The Alligators constitute a natural subdivision of the genus, in which the snout is broad, blunt, and less produced than in the true Crocodiles; the fourth tooth on each side of the lower jaw enters a hole in the upper when the mouth is closed; and the toes are only half-webbed. They appear to be exclusively natives of America. The present species is distinguished by its broad and flat snout, with nearly parallel sides, united in front by a curved line; by the peculiar arrangement of its nuchal scales; and by the elevated internal margins of its orbits. Its colour is dark brown above, and somewhat lighter beneath. It is one of the most dreadful scourges of the countries which it inhabits, preying upon all kinds of animals that come within its reach, and sometimes even upon man himself. Our specimen was apparently very young, not measuring more than three feet in length; but during two years that it was kept in the Menagerie it was not observed to have at all increased in size. It was fed once a week upon raw beef.
The habits of the Ichneumons are very similar to those of the ferret. In the localities where they abound, their sanguinary disposition and predatory inclinations render them a real pest to the farm-yard, to which they pay their nocturnal visits for the purpose of destroying the poultry. They also make war upon rats, birds, and reptiles, and devour the eggs of the latter with the greatest avidity. Endowed with a remarkable degree of courage in proportion to their size, they do not hesitate to attack any animal that is not obviously more than a match for them. Even in captivity they retain much of their native spirit; and so great is their activity and determination that the individual now in the Tower actually on one occasion killed no fewer than a dozen full grown rats, which were loosed to it in a room sixteen feet square, in less than a minute and a half. They are very easily tamed, become attached to those with whom they are familiar and to the house in which they live, and will follow their master about almost like a dog.
Canis nubilus. Say.
Canis domesticus. Linn. Var.
India and the larger Asiatic Islands appear to be its native country; but nothing certain is known of its habits in a state of nature: in captivity it is sullen and irascible, and evinces no affection for its keeper, appearing in fact totally insensible to the attentions which it receives.
These animals are by nature sociable, and congregate together in herds, which frequently amount to more than a hundred. The imposing spectacle furnished by such a collection of these immense masses of animated matter may well be imagined. They generally seek the shade of the forest, in which they find additional means of subsistence in the young shoots of the trees, which supply the place of other and more congenial herbs. They frequently issue from it, however, in quest of the latter, and also to indulge in a propensity possessed by them in common with all those animals which like them are furnished with thick and almost naked, or with bristly, skins, that of bathing in the water or wallowing in the mud. It is for this reason that they are usually met with in the neighbourhood of large streams, which their great size and the quantity of fat with which they are commonly loaded enable them to swim with facility. Their trunk is also extremely serviceable in this operation, as it enables them to bury as it were the whole of their body beneath the water, retaining above the surface no more than the extremity of that organ for the admission and expulsion of the air. After having been for some time in the water, it is said that their skin loses the dusky hue by which it is usually distinguished in consequence of the dirt and other matters with which it is incrusted, and assumes a perfect flesh-colour marked with numerous round and blackish spots. This natural colour is, however, lost almost immediately on their reaching the land, when they uniformly scatter themselves all over by means of their trunk with the mud or dust which first falls in their way. So fond are they of this process that they commonly recur to it whenever an opportunity offers. The bathing appears to be absolutely necessary in order to keep their skins to a certain extent supple and flexible; for which purpose their keepers, in captivity, occasionally have recourse to the smearing them with oil as a substitute.