This section is from "Scientific American Supplement Volumes 275, 286, 288, 299, 303, 312, 315, 324, 344 and 358". Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
Monkeys are usually divided into three kinds--apes, monkeys, and baboons; but these do not include the American monkeys, which are really more different from all those of the Old World than any of the latter are from each other. Naturalists, therefore, divide the whole monkey-tribe into two great families, inhabiting the Old and the New World respectively; and, if we learn to remember the kind of differences by which these several groups are distinguished, we shall be able to understand something of the classification of animals, and the difference between important and unimportant characters.
Taking first the Old World groups, they may be thus defined: apes have no tails; monkeys have tails, which are usually long; while baboons have short tails, and their faces, instead of being round and with a man-like expression as in apes and monkeys, are long and more dog-like. These differences are, however, by no means constant, and it is often difficult to tell whether an animal should be classed as an ape, a monkey, or a baboon. The Gibraltar ape, for example, though it has no tail, is really a monkey, because it has callosities, or hard pads of bare skin on which it sits, and cheek pouches in which it can stow away food; the latter character being always absent in the true apes, while both are present in most monkeys and baboons. All these animals, however, from the largest ape to the smallest monkey, have the same number of teeth as we have, and they are arranged in a similar manner, although the tusks or canine teeth of the males are often large, like those of a dog.
The American monkeys, on the other hand, with the exception of the marmosets, have four additional grinding teeth (one in each jaw on either side), and none of them have callosities, or cheek pouches. They never have prominent snouts like the baboons; their nostrils are placed wide apart and open sideways on the face; the tail, though sometimes short, is never quite absent; and the thumb bends the same way as the fingers, is generally very short and weak, and is often quite wanting. We thus see that these American monkeys differ in a great number of characters from those of the Eastern hemisphere; and they have this further peculiarity, that many of them have prehensile or grasping tails, which are never found in the monkeys of any other country. This curious organ serves the purpose of a fifth hand. It has so much muscular power that the animal can hang by it easily with the tip curled round a branch, while it can also be used to pick up small objects with almost as much ease and exactness as an elephant's trunk. In those species which have it most perfectly formed it is very long and powerful, and the end has the underside covered with bare skin, exactly resembling that of the finger or palm of the hand and apparently equally sensitive. One of the common kinds of monkeys that accompany street organ-players has a prehensile tail, but not of the most perfect kind; since in this species the tail is entirely clad with hair to the tip, and seems to be used chiefly to steady the animal when sitting on a branch by being twisted round another branch near it. The statement is often erroneously made that all American monkeys have prehensile tails; but the fact is that rather less than half the known kinds have them so, the remainder having this organ either short and bushy, or long and slender, but entirely without any power of grasping. All prehensile-tailed monkeys are American, but all American monkeys are not prehensile-tailed.
By remembering these characters it is easy, with a little observation, to tell whether any strange monkey comes from America or from the Old World. If it has bare seat-pads, or if when eating it fills its mouth till its cheeks swell out like little bags, we may be sure it comes from some part of Africa or Asia; while if it can curl up the end of its tail so as to take hold of anything, it is certainly American. As all the tailed monkeys of the Old World have seat-pads (or ischial callosities as they are called in scientific language), and as all the American monkeys have tails, but no seat-pads, this is the most constant external character by which to distinguish them; and having done so we can look for the other peculiarities of the American monkeys, especially the distance apart of the nostrils and their lateral position.
The whole monkey-tribe is especially tropical, only a few kinds being found in the warmer parts of the temperate zone. One inhabits the Rock of Gibraltar, and there is one very like it in Japan, and these are the two monkeys which live furthest from the equator. In the tropics they become very abundant and increase in numbers and variety as we approach the equator, where the climate is hot, moist, and equable, and where flowers, fruits, and insects are to be found throughout the year. Africa has about 55 different kinds, Asia and its islands about 60, while America has 114, or almost exactly the same as Asia and Africa together. Australia and its islands have no monkeys, nor has the great and luxuriant island of New Guinea, whose magnificent forests seem so well adapted for them. We will now give a short account of the different kinds of monkeys inhabiting each of the tropical continents.
Africa possesses two of the great man-like apes--the gorilla and the chimpanzee, the former being the largest ape known, and the one which, on the whole, perhaps most resembles man, though its countenance is less human than that of the chimpanzee. Both are found in West Africa, near the equator, but they also inhabit the interior wherever there are great forests; and Dr. Schweinfurth states that the chimpanzee inhabits the country about the sources of the Shari River in 28° E. long. and 4° N. lat.
