nearly that of a stag; its height
equals that of the ox; the hair of its back is directed
towards the head; its horns are formidable weapons,
sharp as darts, hard as iron; its hair is whitish, its
countenance has marks and black streaks; and this is all
that naturalists have described of it; and, as to the
motives of the priests of Egypt, who spread abroad
fables concerning it, and adopted it in their
hieroglyphics, there is no occasion for their having a
foundation in reality. Suppose then that an oryx with
only one horn has been seen; that they have taken it
for a perfect be ing, a type of its whole species;
suppose that Aristotle, who adopted this error, has
been copied by others; it is all l)ossible, and even
natural, but proves nothing in favour of the existence
of a unicorn species.
As to the ass of the Indies, we have only to read of
the anti-poisonous properties attributed to its horn by
the ancients, and we shall see that they are precisely
similar to those which the orientals of the present day
assign to the horn of the rhinoceros. When the horn
was first introduced amongst the Greeks, they could
not have known the aninial which had borne it. Indeed,
Aristotle makes no mention of the rhinoceros, and
Agatharchides is the first who has described it. In the
same manner, the ancients possessed ivory long before
they became acquainted with the elephant. Perhaps
some traveller may have named the rhinoceros the ass
of the Indies, with as much justice as the Romans had
named the elephant the bull of Lucania. All that has
been said of the strength, height and ferocity of the
wild ass, agrees very well with the



rhinoceros. Moreover, those who best know the
rhinoceros, finding in former authors the denomi
nation of ass of the Indies, have taken it, without
reflection, for that of a peculiar animal; and in fact,
from the name, we should conclude that this animal
was solid footed. There is a full description of an ass
of the Indies by Ctesias,(1) but we have seen above
that it was taken from the bas-reliefs of Persepolis; it
should not pass for any thing in the actual history of
the animal.
When there was also a description still less exact,
which mentioned an animal with a single horn with
many lines, a third species was made out, with the
name of monoceros. These sort of twofold accounts are
the more common with ancient naturalists, because
almost all those whose works remain to us were simple
compilers; but even Aristotle himself has frequently
mixed facts borrowed from others with those which he
himself has observed; so that in fact the art of
criticism was as little known then by naturalists as by
historians, which is saying a great deal.
After all these reasonings, all these digressions, it
results, that all the great animals that are known in the
old continent were known to the ancients, and that the
animals described by the ancients, and not now known,
were fabulous: it also results, that very little time
elapsed before all the great animals of the three first
known parts of the globe were known by the people
who frequented the coasts.
We may thence conclude that we have not even any
large species to discover in America. If there were
any, there exists no cause why we should not have been
acquainted with them; and in fact, for a

(1) Ælian, Anim. iv. 52; Photius,. Bibl. p. 154.



hundred and fifty years, none have been discovered.
The tapir, the jaguar, the puma, the cabiai, the lama,
the vigogne, the red wolf, the buffalo or American
bison, the ant-eaters, sloths, and armadilloes, are
already in Margrave and in Hernandes. as well as
Buffon. We may say that they are there better
described, for Buffon has mingled the history of the
anteaters, misunderstood the jaguar and the red wolf,
and confounded the bison of America with tbe aurochs
of Poland. In fact, Pennant is the first naturalist who
has properly distinguished the little musk ox, but it
had long been pointed out by travellers. The cleft-
footed horse of Molina is not described by the first
Spanish voyagers; but its existence is more doubtful,
and Molina's authority is too dubious to be adopted. It
would be possible to characterize better than at present
the stags of America and the Indies; but with them, as
with the ancients respecting the various antelopes, a
good method of description was wanting, (and not
opportunities of seeing them,) that they might be
better known. We may then say, that the mouflon of
the Blue Mountains is now the only quadruped of
America of any size, the discovery of which is entirely
modern; and perhaps it is only a Siberian goat that has
crossed the ice.
How then can we believe that the enormous
mastodons, the gigantic megatheria, whose remains
have been found under the earth in the two Americas,
can still exist on that continent? How could they
escape those wandering people who incessantly overrun
the country, in every corner of it; and who themselves
acknowledge that they no longer exist, since they have
imagined a fable about their destruction, saying that
they were killed by the



Great Spirit, to prevent them from destroying the
human race? But we may see that this fable was
occasioned by the discovery of the bones, like that of
the inhabitants of Siberia and their mammoth, which
they pretend lives under ground like moles; and like
all those of the ancients about the tombs of the giants,
which they placed wherever they found the bones of
Thus we may believe, that if, as we shall prove
hereafter, any of the great species of quadrupeds now
embedded in regularly stony layers, are not found
similar to the living species that we are acquainted
with, — it is not the effect of chance, nor because
these, species, of which we have only fossil bones, are
hidden in deserts, and have escaped all travellers to the
present time; we ought, on the contrary, to regard this
phenomenon as tending to general causes; and the
study of it as one of the most proper to lead us to the
origin and nature of these causes.


