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Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/340

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THE TRAVELLER AND THE POLE-CAT.

We started by break of day, taking with us the frozen cloak, and after passing a pleasant night in my own house, we parted. Some years after, I met my Kentucky companion in a far distant land, when he assured me, that whenever the sun shone on his cloak, or it was brought near a fire, the scent of the Pole-cat became so perceptible, that he at last gave it to a poor monk in Italy.

The animal commonly known in America by the name of Pole-cat is about a foot and a half in length, with a large bushy tail, nearly as long as the body. The colour is generally brownish-black, with a large white patch on the back of the head; but there are many varieties of colouring, in some of which the broad white bands of the back are very conspicuous. The Pole-cat burrows, or forms a subterranean habitation among the roots of trees, or in rocky places. It feeds on birds, young hares, rats, mice, and other animals, and commits great depredations on poultry. The most remarkable peculiarity of this animal is the power, alluded to above, of squirting for its defence a most nauseously scented fluid contained in a receptacle situated under the tail, which it can do to the distance of several yards. It does not, however, for this purpose, sprinkle its tail with the fluid, as some allege, unless when extremely harassed by its enemies. The Pole-cat is frequently domesticated. The removal of the glands prevents the secretion of the nauseous fluid, and when thus improved, the animal becomes a great favourite, and performs the offices of the common cat with great dexterity.