In China, specifically around Hankow so it seems, is a type of hairy tortoise; the following story appeared in the Bradford Observer of March 13th 1875, and the e-mail I was sent containing it included errors, but the substance of it is below. This is also a Christmas present for Jon as I know he`s interested in these critters.
Telescopic Fish and Hairy Tortoise
Several notable living curiosities have been brought to the Brighton Aquarium. Chief amongst them were the " telescope fish," just arrived from
, and which are so called from
their prominent eyes protruding considerably from each side of the head. The
Chinese name of the fish is " Long-sing- ya. Bloch makes it a distinct species,
which he calls Cyprinus macropthalmas, but
it is merely a monstrosity —though a very remarkable one— of the common gold-
carp (Carassius auratus), and has been cultivated by (natural?)selection by the
Chinese, … breeding these domesticated pets, until the progeny is so disguised
that the original form is almost lost. Regarded from the front, it appears to
have a -red forehead, large and projecting eyes, and compressed under-lip ; a
countenance, in fact, which resembles at once a half-strangled pup-dog. My
friend Mr. Bartlett, of the Zoological gardens, who tells me that [it is] many
years since he had some of them … i compare the skin of the Chinese…
perpetuating these deformities in fish with that of the Japanese in producing,
by similar selection, pet dogs with very short noses, and large projecting eyes.
We learn from ancient Chinese encyclopedias, quoted by Mr. Darwin in
his Descent of Man," that goldfish were
first reared in confinement in China in A.D. 960. In the year 1129
they abounded; and "since 1548 these have been produced at
Hang-chow a variety called the -fire-fish/
from its intensely red colour. It is universally admired, and there is not a
household where it is not cultivated, in rivalry as to its colour, as a source
of profit." A gentleman, Mr. John Meaney, of the Imperial Customs, Hankow,
recently arrived from China, brought with him with great care, and most kindly
presented to the Aquarium, a little tortoise covered with a singular growth on
the shell, three or four inches long, which he believed to be hair. This
erroneous (?) belief is doubtless fostered by - the Chinese, who induce
Europeans to purchase, at great curiosities, their "hairy tortoise," as some
rogues in England sell painted canaries. The so-called " hair "is a filamentous
alga, or water weed, which grows on the hack of the animal in the pond or tank
in which it is kept exposed to the light. I remember examining- with Mr.
Buckland, some years ago, a similar specimen which had been sent to him. The
microscope soon showed us the character of the filiform growth.—
Land and Water.
In the “Travels of a Pioneer of Commerce in Pigtails and Petticoats” by T.T. Cooper (London,Murray,1871, page 459) there is a plate of one of these hairy tortoises from the lakes of Ha-su above Hankow (see image here,Rich) . These curious little animals were two inches long, and covered on the back with a long confervoid growth resembling hair.The tortoise being a sacred emblem in
, the Chinese make pets of the
hairy tortoise which they keep in basins of water during the summer months, and
bury in sand during the winter. (2) China
There was also an American hairy tortoise:
AN AMERICAN HAIRY TORTOISE
To the editors of the Popular Science Monthly
Noticing your interesting extract from “Land and Water” concerning the “hairy tortoise” , I take the liberty of mentioning a similar species found to my knowledge in the lakes of this valley. Its description tallies almost exactly with that of the Chinese variety, except perhaps in size. It is about three inches in length by two and a half breadth, is very closely covered by its shell , the calipiee is not hinged, and out of some dozen specimens examined by me not one was without the coat of water-grass. Its habitat is at the bottom of shallow lakes and ponds, and near the submerged roots of trees, where it is often caught with the hook. It has a remarkably fetid odour. The grassy or confervoid covering is not of any great length, generally about one half or three fourths of an inch. It is, I believe an undescribed species, though Mr Aggasiz may have had a specimen among his collection of tortoises from the
. Mississippi Valley
Very Respectfully, J.F. BATTAILE,
8th, 1878. (3) YAZOO
There is a telescope fish in the cold waters of the S.Hemisphere and gold-fish of this name, but I don`t know whether or not the telescope fish mentioned above is of these species.
Bradford Observer March 13th 1875.
2. Popular Science Monthly . Dec 1878. p. 246
3. Popular Science Monthly February 1879 p. 530.
P.S. Flying Snake 4 will be available in early January containing Dr Devo`s diary, Odd Britsh toads, Chinese coins in strange places, Oxford University`s tortoise mascots, a Japanese snake with two legs, a Giant Crocodile ballad and more! See http://homepage.ntlworld.com/richmuirhead/cryptozoology/ for payment instructions. Back issues available. Happy Christmas!