THE WEASELS: A BEAUTIFUL BUT BLOODTHIRSTY TRIBE

OTTERS, badgers and weasels are all grouped together. Weasels are mostly small, elongated in body with a gliding method of progression. The common weasel and the larger stoat are still plentiful in Britain. The ferret is the domesticated form, the only member of this family to be so tamed.« Many of the race, such as minks and martens, are possessed of very beautiful and valuable furs, in consequence of which they have long been closely pursued. They are all of a very fierce disposition, out of all proportion to their size, and their blood-thirstiness is proverbial. They are among the few carnivores which really kill for sport as well as for necessity. The wolverene, or glutton, of Europe and North America is much the largest of the family and is noted for its strength and cunning, some of its feats in defeating the wiles of trappers being unbelievable.

The badgers differ from the typical weasels by walking flat-

footed. They are for the most part nocturnal and inoffensive, only wishing to be left alone. A badger, however, is a very courageous beast, and when cornered will give a very good account of himself with his formidable jaws and teeth.

Related to badgers are the skunks, notorious for their power of emitting a most unpleasant odour. As a matter of fact, all the weasel family have this faculty, though not to the same degree.

The ratels, or honey badgers, of Africa and India are queer little beasts, coloured white above and black below. They exist largely on bees and other insects and are reputed to be of unflinching courage.

Otters are land-mammals that have taken to the water in comparatively recent times, as is shown by the fact that the young (as with seals also) do not swim naturally but have to be taught by their parents. In Britain they do not grow to a length of more than a few feet, but there is an American species which is almost five feet long. The sea otter has been so persecuted for its fur, which is reckoned one of the most valuable of all skins, that it is on the verge of extinction and is now only found in the most remote places.

Wolves, foxes and dogs have much in common, and though the ancestry of the domestic dog is in doubt, there is very little difference between some of the larger breeds and wolves. The whole race has been much modified by breeding and is very widely spread. Wolves have at one time been found all over the temperate parts of the world. To-day the finest are probably the timber wolves of North America. Jackals are smaller animals, with a round pupil in the eye and a sharp, pointed muzzle. They hunt in packs and burrow in the ground for shelter.

The foxes differ from all other members of the family in that they have a vertical pupil to the eye. They have pointed muzzles and bushy tails. The common fox, found, of course, in this country, is very widely distributed throughout Europe and Asia, while the silver foxes of the north are much prized for their fur. Mention may also be made of the curious little fennec fox of Africa, with his enormous, erect ears.

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