The long-tailed monkeys of Africa are very numerous and varied. One group has no cheek pouches and no thumb on the hand, and many of these have long soft fur of varied colors. The most numerous group are the Guenons, rather small long-tailed monkeys, very active and lively, and often having their faces curiously marked with white or black, or ornamented with whiskers or other tufts of hair; and they all have large cheek pouches and good sized thumbs. Many of them are called green monkeys, from the greenish yellow tint of their fur, and most of them are well formed, pleasing animals. They are found only in tropical Africa.
The baboons are larger but less numerous. They resemble dogs in the general form and the length of the face or snout, but they have hands with well-developed thumbs on both the fore and hind limbs; and this, with something in the expression of the face and their habit of sitting up and using their hands in a very human fashion, at once shows that they belong to the monkey tribe. Many of them are very ugly, and in their wild state they are the fiercest and most dangerous of monkeys. Some have the tail very long, others of medium length, while it is sometimes reduced to a mere stump, and all have large cheek pouches and bare seat pads. They are found all over Africa, from Egypt to the Cape of Good Hope; while one species, called the hamadryas, extends from Abyssinia across the Red Sea into Arabia, and is the only baboon found out of Africa. This species was known to the ancients, and it is often represented in Egyptian sculptures, while mummies of it have been found in the catacombs. The largest and most remarkable of all the baboons is the mandrill of West Africa, whose swollen and hog-like face is ornamented with stripes of vivid blue and scarlet. This animal has a tail scarcely two inches long, while in size and strength it is not much inferior to the gorilla. The large baboons go in bands, and are said to be a match for any other animals in the African forests, and even to attack and drive away the elephants from the districts they inhabit.
Turning now to Asia, we have first one of the best known of the large man-like apes--the orang-outang, found only in the two large islands, Borneo and Sumatra. The name is Malay, signifying "man of the woods," and it should be pronounced órang-óotan, the accent being on the first syllable of both words. It is a very curious circumstance that, whereas the gorilla and chimpanzee are both black, like the negroes of the same country, the orang-outang is red or reddish brown, closely resembling the color of the Malays and Dyaks who live in the Bornean forests. Though very large and powerful, it is a harmless creature, feeding on fruit, and never attacking any other animal except in self-defense. A full-grown male orang-outang is rather more than four feet high, but with a body as large as that of a stout man, and with enormously long and powerful arms.
Another group of true apes inhabit Asia and the larger Asiatic islands, and are in some respects the most remarkable of the whole family. These are the Gibbons, or long-armed apes, which are generally of small size and of a gentle disposition, but possessing the most wonderful agility. In these creatures the arms are as long as the body and legs together, and are so powerful that a gibbon will hang for hours suspended from a branch, or swing to and fro and then throw itself a great distance through the air. The arms, in fact, completely take the place of the legs for traveling. Instead of jumping from bough to bough and running on the branches, like other apes and monkeys, the gibbons move along while hanging suspended in the air, stretching their arms from bough to bough, and thus going hand over hand as a very active sailor will climb along a rope. The strength of their arms is, however, so prodigious, and their hold so sure, that they often loose one hand before they have caught a bough with the other, thus seeming almost to fly through the air by a series of swinging leaps; and they travel among the network of interlacing boughs a hundred feet above the earth with as much ease and certainty as we walk or run upon level ground, and with even greater speed. These little animals scarcely ever come down to the ground of their own accord; but when obliged to do so they run along almost erect, with their long arms swinging round and round, as if trying to find some tree or other object to climb upon. They are the only apes who naturally walk without using their hands as well as their feet; but this does not make them more like men, for it is evident that the attitude is not an easy one, and is only adopted because the arms are habitually used to swing by, and are therefore naturally held upward, instead of downward, as they must be when walking on them.
The tailed monkeys of Asia consist of two groups, the first of which have no cheek pouches, but always have very long tails, They are true forest monkeys, very active and of a shy disposition. The most remarkable of these is the long-nosed monkey of Borneo, which is very large, of a pale brown color, and distinguished by possessing a long, pointed, fleshy nose, totally unlike that of all other monkeys. Another interesting species is the black and white entellus monkey of India, called the "Hanuman," by the Hindoos, and considered sacred by them. These animals are petted and fed, and at some of the temples numbers of them come every day for the food which the priests, as well as the people, provide for them.
The next group of Eastern monkeys are the Macaques, which are more like baboons, and often run upon the ground. They are more bold and vicious than the others. All have cheek pouches, and though some have long tails, in others the tail is short, or reduced to a mere stump. In some few this stump is so very short that there appears to be no tail, as in the magot of North Africa and Gibraltar, and in an allied species that inhabits Japan.