Civet (viverra civetta, Linn.), a digitigrade carnivorous mammal, belonging to the family viverridae, inhabiting northern Africa. The dentition is less carnivorous than that of the cats, there being three false molars above and four below, the anterior of which occasionally drops out; two tuberculous, tolerably large above, and one only below; the lower carnivorous tooth has even two projecting tubercles on the inner side in front, and the whole of it is more or less tuberculous. The tongue is rough, the claws are partly straightened in walking, and between the anus and the genital opening is a sac, divided into two parts, lined with glands which secrete an unctuous substance of a strong musk-like odor. The civet is about 2 1/2 ft. long from the nose to the end of the tail, the latter being more than a foot of this length; and the height is about 15 inches. The general color is an iron gray, with transverse black bands, narrow and parallel on the shoulders, wider on the body and thighs, and sometimes forming curved eye-like spots; the tail has four or five blackish rings, and the last six inches entirely black; the neck is whitish, with three black bands; the muzzle is black, except the upper lip, which is white, and there is no spot under the eye as in the zibeth; the limbs are black; along the back is a strong, stiff, erectile mane; the fore part of the ears is grayish white and the hind part black; the under parts are white, the hairs being dark at the base.
These colors vary somewhat in different specimens. According to Cuvier, the cavities which contain the scent have their internal surface slightly covered with fine hair and pierced with many holes, the openings of superficial oval follicles, whose cavities receive the odorous substance and discharge it into the main bag in a vermicelli-like form; the follicles as well as the bag may be compressed by muscular action at the will of the animal. Besides this, the civet secretes a dark-colored fetid liquid, which issues from an opening on each side of the anus. In Abyssinia and some parts of Asia the civet is kept in considerable numbers in a state of domestication for the sake of its musky secretion. In confinement it is a very sleepy animal, doing nothing but eat and sleep. When irritated, the musky odor becomes stronger. When the bag becomes filled with the hardened secretion, it falls out in pieces about the size of an almond. When first secreted it is semi-liquid and yellowish in color, becoming harder and brown on exposure to the air; the taste is bitter and the odor less agreeable than musk. It is insoluble in water, slightly soluble in ether and cold alcohol, and almost entirely so in hot alcohol. It contains a volatile oil and free ammonia.
Formerly it was highly esteemed as a stimulant and antispasmodic medicine, but castor and musk, also animal secretions, have taken its place, and its use is now confined to the manufacture of perfumery. In its wild state the civet is a nocturnal animal, preying upon the smaller mammals, birds, and reptiles, and occasionally eating fruits; in confinement its food is more varied. - The zibeth and the rasse (V. zibetta, Linn., and V. rasse, Horsf.), the former inhabiting the Asiatic continent and the latter the islands of the Indian archipelago, especially Java, both secrete an odorous substance like civet, a favorite perfume in the East; it is now less esteemed in Europe than musk. - This family is represented in America by the civet cat, or caeomixl of the Mexicans (bassaris astuta, Licht.), about as large as a cat, but more slender. It is brownish yellow above, mixed with gray below, the tail white with six to eight black rings, rather full. It is an arboreal ani-mal, and is easily tamed.
Civet (Viverra civetta).
Civet Cat (Bassaris astuta).