These singular animals were among the first fruits which accrued to natural history from the discovery of New South Wales, a country which has since proved so fertile in new and remarkable forms both of the animal and vegetable creations. Their natural habits in a wild state are still, however, very imperfectly known. They appear to live in small herds, perhaps single families, which are said to submit to the guidance of the older males, and to inhabit in preference the neighbourhood of woods and thickets. They are, as might be inferred from the small size of their mouths and the peculiar character of their teeth, purely herbivorous, feeding chiefly upon grass and roots. Their flesh is eaten by the colonists, by whom it is said to be nutritious and savoury, an assertion which is confirmed by those who have partaken of it in England. In order to procure this they are frequently hunted in their native country; but the dogs who are employed in this service sometimes meet with dangerous wounds, not only from the blows of their powerful tail, which is their usual weapon of defence, but also from the claws of their hind feet, with which they have been known to lacerate the bodies of their assailants in a shocking manner. But, unless when thus driven to make use of such powers of self-defence as they possess, they are perfectly harmless and even timid; and, when domesticated, are not in the least mischievous. In several collections in this country, and particularly in the Royal Park at Windsor, from which the specimens in the Menagerie were obtained, they have become almost naturalized, and appear to be but little affected by the change of climate. When confined in a small enclosure, they uniformly make their path round its circuit, seldom crossing it or passing in any other direction except for the purpose of procuring their food. Their whole appearance, and especially their mode of progression, is singularly curious and even to a certain extent ludicrous.
In size and form it is smaller and more slender than either the Hy?na or the Wolf. Its ground colour is of a reddish or yellowish brown, which is variously mottled in large patches along the sides of the body and on the legs, with black and white intermingled together. Its nose and muzzle are completely black, and it has a strong black line passing from them up the centre of the forehead to between the ears, which are very large, black both within and without, and furnished with a broad and expanded tuft of long whitish hairs arising from their anterior margin and filling up a considerable part of their concavity. There is a lighter patch on the muzzle beneath each of the eyes. The tail is of moderate length, covered with long bushy hair, and divided in the middle by a ring of black, below which or towards the extremity it is nearly white, as are also the fore parts of the legs below the joint. These colours and markings are subject to variation in different individuals; but in their general disposition and appearance they constantly exhibit the greatest similarity.下载