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(Actual Size: 6-7/8" x 11-1/8" - shown approx. 1/2 scale)
CLICK on any animal to see the corresponding card as it was originally issued.

Beaver, Opossum, Bison, Big Horn
(Castor canadensis, Didelphys dorsigera, Bison Americanus, Capra montana)

(facing page)


The beaver, at one time common in the northern regions of both hemispheres, is now found only in considerable numbers, in North America, with solitary specimens in Central Europe and Asia. It has short ears, a blunt nose, small fore feet, large webbed hind feet, with a flat ovate tail covered on its upper surface with scales. It is valued for its fur (which was formerly used largely in the manufacture of hats, but for which silk is now substituted) and for an odoriferous secretion named castor or castoreum. Its favorite haunts are the rivers and lakes bordered by forests, where it lives in societies. When they find a stream not sufficiently deep for their purposes, they throw across it a dam constructed with great ingenuity, of wood, stones and mud, gnawing down small trees, and compacting the mud with blows of their powerful tails. In winter they live in houses three to four feet high, built on the water's edge with subaqueous entrances, and thus made secure from wolves and other wild animals. They formerly abounded throughout North America, but are now only found in unsettled and thinly populated regions. Their industry has passed into a proverb, and their name has long been a synonym for assiduity. It is a curious fact, however, that there are drones among them, who build no dams, but only excavate long tunnels in which they live by themselves. They are much more easily caught than the others.


The opossum is found nowhere but in America, where its range is from the middle latitudes in the United States through the greater part of South America. It eats flesh, carrion, reptiles, insects and fruit. Its head is conical, and its snout resembles a pig's; ears large, leafy and rounded; eyes small; whiskers long; legs of proportionate length; fore and hind paws five-toed and fashioned like hands, especially the hind ones. The tail is long, scaly and prehensile, so as to hang by it. The body is stout, ranging in size from that of a large cat to that of a small rat. The females have a pouch into which the young are received as soon as born, at which time they are blind and deaf, and remain so for many days, the dark being necessary to develop sight and hearing, contrary to the case with kittens and puppies. It moves slowly and awkwardly on the ground, and is more at home in trees. There are a dozen varieties and some are aquatic. It is an uncleanly beast, but the flesh is white and palatable, especially in autumn when feeding on fruits. In confinement it is sullen and intractable. When caught or threatened it will feign death and submit to severe ill-treatment without showing the least sign of life, giving rise to the common phrase "playing possum."


The bison, commonly, but improperly called the buffalo, formerly ranged in countless numbers over most of the United States and British America, and extending as far east as Virginia; but with the advance of civilization the contraction of the area of its habitat and the reduction of its numbers have gone on with remarkable rapidity. The construction of the Union Pacific railroad cut the great herd in two, leaving a Southern or Texas herd, and a Northern or Yellowstone herd. These have now been reduced to a few thousands, and the bison is apparently soon to become extinct as a wild animal. The animal resembles the aurochs of Europe, but is considerably smaller; the hump is high and large; the hind quarters are light, the tail about twenty inches long, ending in a wisp of hair about six inches additional. The horns, especially in the maile, are short, thick and much curved; the head is carried very low, the long, shaggy hair of the foreparts sometimes sweeping the ground; the color is blackish in fresh coats of hair, but becomes brown or gray. In summer, after shedding its hair, the animal is nearly naked. Formerly the hair-covered skins were much used as robes, but only the cows were killed for that purpose, the hides of the bulls not working well. The flesh of the cow is juicy and tender, and the hump and tongue are especially esteemed. The buffalo was of vast importance to the Indian, with whom he is passing into history.


The Rocky Mountain sheep is called bighorn from the immense size of its horns, which resemble those of the argali (the wild sheep of Asia) but are shorter, and comparatively stouter, and not so spiral. The animal in other respects resembles, and is closely allied to the argali, of which it is the American representative. In color it is grayish brown, with whitish buttocks like the other wild sheep. It stands about three and a half feet high at the withers, and is very stoutly built. It inhabits the higher mountain ranges of the Western United States, from New Mexico and northern California northward, down nearly or quite to sea level in the higher latitudes, and is abundant in suitable localities in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, etc. It is much hunted for its flesh, which makes excellent mutton. Like other wild sheep it is gregarious, living in flocks of twenty or thirty, among the most cragged and inaccessible rocks. From these spots they never wander, but are content to find their food on the little knolls of green herbage, among the precipices, and without wandering to the verdant plains below. When wounded, unless unto immediate death, the animal makes its way into some spot almost impossible to reach, and dying there, is useless to the hunter. Formerly it displayed great curiosity at the sight of man, but learning his destructive propensities, it now takes no chances, but keeps as far away as possible.