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/u r. 

Plate I 

Fro-ryx. a^Phathog ncLpk. 

iSHvLual, Son. t Co ?iiF 










18 68. 

Entered, according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by 


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States in and for 
the Northern District of New York. 








Rochester, New York, 

Novembei 21, 1867. 


" Natural History, then, should be based on what is called a System of Nature; 
or a great Catalogue, in which all beings bear acknowledged names, may be recog- 
nized by distinctive characters, and distributed in divisions and subdivisions them- 
selves named and characterized, in which they may be found." — Cuvier's Animal 
Kingdom, Intro. 15. 

"And after all, what does it matter to science that thousands of species, more or 
less, should be described and entered in our systems, if we Icnow nothing about 
them?" — Agassiz's Nat. Hist. U. S.,\. 57. 



The publication of Cuvier's Animal Kingdom established an 
epoch in the science of zoology. This eminent scholar brought 
to his subject the critical and reflective powers of a great intellect, 
and the varied and profound acquirements of a laborious life. 
Having possessed himself of the results of antecedent as well as 
contemporary investigations, and extended his researches with 
more or less exactness, over the entire animal kingdom, he was 
enabled to construct, upon the "System of Nature," that remark- 
able system for the classification of animals, which now forms the 
basis of zoological science.^ 

This system of classification is founded exclusively upon the 
anatomical structure of animals, whence comparative anatomy is 
the source of its materials. It not only rejects the habits and 
properties of animals as immaterial and transient, but it also 
leaves out of consideration their mental endowments, which, how- 
ever important in other respects, were incapable of affording a 
basis of classification. 

Under its clear and definite discriminations all the species of 
each of the four great branches of the animal kingdom are seen 
in intelligible and harmonious relations, notwithstanding their 
striking diversities of form. Unity of type runs through the 
structural organization of all the individuals comprised in each 
of these branches. The grandeur of this fourfold plan of creation 
is not more impressive than the wonderful adaptation of the sur- 
rounding elements to the condition and wants of the multitude 
of animal organisms which God has made. 

It is not, however, the whole of the science of zoology to 

1 Agassiz dates the new period from 1812, "when Cuvier laid before the 
Academy of Sciences in Paris the results of his investigations * * * which 
had satisfied him that all animals were constructed upon four different 
plans." — Natural History United States, i. 193, The " Regne Animal" did 
not appear, however, until 1816. 



furnish a systematic catalogue of animals, with its exposition lim- 
ited to the frigid details of anatomical structure. This would 
restrict it to dead rather than to living forms. Each animal is 
endowed with a living, and, also, with a thinking principle, the 
manifestations of each of which are not less important and in- 
structive than the mechanism of the material frames in which 
they reside. In a comparative sense the former are intrinsically 
of higher concernment. 

A monograph upon each of the principal animals seems, there- 
fore, to be desirable, if not absolutely necessary, to fill out, in 
some measure, this great programme ; and to complete the super- 
structure of a science, the foundations of which have been so 
admirably established. These should contain a minute exposi- 
tion of their artificial works, where such are constructed ; of their 
habits, their mode of life, and their mutual relations. When the 
facts bearing upon these several subjects have been collected and 
systematized, the necessary materials will be furnished for the 
proper elucidation of the long neglected subject of Animal Psy- 

This volume upon "The American Beaver and his Works," 
although it falls much below the dignity and completeness of a 
monograph, is offered as an experiment in this special undertaking 
of collecting and systematizing our knowledge of the habits and 
mode of life of the inferior animals. Whether the zoologist will 
turn aside from the more intricate and fascinating subjects of his 
science to consider the personal acts and artificial erections of 
this humble, but most industrious mute; and whether the general 
reader will find either pleasure or profit in studying the manifest- 
ations of intelligence by a single animal, when spread out with 
so much detail, I cannot pretend to form an opinion. A treatise 
overdone is as distasteful to the reader as one imperfectly exe- 
cuted ; and since this is liable to both objections, it is submitted, 
not without misgivings, to the public judgment. 

As books of this description are more or less accidental pro- 
ductions, it is sometimes proper to state how they came to be 
■WTitten. Notwithstanding some reluctance to enter upon per- 
sonal details, there is, in the present case, an urgent necessity 
for a brief explanation to bespeak the confidence of the reader 
in the results of this investigation. It furnishes an apology for 
introducino,' the following statement. 


In the year 1852 a Railroad was projected and commenced by 
the late Honorable Heman B. Ely, to open the iron region on the 
south shore of Lake Superior, and introduce its rich and inex- 
haustible ores into the manufacturing industry of the country. In 
this enterprise his brothers, Samuel P. Ely, George H. Ely, and 
John F. Ely, and their uncle, the late Hervey Ely,^ then residents, 
except one, of Rochester, New York, were associated. The mag- 
nitude of the undertaking will be appreciated when it is stated 
that this entire region was then an uninhabited wilderness, with 
the exception of a few hamlets at Marquette, the present port of 
the iron district on Lake Superior, and a few log cabins at the 
iron mines, which had shortly before been discovered, but were 
still undeveloped. At that time the St. Mary's Ship Canal, which 
three years later connected the lower lakes with Lake Superior, 
although projected, was not commenced ; consequently naviga- 
tion between these lakes was obstructed by the rapids in the St. 
Mary's River. Besides this obstacle, it was five hundred miles 
from Marquette to Detroit, the nearest point from which supplies 
could be obtained. Notwithstanding these formidable difficulties, 
the Messrs. Ely persevered in the enterprise until 1856, when 
they found it advisable, after a large expenditure, to accept the 
co-operation of other parties in the further prosecution of the 
work. Joseph S. Fay, Esq., of Boston, Edwin Parsons, Esq., of 
New York, and some other capitalists, were then admitted into 
the association. In 1S58 the Railroad was completed to the three 
principal iron locations, and in 1865 to Lake Michigame, after an 
expenditure of about a million and a half of dollars. 

Under the stimulus of commercial causes a Railroad was thus 
constructed through a rugged wilderness for a distance of forty 

1 I cannot mention the name of my venerable and noble friend, now de- 
ceased, without expressing my high appreciation of his great abilities, of 
his genial and unselfish nature, and of his liberal and enlightened senti- 
ments. He will be favorably remembered as one of the great men of his 
day and generation. Born in West Springfield, Massachusetts, January 
10th, 1791, he established himself in Rochester in 1813, where he engaged 
extensively in manufacturing and commercial enterprises, in which he con- 
tinued until 18G1, when he retired from business. He died in this city, 
November 23d, 1862. It was my privilege to know him intimately for nearly 
twenty years; and this passing tribute to his memory is founded upon 
personal knowledge of his worth. 


miles, and opened a country which, but for its mineral deposits, 
would have been pronounced unfit for human habitation. With 
its unequaled summer climate, and its unlimited mineral wealth, 
it has now become one of the most attractive regions within our 
national limits. 

It so happened that this Railroad passed through a beaver dis- 
trict, more remarkable, perhaps, than any other of equal extent 
to be found in any part of North America. By opening this wil- 
derness in advance of all settlement, the beavers were surprised, 
so to speak, in the midst of their works, which, at the same time, 
were rendered accessible for minute and deliberate investigation, 
in a manner altogether unusual. A rare opportunity was thus 
offered to examine the works of the beaver, and to see him in his 
native wilds. 

Having been associated in this enterprise from its commence- 
ment, as one of the directors of the Railroad Company, and as one 
of its stockholders, business called me to Marquette, first in 1855, 
and nearly every summer since to the present time. After the 
completion of the Railroad to the iron mines, it was impossible to 
withstand the temptation to brook-trout fishing, which the streams 
traversing the intermediate and adjacent districts offered in ample 
measure. My friend, Gilbert D. Johnson, Superintendent of the 
Lake Superior Mine, had established boat stations at convenient 
points upon the Carp and Esconauba Rivers, and to him I am 
specially indebted first, for a memorable experience in brook-trout 
fishing, and secondly, for an introduction to the works of the 
beaver within the areas traversed by these streams. Our course, 
in passing up and down, was obstructed by beaver dams at short 
intervals, from two to three feet high, over which we were com- 
pelled to draw our boat. Their numbers and magnitude could 
not fail to surprise as well as interest any observer. Although 
constructed in the solitude of the wilderness, where the forces of 
nature were still actively at work, it was evident that they 
had existed and been maintained for centuries by the permanent 
impression produced upon the rugged features of the country. 
The results of the persevering labors of the beaver were suggest- 
ive of human industry. The streams were bordered continuously 
with beaver meadows, formed by overflows by means of these 
dams, which had destroyed the timber upon the adjacent lands. 
Fallen trees, excavated canals, lodges, and burrows, filled up the 


moasure of their works. These together seemed to me to afford 
a much greater promise of pleasure than could be gained with 
the fish-pole, and very soon, accordingly, the beaver was substi- 
tuted for the trout. I took up the subject as I did fishing, 
for summer recreation. In the year 1861, I had occasion to 
visit the Red River Settlement in the Hudson's Bay Territory, 
and in 18G2, to ascend the Missouri River to the Rocky Mount- 
ains, which enabled me to compare the works of the beaver in 
these localities with those on Lake Superior. At the outset I had 
no expectation of following up the subject year after year, but 
was lo«d on, by the interest which it awakened, until the mate- 
'^rials collected seemed to be worth arranging for publication. 
Whether this last surmise is well or ill founded, I am at least cer- 
\ain that no other animal will be allowed to entrap the unambi- 
tious author so completely as he confesses himself to have been 
bV the beaver. My unrestrained curiosity has cost me a good 
deal of time and labor. 

Vfter measuring and attempting to sketch a number of these 
daus, I found it impossible to reproduce even a feeble copy. It 
was evident that the photographic art was alone capable of 
handling such a complicated subject ; and of fixing, once for all, 
its re\parkable features. It seemed, also, to be extremely desir- 
able t^ secure an accurate representation of these structures while 
they were in a perfect state, as well as accessible ; since it was 
certain that they would be abandoned by the beavers with the 
establislment of settlements in their vicinity, after which they 
would sieedily fall into decay. While maturing a plan to take 
into the \ouniry for this purpose a party of photographers, the 
desire waa gratified by the adventure of Mr. James A. Jenney, 
who cameVo Marquette in 1861, with an instrument and the 
necessaiy aWiances for taking landscape views. With him I 
made an arrVigement for a series of photographs. The following 
year, my fn\nd, the Rev. Josiah Phelps, rector of St. Peter's 
Church at McVquette, who had taken up this beautiful art as an 
amateur, geneWisly placed his instrument and his services at my 
disposal, and t4us a large number of additional photographs 
were obtained fiW time to time. The engravings in this volume, 
with some exceptions, were made from selections from these 

In addition to tlese, I made a general beaver collection, suffi- 


ciently ample to illustrate other branches of the subject, consist- 
ing of mounted specimens of the beaver, and of his skeleton, skulls, 
pelts, tree cuttings, and limb and pole cuttings, of all sizes and 
kinds, engravings of specimens of which are given in the following 

It has been my aim to speak in all cases, in which it was pos- 
sible, from original specimens. In this manner, truth and cer- 
tainty are both secured, and the amount of necessary description 
is greatly abridged. It will be found, in the sequel, that this 
account of the beaver rests essentially upon actual works repro- 
duced by the photograph and copied by the engraver. Whatever 
value it may possess is chiefly referable to this fact. 

Marquette, which in 1853 consisted of a few scattering houses, 
now contains twenty-eight hundred inhabitants. Situated upor 
a bay of Lake Superior, and prosperous upon the large business 
of the iron region, it is not too much to say that it is the mojt 
beautiful village of the Northwest. The large investments made 
for the development of the mineral wealth, and for the prosecu- 
tion of the constantly increasing trade of the iron district, lave 
drawn to it a higher and more intelligent class of businessmen 
than is usually found in villages of its size; and this, in tun, has 
given to Marquette, in a social sense, its superior and attnctive 
character. The climate also — a fact not suspected until th( coun- 
try was opened — is one of the finest, in the summer, to b) found 
within the limits of the United States ; while in the winter, 
from its steadiness and uniformity, it is less trying thai that of 
New England or New York. Marquette is destined tooecome a 
city; and the principal centre of business on Lake Suprior.^ 

Besides the persons previously named, I am under ^^ery great 
obligations to many others for co-operation, infornation, and 
assistance, in various ways, while engaged upon ths investiga- 

1 This railroad, which was first known as the " Iron Momtain," then as 
the "Bay de Noquet and Marquette," and now as the " Marquette and On- 
tonagon Railroad," has carried down from the mines to 'lai'quette the fol- 
lowing amounts of iron oi'e : 

In 1858 31,000 Tons. 

1859 65,000 " 

1860 116,000 " 

1861 45,000 " 

1862 115.000 " 

In 1863 200,000 Tons. 

1864 250,000 " 

1865 200,000 " 

1866 210,000 " 

1867 270,000 " 


tion. First among them is my friend, Samuel P. Ely, Esq., now 
a resident of Marquette, and Vice-President and Managing Di- 
rector of the Marquette and Ontonagon Railroad Company. He 
has taken a cordial interest in the subject, joined me in some ex- 
peditions, and seconded my efforts in every possible way. The 
inscription of this volume to him is but a slight recognition of the 
part he has taken in the collection of the materials. To Hon. 
Peter White, of Marquette; to •Cornelius Donkersley, Esq., Su- 
perintendent; L. K. Dorrance, Esq., former Chief Engineer ; and 
William H. Steele, Esq., Assistant Engineer of the same Rail- 
road, I am also indebted for many personal favors ; and to 
Charles H. Kavis, the present Chief Engineer, as well. I desire 
also to mention the friendly and faithful services of Wm. Badger, 
who has spent many nights with me encamped by beaver dams,. 
and who, as a camp master and explorer, possesses high qualifi- 
cations. To Capt. Daniel Wilson, an experienced trapper, as 
well as an accui'ate observer, I am indebted for valuable inform- 
ation. I am also indebted to William Cameron, William Bass, 
Paul Pine, and Jack La Pete, Ojibwa trappers, for an acquaint- 
ance with the " beaver lore" of the Indians, which is both curious 
and instructive. I desire also to mention my friend, (Jeorge S. 
Riley, Esq., of Rochester, to whom I am indebted for valuable 
suggestions. There are still others whose names would be neces- 
sary to complete the list of those who have contributed in various 
ways to the materials contained in this volume, whose friendly 
offices are remembered with much pleasure. 

It is perhaps superfluous to name my friend, Dr. W. W. Ely, 
of Rochester, since he is a direct contributor to these pages. 
Having articulated the skeleton represented in Plate III., he ex- 
pressed a willingness to dissect a pair of beavers if they could be 
obtained, which was accordingly done. The carefully prepared 
and accurate presentation which he has made of this subject will 
furnish ample materials for the further comparison of the Amer- 
ican and European beavers. 

Rochester, November, 1867. 




Order Rodentia — Characteristics of the Order — The Beaver a Rodent 
— His Color — Black Beaver — Albinos — His Size — Movements — Func- 
tions of Tail — Vision short — Hearing and Smell acute — Social Pro- 
pensities — Habitat of American Beaver — Their Numbers — Habitat 
of European Beaver — Fossil European Beaver — Trogontherium — 
Fossil American Beaver — Castoroides — Great Antiquity of the Beaver 
Type — Systematic Position of Oastoridse — Brandt's Classification of 
the Rodentia — Independence of this Family — American and Euro- 
pean Beavers Varieties of the same Species 17 



Introduction — Description — Skeleton — Skull — Teeth — Muscles — In- 
ternal Organs : Mouth, Stomach, Intestines, Ctecum, Heart, Lungs, 
Liver, Spleen — Respiration of Aquatic Animals — Brain 46 

Appendix A. 1. Measurements of Skull. 2. Differences between 
European and American Beavers considered. 3. Castoreum Organs, 
and Generative Organs 287 



Remarkable Beaver District — Number of Beaver Dams — Other Works 
— Character of the Region — Beavers now abundant — Map of Area 
— Object of Dams — Their Great Age — Of Two Kinds — Interlaced 
Stick-Dam — Solid-bank Dam — Great Beaver Dam at Grass Lake — 
Its Dimensions — Surrounding Landscape — Mode of Construction — 
Lower Face — Water Face — Great Curve — Mode of discharging Sur- 



plus Water — Artistic Appearance of this Dam — Necessity for Contin- 
uous Repairs — Measurements — Cubic Contents — Photograph — Man- 
ner of taking same — Relation of Dam below — Same of one above — 
Manner of Repairing Dams 78 



Solid-bank Dams — Places where constructed — No Dams in deep 
Water — AVhere impossible, the Beavers inhabit River Banks — De- 
scription of Solid-bank Dam — Opening for Surplus Water — Pond 
confined to River Banks — Similar Dam with Hedge — Fallen-tree 
Dam — Use of Tree accidental — Spring Rill Dam — Series of Dams 
on the Carp — Dams in a ^Gorge — Lake Outlet Dams — High Dam — 
Long Dam — Description of same — Manner of Photographing same 
— Dams in other Districts of North America — Petrified Beaver Dams 
in Montana 104 



Habits of Beaver — Our Knowledge limited — Indians and Trappers as 
Observers — Source of Bufifon's Extravagant Statements — Disposi- 
tion of Beavers to pair — The Family — Outcast Beaver — Beaver Mi- 
grations — Adaptation to Aquatic Life — Suspension of Respiration — 
Length of Time — Artifice of Musk-Rat — Burrowing Propensities — 
Varieties of the Beaver Lodge — Island Lodge at Grass Lake — Size 
and Form — Chamber — Floor — Wood Entrance — Beaver Entrance — 
Their Artistic Character — Bank Lodge — Mode of Construction — 
Chambei' — Entrances — Another Variety of Bank Lodge — Chamber 
and Entrances — Nature of Floor — Lake Lodge — Differences from 
other Varieties — False Lodge of Upper Missouri — Lodges Single 
Chambered — Burrows — Their Form, Size, and Uses — Examples, with 
Measurements — Number of Beavers to the Lodge — Number of Lodges 
to the Pond 132 



Subsistence exclusively Vegetable — Kinds of Bark preferred — Roots 
of Plants — Incisive Teeth Chisels — Their cutting Power — It dimin- 
ishes with Age — Provisions for Winter — Season for collecting — Fell- 
ing Trees — Their Size — Number of Beavers engaged — Manner of 
cutting — Chips — Short Cuttings — Moving them on Land — Floating 


them in Water — Sinking them in Piles — Wood-eating — Evidence that 
they eat Clear Wood — Brush-heap at Lodge — Restricted to Particu- 
lar Places — Their Use — Ponds in Winter — Winter Life of Beavers... 166 



Beaver Canals — Their Extraordinary Character — Originated by Neces- 
sity — Their Uses — Evidences of their Artificial Character — Canals 
at Natural Pond — Their Form and Appearance — Canal on Carp 
River — Use of Dams in same — Canal Across Bend of Esconauba — 
Same across Island in Pond — Beaver Meadows — How formed — Their 
Extent — Beaver Slides on Upper Missouri — Scenery on this River — 
Bluffs of Indurated Clay — Bad Lands — White Walls — Game — Con- 
nection of River Systems with Spread of Beavers 191 



Other Habits of the Beaver — Indications of Age — Tame Beavers — Nursed 
by Indian Women — Building and Repairing Dams — Great Beaver 
Districts — Hudson's Bay Company — American Fur Company — Pri- 
vate Adventurers — The Steel Trap — Trapping Season — Trapping at 
the Dam — At the Lodge — Traps sprung — Whether the Beaver when 
caught bites off his Fore Foot — Trapping under the Ice — Catching 
in a Pen — Trapping Bank Beavers — Catching in Burrows — Trap- 
pers as a Class — Custom of hanging up Skulls— Statistics of Fur 
Trade — Early and Recent Exportations — Immense Numbers of 
Beavers 218 



Inquiries proposed — Whether the Mutes possess a Mental Principle — 
Whether its Qualities are similar to those manifested by the Human 
Mind — Whether the Differences are of Degree, or of Kind — Consider- 
ations from Structural Organization — The Principle of Life — Memory 
— Reason — Imagination — The Will — Appetites and Passions — Lu- 
nacy of Animals — General Conclusions 248 


A. — Notes to Chapter II 287 

B. — Samuel Hearne's Account of the Beaver 306 

C. — Bennett's Article on the Beaver 317 




Order Rodentia — Characteristics of the Order — The Beaver a Rodent — His 
Color — Black Beaver — Albinos — His Size — Movements — Functions of Tail 
— Vision short — Hearing and Smell acute — Social Propensities — Habitat 
of American Beaver — Their Numbers — Habitat of European Beaver — 
Fossil European Beaver — Trogontherium — Fossil American Beaver — Cas- 
toroides — Great Antiquity of the Beaver Type — Systematic Position of 
Castoridse — Brandt's Classification of the Rodentia — Independence of this 
Family — American and European Beavers varieties of the same Species. 

In structural organization the beaver occupies a low 
position in the scale of mammalian forms. His low 
respiration and clumsy proportions render him slow 
of motion; and being a coarse vegetable feeder, and 
adapted both to water and to land, he is inferior to 
the carnivorous, and even the herbivorous animals, in 
those characteristics upon which the gradations of 
structure are established. In intelligence and sagacity 
he is undoubtedly below many of the carnivora which 
depend exclusively for subsistence upon their skill in 
entrapping and seizing prey; neither is it probable 
that he is possessed of higher endowments than other 

2 (U) 


animals of a corresponding grade. And yet no other 
animal has attracted a larger share of attention, or 
acquired by his intelligence a more respectable posi- 
tion in public estimation. The reason is obvious. In 
a pre-eminent degree he requires artificial erections to 
promote his happiness, and to secure his safety; con- 
sequently, we are enabled to place our hands upon his 
works, and to trace step by step, through tangible 
forms, the evidences of his architectural skill. Around 
him are the dam, the lodge, the burrow, the tree-cut- 
ting, and the artificial canal; each testifying to his 
handiwork, and affording us an opportunity to see the 
application as well as the results of his mental and 
physical powers. There is no animal, below man, in 
the entire range of the mammalia, which offers to our 
investigation such a series of works, or presents such 
remarkable materials for the study and illustration of 
animal psychology. 

The specific characteristics and habitat of the 
American beaver, and his position in the animal king- 
dom, require some notice before entering upon the 
subject of his artificial erections, habits, and mode 
of life. Our interest in this animal will be much in- 
creased by a preliminary consideration of these several 

Of the nine orders of mammals established by 
Cuvier in his systematic treatise upon the Animal 
Kingdom, the fifth is the order Rodentia, or the 
gnawers. To this order the beaver belongs. He is 
thus found in the same category with the squirrel, 
the rat, the marmot, the porcupine, and the rabbit, 
and with many other mammals, all of which agree in 
the possession of two large incisive teeth in each jaw, 


separated from the molars by an empty space. These 
incisors are the distinctive characteristic upon which 
the order is founded. With jaws thus mounted, the 
rodents are physically incapable of seizing a living 
prey, and consequently are formed to draw their nu- 
triment from the vegetable kingdom. The general 
characteristics of this order are given by Cuvier as 
follows : 

"Two large incisors in each jaw, separated from 
the molars by a wide interval, cannot well seize a 
living prey or devour flesh. They are unable even 
to cut the aliment; but they serve to file, and by con- 
tinued labor to reduce it into small particles; in a 
word, to gnaw it; hence the word rodentia applied to 
animals of this order; it is thus that they successfully 
attack the hardest substances, frequently feeding on 
wood and the bark of trees. The better to accom- 
plish this object, these incisors have enamel only in 
front, so that their posterior edges wearing away faster 
than the anterior, they are always' naturally sloped 
[or chisel like]. Their prismatic form causes them to 
grow from the root as fast as they wear away from 
the tip [their formative pulp being persistent], and 
this tendency to increase in length is so powerful that 
if either of them be lost or broken, its antagonist in 
the other jaw, having nothing to oppose or commi- 
nute, becomes developed to a monstrous extent. The 
inferior jaw is articulated by a longitudinal condyle 
in such a way as to allow of no horizontal motion, 
except from back to front, and vice versa^ as is requis- 
ite for the action of gnawing. The molars also have 
flat crowns, the enameled eminences of which are 
always transversely, so as to be in opposition to the 


horizontal movement of the jaw, and better to assist 
trituration."^ * * * * 

"Throughout the present group, the brain is almost 
smooth, and without furrows. * * * Ju 
a word, the inferiority of these animals is perceptible 
in most of the details of their organization." 

Baird remarks upon the rodents: " They exist in 
all parts of the world, and are especially abundant in 
America, which contains nearly as many species as all 
the rest of the world put together. South America, 
however, counts more species than the northern half 
of the New World, the preponderance being caused 
principally by the large number belonging to the genus 
Hesperomys, of which our little deer- or white-footed 
wood-mouse, is a familiar example."^ 

Waterhouse introduces the order Rodentia in the 
following language : " The Rodentia, so called from 
their gnawing propensities, form one of the most 
clearly defined groups of the mammalia; a group 
which has representatives in all parts of the world,, 
and the species of which are very numerous. They 
feed upon vegetable substances, and are of small size, 
few exceeding the common hare in bulk. The most 
striking characters of the rodents are those furnished 
by the teeth; the long, vacant space which separates 
the incisors in front, here adapted for gnawing, from 
the masticating teeth behind. * * * * 

Sometimes the width of the incisor is very great, and 
exceeds the depth; the rodents which burrow, and 
live almost entirely under ground, present this form 

^ Animal Kingdom. Carpenter and Westwood edition, p. lOT. 
^ Explorations for a Railroad Route, etc. to the Pacific, viii. 235. 


of iucisors, their powerful teeth being, no doubt, used 
to gnaw through the roots which would otherwise 
obstruct their subterranean course. * * * 
Those of the upper jaw are always shorter than those 
of the lower, and usually describe about three parts 
of a circle. The larger incisors of the lower jaw form 
a smaller segment of a larger circle."^ 

Among living rodents the beaver is the largest with 
the exception of the capybara of South America, 
which is about one-third larger.^ The form and 
general appearance of the American beaver are well 
known. Plis color is a reddish brown, but varying 
in some localities to a yellowish tinge upon brown, 
and in others to a glossy black. Reddish-brown, 
however, is the prevailing color. I have two pelts in 
my collection of a dark chestnut, this being the color 
of the coarse fur or hair which in all cases determines 
the general color of the skin. The fine or true fur 
is of a clear uniform brown from the root to the tip, 
and the staple is short. It varies in length from one- 
half to three-quarters of an inch, while the coarse 
hairs, which resemble bristles, are from one and three- 
quarters to two and a half inches in length, and suf- 
ficiently abundant to completely overspread the fur. 
Black beavers are scarce, and appear to be confined 
to higher northern latitudes. The fact that they are 
sometimes found of this color is attested by Hearne. 
'^' Black beaver," he remarks, "and that of a beautiful 

^ Nat. Hist, of the Mammalia. Lond. ed., 1848, ii. 1. 

^ One shot by Darwin at Montevideo weighed 90 pounds. In 
general appearance it resembles the hare much more than the 


gloss, are not uncommon; perhaps they are more 
plentiful at Churchill than at any other factory in the 
bay; but it is rare to get more than twelve or fifteen 
of their skins in the course of one year's trade. "^ The 
skin of the foetal beaver, of which I have two speci- 
mens in my collection, is covered with a thick fur, 
which is soft and silky to the touch, and of a clear 
brown, with a slightly reddish tinge. In these skins the 
coarse hairs are undeveloped. Albinos are occasionally 
found, but they are rare. Upon this subject the same 
author remarks: ''In the course of twenty years' ex- 
perience in the countries about Hudson's Bay, though 
I have traveled six hundred miles to the west of the 
sea-coast, I nevea:* saw but one white beaver skin, and 
it had many reddish and brown hairs along the ridge 
of the back. The sides of the belly were of a glossy 
silvery white. "^ Prince Maximilian speaks of white 
beaver as occasionally found upon the Yellowstone 
River. He says: "I saw one beautifully spotted with 
white; yellowish-white and pure white are not unfre- 
quently caught on the Yellowstone."^ The skin of 
the beaver when tanned is thicker than the thickest 
calf skin, and coarse in texture. 

When full grown, the weight of the American 
beaver varies from thirty to sixty pounds, the latter 
weight being rarely attained. The weight of the 
three largest Lake Superior beavers of which I have 
reliable knowledge, was fifty-eight pounds each to two 

^ Hearne's Journey to the Northern Ocean. Dublin ed., 1796, 
p. 241. 

2 Ibid., 240. 

^ Travels in North America. Lond. ed., 1843, p. 332. 


of them, and sixty pounds for the third. ^ One mounted 
specimen in my collection was a full-grown tbree- 
3'ear old beaver when taken, and weighed thirty-five 
pounds. He measured from the tip of the nose to the 
end of the tail, three feet and eight inches ; around 
the centre of the abdomen two feet and one inch ; and 
around the head, back of the ears, one foot and two 
inches. That part of the tail which is covered with 
scales measured nine inches in length, and four and a 
half in width at the centre, from which point it nar- 
rowed in both directions. A second mounted speci- 
men, also in my collection, and a male, weighed, when 
taken, thirty-two pounds, and measured in his greatest 
length three feet six and a quarter inches; around 
the centre of the abdomen two feet two and a half 
inches; and around the neck, back of the ears, one 
foot two and a half inches. A third mounted speci- 
men, the one represented in Plate I., and also in my 
collection, was a two-year old beaver, and a female, 
and weighed twenty-nine and a half pounds. She 
measured in her greatest length three feet six and a 
quarter inches; around the centre of the abdomen two 
feet ; and around the neck, back of ears, oiiie foot one 
inch. The skeleton represented in Plate III., now in 
my collection, is that of a female beaver, fidl grown, 
and three years old and upwards. She Aveighed forty- 
three and a half pounds, and measured in her greatest 
length three feet six inches; around the centre of the 
abdomen two feet and six inches ; and around the 
neck, back of ears, one foot three inches. That part 
of the tail covered with scales measured ten inches in 

^ One caught by Capt. Daniel Wilson weighed 58 pounds, and 
two by John Armstrong weighed respectively 58 and GO pounds. 


length, and five and a half inches at its greatest 
width. Another beaver, whose pelt I have, weighed 
thirty- three and a half pounds. It was caught in 
the year 1862, upon the same dam and at the same 
time with the one whose skeleton is shown, and 
was probably her mate, and if so, a male. These 
beavers, all of which were taken on the south shore 
of Lake Superior, may be regarded as average speci- 
mens of the beaver of this locality. From a compar- 
ison of their skulls with others in my collection from 
the same district, sixty pounds is not an improbable 
weight in occasional instances. The skull belonging 
to the skeleton referred to, and which is No. 4 in the 
Table of Measurements prepared by Dr. Ely (Appendix 
A, note 1), measures 4:i%% inches from the end of the 
nasal bones to the occipital ridge, while that marked 
No. 40 in same table measures Stdtt inches. As the for- 
mer beaver weighed forty-three pounds, it is a reason- 
able inference that the latter must have weighed at 
least sixty pounds. The beavers of the Upper Mis- 
souri are about the same size, while those in Oregon 
and California are said to attain a larger average size, 
with how much of truth I cannot state. Brandt, in 
his elaborate work on the Rodents, and which is par- 
ticularly full upon the beaver, concludes, after a comr 
parison of a large number of specimens, that the 
Asiatic, European, and American beavers are not dis- 
tinguishable from each other in size.^ 

In form the beaver is short between the fore and 
hind legs, broad, heavy, and clumsy, and his motions 
are slow and awkward. He walks with a waddling 

^ Memoires de I'Academie Imperiale des Sciences de St. Peters- 
boarg. Sixth Series. Sciences Naturelles, tome vii. p. 61. 


gait, with his back slightly arched, with his body 
barely clearing the ground, and his tail dragging upon 
it. He runs slowly, with alternating steps, but when he 
makes his most rapid movement, it is by the regular 
quadruped gallop, the fore feet being raised together 
and followed in the same manner by. the hind. An 
ordinary dog could overtake him in a short chase. In 
the water, however, his motions are free and graceful. 
Water is his natural element, and he cannot trust 
himself far from it with personal safety. The usual 
representations of the beaver show a gradual increase 
in the size of the body from the head to the thighs, 
with the posterior portion much the largest. While 
the hips are broader than the shoulders, he is the 
largest around the centre of the abdomen, from which 
the body tapers in both directions, but more forward 
than back. 

Some of the details of the structural organization 
of the beaver are of a striking character. The mus- 
cles Avhich regulate the movements of the inferior 
jaw are large and powerful, as may be inferred from 
the relative size of the head, and particularly from 
the measurements of the neck immediately behind 
the ears. This jaw has a free horizontal movement 
from side to side, as well as forward and back, the 
inferior incisors moving both to the right and to the 
left of the superior, thus enabling the beaver to mas- 
ticate his food by a transverse and diagonal as well as 
forward and back movement of the molars on each 
other. Incapacity for this transverse movement of 
the inferior jaw is made one of the characteristics of 
the rodent order. Cuvier deduced its necessary move- 
ments from the nature of its articulation, and from 


the main direction of the enameled eminences of the 
molar teeth, and then limited its horizontal move- 
ment to a single direction, which was forward and 
back. The American beaver is an exception to the 
general rule.^ The powerful muscles, before referred 
to, give to this animal the "horrid bite" [horrendus 
morsus), to use the language of Pliny, for which his 
tree-cuttings, if not his combative propensities, show 
him to be distinguished. Each condyle is movable 
upon its fulcrum, which is a plain surface, and must 
be held with immense strength to sustain the grasp 
of the incisors while in the act of cutting down trees. 
In swimming, the propelling power is furnished by 
the hind legs. To adapt their feet for this purpose 
they are completely webbed to the roots of the claws, 
and are capable of a lateral spread of eight or nine 
inches on the exterior line of the membrane. The 
legs are thrown out behind, in the act of swimming, 
like those of a duck, and nearly in a horizontal line. 
While swimming, the fore feet are not used, but are 
pressed back against the abdomen,^ their smallness 
rendering them nearly useless for this purpose. Dr. 
Ely, however, discovered a rudimentary membrane 
between the fore fingers of these paws which is par- 
, ticularly conspicuous between the second and third. 
The paws are very small relatively to the size of the 
animal, and very much smaller than the hind feet; 
but as they are capable of a very considerable rotary 
movement, he is able to hold sticks and limbs of trees, 

^ The squirrel, the rabbit, and the rat also appear to be excep- 

^ The otter is a more rapid swimmer than the beaver, but does 
not use his fore feet, which are placed in the same position. 

Plate II. 

Frcra a, TJ- .-^^-^ -ir-i-oh 

T.S -Bujiml SoTi. i.-d./ha9- 

TAIL of BEAVER, 5/9 nat.Size. 


and to handle them with great dexterity while cut- 
ting them, and also to carry mud and stones. As he 
is capable of sitting up erect upon his hind legs, and 
of walking upon them, his paws are thus liberated, 
and by that means his architectural skill is rendered 
possible. Man's great superiority over the inferior 
animals is shown in nothing more conspicuously than 
in the freedom of his hands. 

The beaver is a burrowing animal, his normal hab- 
itation being the burrow rather than the lodge. To 
enable him to excavate the large chambers under 
ground, hereafter described, his paws are armed with 
claws which are long, curving, and strong. In a full- 
grown beaver, the claw upon the third finger measures 
seven-eighths of an inch. Those upon the hind feet 
are still longer and broader, and equally well adapted 
to assist in excavating burrows. Upon the second 
toe of each hind foot there is an extra claw, set im- 
mediately under the true one and transversely. It is 
very thin, broad, and round edged, and projects nearly 
to the tip of the claw. It is peculiar to this animal. 

In its form, structure, and uses, the tail, of which 
a representation will be found in Plate II., is the 
most conspicuous organ of the beaver. It is nearly flat, 
broad, and straight, and covered with horny scales of 
a lustrous black. These scales, which are such in ap- 
pearance only, cover every portion of the surface both 
above and underneath. The tail is attached to a pos- 
terior projection of the body extending some inches 
beyond the pelvis, and is furnished with strong mus- 
cular attachments, by means of which its movements 
are determined. Its principal uses are to elevate or 
depress the head while swimming, to turn the body 


and vary its direction, and to assist the animal in 
diving. It is also used to give a signal of alarm to 
its mates. When alarmed in his pond, particularly at 
night, he immediately dives, in doing which the pos- 
terior part of his body is thrown out of water, and, 
as he descends head foremost, the tail is brought down 
upon the surface of the water with a heavy stroke, 
and deep below it with a plunge. The violence of 
the blow is shown by the spray which is thrown up 
two or three feet high. While watching upon their 
dams at night I have been startled by this tremendous 
stroke, which, in the stillness of the hour, seemed 
like a pistol shot. I have heard it distinctly for half 
a mile, and think it can be heard twice or three times 
that distance under favorable conditions. On the 
Upper Missouri, beavers are frequently seen in the 
river by day, or basking in the sun under its banks. 
I have seen them dive in this river in the daytime, 
and without giving the signal stroke. In such cases, 
their motions, in going under, are quick and graceful, 
the upper line of the body, from the head to the tail, 
coming into view in a curve, although but one-third 
of their length is above the surface at one time. 
While swimming in a direct course, with the head 
above the water, the tail is not used, but is extended 
motionless behind. It is capable of a diagonal move- 
ment from one side to the other, and vice versa, and 
also of assuming a nearly vertical position. This en- 
ables them to use it as a scull, which they do when 
entirely under water, and swimming at the most 
rapid rate. It is most flexible at the intersection 
of the tail proper with the posterior projection of 
the body to which it is attached. The muscles for 


its down motion are several times stronger than for 
either its upward or lateral movements. He is able 
to turn his tail under him and sit upon it, or to use 
it extended behind him as a prop while sitting up 
upon his hind feet. Young beavers, while feeding 
or resting, usually swing their tails around by their 
side in the same manner as a cat, but with the lower 
surface uppermost. It has often been asserted that 
the beaver uses his tail as a trowel in preparing mor- 
tar from mud. This mistake is sufficiently explained 
by stating that he uses mud and soft earth, sometimes 
intermixed with roots and grass, precisely as he finds 
them, and without any preparation whatever, for 
their conversion into mortar. But he uses his tail to 
pack and compress mud and earth while constructing 
a lodge or dam, which he effects by heavy and re- 
peated down strokes. It performs in this respect a 
most important office, and one not unlike some of the 
uses of the trowel. 

The eye of the beaver is disproportionately small, 
the optic nerve a mere thread, and its foramen one 
of the smallest in the skull. As his vision is of short 
range, he does not rely upon this sense except with 
reference to near objects. On the contrary, his hear- 
ing is very acute. The auditory tube, which is usu- 
ally about half an inch in length, terminates in a 
tympanic cavity, or bulla, of nearly globular form, 
and large relatively to the size of the skull. It is 
considerably larger than in man, and its size is, to 
some extent, the measure of the strength of this 
sense. This provision to intensify the hearing is, 
however, equally conspicuous among the carnivora. 
Upon this sense the beaver relies to a much greater 


extent than upon his sight. He sits up on his hind 
legs to listen, which is his usual position when on the 
alert or suspicious of clanger. He will often select a 
slightly elevated and exposed position, and, sitting up, 
listen for a considerable time and then retire, but to 
return at intervals and repeat the observation until 
satisfied whether or not danger is near. Since this 
attitude is one expressive of intelligence, as well as 
the one in which his form is seen at the best advant- 
age, I have adopted it in the engraving (Plate I.) as 
the most suitable for his representation. 

Scarcely inferior to this sense in power is that of 
smell, which is abundantly attested by the structure 
of the nasal organs. The cavity occupied by the eth- 
moid and turbinated bones is but little inferior in size 
to that in which the brain is enveloped. As these 
bones are laminated, the superficial surface of mem- 
brane exposed to the air is very large. It is evident 
from structural considerations that smell and hearing 
are the principal informing senses of the beaver. 

Their social propensities furnish another character- 
istic. They pair, and with their offspring live in the 
family relations until the latter attain maturity, when 
they are forced to leave the parent lodge. It usually 
happens that two or more such families inhabit the 
same pond, and contribute their labor to the mainte- 
nance of the dam, whence the common and nearly 
universal opinion that they live and act in colonies, 
or associated in villages. This is altogether an over- 
statement. Each family has its own lodge and bur- 
rows, and its separate stock of winter provisions ; and 
there is no authentic evidence of any concert of ac- 
tion among several families, either in building or 


repairing dams. If such instances have occurred 
they must be exceptional. This subject will be re- 
ferred to again. 

It is extremely difficult without dissection to de- 
termine the sex of beavers, as they are monotrema- 
tous, and there is nothing in their general appearance 
to indicate the difference. The female brings forth 
her young usually in May, and from two to five and 
sometimes six at a time. In some rare instances eight 
have been found in a foetal state among the beavers 
of Lake Superior, and the same number born alive in 
the lodge. Upon this subject Hearne remarks: "The 
Indians, by killing them in all stages of gestation, 
have abundant opportunities of ascertaining the usual 
number of their offspring. I have seen some hun- 
dreds of them killed at the seasons favorable for these 
observations, and never could" discover more than six 
young in one female, and that only in two instances; 
for the usual number, as I have before observed, is 
from two to five."^ The female has but four nipples, 
two between the shoulders and two a few inches back 
of them. At six weeks, a young beaver, captured 
and domesticated, will wean itself and take to bark. 
The period of gestation is from three to four months, 
and the ordinary duration of their lives from twelve 
to fifteen years. 

The habitat of the American beaver is unusually 
broad. It is not surpassed by that of any other 
animal upon the continent, the deer and the fox not 
excepted. He was found from the confines of the 
Arctic Sea on the north, to the Gulf of Mexico, the 

^ Hearne's Jonrney, p. 241. 


