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The Lynx, from Harper's


An ugly and savage member of the great cat family is the lynx, a creature very numerous in Canada and in the wild forests of our most northern States. It is found all over Northern Europe as well, and in Germany and Switzerland; a smaller variety, called the swamp lynx, is also an inhabitant of Persia, Syria, and some portions of Egypt.

The Canada lynx is a beast about three feet long, with a short stubbed tail, and might easily be mistaken for a large wild-cat. Its fur, which is short and very thick, and of a beautiful silver gray, is much used for muffs, tippets, and fur trimming. The lynx is a cowardly beast, and seldom attacks anything larger than hares, squirrels, and birds. It will sometimes rob a sheep-fold, as the gentle and pretty lambs have no means of defense against its terrible claws.

It is very much hunted for its valuable fur, and some years thousands of these beautiful skins are sent to market. The ears are very curious, having a tuft of bristling hair on the very point; indeed, this ear ornament is a distinguishing characteristic of all the varieties of the lynx tribe.


The large and powerful dogs which are found in Canada and the northern portions of Michigan, Minnesota, and other border States, where they are used as train dogs to drag the mail sledges over vast wastes of snow during the winter, are natural enemies of the lynx, and pursue it furiously through the snow-bound forests. Their loud barking often warns the hunter before he himself catches sight of the game that the desired prize is treed, and awaits its fate, with arched back and fur bristling, after the manner of an enraged cat.

The Canada lynx is a very stupid beast, and easily trapped—a method of catching it generally adopted by the Hudson Bay Company, as in this way its beautiful fur is uninjured by bullets.

The European lynx is a much larger, stronger, and more ferocious beast than its Canadian brother. Its great hairy paws are like those of the lion and tiger, which, strange as it may seem, are also members of the pussy-cat family. It lives in wild Siberian forests (where large numbers of trappers subsist on the proceeds of its valuable fur), in Norway and Sweden, in Switzerland, and also in other countries where wild forests exist. Vast numbers roam through the steppes of Asia and the uninhabited portions of the Eastern world.

So much is this creature dreaded in Switzerland for its depredations on the flocks that the shepherds whose sheep feed on the mountain pastures do all in their power to exterminate this cruel enemy of their fold, and a prize is offered by the government for every one killed.

Driven by hunger, the European lynx will often attack deer and other large animals. A story is told of a lynx in Norway which, much against its will, was forced to take a furious ride on the back of a goat. The winter had been very severe, and failing to find food in the forests and rocky barrens, a young lynx spied a flock of goats feeding among the dry stubble of a field. Giving a quick spring, it landed on the back of a large goat, with the purpose of tearing open the arteries of its neck—its method of killing large animals. But the goat, feeling its unwelcome rider, set out at a gallop for the farm-yard, followed by the whole herd, all bleating in concert. The claws of the lynx had become so entangled in the heavy beard of its intended victim that escape was impossible, and the farmer by a skillfully aimed shot put an end to its life.

Patience is largely developed in the lynx. It will lie stretched out for hours, on a branch of a tree, watching for its prey. If anything approaches, it crouches and springs. Should the rabbit or bird escape, the lynx never pursues, but slyly creeps back to its branch, and resumes its patient watch.

When captured very young, lynxes may be tamed, and have been known to live on friendly terms with domestic animals, such as dogs and cats. But they are never healthy away from their native woods, and usually die in a short time. Even in the wild state the lynx is short-lived, and is said rarely to reach the age of fifteen years. In confinement the lynx never thrives. Specimens kept in menageries never become friendly, but grow sullen and suspicious. Spending the day in sleep, at night they walk restlessly up and down their cage, giving vent to hideous howls and yells.

The glistening, piercing eyes of the lynx were formerly the subject of strange superstitions. In the days of Pliny it was known to the Romans by the same name it still bears. Specimens were first brought to Rome from Gaul (the country now called France), and so terrible was the glaring eye that it was said to be able to look through a stone wall as through glass, and to penetrate the darkest mysteries. Hence, no doubt, the expression "lynx-eyed," which is so often used to indicate keen and sharp watchfulness from which nothing can escape.