One of the most aberrant members of the Canidae is the curious Lycaon pictus or "Hunting Dog" of South Africa, which agrees with the Dogs in its dentition and osteology, but resembles the Hyaenas in the fact that all the feet are tetradactylous. Other aberrant members of the Canidae are the long-eared Megalotis Lalandii of South Africa, and the Racoon-Dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides) of Eastern Asia.
The last group of the Digitigrada is that of the Felidae or Cat tribe, comprising the most typical members of the whole order of the Carnivora, such as the Lions, Tigers, Leopards, Cats, and Panthers. The members of this family all walk upon the tips of their toes, the soles of their feet being hairy, and the whole of the metacarpus and heel being raised above the ground (fig. 424, C). The jaws are short, and owing to this fact, and to the great size of the muscles concerned in mastication, the head assumes a short and rounded form, with an abbreviated and rounded muzzle. The molars and praemolars (fig. 423) are fewer in number than in any other of the Carnivora (hence the shortness of the jaws), and they are all trenchant, except the last molar in the upper jaw, which is very small and is tuberculate. The upper carnassial has three lobes, and a blunt heel or internal process. The lower carnassial has two cutting lobes, and no internal process. The dental formula is:
3 - 3
1 - 1
3 - 3
1 - 1
1 - 1
2 - 2
1 - 1
The legs are nearly of equal size, and the hind-feet have only four toes each, whilst the fore-feet have five. All the toes are furnished with strong, curved, retractile claws, which, when not in use, are withdrawn within sheaths by the action of elastic ligaments, so as not to be unnecessarily blunted. The ungual phalanges (fig. 436) are strongly bent near their middle, and the resistance of the ligaments which retract the claws is overcome (when the claws are to be protruded) by the contraction of the flexor profundus perforans. The tongue is roughened and rendered prickly by the presence of horny papillae, thus rendering it a most efficient rasp in licking the flesh from the bones of the prey. All the members of this group are exceedingly light upon their feet, and are excessively muscular, and they have all the habit of seizing their prey by suddenly springing upon it.
Fig. 436. - Bones and ligaments of the toe of a Cat, showing the claw retracted (A) and protruded (B).
It is questionable if any good genera have hitherto been established in this family, as far as recent forms are concerned, and all the living species may be considered as belonging to the single genus Felis, The species of Felidae are found all over the world, except in Australia, New Zealand, the Malayan Archipelago east of "Wallace's line," and the Antilles.
Fig. 437. - Side-view of the skull of the Lion (Felts leo).
The Lion (Felis leo) is too well known to require much special notice. Its colour is always uniform, generally a yellowish or reddish brown. The tail is terminated by a tuft of long hairs, and the male is usually furnished with a mane, which is very short, however, in an Indian variety. The Lion is exclusively confined to the Old World, and is an inhabitant of Africa and the south-western parts of Asia. It is doubtful how far any valid species of Lions have as yet been established. The Lions are all nocturnal, and capture their prey by suddenly leaping upon it. They are by no means the generous and courageous animals they are generally considered to be; but, on the contrary, are cruel, cunning, and cowardly. They are enormously strong, and it is said that a full-grown Lion can run, and even leap, though carrying an ox in its jaws. Though now much restricted in its range, the Lion had formerly a much more extensive distribution, a form considerably larger than the modern species having formerly existed in Europe, and even in Britain (Felis spelaea). High authorities, however, doubt if the "Cave - lion " is specifically separable from the existing Felis leo.
In the Tigers (Felis tigris), the tail is without a tuft of hairs at its extremity, and the skin is marked with stripes or spots. The Royal or Bengal Tiger is a native of southern Asia, but occurs also in Java, Borneo, and Sumatra. The skin is reddish yellow, marked with numerous transverse black stripes. It is a large and powerful animal, and upon the whole, is probably a more dangerous opponent than even the Lion.
Of the large Spotted Cats, the largest is the Jaguar (Felis onca), which inhabits South America and the southern parts of North America. It is a very large and powerful animal, said to be able to carry a bullock without difficulty, and it can both swim and climb with great facility. Another American species is the Puma (Felis concolor), in which the colour is uniformly reddish brown. It is exclusively confined to America, and though of large size it is a very cowardly animal, and is seldom known to attack man.
The Leopard or Panther (Felis pardus) is another well-known species, smaller than the Tiger, and marked with black spots in place of stripes. It is a native of all the warmer parts of the Old World.
The Ounce (Felis uncia) is nearly allied to the Leopard, but lives at great heights in the mountain-ranges of Central Asia. Another allied form is the Cheetah or Hunting Leopard (Felis jubata) of southern Asia and Africa, which is often raised to the rank of a distinct genus under the name of Cynaelurus. It has very long legs, and the claws are only imperfectly retractile. Among the smaller Spotted Cats may be mentioned the Ocelot (F. pardalis), ranging from Mexico to Brazil; the Felis viverrina of India, China, and Malacca; and the Colocolo (F. ferox) of Central America.