Gateway to the Classics: The Burgess Animal Book for Children by Thornton W. Burgess
The Burgess Animal Book for Children by  Thornton W. Burgess

Some Big and Little Cat Cousins

"P UMA the Panther," began Old Mother Nature, "is the largest member of the Cat family in this country, with the exception of one which is found only in the extreme Southwest. Puma is also called Mountain Lion, Cougar and Painter. You all know how Black Pussy looks. If Black Pussy could grow to be over eight feet long and be given a yellowish-brown coat, whitish underneath, she would look very much like Puma the Panther. Unlike Yowler the Bob Cat and Tufty the Lynx, Puma has a long tail—just such a round tail as Black Pussy has. Being so large, Puma is of great strength, and he has all the grace and quickness in movement of a true Cat. As I told you yesterday, there was a time when Puma lived in the East. In fact, he was once in nearly all parts of this great country where there were forests. But as the country became settled by man, Puma was driven out, and now his home is chiefly in the great mountains of the Far West.


This is the Mountain Lion or Cougar,
next to the largest of the Cat family in America.

"Being so big, he must have much food. Instead of depending for his living on small animals and birds, Puma hunts the large animals. He is so big and so strong that he can kill Lightfoot the Deer without trouble, and there is no one Lightfoot dreads more than Puma. He is especially fond of Horse flesh, and in certain sections where herds of Horses are pastured, he has killed so many young Horses that he has won the undying hate of man.

"Big as he is, he is a coward and will run from a barking Dog. When desperate with hunger, he has been known to attack man, but such occasions have been very, very rare. The fact is, he fears man and will slink sway at his approach. Like the true Cat that he is, he is wonderfully soft-footed and, despite his great size, moves silently. He makes his home among the ledges high up in the mountains. At night he goes forth to hunt. Once in a while he is seen hunting in daytime, but not often. Sometimes he may be seen basking in the sun, high up on the ledges. He is a good climber, like most Cats. He never shows himself boldly, but slinks about through the forest and among the rocks, the picture of stealth. This habit has won for him another name—that of Sneak Cat. Sometimes he sneaks up on his prey to within jumping distance. Again he lies in wait beside a path which certain animals are in the habit of using. He is capable of leaping a long distance, and when he strikes his prey his great weight, added to the force of his spring, is almost certain to knock it down, even though it be much bigger than Puma himself.

"Men hunt him with Dogs, for as I have already told you he will run from a barking Dog. Usually he doesn't run far before taking to a tree. The hunters follow and shoot him there. Were it not that he can be hunted in this way with Dogs, he would have little to fear from man, for he is so keen of sight and hearing and can move so swiftly and silently, that it is rarely man can surprise him. Sometimes he will follow a man just as Tufty the Lynx does, but usually for the same reason—curiosity. Despite the fact that he is a sneak and coward, he is so big and fierce-looking that he is feared by most men. Only those who really know him do not fear him.

"There is one other member of the Cat family in all this great land larger than Puma, and this is Jaguar, also called El Tigre. He is found only in a small part of the extreme Southwest, for he really belongs in the hot country to the south of this. Not only is he the largest, but he is the handsomest of all the Cat family. His coat is a beautiful deep yellow, covered with spots and rosettes of black. Beneath he is white with large black spots. He also has a fairly long tail. He is thick and heavy, and is not as long as Puma, but is stouter and heavier. He can kill Horses, Mules and Cattle with ease, but of course the principal part of his food consists of the wild animals about him. He is so savage in appearance that the mere sight of him always awakens fear. His method of hunting is much the same as that of the other members of the Cat family. Most of his hunting is done at night. While Puma the panther sometimes screams, Jaguar roars, and it is a very terrifying sound. All the little people and most of the big ones within hearing shiver when they hear it. Jaguar's head is large and he is tremendously strong in the jaws. Occasionally Jaguar is all black instead of being yellow and spotted.


The largest and handsomest of the cats of America.

"In this same part of the great Southwest lives a smaller cousin named Ocelot, often called Tiger Cat. Ocelot is only a little bigger than Black Pussy, whom you all know, and in shape is very like her. He also has a lovely coat. It is yellow, not a deep, rich yellow like Jaguar's, but a light yellow, thickly covered with black spots. On his cheeks and the back of his neck are black lines, and his tail is ringed with black. He likes best country where the brush is very thick and thorny, for there he can hunt in safety, with little fear of being hunted by man. Because of his smaller size, he lives chiefly on small animals, birds and reptiles. He sometimes kills and eats big Snakes. When he happens to live near man, he robs the Hen roosts just as Yowler does. In all his ways he is like the other members of the Cat family.

"A neighbor of his in that same country is the queerest looking member of the Cat family. He is called the Jaguarundi Cat or Eyra. Sometimes he is dressed in dull gray and sometimes in rusty red. His body is shaped more like that of Little Joe Otter than of any one else, and he has short legs and a long tail. He is a little larger than Little Joe, and his head is rather small and somewhat flattened, not so round as the heads of most of the other members of the Cat family. He likes to be in the vicinity of water and is a good swimmer. Not very much is known by man about his habits, but he is a true Cat, and the habits of all Cats are much the same."

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