The New International Encyclopædia/Fossa
FOS′SA, or FOUS′SA (Malagasy). The largest carnivorous mammal of Madagascar, a slender, lithe creature, connecting the cats and civets and in structure partaking of both. It is about twice the size of a house cat, and has a very long, tapering tail, so that it measures fully five feet from tip of nose to end of tail. It is nearly uniformly pale brown in color, with the hair short and close and no spots. Each foot has five cat-like toes, the claws of which are sharp, curved, and retractile; but the soles of the hind feet are entirely naked, and rest upon the ground in walking. The dentition is a mixture of forms characterizing both the cats and the civets, the teeth numbering thirty-six in all. A separate family has been proposed for this strange carnivore by several zoologists; but it seems best to regard it as alone representing a group Cryptoproctinæ within the civet family (Viverridæ), under the name Cryptoprocta ferox. It seems to be confined to Madagascar, where it is not numerous; and although much dreaded by the natives, on account of its reputation for ferocity and ability to do harm, is rarely seen, since it is wholly nocturnal. It feeds upon small animals and birds, and occasionally invades poultry yards; but its general habits are little known.