The wild cat is said to be now extinct in England, and only found in some of the northern parts of Scotland, or the rocky parts of the mountains of the south, where I am informed it may yet occasionally be seen. The drawing I give above was made from one sent to the first Crystal Palace Cat Show in 1871, by the Duke of Sutherland, from Sutherlandshire. It was caught in a trap by the fore-leg, which was much injured, but not so as to prevent its moving with great alacrity, even with agility, endeavouring frequently to use the claws of both fore-feet with a desperate determination and amazing vigour. It was a very powerful animal, possessing great strength, taking size into consideration, and of extraordinary fierceness.
Mr. Wilson, the manager of the show, though an excellent naturalist, tried to get it out of the thick-barred, heavy-made travelling box in which it arrived, into one of the ordinary wire show-cages, thinking it would appear to better advantage; but in this endeavour he was unsuccessful, the animal resisting all attempts to expel it from the one into the other, making such frantic and determined opposition that the idea was abandoned. This was most fortunate, for the wire cages then in use were afterwards found unequal to confining even the ordinary domestic cat, which, in more than one instance, forced the bars apart sufficiently to allow of escape. As it was, the wild cat maintained its position, sullenly retiring to one corner of the box, where it scowled, growled, and fought in a most fearful and courageous manner during the time of its exhibition, never once relaxing its savage watchfulness or attempts to injure even those who fed it. I never saw anything more unremittingly ferocious, nor apparently more untamable.
It was a grand animal, however, and most interesting to the naturalist, being, even then, scarcely ever seen; if so, only in districts far away and remote from the dwellings of civilisation. Yet I believe I saw one among the rocks of Bodsbeck, in Dumfriesshire, many years ago, though of this I am not certain, as it was too far away for accurate observation before it turned and stood at bay, and on my advancing it disappeared. The animal shown at the Crystal Palace was very much lighter in colour, and with less markings than those in the British Museum, the tail shorter, and the dark rings fewer, the lines on the body not much deeper in tint than the ground colour, excepting on the forehead and the inside of the fore-legs, which were darker, rather a light red round the mouth, and almost white on the chest - which appears to be usual with the wild cat; the eyes were yellow-tinted green, the tips of the ears, the lips, cushions of the feet, and a portion of the back part of the hind-legs, black; the markings were, in short, irregular thin lines, and in no way resembled those of the ordinary black-marked domestic tabby cat, possessing little elegance of line in character it was bolder, having a rugged sturdiness, being stronger and broader built, the fore-arms thick, massive, and endowed with great power, with long, curved claws, the feet were stout, sinewy, and strong; altogether it was a very peculiar, interesting, and extraordinary animal.
What became of it I never learned.
In 1871 and 1872, a wild cat was exhibited at the Crystal Palace Cat Show, by the Earl of Hopetoun, aged three years, also some hybrid kittens, the father of which was a longhaired cat, the mother a sandy, by a wild cat out of a longhaired tabby, which proves, if proof were wanting, that such hybrids breed freely either with hybrids, the domestic, or the wild cat.
Mr. Frank Buckland also exhibited a hybrid between the wild and tame cat.
The Zoological Society, a pair of wild cats which did not appear to be British.
In 1873, Mr. A. H. Senger sent a fine specimen of hybrid, between the domestic cat and Scotch wild cat.
An early description of the wild cat in England is to be found in an old book on Natural History, and copied into a work on "Menageries," "Bartholomceus de Proprieta-tibus Rerum," which was translated into English by Thomas Berthlet, and printed by Wynkyn de Worde as early as 1498. There is a very interesting description of the cat, which gives nearly all the properties of the wild animal in an odd and very amusing way. It states: " He is most like to the leopard, and hath a great mouthe, and saw teeth and sharp, and long tongue, and pliant, thin, and subtle; and lappeth therewith when he drinketh, as other beasts do, that have the nether lip shorter than the over; for, by cause of uneven-ness of lips, such beasts suck not in drinking, but lap and lick, as Aristotle saith and Plinius also. And he is a full lecherous beast in youth, swift, pliant, and merry, and leapeth, and riseth on all things that is tofore him; and is led by a straw, and playeth therewith, and is a right heavy beast in age, and full sleepy, and lieth slyly in wait for mice; and is ware where they bene more by smell than by sight, and hunteth and riseth on them in privy places; and when he taketh a mouse, he playeth therewith, and eateth him after the play; and is a cruel beast when he is wild, and dwelleth in woods, and hunteth there small wild beasts as conies and hares."
The next appears in John Bossewell's "Workes of Armorie," folio, a.d. 1597:
"This beaste is called a Musion, for that he is enimie to Myse and Rattes. He is slye and wittie, and seeth so sharpely that he overcommeth darknes of the nighte by the shyninge lyghte of his eyne. In shape of body he is like unto a Leoparde, and hathe a great mouth. He dothe delight that he enioyeth his libertye; and in his youthe he is swifte, plyante, and merye. He maketh a rufull noyse and a gaste-full when he profereth to fighte with an other. He is a cruell beaste when he is wilde, and falleth on his owne feete from most high places: and vneth is hurt therewith.
"When he hath a fayre skinne, he is, as it were, prowde thereof, and then he goeth faste aboute to be seene. . . ."