PHOCA, the seal, in natural history, a genus of Nlammalia of the order Fere. Generic character : fore teeth, in the up per jaw, six, sharp, parallel, and the ex terior ones larger ; in the lower jaw four, distinct, parallel, equal, and rather blunt; tusks one on each side in both jaws, large and pointed, the upper remote from the fore teeth, the lower from the grinders ; grinders five on each side above, and six below, tricuspidated. There are nineteen species, of which we shall notice the following: P. vitulina, or the common seal, or sea calf. These animals are found on the coasts of the polar regions, both to the north and south, often in extreme abun dance, and are generally about five feet in length, closely covered with short hair. They swim with great vigour and rapidi ty, and subsist on various kinds of fish, which they are often observed to pursue within a short distance from the shore. They possess no inconsiderable sagacity, and may, without much difficulty, if taken young, be familiarized to their keepers, and instructed in various gesticulations, They are supposed to attain great longe vity. The female is particularly attentive to her young, and scarcely ever produces more than two at a birth, which, after be ing suckled a fortnight on the shore, where they are always born, are ducted to the water, and taught by their dam the means of defence and subsist, ence ; and when they are fatigued by their excursibus, are relieved by being taken on her back. They distinguish her Toice, and attend at her call. The flesh of seals is sometimes eaten, but they are almost always destroyed for their oil and skins. The latter are manufactured into very valuable leather, and the former is serviceable in a vast variety of manufac tures. A young seal will supply about eight gallons of oil. The smell of these annuals, in any great number upon the shore, is highly disagreeable. In the month of October they are generally con sidered as most valuable, and as they abound in extended caverns on the coast, which are washed by the tide, the hun ters proceed to these retreats about mid night, advancing with their boat as far in to the recess as they are able, armed with spears and bludgeons, and furnished with torches, to enable them to explore the cavern. They begin their operations by making the most violent noises, which soon rouse the seals from their slumbers, and awaken them to a sense of extreme danger, which they express by the most hideous yellings of terror. In their ea gerness to escape they come down from all parts of the cavern, rushing in a pro miscuous and turbulent mass along the avenue to the water. The men engaged in this perilous adventure oppose no im pediment to this rushing crowd, but as this begins to diminish, apply their wea pons with great activity and success, des troying vast numbers, and principally the young ones. The blow of the hunter is
always levelled at the nose of the seal, where a slight stroke is almost instantly fatal.
P. ursina, or the ursine seal, grows to the length of eight feet, and to the weight of a hundred pounds. These are found in vast abundance in the islands between America and Karntschatka, from JiThe till September, when they return to the Asi atic or American shores. They are ex tremely strong, surviving wounds and la erations which almost instantly destroy life in other animals, for days, and even weeks. They may be observed, not mere ly by en tbo snore, each male surrounded by his fe males, from eight to fifty, and his off spring, amounting frequently to more than than that number. Each family is preserved separate from every other. The ursine seals are extremely fat and indolent, and remain with little exercise, or even motion, for months together up on the shore. But if jealousy, to which they are ever alive, once strongly operate, they are roused to animation by all the fierceness of resentment and vengeance, and conflicts arising from this cause be tween individuals, soon spread through families, till at length the whole shore becomes a scene of the most horrid hos tility and havoc. When the conflict is finished, the survivors plunge into the water, to wash off the blood, and recover from their exhaustion. Those which are old, and have lost the solace of connubial life, are reported to be extremely cap tious, fierce, and malignant, and to live apart from all others, and so tenaciously to be attached to the station, which pre occupancy may be supposed to give each a right to call his own, that any attempt at usurpation is resented as the foulest in dignity, and the most furious contests frequently occur in consequence of the several claims for a favourite position. It is stated, that in th.se combats two never fall upon one. Tuese seals are said, in grief, to shed tears very copiously. The male defends his young with the most intrepid courage and fondness, and will often beat the dam, notwithstanding her most supplicating tones and gestures, un der the idea that she has been the cause of the destruction or injury which may have occurred to any of them. The flesh of the old male seal is intolerably strong ; that of the female and theyoung is considered as delicate and nourishing, and compared in tenderness and flavour to the flesh of young pigs.
The bottle-nosed seal is found on the Falkland Islands, is twenty feet long, and will produce a butt of oil, and discharge, when stuck to the heart, two hogsheads of blood.