Notwithstanding the brutal voracity of his habits and the savage fierceness of his disposition, there is scarcely any animal that submits with greater facility to the control of man. In captivity, especially when taken young, a circumstance on which much depends in the domestication of all wild animals, he is capable of being rendered exceedingly tame, and even serviceable. In some parts of Southern Africa the spotted species, which is by nature quite as ferocious in his temper as the striped inhabitant of the North, has been domiciliated in the houses of the peasantry, among whom he is preferred to the dog himself for attachment to his master, for general sagacity, and even, it is said, for his qualifications for the chase. That the Striped Hy?na might be rendered equally useful is highly probable from the docility and attachment which he manifests towards his keepers, especially when allowed a certain degree of liberty, which he shows no disposition to abuse. If more closely restricted his savage nature sometimes returns upon him; and it is for this reason that those which are carried about the country from fair to fair, pent up in close caravans, frequently become surly and even dangerous. The individual whose portrait we give is, on the contrary, remarkably tame; he is a native of the East Indies, and is confined in the same den with one of the American Bears, as we shall have occasion to notice more particularly when speaking of the latter animal.
Like the Eagles these birds live in pairs, and not in flocks; they build their aiery, if so it may be termed, on the loftiest trees, or, where these are wanting, in the most bushy and tufted thickets. They run with extreme swiftness, trusting, when pursued, rather to their legs than to their wings; and as they are generally met with in the open country, it is with difficulty that they can be approached sufficiently near for the sportsman to obtain a shot at them. They are natives of the south of Africa, and appear to be tolerably numerous in the neighbourhood of the Cape; where, it is said, they have been tamed to such a degree as to render them useful inmates of the poultry-yard, in which they not only destroy the snakes and rats which are too apt to intrude upon those precincts, but even contribute to the maintenance of peace among its more authentic inhabitants by interposing in their quarrels and separating the furious combatants who disturb it by their brawls.
On the whole upper surface of the body of the Jaguar the fur, which is short, close, and smooth, is of a bright yellowish fawn; passing on the throat, belly, and inside of the legs, into a pure white. On this ground the head, limbs, and under surface are covered with full black spots of various sizes; and the rest of the body with roses, either entirely bordered by a black ring or surrounded by several of the smaller black spots arranged in a circular form. The full spots are generally continued upon the greater part of the tail, the tip of which is black, and which is also encircled near its extremity by three or four black rings. So far there is little to distinguish the marking of the Jaguar from that of the Leopard; we come now to the differences observable between them. The spots which occupy the central line of the back in the former are full, narrow, and elongated; and the roses of the sides and haunches, which are considerably larger and proportionally less numerous than in the Leopard, are all or nearly all marked with one or sometimes two black dots or spots of smaller size towards their centre: an apparently trifling, but constant and very remarkable distinction, which exists in no other species. By this peculiarity alone the Jaguar may at once be recognised; and this external characteristic, together with the extreme shortness of his tail, his much greater size, his comparatively clumsy form, and the heaviness of all his motions, not to speak of the peculiarity of his voice, which has the sharp and harsh sound of an imperfect bark, are unquestionably fully sufficient to sanction his separation from a race of animals, from which, however much he may resemble them in general characters, he differs in so many and such essential particulars. That this separation has been made more complete by the hand of Nature herself, who has interposed the wide ocean between him and those of his fellows with whom alone there is any probability of his being confounded, is an additional proof, if any confirmation were wanting, of the soundness of the distinction which has been drawn between them.
In the daytime, when pressed by hunger, the Lion takes his secret stand among the reeds and long grass in the neighbourhood of springs and rivers, and watches with unwearied patience for such animals as may, for the purpose of quenching their thirst, pass sufficiently near him to ensure the success of his attack. This is generally made in one enormous bound of fifteen, twenty, or even, it is said, thirty feet, and with a force capable of bearing to the ground and completely disabling the most formidable opponent. At times, however, he will pursue his prey somewhat more openly, and by quickly repeated springs; but this is an exertion which he is unable to continue for any considerable length of time, and which, consequently, any animal of moderate fleetness, that has fairly got the start of him, is certain to outstrip. Of this the Lion appears to be fully aware; for, if not successful in the commencement of the chase, he generally relinquishes it at once, and retires gradually, and step by step, to his place of ambush, to watch for a better opportunity and a more certain prey.
Uniting to the system of dentition, the general habit and many of the most striking peculiarities of the cats, some of the distinguishing features and much of the intelligence, the teachableness, and the fidelity of the dog, the Hunting Leopard forms a sort of connecting link between two groups of animals, otherwise completely separated, and exhibiting scarcely any other character in common than the carnivorous propensities by which both are, in a greater or less degree, actuated and inspired. Intermediate in size and shape between the leopard and the hound, he is slenderer in his body, more elevated on his legs, and less flattened on the fore part of his head than the former, while he is deficient in the peculiarly graceful and lengthened form, both of head and body, which characterize the latter. His tail is entirely that of a cat; and his limbs, although more elongated than in any other species of that group, seem better fitted for strong muscular exertion than for active and long-continued speed. From these indications it may be gathered that he approaches much more nearly to the feline than to the canine group: we shall therefore follow the example of zoologists in general, by referring him for the present and provisionally to the genus Felis, and proceed to point out more particularly the characters by which he is connected with, as well as those by which he is distinguished from, the rest of that formidable and extensive tribe.