I scarcely think this the right conclusion, the English wild cat being anatomically different. In Hone's popular works it is stated that "Cats are supposed to have been brought into England from the island of Cyprus by some foreign merchants, who came hither for tin." Mr. Hone further says: " Wild cats were kept by our ancient kings for hunting. The officers who had charge of these cats seem to have had appointments of equal consequence with the masters of the king's hounds; they were called Catatores."
Beaumont and Fletcher in The Scornful Lady allude to the hunting of cats in the line,
"Bring out the cat-hounds, I'll make you take a tree."
But although large and ferocious, the wild cat was not considered a match for some of the lesser animals, for in Salmon's "English Physician," 1693, we read that "The weasel is an enemy to ravens, crows, and cats, and although cats may sometimes set upon them, yet they can scarcely overcome them."
Nevertheless, we find in Daniel's "Rural Sports," 1813, that " Wild cats formerly were an object of sport to huntsmen. Thus, Gerard Camvile, 6 John, had special licence to hunt the hare, fox, and wild cat, throughout all the King's forests; and 23 Henry III., Earl Warren, by giving Simon de Pierpont a goshawk, obtained leave to hunt the buck, doe, hart, hind, hare, fox, goat, cat, or any other wild beast, in certain lands of Simon's. But it was not for diversion alone that this animal was pursued; for the skin was much used by the nuns in their habits, as a fur."
Still it appears from Mr. Charles Darwin's " Voyage of the Beagle," that tastes vary. " Doctor Shaw was laughed at for stating the flesh of the lion is in great esteem, having no small affinity with veal, both in the colour, taste, and flavour. Such certainly is the case with the puma. The Guachos differ in their opinion whether the jaguar is good eating; but were unanimous in saying the cat is excellent."
It is also stated that the Chinese fatten and eat cats with considerable relish; but of this I can obtain no reliable information, some of my friends from China not having heard of the custom, if such it is.
Again referring to the skin of the cat, vide Strutt: " In the thirty-seventh year of the reign of Edward III., it was decreed, after enumerating the various kinds of cloth that were to be worn by the nobles, knights, dames, and others, that
(Article 2) tradesmen, artificers, and men in office, called yeomen, their wives and children, shall wear no kind of furs excepting those of lambs, of rabbits, of cats, and of foxes." Further: "No man, unless he be possessed of the yearly-value of forty shillings, shall wear any furs but black and white lambs' skins." Lambs' and cats' skins were equivalent in value and order.
In the twenty-second year of this monarch's reign, all the former statutes "against excess in apparel " were repealed.
My old friend Fairholt, in his useful work on costume, says of the Middle Ages: " The peasants wore cat skins, badger skins, etc."
One of the reasons why the skin of cats was used on cloaks and other garments for trimming, being that it showed humility in dress, and not by way of affectation or vanity, but for warmth and comfort, it being of the lowest value of any, with the exception of lambs' skin and badgers'; and adopted by some priests as well as nuns, when wishing to impress others with their deep sense of humility in all things, even to their wearing-apparel. The proof of which Strutt's " Habits of the Anglo-Normans," circa twelfth century, fully illustrates:
"William of Malmesbury, speaking of Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester, assures us that he avoided all appearance of pride and ostentation in his dress, and though he was very wealthy, he never used any furs finer than lambs' skin for the lining of his garments. Being blamed for such needless humility by Geoffrey, Bishop of Constans, who told him that ' He not only could afford, but even ought to wear those of sables, of beavers, or of foxes,' he replied: 'It may indeed be proper for you politicians, skilful in the affairs of the world, to adorn yourselves in the skins of such cunning animals; but for me, who am a plain man, and not subject to change my opinion, the skins of lambs are quite sufficient.' 'If,' returned his opponent, 'the finer furs are unpleasant, you might at least make use of those of the cat.' ' Believe me,' answered the facetious prelate, 'the lamb of God is much oftener sung in the Church than the cat of God.' This witty retort put Geoffrey to the blush, and threw the whole company into a violent fit of laughter."
Of a very different character was the usage of the cat at clerical festivals. In Mill's " History of the Crusades," one reads with some degree of horror that "In the Middle Ages the cat was a very important personage in religious festivals. At Aix, in Provence, on the festival of the Corpus Christi, the finest he-cat of the country, wrapped like a child in swaddling clothes, was exhibited in a magnificent shrine to public admiration. Every knee was bent, every hand strewed flowers or poured incense; and pussy was treated in all respects as the god of the day. On the festival, however, of St. John (June 24), the poor cat's fate was reversed. A number of cats were put in a wicker basket, and thrown alive into the midst of a large fire, kindled in the public square by the bishop and his clergy. Hymns and anthems were sung, and processions were made by the priests and people in honour of the sacrifice."
While the foregoing was about being printed, Mr. Edward Hamilton, M.D., writing to The Field, May nth, 1889, gives information of a wild cat being shot in Inverness-shire. I therefore insert the paragraph, as every record of so scarce an animal is of importance and value, especially when it is descriptive. He states: "A fine specimen of the wild cat (Felis sylvestris) was sent to me on May 3rd, trapped in Inverness-shire on the Ben Nevis range. It was too much decomposed to exhibit. Its dimensions were: from nose to base of tail, 1 foot 11 inches; length of tail, 1 foot; height at shoulder, 1 foot 2 inches; the length of small intestine, 1 foot 8½ inches; and the large intestine, 1 foot 1 inch." It will be seen by these measurements that the animal was not so large as some that have been taken, though excelling in size many of the domestic varieties.