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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Wild Animals - The Leopard

( Originally Published 1894 )



The Leopard, who is also known as the panther, belongs to Asia and Africa. He is distinguished by the beauty of his coat which is of a rich fawn colour, graduating to white underneath his belly. It is covered with spots or clusters of marks which resemble the form of a rose. He is an agile climber and a terror to goats, sheep, monkeys and all lesser animals, but shows no special hostility to man unless attacked or cornered.

Like other members of the cat family the Leopard shows remarkable tenacity of life. Whether like the domestic cat he has nine lives or not, he certainly takes a great deal of killing. The following account is from the pen of an eye-witness quoted from Captain Brown's " Natural History of Animals". -" I was at Jaffna, at the northern extremity of the Island of Ceylon, in the beginning of the year 1819, when, one morning, my servant called me an hour or two before my usual time, with `Master, master! people sent for master's dogs-tiger in the town! 'There are no real tigers in Ceylon; but leopards or panthers are always called so, and by our. selves as well as by the natives. This turned out to be a panther. My gun chanced not to be put together; and, while my servant was doing it, the collector and two medical men, who had recently arrived, in consequence of the cholera morbus having just then reached Ceylon from the Continent, came to my door, the former armed with a fowling-piece, and the two latter with remarkably blunt hog-spears. They insisted upon setting off, without waiting for my gun,-a proceeding not much to my taste. The tiger (I must continue to call him so) had taken refuge in a hut, the roof of which, like those of Ceylon huts in general, spread to the ground like an umbrella; the only aperture into it was a small door, about four feet high. The collector wanted to get the tiger out at once. I begged to wait for my gun; but no-the fowling-piece, (loaded with ball, of course,) and the two hogspears, were quite enough. I got a hedge-stake, and awaited my fate, from very shame. At this moment, to my great delight, there arrived from the fort an English officer, two artillery-men, and a Malay captain; and a pretty figure we should have cut without them, as the event will show. I was now quite ready to attack, and my gun came a minute afterwards. The whole scene which follows took place within an enclosure, about twenty feet square, formed, on three sides, by a strong fence of palmyra leaves, and on the fourth by the hut. At the door of this, the two artillery-men planted themselves: and the Malay captain got at the top, to frighten the tiger out, by worrying it-an easy operation, as the huts there are covered with cocoa-nut leaves. One of the artillerymen wanted to go in to the tiger, but we would not suffer it. At last the beast sprang. This man received him on his bayonet, which he thrust apparently down his throat, firing his piece at the same moment. The bayonet broke off short, leaving less than three inches on the musket; the rest remained in the animal, but was invisible to us. The shot probably went through his cheek, for it certainly did not seriously injure him, as he instantly rose upon his legs, with a loud roar, and placed his paws upon the soldier's breast. At this moment, the animal appeared to me to about reach the centre of the man's face; but I had scarcely time to observe this, when the tiger, stooping his head, seized the soldier's arm in his mouth, turned him half round staggering, threw him over on his back, and fell upon him. Our dread now was, that, if we fired upon the tiger, we might kill the man. For a moment, there was a pause, when his comrade attacked the beast exactly in the same manner as the gallant fellow himself had done. He struck his bayonet into his head; the tiger rose at him-he fired; and this time the ball took effect, and in the head. The animal staggered backwards, and we all poured in our fire. He still kicked and writhed; when the gentlemen with the hog-spears advanced, and fixed him, while he was finished by some natives beating him on the head with hedge-stakes. The brave artilIeryman was, after all, but slightly hurt: He claimed the skin, which was very cheerfully given to him. There was, however, a cry among the natives, that the head should be cut off: it was; and, in so doing, the knife came directly across the bayonet. The animal measured little less than four feet, from the root of the tail to the muzzle. There was no tradition of a tiger having been in Jaffna before. Indeed, this one must have either come a distance of almost twenty miles, or have swam across an arm of the sea nearly two miles in breadth; for Jaffna stands on a peninsula, on which there is no jungle of any magnitude."

Captain Brown gives a thrilling story of an adventure which befell two Boers in South Africa in 1822. They were returning from a hunting excursion when they unexpectedly fell in with a leopard in a mountain ravine, and immediately gave chase to him. The animal at first endeavoured to escape, by clambering up a precipice, but, being hotly pressed, and slightly wounded by a musket-ball, he turned upon his pursuers, with that frantic ferocity, which, on such emergencies, he frequently displays, and, springing upon the man who had fired at him, tore him from his horse to the ground, biting him at the same time very severely on the shoulder, and tearing his face and arms with his claws. The other hunter, seeing the danger of his comrade, sprang from his horse, and attempted to shoot the leopard through the head; but, whether owing to trepidation, or the fear of wounding his friend, or the sudden motions of the animal, he unfortunately missed his aim. The leopard, abandoning his prostrate enemy darted with redoubled fury upon this second antagonist; and so fierce and sudden was his onset, that before the Boer could stab him with his hunting-knife, he had struck him in the face with his claws, and tom the scalp over his forehead. In this frightful condition, the hunter grappled with the raging beast, and, struggling for life, they rolled together down a steep declivity. All this passed so rapidly that the other man had scarcely time to recover from the confusion into which his feline foe had thrown him, to seize his gun and rush forward to aid his comrade, when he beheld them rolling together down the steep bank, in mortal conflict. In a few moments he was at the bottom with them, but too late to save the life of his friend, who had so gallantly defended him. The leopard had tom open the jugular vein, and so dreadfully mangled the throat of the unfortunate man, that his death was inevitable; and his comrade had only the melancholy satisfaction of completing the destruction of the savage beast, which was already much exhausted by several deep wounds it had received in the breast, from the desperate knife of the expiring huntsman."



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