Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/64

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56
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

THE MARMOT (Mus Alpinus).

Its Shape and Outline and where to find it. — In shape, outline, and size this animal is like a big rabbit, but lower and with a broader back. Its hair is coarser than that of a rabbit, of a reddish color, darker in some places and lighter in others. It has big eyes, placed above the cheek-pouches. In its mouth are long, yellow teeth, much like those of a beaver, two above and two below. The length of its tail is two hands or more. It has short, thick, hairy feet, like those of a bear, with long, black nails, which enable it to dig deeply into the earth. While the rest of the body is lean, the back is fat, although this fat is not real fat, but something between fat and meat, like the substance of the udder of the cow. This animal is found only on the very highest tops of the Alps. The widely known Dr. Conrad Gesner has himself traveled in these regions and observed its habits.

Its Nature and Properties. — While playing and frolicking together the marmots make a noise not unlike that of a cat, but

PSM V47 D064 Gesner bird.jpg
Fig. 9.

when they are angry or wish to warn each other of a change in the weather, their cry is sharp and penetrating, and very disagreeable to the ear of man, like the noise of a highly pitched small flute. On account of their offensive voice they are often called manure-barkers.

This animal sometimes walks on its two hind legs. It uses its fore paws like hands, grasping its food with them, like a squirrel, and eating while it sits on its hind legs. It eats not only fruit, but many other things, such as bread, cheese, meat, fish, and nuts, especially when accustomed to them in captivity. It prefers milk and cheese above all other food, and it is often caught by the peasants in the milk cellars, where it is easily discovered by the noise it makes in drinking the milk, like a young pig.

It is a drowsy animal, sleeping often and long. It makes its