Rio Grande, and the Gila rivers on the south, and 
southward of these ranges in Tamaulipas in Mexico, 
which is the southernmost point to which he has been 
definitely traced. Throughout all the intermediate 
areas, from Hudson's Bay and the Atlantic on the 
east, to the Pacific on the west, he was found dis- 
tributed at the several epochs of European discovery. 
Climatically he may be said to belong to the temper- 
ate regions, from which his spread northward within 
the Arctic Circle and southward into Mexico is doubt- 
less ascribable to the courses of the rivers and to his 
aquatic habits. Beavers were found in the greatest 
numbers in the thick wood country around Hudson's 
Bay, one-half of which, according to Sir George Simp- 
son, is underwater; around the shores of Lake Superior, 
upon the head waters of the Missouri and the Siskatch- 
ewun,^ and upon the tributaries of the Columbia. The 
regions bordering on the Yukon, on the upper part of 
Mackenzie River, on Frazer's River, and on the Sacra- 
mento were also notable for beavers. New England, 
New York, Pennsylvania, and the Canadas were less 
abundantly but very well supplied at the period of col- 
onization. Southward, toward the Gulf, they were less 
numerous, and in the vast prairie area in the interior 
of the continent they were confined, of course, to the 
margins of the rivers. With the commencement of 
colonization their habitat began to contract. They 
have now substantially disappeared from the United 
States east of the Rocky Mountains, except in the 
States of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa; 
and in the Territories of Nebraska, Dakota, Idaho, 

^ Kis-sis-katch'-e-wuD, " Swift Water." Cree Dialect. 


Montana, and Colorado. They are still occasionally 
seen in Maine, New York, and Virginia. In the 
Hudson's Bay Territory, and in some portions of the 
Canadas, and west of the mountains in Oregon, Wash- 
ington, California, and Nevada they are still numer- 
ous. They are also still abundant on the south 
shore of Lake Superior in Upper Michigan, where 
their works, in numbers and magnitude, are not sur- 
passed by those of any other beaver district in North 

Their immense numbers in former periods are suffi- 
ciently attested by the statistics of the fur trade, of 
which some notice will be given in a subsequent chap- 
ter. The earliest colonists found in their rich furs 
their first exportable merchandise; and thus this ani- 
mal contributed, with his life, in no inconsiderable 
degree, to the colonization and permanent settlement 
of the Canadas and the United States. 

The habitat of the European beaver was as wide- 
spread as that of the American. He was found in 
the British Islands, in all parts of the European Con- 
tinent, in Siberia, and southward^ in Asia Minor, to 
the Euphrates. He is now extinct in Europe, except 
upon some of the larger rivers of the Continent, and 
in some portions of Russia. In Scotland and Wales 
he was found as late as the twelfth century. He is 
still found in Siberia. 

There are marked differences in the habits of the 
American and European beavers, although it is doubt- 
ful whether the species are distinct. The European 
beaver is said to lead a solitary life in burrows, 
rarely constructing lodges or dams; while the Ameri- 
can beaver is pre-eminently a builder of both dams 



and lodges. M. Myerink, of Berlin, described, in 
1829, the operations of a small number of European 
beavers established on the River Nuthe, an affluent 
of the Elbe, which consisted in the construction of 
burrows and lodges, and of a small dike or dam 
about a foot high.^ This last act was evidently re- 
garded as noteworthy, if not exceptional. Instances 
of this kind of work appear to be rare on the part 
of the European beaver, while the American turns 
the smaller streams, hy means of dams, into a series 
of ponds, one above the other, for miles together. 
The region around the Black Sea was famous for 
beavers in the classical period, whence he was called 
by Pliny the "Pontic beaver." In his brief account 
of this animal, he describes his practice of cutting 
down trees, but is silent upon the far more remark- 
able performance of constructing dams for the pur- 
pose of forming artificial ponds. No other Roman, 
and no Greek author, as far as I am aware, makes 
mention of this practice. If the European beaver 
had been a dam-builder to any considerable extent, 
the fact would not, probably, have escaped the notice 
of this indefatigable investigator.^ It is surprising 

^ Bennett's Garden and Menagerie of the Zoological Society 
Delineated. Quadrupeds, i. 158. 

^ Easdem partes sibi ipsi Pontici amputant fibri, periculo ur- 
gente, ab hoc se peti gnari ; Castoreura id vocant medici ; alias 
animal horrendi morsus, arbores juxta flumina, ut ferro, csedit ; ho- 
mines parte coraprehensa, non antequara fracta concrepuerint 
ossa, morsus resolvit, Cauda piscium iis, cetera species lutrse, 
Utramque aquaticum ; Utrique Mollior pluma pilus. — Plin. Nat. 
Hist., Lib. viii. c. xlvii. 

The ancients confounded the testes with the castor sacs, and 
perpetuated as credible this conceit of self-amputation. Herodo- 


how little can be gleaned from the Greek authors with 
reference to the beaver. Herodotus speaks of him 
(iv. 109) as a well-known animal, but without giving 
any particulars, ^lian describes him (Hist. Anim., 
Lib. vi. c. xxxiv.) as aquatic in his habits, spending 
the daytime concealed in the rivers, and roving by 
night upon the land. Strabo (Geograph., iii. 163) 
contents himself with pronouncing the castoreum of 
the Spanish inferior to that of the Pontic beaver; 
while Aristotle knew so little with reference to him 
that he describes the same animal under the names of 
castor (/.dffTwp) and latax (mtu^) as two different 

tus is one of the oldest authorities for the mistake first mentioned. 
Book iv. e. 109. 
Thus Ovid— 

Sic, ubi detracta est a te tibi eaussa pericli, 

Quod superest, tutum, Pontiee castor, habes. 

Nux Elegia, 165. 
And Juvenal — 

— imitatus castora, que se 

Eunuchum ipse facit, cupiens evadere damno 

Testiculi, adeo medicatum intelligit unguen. 

Sat., xii. 34. 

Pliny, however, elsewhere states that Sextus, a Roman physi- 
cian, questioned the truth of this statement. Vide Lib. xxxii. c. 

^ "Certain wild quadrupeds," he remarks, "also seek food 
around the lakes and rivers, but around no sea, the sea-calf (seal) 
excepted. Of this genus are the beaver (xd^rcop), and satherion 
((TaOepcov), and satyr (^aarupwv), and otter (^hu8po\q), and latax 
(Mra^), which is broader than the otter, and provided with teeth 
very much more robust. Going forth commonly by night, it 
eats off the nearest bushes with its teeth. The otter also bites 
men, nor, as they say, does he loose his hold before he shall have 


Another interesting fact with reference to the bea- 
ver is that of his great antiquity upon the earth. A 
presumption to this effect would arise from his coarse 
subsistence and his aquatic habits; but it is confirmed 
by decisive evidence. Both the European and Amer- 
ican beavers are found in a fossil state, and under con- 
ditions which establish for each of them a very ancient 
epoch for their first existence among living animals. 
Upon the European fossil beaver, Owen observes: 
'' That the present European beaver is not the degen- 
erate descendant of the great Trogontlierium is proved, 
not only by the differences in the dental structure 
pointed out in the preceding section, but likewise by 
the fact that beavers in no respect differing in size or 
anatomical characters from the Gastor Eiiropxus of the 
present day, coexisted with the Trog-ontherium. Re- 
mains of the beaver have been discovered by Mr. 
Green in the same fossilized condition, and under cir- 
cumstances indicative of equal antiquity with the 
extinct mammoth, in the lacustrine formations at 
Bacton. * * * Remains of the beaver have been 
found associated with those of the mammoth, hippo- 
potamus, rhinoceros, hyena, and other extinct mam- 
mals, in the pleistocene fresh-water or drift formations 
of the Vald'Arno; and remains of both Trogontherium 
and Castor were found fossil by Dr. Schmerling in the 
ossiferous caverns in the neighborhood of Liege. * * 

heard the cracking from the bones. The hair of the latax, which 
is intermediate between that of the deer and seal, is rough." 
{nep\ Z<I)u)v 0. Z. Sean. vii. 5. Ed. Schneid. i. p. 362.) Pliny, by 
some misapprehension, speaks {supra) of the beaver as having 
the same pertinacious bite ascribed properly by Aristotle to the 


But the most common situation in which the remains 
of the beaver are found in this island, as on the Con- 
tinent, is the turbary peat- bog, or moss-pit. * * '*' 
Remains of the Castor Europseus have been found at 
the depth of eight feet and a half beneath peat, rest- 
ing upon a stratum of clay, with much decayed and 
seemingly charred wood, associated with remains of 
megaceros, or great Irish deer, at Higley, Norfolk,"^ 

Beaver-gnawed wood was found in the same cavity 
with, and five feet above the skeleton of the mastodon 
discovered in 1867, at Cohoes, near Albany, New York. 
This wood, which was first noticed by Dr. S. B. Wool- 
worth, is now in the State Cabinet of Natural History. 
It appeal's from the description of Prof James Hall, 
who personally superintended the removal of the prin- 
cipal bones, that this mastodon was found in a pothole 
excavated in the shale rock (Hudson River group), 
and more than forty feet below the surface. The 
remains were imbedded in clay and river ooze, resting 
upon gravel, and covered with an accumulation of 
peat. In the presence of this beaver-gnawed wood 
so near the mastodon, some evidence is furnished that 
the beaver and the mastodon were contemporaneous.^ 

The fossil remains of the Trogontlierium were first 
discovered by Fischer on the borders of the Sea of Azof, 
and afterward in various parts of England. Cuvier 
placed him in the genus Castor, and gave the name 

^ British Fossil Mammals and Birds. Lond. ed., 1846, p. 190. 

^ Prof. Hall, iu describing %he position and relations in which 
this skeleton was found, remarks : " In the peaty deposits where 
these bones have occurred, the remains of recent or existing vege- 
tation are present ; and the relations of these deposits show very 
clearly that the surface of the country has undergone no important 


upon Fischer's description. Owen afterward, by means 
of additional specimens, detected variations in the 
forms of the jaws and teeth which led him to question 
this classification, and to assert a sub-generic position 
for this animal. He remarks: "The well-marked dif- 
ferences which the English fossils have demonstrated, 
not only in the proportions, but in the form and struc- 
ture of the teeth of the Trogontherium, will, I trust, 
be allowed to yield the same grounds for its sub-gen- 
eric distinction as has been proposed or accepted by 
the best modern zoologists for the subdivisions of the 
same value in the rest of the rodent order."^ Tlie 
Trogontlierium was about one-fifth larger than the Eu- 
ropean beaver, the skull measuring seven inches and 
three lines from the occipital ridge to the most convex 
part of the incisors. 

Since both the European beaver and the Trogon- 
therium have been found in a fossilized state in the 
newer pliocene formations, and in deposits which 
have yielded remains not only of the mammoth and 
the rhinoceros, but also of the mastodon, and since 
there is evidence tending to show that the American 
beaver was cotemporaneous with the mastodon, the 
generic type of Castor, and also the family type of 
Castoridx are thus carried far back into the tertiary 

Upon the American Continent the American bea- 

modification since the period of the mastodon. This animal, and 
the fossil elephant, Elephas primigeneus, were coeval with the 
existing flora and the present conditions of the surface of the con- 
tinent; and there are no reasons, geologically, why they may not 
have coexisted with the human race." 

^ British Fossil Mammals and Birds, p. 188. 


ver has likewise been found in a fossil state. On this 
subject, Baird remarks: "The bone caves at Carlisle 
yielded a large number of remains of beaver, both 
young and old. There are no satisfactory points of 
dijBference from the existing species, although in size 
some of the teeth are larger than any recent speci- 
mens I have seen, indicating a length of quite six 
inches for the skull. "^ 

As the European beaver has its prototype in the 
Trogontlierium, so the American species had its fore- 
runner in Castoroides, a gigantic fossil beaver, surpass- 
ing in size all existing as well as extinct rodents. 
But few specimens have as yet been found. The first 
was described by Foster and named Castoroides Ohio- 
ensis; and the second by Hall and Wyman. The lat- 
ter was found in a lacustrine formation subsequent to 
the drift in Wayne County, New York. From the 
geological relations in which these fossil remains were 
discovered. Hall pronounces Gastoroides cotempora- 
neous with the mastodon. The skull, measured from a 
cast in my collection, is ten inches and fifteen hun- 
dredths in its greatest length, and seven inches and 
sixty hundredths in its greatest width. He must 
have been five or six times larger than the beaver of 
the present time. Baird observes that the genus Cas- 
toroides is nearer to the genus Trogontlierium than to 
Castor, which is an interesting fact, showing that the 
fossil genera are nearer to each other than either is to 
the existing genus. 

Although it thus appears that three distinct genera 
of the beaver family — if Trogontlierium stands inde- 

* Explorations for a Railroad Route, etc. to the Pacific, viii. 361. 


pendent of Castor — have been ascertained, and that 
the existence of its distinctive type extends backward 
well toward the earliest epoch of mammalian life 
upon the earth, yet it seems that the position of this 
family in the animal kingdom is not as yet fully 
determined. Whether the Castoridse are entitled to 
the full rank of an independent family, or should be 
attached, as a sub-family, to some other group, is the 

Brandt, whose treatise upon the rodents is particu- 
larly elaborate with reference to the beaver, gives 
prominence to this question, and also to that of 
the specific differences between the European and 
American beavers. He proposes to divide the ro- 
dent order into four sub-orders, and to arrange the 
genera in twelve independent families. Under this 
classification the Castoridse become an independent 
family of full rank. " The general structure," he ob- 
serves, "and especially the character of the skull 
being more accurately considered, the order of the 
Gnawers manifests, as it seems to me, four quite dis- 
tinct types, exhibiting the equivalent of the sub-orders 
Sciuromorpha, MijomorpJia, Hystricliomorplia, and La- 
gomorplm, of each of which respectively the common 
genera Scinrus, Mus. Hystrix, and Lepus, known to 
all, may be declared the foundations. The four types 
just indicated appear by no means to be constantly 
separated by ascertained differences, but they rather 
offer, by means of common marks and intermediate 
forms, a series bound in unity with sufficient con- 
cord."^ The Castoridx are placed in the second sub- 

^ " Strnctura general! et prassertim cranii ratione accuratius con- 
sideratis Glirium Ordo typos quatuor admodum distinctos, ut mihi 


order [Myomorplia) , in which it constitutes the second 
family, and the third in the general series from the 
first. This arrangement appears merely to transfer 
without obviating the difficulty, and tends to compli- 
cate rather than simplify the question. 

Baird introduces into the family Castoridse the 
genus Aplodontia, consisting of a single species found 
in Ore2;on, and confined to the Northwest Coast. In 
some features of the teeth and skull it resembles 
Castor, and in other particulars affiliates equally well 
with other genera of rodents. He then, having 
placed the Sciuridse, as other zoologists have done, in 
the front rank of the rodent order, attaches the 
genera Aplodontia, Castor, and Castoroides to this group 
as a sub-family, expressing, however, a doubt as to the 
propriety of the arrangement in the following lan- 
guage : " There has been of late a decided tendency 
to place them near or among the Sciuridse. In this 
view I am disposed to concur, although there still 
remains the question, whether the two are not typical 
of as many different sub-families, themselves forming 
a family of full rank."^ 

Although unqualified to offer any solution of this 
problem, it appears to me plain that the greater rela- 

videtur, subordinum valorem exhibentes manifestat : Glires, Sciu- 
roniorphos, Myomorphos, Hystrichomorphos, et Lagomorphos, 
quorum quidem siugulorum fundamenta generalia genera Sciurus, 
Mus. Hystrix, et Lepus omnibus nota declarari possunt. Typi 
quatuor modo dici vero notis constanter diversis minime disjunct! 
apparent, sed notarum coramunium formarumque intermediarum 
ope series potius satis harmonice in unitatem conjunctas ofFerunt." 
— Memoires de Academie Imperiale des Sciences de St. Peters- 
bourg. Sixth series. Sciences Naturelles, tome vii. 292. 
^ Explorations for a Railroad Route, etc., viii. 350. 


tive antiquity of the three genera Castor, Gastoroides, 
and Trogontlierium, and the unique and distinctive 
type of animal life which they represent, should de- 
termine the question in favor of the independence of 
the Castoridse as a family. 

Another question remains, namely: whether the 
American and European beavers are the same or dif- 
ferent species. Linngeus, who founded the genus Gas- 
tor in 1735, made but one species — C. Fiber. The 
earlier naturalists, from Linngeus to Buffon and Cu- 
• vier, accepted, without investigation, the specific iden- 
tity of the European and American species. 

According to Brandt (Memoires, etc., 44), Oken was 
the first in time (1816) who thought upon the question 
of a possible difference of species. In 1819, Frederick 
Cuvier (Hist. Nat. des Mamifers, No. 16) gave a pretty 
full description of the external characteristics of a 
Canada beaver in the Garden of Plants, but without 
discussing the question of its possible difference from 
the European. Again in 1825 (lb., No. 51) he de- 
scribed a beaver of the Rhone, compared its skull 
with tha,t of an American beaver, and then, for the 
first time, pointed out the differences in its skull which 
have since been recognized as establishing distinct- 
ness of species. He also named the American beaver 
GojStoT Americanus, and the European Gastor Gallicus. 
Between these two periods (1820), Kuhl described a 
Canada beaver in the British Museum, and named 
it Castor Canadensis: but his description failed to 
show any grounds of specific difference.^ 

^ " Castor Canadensis." " Supra rufus, infra rufescente cinereus. 
Extremitatuni pallide brunescentium piles adpressis, brevibus, 


Owen (1846), disregarding Fr. Cuvier's name of the 
European beaver, calls him Castor Europaeus, in which 
he is followed by Brandt and other zoologists. With 
respect to the American beaver, if specifically different, 
it is doubtful whether there is such a priority of scien- 
tific determination in favor of Kuhl's name, Casio?' 
Canadensis, as to enforce its acceptance. Castor Amer- 
icanus, from the great extent of his habitat, would be 
more appropriate. 

The question, however, of a specific name for the 
American beaver is at least premature. It is neces- • 
sary, first, to show that they are of different species, 
which cannot as yet be conclusively asserted. Brandt, 
who has investigated this subject more elaborately 
than any other zoologist, came to the same conclusion 
as Fr. Cuvier, that they were specifically different. 
Since the publication of his memoir upon the Rodents, 
this conclusion has been very generally acquiesced in 
by zoologists. It appears, however, that his observa- 
tions and comparisons were limited to eight skulls of 
the European, and five of the American beaver. The 
differences revealed by these skulls undoubtedly justi- 
fied the inference of difference of species. A com- 
parison of a much larger number of skulls might 
show, nevertheless, that the variations relied upon 
were not constant; and such has proved to be the 
case. For the purpose of testing the constancy of 
these assumed variations, I increased my collection of 

lucidis. Unguibus tegalaribus obtusis, corneis. Cauda applanata, 
piles ad basin squamarum raris et brevibus. Dentibus surrufis. 
Longitude corporis, 22|, poll, caudal, 1". Ejusque latitudo, 2^ 
poUicum. Ad Fretum Hudsoni. In Musco Britanico." — Beitriige 
zur zoologie und Verleichenden Anatomiae. Frankf., 4, p. 64. 


American beaver skulls to ninety-eight. Beside these, 
seven American skulls and one European were loaned 
from the Smithsonian Collection, and two American 
from the New York State Collection, which increased 
the w^hole number of American skulls examined to 
one hundred and seven. A comparison shows that 
the several variations between the skulls of the 
European and American beavers, claimed to exist by 
Brandt, are not constant; that the supposed differ- 
ences shade off into each other and disappear, and 
that the tendency to diverge, which plainly exists, is 
no greater or stronger than would be unavoidably due 
to the long-continued separation of these stocks, and 
to climatic influences inseparable from their widely- 
extended habitat. If brought together, they would, 
without doubt, produce, inter se, a fertile offspring. 
The anatomical differences between them are probably 
less than between individuals of the most strongly 
contrasted families of mankind. It will not be neces- 
sary to present the comparative measurements in this 
connection, as they are fully given in Appendix "A," 
to which the reader is referred. The tendency to 
variation, however, is sufficiently marked to charac- 
terize the American and European beavers as varie- 
ties of the same species, which is the most that can, 
at present, be claimed. This would fix the nomencla- 
ture for the first as Castor Fiber, var. Americanus, 
and of the second, as Castor Fiber, var. Europseus. 

The beaver, in the duration of his distinctive type, 
is one of the oldest of living mammals. He is also 
shown to have been the cotemporary of many species 
now extinct. His coarse subsistence, aquatic habits, 
rugged strength, and prolific nature, eminently fitted 


him for a long career of life upon the earth, trans- 
mitted through the species. It is not imjDrobable that 
his first appearance antedates the present configura- 
tion of the continents. Of the mastodon but one 
species, I believe, has been found in America, while 
several have been discovered in Europe and Asia, 
neither of which is identical with the American spe- 
cies. How the beaver, adopting the conclusion of but 
a single species, propagated himself from one con- 
tinent to the other, may be wholly unexplainable; 
but it does not aifect the question whether the two 
beavers are of the same, or of different species. Of 
all the mammals without the Arctic Circle in Europe 
and America, with the exception of man, the beavers 
of the two continents are probably the only individ- 
uals whose specific identity can be established by 
anatomical comparisons. 

The second chapter and Appendix A, as has else- 
where heen stated, are from the pen of Dr. W. W. Ely, 
whose able and thorough exposition of the anatomical 
structure of the American beaver will command the 
attention of the comparative anatomist, and prove in- 
structive to the general reader. The comparison of 
the skulls, referred to on the preceding page, was made 
by him. 



Introduction — Description — Skeleton — Skull — Teeth — Muscles — Internal 
Organs : Mouth, Stomach, Intestines, Caecum, Heart, Lungs, Liver, 
Spleen — Respiration of Aquatic Animals — Brain. 

Appendix A. 1. Measui-ements of Skull. 2. Differences between Euro- 
pean and American Beavers considered. 3. Castoreum Organs, and Gen- 
erative Organs. 

In the study of animals for the purpose of determ- 
ining their zoological relations, it has been found 
necessary not only to consider their external charac- 
teristics, but also to investigate their internal struc- 
ture. The distinction of species is often impossible 
without the aid of anatomical research. In the case 
of the beaver, the closely-allied European and Amer- 
ican animals could not be distinguished by anything 
in their external conformation. Anatomists resort, 
therefore, to a minute investigation of the cranial and 
other structures to discover essential points of diflfer- 

For this reason, some account of the anatomy of 
the beaver seems appropriate to the present volume, 
which, although popular in its character, is sufficiently 
comprehensive in its design to admit of the introduc- 
tion of the scientific element. A somewhat general 
resume of beaver anatomy has been attempted in order 
to give greater completeness to the work. It would 
be impossible, in the limits of a chapter, to give all 
the details belonging to this subject, which would re- 



quire a special treatise. The same objection applies 
to frequent references to comparative, anatomy. If 
the scientific reader requires any other apology for 
omissions in the descriptive part, it must be found in 
the writer's desire to avoid compilation, and to give 
only the results of personal observation. In a few 
points he is at variance with authorities, but not 
without due consideration. 


The beaver is the largest indigenous rodent in 
Europe, and the largest rodent now living except the 
capybara (Hydrochaerus Capybara) of South America. 

In the following description I shall refer to three 
adult animals, one male and two females, captured 
near Lake Superior, in February, March, and April, 
1866. Two had lost an arm each from previous cap- 
ture, the parts having entirely healed. The meas- 
urements here and elsewhere given, unless otherwise 
specified, are in inches and hundredths of an inch, 
U. S. standard measure. Weights in avoirdupois 
pounds and ounces. Sign for inches, "; for hundredths 
of an inch, '". 

Length from tip of nose to end of tail.. 

" of scaly portion of tail 

Circumference of head before ears 

" behind ears 

" behind shoulders 

•' middle of abdomen 

" before hips 

" root of scaly tail 

" middle of scaly tail 

Wt 32 lbs. 







291^ lbs. 










30 lbs. 




The body of the beaver is largest at its centre, and 
diminishes in size toward each extremity. The ani- 
mal has a ratlike appearance about the head and neck, 
and the smallness of the eyes and ears renders its phys- 
iognomy dull and uninteresting. The body is covered 
with reddish-brown hairof two kinds : the longer coarse 
hairs are about 2" in length and t5o " in diameter, and 
the shorter, which are of a lighter color, and partly 
concealed by the former, are about 1" long, and ttW 
in diameter. Both kinds present an imbricate epi- 
dermoid structure. The beaver has the peculiar 
odor of the castoreum, to be hereafter described. Its 
head is rounded, flattened above, and the muzzle is 
somewhat prominent. The upper lip is emarginate 
to the edge of the incisor gum, where it closely ad- 
heres. The lower lip is loose and pendant, so that 
the incisor teeth are prominent features. Both lips 
are somewhat drawn in behind the incisors, and are 
slightly hairy within. From the angle of the mouth 
a thin line of hairs extends backward one-fourth of 
an inch to a quadrangular patch of thickly set hairs 
on the inside of the cheek, 80'" in length and 32'" in 
breadth. From the emarginate upper lip (in one 
beaver) the hair extends 66'" to the naked muffle, 
which is 90'" long and 22'" broad, covered with rough 
black epidermis. In two beavers the naked portion 
of the muffle includes the nostrils, and extends in a 
narrow line to the edge of the lip. The nostrils are 
lateral, hairy, round when expanded, and assume a 
sub-triangular or crescentic form, the convexity being 
in front. Width between nostrils in one, 75'", in an- 
other, 66'"; diameter of nostrils, 20'". There are five 
rows of bristles, the upper row having but few hairs. 


The eyes are small, half an inch in diameter, and are 
midway between the nostrils and the ears; diameter 
of iris, 8'"; length of closed eyelid, 50'". A few bris- 
tles over the eyes. The ears are short, very hairy on 
both sides, rounded and obtusely pointed. The pos- 
terior extremity of the beaver presents a singular 
formation. The body diminishes in size gradually 
from the hips, and terminates in a flat scaly tail, 
which, measured from the sacrum, is about 18" in 
length; the first 8" being covered with hair like the 
rest of the body. The scaly portion commences ab- 
ruptly with a width of about four inches, and termin- 
ates with a rounded extremity. The scaly portion 
(Plate II ) is slightly convex above and below, thin at 
the margin, and is covered with a black, tough, scaly 
ej^idermis. The scales are somewhat irregulnr in form 
and size, the most usual form being sub-hexagonal, 
about 32'" in length, and 12'" in width. They are 
arranged transversely in respect to length, in the so- 
called quincunx form, and they diminish in size to- 
ward the end of the tail; across the middle of the tail 
their number is 19 or 20 above, and 20 or 21 on the 
under surface. A few short, broken hairs pass out 
between the scales. 

It may be observed here that although this struc- 
ture is usually described as scaly, it is so only in ap- 
pearance. M. Sarrasin^escribes the "scales" as "cou- 
chees les unes sur les autres, jointes ensemble par 
une pellicule fort delicate, ench asses dans la peau dont 

^ Histoire de I'Academie Royale des Sciences. Annee 1704. 
Paris, n45. Lettre de M. Sarrasin, medecin du Roy en Canada, 
touchant I'Anatomie du Castor, p. 61. 



elles se separent aisement apres la mort de ranimal." 
Thin longitudinal and transverse sections exhibit the 
true character of this structure. The tail is com- 
posed largely of a dense fatty tissue; upon this lies 
the derm or skin, 07'" in thickness, its outer sur- 
face being serrated, with the points of the serratures 
toward the end of the tail. Over the serratures is ex- 
tended the tough horny epiderm, gs" to ^V in thick- 
ness, which is inflected under the serratures, so as to 
present the imbricate appearance. The longitudinal 
divisions are merely dips or depressions, not imbricate. 

Fig. 1. 

Longitudinal section of scaly tail, twice the natural size. 

The beaver, being an aquatic as well as a land ani- 
mal, presents two types of structure. The arms and 
hands are small, are adapted to burrowing, and, being 
capable of partial supination, the hands may be used 
for holding substances between them. The hind ex- 
tremities are strongly developed, and are constructed 
after the aquatic type. The feet have been compared 
to those of the turtle. Each extremity has five digits. 
The back of the hand is thickly covered with short 
hairs; the palm is naked, with a tough black epi- 
dermis, and two tubercles, one opposite the fifth fin- 
ger, the other under the metacarpals of the second, 
third, and fourth. The fingers are furnished with 
long claws, of which that of the third finger is the 
longest, 92'" long, and 20'" broad. The first finger 
(thumb) is shorter than its claw. Next in length is 








the fourth ; then the second and the fifth. Between 
the third and fourth fingers is a rudimentary web, ex- 
tending to the second plialanx, measuring on its edge 
60'". The foot is Qi to 7" long. The upper surface is 
covered with short silky hairs. Below it is naked. At 
the base of the first toe is a tubercle. The third toe is 
the longest; then in order of length the fourth, second, 
fifth, and first. The claws are larger than those of 
the hand, the third claw measuring from 87'" to 1" 10'" 
in length, and 34'" to 38'" in width. 
There is an extra flattened claw lying ^^^' ^' 

under the regular claw of the second 
toe (Fig. 2) . All the toes are connect- 
ed, to their extremities, by a firm naked 

I 1 ... insiue view 01 aouDie 

web or membrane, measurmar on its , 

' o claws. 

margin, when the toes are spread, 7i 
to 8i inches. The beaver has four nipples, two be- 
tween the shoulders, 3" apart, and two, 3" farther 
back, 4" apart. 


The skeleton of the beaver, of which a representa- 
tion is given PI. III., affords 273 bones, including the 
aural ossicles and excluding the sesamoid bones. Of 
these there are 38 of the head, 20 teeth, and 215 
bones of the trunk, tail, and extremities. The beaver 
has 55 vertebrae, viz., cervical, 7; dorsal, 14; lumbar, 
5; sacral, confluent, 4; and caudal, 25. 

The first and second cervical vertebrae are strong, 
the second and third are the smallest. Six have for- 
amina for the vertebral artery. The head of the first 
rib is articulated between the bodies of the seventh 
cervical and the first dorsal. The last four lumbar 


vertebrae have large transverse processes. The sa- 
crum is straight, the first bone being somewhat prom- 
inent anteriorly. The caudal vertebrae gradually 
diminish in size and lose their vertebral characters. 
In the sixth, the posterior lateral articulating surfaces 
disappear, and the spinal canal in the tenth becomes 
a mere groove. The spinous processes also disappear 
in the eighth or ninth. The transverse processes are 
long, broad, and toward the end of the tail are bifid 
or double. The lateral foramina, which begin in the 
sacrum at the posterior edge of the transverse pro- 
cesses, continue to the sixth caudal. 

The ribs are slender, rounded, in 14 pairs. Seven 
are articulated by cartilage with the sternum. The 
cartilages of the 8th and 9th are connected with the 
costal cartilages. The remaining ribs are tipped with 
free cartilage. 

The sternum is composed of five narrow slender 
bones; the first and fourth are the broadest. Theensi- 
form cartilage expands into a broad flat disk. Length 
of sternum and ensiform cartilage, 6". The clavicles 
are strong, 2" 16'" in length. The scapula is 3" 25'" 
long, and 1" 50'" broad. Its spine is prominent, and 
the acromion is 1" 18'" in length. 

The humerus is 3" long; its body is triangular and 
compressed; the tubercle at the head is large; about 
the middle of the bone anteriorly is a large tubercle 
for the insertion of the deltoid muscle; the lower end 
is broad, thin, not perforated; the external condyle 
spreads out to a thin convex edge which passes up 
the middle of the posterior surface of the bone. 

The radius is slender, and lies close to the ulna in 
its whole length. The olecranon is 94'" long, and the 


entire ulna 4" 37'". The hands are small compared 
with the feet. In the upper carpal row there are 
two bones instead of the usual number of four. In 
the second row a crescentic bone connects the thumb 
with the lateral part of the head of the adjoining 
(first) metacarpal. On the head of this metacarpal 
are two smaller bones (trapezoids) overlying each 
other, and articulating with the scaphoid of the first 
row. On the third metacarpal is a wedge-shaped 
bone with the apex toward the scaphoid. Next in 
the row is a large bone (os magnum) receiving the 
heads of th>e 4th and 5th metacarpals. The next 
bone, occupying the position of the unciform, is large, 
and is attached to the ulnar bone of the first row, 
and supports the annular ligament. A third plate 
bone, connected by ligament with the scaphoid, lies 
over the root of the thumb and forms the other at- 
tachment of the annular ligament. The phalanges 
are normal, the thumb being very small. 

The pelvis is long; the lateral bones being 6" 50" 
in length, and the ilia having but rudimentary alae. 
The ischium and pubis are thin, and their expansion 
is effected by the large thyroid foramen, 2" long and 
1" broad, which is destitute of ligament. Between 
the ischial tuberosities it is 3"; the transverse diameter 
of the pelvis is 2". The greatest depth of the acetab- 
ulum is superiorly and anteriorly in the line of the 
ilium. There is the usual pit for the round ligament 
which is well developed and strong, although R. 
Wagner affirms that it does not exist in the mamma- 
lia, except in man^ (i. p. 15). 

^ Elements of the Comparative Anatomy of the Vertebrate 
Animals. By Rudolph Wagner. Transl. New York, 1845. 


The femur is broad and very strong, 4" 10"' in 
length. Besides the two trochanters, there is a prom- 
inent process on the outer margin, below the middle 
of the bone, from which a sharp edge extends above 
and below; a deep pit exists on the under side of the 
great trochanter. 

The tibia is 5" 25'" long, triangular above. Its body 
is excavated on each side of the posterior angle ; be- 
low it is rounded, with but small development of the 
malleolar process. 

The fibula forms a strong outer malleolar process 
in close apposition to the astragalus. It is attached 
for 1" 25'" to the lower end of the tibia, and after the 
epiphyses become consolidated the union is by anchy- 
losis. The upper end of the fibula lies behind the 
tibia, and has a hamular process pointing outwardly 
and downward, which gives attachment to a strong 
ligament that extends from the lower part of the bone 
and passes from the process in question to the femur, 
forming an outer lateral ligament to the knee-joint. 

The patella is subtriangular in form with the base 

The plane of the foot is oblique with respect to the 
leg, requiring the feet to approximate to rest on a 
level surface. The tarsal bones are 8 in number. 
The astragalus requires no particular description. 
The calcaneum is flattened obliquely on its upper and 
under surfaces, and projects backward 84'" It articu- 
lates with the astragalus and the cuboid. The sca- 
phoid has a neck and a rounded head which is seen 
in the bottom of the foot. A nameless bone, subcon- 
ical in shape, which is properly an appendage to the 
scaphoid, articulates with the astragalus on the inside 


of the foot and receives the apex of the first cunei- 
form, which is flattened and notched at the distal end 
to receive the phalangeal bone of the first toe. 

A small cuneiform is articulated with the 2d meta- 
tarsal, and a large one with the 3d metatarsal, receiv- 
ing also the head of the 4th metatarsal, which is the 
largest of its class. A portion of this 4th metatarsal 
is articulated with the cuboid. The 5th metatarsal is 
joined to the side of the 4th, and has no connection 
with the tarsus. On the tarsal end of the first toe a 
movable flat bone is placed, answering by its connec- 
tion with muscles, the purposes of a patella. 

The peculiarities of the tarsal articulation are : the 
supplementary scaphoid bone, the form and position 
of the 1st cuneiform, and the connections of the 4th 
and 5th metatarsals. 

The sesamoid bones are found as usual. The pha- 
langes present nothing remarkable. The terminal 
ones, to which the claws are attached, are furnished 
with a bony process to support the claw. The first 
toe is smallest and shortest, then the 5th and the 2d; 
the 3d and 4th are about equal in length. The claws 
of the 1st and 2d are placed obliquely, being turned 
inward, so that their points are not worn; the others 
become blunt and rounded at their extremities. The 
second toe has an extra claw growing from the skin 
and partly covered by the regular claw; it is flattened 
laterally and has a sharp edge above and a point. 

The claws of the fingers are about as long as those 
of the toes, but are much narrower and more pointed. 
The 1st finger is shorter than the 5th; then the 2d, 
the 4th, and the 3d. 

The hyoid bone forms a semicircle and has an an- 
terior projection. 



The skull of the beaver exceeds that of other ro- 
dents in solidity and strength. It is much elongated, 
its length being more than twice and a half its height. 
Its upper line is nearly plane; a parallel line below 
touches the condyle, the palatal bone, and the point of 
the incisive septum. The principal surface of the 
occipital bone is vertical to this line. The molars 
occupy the middle of the skull, being separated by an 
arched space from the incisors. Viewed from above, 
the skull presents quite a different outline, the width 
being about two- fifths of the length. These propor- 
tions are shown in the lateral and the top views of the 
skull (Plate IV.). 

The nasal bones occupy one-third of the length of 
the skull; are broadest anteriorly, and at their junc- 
tion in front form an obt>use point. Their outer 
margin is a convex curve, where they are joined to 
the intermaxillaries. Their posterior extremities and 
those of the intermaxillaries join the frontal on a line 
with the anterior orbital tubercles of that bone. The 
intermaxillaries are very strong. A nearly vertical 
suture connects them with the superior maxillary; a 
little more than half of the sheath of the incisors is 
formed by them. The lateral and lower part of the 
nasal opening in front, which has the form of the 

1 References to figures of the skull, Plates IT. and Y. : 

1. Nasal bone. 6. Occipital. 11. Lachrymal. 

2. Intermaxillary. 7. Temporal. 12. Palatal. 

3. Frontal. 8. Malar. 13. Pre-sphenoid. 

4. Parietal. 9. Tympanic. 14. Post-sphenoid. 

5. Interparietal. 10. Superior maxillary. 15. Ethmoid. 

Plate IV 


From, a Th/^Loa ."i^ph. 

u.L^-iiL.Son.i: Oj.Thu". 

TOP VIEW OF SKULL, yenat.sjze. 


letter V, is formed by them. The frontal bone is 
flattened above. The two bones are early united, 
and in the adult present only the trace of a suture. 
The frontal is broadest anteriorly, spreading out to 
form the anterior orbital processes. From a rounded 
margin the orbital plate descends nearly vertically 
into the socket. This margin is a little prominent 
posteriorly, forming a smaller process. From this 
point the bone is wedge-form, passing backward 
between the parietals. In the orbital cavity the 
frontal joins the lachrymal, the superior maxillary 
and the ala of the pre-sphenoid. The lachrymal is 
triangular above, wedged in between the frontal and 
malar; it forms part of the inner anterior portion of 
the orbit. The parietal bones are about half the 
length of the skull. They are united in their middle 
third by suture, being separated anteriorly by the 
frontal bone, and behind by the interparietal; they 
extend back to the occipital and join the temporals 
by a longitudinal suture. Their anterior margin in 
the temporal fossae is inflected, roughened, forming a 
crest which extends on the temporal to the zygomatic 
process; in the fossee they join the alae of both sphe- 
noids; posteriorly and laterally their pointed extremi- 
ties extend a short distance behind the temporals. 
The interparietal bone is triangular, but very variable 
in its form in different skulls. In young subjects it is 
in two portions, divided by the sagittal suture; in old 
skulls the place of the suture is occupied by a sharp 
crest. The base of this bone joins the occipital. The 
temporal bones are lateral. The zj^gomatic process 
extends downward and outward, in a flattened form, 
to constitute the roof of the glenoid cavity; then 


curves forward to unite with the malar — posteriorly a 
hooked process of the temporal winds around the 
back part of the auditory tube to the base of the mas- 
toid process. Anteriorly and inferiorly it joins the 
ala of the post-sphenoid, and posteriorly it embraces 
the tympanic bone; the sutures of this bone are squa- 
mous. The glenoid cavity is a flattened groove of 
greater width than length, its outer margin formed 
by the abrupt termination of the malar, the inner 
boundary being the vertical portion of the temporal; 
the lower jaw moves freely, in a longitudinal direc- 
tion, back into the space between the glenoid groove 
and the auditory tube. 

The vertical portion of the occipital bone is much 
roughened for muscular attachment. Its upper mar- 
gin is a sharp ridge, in front of which is the trans- 
verse suture. In young subjects the ridge is wanting. 
The occipital foramen is subtriangular or rounded — 
broader than its height. The condyles look down- 
ward, outward, and backward. The basilar portion 
lies between the tympanic bones, and is united in front 
by ligament to the post-sphenoid. An oblong, deep 
cavity in the basilar portion renders this bone very 
thin. The mastoid processes of the occipital are 
lateral to the condyles. In young subjects the bone 
consists of four portions, viz.: the ujDper squamous 
portion, the basilar portion, and the two lateral or 
condyloid portions. 

The tympanic bone is very irregular in shape. It 
forms a small part of the vertical extremity of the 
skull, Jind its mastoid process joins that of the occipi- 
tal. The bulla is thick and prominent. From the 
posterior part of the auditory tube, a sharp prominent 


crest extends downward to the bottom of the bulla — 
a long, rough process at the base connects it with the 
basilar process and the post-sphenoid — it is separated 
from the ala of the sphenoid by a large fissure — the 
foramen lacenum basis cranii. The auditory canal is 
prominent, extending upward, outward, and forward. 
The styloid bone lies in a groove of the bulla, at- 
tached by a ligament. The foramen for the Eustachian 
tube is a little above the junction of the long process 
of the sphenoid with this bone. The petrous portion 
has an uneven surface within. Above the internal 
auditory foramen is a pit which receives a process of 
the cerebellum, in the margin of which is a semicir- 
cular canal. The malar bones are long inferiorly. 
The ascending portion in front is firmly united with 
the transverse plate of the superior maxillary, the 
edge of which is seen in front of the malar. Above, 
the malar forms the outer third of the orbit — forming 
a process from which a ligament extends to the frontal 
to complete the orbital opening, separating the orbit 
from the temporal fossa — this large fossa is bounded 
laterally and posteriorly by the malar, temporal, and 
parietal bones. 

