COUGAR, koo-gar', the great American cat (Felis concolor), which ranges from Hudson Bay to Cape Horn, a remarkable distance for any wild animal. It was formerly called pan ther by the settlers of the Eastern States; but in the West it is usually °mountain-lion" or °Puma," the latter name said to be of Peruvian origin. °Cougar" comes from a native Brazilian name. The cougar is from six to eight feet long from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. The cubs are apt to be spotted and marked; but this wears off with the advent of maturity; and, after the first year, the animal is h uniform reddish, tawny color, deepening in tone toward the spine, paler around the eyes, and whitish on the throat, legs and under por tion. The color is so much like the hide of the Virginia deer that at a distance hunters have been known to mistake a cougar for a deer. This is one of the creature's great advantages as a beast of prey. He may be mistaken by his intended victims for an animal of their own kind, and thus is enabled to get into their midst before his identity is disclosed. In South America he is sometimes called, on this account, °false deer." The head of the cougar is rounded, and the face is extremely intelligent, but crafty in general expression. The facial muscles can be drawn into as ferocious an ex pression as that of any of the great jungle felines of the Old World. It is said to be more cowardly and less dangerous than the other large carnivores; and it is asserted by author ities in good standing that it generally flees from man except in defense of the young, when the female becomes desperately brave. The puma will prowl about lone cantps and logging huts from curiosity or hunger, but rarely ven tures on offensive warfare with humanity. This imputation of cowardice is denied by certain people, notably J. Hampden Porter, who says °there is no need to argue the question whether or not pumas will kill men; that has been affirm atively settled by facts"; and Theodore Roose velt says, in his 'Hunting Trips of a Ranch man' : °When hungry, a cougar will attack anything it can master.° Though plentiful a century ago, in the east ern United States, the cougar is Met with rarely, if at all at the present time, east of the Alle ghenies. It may still be found in the Appala chian ranges and in the wilder parts of the Mid dle West. It is so troublesome to ranchmen that, especially in southern California, western Oregon and various other districts, a constant war, tending toward extermination, is waged upon the species by owners of cattle and sheep. In common with all cats, large and small, the cougar hunts preferably at night. Merriam says that it creeps to leeward of its intended vic tim; and, with noiseless tread and crouching form, passes over fallen trees and ragged ledges or through tangled thickets, until, if unobserved, within 30 or 40 feet of its quarry. Then it
springs upon the back of the victim, plants its long claws in the quivering flesh, and with its sharp teeth despatches its prey. Deer, rabbits, ground-squirrels, ground-nesting birds and even porcupines form part of its food. It will even catch and eat fish. But best of all it likes the flesh of young ponies, or even of full-grown horses,— a delicacy unknown to its bill-of-fare before the advent of the white race. When it has killed its quarry, the cougar drags it away to eat what appetite demands in the seclusion of its chosen covert; and, when its meal is fin ished, lies down besides the bloody remnant of its feast, and sleeps. This habit of napping when gorged has procured many a cougar its death at the hands of hunters, who track it by the blood and body of its victim.
The cry of the cougar is said to be one that will carry terror to the stoutest heart,—°a cry that can be likened only to a scream of de moniac laughter," in the male; and in the female, to °the wail of a child in agony' These cries, never heard by day or in captivity, are doubted by some as being so terrible as, height ened by the darkness and the silence of the night, they seem to the lonely hunter. In win ter cougars congregate in the valleys of the western mountain regions and raid corrals for sheep and cattle, doing much damage. These depredations are so extensive and constant in Mexico as to be a serious menace to the busi ness success of the ranchmen.
When very young the cubs are playful and kittenish, and may be readily tamed. Indeed, many experiments of this sort have been tried, and the records of such afford interesting read ing. But with maturity they develop treacher ous qualities which usually render them unsafe for human society. Cougars are often hunted with dogs, and any sort of dog, it is said, will do to scent them. They are not, however, crea tures of the chase for sport, as are lions and tigers ; but are usually hunted as vermin. When pursued by dogs they take to trees, and are kept there until the hunters come up, when they are easily shot. On the plains of South Amer Ica they are frequently caught with lassoes by the mounted cattle-herders.
The cougar was held in religious veneration by the Indians of California, as was the tiger by certain sects in India; hence the red men did not dare to kill the beast, and it multiplied accordingly. Among the Zuffis it is regarded as the chief (prey-god.)