PORCUPINE

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PORCUPINE (hystrix); a genus of quadrupeds belonging to the rodentia, or gnawers, characterized by having the clavicles imperfect, two incisor teeth in each jaw, and four molars both above and below, on each side; these have flat crowns, surrounded sby a line of enamel, which enters into both edges, and appears to divide the tooth into two portions; there are also small lines of enamel radiating from the centre, which are worn down by attrition; the muzzle is thick and trun" cated; the lip divided; the tongue furnished with spiny scales; the ears short and rounded; the anterior feet furnished with four toes, and the posterior with five, all armed with thick nails. Cuvier divides this genus into hystrix, athetura, eretison and synethera ; the first including the common porcupine; the second, the fasciculated porcupine ; the third, the Canadian porcupine; and the fourth, the porcupine with a prehensile tail. The common porcupine (H. cristata) is found in the southern parts of Europe and in Barbary. When full grown, it measures nearly two feet in length, and some of its spines exceed a foot. Its general color ]? a grizzled, dusky black. The upper \ hi r of its head and neck is furnished will* long, light colored hairs, capable of being raised or depressed at pleasure; most parts of the back and sides are armed with spines, which are longest on the centre of the back. In their usual position they lie nearly flat upon the body, with their points directed backwards; but when the animal is excited, they are capable of being raised. The common porcupine, though known from the earliest ages, has given rise to numberless fables, among which that most commonly received is, that it possesses the power of ejecting its quills to a considerable distance when irritated or pursued. The use of this armature does not appear to be well understood ; the most probable supposition, however, is, that, like that of the hedgehog, it is merely for defence, as, like that animal, it has the power of rolling itself up in a ball, and thus presenting a phalanx of spears on every side, that renders the attack of most animals fruitless. The porcupine generally sleeps during the day, and only leaves its burrow in the evening, in search of its food, which is almost entirely composed of vegetables. In captivity it is quiet and peaceable, but shows no marks of attachment or familiarity. Canada porcupine (H. dorsata) is a very unsightly and sluggish animal, and is not provided with the long quills so remarkable in the lastmentioned species, its armature consisting of short, sharp spines, almost concealed by the hair with which they are intermingled. It is about two feet long, of a brownish color mingled with white; the spines are attached in a very slight manner to the animal, and, from being barbed at tip with numerous small reversed points or prickles, they, by degrees, penetrate very deeply into the flesh after having once pierced it. Small and insignificant as these defensive weapons may appear, they are capable of causing the death of dogs, wolves, or indeed of any animal that incautiously attempts to seize the porcupine. These spines or quills are much used among the Indians to ornament different articles of dress; they dye them of various colors, in a very permanent manner. The Canada porcupine is principally found in the northern parts of the U. States and in Canada. They feed on the barks of various trees, apples, corn, &c. Their flesh is said to be very unpalatable, resembling flabby pork. They pair about the latter end of September, and the female brings forth two young in April or May.