The superior maxillary bone extends from the pos- 
terior line of the molars to the interparietal, and forms 
about half the arch between the incisors and the 
molars — and less than half the sheath of the incisors. 
The transverse malar plate commences at the back 
part of the first molar, extends outwardly to the an- 
terior inferior angle of the malar, forming, as seen 
from in front, a broad arch. In front of the first 
molar, a ridge commences, becoming more prominent, 
and passing upward, parallel with the malar plate, 


crosses the suture, and is lost in the intermaxillary. 
The ante-orbital foramen is concealed from lateral 
view by the most prominent part of this ridge. The 
s. maxillary forms part of the orbit anteriorly. The 
alveolar part of this bone is more prominent on the 
outer surface — posteriorly it is supported by the 
pterygoid bone, and the triangular palatal bone enters 
as a wedge from behind as far as between the second 
and third molars. The outer alveolar surflice has a 
sharp slope toward the middle portion of the skull, 
where it joins the perforated body of the pre-sphenoid. 
In young subjiacts, before dentition is complete, the 
upper alveolar part is bulbous and prominent In the 
orbit the maxillary touches the frontal. The palatal 
bone is somewhat cribriform — a ridge, commencing 
with a point of bone, extends from its base, and is 
continued along the maxillary, forming the posterior 
half of the septum of the incisive foramina. The pos- 
terior naris is nearly circular — the ascending portion 
of the palatal supports above the two sphenoid bodies. 

The sphenoid bones are distinct, and about equal 
in length. The outer pterygoid process is short, 
strong, and divergent — the inner is long, and curves 
backward so as to touch a process of the tympanic 
bone, forming thus an oval lateral opening. Where 
the sphenoidal bodies join, by their side, is the large 
sphenoidal fissure, corresponding to the oval and 
round foramina — the small optic foramen is seen by 
the side of the pre-sphenoid. 

Brandt^ describes but one sphenoidal wing in the 

^ Memoires de I'Acaderaie Irapcriale des Sciences de Saint 
Petersbourg. Sciences Naturelles, tome vii., 1855. Beitrage 
zur natiern kentniss der gattung Castor, etc. J. F. Brandt. 

Plate V 

Drawn bj W (-p'l'h 


J'-aw.n. by M'WT^Iy. 

? /' I'uJuaL, Sm x: ih. Ph. 

LOWER JAW Katsize 


temporal fossa. Although the sutures of the beaver's 
skull become consolidated early, and are sometimes 
made out with difficulty, the two sphenoidal wings 
can be traced in many skulls. In a young skull, 
after the temporal and parietal are removed, the 
broad squamous suture which connects the two wings 
can be opened. Cuvier says: "Le sphenoide pos- 
terieur touche un peu dans le tempe au frontal"^ T. 
R. Jones, art. Rodehtia in Cyc. of Anat. and Phys.,^ 
adopts Cuvier's description of the sphenoids. In 
forming the suture, the wing of the post-sphenoid is 
anterior, but the other wing rises higher to join the 
frontal — the suture of the frontal passes back some 
distance under the parietal, but not far enough to 
touch the posterior wing, although they are closely 
approximated. In this instance, then, the statement 
of Cuvier is not confirmed. 

The ethmoid bone has a cribriform body in. the an- 
terior part of the cavity that lodges the olfactory lobe. 
It has also a vertical plate and three sets of cells on 
each side, of which a representation is given (Plate V.); 
the vertical plate has been removed to show the cells 
entire. A turbinated bone in each nostril is attached 
by its base to the sheath of the incisor. It is formed 
of six or seven thin lamina of bone proceeding from 
its base and dichotomously subdividing and convolu- 
ting. This bone has been removed in Plate V. to show 
the sheath of the incisor. The vomer is represented 
in the same figure by the lower dotted lines. There 

^ Le9ons d'Anatomie Coraparee de Georges Cuvier, etc. Seconde 
edition. Paris, 1835 to 1846. 

^ The Cyclopaedia of Anatomy and Physiology, by R. B.Todd. 


is also attached to the under surface of each nasal a 
long curved bone overlapping the turbinate, and serv- 
ing to retain it in its position. 

In addition to the ridges or crests which have been 
described, there are the parietal crests; these start 
from the interparietal crest, and, diverging, terminate 
at the junction of the temporals and frontal. Their 
usual form is represented in the top view of the skull, 
but it is subject to much variation. There is a straight 
glenoid crest at the junction of the temporal and 
sphenoid. The top of the hook process of the jugular 
bone forms a crest continuous with the sharp upper 
edge of the malar. Delicate ridges extend from the 
outer margins of the incisive foramina to the front 
edge of the alveolar processes, and from the temporal 
jugular process a crest extends backward toward the 
posterior point of the parietal. 

The incisive foramina are in the intermaxillaries 
midway between the incisors and the molars. The 
spheno-palatine foramen^ is just behind the orbital 
opening of the ante-orbital foramen, and opens into 
the nostril at the junction of the ethmoid and the 
s. maxillary. The small optic foramen is in the ala 
of the pre-sphenoid above the transverse opening in 
the body of the bone. The pterygo-palatine' is lower 
than the optic, and opens in the anterior part of the 
palatal bone. The external pterygoid plate is pierced 
with a large foramen which communicates with the 
sphenoidal fissure by what Cuvier calls the Vidian 
canal. The condyloid foramina are in front of the 

^ These foramina are named from analogy, the first is entirely 
in the maxillary, and the second in the maxillary and the palatal. 


condyles opposite their middle. The lateral foramina 
in the vertical portion of the occipital are closed in 
the recent subject by membrane. 

Wormian bones are occasionally but not commonly 
found in the sutures. Sometimes a rounded mass of 
bone is imbedd-ed in the larger mastoid process.^ 

The lower jaw is very massive (Plate V.) . The two 
parts are joined in front by a long and broad sym- 
physis, forming below a pointed process. Its poste- 
rior angle is flattened into a broad process, hollowed 
within and tipped with a broad long crest — this part 
extends farther back than the condyle — at the root 
of the condyle on the outer side is a depression; 
above this the coronoid process arises and is pointed 
backward. The anterior line of the process passes 
downward and forward, the crest terminating at the 
extremity of the root of the first molar. The con- 
dyle is quadrangular, rounded, and is nearer the coro- 
noid process than the posterior crest. The foramina 
for the nutrient vessels, etc. is behind the molars and 
higher than their crown surfaces; the mental foramen 
is below the anterior face of the first molar. 


The character of the Rodentia as a natural order 
is made to depend upon a peculiar kind of cutting or 
incisive teeth, which are separated from the grindino- 
or molar teeth by an empty space, the canine teeth 
being wanting. The teeth of animals bear a defin- 
ite relation to their mode of subsistence, and from 

^ For measurements of the skull, and differences in the European 
and the American beaver, see Appendix A. 


their correspondence with other structures of the 
body, the comparative anatomist is able to determine, 
by an inspection of these organs alone, the kind of 
animal to which they belong. The rodents gener- 
ally derive their food from the vegetable kingdom. 

Before describing the teeth of the beaver, we may 
premise for the general reader a few facts in relation 
to the dental organs. Mammalian teeth are composed 
of substances essentially resembling bone, of which 
three kinds are usually present, viz.: the external 
hard covering or enamel; dentine, which forms the 
body of the tooth; and cementum, or crusta petrosa, 
which is deposited on the surface, and usually on the 
dentine of the root. The divisions of a tooth are the 
crown, or portion above the gum; the root, or part 
inclosed in the socket; and the neck, or point of 
junction between the crown and the root. There are 
three kinds of teeth: the front, or incisive; the back, 
or molar; and the canine, or intermediate teeth, whose 
development is a striking feature in the jaws of the 
Carnivora. These are wanting in the Rodentia, and 
in the Edentata the incisive teeth are wanting. Some 
teeth are permanent, while others are deciduous, the 
so-called milk teeth, whose places are supplied by 
those of the permanent class. In some cases, teeth, 
when once formed, are unchangeable in their develop- 
ment or growth, and are therefore called "rooted" 
teeth. In other instances the teeth are so constituted 
that they grow continually as they are worn by use, 
and are called "rootless" teeth. Rootless teeth are 
generally cylindric or prismatic, with an expanded 
open cavity, containing a pulp organ capable of sup- 
plying an unlimited growth, while the rooted tooth, 


when once fully formed, is unchangeable, and the root 
serves merely as a support for the crown. The beaver 
has 20 teeth, viz., 2 incisors and 8 molars in each 
jaw. The anterior molars, 4 in all, are deciduous; 
the crowns of these teeth resemble the permanent 
ones ; the upper have three divergent roots and the 
lower two. They are gradually protruded from their 
sockets by the permanent teeth rising beneath them. 
Whether the cutting teeth of the beaver should be 
regarded as canine teeth rather than as incisors, has 
been questioned, inasmuch as they extend back into 
the superior maxillary bone. It is generally held that 
this relation is only to accommodate their great 
length, and that their uses and connection with the 
intermaxillaries are sufficient to sustain the ordinary 
view. The incisors of the beaver are nearly triangu- 
lar, and extend far into the jaw, with a circular 
curve, the upper forming more, and the lower less 
than half the circumference of a circle, the radius of 
the curve in the upper being one inch, in the lower 
1 " 75'". They are composed chiefly of dentine, having 
a thin layer of orange-colored enamel on their ante- 
rior surface and angles. The upper incisors are con- 
tained in a sheath which projects into the nasal cav- 
ity, the end of the tooth being separated by a thin 
vertical plate of bone from the first molar. The 
lower incisors pass under the roots of the molars to a 
point behind them and below the posterior foramina. 
The dentine of the incisors, being softer than the 
enamel, wears away and gives to the end of the tooth 
a beveled or chisel form, with a sharp anterior edge 
of enamel, so that they are called scalpriform teeth. 
The portion of the tooth inclosed in the socket has 



a conical cavity, filled with the pulp organ, which 
forms successive layers of dentine so that the tooth 
continues to grow as fast as it is worn away. As it 
sometimes happens that a tooth of this kind is broken 
off, the opposite tooth has been found to grow until 
its outward projection constituted nearly a circle. 
The incisors, it need hardly be said, are, according to 
the definition, "rootless" teeth. The molars are 
firmly and compactly set in the jaws. The upper 
set are supported on their outer edge by a firm alve- 
olar ridge, but on the inside their sockets are shallow. 
The lower set are more deeply and strongly implanted 
in the jaw. The first molars are largest and longest, 

and the last are the 
^i<^- ^- smallest, and project 

but little from the jaw. 

The inner surface of 

the upper molars has 

Left upper molar, Left under molar, , , . ,. , 

outside. outside. ^uc deep longitudmal 

groove extending to 
the end of the tooth, and the outer surface three 
grooves. These are similar, but reversed in the lower 
tooth. The surface of the crown is marked by a 
complicated folding of enamel, of which a diagram is 
given (Fig. 3). 

The dentine between the layers of enamel is worn 
so as to leave the latter in ridges. Each molar is 
curved so as to present two concave surfaces. The 
upper set curve backward and outward; the lower set 
forward and inward. The surface line of the upper 
set is slightly convex, that of the lower is concave. 
Their surfaces are thus brought into apposition, and 
the bearing of the teeth in the sockets is effected 


without undue pressure on their extremities. The 
curves are rendered necessary also by the position of 
the teeth in the jaws; the distance between the upper 
molars, from side to side, being less than that of the 
lower. The lower set are also longer antero-poste- 
riorly by half the length of the crown of a tooth than 
the upper. set. The cementum is found on the out- 
side of the teeth and in the spaces where there are 
inflections of enamel ; but where dentine is opposed to 
dentine it is not deposited in layers; and, if at all, 
only in a granular form. The question arises whether 
the molars, like the incisors, belong to the rootless 
class of teeth. In Prof. Baird's elaborate Report on 
Mammals,^ the sub-family Castorinae, embracing the 
genera Castor, Aplodontia, and Castoroides, is defined 
as having "rootless molars." Brandt {op. cit., p. 301) 
defines the family Castoroides— genus Castor — as hav- 
ing "molares radicati" — rooted molars. If we exam- 
ine the molars of the beaver in the young skull, in 
their immature condition (Fig. 4), they are found to be 
prismatic; their extremities in the jaws are expanded, 
and present all the inflections of enamel 
seen on the crown surface. In this, 
their primitive condition, they grow as 
do other rootless teeth, until the jaws 
have attained their development. The 
tooth then becomes rooted (Fig. 5) and 
incapable of further growth — the pulp 

cavity contracts, the opening becomes 

•^ ^ r o less" molar 

Section of "root- 
lateral, and is sometimes entirely closed; 

' General Report upon the Zoology of the several Pacific Rail- 
road Routes, vol. viii. Mammals. By Spencer P. Baird. Wash- 
ington, D. C, 1857. 


the pulp organ is atrophied; the tooth is smaller within 
than without the socket. In a sec- 
^^* ■ tion of the tooth the tips of the enamel 

inflections are seen of different lengths, 
as they have become gradually closed. 
Corresponding changes have taken place 
in the sockets; their bulbous projec- 
tions in the upper jaw being no longer 
visible. While, therefore, the molars 

Section of "root- /» -i i ^ ii L^ i 

ed" molar ^^ ^'^^ beavcr are both rootless and 
rooted at different stages in the growth 
of the animal, the latter is the characteristic of its 
mature condition. 


It would exceed our limits to enumerate the mus- 
cles of the beaver. Their specification is the less ne- 
cessary as the muscles of the mammalia present few 
important variations from the human standard.. They 
may, however, be so modified in connection with par- 
ticular functions as to merit notice, and for this rea- 
son we shall allude briefly to the muscles of mastica- 
tion. The power required for cutting and grinding 
hard ligneous substances is supplied in the beaver by 
the development of the masseter muscle. This mus- 
cle arises from the whole length of the lower part of 
the malar bone, and is inserted into the crest of the 
lower jaw, and side of the jaw to the anterior end 
of the crest. It is strengthened by tendinous fibres 
passing from the root of the crest into the body of the 
muscle. At the junction of the superior maxillary 
and malar inferiorly a tendon runs forward to the 
process covering the ante-orbital foramen. The inner 


part of the masseter arises further forward by muscle, 
and still further by tendon, as far as between the 1st 
and 2d molar, and is inserted into the whole space of 
the maxillary before the transverse plate, into the an- 
terior surface of this plate, and its lower arched edge. 
By means of its anterior tendon, the muscle of one 
side acting, turns the jaw laterally to the opposite 
side; while the double action of this part of the mus- 
cle brings the condyle forward and fixes it in the 
glenoid cavity for cutting operations. The cutting 
and grinding power of this muscle must be very great. 
The temporal muscle arises from the crest on the 
temporal bone as far back as the occipital crest, and 
from the parietal bone; also from a tendinous expan- 
sion extending from the malar to the top of the skull, 
and from the internal surface of the malar; and is in- 
serted into the coronoid process of the lower jaw. 
The pterygoid muscles require no particular descrip- 
tion. The digastric muscles are large, and fill the 
space anteriorly between the lateral parts of the jaw. 
Their tendon in front of the hyoid bone is connected 
with the mylo-hyoid. Posteriorly they are smaller 
and are inserted at the base of the mastoid process. 

The tail has free motion laterally; also by exten- 
sion and flexion, particularly the ktter. An upper 
lateral muscle connected with the transverse processes 
of the bones joins the gluteal. Another lateral mus- 
cle extends from the side of the tail to the tuberosity 
and ramus of the ischium. The flexors and exten. 
sors arise from the corresponding surfaces of the sa- 
crum, and are each in two layers. The flexors are 
the stronger muscles; they extend to the commence- 
ment of the scaly portion of the tail, and send great 


numbers of tendons to the different bones and their 


The beaver presents many peculiarities of internal 
structure; indeed, as a whole, it is a unique animal; 
one that has hitherto baffled the skill of naturalists to 
classify it. 

The cavity of the mouth is small, and destitute of 
cheek pouches; the tongue is long and fleshy, and has 
a pointed elevation between the molars. The palate 
has a longitudinal ridge extending back from the in- 
cisors to four transverse ridges. The epiglottis is 
leaf-like and pointed, and the larynx is short. 

It is generally supposed that the rodent, in grind- 
ing its food, is confined to the longitudinal motion of 
the jaws. This is inferred from the form of the gle- 
noid cavities, and the condyles; and the motion in 
question has been adopted as a distinctive mark of 
the rodent family. Waterhouse^ affirms that the ro- 
dents possess "very little lateral motion to the jaw, 
which, however, moves freely in the longitudinal di- 
rection." At the same time he admits that the mo- 
tion in the hares is chiefly lateral, inasmuch as the 
crowns of their molars are never worn flat. 

That the articulation of the beaver jaw admits of 
free lateral motion is easily demonstrated in the recent 
subject. Neither the ligaments nor the bony struc- 
tures afford any impediment, while the flattened 
crowns of the molars, and the muscular provisions 

^ A Natural History of the Mammalia, by G. K. Waterhouse, 
vol. ii. Rodeatia. London, 1848. 



would lead to the conclusion that both longitudinal 
and lateral motions were concerned in the grinding 

Fia. 6. 

Stomach of beaver, inside view. One-quarter natural size. 

The insalivation of the dry food of the beaver is 
provided for by the extraordinary development of 
the salivary glands. The parotid and submaxillary 
glands, united, are very large, and cover the front 
and sides of the neck. The oesophageal membrane 
is white, thick, and loosely attached to the muscular 
coat. Where it enters the stomach it has a free 
fringed margin. The stomach is one of the most 
peculiar organs of the beaver; it is 10" in length and 
4" in width, and when filled appears constricted in 
its middle portion. This is not unusual in the ro- 
dents, but in the beaver the structure is peculiar. At 
the cardiac orifice is a gland, or aggregation of folli- 
cles, through the margin of which the oesophagus 
passes. This gland is half an inch in thickness and 
3 inches in diameter. It is composed of compound 
follicles, which open by 15 or 20 orifices in parallel 
rows. When the stomach is distended with air. 


the gland is also inflated, and shows large cells and 
numerous septa. The constricted appearance of the 
stomach is due to a triangular valve or septum pro- 
jecting into its cavity. The upper part of the stom- 
ach is doubled in, so that a triangular muscle ex- 
tends across its cavity, its free margin measuring 2", 
thus partially dividing the cavity into two portions. 
A section of the stomach is represented in Fig. 6, 
showing the triangular muscle and the gland. The 
pylorus is muscular, and the orifice much smaller than 
the duodenum. The intestine is twice the diameter 
of the pylorus, and is doubled back upon the stomach. 
In northern regions, and in winter, the beaver must 
subsist either on wood or bark. The latter is com- 
paratively innutritions. Besides, it would involve a 
vast amount of labor on the part of the animal to 
provide a winter stock of bark, which must be trans- 
ported, together with its wood, to be submerged for 
future use. The proportion of bark to wood, of the 
kinds used by the beaver, is from to to g. This ques- 
tion is settled by examining the aliment actually con- 
sumed by the animal. The stomach has been found 
distended with finely comminuted woody fibre, and 
the same material was found in the colon. In another 
case the contents of the stomach, partly filled, were 
the same, weighing 1 lb. 3 oz. The masses in the 
colon were of the same character. If bark were in- 
gested with the wood it must have been in small 
quantity. The conclusion, therefore, is that the 
beaver derives its nutriment from the vegetable gum, 
sugar, and albumen contained in the alburnum or 
sap-wood, when it cannot obtain succulent roots and 


The length and size of the intestines in animals are 
proportionate to the nature and nutritious qualities of 
their food. In the carnivora, the intestinal canal is 
shorter and less complicated than in the herbivora. 
In the beaver, the length of the small intestines 
averages 25 feet. They are destitute of valvulse 
conniventes, which are confined to man/ but the vil- 
lous coat is well developed. Sixteen patches of 
Peyer's glands were counted in one subject. The 
pancreas is long and delicate. Its duct enters the in- 
testine 25" from the pyloric orifice, while that of the 
gall-bladder enters but 4" from the pylorus. 

The extremity of the small intestine projects a 
little into the colon, and the orifice is circular. 

Between the colon and caecum is a circular band of 
muscular fibres acting both as a constrictor and a 
valve. The caecum is larger than the stomach. 
Its capacity when filled with water is 5 pints and 
3 gills, and that of the stomach is 3 pints and 1 
gill. The caecum is on a line with the colon for 7" or 
8", it then forms an angle, and gradually diminishes 
in size to its extremity. In shape it resembles a 

^ "It is remarkable that these folds (valvulse conniventes) are 
peculiar to the human subject. No other animal, so far as we know, 
exhibits any arrangement of transverse folds of the intestinal mu- 
cous membrane resembling them." — "The Physiological Anatomy 
and Physiology of Man. By Todd and Bowman." Phila. ed., 
p. 5T4. 

Note. — In the stomach of the beaver I have found a very fine 
filamentous worm, 40'" in length, species unknown. Large num- 
bers of a long, slender white worm, B" to 5" in length, were 
found ia the peritoneal cavity (Filaria, species not known), also in 
the colon, and especially in the caecum, sclerostema, male and 
female, species not known, and the amphistoma subtriquetrum. 



sickle. The follicular cavities in the coBcum and 
colon, surrounded by columnar epithelium, give to the 
surface a warty appearance. The reticulated or cel- 
lular appearance of the colon is similar to what is 
usually seen in this portion of the intestine. 

Fig. 7. 



Ctecum of beaver. One-sixth natural size. 

The greatest width of the caecum is 4", and its 
length, measured on its outer surface, is 2 feet 6". 
The colon, measured from the circular band to the 
rectum, is 7 feet 6". At its commencement there 
are two longitudinal bands, forming numerous folds 
and sacculi; after continuing 7", a third band starts 
at an acute angle and continues 25", terminating as 
it befican. The colon then diminishes in size, and in 
place of cells is alternately expanded and contracted 
to adapt itself to its contents. 

The liver is long, flattened, with two principal 
lobes, two smaller ones, and several fissures. It is 
hardly necessary to say that glucose is obtained from 
it. The spleen is small, long and linear in form. In 


one animal it was 3i" in length, in another, 41", with 
an average width of 40'". Weight of the largest spleen, 
110 grains. 

The right lung has two lobes, one of them bifid. 
The left lung has four lobes. The supra-renal cap- 
sules in the rodents are relatively large. The kid- 
neys present nothing remarkable. Weight of one 
kidney 640 grains. The heart weighs 714 grains, 
and resembles the human in its cavities, valves, ves- 
sels, etc. In one beaver a large calcareous deposit ex- 
isted above the aortic valves. In another there was 
incipient atheroma in patches in the same situation. 

M. Sarrasin, in his account of the beaver, describing 
the heart, says the right auricle being smaller than the 
left, the right ventricle is filled by the conjoint action 
of the auricle and the vena cava inferior; the latter 
being at this point considerably expanded. The venous 
sac, he adds, is narrower by the side of the liver where 
it is closed by three valves, like the sigmoidal, which 
prevent the reflux of the blood during the act in 
question. M. Sarrasin's account of the beaver is so 
generally correct that his misconception on this point 
is the more remarkable. It is well known that in 
diving animals, whether birds or mammals, a provi- 
sion exists in the venous system against the evils of 
suspended respiration. R. Knox, Esq., claims to have 
first noticed it in the case of the beaver. His account 
is contained in the Memoirs of the Wernerian So- 
ciety, vol. iv., part ii., 1823. This provision consists 
in an enlargement of the inferior vena cava as it 
passes through the fissure of the liver, constituting a 
sinus in which a considerable quantity of blood may 
be temporarily arrested. 


In the beaver the inferior cava begins to enlarge 
opposite the kidney. The largest part of the sinus is 
where it receives the hepatic veins. After passing 
through the diaphragm it contracts to its original size. 
The four hepatic veins are also capable of containing 
a large quantity of blood, the largest readily admit- 
ting the adult fore finger. On opening the vena cava 
in its length, its linear width, opposite the kidney, is 
two inches; in the hepatic fissure it is three inches; 
and before reaching the right auricle it is two inches. 
The capacity of the venous sinus is not fully indi- 
cated by these measurements, as the vein probably 
yields to distention. The " sigmoid valves," described 
by M. Sarrasin, are merely the openings of the three 
hepatic veins seen from above. The blood corpuscles 
of the beaver measure 37,00" in diameter. The mean 
of 24 rodents, as given in Gerber's Anatomy, is 375?". 
The eye of the beaver is small. The optic nerve is 
but 5'" in diameter. In decussating within the skull 
the nerve of the right side passes under the left. The 
reputed sagacity of the beaver is not accounted for 
by the size or development of the brain. The impla- 
cental mammals (marsupials and monotremes) are 
the lowest of the mammiferous class, according to 
Prof. R. Owen; their brains resembling those of birds, 
in the absence of the great commissure, or corpus 
callosum. The brains of rodents are a step in ad- 
vance. The beaver brain is entirely smooth on the 
surface, and, although the cerebellum is uncovered, 
the posterior development is greater than in the mar- 
supials. The olfactory lobe is large. The optic lobes 
are covered. Width of cerebral hemisphere, 83'"; of 
corpus callosum, 60'"; length of brain before removal, 


1" 80'". Weight of cerebrum, 336 grs.; of cerebellum, 
68 grs,; of medulla and peduncles, 69 grs.; total of 
encephalon, 473 grs. The proportion of the marsu- 
pial brain to the body in three animals, as stated by 
Prof Owen, is 1 to 520, 1 to 600, and 1 to 614. In 
the beaver it is 1 to 532. The average of the mam- 
malia, according to Leuret, is 1 to 186; of birds, 1 to 
212. In man it is 1 to 36. 

Note. — For description of the castoreum and generative organs 
of the beaver, see Appendix A, Note 3. 



Remarkable Beaver District — Number of Beaver Dams — Other Works — 
Cliaracter of the Region — Beavers now Abundant — Map of Area — Object 
of Dams — Their Great Age — Of Two Kinds — Interlaced Stick-Dam — 
Solid Bank Dam — Great Beaver Dam at Grass Lake — Its Dimensions — 
Surrounding Landscape — Mode of Construction — Lower Face — Water 
Face — Great Curve — Mode of discharging Surplus Water — Artistic Ap- 
pearance of this Dam — Necessity for Continuous Repairs — Measurements 
— Cubic Contents — Photograph — Manner of taking same — Relation of 
Dam below — Same of one above — Manner of Repairing Dams. 

The particular beaver district which I have selected 
for presentation is situated upon the summit level of 
the coast range of hills that skirt the southwest shore 
of Lake Superior, immediately west of Marquette. 
It is the district shown upon the map. In length, 
from east to west, it is eight miles, and six miles 
broad, from north to south. This area is traversed by 
a small stream, known as Carp River, which empties 
into Lake Superior, and also by the Ely Branch of 
the Esconauba^ River, which rises in this area and 
flows southward into Lake Michigan. It is, therefore, 
seen to embrace a portion of the dividing ridge that 
separates the drainage of the two great lakes, with 
slopes in both directions. Within this district are 
situated the three remarkable hills of rock iron ore, 
now so well known throughout the country as the 
Jackson, Cleveland, and Lake ^ Superior Iron Mines, 

* Ish-ko-nau-ba. 


besides several other iron locations of great value. 
These are but the commencement of those vast ferru- 
ginous deposits which distinguish this portion of 
Upper Michigan over all other parts of the United 
States.^ Lake Angeline, situated upon the summit 
level of the coast range, is 850 feet above the level of 
Lake Superior, from which it is distant about sixteen 
miles. From the number of small lakes in this in- 
considerable area, from the hills and lowlands into 
which it is broken up, and from the number of small 
streams to which they give rise, it is well w^atered, 
and therefore extremely well adapted to beaver occu- 
pation. There are other districts of the same extent, 
in its immediate vicinity, particularly around Lake 
Michigame,^ and upon the main branch of the Esco- 
nauba, scarcely inferior to it in the number of beaver 
dams and other erections which they contain; but the 
one selected is sufficiently furnished in these respects 
to yield ample materials for the illustration of the 
works of the beaver. Since it is a material part of 

^ The great richness of this ore is shown by the following 
analysis : 

Iron 70-22 Or Peroxide of Iron 90-58 

Oxygen 29-53 " Magnetic Oxide 9-17 

Insoluble 20 " Silica 20 

99-55 99-55 

Foster and Whitney's Report, Geology Lake Superior Land 
District. Executive Doc, No. 4 (Senate), 1851, p. 74. 

^ Md-she-gd'-me, large lake. The Ojibwas classify lakes into 
three kinds: Sd-gd-e'-ga, small lake; Md-she-gd'-me, large lake; 
and Git-che-gd'-me, great lake. The last is applied to the "great 
lakes" indiscriminately, and to the ocean. 


my plan to show how completely they occupy a given 
district, as their numbers increase, as well ns the rela- 
tions of their dams and other erections to each other, 
I have explored the area covered by the map with 
more thoroughness than any other, in order, as far as 
possible, to exhibit all of their works within its limits. 
Undoubtedly many of the lesser have escaped observa- 
tion, but the principal and most important have been 
found. There are within this area sixty-three beaver 
dams, without reckoning the smallest, from those 
which are fifty feet in length, and forming ponds cov- 
ing a quarter of an acre of land, to those which are 
three hundred and five hundred feet in length, with 
ponds covering from twenty to sixty acres of land. 
It also contains many acres of beaver meadows, many 
lodges, burrows, and artificial canals. 

A dense forest overspreads the land, with the ex- 
ception of the beaver meadows and the clearings 
made near the mines. Upon the margins of the 
principal streams the prevailing trees are the tam- 
arack and the spruce; upon the first rising ground, 
back of these, we find the white and yellow birch, 
the soft and bird's-eye maple, the poplar and the ash ; 
and upon the hills the sugar maple, the oak, and sev- 
eral species of pine. Among the bushes are the wil- 
low, the alder, and the cranberry. In this area, 
therefore, are assembled all the elements tending to 
form an inviting beaver district; namely, numerous 
small rivulets flowing through hard wood lands, upon 
the bark of the trees of which they depend chiefly 
for subsistence; and shallow, sluggish rivers, suffi- 
ciently narrow between their banks to be traversed 
by dams, and having deciduous trees adjacent, ^and 


reachable by means of artificial canals cut through 
the lowlands and filled with water from the ponds. 

With the exception of Marquette, and a small set- 
tlement at the mouth of the Chocolate River, and 
with the further exception of several settlements upon 
the lines of the Marquette and Ontonagon, and the 
Peninsular Railroads, the entire region from Keweenaw 
Bay of Lake Superior to Green Bay of Lake Michigan, 
is still an unbroken and an uninhabited wilderness. 
Prior to the discovery of the iron deposits in this dis- 
trict, about the year 1846, it had scarcely been trav- 
ersed except by the trapper, the surveyor, and the 
Ojibwa Lidians, the latter of whom possessed the 
country as a part of their hereditary domain. From 
the dense undergrowth of the forest, from the swampy 
character of a large portion of the lands, and from 
the numerous windfalls, extending in some places for 
miles, it is even now extremely difficult to traverse 
this region in any direction except upon Indian trails ; 
and no one but an experienced woodman can safely 
undertake an expedition into this wilderness for any 
considerable distance. Throughout this entire area 
beavers are now abundant, and for the most part un- 
disturbed in their habitations. Their works meet the 
eye at almost every point on the numerous streams 
with which it is covered as with a net-work; and they 
afford to the observer the additional advantage of 
being in a perfect condition as well as in actual use. 
Each dam is not only couiplete in itself, but there is 
a series of these dams, one above the other, on the 
same stream, so located as not to interfere with each 
other, and constructed so near together that the lower 
one of two usually sets back its pond quite near to 



that immediately above. In this manner every por- 
tion of a stream is appropriated by them for the pur- 
poses of habitation. 

The accompanying map, which embraces but a 
fragment of the area described, was drawn by Mr. 
L. K. Dorrance, chief engineer, and afterwards revised 
by William H. Steele, Esq., assistant engineer of the 
Marquette and Ontonagon Railroad, from materials 
furnished by the author. Each section delineated is 
a mile square, the sections corresponding with those 
upon the official United States Township maps. With 
this integer of measurement, the distances between 
the several dams and the size of the several ponds 
can be readily ascertained as well as the actual lo- 
cation of each. The size of some of the ponds may 
be somewhat exaggerated, but the map is substan- 
tially accurate. For convenience of reference the 
dams are numbered consecutively. The sites of a 
large number of lodges, the location of the principal 
beaver meadows, and of several beaver canals are also 
indicated on the map. 

The dam^ is the principal structure of the beaver. 
It is also the most important of his erections as it is 
the most extensive, and because its production and 
preservation could only be accomplished by patient 
and long-continued labor. In point of time, also, it 
precedes the lodge, since the floor of the latter and 
the entrances to its chamber are constructed with 
reference to the level of the water in the pond. The 
object of the dam is the formation of an artificial' 
pond, the principal use of which is the refuge it affords 

^ O-ko'-rain, beaver dam. 


to them when assailed, and the water connection it 
gives to their lodges, and to their burrows in the 
banks. Hence, as the level of the pond must, in all 
cases, rise from one to two feet above these entrances 
for the protection of the animal from pursuit and 
capture, the surface level of the pond must, to a 
greater or less extent, be subject to their immediate 
control. As the dam is not an absolute necessity to 
the beaver for the maintenance of his life, his normal 
habitation being rather natural ponds and rivers, and 
burrows in their banks, it is, in itself considered, a 
remarkable fact that he should have voluntarily 
transferred himself, by means of dams and ponds of 
his own construction, from a natural to an artificial 
mode of life. 

Some of these dams are so extensive as to forbid 
the supposition that they were the exclusive work of 
a single pair, or of a single family of beavers : but it 
does not follow, as has very generally been supposed, 
that several families, or a colony, unite for the joint 
construction of a dam. After a careful examination 
of some hundreds of these structures, and of the 
lodges and burrows attached to many of them, I am 
altogether satisfied that the larger dams were not the 
joint product of the labor of large numbers of beavers 
working together, and brought thus to immediate 
completion; but, on the contrary, that they arose from 
small beginnings, and were built upon year after year 
until they finally reached that size which exhausted 
the capabilities of the location ; after which they were 
maintained for centuries, at the ascertained standard^ 
by constant repairs. So far as my observations have 
enabled me to form an opinion, I think they were 


usually, if not invariably, commenced by a single 
pair, or a single family of beavers; and that when in 
the course of time, by the gradual increase of the 
dam, the pond had become sufficiently enlarged to 
accommodate more families than one, other families 
took up their residence upon it, and afterward con- 
tributed, by their labor, to its maintenance. There 
is no satisfactory evidence that the American beavers 
either live or work in colonies; and if some such 
cases have been observed, it will either be found to be 
an exception to the general rule, or in consequence of 
the sudden destruction of a work upon the mainte- 
nance of which a number of families were at the time 

The great age of the larger dams is shown by their 
size, by the large amount of solid materials they con- 
tain, and by the destruction of the primitive forest 
within the area of the ponds; and also by the extent 
of the beaver meadows along the margins of the 
streams where dams are maintained, and by the hum- 
mocks formed upon them through the annual growth 
and decay of vegetation in separate hills. These 
meadows were undoubtedly covered with trees adapted 
to a wet soil when the dams were constructed. It 
must have required long periods of time to destroy 
every vestige of the ancient forest by the increased 
saturaiton of the earth, accompanied with occasional 
overflows from the streams. The evidence from these, 
and other sources, tends to show that these dams have 
existed in the same places for hundreds and thousands 
of years, and that they have been maintained by a 
system of continuous repairs. 

In external appearance there are two distinct kinds 


of beaver dams, although they are all constructed on 
the same principle. One, the stick-dam, consists of 
interlaced stick and pole work upon the lower face, 
with an embankment of earth, intermixed with the 
same materials on the upper, or water face of the 
dam. This species is usually found on brooks, and 
upon the larger streams without defined banks. The 
greater proportion of beaver dams are of this descrip- 
tion. The other is the solid-bank dam, which is 
usually found lower down on the same stream, where 
its banks have become defined, and it has a channel 
of some depth, and a uniform current. In such places 
the large amount of earth and mud, used to strengthen 
the work, buries and conceals the greater part of the 
brush and poles used to bind the embankment to- 
gether; thus giving to it, in the course of time, the 
appearance, on both slopes, of a solid dike, or bank 
of earth. In the first species the surplus water per- 
colates through the dam along its entire lengtli, while, 
in the second, it is discharged through a single open- 
ing in the crest formed for that purpose. 

At the place selected for the construction of a dam, 
the ground is usually firm and often stony; and when 
across the channel of a flowing stream, a hard rather 
than a soft bottom is preferred. Such places are 
necessarily unfavorable for the insertion of stakes in 
the ground, if such were, in fact, their practice in 
building dams. The theory upon which beaver dams 
are constructed is perfectly simple, and involves no 
such necessity. Soft earth intermixed with vegetable 
fibre is used to form an embankment, with sticks, 
brush, and poles imbedded within these materials to 
bind them together, and to impart to them the requi- 


site solidity to resist the effects both of pressure and 
of saturation. Small sticks and brush are used, in 
the first instance, with mud, earth, and stones for 
down weight. Consequently these dams are extremely 
rude at their commencement, and they do not attain 
their remarkably artistic appearance until after they 
have been raised to a considerable height, and have 
been maintained, by a system of annual repairs, for a 
number of years. 

The open stick-work dams are the most interesting 
as well as the most common, and they will be first 

This dam, which is represented in th6 engraving 
(Plate VI.), and which is marked No. 8 upon the map, 
is the most remarkable of all the structures of this de- 
scription of which I have gained a knowledge. 1 have 
seen others that were longer, and still others that were 
higher for short distances, but none that united, to the 
same extent, the two features of great length and 
continuous elevation, or that contained so large an 
amount of solid material. It is two hundred and sixty 
feet and ten inches in length, measured with a tape 
line along the crest of the dam, and six feet and two 
inches in vertical height at tlie centre of the great 
curve, with a slope, at the latter point, on the lower 
side or face of the dam, of thirteen feet in length. 

The site was well selected for a structure of this 
maGfnitude. Lake Diamond is situated about half a 
mile to the eastward, in the midst of high hills, 
and maintains its level about fifteen feet higher 
than the level of the pond formed by the dam. Its 
outlet forms a small brook a few feet over and a 
few inches deep, and is the commencement of the 


Ely Branch of the Esconauba River. Across this 
brook, and about half a mile below the point where 
it emerges from the lake, the dam was constructed. 
It was undoubtedly small at first, but was raised and 
extended in course of time, until it reached the base 
of the hills on either side. At this point the hills 
approach each other within three hundred feet, while 
immediately above it they recede both to the right 
and to the left, and back, near the outlet of the lake, 
close in again, thus forming an amphitheatre of hills, 
with a slight depression at the outlet, and another de- 
pression to the right, and inclosing a level area of 
about one hundred acres of land. The large pond 
created by the dam, and which is known as Grass 
Lake, overspreads about sixty acres of this level area. 
A forest of heavy timber covers the whole tract with 
the exception of the pond, and of a narrow fringe of 
beaver meadow here and there. Along the skirts of 
the pond, in its shallowest parts, trees, though dead, 
are still standing, from which it is evident that the dam 
now maintains the pond at a higher level than in for- 
mer years, or, in other words, that it has been raised 
to a higher level within the lifetime of these trees. 
These several features of the landscape are distinctly 
seen in the engraving. For a large dam, and the 
formation of a large pond, which were to result from 
the labor of many years bestowed by many successive 
generations of industrious beavers, this site was not 
only well selected, but it afforded greater advantages 
than any other within the area indicated on the 

At the place where it is constructed the ground is 
neither soft nor alluvial, but composed of iirm earth, 


intermixed with loose stones, large and small. The 
crest line of the dam is, of course, horizontal, although 
sinuous, while its base line conforms to the irregulari- 
ties of the original surface. At the point where it 
crossed the thread of the stream it would necessarily 
be the hiohest. Here the difference in level between 
the water in the pond and the water below the dam 
was ascertained to be five feet; the crest of the dam 
rising but two inches above the level of the pond, and 
the water below it being twelve inches deep. The 
vertical height of the structure at the great curve, 
therefore, was six feet and two inches. This dijffer- 
ence of level decreases as either end is approached, 
until it diminishes to one foot. At the ends, conse- 
quently, the precise condition of the structure, at its 
lowest stages, could be seen; not as at first con- 
structed, but as it would appear after it had settled 
down and had been repaired and strengthened from 
time to time. Here it was built with small sticks, 
from half an inch to an inch in diameter, and from 
one to two and three feet in length. On the lower 
side, which we shall call the face of the dam, the 
sticks are arranged promiscuously, but usually with 
their lower ends against the ground, and their upper 
ends elevated and pointing up stream, against the 
water slope of the dam, thus forming an inclined 
bank of interlaced stick-work. Earth and mud, inter- 
mixed with sticks and brush, form the water face or 
upper slope of the dam, giving to it the nature and 
appearance of a solid embankment. Thus the lower 
face of the dam presents a mass of interlaced sticks 
closely banked together, but still open and loose, and 
free from earth, while the upper or water face is a 


solid bank of earth bound together by a mass of 
sticks imbedded and concealed from view. A trans- 
verse section, therefore, is a triangle with the base 
longer than either side. We thus have a section of 
a dam about a foot high, constructed with the least 
amount of materials, but holding the water securely, 
and yet so fragile that the weight of a man would 
sink it below the surface of the water. 