But if this study is more satisfactory in its results than
that of the fossil remains of other animals, it is also
beset with infinitely greater difficulties. The fossil
shells generally present themselves entire, and with all
the characteristics which admit of their being
analogously arranged in collections or works of
naturalists; fish even present their ske letons more or
less entire; we generally trace the original form of
their bodies, and frequently their generic and specific
characteristics, which are



drawn from their solid parts. In quadrupeds, on the
contrary, although we should meet with the whole
skeleton, we should have great difficulty in applying
to it the characteristics for the most part derived from
the hair, colour, and other marks, which disappear
before the incrustation; and it is uncommonly rare to
find a fossil skeleton at all perfect; bones isolated and
confusedly intermingled, most frequently broken and
reduced to fragments; this is all with which our layers
furnish us in this class, and is the sole resource of the
naturalist. Thus we may say that the majority of
observers, frightened at these difficulties, have passed
lightly over the fossil bones of quadrupeds; have
classed them very vaguely, after superficial
resemblances; or have not even hazarded the giving a
name to them; so that this part of the fossil history,
the most important and instructive of all, is of all
others the least cultivated.(l)


Fortunately, comparative anatomy possesses a
principle, which, properly developed, was capable of
clearing up all embarrassment: it was that of the
natural relation of forms in organized beings, by
means of which each sort of creature may by

(1) I do not pretend by this remark, as well as those already
made, to detract from the merit of the observations of Messrs.
Camper, Pallas, Blumenbach, Sœmmering, Merk, Faugus,
Rosenmuller, Home, &c.; but their estimable labours, which
have been very useful to me, and which I have cited every
where, are only partial, and many of these labours even
published after the first editions of this Discourse.



rigorous scrutiny, be known by each fragment of each
of its parts.
Every organized being forms a whole, a unique, and
perfect system, the parts of which mutually
correspond, and concur in the same definitive action
by a reciprocal reaction. None of these parts can
change without the whole changing; and consequently
each of them, separately considered, points out and
marks all the others.
Thus, as I have before remarked, if the intestines of
an animal are so organized as only to digest flesh, and
that fresh, it follows that its jaws must be constructed
to devour a prey, its claws to seize and tear it, its teeth
to cut and divide it, the whole structure of its organs
ofmotion such as to pursue and catch it, its perceptive
organs to discern it at a distance; nature must even
have placed in its brain the necessary instinct, to know
how to conceal itself and lay snares for its victims.
Such will be the general conditions of the carnivorous
kingdom; every animal of this species will infallibly
unite these qualities; for its race could not exist
without them. But under these general conditions there
are particular ones, relative to the size, species, and
haunts of the prey, for which each animal is inclined;
and each of these particular conditions result from
modifications of the detail in the formations which
they derive from the general conditions; thus, not only
the class, but the order, the genus, and even the
species, are detected in the formation of each part.
For, that the jaw may be enabled to seize, it must
have a certain shaped prominence for the articulation,
a certain relation between the position of the resisting
power and that of the strength employed



with the fulcrum: a certain volume in the temporal
muscle, requiring an equivalent extent in the hollow
which receives it, and a certain convexity of the
zygomatic arch under which it passes: this zygomatic
arch must also possess a certain strength, to give
strength to the masseter muscle.
That an animal may carry off his prey, a certain
strength is requisite in the muscles which raise the
head; whence results a determinate formation in the
vertebræ or the muscles attached, and in the occiput
where they are inserted.
That the teeth may cut the flesh, they must be sharp;
and they must be so more or less, according as they
will have, more or less exclusively, flesh to cut. Their
roots should be the more solid, as they have more and
larger bones to break. All these circumstances will in
like manner influence the development of all those
parts which serve to move the jaw.
That the claws may seize the prey, they must have a
certain mobility in the talons, a certain strength in the
nails, whence will result determi nate formations in all
the claws, and the necessary distribution of muscles
and tendons; it will be necessary that the forearm have
a certain facility of turning, whence again will result
determinate formation in the bones which compose it;
but the bone of the fore arm, articulating in the
shoulder-bone, cannot change its structure, without
this latter also changes. The shoulder-blade will have a
certain degree of strength in those animals which
employ their legs to seize with, and they will thence
obtain peculiar structure. The play of all these parts
will require certain properties in all the muscles, and
the impression of these mi.iscles so proportioned

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