PHASIANUS, the pheasant, in natural history, a genus of birds of the order Gal Jinx. Generic character : bill short, strong, and convex ; head covered in some degree with carunculated flesh ; legs generally with spurs. There are ten species.
P. gallus, or the wild pheasant, inha bits the forests of India, and has been seen, indeed, by navigators in almost all the Indian and South Sea islands. This is the unquestionable origin of all the do. mestic varieties throughout Europe, of which we shall notice the following. P. gallus, or the dunghill cock. The most interesting animal under this varie ty is the game cock, which is found in great perfection of vigour and courage in England, and the irascibility and jealousy of which has, in almost all ages, occasion edit to be employed in the sanguinary diversion of cock-fighting. This practice is carried to a great extent, even among the mild inhabitants of China and India, whose manners, or principles, might be conceived in the highest state of repug nance to it. The polished civilization of the Athenians did not prevent their en gaging in it with considerable ardour, and the Romans encouraged it with all that fondness which might be expected from a nation established by rapine, and as it were educated in blood. From them it was introduced into England, where it. has occasionally been patronized by mo narchs, and is still indulged in both by lords and plebians with considerable fie quency, though, probably, not to such a degree as in some former periods. The appearance of this animal, when under the agitation of strong feeling, is highly interesting, indicating boldness, freedom, and energy, of a very superior character; and the beauty of his plumage, and grace fulness of his movements, combine strongly to heighten the effect. The fe male is remarkable for great fecundity, and for the most exquisite parental fond ness and sensibilities ; the poets of almost every age and nation having introduced it as the most expressive image of mater nal duty and tenderness. It is finely ob
served, by the great French naturalist, that " dull and tasteless as the business of incubation may be thought by us, nature may have made it a state of extraordina ry joy, connecting, probably, sensations of delight with whatever relates to the continuance of her offspring." In some countries, and particularly in Egypt, chickens are produced from eggs without the assistance of the parent bird. The eggs are enclosed in ovens heated with extreme care and precision, and turned at certain intervals, and thus hundreds, and even thousands, are annually produc ed in one establishment ; but chickens, thus produced, are stated to be rarely so vigorous as those hatched in the natural mode. See Ares, Plate X11. fig. P. colchicus, the pheasant. These birds are found in almost every territory of the old continent; but are not to be met with in America. Their wings, from their shortness, are ill calculated to sustain a long flight. They resemble the partridge in breeding on the ground, and lay from twelve to fifteen eggs. In many parts of this kingdom they have been introduced with great success, exhibiting an interest ing and beautiful object to the admirer of nature, and furnishing variety to the pur suits of the sportsman, as well as to the luxuries of the table. Pheasants prefer low woods bordering upon valleys, are extremely shy, and never associate but in the spring. The hen pheasant has been occasionally discovered with the feathers almost universally peculiar to the male ; and, indeed, this circumstance takes place in several other genera of birds. The crowing of the pheasant is very similar to that of the former species, but not so loud or so distinct. There are many varieties of the pheasant tribe kept in the aviaries of the curious in England, exhibiting the most admirable plumage, hut not sufficiently hardy to endure the rigours of winter in that climate, where the P. colchicus alone has become na tionalized. See Ayes, Plate XII. fig. 2.