| The shape of the thylacine's
hindquarters is very distinctive. The tail is not abruptly separated
from the body, but tapers gradually, rather like that of a kangaroo or
wallaby. This feature immediately distinguishes the thylacine (A)
from all canids (B). It is often
quoted in the literature that the thylacine cannot move its tail, and that
indeed it is fixed, but this is incorrect. A thylacine's tail is
capable of restricted movements, as confirmed by a story, "Adventure
with a Native Tiger", that appears in the Launceston Examiner of the
22nd March 1899 (p. 4):
"It is by no means
generally believed that there are native animals that will face a man.
Nevertheless, it is so. On Monday, as Mr. B. Stevenson, a sheep farmer
on the North Esk, was going round his run, a large native tiger rushed
close up to him. He hit at it with his walking stick, which broke
with the blow. The tiger, uninjured, turned and ran away about ten
paces, then faced round, growling very fiercely, and came up a step at
a time to within 6ft. or 8ft. Then he stood growling, and with
his tail wagging backward and forward after the fashion of a cat on the
point of catching a bird. Mr. Stevenson's only means of defence
was his pocket-knife. He could not even get hold of a stone.
However, after due consideration the animal evidently deemed discretion
the better part of valour, and made off for an adjacent dogwood scrub.
Formerly tigers were very troublesome to the sheep farmers on the North
Elevation of the thylacine's
tail is read as a sign of arousal and excitement (Buchman & Guiler
1977). When adopting a kangaroo-type
posture and standing on its hind legs, the thylacine's tail is held
rigidly from the ground, suspended in the air in order to stabilise the
animal's centre of gravity.
The last known captive
thylacine, Beaumaris Zoo (Queen's Domain site), 1933.
Sharland, in an article entitled "TASMANIAN TIGER: Marsupial's Stand",
in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 2nd February 1937 (p. 13) describes
the thylacine as having a "rather clumsy-looking tail,
which does not emerge from the body sharply like that of a dog or feline
but is thick in the base, and, tapering to a point suggests that it was
merged with the hind part of the body. It cannot wag. It is
always stiff and carried perpetually in a slightly horizontal position".
The Cairns Post of the
19th May 1938 (p. 11) notes:
"The movements of
the tail somewhat approach those of a kangaroo........Some of the old residents
of Tasmania informed me, several years ago, that the hard, stiff tail of
this animal was probably used, at one time, in assisting as a prop on which
to lean back, when it stood up to fight. I have observed kangaroos
often taking such an attitude when fighting".