At the great curve, near the centre of the dam, the 
minute as well as general structure of a large beaver 
dam can be seen to the highest advantage. The en- 
graving (Plate VII.) represents a section, upwards of 
one hundred feet wide, through the centre of the dam, 
including the great curve. It is engraved three-fourths 
the size of the photograph. Small sticks are no longer 
used, but billets of wood and poles trimmed of their 
branches and stripped of their bark, and varying in size 
from one to three inches in diameter, and from three to 
seven and ten feet in length. These short cuttings and 
poles, which are interlaced and arranged in every con- 
ceivable way, form a sloping bank at an angle of from 
35° to 40°. Their main direction is from the ground 
upward toward the water face of the dam. They are 
neither parallel with each other, nor in courses, but 
are banked together in an irregular but compact mass, 
and are so adjusted as to form an innumerable series 
of props or braces, with their lower ends against the 
ground, and their upper ends incorporated in the em- 
bankment which forms the water face of the dam. 
These poles, however, formed no part of the original 
structure, but were added from year to year to repair 
the waste of the dam from settlement and decay, and 
to increase its height. We may therefore conceive 


that the dam at this point was commenced, as near 
the ends, with brush and poles laid horizontally, but 
lengthwise with the current, and filled in with earth 
and mud intermixed with roots and grass, and that 
as the work advanced, the upper ends became im- 
bedded and concealed from view, while the lower 
projected be3^ond the embankment. In course of 
time, by the process of enlargement and repair, it 
would assume its present form as shown in the engrav- 
ing. With its increase in height, the crest of the 
dam would tend to draw down stream from a line 
perpendicular with the original centre of its base. In 
consequence of this, the open stick and pole work, 
which forms the face of the dam, advances upward 
and under the water of the pond as you descend ver- 
tically from its crest to the bottom of the structure. 
None of the poles on the fnce of the dam at the great 
curve were as long as the slope itself. They appeared 
to be loosely thrown together, but on attempting to 
raise a number of them they were found to be fast at 
one end or the other, or so interlaced that it was dif- 
ficult to remove them. 

It will be observed that the dam, at the place 
where the greatest strength was required, is in the 
form of a curve, with its curvature up stream, and 
that the line of this curve is more than a hundred 
feet in length. The use of the curve in beaver dams 
is of very common occurrence, and it has always been 
regarded as a striking evidence of the intelligence of 
its builders. In the engraving its form does not dis- 
tinctly appear, from the reduced scale upon which 
the work is shown, but when the original photograph 
is placed in a camera of large magnifying power, the 

o '^u-^ '■ '.(3) 


outline of the curve is fully revealed. In order to 
indicate still more completely the crest line of the 
dam, a ground plan of the entire structure, drawn 
from actual measurements, is given in the engraving, 
Plate VIII. 

It is designed to show the crest line and the lower 
face of the dam. With the engravings, and the meas- 
urements in detail, hereafter given, the general ap- 
pearance, form, and structure of the dam will be fully 

The curve is one of the striking features of a beaver 
dam. They are almost invariably found where the 
thread of the stream originally ran, and are restricted 
to the class of dams now under consideration. In the 
largest structures, the convexity of the curve is usually 
up stream, but this is not always the case. Several of 
those represented on the mnp curved down stream at 
the point where the dam was the highest. This one 
shows a reverse curve down stream nearly as large 
and well defined as the principal one in the opposite 
direction. It is generally asserted that the introduc- 
tion of a curve, with its convexity up stream, was the 
result of intelligence and design on the part of the 
architects; and that its use at the precise point where 
the pressure of the water is the greatest, aftords con- 
clusive evidence that the beavers understood its me- 
chanical advantages. Whether these curves were 
the result of accident or of design is a question. We 
must suppose that this dam was commenced at the 
thread of the stream where the great curve is found, 
and it seems not improbable that its curvature may 
be due to the flow of the water on either side when 
the original channel was first obstructed by their 


rising work. After a quantity of materials had be- 
come firmly anchored in the bed of the stream, the 
tendency would be to a downward movement of its 
margins by the force of the water, which would give 
to it at its commencement a curvilinear form. With 
the obstruction of the channel a pond would begin to 
rise, but the surplus water would pass by on either 
side at a higher level; consequently, as the work pro- 
gressed, the contest with the water would be renewed, 
with similar results at other points, and when the 
dam was raised sufficiently high, and extended suffi- 
ciently f\ir to arrest the flow of the water in open 
channels, and to discharge it through the dam, it 
would be very sinuous throughout its entire extent. 
Such, in fact, is the general character of all the dams 
constructed upon the smaller brooks. In larger 
streams, with their channels deepest in the centre, 
we may conceive of a downward movement of their 
materials by the force of the current, or the pressure 
of the water at the point where the stream is the 
deepest, and that this movement may have occurred 
while the work of construction was in progress. A 
downward curve is much more common than the 
reverse in the larger streams. It is not a little sin- 
gular that the dams across the streams that discharge 
the largest volume of water are shorter and lower 
than those upon the smaller brooks, and that in the 
former the prevailing direction of the curve at the 
highest point in the structure is down stream, while 
in the latter it is in the opposite direction. The 
mode of construction undoubtedly varied with the 
character of the stream, and with the volume and 
rapidity of the current. A comparison of a large 


number of these dams, constructed in very dissimilar 
situations, tends to show that their curvature is purely 

The remainder of this dam is nearly as remarkable as 
the central portion, and much longer as well as larger 
than the engraving represents (Plate VI.), unless due 
allowance is made for perspective. The focal point 
occupied by the instrument was so near the struc- 
ture as to depreciate quite rapidly its extreme parts. 
Throughout its entire extent of two hundred and 
sixty feet the face of the dam is composed, as at the 
centre, of interlaced sticks and poles, and presents 
the same general appearance, with a gradual abate- 
ment in height. 

On the water face of the dam neither a stick nor 
a pole is seen, but a regular sloping embankment of 
earth, from the crest downward, under the waters of 
the pond. This face of the dam is precisely in the 
form of the shelving bank of a stream. 

There is no opening in the top of the dam, in any 
part of it, for the discharge of the surplus Avater; 
neither does it pass over its crest; but it percolates 
through the thin bank of earth near its crest in nu- 
merous places along its entire length. The dams of 
this class all agree in this respect. In the most of 
these dams the rapidity or slowness with which this 
surplus is discharged, is undoubtedly regulated by the 
beavers, otherwise the level of the pond would con- 
tinually vary. There must be a constant tendency to 
enlarge the orifices through which the water passes, 
which, if left to itself, would in due time draw down 
the pond, and expose the entrances to their lodges and 
burrows; on the other hand, if the embankment was 


made impenetrable, the water would rise and flow 
over its crest, to its waste and injury. At ordinarj^ 
stages of the water the pond is maintained at a uni- 
form level; but after a sudden rise, or in time of 
freshet, it flows over the summit. The structure is 
better able to bear an overflow than rents through its 
embankment. This dam was rarely if ever over- 
flowed, for a special reason, which will be stated 
hereafter. Those upon the Carp, however, are sub- 
merged with every considerable rise of the stream, 
which, having a wide drainage, is subject to sudden 
freshets. I have seen the water run over the tops of 
these dams a foot deep. After the flow subsided, the 
rents were speedily repaired. At ordinary stages the 
surplus water passed through the dams by percola- 
tion, straining through them near the crest as though 
they were fine basket-work. I have visited the 
Grass Lake dam six difierent years, and at high and 
low stages of the water in the neighboring streams, 
and always found the pond at the same level, and 
full to the crest of the dam, until the year 1865, 
when it was lower than usual, and the dam itself 
exhibited signs of neglect. From this fact it seemed 
probable that after centuries of use and maintenance 
by unnumbered generations of beavers, this interest- 
ing and remarkable structure was about to be aban- 
doned by its natural proprietors. 

At the time the photograph was taken, the water of 
the pond stood quite near the summit of the dam 
along its entire length. In some places it came within 
one or two inches, while in others it stood upon it and 
trickled over. The crest is very narrow along its 


whole extent, dimmishing from a few inches at its 
widest expanse to a mere line. It is a conspicuous 
feature of beaver dams of this class that they are so 
perfectly constructed as to hold and retain water until 
it rises to their very summit. A fine sod, composed 
of roots of grass intermixed with loam, is used to 
finish the water line of the dam. On taking up a 
handful of this sod, freeing it from earth and rinsing 
it clean, it yielded one-half of its original bulk of 
vegetable fibre, mostly fine roots and tendrils, still 
green and undecayed. It was thus made evident 
that it had been quite recently laid. 

In constructing dams, loose stones are incorporated, 
here and there, for down weight, and to give solidity 
to the structure. We found stones upon this dam 
which would weigh from one to six pounds. They 
are most frequently discovered where the dam is the 
lowest, although found in all parts of the work. 

No one standing upon this dam, and observing its 
fragile character, could fail to perceive that its main- 
tenance would require constant supervision and per- 
petual labor. The tendency to increased leakage 
from the effects of percolation, and to a settling down 
of the dam, as its materials decayed underneath upon 
its stick-work half, would demand unceasing vigilance 
and care to avert the consequences. In the flxU of 
the year a new supply of materials is placed upon the 
lower face of these dams to compensate this waste 
from decay. They use for this purpose the cuttings of 
the previous fall, which during the winter have been 
stripped of their bark for food, and laid aside appar- 
ently for this object. It is from this practice, and the 


manner of repairing their dams, that they assume, in 
course of time, the highly artistic appearance upon 
the lower slope which the engraving displays. The 
sticks, poles, and billets of wood, when laid upon the 
face of the dam, impart to this slope its regular and 
symmetrical form. When first constructed, as before 
remarked, and when at their lowest stages, they are 
extremely rude, and only take on the appearance in 
which they are usually seen after they have been 
maintained for a long series of years. Fresh beaver 
tracks are usually seen imprinted upon the soft earth 
on the crest of these dams, and fresh beaver cuttings 
are often found upon their lower faces, thus showing 
that they are in the constant habit of traversing and 
repairing the works. There is generally no difficulty 
in walking over the larger dams with dry feet, by 
keeping on the lower slope, except near the ends, 
where the structure is not usually strong enough to 
bear up the weight of a man. Upon the sloping face 
of the great curve of Grass Lake Dam twenty men 
could stand together without making any impression 
upon the structure. The series of dams on the Carp, 
shown upon the map, are similar to this, and would 
average about three feet in height. While fishing in 
this stream for brook trout, three of us found no diffi- 
culty in landing from our boat upon their lower slopes, 
and drawing the boat over without injuring them in 
any respect. 

The following measurements will indicate, in an- 
other manner, the size and proportion of parts of this 
great structure, as well as convey some impression of 
the amount of solid materials employed in its erection : 



Length of Dam measured on the Crest Line. 

From station No. 1 to Station No. 2 (See Plate VIII.) 39 feet. 

" 2 " " 3 4-1 " 

" 3 " " 4 62 " lOin. 

" 4 " " 5 52 " 

" 5 '• " G 80 " 

" 6 " " 7 83 " 

Total Length 260 feet 10 in. 

Other Measurements. 

Height of structure from ground, 
or base line 

Depth of water in small pond be- 
low dam 

Differenoe of level of water above 
and below dam 

Height of water above base line.. 

Approximate width of base, trans- 
verse sections 

Length of slope of poles, lower 
face of dam 

Length of slope of water face of 

Depth of water in pond at the end 
of slope 

6 ft. 2^^ 
1 ft. 

5 ft. 

6 ft. 

18 ft. 
13 ft. 

7 ft. 6^^ 
4 ft. 

No. 41^. 

5 ft. 3^/ 
1 ft. 

4 ft. 

5 ft. 

15 ft. 
11 ft. 9^^ 

8 ft. 

8 ft. 6^^ 

No. 3. 

3 ft. 6'^ 

3 ft. 2^^ 
12 ft. 
9 ft. 
7 ft. 
3 ft. 

No. 2. 

2 ft. V^ 

2 ft. 
6 ft. 
6 ft. 
4 ft. 
2 ft. 

The following figure represents a transverse section 
of the dam at the head of the great curve, Station No. 
4, and distinguishes the part which is a solid embank- 
ment from that which consists of sticks and poles free 
from earth. 

Fig. 8. 

Fole k 6tick wnrK BASE 18 Fr. 

Transverse section. 


A computation made from the preceding, and some 
additional measurements, shows that this dam con- 



tains upwards of seven thousand cubic feet of solid 
materials, all of which were transported and wrought 
into this structure by its industrious and ingenious 

The photograph of this dam, from which the en- 
graving was made, was taken by Mr. James A. Jenney 
in August, 1861, upon four plates, each eight by ten 
inches in dimensions; and from one position, in order 
to show the dam, the pond, and the background in 
one symmetrical picture. As a preparatory measure, 
the trees, for fifty feet immediately below the dam, 
were cut down and removed, the under-brush was 
cleared, and the weeds and grass, which were growing 
through the dam, were pulled out, that the work 
misrht be shown free from all obstructions. A. scaffold 
for the instrument was then erected in front of the 
great curve, about sixty feet distant from it, and 
twelve feet high. It was my first intention to have 
the dam photographed in four sections, with the in- 
strument placed immediately in front of each, thereby 
sacrificing the background in order to show the rela- 
tive size of all the parts of the dam. The first two 
plates were taken on this plan. But the other method 
was finally substituted for the reason that it would 
show the central portion of the dam perfectly, while 
the imperfect and reduced appearance of the re- 
mainder would, it was believed, be more than com- 
pensated by the completeness of the representation as 
a whole. These photographs, when adjusted together, 
make a picture thirty-six inches in length by seven in 
width, and, in all respects, faithfully and strikingly 
reproduce the original in miniature form. I esteemed 
it, at the time, peculiarly fortunate that I was able to 


secure an exact representation of this great structure 
while it was in a perfect state, althougli not then as 
well assured, as at present, that it is not surpassed in 
magnitude by any other beaver dam in North America. 

Two adjuncts of this dam remain to be noticed. 
Of these, the first is a remarkable effort of engineering 
skill, if from the end it subserves we are at liberty to 
infer an intention on the part of the beaver to produce 
that end. It is a second dam, in two sections, each 
twenty-five feet long and two feet high, constructed 
across the thread of the stream, and about one hun- 
dred feet below the great curve. It is shown in 
Plate VIII. At this point, the waters that flowed 
through the dam above have again become collected 
into a small running stream. This low dam forms a 
shallow pond, in itself of no apparent use for beaver 
occupation, but yet subserving the important purpose 
of setting back water to the depth of twelve or fifteen 
inches in the great curve. At this point the pressure 
of the water in the pond against the dam is the 
greatest, because here the bed of the channel is the 
lowest, and the structure the highest; and the small 
dam, by maintaining the water a foot deep below the 
great dam, diminishes, to this extent, the difference 
in level above and below; and neutralizes, to the 
same extent, the pressure of the water in the jDond 
above against the main structure. Whether the lower 
dam was constructed with this motive, and for this 
object, or is explainable on some other hypothesis, I 
shall not venture an opinion. I have found the same 
precise work repeated below other large dams. 

The second is also a dam which is constructed 
across the outlet of Lake Diamond at the place where 


it issues from the lake. It performs the important 
office of protecting the great dam below from the 
effects of a sudden rise of the waters of the lake. In 
consitruction, it is in all respects like the Grass Lake 
dam. It is ninety-three feet long, and two and a half 
feet high at the centre, from which it diminishes 
gradually to the ends. I first saw it in 1860, and 
last in 1866, when it was still in good condition. A 
dam at this point is apparently of no conceivable use 
to improve the lake for beaver occupation. It has 
one feature, also, in which it differs from other dams 
except those upon lake outlets: and that consists in 
its elevation, at all points, of about two feet above the 
level of the lake at ordinary stages of the water. In 
all other dams except those upon lake outlets, and in 
most of the latter, the water stands quite near their 
crests, while in the one under consideration it stood 
about two feet below it. This fact suggests, at least, 
tne inference, although it may have but little of prob- 
ability to sustain it, that it was constructed with 
special reference to sudden rises of the lake in times 
of freshet, and that it was designed to hold this sur- 
plus water until it could be gradually discharged 
through the dam into the great pond below. It 
would, at least, subserve this purpose very efficiently, 
and thus protect the dam below it from the effects of 
freshets. To ascribe the origin of this dam to such 
motives of intelligence is to invest this animal with 
a higher degree of sagacity than we have probable 
reason to concede to him; and yet it is proper to 
mention the relation in which these dams stand to 
each other, whether that relation is regarded as acci- 
dental or intentional. 


I have now given a full as well as somewhat de- 
tailed description of a beaver dam of the ordinary 
kind constructed by this architectural mute. This 
explanation, and the engravings together, will render 
unnecessary a special description of other dams of the 
same class. In the remaining dams noticed, I shall 
limit the description to the special features or differ- 
ences by which they are distinguished, giving, at the 
same time, ground plans and measurements for the 
purpose of comparison. 

New dams are occasionally commenced, and old 
ones, previously abandoned for some cause, are re- 
paired and reoccupied, in beaver districts which are 
undisturbed except by trappers. The increase or 
decrease of beavers in number's, influences, to some 
extent, their movements in these respects. The sea- 
son preferred for this work is during the months of 
September and October, after the strong currents have 
run out of the streams, and they have subsided to 
their lowest levels. It is also the period during which 
they cut and store their winter wood, with the im- 
mersion and safety of which their ponds are intimately 
connected. Hence we find that the active season for 
beaver work is late in the fall; and that it is per- 
formed with reference to the approaching winter, of 
which they are not unmindful. These vseveral subjects 
will be elsewhere considered. 

For the purpose of ascertaining how beaver dams 
are commenced, and especially to find whether an 
attempt is made to insert any portion of the materials 
in the ground, as a means of holding them in their 
places, I have taken up to the bottom both old and 
new beaver dams, and examined, with some care, the 


disposition and arrangement of the materials. The 
result demonstrated that neither stakes, brush, nor 
poles were inserted or imbedded in the ground, but 
on the contrary that they were laid flatwise upon the 
bed of the channel, and held down with mud and 
earth carried in and deposited upon them. A new 
dam was commenced a year ago on the main branch 
of the Carp, close beside the track of the Marquette 
and Ontonagon Railroad, about twenty-three miles out 
from Marquette. At the point selected for the dam 
the Carp is a mere brook, and the railroad embank- 
ment, which passes parallel with, and a few feet from 
it, seemed to the observant eye of the beaver to afford 
some advantages as a barrier, upon one side, to their 
proposed pond; and notwithstanding the daily passage 
of trains over the road, they commenced the dam, and 
raised it about a foot high across the channel of the 
stream. A conflict of interests thus arose between 
the beavers, on the one hand, and one of the chief 
commercial enterprises of the country, on the other. 
The track-master, fearing the effects of an accumula- 
tion of water against the railroad embankment, cut 
the dam through the centre, and thus lowered the 
water to its original level. As this was no new ex- 
perience to the beavers, who were accustomed to such 
rents, they immediately repaired the breach. For ten 
or fifteen times it was cut through, and as often 
repaired before the beavers finally desisted from their 
proposed work. On taking up the remains of this 
dam the present season (1866), I found that it was 
commenced with brush and poles, with the bark on, 
from ten to twelve feet in length, and that they were 
arranged horizontally upon the bed of the channel, 


and lengthwise with the flow of the stream instead or 
transversely. In general the large ends of the poles, 
and of the limbs with their branches attached, were 
up stream, which of itself would tend to strengthen 
their hold upon the bottom. Upon these materials, 
which were compactly arranged, earth and mud, in 
small quantities onl}^, were accumulated for down 
weight, and to fill up the intervening spaces; but it 
was confined to the central and upper portions. On 
the upper margin, which was to form the water face 
of the dam, small sticks were used, together with 
loam, intermixed with fine roots, for the purpose of 
arresting the flow of the water through the rudely- 
arranged materials of the dam. At this stage it was 
extremely rude, and devoid of those striking charac- 
teristics which these dams assume with age. 

The manner in which they repair their dams is 
both curious and interesting. It will be sufficient 
here to state that ordinary repairs are made, when- 
ever they seem to be required, by each beaver acting 
independently, and without any concert with his 
mates. In case of a breach in the structure, several 
of them have been seen working together for its 
restoration. They usually go down to the dam nightly, 
one after the other, and as they pass along its margin, 
each, upon his own motion, does such work upon it as 
he chooses to perform. In another connection some 
facts will be stated upon this subject. 



Solid-bank Dams — Places where constructed — No Dams in deep Water — 
Where impossible, the Beavers inhabit River Banks — Description of Solid- 
bank Dam — Opening for Surplus Water — Pond confined to River Banks — 
Similar Dam with Hedge — Fallen-tree Dam — Use of Tree accidental — 
Spring Rill Dam — Series of Dams on the Carp — Dams in a Gorge — Lake 
Outlet Dams — High Dam — Long Dam — Description of same — Manner of 
Photographing same — Dams in other Districts of North America — Petri- 
fied P'^aver Dams in Montana. 

The solid-bank dam, which we are next to consider, 
although constructed upon tlie same principles as the 
kind previously described, presents a very different 
appearance. This difference of external form is the 
result of the altered conditions under which it is 
erected, occasioned by a gradual transformation in the 
character of each particular stream in its descending 
course. In the capacity thereby displayed of adapt- 
ing their works to the ever-varying circumstances in 
which they find themselves placed, instead of follow- 
ing blindly an invariable type, some evidence of the 
possession, on their part, of a free intelligence, is un- 
doubtedly furnished. 

After a stream has emerged from its sources in the 
hills, and acquired volume with its onward flow, it 
soon begins to develop banks as well as a broader 
channel, and these banks assume a vertical form in 
the level areas where the soil is alluvial. Such are 
the changes which occur on the Ely Branch of the 



Esconauba after it has passed dam No. 13, and on 
Carp River after passing dam No. 39. The channel 
of the first-named stream will then average seventy 
feet in width, with vertical banks from three to four 
feet high, and with a depth of water of about twenty 
inches at its lowest stages, and in its shallowest parts. 
Through the level areas it moves also with a sluggish 
current. It will be seen, therefore, that in building 
a dam across such a channel, it must be done in deep 
water as compared with brooks; and further than this, 
that the difficulty of construction increases with the 
increase of the depth of the water, until it finally 
becomes insurmountable. For this reason there are 
no dams on the Carp below No. 50, and none on the 
Esconauba below the junction of the Ely Branch 
with the main stream. There is no instance within 
the area represented by the map where a dam has 
been constructed across a stream having a greater 
depth than two feet at the site of the structure when 
the water is at its lowest level. It thus becomes 
apparent that beaver dams are necessarily confined 
to the sources of the principal rivers and to the small 
tributaries which flow into them along their courses; 
and that some change in the character of the dams 
would be rendered necessary by the transformations 
which occur with their increase in size or depth. 
Where beavers inhabit rivers too large for dams, 
they burrow in their banks, for which reason they 
are distinguished by the trappers under the name of 
bank beavers. These general considerations will serve 
to explain the manner in which given districts are 
occupied by beavers; the circumstances which render 
some localities more favorable than others ; and the 


influence of topographical features upon the character 
of their dams. 

The first solid-bank dam to be described (Plate IX.) 
is in the Ely Branch of the Esconauba River, and is 
marked as No, 14 on the map. When photographed it 
was not in a perfect condition. It had been cut through 
in two places by the miners, some three years before, 
to draw off the water from the beaver meadows pre- 
paratory to cutting the grass from these meadows for 
hay, and had thus been exposed to waste. The 
water in the pond then stood but a few inches above 
its natural level, leaving the dam mostly uncovered 
on both slopes, and its lower face littered with loose 
materials from these breaches. It exhibited the re- 
mains only of what originally was one of the most 
perfect structures of its kind. Upon the right bank 
of the stream (left side of the engraving) was the 
lodge, with its heap of brush, for the lodgment of cut- 
tings, sunk in the pond immediately in front, and rising 
above the surface; and on the opposite side was a 
beaver meadow of considerable extent, back of which 
was the forest. 

The dam is constructed at a bend in the stream, 
where the channel is about seventy feet wide and of 
uniform depth, and where the bottom is smooth and 
hard. It is substantially a solid embankment, and is 
thrown across the stream diagonally, but in a straight 
line, from bank to bank. Between these banks it is 
seventy-five feet long. On the right side it is built 
into the bank, and, rising above it, is extended, as a 
low dam, for thirty feet beyond, and on the left for 
fifteen feet, thus giving to the structure a total length 
of one hundred and twenty feet. Between the banks, 



the dam was of uniform width and height, as the bed 
of the channel was level. At the base of the struc- 
ture its average Avidth transversely was sixteen feet, 
diminishing to twelve feet at the original surface level 
of the stream, which here was twenty inches deep, 
and to four feet in width at the height of three feet 
from the bottom. Above this last level the crest was 
rounded up about sixteen inches higher, where it was 
still two feet wide, the embankment having a total 
height of four feet and four inches. 

In constructing dams where the water is of such 
depth, larger quantities of brush and poles are used 
than in dams of the other class, and it is also neces- 
sary to use larger amounts of earth. The brush is 
required to hold the earth where it is placed, which 
otherwise would be dissolved and flow away with the 
current : and the earth in turn anchors the brush, and 
when packed around it, the two together form a firm 
and solid embankment. The principle on which 
brush and sticks are used for their binding properties 
is the same which led to the use of straw in mud 
brick. Neither, separately, would answer the end 
designed. So much earth was used upon this dam 
that the brush and poles upon the lower face, as well 
as on the water slope, were buried and concealed from 
view, except the ends which projected in different 
places. So firm and solid had the embankment be- 
come, and such was its breadth near the summit, that 
a horse and wagon might have been driven across the 
river upon it in safety, but for the opening on the 
left side for the passage of the surplus water. The 
only differences, therefore, in the two species of dams, 
consist in the filling in of the interstices on the lower 


face with mud and earth, which turns it into a solid 
embankment on both slopes, and throughout its whole 
extent, and in the special method resorted to for dis- 
charging the surplus water, which remains to be 

From the solidity of these dams the water is not 
able to percolate through them as before stated, 
neither was it allowed at ordinary stages to pass over 
their summits. A regular opening is left in the crest 
of the dam, usually in the line of the thread of the 
current, several inches lower than its summit. On 
the water face above the opening is found the ordi- 
nary embankment, while on the lower face it is con- 
structed of interlaced stick-work precisely in the form 
of the dam first described. This opening is usually 
from three to six feet long, so that the water passes 
over its top, and also through this narrow portion of 
the structure by percolation. It is evident, from the 
existence and peculiar character of these openings, 
that the beavers understood the injurious effects of 
allowing the surplus water to flow over the crests of 
their solid-bank dams, and also the importance of 
regulating the amount of the discharge, which could 
be effected by the enlargement or contraction of the 
openings. The dam was cut through at this point, 
which nearly obliterated this feature of the structure. 
This species of dam, when completed, might possess 
some advantages over the other in the matter of re- 
quiring less frequent repairs, and yet with each freshet 
it would suffer more or less of waste. 

The pond above is narrow, it being confined with- 
in the natural banks of the stream, with the excep- 
tion of shallow water upon portions of the beaver 


meadows ; but; it was, nevertheless, spacious from its 
length and from the depth of the water, since the 
dam set back the pond more than a quarter of a mile, 
and was in places where depressions existed in the 
bed of the river, ten or twelve feet deep. A short 
distance above the lodge there is a beaver canal of 
considerable size running back to the hard wood 
lands. The beaver lodge belonging to this dam is 
seen upon the bank on the left side of the engraving, 
with a brush pile in the water immediately in front, 
the uses of which will be hereafter explained. 

There are four dams below this shown on the map 
of the same general character and size, except that 
they were shorter. They were so near each other 
that each dam set back the water to the one imme- 
diately above. When I first saw them in 1860, they 
had been cut through by the miners, and were de- 
serted, and when I last saw them, two years later, they 
were wasting away. 

Upon small brooks, having defined banks and some 
depth of water, dams of this description are occasion- 
ally found. The one represented in the engraving 
(Plate X.), and which is No. 49 on the map, is situated 
upon an affluent of the Carp, a short distance above the 
boat station. It is fifty-five feet long, extending upon 
the bank on either side, and nearly three feet high. 
The embankment was several feet wide and composed 
of earth, the brush and poles having decayed and dis- 
appeared externally. Upon its top and lower face 
alder bushes had germinated and produced a hedge so 
dense that it was extremely difficult to penetrate it 
sufficiently for the inspection and measurement of 
the work. Near the north end was the usual open- 


ing, about six feet wide, where the lower face was 
constructed of interlaced sticks, while the water face 
was banked in with earth. In the engraving, which 
was made from a drawing, the hedge is removed for 
the purpose of showing the embankment. The fall of 
water which passed over the crest of the dam at the 
opening, was about a foot and a half I was first 
drawn to the place by the sound of the falling water 
while passing by on the trail at some distance. 

This dam realizes the earliest current descriptions 
of these works by Buflfon and other writers, particu- 
larly its opening for the surplus water, and the hedge 
growing upon its summit. In the Lake Superior re- 
gion, and upon the head waters of the Yellowstone 
and the Missouri, they are comparatively rare. All 
the large dams are of the other kind. In some in- 
stances both forms are found in the same dam, as will 
hereafter be shown. 

It was another conspicuous feature of beaver dams, 
according to the early descriptions, that the trunk of 
a tree, cut down for the purpose, often served as the 
foundation of the structure. After selecting a proper 
site, their first act, as a general rule, was said to be 
the felling of a tree across the channel upon which 
the work was to be constructed. There is one dam, 
and but one, within the area of the map (No. 9), 
which has incorporated within it the trunk of a fallen 
tree. Except for this circumstance it would not de- 
serve a special notice. 

The tree in question (Plate XI.), which was a pine, 
three and a half feet in diameter, had Mien from its 
own decay. For aught that appeared, it might have 
fallen upon a dam previously constructed, and become 

^1 " -0 


Plate XL 
A} ^ 


i° S.I}uu(XL,Son £ CbTkiHf 



subsequently incorporated within it; or it may have 
been seized upon after its fall as a convenient part of 
a new structure. At all events, the most singular foct 
connected with it is, that the dam was constructed 
below the log, so far as sticks and poles are used, while 
it was banked in above the trunk with earth. The log 
part of the dam was twenty-five feet long, and the re- 
mainder sixty-one feet, with a vertical height at the 
centre of four feet eight inches, and a slope of pole 
and stick work on the lower face of nine feet. From 
the nature of the positions in which beaver dams are 
usually constructed, fallen trees, if cut down on pur- 
pose, could be of but little advantage; and it is there- 
fore probable that the use of trunks of trees in build- 
ing dams was purely accidental, as in the present 

In addition to the two species of beaver dams which 
have been described, there are varieties of each that 
possess special characteristics resulting from the na- 
ture of the localities in which they are erected. Some 
notice of these dams is necessary to complete the ex- 
position of these structures. 

The beavers do not restrict themselves to the prin- 
cipal streams, nor yet to the small brooks, but where- 
ever they find flowing water, however small in quan- 
tity, they avail themselves of it if the place affords 
the other requisite advantages. There is one dam, 
not shown upon the map, situated at a short distance 
from a spring in the midst of a dense forest, and upon 
low and swampy ground, which may be called a 
spring rill dam. As live trees were standing in the 
pond, it was evidently of recent construction. A de- 
pression in the ground formed a basin for the water 


on all sides, except where the dam brought up the 
deficiency; and a small spring supplied the water in 
quantities barely sufficient to change the waters of 
the pond. To prevent the escape of the water, the 
dam was extended until it reached the length of one 
hundred and thirty-three feet; after which the surplus 
was discharged through it by percolation. The lower 
face of the dam was constructed of sticks and twigs 
interlaced, and the water slope was an embankment 
of earth. Its height varied from one foot to two 
feet and a half, with a difference of level in the water 
above and below the dam of twenty inches at the 
highest part of the structure. The pond was too 
small to afford much protection to its occupants; but 
this deficiency was in some measure compensated by 
the abundance of hard wood upon its margin, and by 
the seclusion afforded by the density of the surround- 
ing forest. It seemed surprising, nevertheless, that a 
beaver family should take up their residence within 
an eighth of a mile of the line of the railroad, on 
which nine trains per day each way were then (1860) 
running. With their reputed shyness and caution 
they were evidently waiting for some overt act of 
hostile interference before they surrendered their hab- 
itation. The snare was already prepared for them, 
for on the day I measured the dam I saw two traps, 
set in the usual manner, in the pond. Upon the im- 
pulse of the moment, I was in the act of springing 
them, to save the inoffensive mutes from their peril, 
when it occurred to me that I had no indefeasible 
right thus to interfere with the vocation of the trap- 
per; whereupon, with some misgivings that I had 
failed to perform my duty, I left them to the chances 


of the trapper's art. That night the beaver, whose 
skull is number one in the table of measurements in 
the Appendix, was caught, and this, together with the 
tail and feet, were sent to me the following day, by 
the successful trapper, who proved to be my friend, 
Captain Bridges, the trackmaster of the railroad. 

On Carp River there is a series of thirteen dams, 
one above the other, commencing with dam No. 50 on 
the map, which are much alike in size and external 
appearance, and may therefore be referred to in one 
group. They are constructed with interlaced stick- 
work and poles on their lower faces, and banked in 
with earth on their water slopes above, and discharge 
the surplus water, at ordinary stages, by percolation. 
While they are more or less sinuous in their crest 
lines across the channel, the principal curve, at the 
highest part of each structure, is usually down stream. 
These dams are all situated within a distance of six 
miles, measured along the winding channel of the 
stream, the borders of which are fringed, here and 
there, with beaver meadows, and these in turn are 
bordered with a forest of tamarack and spruce. I 
have passed over them in a fishing boat three succes- 
sive seasons; the first time in 1860, and when they 
were in a good state of preservation, with their ponds 
full, and still occupied by beavers. They have since 
then been deserted, and the greater part of them have 
been carried away; thus showing the necessity for 
constant watchfulness and repairs which their preser- 
vation entails upon their builders. These dams were 
from forty to one hundred feet in length, and from 
three to five feet in vertical height at the thread of 
the stream. As each d;im, in nearly every instance, 



sets back its pond to the one immediately above, in 
some cases two and even three feet in depth, the fall 
of water at each dam ranged from one to three feet. 
In times of freshet this river, although but a small 
stream, passes a considerable volume of water. I 
have seen it flow over the crests of these dams a foot 
deep, which, as it must occur, more or less, with 
every copious rain, subjects these structures to a severe 
test. Having seen them both before and after such 
occurrences, there was no injury observable that could 
not be speedily repaired. A detailed description of 
these dams, with their respective measurements, is 
scarcely necessary. Those higher up, on the same 
stream, are much larger, although the stream itself 
diminishes to a mere brook. One of these in particu- 
lar, on account of its great length, will be hereafter 

Dams are often found upon small mountain streams, 
and in the narrow gorges through which they flow. 
They are constructed in the same manner as the ordi- 
nary stick-dam, but are deserving of notice from the 
nature of the localities in which they are erected. 
It seems to be no hinderance to such a use of these 
rapidly descending streams that the ponds thus formed 
must be extremely short and narrow, and consequently 
incapable of affording much protection. Many of the 
dams in the declivities of the Rocky Mountain chain, 
and in other mountain districts, are constructed in 
situations precisely similar to that of the series about 
to be described, and for this reason the latter are 
especially interesting. 

To find an illustration of dams of this kind it is 
necessary to go without the area embraced in the 

-?= SDvcval. Son X Co?hiK 




map. About six miles southeast of Lake Michi- 
game, and two miles south of the Washington Mine, 
this series of structures, seven in number, is found, 
of which a representation is given in Plate XII. 
They commence at the entrance of a narrow gorge 
between hills of considerable elevation, and are dis- 
tributed on a gradually descending line of one hun- 
dred and sixty feet, the lowest being constructed upon 
the verge of a nearly precipitous fall of about one 
hundred feet. Their size and height are sufficiently 
indicated by the following measurements, which were 
made when I first visited them in 1866, and for the 
opportunity of doing which I am indebted to Mr. 
John Armstrong, one of the officers of the Washing- 
ton Mine : 


Ft. In. 
5 6 














10 to falls. 

Length of dam 

Ft. In. 
6 9 

3 9 

Ft. In. 
2 6 





Ft. In. 


2 10 


Slope of lower face 

Distance between it and 

The second and third measurements given were 
from the highest part of each structure respectively. 
Taken together, these dams are quite remarkable. 
The upper one, which is large throughout its entire 
extent, forms a pond covering about ten acres of land. 
A dense forest of hard wood overspreads the sur- 
rounding hills, on the slopes of which a beaver-slide 
down into the pond is occasionally seen. At the 
upper end of the valley there is a beaver canal cut 
through the low ground two hundred and fifty feet in 


length, upon the margin of which the tree cuttings 
were numerous. Each of the lower dams has a small 
and narrow pond, but too inconsiderable in size to 
afford much protection, since the banks, from their 
rocky character, were unfavorable for burrows. The 
volume of the stream was below that of the smallest 
brooks, but, after rains, it sends down, undoubtedly, 
an abundance of water. In each case the dam was 
extended from one side of the gorge to the other, and 
constructed of stick-work on the lower face, and earth 
embankment on the upper, in the ordinary form. It 
is difficult to understand the uses of any of these 
dams, except the upper one, which sustains the main 
pond; but we are not at liberty to suppose that all 
this labor would have been performed without some 
adequate object. A tame beaver shows an irresistible 
propensity to dam up flowing water, — a propensity 
which seizes him even when he sees water running in 
rills in a yard, after a copious shower. Whether these 
apparently unnecessary dams owe their origin to some 
such unregulated fancy, I leave as a problem to such 
as adopt the theory of the fettered intelligence of the 
mutes. These dams show an aggregate descent in 
the bed of the stream of about twenty-two feet in one 
hundred and sixty; and are found to stand in definite 
relations to each other. 

In the mountain districts, and in the high lands 
which are broken up into ranges of hills, small lakes 
are usually numerous. They are also favorite resorts 
of beavers, who inhabit them not less readily than 
the flowing streams. There are several such lakes 
within the area embraced by the map, and they form 
the most attractive features in the landscape. Em- 


bosomed in the midst of hills still mantled with the 
primitive forest, and reflecting, in the pure atmos- 
phere of this elevated region, the brilliant sunshine 
from their glittering faces, they enliven the solitude 
of this wilderness with their cheerful aspect, as well 
as break up by their presence its otherwise boundless 

The outlets of nearly all of these lakes are ob- 
structed with dams, the most of which are without 
any apparent necessity, unless by means of them 
they are enabled to hold the lakes at a higher and 
more uniform level. The first of these which will be 
noticed is upon the outlet of Lake Mary. It is rep- 
resented as No. 5 upon the map. While it is of mod- 
erate dimensions, being seventy feet long, with an 
average height of two and a half feet, it was peculiar 
in this, that for a considerable portion of its length on 
either end it is a solid-bank dam, and a stick-dam in 
the centre across the original channel of the outlet. 
On the southwest end the embankment was fifteen 
feet long, extending for a short distance upon the 
bank ; on the other twenty-five feet long, overlapping 
the bank in the same manner; and in the interval or 
central portion it was constructed, for thirty-one feet, 
of interlaced sticks and poles. 

Upon the outlet of Lake Helen there is another 
dam (No. 4), which is one hundred and twenty feet 
long, and two feet six inches high at its greatest ele- 
vation. It was situated so far down the outlet that 
the water of the pond did not set back as far as the 
lake. At an early day this lake was known among 
the trappers as Beaver Lake, from the number of 
beavers found inhabiting its banks. 


There are two dams on the outlet connecting Lake 
Flora with Lake Mary, which are numbered 2 and 3 on 
the map. Of these the lower one is an ordinary dam, 
apparently constructed to strengthen the one above. 
The upper one is situated about six rods down the out- 
let from Lake Flora, and is a large and remarkable 
structure. It is two hundred and three feet in length, 
with a nearly uniform height of three feet from one 
end to the other, and with a lower face of stick and 
pole work, ranging from six to nine feet in length, 
measured on its slope. The difference in level in the 
waters above and below the dam, at the thread of the 
outlet, is three feet ; but, as the dam below sets back 
the water about two feet deep at this point, the verti- 
cal height of the structure here is five feet and over. 
From these measurements an impression is afforded 
of the large amount of solid materials this dam con- 
tains. Although inferior to the Grass Lake dam, it 
compares with it not unfavorably. The size of Lake 
Flora is materially enlarged by this barrier across 
its outlet, since it raised the water joermanently from 
two and a half to three feet. This dam, with its ap- 
purtenances, was the possession, among other proprie- 
tors, of the beaver whose skeleton is represented in 
the plate. She was caught upon it in the year 1862, 
while in the act of repairing a breach made by the 
trapper, a few days before I visited and measured the 
work. The great amount of materials contained in 
this structure is shown by the unusual width of its 
crest or summit, which presupposes a corresponding 
transverse width at its base. 



At 70 feet from 
southwest end. 

At 95 feet from 
same end. 

At 140 feet from 
same end. 

Width, of dam at crest 

4 ft. 
7 ft. 
3 ft. 

4 ft. 

8 ft.. 
3 ft. 

4 ft. 
9 ft. 

5 ft. 

Vertical height 

About a quarter of a mile above Lake Flora there 
is another small lake, or more properly a pond, formed 
by two beaver dams, about one hundred and fifty feet 
apart, but with no pond between them. They have 
the appearance of one dam in two lifts, although en- 
tirely distinct; and are shown on the map as No. 1. 
The lower one is one hundred and twenty feet long, 
and high enough to set back water three feet deep to 
the dam above. Its only apparent object, as in a pre- 
vious case, is to strengthen the upper dam, by dimin- 
ishing the pressure upon it of its pond. The latter is 
fifty feet long and three feet in height above the water 
below it at the centre, which, as it is three feet deep, 
gives a total height of six feet to the structure at this 

The highest dam, of which I have gained a knowl- 
edge, is situated on a tributary of the Pishikeeme 
River, in township 49, range 30, and section 34, about 
ten miles north of the east end of Michigame Lake. 
It is constructed in a gorge between high hills. As 
described to me by William Bass and Paul Pine, two 
native Ojibwa trappers, who have seen it many times, 
it is the highest of all the dams known in the Lake 
Superior region. It is about thirty-five feet long, 
twelve feet in vertical height, and with a slope of in- 
terlaced poles on its lower face upwards of twenty 
feet in length. I have not been able to visit this re- 


markable structure and ascertain its dimensions by 
actual measurement; but, judging from the character 
and extent of the other erections of the beavers 
within this area, I see no reason for disbelieving the 
statement. It was named and described by them as 
the highest beaver structure within their knowledge. 

