see the real Wild Cat to-day, we must seek it in Scotland, preferably in
the wild, rocky parts from the counties of Ross and Inverness down to
central Perthshire, where it is said to have increased its numbers
considerably in recent years. It inhabits the most lonely and inaccessible
mountain sides, hiding during the day in some rocky fastness, prowling far
and wide at night in search of prey. It is of a general yellowish grey
colour, but individuals differ in their dark brown markings, some having
vertical stripes running down the sides ; in others these are broken up to
form spots. It has a squarish thick head and body, the latter longer than
in the domestic cat ; but the thick bushy tail is relatively shorter,
ringed, and ending in a long black brush. The limbs, too, are longer than
those of the tame cat, so that it stands higher. A pair of dark stripes
extend from the eyes and over the head to behind the ears. The fur is
long, soft, and thick. The average length is about two feet nine inches,
of which the tail accounts for eleven inches ; but there is a record of a
Scottish example measuring three feet nine inches in all.
Pennant (1776) says "This animal may be called the British tiger; it is the fiercest, and most
destructive beast we have ; making dreadful havoke among our poultry,
lambs, and kids." C. St. John, nearer to our own time (1845), says
its strength and ferocity when hard pressed are perfectly astonishing. He
adds " I have heard their wild and unearthly cry echo far in the
quiet night as they answer and call to each other. I do not know a more
harsh and unpleasant cry than that of the Wild Cat."
The female makes a nest in some remote rock-cleft
or hollow tree, where in early summer she usually brings forth four or
five kittens, which at an early age spit angrily at any intruder.
The distribution of the Wild Cat includes
Europe and Northern Asia to the North Himalaya. Though formerly a beast of
chase in England, it appears never to have been a native of Ireland.