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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/259

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THE INTRODUCTION OF DOMESTIC ANIMALS.

The goat, too, on account of its predilection for young trees, buds, and sharp, aromatic herbs, can be kept in great numbers only in those regions in which the injuries inflicted by them are of relatively little importance. It therefore feels more at home in the rocky labyrinths of the Grecian islands, Sicily, Sardinia, and Italy, than in the northern regions. According to the census, Italy in 1863 possessed forty-one million goats.

Of four-footed animals, Europe has received only one further addition—the cat. Unlike the dog, it was most probably not a primitive companion of man, but is relatively a late gain. The taming of the animal is a fruit of the religious customs of the Egyptians, who recognized the worth of this mouse-destroyer, and permitted divine honors to be paid to it. Its picture, therefore, meets us beside other wonderful figures upon numerous Egyptian monuments, and in the tombs whole layers of cat-mummies are sometimes to be found.

The ancient Greeks were not acquainted with the cat, but the mouse was certainly known to them from the earliest period—a fact shown by the name which is common to all the Indo-European languages, and which signifies apparently "thief"—and they not seldom suffered so severely under the plague of these pests that whole regions were devastated and in consequence had to be abandoned. For the destruction of the mice they used either the weasel or the marten, which were tamed for this purpose. The weasel, especially, held just the same place among them that the cat now holds among us, and it passed in like manner into proverbs and fables. In Aristophanes, a certain person is summoned to tell a story, and he begins his fable with the words—

"There was once a mouse and a weasel."

That the cat was as little known as a domestic animal to the Romans as it was to the Greeks, is plainly shown by the story of the country and the city mouse, as narrated by Horace, who lived in the time of Augustus.-There is certainly no question that if Horace had known the cat he would have mentioned it in this passage, but no mention of it is made. In the fourth century a. d., we find the cat mentioned for the first time among the domestic animals, and it not only spread abroad among all the European peoples, but was also transplanted to Asia. If Hehn's conjecture be correct, its general introduction was occasioned by the irruption of the rat, which seems to have entered Europe in company with the immigrants from Asia.

Among the Germans this animal was allotted to Freya, whose carriage was drawn by two cats. At the same time it was regarded as a shrewd, magic-working animal, and it therefore played a leading part in matters of witchcraft, during the middle ages, beside the owl and the bat, in myths that grew plainly enough out of its sneaking movement, its preference for the night, its dark fur, and its eyes, which glow in the dark. Cats guarded secret treasures in mountains and