Meredith (1852) continues:
| "I believe that
tigers are truly untameable and in that respect, if no other, merit the
name sometimes given them of Native Hyena; at least, I know several instances
in which young ones had been kept and reared up kindly (chained of necessity);
but they never could be approached with safety, even by those who daily
fed them; and so, on the whole, are perhaps ill adapted for pets.
Their colour is very light brown, handsomely marked across the hind-quarters
with ten or twelve straight bands of black, the hindmost ones about a inch
wide on the top of the back, and tapering
Sir Eardley Wilmot.
Courtesy: State Library of Tasmania.
||off on either
side. The stripes become narrower and less distinct as they approach
the shoulders, where the cease entirely. The head is much like that
of a dog, and would be far from ugly were its expression less savage.
The ears are short open, broad, and erect, and look very soft; but I did
not attempt to touch them, my previous attention having been so rudely
repulsed. The feet are also like that of a dog, and the legs thick
and muscular, but the tiger is by no means so swift as its appearance would
indicate. The common pace of the tiger is a measured, steady canter,
and from various anecdotes I have heard, it appears that they pursue the
object of their chase wholly by scent, and win (literally) "in the long
run" by their endurance. On one occasion Mr. Adam Amos, of Swan Port,
had made his way, by a new track, to the top of the encompassing tier of
mountains which separate the Swan Port district from the interior; after
he had travelled for some time along the ridge of the numerous steep "saddles",
as they are termed, among the hills, the ground became rocky so that the
fat cattle he was driving could not proceed any further, and he partly
encamped for the night. The next morning, about daybreak, they
|prepared to return, and were getting
breakfast, when a brush kangaroo came along the ridge where they were,
and hopped passed, within a few yards of their fire. In ten minutes
after this a female tiger came cantering along in the same line, with her
nose close to the ground, scenting out the kangaroo, and passed around
the fire exactly in the same track, not noticing the cattle-party, who
were observing the chase with curiosity. About twenty minutes now
elapsed, when two young tiger-whelps appeared, holding the same course,
and passing round the fire, went on after their mother, who, with her steady
pace, would finally run down the more swift but less enduring kangaroo,
and the cubs, following on her track, if not actually "in at the death",
were no doubt in excellent time for dinner".
| Sir Eardley Wilmot
(1783-1847) was the Governor of Tasmania between 1843 and 1846, and at
his official residence, Government House, he had a menagerie that displayed
his collection of Tasmanian wildlife, amongst which was the thylacine.
Lantern slide of old
Government House, Hobart Town, Van Diemen's Land, 1847.
James Backhouse Walker (1847).
Courtesy: University of
Tasmania Library Special and Rare Materials Collection.
| To follow is an extract
from Geoffrey Smith's book "A Naturalist in Tasmania",
in which he makes reference to the thylacine (Smith 1909):
"He told me many
stories of the Thylacine or Native Tiger, which is more abundant here than
in any other part of the island, and takes a considerable yearly toll from
the flocks of sheep. Since this carnivorous marsupial is regularly
hunted and trapped by the shepherds, and since it occurs only in the little
island of Tasmania, it will not be very long before it becomes extinct,
so that I was careful to gain any information I could with regard to its
habits. The animal, which has something the appearance of a wolf
, though much thinner in the body, has a rather poor fur of a yellowish
brown colour with a number of transverse black stripes on the back and
flanks, from which it gets the rather inappropriate name of Tiger.
The pouch in the female, as in all the marsupials which progress through
the scrub on all fours, opens backwards and not forwards as in the Kangaroos.
The muzzle and dentition are very dog-like; in fact the skull can only
be distinguished from that of a large dog by certain important details
of structure, e.g. the number of the incisor teeth, and the inflection
of the angle of the lower jaw. It hunts by night, and generally singly,
but occasionally a family of three or four will form a kind of pack.
The lair is in the forest, either in an old stump or cave, but the Tiger's
favourite hunting grounds are the open plains between the forests and especially
on the large sheep runs in the Lake District. The destructiveness
of these animals is greatly enhanced by the fact that a Tiger will only
make one meal of a sheep, merely sucking the blood from the jugular vein
or perhaps devouring the fat round the kidneys, but it never returns to
the same carcass. It is a cowardly animal and will not attack a man
unless cornered or in a trap, though it will turn on the large Kangaroo-dogs
when it is hunted. The shepherds wage incessant war on the creature,
in the summer laying traps and hunting it with dogs, in the winter following
up its tracks through the snow. A reward of a pound is given for
the head by the Government, but the shepherd generally rides round with
the head to several sheep-owners in the district, and takes toll from them
all before depositing it at the police station. In consequence a
large reward must be offered for the carcass of a Tiger, and an offer of
£10 during a year for a live Tiger to be delivered in Launceston
was unsuccessful. It pays the shepherd very much better just to hack
off its head and take it round on his rides. Although the Tiger is
by no means confined to the Lake District, it is more abundant here than
anywhere else, though a stray individual may turn up on nearly all the
big sheep stations throughout the island. The only cry uttered when
hunting is described as resembling the whine of a puppy".
1909, "A Naturalist in Tasmania", Clarendon Press.
Illustration by Bayzand
of a Tasmanian tiger from "A Naturalist in Tasmania"