Some of the dams in this region are not less re- 
markable for their prodigious length, a statement of 
which, in feet, would scarcely be credited unless veri- 
fied by actual measurement. The longest one yet 
mentioned measured two hundred and sixty feet, but 
there are dams four hundred, and even five hundred 
feet long. 

There is a dam, in two sections, situated upon a 
tributary of the main branch of the Esconauba River, 
about a mile and a half northwest of the Washington 
Mine. One section measures one hundred and ten, 
and the other four hundred and twenty feet, with an 
interval of natural bank, worked here and there, of 
one thousand feet. A solid-bank dam, twenty feet in 
length, was first constructed across the channel of the 
stream, from bank to bank, with the usual opening, 
for the surplus water, five feet wide. As the water 
rose and overflowed the bank on the left side, the dam 
was extended for ninety feet until it reached ground 
high enough to confine the pond. This natural bank 
extended up the stream, and nearly parallel with it, 
for one thousand feet, where the ground again subsided, 
and allowed the water in the upper part of the pond 
to flow out and around into the channel of the stream 
below the dam. To meet this emergency, a second 
dam, four liundred and twenty feet long, was con- 
structed. For the greater part of its length it is low, 


but in some places it is two and a hnlf and three feet 
high, and constructed of stick- work on the lower, and 
with an earth embankment on its water face. In 
effect, therefore, it is one structure fifteen hundred 
and thirty feet in length, of which five hundred and 
thirty feet, in two sections, is artificial, and the re- 
mainder natural bank, but worked here and there, 
where depressions in the ground required raising by 
artificial means. As this dam had been cut through, 
and the water drawn out of the pond about two years 
before I visited and measured the work in 1866, it 
was then falling into decay. 

Three miles north of Clarksburg, in the south- 
east quarter of section 25, there are three large 
beaver dams, constructed on the same stream, and 
from a quarter to a third of a mile apart. They are 
situated upon an affluent of the main branch of the 
Esconauba River. The first or lower dam measured 
three hundred and eighty-five feet in length, and is a 
large structure throughout its entire extent. It was 
four feet high where it crossed the channel of the 
stream, and three feet high for two-thirds of the re- 
mainder of its length. Along this stream the prevail- 
ing trees are spruce, tamarack, and cedar, interspersed 
with poplar, with the latter of which the dam was 
constructed. As the poplar is a soft wood, larger, 
and often shorter billets were used, than in the dams 
previously described. This dam, in external appear- 
ance, was much inferior to those made of hard wood. 
The upper dam measured five hundred and fifty-one 
feet in continuous length along its crest. Divided into 
sections it gave the following vertical elevations : 


First section of 84 feet 3 feet high. 






100 " 2 

100 " 1 foot 6 inches. 

100 " 1 foot. 

100 " 9 inches. 

67 " 6 " 

Total length, 551 feet. 

For two hundred feet on the east end of the dam, 
which was its lowest part, it was carried up the stream 
parallel with its course, and a few rods in front of the 
rising ground which formed its bank. Here it was 
constructed almost entirely of mud and sod. This 
left a narrow channel of water along the crest of the 
dam, which answered the purposes of a canal, the 
ground being a swamp on either side. In places it 
was simply a ditch, excavated in the soft wet earth, 
the materials being thrown up in the form of a con- 
tinuous embankment on the lower side, thus forming 
a low dam with a narrow water channel on the upper 
side. The excavation was from two to three feet 
deep, and the embankment rose about six inches high. 
This seems scarcely credible, especially as it resembled 
so closely the work of the spade, but nevertheless it 
was the handiwork of beavers. 

A mile and a half southwest of the mine last 
named, there is another very fine beaver dam three 
hundred and eighty feet long, and unusually high 
and broad throughout its entire extent. It will aver- 
age three feet high for two hundred feet, and at the 
centre it is four feet high, and quite massive. The 
amount of solid materials in this structure is not less 
than in that at Grass Lake. Mr. John Armstrong, 
before mentioned, with whom I spent a part of a 
night upon this dam, captured thirteen beavers upon 


it in the fall and winter of 1865. There are three 
lodges upon the borders of the pond, which would 
give to them, before they were disturbed, twenty-one 
beaver occupants, by the usual rule of computation. 
There were also two beaver canals connected with the 

In the year 1862, I heard, through Capt. Daniel 
Wilson, of a long dam, constructed upon a small brook 
which falls into Carp River high up on this stream ; 
and went with him to ascertain its length by measure- 
ment. This dam is marked No. 19 on the map. It 
proved to be a fine structure, and of extraordinary 
length. On careful measurement with a tape-line, 
following the crest of the dam, we found its total 
length on a continuous line to be four hundred and 
eighty-eight feet. For two hundred feet, from its 
commencement on the left bank of the stream, it is 
one of the most perfect and artistically formed struct- 
ures in the Lake Superior region, although not so 
high, and, for this reason, not equal to that at Grass 
Lake. The pond was full to the crest of the dam, 
thus showing that it was occupied by beavers, which 
fact was afterward further confirmed by opening the 
lodges upon its borders. It seemed to me to be very 
desirable to perpetuate this dam in a j)hotograph 
while in its present perfect condition; not so much to 
show the best part of the work, as to verify, in a 
manner that would admit of no future question, the 
fact of its extraordinary length when considered in 
connection with the limited physical powers of its 
architects. This desire was strengthened by the 
farther consideration that these dams begin to decay 
as soon as they are deserted by the beavers, and 


quickly thereafter disappear; and that in no case do 
the latter remain in any district long after the estab- 
lishment of the first settlements in their vicinity. If 
anything was done, therefore, it was imperative that 
it should be done immediately. Having ascertained, 
that my friend. Rev. Josiah Phelps, Rector of St. 
Peter's Church at Marquette, had an excellent^ instru- 
ment, and the necessary chemicals, which, with his 
skill, he was willing to place at my disposal, and 
that Mr. Walter Kidder, who, like Mr, Phelps, was 
an amateur photographer, was willing to assist in the 
work, a programme was arranged among us to secure 
a photographic representation of this interesting 
structure. As a conclusion to the subject of beaver 
dams, I propose to give some account of the manner 
in which this enterprise was accomplished. 

At the time the photograph was taken, the Mar- 
quette and Ontonagon Railroad, which now passes 
within a mile of this dam, was not completed beyond 
the Lake Superior Mine; but a very good trail had 
recently been cut out which, passing within half a 
mile of its site, made it comparatively easy of access. 
It was necessary, as a preparatory measure, to cut 
away the forest for some distance below the dam, and 
to clear the latter of grass and weeds. The area im- 
mediately below was heavily wooded with tamarack, 
cedar, and spruce, interspersed with thickets of alder 
and willow upon the lowest ground. To prepare the 
dam for being photographed, and to arrange the sta- 
tions for the instrument, I went in with a party of 
men in advance, and commenced the work. Having 
previously ascertained that the instrument would 
take, upon a ten-inch plate, fifty feet of the dam 


measured in a straiglit line, when stationed at a dis- 
tance of sixty-two feet, and show its structure with 
sufficient minuteness, we adopted a plan to photograph 
it upon seven such plates. In the first place, eight 
stations were established, and flag-staffs erected, de- 
fining the space assigned to each plate. Of these, the 
first six were in a straight line, and each was in, or 
near the crest line of the dam. At the sixth station 
the general direction of the dam inclined down stream, 
with which divergence the last two were made to cor- 
respond. We then cut a line ten feet wide through 
the thickets of willow and alder, removing the forest 
trees as well, running it parallel with the flag-staffs, 
and sixty-two feet below them. This line was for the 
movement as well as to afford a position for the scaf- 
fold for the instrument. After this, it was necessary 
to determine the position for the scaffold in front of 
each section of fifty feet of the dam, and then to cut 
out a triangular opening between the two, having its 
apex at the scaffold station. It was further found 
advisable to make the first section of the dam, com- 
mencing at the end on the right, seventy feet long, 
the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth, each fifty 
feet; and the seventh and last, seventy feet. The 
first plate taken was to be of the second section, with 
the scaffold immediately in front of its centre, and the 
second of the first section, by turning the instrument 
to the right, and not otherwise changing its position. 
At this angle it would embrace the whole seventy 
feet, as well as make the background harmonious as 
to these two plates. After that the scaffold was to be 
removed successively to the centre of each remaining 
section on to the sixth, from which point the last sec- 


tion of seventy feet was to be taken by turning the 
instrument to the left, without changing its focal 
position, as clone in the previous case. This would 
give to the seven plates a lineal length of three hun- 
dred and ninety feet, and an actual length of dam, 
measured upon its sinuous crest, of four hundred and 
twenty-six feet. The dam, for the last-named length, 
is shown in the plates, with the background of the 
pond and surrounding forest three times repeated in 
the three central plates. Besides this, however, a 
portion of the dam sixty-two feet long is not shown. 
"When the dam had approached within six feet of the 
bank on the left side, it turned directly down stream 
parallel with it, and was extended for the distance 
last named, when it finally terminated in the bank; 
thus forming a narrow canal which followed the dam 
down to its extreme end. The point where it turns 
is concealed from view by a clump of cedar-trees 
which are seen in the left end of the plate. Two 
days were expended by this advance party in cutting 
out the several lines, establishing the stations, and in 
making a commencement of the work. 

On Tuesday, the 30th day of September, 1862, with 
the instrument and chemicals packed in boxes, we 
went up the railroad from Marquette to the Superior 
Mine, where we organized and provisioned our party 
for an encampment of several days at the dam, some 
six miles distant. The next day proved unfavorable, 
with mist and rain, but we reached our destination 
without accident to the materials, erected two brush- 
camps, framed and put together a movable scaflbld 
twelve feet high, with a ladder to mount it, and 
finished clearing away the area in front of the first 


two sections. The work of chopping was also con- 
tinued, as we found it necessary to cat down and 
remove all the trees for twenty-five feet in width 
along the entire front of the dam, as well as from the 
triangular space in front of each scaffold station. 
Besides this, the dark tent for preparing the plates 
was also erected. When, at a late hour, we sat down 
to our dinner, in this secluded place, our party of nine 
men, with their camps under the shade of the tall 
tamaracks, and the great dam stretching across from 
hill to hill, presented quite a novel spectacle. 

The next day, Thursday, came out clear and bright, 
and we commenced early. Section two was first taken, 
and the attempt proved successful; then section one, 
and after that section three, with equal success. After 
this, the fourth plate was tried and failed; three other 
plates of the same section were also successively tried 
and failed; whereupon, at four o'clock, we gave up 
for the day, except the work of chopping and clear- 
ing, which were continued to the last hour of our 

About ten o'clock that night it clouded up, and 
soon thereafter we had wind and rain. Friday morn- 
ing came in with fog and mist, which lasted through- 
out the day, with a breaking up toward evening, but 
no sun. We took two other plates of section four, 
and decided to keep the last. On the afternoon of 
this day I made a new and careful measurement of 
the dam, with the result given below, and also opened 
and measured the two lodges appurtenant to the 
structure. The next day would be Saturday, and our 
last chance, and we had three plates yet to take. 
As we were six miles from the nearest habitation 


and twenty-three from Marquette, we would be com- 
pelled to break up our encampment at noon to reach 
town that night, where my friend, the rector, was 
needed to officiate in another capacity on the ensuing 
Sabbath, I began to fear for the residue of my picture, 
as the night set in rainy, with thunder and lightning. 
Morning came, bringing with it no sun, but a gale of 
wind, which set the tall tamaracks crashing down 
around us. Those, against which our camps were 
constructed, were twisted off; but as the wind came 
down the pond, we were safe in the open space below 
the dam, and besides this, it soon lifted the clouds. 
Having moved the scaffold the day previous to the 
front of the fifth section, with the first appearance of 
sunlight this section was taken successfully on the 
first trial, after which it was removed to the fifth and 
last position, from which the sixth and seventh plates 
were taken with equal success. As the last three 
plates, like the first three, were taken in sunshine 
more or less strong, while the fourth was taken under 
heavy clouds, we moved back the scaffold in front of 
the latter section, tried again and succeeded, and our 
work was done. We then packed up our materials, 
broke up our camp, and returned to the railroad sta- 
tion in time for the last train to Marquette; having 
accomplished, whether important or otherwise, the 
undertaking of preserving a permanent memorial of 
this remarkable beaver structure.^ 

The pond covers about twenty-five acres of land. 

^ The photographs put together make a picture six feet and 
eight inches long. It was expected, when the text was written, 
that this dam would be engraved. 



and continues across the entire length of the dam, 
although quite narrow upon its left half. 


straight line. 

First section 70 feet. 

Second section 50 " 

Third section 50 " 

Fourth section 50 " 

Fifth section 50 " 

Sixth section 50 " 

Seventh section 70 " 

Here the dam turns down stream 10 ft. from bank, and runs 62 

Crest line of clam. 

83 feet 6 


58 ' 

' 6 

65 ' 

' 6 

60 ' 

' 6 

57 ' 

' 6 

57 ' 

' 6 


' 6 

62 ' 


Total length of dam measured on crest line, 

488 feet. 

Other Measurements. 

Slope of lower face 

Slope of water face 

Depth of water at end of 

Vertical height of dam 

At 50 

ft. from 


Ft. In. 
3 G 

At 85 

ft. from 


Ft In. 
8 6 

3 2 

At 144 

ft. from 


Ft. In. 
10 8 

4 9 

At 200 

ft. from 


Ft. In. 

At 260 

ft. from 


Ft. In. 

1 8 

At 317 1 At 375 

ft. from ft. from 

end. end. 

Ft. In. 


1 8 

Ft. In. 

1 8 

This dam is a continuous work from one end to the 
other. In two or three places there is a natural rise 
of the ground as high as the top of the dam for a few 
feet in length, but the inner slope is banked with 
earth, and the summit worked. There are other 
places where the embankment is solid, showing very 
little wood intermixed, but it is artificial. The depth 
of the pond a few feet back, or at the end of the water 
slope, does not necessarily show the original ground 
surface, as earth may have been brought up from the 
bottom to place upon the damj and yet the removal 



of the earth from a point so near would seem to en- 
danger the work, and to be for this reason improbable. 
Taken as a whole, and as a beaver structure, it is an 
extraordinary piece of animal mechanism, whether 
considered with reference to its great length, the 
amount of materials it contains, or its artistic ap- 
pearance. It has undoubtedly been built uj)on and 
repaired year after year until it reached its present 
dimensions; and it is not in the least improbable that 
it has existed and been continued for centuries. 

There are other districts in North America where 
beaver dams are not less numerous than in the regions 
bordering upon Lake Superior. Along the Rocky 
Mountain chain, for a distance of more than two 
thousand miles, there are particular localities, on both 
sides of the range, where these erections are found in 
considerable numbers. They are also numerous in 
the streams which flow from the Wind River, the 
Big Horn, and the Laramie Mountains, and from the 
Bhick Hills, but they are usually small, ranging from 
fifty to one hundred feet in length, and from two to 
three feet high. On Eagle River and other tributa- 
ries of the Colorado, and upon the affluents of the 
Rio Grande, near its sources, beaver dams of consider- 
able magnitude have been noticed by explorers. In 
the thick wood country along Hudson's Bay, and 
for a circuit of three hundred miles around and back 
of its shores, they are especially numerous. From 
general descriptions of these dams, obtained from va- 
rious sources, and particularly from trappers, with 
whom these several regions are familiar, it is evident 
that they are all constructed on the same general 
plan, and in the same manner as the varieties herein 


described. Dams constructed of cotton-wood and wil- 
low, of which I have seen a number of specimens 
on the tributaries of the Upper Missouri, between the 
Yellowstone and the Rocky Mountains, are inferior 
in appearance to those in which hard wood is used, as 
in the Lake Superior region; but the differences do 
not affect the stability or efficiency of the structures. 
Before concluding the subject of beaver dams, one 
other variety remains to be noticed, which in novelty 
surpasses all others. In Montana Territory three 
beaver dams have been discovered in a petrified state. 
They were found upon a small stream that runs 
through the Point Neuf Canon, and empties into the 
Snake River, one of the tributaries of the Columbia. 
This canon is about three hundred miles north of Salt 
Lake City. In length these dams are from fifty to 
sixty feet, with a fall of water over two of them, at 
the centre, of from three to four feet, and over the 
third of about one foot. They were not in that com- 
plete and final state of petrifaction which involves the 
change of every particle of the original woody mate- 
rials, and the substitution of solid substances; but 
rather incrusted with lime, which, penetrating and 
solidifying the entire structures, had given to them a 
permanently durable form. It seems not a little sin- 
gular that Nature should thus wrap up with her kindly 
and preserving hand these memorials of the skill and 
labor of the beaver, and hold them as a part of her 
vast record of the past. My friend. Prof, Henry A. 
Ward, of the University of Rochester, discovered these 
dams while engaged in a geological exploration in 
Montana, in the year 1865, and from him I received 
the above account. 



Habits of Beaver — Our Knowledge limited — Indians and Trappers as Ob- 
servers — Source of BufiFon's Extravagant Statements — Disposition of 
Beavers to pair — The Family — Outcast Beaver — Beaver Migrations — 
Adaptation to Aquatic Life — Suspension of Respiration — Length of Time 
— Artifice of Musk-Rat — Burrowing Propensities — Varieties of the Beaver 
Lodge — Island Lodge at Grass Lake — Size and Form — Chamber — Floor 
— Wood Entrance — Beaver Entrance — Their Artistic Character — Bank 
Lodge — Mode of Construction — Chamber — Entrances — Another Variety 
of Bank Lodge — Chamber and Entrances — Nature of Floor — Lake Lodge 
— Differences from other Varieties — False Lodge of Upper Missouri — 
Lodges Single Chambered — Burrows, their Form, Size, and Uses — Ex- 
amples, with Measurements — Number of Beavers to the Lodge — Number 
of Lodges to the Pond. 

Notwithstanding our familiarity with the beaver, 
through the persevering efforts made for his capture 
by both American and Indian trappers, the amount of 
our minute information concerning him is not as large 
as might have been expected. Any attempt to pro- 
nounce definitely upon his habits and mode of life 
will lead us into errors, if we pass beyond such facts 
as are susceptible of verification. These facts, from 
the nature of the case, are difiicult of ascertainment. 
Although not exclusively nocturnal in his habits, the 
beaver performs the principal part of his work at 
night. He is both shy and timorous of disposition, 
and, when seen, it is usually by accident, for a brief 
space of time, and when engaged in one particular 
act. No single observer, however favorable his oppor- 
tunities, could cover the field, for which reason it is 


necessary to collect and compare the observations of 
a large number of persons to ascertain even the prin- 
cipal facts. While, therefore, their artificial erections 
speak for themselves, their habits, in other respects, 
can only be determined by a series of authenticated 
acts, in the ascertainment of which the greatest cau- 
tion should be used. There is enough, within the 
limits of the veritable, which is sufficiently remarka- 
ble, without entering the domain of fancy to produce 
a picture. 

The Indian is a close, and, in the main, an accurate 
observer of the habits of animals. Without hesita- 
tion he places the beaver in the highest rank among 
them for intelligence and sagacity. It is also a part 
of the vocation of the white trapper to be versed in 
their characteristics and manner of life to prosecute 
efficiently his calling. From these sources of infor- 
mation, and particularly from the last, the extrava- 
gant statements concerning the domestic economy of 
beaver communities were derived, which Buffon was 
among the first to adopt and promulgate under the 
sanction of his distinguished name. The reaction 
which followed the disproval of these fictions tended 
rather to arrest further investigation than to turn it 
in the right direction ; so that from Buffon's time to 
the present but little progress has been made in our 
knowledge of this animal. After considerable inter- 
course with Indian and white trappers on the south 
shore of Lake Superior, in the Hudson's Bay terri- 
tory, and upon the Upper Missouri, I have been able, 
through them, to verify but a small number of facts 
tending to establish, as well as to illustrate, the habits 
and mode of life of this long-observed rodent. At 


the same time the amount of speculative opinion with 
reference to his ways, which is cherished and believed 
among them, is very great. To reject all their con- 
clusions, for want of complete verification, would be 
not less unwise than to adopt them unconditionally. It 
will, therefore, be my plan to state, as facts, such only 
as I can assert upon personal observation, or have 
verified upon reliable testimony; and to introduce, 
from time to time, in addition thereto, such state- 
ments and conclusions of other persons, and upon 
their authority, as have a probable basis of truth; 
leaving their verification or disproval to future inves- 

Beavers are social animals in an eminent degree. 
This disposition is manifested in their strongly de- 
veloped propensity to pair and live in the family 
relation. It is still further exemplified by the con- 
struction of dams, lodges, burrows, and canals for 
objects which are common to them as a family; and 
by providing a store of subsistence for winter use. A 
beaver family consists of a male and female, and their 
offspring of the first and second years, or, more prop- 
erly, under two years old. The females bring forth 
their young, from two to five at a time, in the month 
of May,^ and nurse them for a few weeks, after which 
the latter take to bark. I have seen upon the Upper 
Missouri a domesticated beaver of three weeks old sus- 
tain himself upon twigs of cotton-wood. They attain 
their full growth at two years and six months, and live 
from twelve to fifteen years. This last statement is 
upon Indian authority. The cry of a young beaver re- 

^ The rutting season is in the month of February. 


sembles very closely that of a child a few days old. A 
trapper illustrated to the author the completeness of 
his deception by this cry, when he first commenced his 
vocation in the Rocky Mountains, by relating the fol- 
lowing incident: he was once going to his traps when 
he heard a cry which he was sure was that of a child ; 
and, fearing the presence of an Indian camp, he crept 
in cautiously through the cotton-wood to the bank of 
the stream, where he discovered two young beavers 
upon a low bank of earth near the water, crying for 
their mother, whom he afterward found in one of his 
traps. On one occasion I was similarly deceived in 
an Indian lodge at the mouth of the Yellowstone River, 
where a young beaver was lapping milk from a saucer 
while an Indian baby was pulling its fur. It was not 
until after several repetitions that I noticed that it was 
the cry of the beaver instead of the child. When the 
first litter attain the age of two years, and in the third 
summer after their birth, they are sent out from the 
parent lodge to seek mates and establish families for 
themselves, in which movement they are followed by 
each successive litter upon the attainment of the same 
age. Such at least is the uniform testimony of both 
Indian and white trappers, in support of which they 
assign the following reasons: first, that when they 
capture an entire family in one lodge or burrow, which 
is not unfrequent, they rarely, if ever, find more than 
two old beavers, the remainder being under two years 
old ; and that the usual number found in one lodge 
ranges from four to eight, and rarely exceeds twelve: 
secondly, that these numbers exhaust the accommoda- 
tions of the lodge: thirdly, that old beavers are jealous 
of, and hostile to their young after they attain ma- 


turity: and, lastly, their well-known propensity to 
pair. A fanciful notion prevails among the Indians, 
that if young beavers, thus sent out, fail to pair, they 
are allowed to return to the parent lodge and remain 
until the ensuing summer; but as a mark of parental 
disapprobation, for their ill matrimonial success, they 
are required to do the work of repairing the dam. 
There is another ramification of the same conceit, to 
the effect that if they fail again to mate in the ensu- 
ing summer, they are not allowed to return a second 
time, but that they become from thenceforth ^'outcast 
beavers." The existence of such a class is believed 
in, to some extent, both by the Indians and trappers, 
and the two notions together furnish the only founda- 
tion for the fiction at one time believed that there was 
a class of slave beavers.^ These "outcasts," so called, 

^ This belief in the existence of a class of slave beavers appears 
to have been of Arabian origin. In the "Wonders of Creation," 
by Kazwini, an Arabian author who wrote in a.d. 1288, is the 
following account: "The beaver (kundar) is a land and water 
animal that is found in the smaller rivers of the country Isa 
[north of the present government of Novgorod]. He builds on 
the bank of the river a house, and makes for himself in this an 
elevated place in the form of a bench ; then, on the right hand, 
about a step lower, one for his wife, and on the left, one for his 
young ones, and on the lower part of the house, one for his ser- 
vants. His dwelling possesses in the lower part an egress toward 
the water, and another higher one toward the land. If, therefore, 
an enemy comes on the water side, or the water rises, he escapes 
by the egress leading to the land; but if the enemy comes on the 
land side, by that which leads to the water. He nourishes himself 
on the flesh of fishes and the wood of the Chelendech (? willow). 
The merchants of that country are able to distinguish the skins of 
the servants from that of the masters; the former hew the Chelen- 
dech wood for their masters, drag it with their maw, and break it 


are probably such beavers as, having lost their mates, 
refused afterward to pair, and led thenceforth solitary 
lives in burrows. 

Beavers migrate from place to place more or less 
every season, and particularly when a district becomes 
overstocked. There is an annual migration down the 
Missouri River, usually in the month of June, which 
becomes the more marked from the inability of the 
migrants ever to find their way back against its power- 
ful current.^ The Indians affirm that in their local 
migrations the old beavers go up stream, and the 
young go down, assigning as a reason that, in the 
struggle for existence, greater advantages are afforded 
near the source than lower down upon any stream, 
wherefore the old beavers wisely appropriate the 

For his aquatic life, he needs, as well as possesses, 
special organic adaptations. He is not only capable 
of suspending respiration for an interval of several 
minutes while swimming under water, but also of 
putting forth, at the same time, his full physical 
strength. With a relatively small heart and lungs, 
his respiration is necessarily moderate in amount; but 

in pieces with their forehead, so that in consequence of this office 
the hair of the head falls out on the right and left side. The 
merchauts, who are aware of this fact, recognize in the hair of the 
forehead thus rubbed off the skin of the servant. In the skin of 
the master this mark of recognition is wanting, as he employs 
himself with catching fish." — (Brandt, Memoires de I'Academie 
de S. Petersbourg, tome vii. 349.) 

^ A trapper whom I met on the Missouri River, in 1862, below 
Fort Piere, in Nebraska, informed me that the beavers were then 
(May 27) coming down the river ; that he saw them daily, and 
had taken over fifty. 


as the blood must circulate while respiration is sus- 
pended, other and independent vessels are provided 
near the heart for its reception, where it accumulates 
until respiration is resumed. If this blood were thrown 
upon the lungs while their functions were suspended, 
it would produce suffocation. It is said that he will 
swim a quarter of a mile under water without coming 
to the surface. Trappers differ as to the time he will 
remain under water, but agree in placing it between 
five and ten minutes. Mr. Atchinson, a Lake Superior 
trapper, informed me that he once held a beaver, 
caught in a trap, under water for the full space of ten 
minutes, as he believed, without extinguishing life. 
In the winter they are often compelled to swim fifty 
and a hundred rods under the ice to find open water; 
and they have been seen to take in a fresh cutting, 
through a hole in the ice, and swim with it for thirty 
rods to their lodge. 

The musk-rat, whose aquatic habits, and use of 
the pond, the burrow, and the lodge, affiliate hiin 
with the beaver, resorts to a singular but well- 
attested expedient to lengthen the period of sus- 
pended respiration, which may be mentioned in this 
connection. When swimming under ice he comes up 
to its lower surface, and, having expelled the air from 
his lungs, waits for a moment, and then, after drawing 
in again the bubbles of air, proceeds on his way. 
This fact has been confirmed to me by so many dif- 
ferent observers, that I see no reason to disbelieve its 
truth. Whether the air, by its contact with the ice, 
recovered some property of which it had become ex- 
hausted, I leave as a question to those capable of its 
determination. It is claimed that the beaver resorts 


to the same expedient, but I have not been able to 
verify the fact. 

The body of the beaver is nearly, if not perfectly, 
balanced upon his hip joints. From these points as 
fulcrums, and by means of his hind legs, feet, and 
tail, he has the full command of his bodily motions, 
particularly in the water, without depending upon his 
fore feet. In swimming, the propelling power is in 
the hind feet and legs, which are so furnished and 
articulated as to make him a rapid and powerful 
swimmer. For the same reason, when on land, his 
paws become liberated, and he is thus enabled to take 
up earth and stones, and, holding them under his 
throat, to carry them short distances, walking upon 
his hind feet; and also to handle sticks and limbs of 
trees. It is thus in his structural organization that 
we discover the possibility of his architectural skill.^ 

It is another characteristic of the beaver that he is 
a burrowing animal. Indulging this propensity, he 
excavates chambers under ground, and constructs 
artificial lodges upon its surface, both of which are 
indispensable to his security and happiness. The 
lodge is but a burrow above ground, covered with an 
artificial roof, and possesses some advantages over the 
latter as a place for rearing their young. There are 

^ The otter is balanced much in the same manner, but he is 
smaller, more slender, and more agile in his movements. As a 
swimmer he is superior to the beaver. He will pursue and cap- 
ture a fish with ease and certainty. In swimming, his fore feet are 
not used, but are pressed back against his body, as in the case of 
the beaver. His bite sustains the statement of Aristotle with 
reference to the European otter, minus the fancy for hearing the 
cracking of the bones. (Supra, p. 36.) 


reasons for believing that the burrow is the normal 
residence of the beaver; and that the lodge grew out 
of it, in the progress of their experience, by natural 
suggestion. This subject will be referred to again. 
We have before seen that one of the principal objects 
of the dam was the formation of a pond; thus show- 
ing a desire, on the part of its architects, to maintain 
a large body of water at a permanent level for some 
special use. We come now to inquire its uses, so far 
as they relate to the lodge and the burrow. There 
are several varieties of the beaver lodge, each of which 
is adapted to the peculiarities of its situation; but 
they collectively represent different applications of 
the same general principle of construction. Thus we 
find an island, a river bank, and a lake lodge, each 
of which has special characteristics. The same is 
true, in a less degree, of their burrows. Each will be 
considered in its order. 

Where large ponds are formed by means of dams, it 
is not unusual to find small grass islands rising a few 
inches above the level of the water. These islands 
were probably produced by fallen trees which had 
been flooded and destroyed by the pond, and upon the 
decayed remains of which vegetation had sprung. 
In other cases there are islands of firm earth which 
chanced to rise naturally above the surface of the 
water. These, whether unsubstantial or firm, are 
generally selected as the sites for their lodges because 
of the additional protection which insulation affords. 

The lodge represented in the engraving (Plate XIII.) 
is situated upon one of the low grass islands described, 
and is one of the two found in Grass Lake above the 
great dam. As it was engraved from a photograph, it 


is an accurate representation of a beaver lodge, and of 
its surrounding landscape. This lodge^ is considerably 
above the ordinary size, and a good specimen. In the 
year 1860 I opened it, and measured its inner chamber. 
It was not accessible from the land without a boat, and 
we were compelled to fell a tree from the main land 
across to the island as a means of transit. When we 
reached it, we found it very unsubstantial; the turf, 
which was saturated with water, yielding under our 
feet with a rocking motion. The lodge was situated 
upon the edge of the island, and was girded around 
with a moat or trench about three feet wide, and from 
three to four feet deep, which opened out into the pond 
at the outer edge of the lodge. Externally it was a 
rounded and dome-shaped mass of poles and sticks, 
which were trimmed of their branches and stripped 
of their bark, and interlaced much in the same man- 
ner as those upon the lower faces of their dams. It 
was oblong in form rather than round, as will appear 
by the following measurements : 

From the water level, on the right in the engraving, to the 

water level on the left, measured over apes of lodge 22 ft. 6 inches. 

Width of lodge at base or water line 16 " 4 " 

From water level in front, to same on back side, measured 

over apex of lodge 26 " 10 " 

Width of lodge at base or water line, from front to back... 19 " 9 " 

Vertical height of lodge above water level 4" 6 " 

We commenced opening it at the top. A few of 
the poles on the surface were loose and easily removed, 
but at a few inches below the apex we found them so 

^ The Ojibwas call a beaver lodge wig-e-wam' , which is the 
same word they employ to designate their own bark house. When 
they make the distinction, they prefix the word for beaver, ah- 



interwoven and imbedded in earth and loam, that it 
was impossible to loosen them with our hands. About 
a foot below the surface the walls were substantially 
solid. With the aid of an axe, however, and after an 
hour's hard labor, we succeeded in making an opening 
through the roof about three feet in diameter, which 
uncovered and disclosed the chamber very perfectly. 

Fig. 9. 

Ground Plan. Island Loda;e. 

It is shown in the annexed figure (Fig. 9). The roof 
had settled down in the centre from the superincum- 
bent weight, but not so far as to interfere with the 


accommodations of the chamber. It had no support 
under it of any kind whatever. After removing the 
materials which had fallen in from the roof upon the 
floor, we found the latter hard, smooth, and clean, 
with fresh-cut grass around the outer border for their 
nests; thus showing that it was an occupied lodge. 
In standing upon the floor of the chamber, the heel of 
a boot did not indent the surface, although it was but 
two inches above the level of the pond. This last 
fact was shown by the level at which the water stood 
in the entrances, two in number, which came through 
the floor in the outer edge of the chamber, as shown 
in the figure. 


Longitudinal diameter of clianiber 7 ft. 8 in. 

Transverse 7 " 

Vertical height 1 ft. to 1 ft. 4 in. 

Size of entrances through floor 15 in. square. 

Length of each entrance respectively 10 and 7 feet. 

The roof was about three feet, and the side walls 
from four and a half to five and a half feet thick, which 
rendered it, as a structure, both strong and durable. 
Among the characteristics of the beaver is that of 
cleanliness in his lodges and burrows. Nothing ap- 
peared in this chamber to detract from his reputation 
in this respect. There was no opening for light or 
ventilation; but yet, from the porous nature of the 
materials, as put together, sufficient air would pene- 
trate the lodge from without to satisfy the require- 
ments of its occupants, whose low respiration enables 
them to endure the confined atmosphere of the lodge 
and the burrow. In the winter season, their breath, 
rising through the top of the lodge, dissolves the snow 
and forms a chimney opening over it, which not only 


continues their supply of air, but also reveals their 
habitation to the trapper. 

The entrances to a beaver lodge, of which there 
are usually two, and sometimes more, are the most 
remarkable parts of the structure. They are made 
with great skill, and in the most artistic manner. In 
new lodges there is generally but one, but others are 
added with their increase in size under the process of 
repairing, until, in large lodges, there are sometimes 
three and four. These entrances are of two kinds. 
One is straight, or as nearly so as possible, with its 
floor, which is of course under water, an inclined 
plane, rising gradually from the bottom of the pond 
into the chamber; while the other is abrupt in its 
descent, and often sinuous in its course. The first 
we shall call the "wood entrance," from its evident 
design to facilitate the admission into the chamber of 
their " wood cuttings," upon which they subsist during 
the season of winter. These cuttings, as will else- 
where be shown, are of such size and length that 
such an entrance is absolutely necessary for their free 
admission into the lodge. The other, which we shall 
call the "beaver entrance," was the ordinary run-way 
for their exit and return. It is usually abrupt, and 
often winding. In the lodge under consideration, the 
wood entrance descended " from the outer rim of the 
chamber outward about ten feet to the bottom of the 
pond in a straight line, and upon an inclined plane ; 
while the other, emerging from the rim of the 
chamber at the side, descended quite abruptly to the 
bottom of the moat or trench, through which the 
beavers must pass, in open water, out into the pond. 
Both entrances were rudely arched over with a roof 


of interlaced sticks filled in with mud intermixed with 
vegetable fibre, and were extended to the bottom of 
the pond and trench, with the exception of the open- 
ings at their ends. At the places where they were 
constructed through the floor they were finished with 
neatness and precision; the upper parts and sides 
formino; an arch more or less regular, while the bottom 
and floor edges were formed with firm and compacted 
earth, in which small sticks were imbedded. It is 
difiicult to realize the artistic appearance of some of 
these entrances without actual inspection. 

These lodges, at first small, and with contracted 
chambers, are enlarged, both in external size and in 
internal accommodation, by the process of repairing. 
After their winter cuttings are peeled of their bark 
for food, they are put out of the lodge, and, in due 
time, a portion of them are placed upon its roof to 
supply the waste by settlement and decay. Late in 
the fall, each season, the sides of their lodges, nearly 
to the summits, are, in some cases, plastered over with 
mud, which, soon freezing, materially increases their 
strength. The decayed portion of the walls and roof 
which form the chamber within are, from time to 
time, removed, which gradually increases its size. By 
the two processes of external addition and internal 
enlargement, continued through a series of years, a 
lodge is finally produced of the size represented in the 
engraving. The quantity of sticks, poles, and billets 
of wood used in its construction was about a cord. 

It has elsewhere been stated that the entrances of 
these lodges were from two to three feet below the 
surface of the water in all cases, and that in this 
lodge the level of the water in the pond stood within 

10 . 


two inches of the floor of the chamber. In every 
lodge opened I have found the floor but a few inches, 
usually from two to six, above the level of the water. 
The nearer the two to the same level, the easier the 
introduction of their cuttings, which must be dragged 
in with their teeth at no small exertion of strength. 
From the uniform relation found to subsist between the 
level of the floor and of the pond, it is evident that the 
beavers regulate the discharge of the surplus water 
through their dams with a view to the maintenance, 
as near as possible, of a uniform level of the pond. 
Any great variation, in this respect, would either 
flood their habitations or expose their entrances; and 
therefore the maintenance of their dams becomes a 
matter of constant supervision and perpetual labor. 
We discover also a reason why their principal repairs, 
both of their dams and lodges, are deferred to the last 
moment before going into winter quarters; since their 
comfort and security are involved particularly in the 
stability of their dams, which for months together, 
during the winter, are beyond their control. In 
choosing the sites of their lodges, so as to be assured 
of water in their entrances and at their places ot 
exit, too deep to be frozen to the bottom; in the ad- 
justment of the floors of their chambers to the level 
of the ponds; and in their appreciation of the causes 
of a change of level in these ponds, as well as of the 
remedy, decisive evidence seems to be furnished of 
their possession of a free intelligence, as well as of 
constructive skill. 

One other circumstance remains to be mentioned 
with reference to this lodge. It was opened and 
measured, as before stated, in 1860. The following 



year, while going again to Grass Lake dam for the 
purpose of obtaining a photograph of the same, I re- 
gretted the destruction of the fodge, of which a repre- 
sentation was not less desirable than of the dam. On 
reaching the lake, I was both surprised and gratified 
to find that the lodge had been completely restored 
by the beavers; and the engraving (Plate XIIL) shows 
the lodge as it appeared after it had once been par- 
tially destroyed, and again repaired, in the manner 

Fig. 10. 

Island Lodge. Side view. 

In this figure of the lodge (Fig. 10), which was 
taken from the island, its long side is shown, together 
with the moat by which it is surrounded. The two 
engravings together represent a beaver lodge so faith- 
fully and completely as to render unnecessary any 
further description of their external appearance. Both 
engravings were made from photographs of the orig- 

The number of lodges upon the largest ponds rarely 
exceeds four. In some instances six and eight have 
been found. Upon Grass Lake, as before stated, there 


are but two, both of which are upon grass islands 
within the pond. There are none upon its banks. 

Another, and equally common variety may be called, 
by way of distinction, the bank lodge. They are of 
two kinds. One is situated upon the bank of the 
stream or pond, a few feet back from its edge, and en- 
tered by an underground passage from the bed of the 
stream, excavated through the natural earth up into 
the chamber. The other is situated upon the edge of 
the bank, a portion of it projecting over, and resting 
upon the bed of the channel, so as to have the floor 
of the chamber rest upon the bank or on solid ground, 
while the external wall, on the pond side, projects 
beyond it, and is built up from the bottom of the pond. 
There is a lodge of this description near dam No. 14 
represented in Plate IX. Originally it was a fine 
lodge; but when I opened and measured it, in 1860, 
it had been deserted for two or three years, and 
had fallen into decay. A ground plan is given in 
Figure 11. One-fourth part of it, which represents 
the thickness of the external wall, projects beyond the 
bank into the river, while the remainder, which in- 
cluded the whole of the chamber, was upon the land. 
It was constructed in the same manner, and presented 
the same general appearance, as the one last described. 


Height of lodge, on river side, from bed of channel. 6 ft. 6 inches. 

Height on land side 3 ft. 6 " 

Diameter on base line, on level of bank 12 ft. 

Transverse diameter 14 ft. 

Diameter of chamber 6 ft. 

Height of chamber from floor of lodge 2 ft. 6 inches. 

Height of floor above level of pond when full 3 " 

Size of entrances through floor 15 " square. 

Thickness of walls and roof 3 ft. to 3 ft. 6 inches. 



The floor of the chamber was hard, level, and 
clean, with small quantities of dried grass scattered 
here and there, but much decayed; showing that the 
lodge had been for some time deserted. At the two 
points where the walls of the lodge intersect the 
banks were the entrances. As the dam had been cut 

Fig. 11. 

