The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Squirrel
Story Of The Otter
Story Of The Civet
Story Of The Crocodile
Story Of The Sloth
Story Of The Tortoise
Story Of The Ocelot
Story Of The Wolf
Story Of The Badger
Story Of The Hyena
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Story Of The Civet
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
In parts of India, Africa and the Malay Peninsula I have oftentimes had my patience taxed by the conduct of my dogs in leaving the trail they were following to pursue the trail of a civet. The reason why a dog will follow the trail of a civet in preference to any other is that the civet has a scent gland and leaves a highly perfumed trail. In this respect it is like the fox only more so.
From this scent gland is extracted the perfume which bears the name of the animal, and which was more highly esteemed a hundred or more years ago than it is now.
Civets have longer faces than domestic cats, and their bodies are also longer, but their legs shorter than in the members of that family. The tail is usually marked with six black rings, which are much wider than the intervening white ones; its tip being black. The Indian civet inhabits the eastern side of India, from Bengal to Sikhim, ascending in the last-named district to a considerable elevation in the Himalaya, and it is also found in Burma, in Siam, in Hainan, and in the south of China. This civet is generally a solitary animal, and it hides in woods, bushes, or thick grass during the day, wandering into open country and often coming about houses at night. Not infrequently it is found in holes, but whether these are dug by it is doubtful. It is very destructive, killing any birds or small animals it can capture, and often attacking fowls, ducks, etc., but also feeding on snakes, frogs, insects, eggs, and on fruits and some roots. Civets take readily to water.
The palm-civets are only abroad at night and live almost entirely in trees. Their food is in part animal and part vegetable substances.
Of the various families of true palm-civets, five are found in India and Burma. In eight of these the tail is considerably more than half the length of the head and body; and in seven of these it is uniformly-colored. The Celebes palm-civet, forming the eighth of this series, is, however, distinguished by having its tail banded with indistinct rings of darker and lighter brown. The imperfectly-known woolly palm-civet of Thibet differs from all the rest in the woolly nature of its fur, and also by the length of the tail not exceeding that of the head and body.
The best known of all is the Indian palm-civet, found throughout the greater part of India and Ceylon. The general color of the coarse and some-what ragged fur is a blackish or brownish-gray, without any stripes across the back in fully adult individuals. The length of the head and body of a male measured by me was twenty-two and one-half inches, and that of the tail nineteen and one-half inches; the corresponding dimensions of a female being in one instance twenty and seventeen and one-half inches, while in a second both were about eighteen inches.
This species lives much on trees, especially on the cocoanut palms, and is often found to have taken up its residence in the thick thatched roofs of native houses. I found a large colony of them established in the rafters of my own house at Calcutta. It is also occasionally found in dry drains, out-houses and other places of shelter. It issues forth at dark, living by preference on animal food, rats, lizards, small birds, poultry, and eggs; but it also freely partakes of vegetable food, fruit, and insects. In confinement it will also eat plantains, boiled rice, bread-and-milk, etc. It is very fond of cock-roaches. Now and then it will commit depredations on some poultry-yard, and I have often known it taken in traps baited with a pigeon or a chicken. In the south of India it is very often tamed, and becomes quite domestic, and even affectionate in its manners.
One I saw went about quite at large, and late every night used to work itself under the pillow of its owner, roll itself up into a ball, with its tail coiled round its body, and sleep till a late hour in the day. It hunted for rats, shrews, and lizards. Their activity in climbing is very great, and they used to ascend and descend my house at one of the corners in a most surprising manner. This palm-civet is common in Lower Bengal, and in the gardens of the suburban residences of Calcutta may occasionally be seen in the late after-noon or evening crawling among the leaves of a palm previous to starting on its nocturnal wanderings. That it will sometimes take up its quarters in the very heart of the town of Calcutta is proved by an incident which happened to the present writer when employed on the Geological Survey of India. At that time the office of the survey was situated in a street leading down to the Hoogli River, in the old part of the city. On arriving at the office I found my papers on the writing-table marked every morning with the footprints of some mammal. I thereupon set a trap, which caught a large civet the following night.