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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Monday, April 11, 2011

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: SOME UNUSUAL BRITISH ANIMAL RECORDS UP TO THE EARLY 19TH CENTURY

I recently came across a book on Google Books called History of British Animals by John Fleming, 1828. I thought you might find the following records of interest. In the order they appeared in the book are the following:

MARTES. “M.fagorum. Common Martin. ( i.e The Beech Marten) – Throat and breast white. ……. In woods and rocks in the south of Scotland and England. [ possibly confirming Jon Downes`s view in The Smaller Mystery Carnivores of the West of England of the presence of the Beech Marten there-R]. The length of the body is about 18 inches, the tail 10. The general colour of the fur is dark brown, the head having a reddish tinge- It is a great destroyer of poultry and game. Easily tamed. Lodges frequently in hollows of trees, and brings forth from four to six young.” (1)

FELIS. Cat. “The spotted variety, termed the Cypress Cat, is noticed by Merret,[Christopher Merret, 1614/15-1695, an English physician and scientist who compiled one of the first lists of the flora,fauna and minerals of Britain , the Pinex Rerum Naturalium Brittanicarium- see Wikipedia, R] who says (Pin.169.), “ Enutritur in aedibus nobilium.”. I haven`t been able to translate this on any Google translation tool, nor could I find Cypress Cat on a Google serach. (2)

WALRUS “This species is noticed both by Beece (?) and Sibbald, without any facts being stated illustrative of the time or place of its occurrence on our shores. In December 1817,however a solitary individual was shot while lying on a small rock at the Sound of Stockness on the east coast of Harris, which was upwards of 10 feet in length. The tusks measured 3 ½ inches in length. On the shore of Spitzbergen it measures 15 feet in length, and 10 in circumference, and the tusks are 20 inches in length. It has been conjectured, that the ivory bits which Strabo enumerates in the articles of British commerce, were manufactured from the teeth of this animal.Perhaps the influence of civilization may have so reduced the geographical limits of this species, as now to confine its dwelling to the Arctic Seas. It was formerly captured in abundance in the Norwegian Seas.” (3) [ see also Animals and Men 11. ]

“Apparently L. viridis is no longer found in Ireland, though “ Ray [ 1628-1705-R] takes notice of the L.viridis , or Green Lizard…., as inhabiting Ireland.”(4)

NATRIX N.Dumfrisiensis. [This is the Smooth Snake, I include it because of its current distribution in only a few counties in S.England and because of the factor that sometimes, what looks like something odd is actually not so.-R] Dumfries-shire Snake.- Dorsal scales destitute of a mesial crest. “ Plates on the belly, 162. Scales under the tail about 80. This coluber seems to be entirely new, and was discovered by T.W.Simmons, near Dumfries. As only one specimen has been seen, we cannot say much with regard to size……” (5)

1. J. Fleming History of British Animals (1828 ed.) p. 14

2. Ibid p. 15
3. Ibid p19
4. Ibid p. 152
5. Ibid p. 156

1 comment:

Dale Drinnon said...

Hi Richard, Sorry I took so long to get back to you for a comment.

There is a species of cat called the swamp cat (Felis chaus) which has been seen in Britain on occasion and which has been reported as a "Panther" before (presumably released from captivity). However in this case there is nothing which would make me think it is anything other than a typical Wild cat. Your "Pinex" phrase is Latin and means "Being nourished in the houses of the nobles"

I see nothing suspicious in the listings for either the martin or the common snake Natrix. And I have no other sources which presume any shortages of the common green lizard in Ireland.

Walruses did indeed used to come to the shores of Scotland and their ivory was indeed a valuable item of trade up into Roman times. This has been taken as a motivation for early Britons and Picts to venture farther out into the North Atlantic into pursuit of the Walruses as they withdrew. That becomes an argument for transatlantic voyaging in ancient times, hence another subject ana another type of controversy.

Hope this helps,
Best Wishes, Dale D.