Bank Lodge. Ground Plan. 

through and the river drawn down nearly to its orig- 
inal level, an excellent opportunity was afforded to 
examine these entrances where they came through 
into the chamber, and also the arched way which led 
down to the bed of the stream. The upper one was 
the wood entrance, or, at least, the most convenient 
for that purpose; although both were nearly straight, 
with a gradual descent, and surprisingly well con- 
structed. The edges or rims of these passages, where 
they entered the chamber, were as hard, smooth, and 
regular as if finished with a mason's trowel; the 
covered way over each was constructed with a mass 


of interlaced sticks, filled in with loam, and forming 
a perfect roof; and the bed of each passage-way was 
composed of earth, made solid by imbedded sticks, 
and 2;raded with a regular descent. There is nothinsr 

(DO ~ 

— I repeat the statement — connected with the lodge 
which excites so much astonishment as the mechan- 
ical skill displayed in the construction of these en- 

In lodges situated like this the entrances are called 
the "angles" by the trappers. These angles had been 
"staked out," to use the phrase of the trappers, some 
years before, and the stakes still remained. Two 
rows led up to each entrance, and were thus driven 
in for the purpose of compelling the beavers, on en- 
tering the lodge, to pass through a narrow way, within 
which the traps were to be set for their capture. 
This is the usual method of trapping beavers at the 

A beaver lodge, from its dome-shaped form, makes 
a very conspicuous appearance, particularly when it 
is symmetrically formed and in perfect repair. But 
they are neither as high nor as narrow at the base as 
they have been usually represented; and the greater 
proportion of them are much inferior to those de- 

Lodges are more frequently situated a few feet 
back from the edge of the bank than in any other 
position. They are erected and maintained with less 
labor, but they are usually smaller, and not as con- 
veniently connected with the water as the varieties 

^ They are called Ah-me-ko-ish' by the Ojibwas, which signifies 
" beaver door-way." 

Plate XIV 




previously considered. One other bank lodge only 
will be described, and it will differ from the last in 
being situated wholly upon land. It is located on a 
neck of land formed by a bend in Carp River below 
dam No. 50, and is shown in Plate XIV. 

Across the neck a beaver canal had been cut, about 
five feet wide on an average, and three feet deep, at 
one of the junctions of which with the river the 
lodge is situated. The river here passes through low 
and swampy ground, and is broad and sluggish. At 
hidi water there would be a current throuo-h the 
canal but for a small dam thrown across in front of 
the lodge, by which it is prevented. The difference 
of level in the river at the two ends of the canal can- 
not exceed an inch. In a subsequent chapter the 
nature and uses of the canals, which have occasionally 
been referred to, will be considered. 

To reach this lodge we descended the river in a 
boat.^ It was opened and measured in September, 
1862; it was of ordinary size and appearance, and 
gave the following external measurements: 

From base, measured over apex, and parallel with canal. 16 feet 2 inches. 

Diameter at base line 10 " 

From base over apex at right angles with canal 14 " 9 inches. 

Diameter at base line 10 " 

Vertical height of lodge above level of ground 3 " 

Height of ground above level of river 10 inches. 

On the top of the lodge we found about three arm- 
fuls of the cuttings, of the previous fall, which had 
been denuded of bark and distributed irregularly over 
its roof Having removed the loose sticks and poles, 

^ My estimable friend, Rev. Heuiy Fowler, of Auburn, N. Y., 
was my companion on this occasion. 


we came, at the depth of a few inches, to a mass of 
sticks and cuttings of various 
^^' "' sizes imbedded in dry earth or 

muck, of which the roof was com- 
posed. When these materials had 
been removed and the chamber 
uncovered, we found the roof very 
cleverly supported by three poles, 
as shown in the diagram (Fig. 12). 

Arransrement of Poles to -\t-i n d a. -\-\ • -\ 

„ ^T, ^ ^T , -No- 1 was b leet 11 mcnes 

form Kooi of Lodge. 

long, about 2 inches thick, and 
extended entirely across the chamber into the walls 
on either side. No. 2 was 4 feet 3 inches long, about 
2i inches thick, and rested upon the wall and also 
upon pole No 1. And No. 2 was 4 feet long, of the 
same thickness, and rested the one end upon the 
wall and the other upon No. 2. Upon these was 
a network of smaller poles and sticks filled in with 
muck. The three principal poles formed a perfect and 
well-contrived support for the roof. Whether this was 
a new or an old lodge we had no means of ascertain- 
ing; and, therefore, it did not necessarily follow that 
they were so arranged by design. If an old lodge, 
these poles were probably once upon the top, and had 
come into their present position by the gradual pro- 
gress of the settlement and decay of the materials 
underneath, which was followed by their removal from 
the roof of the chamber within as it was built upon 
above. The magnitude of the canal is an evidence 
of its great age, but this again is no evidence of the 
age of the lodge, which may have been erected after 
the latter was excavated. An examination of beaver 
lodges shows quite clearly that they can be continued 



for centuries by the simple process of repairing. Such 
is doubtless their history. New lodges would be de- 
manded with an increase in numbers up to a certain 
limit, but otherwise they would not, in all probability, 
be constructed. 

Around the outer rim of the chamber (Fig. 13) 
there was fresh dry grass for beds, which had evidently 
been recently cut from the meadows. In the centre 
of the floor there was a large quantity of old and de- 
cayed grass, damp and wet, on the removal of which 
a considerable depression of the floor was observable. 

Fig. 13. 

Ground Plan of Lodge. 

The above diagram shows the chamber and the 
position of the entrances. 


Diameter of chamber parallel with canal 6 feet 5 inches. 

Transverse diameter 6 " 

Height of chamber at centre 1 foot Oinches. 

Level of floor below ground 6 " 

Height of floor above water in entrances -4 " 

For the purpose of ascertaining the nature of the 
floor we made an excavation, 1 foot and 9 inches deep. 


through a mass of small beaver cuttings imbedded in 
loam, of which it was composed, before we came to clear 
earth. They were mere twigs a few inches long and a 
quarter of an inch in diameter, and packed down in a 
solid mass. As the floors of beaver lodges are usually 
but three or four inches above the level of the water, 
and so near it as to become thoroughly saturated, it 
is extremely probable that they are, in all cases, made 
firm and solid in this way, partly by accident and 
partly by design. Without some such solidifying 
process these floors would soon turn into soft mire, 
and the chambers become uninhabitable. 

The two entrances, as in the other cases, were the 
most interesting portions of the structure. One en- 
tered the canal, and from thence the river to go up 
stream; the other the river direct for going down 
stream. The former was nearly straight, with its 
bottom out to the canal a gentle slope; while the other 
descended quite abruptly as it emerged from the lodge, 
and then turning to the left, nearly at right angles, ran 
straight to the river. Both were neatly constructed, 
but one only, that which terminated in the canal, 
was adapted to the purposes of a wood entrance. We 
were able to run a pole through this passage from the 
point where it entered the chamber out into the canal, 
and obtain its length, together with its other dimen- 
sions, which were as follows: 

Measurements of Wood Entrance. 

Length of passage from rim of chamber to canal 7 feet 11 inches. 

Width of same where it entered chamber 2 " 1 " 

Width throughout to the canal, about 2 " 

Depth of water in entrance just without chamber llj^ " 

Roof of entrance above level of water, at same point 1 foot 5 " 

Total height of entrance at same point 1 " 7i " 

Depth of soil and roots above passage without lodge 1 " 3 " 


The roof of the passage-way within the walls of 
the lodge, and for a short distance without, was 
rounded or arched quite regularly, and constructed 
with sticks; but for the remainder of the way to the 
canal it was ground excavation, the roof being 
strengthened by the roots of alder bushes under 
which it ran. After leaving the chamber, the roof 
of the passage-way descended so as to intersect the 
water at a distance of 3i feet, after which the pas- 
sage was full of water out to the canal, which it en- 
tered 3 feet below the surface. The floor of the en- 
trance or passage-way, just out of the chamber of the 
lodge, was sprinkled over with short and slender 
twigs of willow, about 6 inches long and i of an inch 
thick, which were evidently designed for young beavers. 
They were green and fresh cuttings, some of them 
peeled of their bark and thrown out of the chamber, 
and others with the bark on ready for use. I made 
a small bundle of these tit-bits for young beavers, and 
preserved them as a memorial of this lodge. 

The other, or beaver entrance, opened out from the 
chamber on the canal side, and, after descending for 
a short distance, turned abruptly to the left, after 
which it ran under ground nearly in a straight line 
to the river, as before stated. 

Measurements of Beaver Entrance. 

Width at edge of chamber 1 foot 8 inches. 

Depth of water in same, at ditto 10 " 

Height of entrance above water 6 " 

Total height from bottom to roof of entrance 1 foot 4 " 

Length of passage-way 11 feet 6 " 

Short cuttings might have been carried into the 
chamber through this passage, but not those of any 


length. Besides this, as they almost invariably trans- 
port their cuttings down stream, the other, from its 
location, was the proper wood entrance. As the river 
was too shallow, on the lodge side, for their conceal- 
ment, the beavers had excavated a channel, about 2 
feet deep, in its bed for a distance of 25 feet out into 
deep water. The artificial character of this channel 
was perfectly manifest. 

We piled up the sticks and poles taken from this 
lodge, and estimated the contents at half a cord. It 
was of the average size, and a fair specimen of these 

With the minute description, now concluded, of 
island and bank lodges, it will be unnecessary to 
enter into details with reference to other varieties, 
except to point out differences where they exist. 

Fig. 14. 

Lake Lodffe. Ground Plan. 

It has elsewhere been stated that beavers inhabit 
the small lakes as well as the flowing streams. They 
construct lodges upon their shores, which, as they are 
usually shelving and have a hard bottom, render 
some further variation in structure necessary. The 
lodge represented in the above ground plan (Fig. 14) is 
situated upon the south shore of Lake Diamond, a few 


rods above its outlet. Two-thirds of it were built out 
upon the lake for the obvious purpose of covering the 
entrance as well as for its extension into deep water. 
It measured, on the line of the shore, seventeen feet 
over its summit, and twenty-four feet in the trans- 
verse direction, and was three feet and a half high. 
The chamber was between the five trees which were 
growing through the lodge and connected with the 
lake by a long passage-way within the lodge. It 
was constructed of sticks and poles in the usual man- 
ner. A few rods above there was another lodge built 
out upon the water in the same way and for the same 
object. Similar lodges are found upon the shores of 
most of the lakes within the area embraced by the 
map. They are chiefly interesting as illustrations 
of their capacity to vary the mode of construction 
of their lodges in accordance with the changes of 

The finest lodge I have seen was upon a grass island 
in Lake Flora. It was remarkable for its regular 
and symmetrical proportions. Externally it was a 
mass of naked poles and sticks, rather conical than 
dome-shaped, four feet high and sixteen feet over the 
apex. Its base was smaller than usual, relatively to 
its height. This lodge was the habitation of the 
beaver whose skeleton is represented in Plate III. I 
first saw it in 1862. In 1865 I went again to see it 
with the intention of obtaining a photograph, but 
found it deserted and going to decay. 

Beavers are found upon the Missouri River from 
the mountains down to the mouth of the Big Sioux, 
along a distance of more than fifteen hundred miles, 
although the signs of their presence are not abundant 



below the Yellowstone. Above the mouth of the last 
named river their tree cuttings are seen in great num- 
bers on the banks at intervals all the way to the 

Fig. 15. 

False Lodge, Upper Missouri. 

mountains, with the exception of the district known 
as the Bad Lands. They live in burrows in the banks, 
but protect the entrances to them by a false lodge, as 
shown in the figure. After the river has subsided to 
its lowest level, which is shortly after the first of 
September, they construct a lodge upon the bed of 
the river and against its vertical bank. It is built of 
sticks and poles of willow and cotton-wood, in the 
precise manner of the lodges described, without being 
intended for a residence, but instead of that, as a pro- 
tection to the entrance to their burrow, which rises 
from under this lodge back into the bank and well up 
toward the surface, where the chamber or burrow is 
excavated. The materials used in the construction 
of this lodge furnish undoubtedly a portion of their 
supply of winter wood, as well as a lodgment for 
their short cuttings for the same purpose. With 
the spring rise in the river most of these lodges 
are swept away; but as the entrances to their bur- 


rows are then deep below the surface of the water, 
the security of their habitations is not endangered 
until the river again subsides in the fall, when 
they are again reconstructed. I saw a number of 
these lodges between the Yellowstone River and the 
Rocky Mountains, in June, 1862, which had with- 
stood the great freshet of that year; and made the 
above sketch of one of them. The entrances or pas- 
sage-ways often extend back twenty feet into the 
bank, and each communicates with one or more under- 
ground chambers which are always found near the 
surface. Trappers who have opened them describe 
the chambers as small, but neatly formed and clean. 
Lodges are occasionally seen upon the river banks and 
upon the bottom lands, but from the extent of the 
cutting among the cottonwood-trees, which sometimes 
lay in piles upon each other, it is evident that most 
of the beavers inhabit the river banks. 

Whether beaver lodges ever have more than one 
chamber is a question. It has been stated that two 
have been found, in some instances, one above the 
other. I have opened a large number of these lodges 
in dissimilar situations, and never found but one with 
two chambers, and these were upon the opposite sides 
of a fallen tree, over which the lodge was constructed. 
The chambers communicated with each other by 
water, though not directly. In some cases three or 
four lodges have been found in a cluster, and so near 
together as to have a common roof; on opening which 
it was ascertained that each had its separate passages 
to the water, and no communication with the others. 
They were separate lodges, built side by side, and 
probably at different periods; and were turned into 


one externally by the process of repairing in the man- 
ner previously stated. Two or three thus situated 
relatively are occasionally seen in the Lake Superior 
region. A Rocky Mountain trapper informed me that 
he had opened a lodge, upon one of the tributaries of 
the Missouri, which contained four chambers, each 
communicating with the other, and with the pond, 
and in one of which he found a quantity of cuttings 
stored for winter use. The other statement with ref- 
erence to lodges with two chambers, one above the 
other, appears to be without foundation. As a general 
rule, the lodge has a single chamber, and where two 
or more are placed side by side, there is no connec- 
tion between them. 

In addition to the lodge, the same beavers, who in- 
habit it, have burrows in the banks surrounding the 
pond. They never risk their personal safety upon 
the lodge alone, which, being conspicuous to their 
enemies, is liable to attack. These burrows are the 
ultimate places of refuge to which they are more apt 
to retire than to their lodges, when disturbed on the 
land. Along their canals, also, the burrows are nu- 
merous, since while in their narrow channels they are 
more exposed than while in the ponds. These bur- 
rows are small underground chambers. They are en- 
tered by a passage-way, usually under the roots of a 
tree standing in the edge of a pond, which, wdth the 
chamber, are from ten to fifteen feet in length. As 
the entrances are always below the surface level of 
the pond, there are no external indications to mark 
the site of a burrow except one, and that occasional 
only, which will be hereafter noticed. A description 
of two or three of these burrows, with diagrams and 
measurements, will illustrate their character. 



This burrow (Fig. 16) is on the east side of the lake, 
a few rods south of the outlet of Lake Diamond. There 

Fig. 16. 

Ground Plan of Beaver Burrow at Grass Lake. 

are two entrances, separated by a stone, and roofed 
over with roots and earth. The one upon the right 
side passes under the edge of a rock; the one on the 
left, under the roots of a tree; and both are two feet 
below the surface of the water. Within the distance 
of fifteen feet from the pond, the bank rose about 
seven feet above its level. The burrow rose also with 
the bank, so that at the distance of eight feet from 
its mouth, the roof of the burrow came within six 
inches of the surface of the ground above, and at its 
extreme end within three inches, the roots of the 
overspreading forest trees forming a covering of suffi- 
cient strength. It was evidently carried thus near 
the surface for the admission of air through the 
ground roof. The chamber, in its most capacious 
portion, was a foot high and twenty inches wide. 
With its branches it would afford ample accommoda- 
tions for a beaver family. I found it accidentally by 
observing a small opening into it at its extreme end, 
which enabled me to open the remainder of it easily 



for the purpose of measurement. The breach pre- 
viously made had destroyed it for beaver use. 


Ground Plan of second Beaver Burrow at Grass Lake. 

About twenty feet above the great dam, and upon 
the south side of the pond, is the burrow represented 
in the above figure (Fig. 17). It ascends with the 
bank, which it enters under the roots of a tree, is ten 
feet long, and has a chamber twenty inches in width 
and a foot high. It terminates under the roots of a 
pine-tree, where its roof comes within four inches of 
the surface of the ground. It is a good specimen of 
the ordinary burrow. 

North of the Cleveland Mine there is a natural pond, 
shown on the map, which will be more particularly de- 
scribed hereafter. The canals which enter it have a 
number of burrows upon their upper portions, one of 
which is represented in the figure (Fig. 18). This bur- 
row is shown in Plate XVIII., and is the one nearest to 
the pond. It was found open at the centre and also at 
the extreme end. The length of the passage-way from 
the canal was eleven feet, and this communicated with 
a chamber three feet two inches by two feet and a half 



in ground dimensions, and about ten inches high. The 
roof of the latter came near to the surface, and was 
formed chiefly of the roots of the clump of trees under 

Fig. 18. 

Ground Plan of Bun-ow ou Beaver Canal. 

which it was excavated. Water stood in the passage- 
way nearly to the chamber. It is a fine specimen of 
a burrow. 

Fig. 19. 

Beaver Burrow. Ground Plan. 

Burrows are often found excavated under fallen 
trees when lying near the pond. The above figure 
(Fig. 19) shows one of this description near dam 
No. 14. A canal about ten feet long and from three 


to four wide, leads up to the roots of a tree, back of 
which are two logs. The burrow was excavated under 
these fallen trees, which were much decayed, and the 
entrance to it was under the roots of the tree in front 
of them. No further description is necessary; and 
this, with the foregoing illustrations, sufficiently pre- 
sent the subject of burrows. The necessity for pro- 
tecting the entrances to these burrows by a sufficient 
depth of water in the pond to cover them, illustrates 
still further the uses of the dam and the importance 
of maintaining the pond at a uniform level. 

The small number of lodges found upon the largest 
ponds, and the large number of burrows, renders 
it probable that there are more beavers in every 
pond than the lodges can accommodate; and yet it is 
difficult to ascertain the truth of the matter. The 
lodges are undoubtedly warmer in the summer than 
the burrows, and therefore better adapted to the rear- 
ing of their young. If this use determined the num- 
ber, then the lodges would show the number of fami- 
lies inhabiting the pond. Beavers without mates, or 
who have lost their mates, would, in all probability, 
lead solitary lives in burrows; and these, with the 
full families in the several lodges would, most likely, 
represent the number of beavers in each pond. At 
all events, the trappers, whose rules are founded upon 
experience and observation, estimate the number of 
beavers in each pond by the number of lodges, reck- 
oning eight to the lodge in the Rocky Mountain 
region, and seven in that of Lake Superior. 

In the Cascade Mountains, the beavers live chiefly 
in burrows in the banks of the streams, rarely con- 
structing either lodges or dams. Upon this subject, 
Dr. Newberry, in his rejwrt on the Zoology of Oregon 


and California, remarks: ''The sides of these streams 
are lined with their habitations, though we never saw 
their houses, and seldom a dam; but usually their 
burrows penetrated the sides of the streams, a suffi- 
ciently large and long excavation being made to form 
warm, roomy, and comfortable quarters. We found 
the beavers in numbers, of which, when applied to 
beavers, I had no conception."^ 

The burrows of beavers inhabiting river banks are 
said to be occasionally detected by a small pile = of 
beaver cuttings found heaped up in a rounded pile, a 
foot or more high, at the extreme end of each burrow. 
It is affirmed by the trappers, and with some show of 
probability, that this is a contrivance of the beavers 
to keep the snow loose over the ends of their burrows, 
in the winter season, for the admission of air. I have 
never seen these miniature lodges, and therefore can- 
not confirm the statement, either as to their existence 
or use ; but if, in fact, they resort to this expedient, 
it is another reason for inferring that the lod,2"e was 
developed from the burrow with the progress of ex- 
perience. It is but a step from such a surface-pile of 
sticks to a lodge, with its chamber above ground, with 
the previous burrow as its entrance from the pond." A 
burrow accidentally broken through at the upper end, 
and repaired with a covering of sticks and earth would 
lead to a lodge above ground, and thus inaugurate a 
beaver lodge out of a broken burrow. 

^ Explorations for a Railroad Route, etc. to the Pacific. VI. 
Zoology, 258. 

^ The Ojibwas call a burrow 0-wazhe, whence the name 
"wash," commouly used by the trappers to denote a beaver 



Subsistence exclusively Vegetable — Kinds of Bark preferred — Roots of 
Plants — Incisive Teeth Chisels — Their cutting Power — It diminishes with 
Age — Provisions for Winter — Season for collecting — Felling Trees — 
Their size — Number of Beavers engaged — Manner of cutting — Chips — 
Short Cuittings — Moving them on Land — Floating them in Water — Sink- 
ing them in Piles — Wood-eating — Evidence that they eat Clear Wood — 
Brush-heap at Lodge restricted to Particular Places — Their Use — Ponds 
in Winter — Winter Life of Beavers. 

The nutriment of the beaver is drawn exclusively 
from the vegetable kingdom. They subsist princi- 
pally upon the bark of deciduous trees. Where the 
variety is large, they prefer, as is shown by their cut- 
tings, yellow birch, cotton-wood, poplar, and willow. 
These are their chief reliance. They also eat the 
bark of the soft and bird's-eye maple, of the walnut, 
and of the black and white ash, together with various 
kinds of roots, such as those of the pond lily, and of 
the coarse grasses that grow in the margins of their 
ponds. Late in the winter they eat clear wood, and 
such roots as they can reach from their burrows or 
find in the banks. This subject of wood eating will 
be referred to again. In the summer they rarely cut 
large trees, but live upon the bark of the smaller ones, 
upon willow and raspberry bushes, and upon different 
kinds of roots. Notwithstanding the great abund- 
ance of food at this season of the year, they are usu- 
ally the fattest in the winter. 


As cutting instruments, they are armed with power- 
ful incisive teeth, by means of which they are able to 
cut down forest trees of surprising size in comparison 
with their own diminutive forms. Their teeth are 
chisels in form and structure, and also in efficiency. 
When at the age of eighteen months, and from that 
on to two and three years old, their teeth, which 
during these periods are in a rapidly growing state, 
are in the best condition for cutting. After this, as 
they grow older, their teeth file down with constant 
use, and growing less rapidly, become dull and inef- 
ficient in cutting. It is said that the diminution of 
cutting power is so great that very old beavers are 
often unable to provide themselves with food suffi- 
cient for their sustenance during the winter, and, in 
consequence, become poor and feeble, A beaver of 
this description was caught, in the fall of 1864, on 
one of the dams of the Esconauba, and upon being 
shown to William Bass (Ah-she-gos), an Ojibwa trap- 
per extremely well versed in the habits of the beaver, 
he remarked that, "had he escaped the trap, he would 
have been killed by other beavers, before the winter 
closed, for stealing cuttings." Such beavers are often 
found dead, with gashes in their bodies, showing that 
they had been attacked by their associates, which oc- 
currences the Indians explain in this way. 

The thick bark upon the trunks of large trees, and 
even upon those of medium size, is unsuitable for 
food; but the smaller limbs, the bark of which is 
tender and nutritious, afibrd the aliment which they 
prefer. To cut down a tree, by persevering labor, in 
order to reach its limbs and branches, is of itself an 
act of intelligence and knowledge of no ordinary 


character. Their practice of cutting down trees is 
sufficiently well understood ; but precise information is 
desirable as to the manner in which it is done, the size 
of the trees felled, and the way in which the limbs are 
reduced, removed, and stored for winter use. These 
topics will form the subject of the present chapter. 

As beavers do not hibernate, they are compelled to 
provide a store of subsistence for the long winters of 
the North, during which their ponds are frozen over, 
and the danger of venturing upon the land is so 
largely increased as to shut them up, for the most part, 
in their habitations. In preparing for the winter, 
their greatest efforts in tree cutting are made. They 
commence in the latter part of September, and con- 
tinue through October and into November the several 
employments of cutting and storing their winter 
wood, and of repairing their lodges and dams. These 
months are the season of their active labors, which 
are only arrested by the early snows and the forma- 
tion of ice in their ponds. It is a feature of the cli- 
mate of the Lake Superior region, and I presume it is 
equally true of that around Hudson's Bay, that the 
snows begin to fall before the frost has entered the 
ground, whence it is, that throughout the winter the 
earth remains unfrozen, under a deep covering of snow. 
In this we recognize a beneficent provision of the Cre- 
ator for the welfare of the burrowing animals, without 
which many of them would perish. The beavers, as 
has elsewhere been stated, perform the most of their 
work at night; but they come out early in the even- 
ing, and continue at work during the early morning 
hours. For the remainder of the day they are rarely 
seen, except in regions where they are very numer- 


ous, or are entirely undisturbed by trappers. On the 
Upper Missouri I have seen them swimming in the 
river in broad day, and also basking in the sun on the 
tops of their false lodges under the banks. We 
brought down with us a young beaver caught with a 
scoop net, while swimming near the river bank. In 
the Lake Superior region I have seen them generally 
in the night, while watching on their dams for this 
purpose. By making a breach in their dams you can 
compel them to come out, but it will be late in the 
night before they show themselves, and they are so 
wary that it is extremely difficult so to conceal your- 
self in their immediate vicinity as to see them work. 
After ice has formed in their ponds, they retire to 
their lodges and burrows for the winter, and they are 
not seen again, either by day or night, except in rare 
instances, until a thaw comes, of which they take 
"advantage to come out after fresh cuttings. It is said 
that the bark of their winter wood is apt to become 
soft and sour before spring from soakage in the pond, 
wherefore a mitigation of the severity of the winter, 
sufficient to open the ice in their ponds, is in every 
sense a providential relief. 

In establishing their lodges so as to adapt them to 
winter occupation, and in the manner of providing 
their winter subsistence, the beavers display remark- 
able forethought and intelligence. The severity of 
the climate in these high northern latitudes lays 
upon them the necessity of so locating their lodges 
as to be assured of water deep enough in their 
entrances, and also so protected in other respects, as 
not to freeze to the bottom; otherwise they would 
perish with hunger, locked up in ice-bound habita- 


tions. To guard against this danger, the dam, also, 
must be sufficiently stable through the winter to 
maintain the water at a constant level; and this 
level, again, must be so adjusted with reference to the 
floor of the lodge as to enable them, at all times, to 
take in their cuttings from without, as they are 
needed for food. When they leave their normal mode 
of life in the banks of the rivers, and undertake to 
live in dependence upon artificial ponds of their own 
formation, they are compelled to forecast the conse- 
quences of their acts at the peril of their lives. 

Before entering upon the subject of tree cuttings, it 
may be proper to make a slight reference to the char- 
acter of the forests in the principal beaver districts re- 
ferred to in these pages. On the Upper Missouri and 
its tributaries, cotton-wood is the prevailing tree, and 
willow the principal bush. In this region, therefore, as 
their favorite subsistence is both abundant and conve- 
nient of access, beavers have been found in the greatest 
numbers. Upon the Siskatchewun and its affluents, 
the forest growth is much the same, with a limited 
proportion of evergreen trees. Around Hudson's Bay 
and the shores of Lake Superior, the prevailing trees 
are the tamarack, the spruce, the hemlock, and the 
pine, but they are interspersed with the birch, the pop- 
lar, the maple, and other deciduous trees, and also 
with patches of willow upon the borders of the 
streams; which together furnish such an abundance 
of subsistence as to render them but little inferior 
to the first for beaver occupation. The only differ- 
ence against the latter is the necessity for transport- 
ing their cuttings over longer distances. In Cali- 
fornia, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, 





while evergreen trees are the principal forest growth, 
deciduous tree.'^ are sufficiently abundant for all the 
purposes of beavei maintenance. There was scarcely 
any portion of the original forest area of North 
America, except the exclusively pine tracts, where 
beavers could not sustain themselves in considerable 
numbers. Their greatest numbers, however, were 
found in those particular districts of country where 
the trees, whose bark was preferred, were found in 
the greatest profusion. 

The engraving (Plate XV. Fig. 1) is from a photo- 
graph of an original specimen now in my collection. 
It was in the process of being cut down by the beavers 
in October, 1862, when my attention was called to it 
by some woodmen, who had observed it on the south 
shore of Lake Flora, near dam No. 2. I went to the 
place and secured it before the beavers had an oppor- 
tunity to finish their work, which another night would 
probably have consummated, to the destruction of the 
symmetry of the cutting. The tree is a yellow birch, 
thirteen and a half inches in diameter below the in- 
cision, and twelve inches above, with a circumference 
of something over three feet. As the tree was green, 
and this part was removed before it had been exposed 
to the weather, the marks of the teeth are seen with 
entire distinctness over every part of the cut surface. 
The width of the incision up and down is eight inches, 
and it was commenced seven inches above the ground. 
It is evident that the process of cutting is round and 
round the tree continuously, and that the reduction is 
uniform until it is cut on all sides more than halfway 
to the centre. After that, the remainder of the cut- 
ting varies; in some cases it is uniform until the tree 


falls, while in others it is the deepest on one side, 
toward which it is then most likely to fall; and from 
which the inference is drawn, with some degree of 
probability, that it was the intention of the beavers 
to fell it in that direction. Where the tree leans 
slightly, the deepest cutting is on the side opposite to 
the direction of its fall; and where it stands upon a 
side hill, it is often, when the tree is small, cut entirely 
upon the upper side. While gnawing down a tree, 
they sit up erect on their hind feet, w^hich, being plan- 
tigrade, renders this posture natural and convenient 
for the body. Although I have not succeeded in wit- 
nessing the act, on the part of the beavers, of felling 
a tree, I have obtained the particulars from Indians 
and trappers who have. The usual number engaged 
in the work is but two, or a pair; but they are some- 
times assisted by two or three young beavers. It 
thus appears to be the separate work of a family, 
instead of the joint work of several families. One 
tree of the size of this would furnish a sufficient 
amount of small cuttings for their winter supply. 
When but two are engaged they work by turns, and 
alternately stand on the watch, as is the well-known 
practice of many animals while feeding or at work. 
When the tree begins to crackle, they desist from 
cutting, which they afterward continue with cau- 
tion until it begins to fall, when they plunge into the 
pond, usually, and wait concealed for a time, as if 
fearful that the crashing noise of the tree-fall might 
attract some enemy to the place. The next move- 
ment is to cut off the limbs, such as are from two to 
five and six inches in diameter, and reduce them to a 
proper length to be moved to the water and trans- 


ported thence to the vicinity of their lodges, where 
they are sunk in a pile as their store of winter pro- 
visions. Upon this work the whole family engage 
with the most persevering industry, and follow it up, 
night after night, until the work is accomplished. 
The greatest number of beavers ever seen thus en- 
gaged by any of my informants was nine, while the 
usual number is much less. These somewhat minute 
particulars are so far important as they tend to show 
the existence of the family relation, as well as the 
number of the family; and they also have some bear- 
ing upon the question of the recognized right of prop- 
erty in cuttings. A fair consideration of ascertained 
facts tends to the inference that each family is left to 
the undisturbed enjoyment of the fruits of their toil 
and industry. The manner of reducing and remov- 
ing limbs of trees will be further explained when we 
take up that class of cuttings. 

Another and a larger tree cutting of the kind above 
described, I found the present season (August, 1866), 
and sent it to the Commissioners of the Central Park, 
New York. It is a yellow birch, seventeen inches in 
diameter below the incision, fourteen inches above, 
and shows a cutting entirely around the tree four and 
a half inches deep. The incision was not as deep 
relatively as in the other case; but it removed the 
whole of the sap-wood and a portion of the duramen. 
It was cut thus far in the spring of the present year, 
as the tree was still alive and in full leaf; and with- 
out doubt for the purpose of eating the chips, as few 
or none were found at the foot. 

The second engraving (Fig. 2, Plate XV.) is also 
from a photograph of an original specimen in my col- 


lection. As the tree lodged in falling, it did not break 
at the point where it was cut. This tree was also a 
yellow birch, and stood on the border of Grass Lake, 
a few rods above the great dam. Since the deepest 
incision was upon the pond side of the tree, it seemed 
to have been their intention to fell it into the pond; 
but their expectations in this respect, if indulged, were 
disappointed; and further than this, their labor was 
lost by the lodgment of the tree. It measures seven- 
teen inches in diameter below the incision, and ten 
and a half above it, with a circumference at the place 
where it was made of three feet four inches. The cut 
was commenced six inches above the ground, and 
was twelve inches wide up and down the trunk of the 
tree. This tree cutting was two years old when I 
brought it away in 1861. It is quite a common prac- 
tice with beavers to fell trees into ponds and lakes 
for the purpose of submerging their branches, and 
thus preserving them, with all their small shoots and 
twigs, under water, where they may be accessible 
throughout the winter under the ice. Along the 
skirts of large ponds, where deciduous trees are found 
growing, numbers of trees thus fallen into the pond 
are seen; their conical stubs showing quite plainly by 
whom they were cut down. I have a second tree 
cutting precisely similar to this, the parts being un- 
separated by the fall, measuring sixteen inches in 
diameter below the incision, thirteen above it, and 
three feet three inches in circumference at the point 
where the incision was made. 

Beavers occasionally cut the wild-cherry tree, al- 
though it is somewhat doubtful whether they eat its 
bark. I found one of this description on the upper 


part of Carp River, the present summer, which meas- 
ured eighteen inches in its greatest diameter below 
the incision, and fourteen above. They had com- 
menced and cut round the tree in two places higher 
up, finally completing the work at a third and lower 
place. It is an interesting specimen for this reason, 
although somewhat weather-worn, since it shows the 
appearance of a tree cutting at different stages of its 
depth. None of its branches were either cut or re- 
moved by the beavers. These rings show that the 
cutting was commenced near the close of winter, in 
deep snow; and that the deepest and lowest cutting 
was made after the snows had wasted nearly to the 
ground. As few chips remained, it was evident that 
the incision was made for the purpose of eating the 
wood. This specimen is now in the State Collection 
at Albany. 

The foregoing are fair specimens, as to size, of the 
tree cuttings in the Lake Superior region, and are 
among the largest of the hard-wood trees usually cut 
down by the beavers. I have a number of speci- 
mens of all sizes from six to eighteen inches in 
diameter, all of which were cut in the same manner, 
and present the same external marks and conical 
form at the cut ends. Those described are not un- 
usually large. I have seen many others of equal size 
at places inconvenient for removal. One yellow birch 
at the head of Lake Flora, partly cut down, measured 
five feet and four inches in circumference below the 
incision, and four feet and six inches above, with but 
nine inches in diameter at the centre still uncut. 

The chips at the foot of a fresh cut tree are quite 
abundant, as well as objects of curiosity. I have 


an assortment of them, some of which measure three 
and a half inches in length, from an inch to an inch 
and a half in width, and about a quarter of an inch 
in thickness. 

Fig. 20. 

Beaver Chip. Natural size. 

The above representation (Fig. 20) shows the inner 
face of one of these chips. Upon the end to the right 
are six distinct cuts, the first two of which are but half 
the width of a single tooth ; while on the other, which 
is the thickest end, there are eight, some of which are, 
in like manner, but half the width of a single tooth. It 
is made evident by running the inferior incisive teeth 
in a beaver's skull over these several cuts, that the 
upper incisors are used for holding, while the cutting 
is done by the inferior; and more than this, that but 
a single tooth is used at a time, the other following 
in the space made by the previous bite. There is 
another fact which tends to confirm this explanation 
of the manner of cutting, which is that the chip is 
split inward toward the centre with each cut. If 
both of the inferior incisors were cutting at the same 
time, the split would occur with each alternate cut; 
otherwise one of the teeth would be sprung. These 
chips also show that the gnawing process is one of 
splitting as well as cutting. The crowning surface of 


each cut is found to fit exactly the slight concavity in 
the inner side of the incisor. It will be observed from 
the sloping edges of the chip that each cut penetrated 
deeper than the one preceding it as they severally ap- 
proach the centre, and that the split surface in the 
centre is less than an inch in length. From the size 
of this chip, and the number of distinct cuts upon it, 
some impression may be formed of the number and 
power of the bites necessary to gnaw down a tree of 
the diameter of either of those described; and yet it 
is said, by those who have witnessed the performance, 
that a pair of full-grown beavers will accomplish the 
work in two or three nights. 

Cottonwood-trees are soft and easily cut. The 
largest trees ever fallen by the beavers are of this 
kind. I have seen them on the banks of the Upper 
Missouri twenty inches and two feet in diameter. 
One specimen in my collection, which I brought down 
this river from a point about a hundred miles east 
of the Rocky Mountains, measures sixteen inches in 
diameter, and was an ordinary specimen. It is re- 
presented in the group of cuttings (Plate XVI.), 
but partly concealed from view. Father De Smet, 
the well-known missionary to the Indians of the 
Columbia River, informed me that he had seen cot- 
tonwood-trees, cut down by beavers, thirty inches in 
diameter; and Dr. F. V. Hay den, that he had meas- 
ured a cotton wood-tree, on the Yellowstone River, 
after it was cut down by them, of the same diameter. 
Lewis and Clarke, remarking upon the tree cuttings 
at the mouth of the same river, state that "the 
beavers have committed great devastation among the 



trees, one of which, nearly three feet in diameter, had 
been gnawed through by them."^ After passing Fort 
Randall, in ascending the Missouri, the cottonwood- 
tree cuttings are seen in places in great numbers 
along a distance of a thousand or more miles to the 
mountains. At some points, as elsewhere stated, they 
are cut down in such quantities as to form piles of 
timber; but where these occur, the trees are usually 
small. On the Yellowstone River, where the quan- 
tity of cotton-wood is small and confined to the bottom 
lands, the be:ivers were making such havoc at the 
time of my visit (1862) that the Crow Indians had 
become seriously concerned about their own supply of 
wood. This may seem extravagant, and it probably 
was an unnecessary alarm : but it is also easy to dis- 
cover that with beavers very numerous and the sup- 
ply of wood limited, they might draw overlargely 
upon the supply. 

Small trees and the limbs of large trees are cut 
into pieces of convenient length for transportation, 
and consequently must bear a definite relation to the 
physical powers of the animal. It is necessary to 
move them on land, from where they are cut, to the 
nearest accessible point in the pond, whence they 
are floated to the place where they are to be sunk 
to form a magazine of provisions for the winter. 
The larger, therefore, the limb is in diameter, the 
shorter must be the cutting in order to be movable. 
A comparison of a large number of these cuttings 
shows that when five inches in diameter, they are 
usually about a foot long; when four inches in diam- 

^ Travels, etc. Longman's ed., p. 146. 


eter, they are about a foot and a half long; and when 
three inches in diameter, they are about two feet long, 
Poles from one to two inches in diameter are often 
found eight, ten, and twelve feet in length; and also 
cut up into short lengths from a few feet to a few 
inches long. Short cuttings of these dimensions they 
are able to roll for considerable distances, or drag with 
their teeth to the water; after Avhich they are easily 
transported to the vicinity of their lodges and there 
sunk. I have, in my collection, a large assortment of 
these cuttings of every size and variety, a selection 
from which is represented in Plate XIV,, engraved 
from a photograph of the originals. 

The four separate pieces shown in the engraving 
which are marked No. 1, are bird's-eye maple denuded 
of bark. This portion of the tree was six feet long 
before it was cut into lengths, and from five to six 
inches in diameter. It will be observed that the cut 
ends are conical, showing that the beavers cut round 
and round, in the process of doing which it is neces- 
sary to turn the stick. One turning would probably 
suffice to cut a limb three inches in diameter; but one 
of the size of this would require several. The small 
tree from which these cuttings were made grew upon 
the border of the pond, and formed the part nearest 
to the root. While the remainder of the tree was cut 
up and removed, these were left from inability to take 
them away. Near the root of the tree there was a 
depression in the ground across which it fell, and 
wdien cut into lengths the pieces rolled down into the 
basin. The largest weighed eleven pounds and a half 
in its dry state, and the smallest six. Finding their 
removal impossible, they were stripped of their bark 


and abandoned. In moving cuttings of this descrip- 
tion, they are quite ingenious. They shove and roll 
them with their hips, using also their legs and tails 
as levers, moving sideways in the act. In this man- 
ner they move the larger pieces from the more or less 
elevated ground, on which the deciduous trees are 
found, over the uneven but generally descending sur- 
face to the pond. The tree cuttings are usually 
within a few rods of the water, and are rarely found 
at any great distance unless upon side hills which 
favor their easy descent. After one of these cuttings 
has been transported to the water, a beaver, placing 
one end of it under his throat, pushes it before him to 
the place where it is to be sunk. How they sink 
them is a question. The yellow birch, when fresh 
cut, is of nearly the same specific gravity as water. 
On trying the experiment with a piece of the size of 
an ordinary cutting, I found that it would barely 
float, the whole of it becoming submerged except a 
small portion at one. end. It was evident that a few 
hours of soakage would carry it to the bottom. It is 
sufficient to state the fact that piles of these cuttings 
are found, late in the fall, sunk near their lodges in the 
ponds, — except where brush piles are found, the uses 
of which will hereafter be explained. In amount 
they vary from one-quarter to three-quarters of a cord, 
while in occasional instances a full cord has been 
found. Pole cuttings, short bits, and brush are 
dragged to the water with their teeth, and are gener- 
ally moved through the water held in the same man- 
ner. In swimming, the upper part of the head and a 
small part of the shoulders only are out of water; so 
that they are often seen with a stick or piece of brush 


held ill the teeth at one end, with the remainder 
passing diagonally across the back. Captain Johnson 
once saw a beaver swimming in Grass Lake, in the 
daytime, with a small bundle of grass upon the top of 
his head, which he was evidently transporting to his 

Beaver stick No. 2 in the engraving is a very in- 
teresting specimen, since it illustrates an intermediate 
stage of the process of cutting branches of trees into 
short lengths. It is a yellow birch, seven feet and a 
half long, with an average of three and a half inches 
in diameter. They commenced cutting it into seven 
pieces, of which the first four were each about a foot 
long, and the remaining three each about twenty 
inches; and the work was going on at all of these in- 
cisions at the same time. Some of them were cut 
about half through, the others less or more. The stick, 
in other words, was ready to be turned for the com- 
pletion of the work. To cut it entirely through from 
the upper side would require an incision of such width 
as to involve a loss of labor. Among the piles on 
piles of cuttings seen and examined, I do not recol- 
lect of ever finding one of hard wood of the thickness 
of this cut entirely through from one side. There 
was a prong at each end of this stick, the longest of 
which is not seen in the engraving, which evidently 
defeated their efforts to turn it over. Finding this 
impossible, the stick was abandoned after stripping off 
the bark on its upper surface. This specimen is in- 
teresting from the revelation it seems to make of the 
mannerof reducing the branches of trees. In the first 
place, after felling a tree, they cut off from the trunk 
such limbs as are of suitable size to be cut into lengths 


for transportation, which is but a small part of a large 
tree. They next trim each limb by cutting off, close 
to the body, the small branches and twigs, thus free- 
ing it of brush. There are nine such, large and small, 
cut off from this stick. How the limbs are cut into 
sticks of the length of this I am unable to state, but 
it must be effected before they are brought, by the re- 
moval of the branches, prone upon the ground. After 
that they can only be gnawed upon the top and sides, 
and the stick must be turned to complete the work. 
Whenever, from any cause, they are unable, as in this 
case, to turn it over, they are forced to abandon it, or 
finish their labor in an unusual manner. That they 
rarely fail is shown by the scarcity of these abandoned 
cuttings. I have found but three, two of which are 
in my collection, and the third was left to be brought 
in, but the person sent after it was unable to retrace 
the route. 

The short cutting, No. 3 in the engraving, was 
taken from the top of the lodge at dam No. 14. Both 
ends are conical, showing that it was turned while 
being gnawed. There are two extra cuts, which on 
close examination show the same fact. The only ex- 
planation which can be offered for these extra inci- 
sions is that the wood itself was eaten. Stick No. 4, 
which is a poplar, is marked in precisely the same 
way. These apparently unnecessary gnawings are 
often found on beaver cuttings. No. 5 is the stub of 
a small tree, with two deep incisions around it, while 
it was taken off at a third place above. These are 
the only evidences found upon the cuttings themselves 
that they ever eat clear wood. It was stated by some 
of the early writers that the beaver subsisted upon 


wood as well as bark/ but the former fact appears to 
have been overlooked in the more recent articles upon 
this animal, until the statement became general that 
he lived upon bark and the roots of certain plants. 
The three beavers sent down for dissection last win- 
ter were taken in February and March, at the time 
when, their store of provisions being the lowest, they 
might, if ever, be expected to eat clear wood. Dr. 
Ely found their stomachs filled with lignine, with a 
slight intermixture of the tendrils of forest trees, and 
no perceptible remains of bark. The comminuted 
particles were so clearly of wood as to leave no doubt 
upon the question. The contents of the csecum dis- 
closed the same fact, as the digestive process simply 
removed the saccharine materials from the wood. At 
the same time the beavers were in excellent condition. 
Trees are often found in the spring gnawed around, 
and no chips at the foot. It was evident from the 
leaves that the work was done after the sap had 
started, and for the purpose of eating the wood. 
Additional evidence, tending to confirm the fact of 
wood-eating, may be derived from a comparison of 
the amount of bark upon the usual stock of winter 
cuttings with the necessary wants of a beaver family 
of six or eight individuals. It would afford to each 
but a small amount of sustenance. 

While it is generally understood that beavers 
never eat the bark of evergreen trees, for which 
they have an aversion, they sometimes cut them 
down; and it may be done for the purpose of eat- 

^ M. Sarrasin, Histoirc dc I'Academie Royale dcs Sciences. 
Annee 1104. 


ing the wood. Dr. Newberry, in his Report re- 
ferred to {supra, p. 165), remarks as follows upon the 
tree cuttings in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon: 
"From the point where their burrows terminate in 
the water, trails lead off to the thickets of willow or 
pine, where the beavers find their food. These thick- 
ets exhibit the most surprising proofs of the power 
and industry of these animals; whole groves of young 
pine-trees cut down within a few inches of the ground, 
and carried off bodily. * * * y^Q often saw trees 
of considerable size cut down by the beaver; the 
largest of which I noticed was a spruce pine, twelve 
inches in diameter." In the Lake Superior region no 
species of evergreen tree is ever cut by them; except 
occasionally a young spruce, and in these cases the 
Indians affirm that they are cut down for the gum 
exuded from the tree. A Missouri trapper informed 
me that he had seen pine-trees that had been cut 
down by beavers, but he observed, that he never could 
find a place where a limb or a twig had been cut off 
from such a tree. There is a possibility that the 
evergreen trees, referred to by Dr. Newberry, were cut 
down by the beavers to obtain the nutritious mosses 
which grow upon certain species of these trees in 
great profusion; or for the sweet gums they afforded. 
Upon the pines west of the mountains there is a moss, 
growing as a parasite, which the Indians collect in 
large quantities and bake in ground ovens for winter 
food. It is cooked or baked in the same manner as 
the Kamash, which is one of their staple articles of 
consum|)tion. A "moss glue," as it is commonly 
called, is thus obtained, which is both palatable and 
nutritious. The inner bark of the gum-pine tree also. 


is sweet flavored, and used by the Indians for food. 
Undoubtedly the beavers of the west coast have 
special inducements to attack the evergreen trees 
which do not exist in other parts of their habitat. 

Pole cuttings of different lengths are often found 
in their piles of winter wood, but they are generally 
cut for present use. Fresh cuttings are rarely found 
between the commencement of vegetation in the 
spring and the first appearance of frost in the fall. 
When the trapper begins to find them, he regards it 
as a sign that they have commenced their fall work. 

After their cuttings of various lengths and sizes 
have performed the first office for which they were 
collected and stored, they are in the condition to be 
most useful for repairing their lodges and dams. 
Most of the sticks and poles found upon the tops of 
their lodges and upon the lower faces of their dams 
show conclusively that they were first cut and stored 
for winter subsistence, then carried into the lodge and 
the bark eaten off", after which they were thrown out 
into the pond, to be again gathered and applied to the 
purposes named. This is not always the case with 
respect to their lodges, some of which I have found 
covered with a mass of poles of black alder, with the 
bark on ; upon their dams, also, brush and drift-wood 
are often found; but these cuttings are the usual 
materials used for repairing both. 

There is another class of brush cuttings, the prin- 
cipal object and use of which are involved in some 
doubt. In streams having considerable volume, which 
are liable to rise suddenly after rains or thaws, and 
develop currents more or less strong, a brush-heap 
(Fig. 21) is almost universally found sunk in the pond 



immediately against, or slightly above each lodge. 
There is a strong current, at such times, in Carp River 
below dam No. 30, and in the Esconauba below dam 
No. 13. On the other hand, these brush piles are 
rarely, if ever, found connected with lodges situated 
upon the margins of ponds formed by dams across 

Fig. 21. 

Brush-heap near Lodge. 

small brooks, or near island lodges in large ponds, 
or near the lake lodges. In the ponds of the small 
streams there is little or no current, and none that 
is perceptible in the small lakes. As a confirm- 
ation of the supposed relation between these currents 
and the brush heaps, the latter were found con- 
nected with all of the lodges on the Carp below the 
point named, while none were to be seen near the 
lodges in Grass Lake, nor in the pond at the Long 
Dam, nor at any of the lake lodges. The same is 


equally true with reference to the four lodges on the 
margin of the natural pond hereafter described. 

The brush-heap represented in the figure was in 
front of the lodge at dam No. 34. It was simply a 
pile of brush, composed of alder bushes and the small 
branches of deciduous trees, sunk to the bottom of the 
pond in water about four feet deep, with a portion of 
the pile rising above the surface. To form these 
heaps, they tow in the brush to the place, piece by 
piece, and sink it in some way in a well-compacted 
pile, which after a short time becomes firmly anchored 
in the mud below. A Missouri trapper informed the 
author that he had seen beavers, while performing 
this work, swim to the place towing a piece of brush, 
and then, holding the large end in their mouths, go 
down with it to the bottom apparently to fix it in the 
mud-bottom of the pond. An ordinarj^ pile covers an 
area from ten to fifteen feet in diameter, and rises a 
few feet above the surface of the water, and contains 
the substance of half a cord of wood. 

Both the Indians and the trappers regard these 
brush-heaps as their winter supply of provisions. 
Whether the old brush is removed each fall, and its 
place supplied with fresh, I have not been able to 
ascertain with any certainty, but it is very doubtful. 
I have seen the same brush piles at the same lodges 
in diffi?rent years, on the Carp, the brush itself being 
old and decayed; but without knowing whether the 
lodges were still occupied. In any event it would be 
necessary to replenish the supply at times, to make 
good the waste by decay. While the brush was fresh 
they would be certain to use it for food, but whether 
it is their supply for the winter, is made doubtful by 


the presence of short cuttings lodged here and there 
in the pile. Having in repeated instances seen and 
pulled out of these brush-heaps short cuttings of the 
kind found in their store piles in the large ponds and 
lakes, with the bark still upon them, the fact of their 
presence suggested the probability that the principal 
object of these brush-piles was to afford a safe lodg- 
ment for short cuttings, upon which they m.ainly 
rely. Without some such protection they would be 
liable to be floated off by the strong currents, and 
thus be lost to the beavers at the time when their 
lives might depend upon their safe custody. A resort 
to a brush-pile, anchored in the bed of the channel in 
the manner described, as a means to the safety of 
their winter wood, displays remarkable forecast and 
intelligence. It may also throw some light on the 
false lodges of the Upper Missouri, which may have 
been constructed in part for a similar object. Whe- 
ther this is the true explanation of their object is 
not entirely certain; but it seems to be extremely 

The otter is a rapid and splendid swimmer, possess- 
ing such agility of movement that he is able to catch 
the quickest fish. It is doubtful whether the beaver 
is quick enough in his motions, were he inclined to 
adopt this mode of subsistence. There is no evidence 
that he ever attacks or feeds upon fish. When 
domesticated he will eat some kinds of animal food; 
but he prefers farinaceous substances, and soon devel- 
ops a special fancy for sugar. 

The flesh of the beaver has no particular excellence 
to attract the epicure. It is used acceptably, how- 
ever, in the same forms as the flesh of other animals. 


The tail, which is composed largely of dense, fatty tis- 
sues, is regarded as a delicacy. 

It is rather remarkable, on general considerations, 
that the shallow ponds made by beaver dams do not 
freeze to the bottom during the cold winters of the 
high northern latitudes. The fixct that they remain 
unfrozen to this extent, even around Hudson's Bay, 
is well established. Ca^ptain Wilson informed me that 
he had found open water along the crest of the dam 
at Grass Lake, and generally at the lodge before 
described, in the coldest part of the winter, the ther- 
mometer in this region standing at an average of 5° 
below zero for weeks together. There are special 
reasons for this, among which is the deep covering 
of snow throughout the winter, which protects the 
water from the severe temperature of the atmosphere. 
The first fall of snow lies in the pond partly con- 
gealed, and afterward freezing at the surface, bears 
up the subsequent deposits. From this, or some other 
cause affecting the temperature of the water, the ice 
formed is not always strong enough in the coldest 
weather to bear up the weight of a man. Another 
curious fact observed by the trapper is, that thin ice 
is usually found over their piles of winter wood. As 
these ponds are rarely over six feet deep in any part 
of their area, the consequences of their wood becom- 
ing ice-bound would not be less fatal than the forma- 
tion of solid ice in the entrances to their lodcres. 
There are undoubtedly local causes affecting the tem- 
perature of ponds and of their different parts, such as 
springs rising through their beds with their waters at 
a relatively higher temperature, of the knowledge of 
which the beavers avail themselves in selecting the 


places of deposit for their winter subsistence, as well 
as the sites for their habitations. Strangely as it may 
appear to us, the winter life of the beaver, while shut 
up in the seeming darkness of a pond covered over 
with its white mantle of ice and snow, is made a 
season of security, of comfort, and of pleasure. Thus 
we see, on every hand, how the Divine Author of ex- 
istence has hedged about the lives of these remembered 
creatures with His protecting care. 

Note. — It is a peculiarity of the languages of our Indian na- 
tions that, while they are barren of terms to express metaphys- 
ical or abstract conceptions, they are opulent in terms for the 
designation of natural objects, and for expressing relative differ- 
ences in the same object. In the Ojibwa, for example, there are 
different names for the beaver according to his age, and com- 
pound terms to indicate sex, as follows : 

Specific name, Ah-raik'. 

Year old and under, Ah-wa-ne-sha'. 

Two years old, 0-bo-ye-wa'. 

Full grown, or old, Gi-chi-ah'-mik, 

Male beaver, Ah-yii-ba-mik'. 

Female beaver No-zha-mik^ 

Their terms for the works of the beaver are the following : 
O-ko'-min, beaver dam ; Wig-e-wam', beaver lodge ; 0-wazhe', 
beaver burrow; O-de-na-o'-nane, beaver canal — literally, "made 
channel to travel in;" 0-da-be-naze', lodge chamber — literally, 
" lodging place ;" Pii-pa-num-wad', snow chimney over lodge — lit- 
erally, "where they let off their breath." They have names, 
also, for the different kinds of cuttings ; but they are descriptive 
rather than specific terms. 

(a, as in ale; a, as in father; a, as in at; 1, as in ice; \, as in it.) 



Beaver Canals — Their Extraordinary Character — Originated by Necessity — 
Their Uses — Evidences of their Artificial Character — Canals at Natural 
Pond — Their Form and Appearance — Canal on Carp River — Use of Dams 
in same — Canal across Bend of Esconauba — Same across Island in Pond 
— Beaver Meadows — How formed — Their Extent — Beaver Slides on 
Upper Missouri — Scenery on this River — Bluffs of Indurated Clay — Bad 
Lands — White Walls— Game — Connection of River Systems with Spread 
of Beavers. 

In the excavation of artificial canals as a means for 
transporting their wood by water to their lodges, we 
discover, as it seems to me, the highest act of intelli- 
gence and knowledge performed by beavers. Remark- 
able as the dam may well be considered, from its 
structure and objects, it scarcely surpasses, if it may 
be said to equal, these water-ways, here called canals, 
which are excavated through the lowlands bordering 
their ponds for the purpose of reaching the hard wood, 
and of affording a channel for its transportation to 
their lodoes. To conceive and execute such a desim 
presupposes a more complicated and extended pro- 
cess of reasoning than that required for the construc- 
tion of a dam; and, although a much simpler work 
to perform, when the thought was fully developed, it 
was far less to have been expected from a mute ani- 

When I first came upon these canals, and found 
they were christened with this name both by Indians 



and trappers, I doubted their artificial character, and 
supposed them referable to springs as their producing 
cause; but their form, location, and evident object 
showed conclusively that they were beaver excava- 
tions. They are not mentioned, as far as I am aware, 
in any of the current accounts of this animal, for 
which reason, as well as their extraordinary character, 
they are deserving of more than a general notice. 

From the preceding engravings an impression has 
been obtained of the character of the forest in the 
vicinity of dams and ponds. It will be observed that 
the tamarack and spruce are the prevailing trees upon 
the borders of the streams. These evergreen trees 
are themselves indicative of swamp lands. Both the 
Esconauba and the Carp flow through low grounds, 
which, widening out in places into flats, are invariably 
covered with these trees; with the exception of the 
areas of the -beaver meadows. Birch, maple, poplar, 
and ash are found upon the first high ground; but 
often at the distance of several hundred feet from the 
original channel of the stream. In some places these 
rivers cut the high banks, thus bringing the deciduous 
trees within reach; but the latter are some distance 
back at the greater proportion of the ponds shown on 
the map. It is one of the principal objects of dams 
on the small streams, which are without defined 
banks, to flood the low grounds with a pond, and thus 
obtain a water connection with the first high ground 
upon which the hard wood is found. Where the pond 
fails to accomplish this fully, and also where the 
banks are defined and mark the limits of the pond, 
the deficiency is supplied by the canals in question. 
On descending surfaces, as has elsewhere been stated, 

Plate XVII 

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beavers roll and drag their short cuttings down into 
the ponds. But where the ground is low, it is gener- 
ally so uneven or rough as to render it extremely dif- 
ficult, if not impossible, for the beavers to move them, 
for any considerable distance, by physical force. 
Hence the canal for floating them across the inter- 
vening level ground to the pond. The necessity for it 
is so apparent as to diminish our astonishment at its 
construction; and yet that the beaver should devise 
a canal to surmount this difficulty is not the less 

The area represented by the map is not more 
abundantly supplied with dams, lodges, and burrows 
than with artificial canals. It contains within its 
limits nearly every variety of the works of the 
beaver found in North America, some of which, as 
the Grass Lake dam, are unequaled in their magni- 
tude and completeness. Beaver canals are very nu- 
merous within this area. Many of them are small 
and unimportant; but the great length of some of 
them is the striking feature which invests them, as 
artificial works, with a high degree of interest. 

Immediately north of the Cleveland Iron Mine there 
is a natural pond (Plate XVII.) covering about forty 
acres of land. It is bordered on all sides, except at its 
outlet, with rising ground at the distance of a few hun- 
dred feet from its margin. The intermediate ground is 
level, and rises but a few inches above the surface of 
the pond. On this low land there is first a border of 
moss turf entirely skirting the pond, and spreading 
out in different places from fifty to two hundred or 
more feet. Without this, tamarack, spruce, and pine 
are found; and upon the rising ground, birch, ash, and 



maple. The pond is shallow, and thickly sprinkled 
over in the summer with water lilies; while in the 
moss turf, the unique Pitcher-plant [Sarracenia Pur- 
purea) grows in the greatest profusion. This turf, 
which is saturated with water, and yields under the 
feet, spreads out like a carpet on the skirts of the 
pond. These particulars have been mentioned to 
show that there was not a spot of solid earth imping- 
ing upon the water in which the beavers could con- 
struct a burrow. It is well known that they never 
risk their personal safety upon the lodge alone, which 
is conspicuous to their enemies, but rely upon con- 
cealed burrows as the places of final resort. In addi- 
tion to the principal use of a canal to reach by water 
the hard-wood lands, it was also necessary to their 
inhabiting this pond that they should be able, by its 
means, to reach burrowing ground. 

These canals are about three feet wide and about 
three feet deep, with a depth of water varying from 
fifteen to thirty inches. They are made by excava- 
tion. The earth, which is more or less soft from sat- 
uration, is removed by being thrown out on either 
side, or carried out into the pond. In some places it 
appears to have been placed on the bank, but nearly 
all of these canals are so old that no signs can now be 
observed of the places where the excavated materials 
were deposited. Their artificial character is demon- 
strated by other proofs. In the first place, they are 
filled with water from the ponds up to the first of the 
dams, which are sometimes built across them; and 
where there are none, then to the end of the excava- 
tion. The banks, in the second place, are vertical, 
showing none of the marks of water flowing in a 



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BEAVEPv CANAL Nortlr Sidp 


small stream. In the third place, they often term- 
inate in dry hard earth at the foot of the rising 
ground. There is not, in the fourtli place, the slight- 
est current in these canals showing that they are fed 
by springs. In the fifth place, surface water, filtering 
through grounds substantially level, never could cut 
such uniform, and, much less, such deep ctiannels. 
And in the sixth and last place, roots of trees, four 
inches in diameter, are found cut off and removed to 
afford an unobstructed channel. In like manner, 
alder bushes, which branch low, as well as send out 
strong roots, are found cut off in large numbers where 
they overhang and line their borders. An inspection 
and comparison of a number of these canals leave no 
doubt whatever of their artificial character. 

The first canal to be described, and which is shown 
in Plate XYIII., is on the north side of the pond rep- 
resented in the preceding plate. For the distance 
of four hundred and fifty feet it is cut through level 
ground, and filled with water from the pond. There 
are knolls or hummocks scattered over the surface in 
which tamarack and spruce trees are rooted; but 
there is no perceptible ascent until the first dam is 
reached, when there is a rise of about a foot. The 
banks of the canal, which are vertical, rise a few 
inches above the level of the water with which it is 
filled. Up to this dam it is perfectly evident that the 
water in the canal is supplied from the pond. Twenty- 
five feet above there is a second rise of about a foot, 
and here we find a second dam, extending over seventy- 
five feet beyond the canal on one side, and twenty- 
seven on the other. As here used, these dams are 
exceedingly ingenious. They were designed to receive 


and hold the surface water from rains, as well as that 
passed down by drainage from the high grounds, after 
which it was collected by filtration, in the channel of 
the canal which is sunk about three feet below the level 
of the surrounding ground. At the distance of forty- 
seven feet from the second, there is a third and much 
larger dam, one hundred and forty-two feet long, con- 
structed in a semicircle, with its arms pointing out 
toward the high ground, and designed for the same 
object. It collects the surface water in pools, here 
and there, but fails to form a pond for want of suffi- 
cient water. , With this dam the canal terminates. 
At this point the hard wood is reached, at the dis- 
tance of five hundred and twenty-three feet from the 
pond. A B in the diagram represent a transverse 
section of the first dam, on the line of the canal; and 
C D, the same of the third. The crests of these 
dams where they cross the canal are depressed, or 
worn down, in the centre, by the constant passage of 
beavers over them while going to and fro, and dragging 
their cuttings. This canal, with its adjuncts of dams 
and its manifest objects, is a remarkable work, tran- 
scending very much the ordinary estimates of the in- 
telligence of the beaver. It served to bring the occu- 
pants of the pond into easy connection, by water, with 
the trees that supplied them with food, as well as to 
relieve them from the tedious, and perhaps impossible, 
task of moving their cuttings five hundred feet over 
uneven ground, unassisted by any descent. As an 
effort of free intelligence to surmount natural obstacles, 
it is one of the highest achievements of this animal. 
The width and depth of the channel at different 
points are sufficiently shown upon the ground plan. 

Plate XJX. 


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BEAVER CANAL. Soiitli Side. ■ 


Not the least interesting fact connected with this 
canal is that of the great amount of labor necessary 
for its excavation. It must have required many years 
of continuous effort before it wns brought into its pres- 
ent completed condition, both as to length and depth. 
The canals are most likely cleaned out and deep- 
ened from time to time, as materials from the surface 
fall into them and obstruct the channel. The bottom 
was covered with fine fibres and tendrils of tree roots, 
and with decayed leaves, which made it soft and yield- 
ing to the depth of a foot below the apparent bottom. 

There are several canals connected with this pond, 
of which the four largest commence near the four lodges 
situated upon its borders. It will be sufficient to de- 
scribe one of those remaining, taking that immediately 
opposite on the south side of the pond (Plate XIX.). 
This canal is also excavated through the low ground, 
and is filled to its extreme ends with water from the 
pond. At the distance of one hundred and fifty feet 
it reaches the first rise of ground, and the hard-wood 
land, where it branches into two canals, one of which 
is continued for one hundred feet, and the other for 
one hmidred and fifteen feet along the base of high 
and dry ground, covered with deciduous trees. Both 
branches terminate with a vertical cut in dry sandy 
soil, and are carried through the same low ground as 
the main trunk, the surface rising but a few inches 
above the level of the pond. Of its artificial char- 
acter there can be no doubt. The measurements are 
given upon the ground plan. 

This canal passed a number of knolls surmounted 
with trees, under many of which burrows had been ex- 
cavated. Evidences of this underground work were 


apparent in many places. One of these burrows, that 
nearest to the pond, is described with a diagram {supra, 
page 163). 

At the distance of about seventy feet from the pond, 
this canal widens out to five feet, and then bears a little 
to the left. The engraving (Plate XX.) is from a photo- 
graph taken from this point, and looking down toward 
the pond. It shows the pond and about seventy-five 
feet of the canal. The lodge is mostly concealed 
behind the clump of small trees upon the right. The 
engraving is inaccurate in one respect. It shows the 
ground too much elevated above the level of the 
water in the canal. 

There is one feature of this canal deserving of at- 
tention. After the rising ground, and with it the 
hard-wood trees, were reached at the point where it 
branched, there was no very urgent necessity for the 
branches. But their construction along the base of the 
high ground gave them a frontage upon the canal of 
two hundred and fifteen feet of hard-wood lands, thus 
affording to them, along this extended line, the great 
advantages of water transportation for their cuttings. 
If we are to regard these extensions as a further 
expression of their appreciation of the uses of a canal, 
it must increase our estimate of their powers of reflec- 
tion. "Instinct," as that unfortunate and blundering 
term is understood by those who comprehend its mean- 
ing, would have fully performed its office when the 
canal had been carried to the point of contact with the 
high ground. Any progress of the work beyond this 
must be referable to the exercise of a free intelligence.^ 

^ The lodges upon this pond were of the usual size, measuring 
from fourteen to sixteen feet over their summits, and from three 




There is an extensive canal on Carp River a short 
distance below the bend represented in Plate XIV. It 
runs through low, swampy ground, which is covered, 
for one-quarter of its length, with a thicket of alder so 
dense that it was difficult to follow the channel for the 
purposes of measurement. The river, which at this 
point is a hundred feet wide, more or less, is bordered 
with alder and cranberry bushes, and with a forest of 
tamaracks. Back of these, some six hundred feet, is the 
first rising ground covered with deciduous trees; to 
reach which the canal was constructed. At the dis- 
tance of one hundred and eleven feet from its com- 
mencement in the river there was a rise in the surface 
level of about a foot, which made necessary either a 
dam, or an additional foot of excavation, to furnish a 
sufficient depth of water. A dam twenty-five feet long, 
across the canal and the grounds adjacent, was the ex- 
pedient adopted. The second level of the canal, thus 
raised a foot above the first, continued one hundred 
and seventy-eight feet, where a second rise occurs of 
about the same amount, and where a second dam 
was constructed thirty feet long. As the ground on 
both sides of the canal was swampy, with water in 
pools here and there, it was only necessary to exca- 
vate a channel of the requisite depth to obtain a suffi- 
cient supply of water by filtration from the adjoining 
lands. Up to the first dam the canal was filled from 
the river, and consequently varied in depth with the 
rise and fall of the stream; but above this, where it 

feet to three feet six inches in height. The chamber of the lodge 
at the canal last described was four feet nine inches in its largest 
diameter, four feet six inches in its transverse, and one foot three 
inches high. 


depended upon the dam, and the source of supply 
before named, it was uniformly about eighteen inches 
deep. From the second dam the canal continued at a 
foot higher level for the distance of two hundred and 
ninety feet, where it terminated at the base of the 
hard-wood lands at a distance of five hundred and 
seventy-nine feet from the river. Its average width 
was about four feet, and it had an unobstructed chan- 
nel of about eighteen inches deep from one end to the 
other, with the exception of the dams. The run-ways 
of the beavers over these dams were very conspicu- 
ous. They were shown, as in the other cases, by a 
depression in the centre formed by traveling over 
them in going up and down the canal. At the mouth 
of the canal the river was not deep enough for a 
beaver to swim below its surface out into the stream. 
To obviate the difficulty, a channel, twenty-five feet 
long and a foot or more deep, was excavated in the 
bed of the river far enough out to carry them into 
deep water. The materials were thrown up in an 
embankment on the side below the excavation, ap- 
parently lest the current of the stream should carry 
them back into the channel. The excavation and the 
embankment, which were plainly to be seen side by 
side, the latter in places coming up to the surface of 
the water, presented another striking illustration of 
the industry as well as intelligence of the beaver. 

It is manifest from the form and general appearance 
of this canal (Plate XXI.) that it is artificial. In ad- 
dition to the uniformity and depth of its channel, its 
vertical banks, the absence of a current, the sources 
whence the water is obtained, and its actual use as a 
channel for the transportation of wood cuttings, there 

Plate XXI. 

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is still other evidence tending to the same conclusion. 
Alonii; the canal there are roots from two to four 
inches in diameter cut off at the bank on opposite 
sides, below the surface of the water, and removed. 
Alder bushes in great numbers, even when branching 
across the canal several inches above the ground, are 
found cut off to free the channel from obstructions. 
Besides these several considerations, the canal term- 
inates in dry ground; and the intermediate space 
through which it is carried is of such a character as 
to preclude the possibility of the formation of such a 
channel by natural causes. 

This canal may be regarded as typical of these 
works. They are usually cut through low, swampy 
ground where the supply of water is obtained by fil- 
tration from the adjacent lands, after forming a chan- 
nel for its reception. With dams at each change of 
level to prevent the channel from drawing off the 
water, they can be carried as far as pools of surface 
water can be found. 

It is not uncommon to find, at bends in streams, 
canals cut across the neck, apparently to shorten the 
distance in going up and down by water. One of this 
kind has been shown (Plate XIV.) in connection with 
a lodge. There are a number of these canals within 
the area of the map, three of the largest of which are 
shown in sections 4 and 28. The engraving (Plate 
XXII.) is from a photograph of one on the section last 
named, and it is introduced to show the beaver mead- 
ows on the Esconauba as well. It is a view across a 
bend in this river, showing the stream in the foreground 
passing by from right to left, and again in the back- 
ground flowing in the opposite direction. The canal 


is excavated across the neck, and appears in the right 
side of the engraving. It is one hundred and eighty- 
five feet long, three feet wide, and about fifteen inches 
deep. When the dam below (No. 14) was in repair 
and the pond full, it would be about four feet wide 
and three feet deep. No other object for these exca- 
vations can be assigned, except to shorten the distance 
in going up and down the river. There was no hard 
wood in its vicinity. Alder bushes were growing on 
both sides of the canal, which were cut away on one 
side to show the water within it. The evidence is 
less conclusive that these excavations are artificial 
than in the case of the canals before described.^ 

In some cases similar excavations are made across 
islands in their ponds, where they are long, for the 
obvious purpose of saving distance in going around. 
In the Chippewa River, in Lower Michigan, there is a 
pond, covering several hundred acres of land, formed 
by a beaver dam, in which there is a low island of firm 
earth nearly a mile in length. Across this island there 
are two such canals about five hundred feet long, exca- 
vated by the beavers for the purpose of a water transit 
over the island. They were described to me, with 
their dimensions, by the Rev. Mr. Johnson, for many 

^ The Ojibwas discriminate this variety of canal from the other, 
and call it o-ne-ge'-gome (from nee-geek', otter), signifying " otter 
crossing," from the use the otter is known to make of them. 
The otter is a "gay and festive" animal. He does not slide 
down hill upon the frozen snow after the fashion of the Polar 
bears described by Dr. Kane ; but, coiling himself up in the form 
of a hoop, with his tail in his mouth, he will roll down a hill 
upon the snow-crust with great velocity. Father De Sraet, be- 
fore referred to, witnessed this performance of an otter in Wash- 
ington Territory. 


years a missionary among the Ojibwa Indians, who 
went upon the island and examined them. Beaver 
excavations on a large scale are very common in dis- 
tricts favorable for their occupation, and they are 
greatly diversified in character. At the upper end of 
the principal pond at the gorge, where the series of 
dams are found, there is a canal two hundred and 
fifty feet long, which enters the pond where it is too 
shallow for a beaver to swim below the surface of the 
water. To correct this inconvenience a channel was 
excavated in the bed of the pond for about fifty feet 
in length, the materials from which were thrown up 
on either side. 

Beaver meadows are properly among the works of 
the beavers, although consequences, merely, of their 
labor for other objects. Where dams are constructed, 
the waters first destroy the timber within the area cov- 
ered by the ponds. When the adjacent lands are low, 
they are occasionally overflown after heavy rains, and 
are at all times saturated with water from the ponds. 
In course of time, the trees within the area affected 
are totally destroyed; in place of which a ra;nk, lux- 
uriant grass springs up. A level meadow, in the 
strict and proper sense of the term, is thus formed; 
although much unlike the meadow of the cultivated 
farm. At a distance they appear to be level and 
smooth; but when you attempt to walk over them, 
they are found to be a series of hummocks formed of 
earth and a mass of coarse roots of grass rising about 
a foot high, while around each of them there is a 
narrow strip of bare and sunken ground. The bare 
spaces, which are but a few inches wide, have the 
appearance of innumerable water-courses through 


which the water passes when the meadows are over- 
flowed. A beaver meadow, therefore, may be likened 
to the face of a waffle-h^on — the raised eminences of 
which represent the hummocks of grass, and the in- 
dentations the depressions around them for the pas- 
sage of water. In Plates IX. and XXII., which are 
engraved from photographs, a small portion of the 
beaver meadows are shown. 

The amount of lands in a beaver district thus 
turned into meadows is large, when the conditions 
under which they are produced are considered. On 
the Carp and Esconauba Rivers, within the area of 
the map, there are about ninety acres, in the aggre- 
gate, of beaver meadows; the situation and bound- 
aries of which are indicated by dotted lines. There 
are other districts, particularly on the main branch of 
the Esconauba, where the amount is much larger. 
These meadows are very common in the vicinity of 
beaver dams. When iron mining operations were 
first commenced in the Lake Superior region, the 
grass upon these meadows was the main reliance of 
the miners for hay for their winter stock. In 1865, 
Captain Johnson, superintendent of the Lake Supe- 
rior Mine, cut fifty tons of hay upon a single beaver 
meadow on the main branch of the Esconauba. 

In addition to the nutriment which the roots of 
these grasses afford to the beavers, the meadows them- 
selves are clearings in the wilderness, by means of 
which the light, as well as the heat of the sun, is let 
in upon their lodges. 

Beaver trails are quite numerous, as well as con- 
spicuous, along the margins of their ponds. They 
show their run-ways back into the woods, and the 







lines on which they move their cuttings into the 
ponds. They are narrow, Avell-beaten paths for a 
short distance from the ponds, but soon lose their dis- 
tinctness and disappear altogether. They are chiefly 
interesting as indications of their numbers, and of 
the long periods of time each dam has been main- 
tained, and each pond inhabited. 

On the Upper Missouri we meet with another form 
of trail, which is called a "beaver slide." It is de- 
signed to maintain, as well as afford, a ready connec- 
tion between the river and its banks. On both sides 
of this river, for miles together, the banks are vertical, 
and rise, at ordinary stages of the water, from three 
to eight feet above its surface. It would, consequently, 
be impossible for the beavers to get out of the river 
upon the land except by excavating a passage-way 
through the bank, from the river to the surface, or by 
the construction of the inclined or graded way, known 
as a " beaver slide." The latter expedient was adopted 
and made the ordinary run-way to and from the river, 
and the bottom lands upon its border. They are sim- 
ple excavations in the bank, in the form of a narrow 
passage-way, inclined at an angle varying from 45° to 
60°, so as to form a gradual descent from a point a 
few feet back of the edge of the bank to the level of 
the river. Several of them are often seen in the 
bank, within ten feet of each other, as shown in the 
Plate. (Plate XXIII.) ^ They are first seen near the 

^ In the foreground in this engraving is shown the "Bull Boat" 
of the Upper Missouri, used by the Mandans, Minnitares, Crows, 
and Blackfeet, for crossing the river. It is made of a single raw 
hide of a buffalo, unhaired and stretched over a dome-shaped 
frame of splints. It is safe, convenient, and portable ; and it will 
carry two persons. 


mouth of the Big Sioux River, from which point to 
the mountains they are observed in great numbers, in 
places where beavers are most numerous. They fur- 
nish another conspicuous illustration of the fact that 
they possess a free intelligence, by means of which 
they are enabled to adapt themselves to the circum- 
stances in which they are placed. 

This great river, which has been so frequently re- 
ferred to in these pages, presents to the tourist many 
striking features. I am tempted to make a digression 
for the purpose of noticing a few of them. It runs 
for three thousand miles through the great central 
prairie area of the continent without being inter- 
rupted by a waterfall, or traversed by a mount- 
ain chain. It is a great river from its mouth to the 
Falls of the Missouri, which are within the Rocky 
Mountain chain ; and it is navigable at certain seasons 
by steamers of the first class, within forty miles of the 
falls. In width it varies from a mile and a half to a 
third of a mile, rarely contracting its channel within 
a quarter of a mile when its banks are full. Its cur- 
rent, which is rated by river men at from four to five 
miles per hour, exceeds, in rapidity, that of any other 
navigable river within the United States. By means 
of its powerful current it is able to hold in suspension 
the great amount of earthy materials that impart to 
its waters their deep yellowish color. From this cir- 
cumstance, also, it derived its aboriginal name, Ne- 
shd-ja, which, in the dialect of the Kaws, signifies 
"the muddy river."- 

^ "With reference to the range of the Missouri between low 
and high water, but little can be said. It is about thirty-five feet 
at the mouth; twenty feet at St. Joseph's, Missouri; and still 


Its "bluffs" testify to the long series of centuries 
durinsf which this river has flowed from the mountains 
to the sea, and measure the enormous amount of sohd 
materials which it has transported to the Mississippi 
and thence to the Gulf. For the first thousand miles 
these bluffs are, upon an average, upwards of four 
miles apart; for the second thousand, upwards of 
three miles; and for the remainder of the distance to 
the falls, upwards of one. They bound the valley ex- 
cavated by the river, and mark the limital range of 
its flow. The tops of the bluffs, which are on a level 
with the prairies, are from fifty to one hundred and 
fifty feet above the level of the river, from its mouth 
to the confluence of the Yellowstone; while above the 
latter point they rise three hundred feet high and 
upwards for miles together. 

The lands between the bluffs are level, rising but 
a few feet above the river, and are called "Bottom 

less above, being at Fort Benton only about six feet. Ice dams 
in the spring sometimes occasion great local rises. 

" Its high water width, for so long a river, is remarkably uni- 
form. In the vicinity of Fort Benton it varies from five hundred 
to one thousand feet. Near the mouth of Milk River it has in- 
creased to fifteen hundred feet. Below the Yellowstone it is 
about two thousand feet. From this vicinity the river gradually 
attains an average width of about three thousand feet, which it 
holds for some six hundred miles to its mouth. 

" Its annual discharge is about four trillions of cubic feet, or 
about one-Qfth of that of the Mississippi. 

"At Fort Benton it is two thousand eight hundred and forty- 
five feet above the Gulf, and at its mouth, three hundred and 
eighty-one feet." — Pliyncs and Hydraulics of the Mississippi 
River. Published by the War Department, 1861, p. 61. 

The June rise of the Yellowstone is about ten days in reaching 
St. Louis, or in moving a little over two thousand miles. 


Lands." It is a striking fact with reference to these 
lands, that they have been literally made by the river 
to the depth of its channel from bluff to bluff; and 
that they are still undergoing the process of being cut 
away and reformed with each successive flood. Al- 
though the river to-day cuts against one of its bluffs, 
while the opposite one may be four miles distant, the 
time has been when it also impinged on the other, — 
having removed in its course all the intermediate soil 
to the depth of its channel. As it cuts away on 
one side, it throws up materials on its receding bed in 
the form of a sand-bar, which is afterward raised by 
the slow process of surface deposits by successive 
floods to the common level of the bottom lands. With 
every change of level in the river it shifts its channel 
more or less, as the direction and force of the pressure 
upon its banks change with the rise and fall of the 
stream. The rapidity with which this river, when in 
flood, cuts away its banks, which it is seen are sedi- 
mentary, is quite remarkable. It is not uncommon 
for a farmer on the Lower Missouri to lose forty acres 
of his farm in the bottom lands in a single night. At 
such times there is a constant splash of earth falling 
into the river, carrying with it the tallest cottonwood- 
trees, whose age measured the interval since the river, 
cutting its way in the opposite direction, had cast up 
the sand-bar upon which they afterward took root. I 
have seen trees falling in, one after another, while still 
others in a leaning position were just ready to follow. 
The mud deposited on their foliage soon brings them 
to anchor, after which they are stripped, in course of 
time, of both limbs and bark; and thus, with one end 
imbedded in mud and the other rising toward the sur- 


face of the water and pointing clown stream, become 
the "snags" which have made this river famous for 
its steamboat disasters. 

The river banks are usually from five to eight feet 
high when the channel is full, and always vertical. 
Any person fiilling into this river, in time of flood, is 
pretty certain to be drowned, unless he can reach 
a sand-bar, or the side opiDOsite the one against which 
the current is running.^ 

From the mouth of the Missouri to Kansas City, 
there is a belt of forest on both sides of the river sev- 
eral miles wide; but above this point the belt con- 
tracts rapidly in width, the prairie coming occasion- 
ally to the bluffs, as at Fort Leavenworth and at 
Omaha. Above the last-named place the forest con- 
tinues to decrease to the confluence of the Big Sioux 
River, after which, for the remainder of the distance 
of about two thousand miles to the mountains, it is 
confined to the bottom lands and the declivities of the 
bluffs. All without is open prairie, with the excep- 
tion of narrow belts of forest along the margins of 
the tributary streams. For the last fifteen hundred 
miles the bottom lands are but partially wooded; and 

^ Where the channel is narrow and the current swift and full, 
the most powerful swimmer is unable to keep himself above the 
surface of the water, its whirling and eddying motions tending to 
draw him under. In 18G2, 1 saw five men drown at mid-day in this 
river just below Fort Benton, which is but thirty-six miles below 
the Falls of the Missouri. Six men were capsized in a rapid in 
a small boat, and were one after the other soon drawn under. 
Of these, four came to the surface once, and again went under; 
three came up a second time, and one a third. He alone was 
saved, by means of a small boat, which went to their relief within 
two minutes of the accident. 



the country, in other respects, is unfavorable for set- 

The scenery upon the Missouri is monotonous un- 
til the confluence of the Yellowstone is approached. 
This is owing to the fact that at the river level we 
are shut in from the magnificent summer landscape 
of the prairies, of which the eye never wearies; and 
are confined to the narrow range of the bottom lands 
and bordering bluffs, which have few attractive feat- 
ures. One of the most remarkable regions of the 
earth is thus traversed without being seen. From the 
old village of the Mandans, and particularly above 
the Great Bend of the Missouri, the scenery changes 
and assumes more imposing forms. First there are 
high banks of indurated clay, seamed with lignite, 
which rise three hundred feet high and assume gro- 
tesque architectural forms from the effects of rain and 
frost. These, with more or less uniformity in appear- 
ance, border the river for five hundred miles until the 
Bad Lands are entered, which, commencing about fifty 
miles above the confluence of Milk River, continue for 
upwards of three hundred miles. The "Bad Lands" 
{mauvaises terres), so called, are sterile, rounded mud 
hills, of a dingy-brown color, thickly studded together, 
and rising, with deep chasms between, two hundred or 
more feet high. They are composed of adhesive clay, 
which, softening to a considerable depth under every 
rain, are destitute of every species of vegetation ex- 
cept an occasional sage-tree or dwarf cedar, and a 
straggling cactus. This assemblage of conical hills 
presents the most dreary landscape within the limits 
of our Republic, the deserts of the Colorado Basin not 
excepted. Silence and desolation reign throughout 


their area. They form a narrow belt along this por- 
tion of the Missouri, from which they stretch south- 
ward across the Yellowstone, and terminate in the 
Black Hills in the central part of Nebraska. 

About one hundred miles from the foot of the 
Rocky Mountains we find the most remarkable forma- 
tion upon the river, and the most striking scenery 
upon its borders. Lewis and Clark, who passed 
through this region in 1805, called this formation the 
"White Walis" — a not inapt designation. Prince 
Maximilian, in his "Travels in North America," also 
describes them; but any description, however minute, 
must fail to convey more than a faint general impres- 
sion of their actual appearance. They are continuous 
for about forty miles, first appearing as the north 
bluff of the river, then upon both sides, and afterward 
on the north side alone. The river cuts through the 
formation, which is a whitish friable sandstone, so 
slightly cemented that small pieces are readily pul- 
verized with the fingers, and yet it retains the form 
of solid rock. Its opposite bluffs here approach within 
half a mile of each other; and rising about two hun- 
dred feet high, are buried but a few feet below the 
level surface of the prairie. The extraordinary ap- 
pearances of these "walls" are the effects, in a great 
measure, of frost and rain, which, having disinte- 
grated portions of the rock, have wrought out the 
marvelous results presented to the eye. A steep bank 
first rises from the river, which is composed of the 
comminuted materials of this rock, colored a dingy 
brown by washings from the soil above. This, ascend- 
ing about a hundred and fifty feet, at an angle of 60° 
or more, is destitute of vegetation, and has a smooth, 


uniform surface. Out of this bank rises the "White 
Walls" in perpendicular cliffs from fifty to seventy 
feet high. In some places, masses of this rock abut 
against the face of the bluff; in other places, detached 
masses are exposed on two and sometimes on three 
sides; and in still other places, solitary walls, in the 
form of masonry, rise in stupendous magnitude. Ra- 
vines here and there break through the formation at 
right angles with the river, exposing two and some- 
times three sides of a great square; while in other 
places there are wide openings in the rock, more or 
less parallel, which assume somewhat the appearance 
of great streets. To complete the illusion, there are 
rents in some of the narrow walls having the sem- 
blance of gateways, doors, and windows. The effects 
of atmospheric causes in disintegrating this unequally 
cemented sandstone have been extremely curious, giv- 
ing rise to every conceivable form. Buttresses, tur- 
rets, pinnacles, and spires meet the eye on every side, 
together with massive walls, rent and perforated, and 
standing like piles of masonry. In the distance the 
effect is truly imposing, suggesting very naturally the 
presence of great cities in ruins. 

Some of the detached masses have been christened 
by tourists, among which are the "Castle," the "Cathe- 
dral," and the "Steamboat." The last is a huge pile 
of whitish rock, exposed on three sides for about 
five hundred or more feet, and, rising about sixty feet 
in height, pre,:^ents the general form of a Missouri 
steamer, with its saloon deck, smoke-stacks, and pilot- 
house traced in dim outline. 

In addition to the white sandstone, of which nine- 
tenths of this formation is composed, there is another 


stone of a reddish-brown color, the nature of w4iich I 
was not able to ascertain, which assumes not less re- 
markable forms. It CTops out in the form of narrow, 
long, and low stone walls, with horizontal lines of strat- 
ification or seams distinctly visible; and vertical rents 
here and there, from top to bottom, which give to it 
the appearance of dry stone walls. In some places, 
gateways through them, formed with the most perfect 
regularity, are seen. These brown-stone walls run 
parallel with the river in some places, and in others 
diagonally up its banks.^ 

In Arabia Petrgea there is a white wall formation 
very similar to the one here imperfectly described. In 
future years, when the Upper Missouri region becomes 
more accessible, a summer expedition to the "white 
walls" will abundantly reward the tourist. 

This river is also celebrated for its game. All of the 
principal animals of the North American Continent 
are found upon its banks. The buffalo, elk, red and 
black-tailed deer, antelope, grizzly and black bear. 

^ Lieutenant Grover, after first referring to the "white walls," 
speaks of this brown rock as volcanic. " The bluffs," he remarks, 
"are now more abrupt, and crowded the river; colonnades and 
odd detached pillars of partially cemented sand, capped with huge 
globes of light brownish sandstone, tower up from their steep 
sides to the height of a hundred feet or more above the water. 
Then the action of the weather upon the bluffs in the background 
has worn them into a thousand grotesque forms, while lower down 
their faces seams of volcanic rock from three to six feet thick, 
with a dip nearly vertical, and no uniform strike, beaten and 
cracked by the weather, rising from six to eight feet above the 
surface, run up and down the steep faces and projecting shoulders 
of the clifi"-^a most perfect imitation of dry stone walls." — 
Physics and Hydraulics of the Mississippi River, p. 58. 


beaver, and the gray wolf are seen from the mouth of 
Cannon-ball River, where game first becomes abund- 
ant, through all the intermediate region to the mount- 
ains, with the exception of the Bad Lands. 

Buffaloes are the most numerous, and are often seen 
in herds of several thousands. They are easily shot 
from the deck of a steamboat, while swimming across 
the river. However eager a person may be for buf- 
falo-shooting, he will find it in such ample measure on 
this river that he will finally put aside his gun from 
mere weariness.^ 

The grizzly bear is the great animal of North Amer- 
ica, not excepting the buffalo or the moose. We first 
saw this monster among the "white walls," galloping 
along the sloping banks beneath them. His bulky 
and powerful form gave him a dangerous as well as 
commanding appearance. 

Among the lesser animals upon this river is the 
prairie dog, a rodent resembling the squirrel. We 
stopped at one of their "villages," as a collection of 
their burrows is familiarly called, and were not a 
little surprised at the number and spread of their 

The antelope is the most beautiful animal of the 
plains. We often saw them in small herds of one or 

^ When the first pair of buffaloes had been shot and taken on 
board the steamer, at the time I went up the river, the mate called 
upon the trappers on board for volunteers to dress the animals. 
Two men stepped forward, one of them a Frenchman, as might 
have been expected, but the other, strange to say, was a Greek, 
born at Athens, as he afterward informed me. For two years he 
had been pursuing the vocation of a trapper in the Rocky Mount- 
ains. He found his way to New Orleans in a merchant vessel, 
and thence went to the mountains as an adventurer. 


two hundred. Their flesh, upon which we occasion- 
ally feasted, is superior to that of the elk or the buf- 
falo. Elks were frequently seen in small herds of 
twenty or thirty. 

Another characteristic animal of the Upper Mis- 
souri is the mountain sheep. They were formerly found 
as low down as the confluence of Cannon-ball River, 
but now they are rarely seen below the Bad Lands. 
We first saw them among the "white walls," in flocks 
of from ten to twenty. They are of a brown color, 
somewhat larger than the common sheep, and of tim- 
orous disposition. Along the faces of the steepest 
cliffs, where the slightest footing can be had, they run 
with assurance and rapidity, working their way up 
through places apparently impassable. 

Fig. 22. 

Trails of Mountain Sheep un Dlulls near confluence of Muscle bliell River. 

Above the "white walls," where the blufis rise in 
places three hundred feet high, the footprints or trails 
of the mountain sheep are very frequently seen on 
their steep declivities. A representation of these trails 
is given in the figure (Fig. 22). The banks rise pre- 
cipitously, apparently at an angle of 70° or 80°, with a 
smooth surface and devoid of vegetation. No animal 
found in the region, except the mountain sheep, could 
either ascend or move in a horizontal hne upon such 
bluffs and maintain his footing. These footprints 


appear to be a series of alternating footholds sunk in 
the bank by long use, rather than continuous depres- 
sions in the form of a sunken trail. Their lines along 
the bluffs can be seen as distinctly in the clear atmos- 
phere of this region, for a quarter of a mile, as a chalk 
line upon a black-board immediately before the eyes. 
The preceding diagram, in two sections, is from a 
rough sketch made while we were passing the bluffs at 
the distance of a few hundred feet. It seems probable 
that the mountain sheep resort to these precipitous 
banks for safety as well as rest, since while upon their 
dizzy declivities they could enjoy the consciousness of 
perfect security.^ 

From this long digression I return once more to the 
beaver, to make a brief reference to the connection of 
the great river systems of North America with the 
spread of this animal. The true habitat of the beaver 
is near the sources of streams, where they are small 
and easily spanned with dams. This transfers them 
to the mountain and elevated areas as their appropf'- 
ate home. And yet, as they are migrating animals, 

^ The least reputable animal of the Missouri is the gray wolf, 
the largest of his genus in North America, and the most insatiable 
of the carnivorous genera. They are very numerous, following 
the buffalo in their migrations, and preying upon their young 
as well as upon the wounded and decrepid. The ^wariness of 
the wolf was well illustrated to us, one day, by his manner of 
drinking. We saw one jump down the bank of the river, which 
was about five feet high, upon a piece of fallen earth just above 
the water, and lap the water for about five seconds, and then jump 
up again upon the bank to see whether anyone was approaching. 
After this he returned and drank again for the same length of 
time, and again ascended the bank to repeat his observation. 
These proceedings were repeated six or eight times before his 
thirst was satisfied. 


they have but to surrender themselves to the current 
of the rivers, the Missouri for example, to propagate 
themselves over a large part of the United States. 
With this river, and commencing at its source, they 
could reach, in time, every part of the area between 
the Alleghany and the Rocky Mountains: and in like 
manner with the Siskatchewun, commencing their 
spread from the same mountains, they could reach the 
chain of lakes, the St. Lawrence, and all their tribu- 
taries upon a line of thousands of miles. The wide 
habitat of the beaver is thus explained by his aquatic 
habits and the remarkable connection of the river 
systems of the continent. 



Other Habits of the Beaver — Indications of Age — Tame Beavers — Nursed 
by Indian Women — Building and Repairing Dams — Great Beaver Dis- 
tricts — Hudson's Bay Company — American Fur Company — Private Ad- 
venturers — The Steel Trap — Trapping Season — Trapping at the Dam — 
At the Lodge — Traps sprung — Whether the Beaver when caught bites off 
his Leg — Trapping under the Ice — Catching in a Pen — Trapping Bank 
Beavers — Catching in Burrows — Trappers as a Class — Custom of hang- 
ing up Skulls — Statistics of Fur Trade — Early and Recent Exportations — 
Immense Numbers of Beavers. 

Before taking up the subject of trapping, there are 
a few remaining facts relating to the habits of the 
beaver which it may be well to embody in a general 
statement. His personal acts, as far as they can be 
ascertained, are not less essential to the completeness 
of his natural history than his works, or his anatomi- 
cal structure. Our knowledge of these acts, although 
more ample than in relation to most animals, is 
still very limited; wherefore each additional item 
must be considered in the light of a substantial gain. 
Some of the facts about to be stated are upon the au- 
thority of the Missouri and Lake Superior trappers, 
others were obtained from Indian sources, and the re- 
mainder were derived from personal observation. 

The beaver, in moving, never steps backward, but 

turns round, as his tail drags on the ground. While 

walking, his back arches slightly; when standing still, 

its curvature is much increased. In running, his 



quickest movement is by a gallop, or a series of jumps, 
which take him along, notwithstanding his clumsy 
frame, at a rapid rate. When swimming with a 
part of his head out of water, the tail is extended 
motionless behind; but when he is entirely under, 
and swimming at the most rapid rate, it is swung 
from side to side with a peculiar diagonal stroke; 
that is, it is raised in a partly vertical position, 
and then moved upward and to the side, when 
the relative position of the edges of the tail are re- 
versed, and it is swung in the opposite direction. It 
is the precise movement by which a boat is sculled 
with an oar. I have not seen this tail movement, but 
make the statement upon the authority of Indians by 
whom it has frequently been observed. By means of 
his tail used as a scull, and his webbed hind feet, the 
propelling power of the beaver in swimming is very 
great. They carry small stones and earth with their 
paws, holding them under the throat, and walking on 
their hind feet. Large stones, weighing five or six 
pounds, of which size they are found on dams, they 
push along in different ways — with the shoulder, with 
the hip, and with the tail. They work the tail under 
a stone, and give it a throw forward. In moving ma- 
terials of various kinds they are very ingenious and 
persevering. It is said by the trappers, with how 
much of truth I cannot affirm, that they will place 
earth and sod upon each other's backs and tails, to be 
thus transferred to the dam. They handle a stick 
with their paws as dextrously as a man would with 
his hands, turning it at pleasure while cutting it in 
two or eating off the bark. Taking one end of a 
short cutting in their teeth, and rising up on their 


hind feet so as to bring it across their back, they will 
carry it, with the opposite end dragging on the ground, 
for a considerable distance, walking nearly erect on 
their hind feet. Their tracks in the snow are often 
seen, with the marks of a bush or limb by their side, 
showing that it was held in the mouth and passed 
across the shoulder, the ends dragging on the snow 
upon the side opposite to that on which it was held. 
They have also been seen swimming in their ponds, 
carrying small branches in the same manner. 

In cutting down trees, they either sit or stand upon 
their hind legs, and placing their fore feet against the 
tree, gnaw round and round, making the first incision 
about three inches wide and an inch deep, and each 
successive one wider and deeper until the tree falls. 
I have found these trees in all stages of their progress 
in cutting. Three beavers have been seen at work 
together gnawing at the same tree, which is as many 
as could conveniently find a place. With this num- 
ber, two nights at most would give ample time to fell 
a tree a foot in diameter. After the tree falls, they 
retire for a short time, until the woods are again still, 
when the whole family come out and commence cut- 
ting off and reducing the limbs to short lengths to be 
carried to the pond, and thence to the winter pile. A 
small portion only of the limbs of a large tree are 
used. They select such as are most convenient for 
cutting and removing, or are preferred for other 
reasons. Small trees, a few inches in diameter, are 
removed bodily. The number of trees of different 
sizes cut down each season in a well stocked beaver 
district is surprisingly great. In places they obstruct 
the passage through the woods, although this occurs 


infrequently. While the surveys on the Marquette and 
Ontonagon Railroad were progressing, a small party 
encamped upon the main branch of the Esconauba, 
near its source, counted nineteen treefalls, which they 
heard in a single night, between the hours of seven 
and twelve o'clock. Along the margins of streams 
inhabited by beavers, the stubs of trees cut down by 
them are very numerous. They are met at almost 
every step. This might be expected, since a number 
of years are required to obliterate the evidences of 
their work. Many trees partially cut and abandoned 
are also found, as well as many that have lodged in 

The usual number of beavers in a litter, as else- 
where stated, is from three to five, but it is occasion- 
ally greater. William Bass, before mentioned, found 
eight young beavers in a foetal state in one female, 
and eight young beavers born alive in a single lodge. 
He had also found six young ones a number of times, 
and all the numbers below this down to a single 
young beaver. With reference to the duration of 
their lives it is difficult to ascertain any facts tending 
to establish its limit. There are no indications to be 
found on their teeth by which their age can be de- 
termined; but their tails grow stout with age, and 
become grayish or light colored on the under side. 
Their teeth file down and lose their sharpness, and 
they become lean and their flesh tough as they grow 
old; but these are relative indications only. Bass in- 
formed me that he once caught a part of a beaver's foot 
in a trap, taking four of the five claws; and that eight 
years afterward he caught a beaver in the same trap- 
ping district with the corresponding foot mutilated in 


a manner so exactly agreeing with it that he felt per- 
suaded it was the same beaver. This would have 
made him not less than eleven years old. He had 
also seen others apparently several years older than 
this. From such imperfect data as they possess, the 
Indians believe he lives from twelve to fifteen years. 
Young beavers are easily domesticated; and al- 
though active and mischievous, they are affectionate 
and harmless. When captured very young, the In- 
dian women, if they desire their preservation, nurse 
them until they are old enough to feed upon bark. At 
six weeks of age, a young beaver will wean itself and 
take to bark. When brought up in an Indian family 
they become very much attached to all its members, 
and are entirely contented in their domesticated con- 
dition. A Missouri trapper mentioned to me the cir- 
cumstance of a young beaver captured by his partner, 
and nursed by the wife of the latter, who was an In- 
dian woman, that followed them on their trapping 
rounds, wherever they went, for several successive 
years. They shifted their camp frequently, and 
moved long distances, always taking the beaver with 
them as one of the family. When they commenced 
breaking up their camp he understood the movement 
immediately, and showed, by unmistakable signs, his 
desire to accompany them. After securing two packs 
upon a horse, he was placed on top, between them, 
which was his usual place, and rode for miles, from 
camp to camp, on many different occasions. When- 
ever they stopped, he fed himself upon bark, but he 
would eat their food as well. He soon manifested a 
great passion for sugar, and whenever it was shown 
to him he was extremely troublesome until his desire 


was gratified. He was particularly attached to the 
half-blood boy with whom he was nursed and grew 
up — following him on all occasions wherever he went. 
He was also a great favorite in the camp of the trap- 
pers, as the care taken of him sufficiently shows. 

Beavers are often seen sunning themselves on the 
bank of a stream, lying side by side, but head and 
tail: their relative positions seeming to indicate a 
double degree of watchfulness. When they come 
out of the water and intend to rest, they first dry 
or drip themselves; after which they comb the hair 
about their heads with their paws, and with the 
extra claws on the hind feet they comb each side of 
their bodies alternately. Occasionally they indulge 
themselves at play, for which a formal preparation is 
made. After selecting a suitable place upon dry 
ground near the pond or stream, they void their cas- 
toreum here and there upon the grass, and, in the 
musky atmosphere thus created, spend some hours at 
play or basking in the sun.^ The trappers call these 
play-grounds "Musk Bogs." Two or three of them 
are often seen at play in the water — diving, swim- 
ming around, and ducking each other. 

In building a dam in deep water they commence 
with brush, preferring alder, from the small amount of 
its foliage, which they cut on the adjoining banks, and 
move by water, holding it by their teeth, to the place 
selected. The brush is arranged in parallel courses, 
as near as may be, lengthwise with the flow of the 

^ The castoreum sacs are inclosed in muscular cavities, so that 
a portion of their contents can probably be voided at the pleasure 
of the animal. 


stream, and with the large ends facing the current. 
It is begun literally at the surface of the water, and 
the first courses are sunk to the bottom by successive 
deposits upon them. I have seen such dams when 
first commenced, and when the brush filled but a 
small part of the channel. 

At first the brush makes a loose dam, through 
which the water flows without sensible obstruction; 
but when the materials, by their increase in quantity, 
begin to check the flow of the water and to experi- 
ence, in consequence, an increase of pressure, they 
commence carrying in and depositing upon them 
earth, sods, and stones, for down-weight to anchor 
them, as well as to fill up the interstices. The first 
season the beavers content themselves with a low 
dam, rising about a foot above the original level of the 
water, and afterward raise it from year to year until 
it reaches its natural limitations. In this manner the 
small dams on the main branch of the Esconauba, 
near its sources, were constructed. For several miles 
this stream passes through comparatively level land, 
with a channel about thirty feet wide and from one to 
two feet deep, and with defined banks about three feet 
high. Dams are found at short intervals upon its entire 
course, and also upon its small tributaries; but those 
upon the former are short, low, and inferior struc- 
tures. Beaver meadows border this river continu- 
ously for miles. As places of concealment, they are 
equivalent to thousands of burrows. These meadows 
show of themselves how completely the stream has been 
appropriated, in past times, for beaver habitation. 

The persevering industry of beavers in repairing 
their dams is well established. Many successive 


breaches must be made in these structures before they 
abandon the work of their restoration ; and even after 
deserting the place, either they or other beavers are 
sure to return when circumstances become favorable. 
The instances are rare in which they are seen, for 
any length of time, while engaged upon this work. 
Captain Daniel Wilson informed me that he had seen 
beavers at work on the Grass Lake dam, making 
ordinary repairs, on several different occasions, while 
watching at night for deer, in one of the trees grow- 
ing in its crest. They came down to the dam singly, 
and swam along its line from one end to the other. 
When any work seemed to be needed, each one, upon 
his own motion and without any concert with others, 
devoted himself to the task of setting it right. They 
brought sticks in their mouths, and mud with their 
paws held under the throat. When these were ar- 
ranged and the mud deposited upon them, they gave 
the latter a heavy stroke with the tail to pack it 
firmly in its place. Four or five beavers came down 
each night, at intervals of half an hour apart; each 
and all of whom performed more or less work upon 
the dam, and did it in the same manner. One night, 
while I was watching upon the same dam, the first 
beaver made his appearance about eleven o'clock, and 
swam across the pond near the crest of the dam, com- 
ing within a few feet of the place where I was par- 
tially concealed. Having discovered the intrusion, he 
went under immediately, giving the alarm signal with 
his tail. After this he went behind the grass island 
upon which the lodge represented in Plate XIII. is 
situated, and repeated these signals at intervals for 
more than an hour; thus preventing other beavers 



from showing themselves that night near the dam. By 
cutting their dams and lowering their ponds, they are 
easily compelled to come out of their lodges to dis- 
cover the cause. But it is not as easy to witness, 
undiscovered, the process of their repair. When a 
branch of the Marquette and Ontonagon Railroad 
was extended to the Esconauba River, in 1862, 
dams number 11 and 12 were cut through, and 
abandoned in consequence by their proprietors. Two 
years afterward, this end of the road being disused, a 
pair of beavers returned to the lower pond and re- 
paired the dam. With the hope of witnessing the 
process of repairing a dam, several large openings 
were made in it to draw off a part of the water; a 
scaffold was erected in one of the trees overlooking 
these breaches, and at nightfall my friend Johnson 
and myself were established in this lookout for the 
night. About one o'clock, two beavers came down 
together to ascertain the cause of the lowering of their 
pond, and to repair the mischief; but they discovered 
us in our imperfect concealment, when within a few 
feet of the dam, and avoided coming any nearer. 
They remained swimming about the pond, with a part 
of their heads above the water, for about an hour, and 
being afraid to undertake the work, they then retired. 
In the clear atmosphere of this region you can almost 
read print by the light of the moon. The ripples in 
the water, made by the beavers, were seen by us before 
the animals themselves were discerned. These two 
were probably the sole occupants of the pond, where 
they had shortly before established themselves for the 
winter. Their presence also tends to show that they 
live in pairs and families, and not in colonies or com- 


It has elsewhere been stated that beavers never eat 
the bark of evergreen trees, although they cut down 
pine and spruce in certain places. Pine-trees have been 
found cut down in Oregon, without showing a limb or 
a twig removed. They cut the fir-tree, commonly 
called the balsam-fir, in the Lake Superior region, 
generally taking the smallest. I have short cuttings 
of this fir — single cuttings made from single young 
trees, trimmed of their branches. The Indians affirm 
that they are cut for the balsam. Whether beavers 
eat it, my informants were unable to state; but they 
believe it is used to heal their wounds; with how 
much of truth I cannot say. There is no doubt that 
evergreen trees are cut for some other purpose than 
their bark, but with what object appears to be as yet 
unknown; unless it be for their gums and mosses, 
as elsewhere suggested. 

A knowledge of the habits of beavers is neces- 
sary to the trapper to enable him successfully to pur- 
sue his vocation. During the aboriginal period, this 
animal was of no use except for his flesh, which was 
not of much request; and the Indians had no method 
of taking him except by the bow and arrow. After 
the colonization of North America commenced, a new 
value was given to the beaver for his fur, which was 
chiefly used, as is well known, for making hats. From 
their excessive numbers and wide distribution, their 
pelts were among the first, and for a number of years 
the largest, exportations of the colonists. The settlers 
as well as the Indians united in the business of trap- 
ping, which they pursued with such diligence that, 
about the year 1700, beaver pelts ceased to be ex- 
ported, to any considerable extent, from the New 


England and Middle States. At this early period, 
their numbers had become so greatly reduced by cap- 
ture and dispersion that the business of the trapper, 
within these areas, ceased to be remunerative. In the 
regions around Hudson's Bay and Lake Superior; 
upon the head waters of the Missouri and Siskatch- 
ewuu, and upon the Columbia and its tributaries, it 
has continued through all the intermediate period 
to be, and still is, a profitable vocation. After the 
substitution of silk for fur in the manufacture of 
hats, the value of beaver peltry greatly declined; 
thus affording a respite to this persecuted animal, 
under the effects of which he is now increasing in 
numbers in certain localities. This is particularly 
the case on the UjDper Missouri and in the great 
forests around Lake Superior: but it is not at all 
probable that they will ever recover, in any locality, 
their former numbers. In 1862, beaver pelts were 
worth, at Fort Benton, on the Upper Missouri, one 
dollar and a quarter per pound against seven and 
eight dollars per pound fifty years ago. They are 
now worth two dollars per pound on the south shore 
of Lake Superior. An ordinary pelt weighs from 
li to II pounds. 

The Hudson's Bay Company, chartered May 2d, 
1682, and the American Fur Company, organized in 
the early part of the present century, have been the 
principal organizations engaged in the fur trade in 
North America. Instead of ravaging their districts, 
as the colonists did, they early adopted a protective 
system, not only with reference to the beavers, but 
also to other fur-bearing animals, that their numbers 
might not become exhausted. Among other regula- 


tions of the Hudson's Bay Company, an interval of 
five years is allowed to elapse, after a season's hunt in 
a particular beaver district, before it is again resumed. 
While these companies have prosecuted their opera- 
tions upon a vast scale, they have by no means en- 
joyed a monopoly of the business. Private adven- 
turers in large numbers have engaged in trapping, and 
followed it year after year as a regular pursuit. Our 
Indian nations, also, whose territories produce fur- 
bearing animals, trap more or less for the means of 
subsistence. Within our national limits there are 
hundreds, and even thousands of men, who now make 
trapping their exclusive business. 

As success in trapping depends very much, as 
before remarked, upon the knowledge the trapper has 
of the liabits and mode of life of the several animals 
he seeks to capture, an examination of the methods 
resorted to in trapping beavers will develop some of 
the habits of this animal not before introduced. It 
is for this reason exclusively that the subject will be 

FiQ. 23. 

Newhouse's Trap. 

The steel trap came into use when the systematic 
pursuit of the fur-bearing animals commenced. Its 
form is well known. The most perfect instrument, 


however, is of recent introduction, and is known as 
the "Newhouse Trap," of which the foregoing cut is 
a representation. 

The jaws are smooth, and spread six inches and a 
half, of the size best adapted for taking beavers. Its 
chief merits, as an improvement upon the old form, 
are said to consist in such an adjustment of the form 
of the jaws, and of the bow of the spring to each 
other, and the further adaptation of the power of the 
spring to both, as to secure in the highest degree the 
two qualities of a good catcher and a sure holder. 
These traps are used without bait, and operate on the 
principle of an inadvertent tread upon the pan. 

The trapping season commences about the first of 
November and ends about the first of April, during 
which period the different fur-bearing animals are in 
the best condition with respect to their fur. But it 
is pursued more or less at all seasons of the year, by 
persons who are more reckless of the waste of animal 
life than the regular trappers. In the spring, summer, 
and fall, the usual place of setting traps for beavers 
is upon the dam. The trapper avails himself of the 
well-known habit of this dam builder to repair at once 
any breach made in the structure, over which his su- 
pervision is constant. He therefore makes one or more 
openings in the crest of the dam, four or five inches 
deep, and sets a trap in the pond at each one, about 
a foot back of the breach and a few inches below the 
surface of the water. By means of a chain the trap 
is then secured to a stake driven into the bed of the 
pond, about four feet back of the trap and out in the 
pond, where the water is of some depth. When a beaver 
ascertains that the level of his pond is subsiding, which 


is shown by the fall of the water in the lodge entrances, 
he goes to the dam, after night has set in, and com- 
mences its repair. While thus engaged, he is in constant 
danger of springing the trap by stepping on its pan 
inadvertently. If taken by either of the fore feet, he 
is very apt to break the bones in turning around the 
trap, thus freeing himself; but if caught by either hind 
leg, his case is hopeless. He immediately plunges into 
the deep water of the pond, where his course is soon 
arrested by the stake and chain. It is a part of the 
trapper's merciless plan to drown the animal, for the 
double purpose of preventing him from breaking away 
and of saving his body under water, where it will be 
inaccessible to beasts of prey. To accomplish this 
end, two contrivances are resorted to, of which the 
most simple is an extra stake set a short distance 
beyond the first, around which the beaver is quite cer- 
tain to coil the chain, and thus drown himself, in his 
attempts to escape; and the other is the pole-slide. A 
dry pole, ten or twelve feet long, with a prong at one 
end to prevent the ring of the chain from slipping off, 
is secured to the bank or dam by a hook driven down 
into the ground near the trap. The small end of the 
pole — the ring being run up to the large end near the 
hook — is then immersed in the pond as far out as it 
will reach. When a beaver is caught, he dives and 
swims in the direction to which the pole leads, the 
ring sliding down to the end. In the deep water thus 
reached, the weight of the chain and trap, by which 
his motions are embarrassed, prevents his rising to 
the surface, and he is soon an unresisting victim of 
the trapper's art. 

Captain Wilson, before referred to, on one occasion 


set three traps in this manner on the Grass Lake 
dam, using stakes instead of the pole-slide, with the 
following results. Two days afterward he found, on 
going to the traps, the three breaches fully repaired. 
Two of the traps held each a beaver, and both 
drowned ; but notwithstanding the calamity that 
had befallen them, other beavers had finished their 
work. The third trap had disappeared from sight. 
He found the chain still held by the stake, which 
showed, on running it up, that the trap was buried 
in the breach made in the dam, under the materials 
used in its repair. Upon drawing it out, he discovered 
a duck in the trap, which had been caught and 
drowned, and that both the duck and the trap had 
been carried by the beavers into the breach and 
there buried. 

Trapping at the lodge is another of the common 
methods. Two parallel rows of stakes are driven in 
from the mouth of each entrance for some distance 
out into the pond, thus forming two narrow channels, 
through one of which the beavers must pass to enter 
the lodge. A trap is set in each passage-way, and 
secured by a chain and stake in the usual manner. In 
Fig. 11, supra, page 149, these rows of stakes are 
shown. Traps set in this way are often found sprung 
and empty, which has given rise to an opinion, more 
or less prevalent among the trappers as well as the 
Indians, that they are deliberately sprung by the 
beavers. There is not only no foundation for this 
conceit, but, on the contrary, the beaver is a remark- 
ably dull animal with reference to precautions against 
the trap. A sufficient explanation is probably found 
in their manner of disposing their fore feet while 


swimming, which are pressed back against the body, 
so that in passing over the trap the abdomen instead 
of the feet comes in contact with the pan, causing the 
trap to spring. As the trap cannot hold upon a broad 
flat surface, the beaver escapes. 

There is another belief, universally adopted by both 
Indians and trappers, which also admits of question, 
namely, that when a beaver is caught by either fore 
leg, he bites it off and thus frees himself from the 
trap. Beavers are frequently taken with one and 
sometimes both fore legs gone, and others with the 
hind feet mutilated in various ways. Two of the 
three beavers sent down to me from Lake Superior 
last winter, for the purpose of dissection, had lost 
each a fore leg, one the right and the other the left, 
apparently cut off close to the shoulder, with the 
stumps perfectly closed over with skin and healed. 
The beaver represented in Plate I. is one of them, 
and has his lost leg restored by borrowing the re- 
maining one of his neighbor. A beaver was taken 
on the Upper Missouri, in 1860, with but one perfect 
foot remaining. Both fore legs were wanting, and 
one of the hind feet was in part cut off. Captain 
Wilson caught a beaver on the Esconauba River, in 
1862, with but one perfect foot, and that, one of the 
fore ones, by which he was captured. The other fore 
leg was gone, apparently cut off close to the shoulder, 
and the stump healed; one hind foot was cut off 
across the middle of the webbed portion; and the 
other diagonally across the same, leaving one toe and 
its claw. This beaver had evidently been caught 
four times in traps, from three of which he had 
escaped. Trappers expect to lose most of the beavers 


taken by the fore leg, — that is, they catch a foot in- 
stead of the animal, — and they endeavor so to set their 
traps that the hind feet will be most likely to tread 
upon their pans. The true explanation of their ex- 
trication from traps, when caught by the fore legs, is 
probably found in the relative smallness of the bones 
of these legs, and in their frantic efforts to escape. 
Running around the trap would easily snap them off, 
after which the rending of the skin would be quickly 
effected. That such is the true explanation, receives 
confirmation from the fact that the tendons of the leg 
are usually found pulled out from the shoulder, and 
still attached to the foot in the trap; which would 
have been severed by the teeth before the bones of 
the leg, had the beaver attempted to bite off the 

Beavers caught in traps, and not drowned, some- 
times become entirely tame from the effects of ex- 
haustion. Mr. Atchinson, before mentioned, informed 
the author that he once found a beaver alive in his 
trap, and completely tamed. He said, to use his own 
language, "that it looked at him with such an entreat- 
ing and submissive expression, that he could not find 
it in his heart to kill him." He resolved to save his 
life, and take him to the museum at Marquette. On 
placing his hand upon the beaver's head, and passing it 
along his back, the latter showed no disposition to bite, 
or aversion to this familiarity. After taking him out 
of the trap, he held and fed him in his lap; and then 
carried him on his back for sixteen miles, through 
the forest, to the railroad station. The journey 
proved too rough for the exhausted beaver, and he 
died the followin<2; mornine;. This tameness was un- 


doubtedly the result of physical exhaustion, which 
deprived the animal of all power of resistance, as 
well as carried him beyond the sensation of fear. 
Rarey's system of taming horses is founded upon the 
same principle.^ 

In the winter, which is the season for trapping, 
after the ponds are frozen over and the beavers are 
housed for the winter, other methods are resorted to, 
among which is the following: the trapper selects a 
place in the vicinity of a lodge, cuts a hole through 
the ice, and puts down into the pond a fresh-cut pole 
of birch or poplar about ten feet long. While the 
small end is pushed out into the water, the large end 
is securely fastened in the edge of the bank, and a 
trap is set immediately under the place where it is 
secured. This fresh cutting the trapper knows will 

^ That great fear will produce nearly the same results is shown 
by the peaceful gathering together of different species of wild ani- 
mals in South America, when the annual rains deluge the pampas. 
Upon this subject Lieut. Gibbon remarks : " The Indian builds 
his hut on those elevated places which remain islands. When 
the great floods of water come down, crickets, lizards, and snakes 
crawl into his thatched roof; and droves of wild cattle surround 
his habitation. Armadillos rub their armor against the pottery 
in the corner of his hut, while the tiger and the stag stand 
tamely by. The alligator comes socially up, when the ' gran 
bestia' seats himself on the steps of the door. The animal fam- 
ily congregate thus strangely together under the influence of the 
annual deluge. Those of dry land meet where the amphibious 
are forced to go ; and as the rains pour down, they patiently 
wait. Birds fly in and light upon the trees and top of the hut, 
while fish rise out of the rivers and explore the prairie lands. 
The animals begin to seek a place of refuge in the month of Jan- 
uary, when the soil becomes gradually covered." — Exploration 
of the Valley of the Amazon, Part II. p. 253. 


soon be discovered, and seized with avidity for trans- 
portation to the lodge. When a beaver has thus 
found it, and ascertained that it is fast at one end, he 
follows it up for the purpose of cutting it off — very 
naturally desiring to secure the whole of the stick. 
This brings him immediately over the trap ; and if the 
trap is judiciously placed, it will be next to a miracle 
if the unsuspecting victim does not step upon its pan 
before the stick is severed. This has always been 
found one of the most successful methods of trapping. 
After a trap has been set in this way, the trapper 
throws snow into the hole cut through the ice, to 
hasten the freezing over of the opening, and leaves 
the place to quiet until his next round among his 
traps brings him again to the spot. 

Another method, of Indian invention, and which, 
for its deliberate wdckedness, surpasses all others, if 
the business itself admits of gradations in cruelty, con- 
sists in staking around the pile of winter wood of a 
beaver family, for the purpose of forcing the whole of 
them, one after the other, by hunger, into the death- 
pen thus contrived for their ensnarement. By sound- 
ing on the ice, they are able to discover where these 
piles are deposited; after which stake-holes are cut 
through the ice, and dry stakes are driven in so as to 
form a palisade entirely around their stock of winter 
provisions. On the line of their run-way from the 
lodge to this pile one of the stakes is pulled out, and 
a light, dry twig is put down loose in its place. When 
these arrangements are completed, the trapper rolls 
himself up in his blanket and lies down upon the ice 
to watch for a movement of the twig, which must oc- 
cur whenever a beaver enters the inclosure. If he is 


fortunate in point of time, that is, if there is a present 
want of a cutting at the lodge, he has but a short time 
to wait. A beaver goes out from the lodge to bring 
back a cutting from the pile, and, finding a barrier 
around the magazine, he seeks and finds the only 
opening left, through which he passes into the inclos- 
ure. As he enters, the light twig is moved, disclos- 
ing to the trapper above his presence within the pen; 
whereupon the latter restores the stake to its place, 
and the fate of the luckless beaver is sealed. When 
he finds his return to the lodge cut off, he swims 
around the circuit of the stakes until he comes back 
to the place where he entered, and there resigns him- 
self to death. After he is drowned, the trapper takes 
him out of the pond, removes the stake, restores the 
twig, and again lies down to wait the coming of the 
second, beaver. The same necessity which sent out 
the first soon sends out another upon the same errand, 
to experience the same fate. One after the other the 
remainder of the family, under the pressure of the 
same hunger, and perhaps to discover the cause of the 
absence of those who went before them, go forth from 
the lodge and enter the fatal prison-house of the trap- 
per. It is said that if he takes the first beaver by 
this device, it is almost certain that he will capture 
the entire family. The drawback to this manner of 
entrapping is the danger of alarming their fears by the 
presence of the palisade around their pile of cuttings, 
at which, if the first beaver turns back, the rest will 
keep at a distance. It is further stated that they in- 
variably drown at the stake where they entered. 

In trapping bank beaver, they use various kinds of 
scents to attract them to the place where the trap is 


set, which is usually near the bank, and a few inches 
below the surface of the water. Gum camphor is one, 
a piece of which is inserted in the split fork of a stick, 
and the latter is then set in the bank so as to bring 
the camphor immediately over the trap, but above the 
water. A beaver, when he scents the pungent odor of 
the camphor, follows it up until he discovers the sub- 
stance; whereupon he rises up to reach it, in doing 
which he is liable to step on the pan of the trap with 
his hind foot, and thus pay for his curiosity with his 
life. Trappers also use castoreum, cinnamon, cloves, 
and oil of juniper for the same purpose. Cloves and 
cinnamon are dissolved in alcohol and made into a 
kind of paste, which, when smeared over a stick ad- 
justed in the same manner, is found to answer equally 
well as a bait. Traps are also set, at a venture, upon 
their run-ways, particularly on their solid-bank dams, 
which always, by some depression, show where they 
pass in going up and down stream. When set in 
such places, it is necessary to make a slight excava- 
tion for the reception of the trap, and to cover it with 
leaves. They are also set in the water at points 
where the land juts out into the pond, along which 
beavers are apt to pass in going up or down the pond. 
Whenever the trapper discovers a trail, or well- 
marked line on which beavers travel, either on land 
or in the water, he avails himself of the knowledge to 
conceal a trap under their footsteps. 

Another method of catching beavers where they are 
very numerous, is to drive them from their lodges to 
their burrows, and having closed the entrances, to 
open the burrows and pull them out with hooks or 
by hand. This mode of hunting them was formerly 


practiced extensively in the Hudson's Bay territory. 
The Indians ascertained the situation of their burrows 
by sounding the ice along the margins of the ponds 
with ice chisels, the sound of the stroke revealing in 
some way the presence of a chamber in the bank. After 
the burrows were found, an opening w^as made in the 
ice over the mouth of each entrance, for the double pur- 
pose of discerning by the movement of the water when 
a beaver had entered, and of closing it up behind him. 
The next step was to stake across the stream, where it 
entered the pond, to prevent their escape out of the 
pond. After these preparations were completed, and 
a person was stationed on the ice near each entrance, 
the lodges were broken open to drive out their in- 
mates and force them to take refuge in their burrows. 
As soon as the motion of the water showed that one 
or more of them had entered a burrow, its mouth was 
closed, and every one thus entrapped was sure to be 
taken. After they were thus locked up, the next 
movement was to open their burrows from above, 
whereupon, without resistance, they were captured 
and dispatched. Hearne, from whose work the above 
account is taken, remarks: "When their houses are 
broken open, and all their places of retreat are dis- 
covered, they have but one choice left, as it may be 
called, either .to be taken in their houses or their 
«vaults; in general they prefer the latter; for where 
there is one beaver caught in the house, many thou- 
sands are taken in their vaults."^ 

When beavers are shot in the pond, they sink to the 
bottom and are thus lost, for wdiich reason the gun is 

^ Hearne's Journey, etc., p. 235. 


rarely used in the beaver hunt. West of the Rocky 
Mountains, however, where the ponds are shallow and 
small, and the danger of losing the animal after being 
caught in a trap is greater, the gun is often used. 
Robert Meldrum, for many years a trapper in this 
mountain region, and now one of the factors of the 
American Fur Company, informed me that when he 
hunted beaver west of the mountains he preferred the 
gun for the reasons stated. He mentioned that on one 
occasion he found three lodges on a pond upon one of 
the tributaries of the Columbia, where he "shot 
twenty-one beavers and left three." His estimate of 
the total number was upon the assumption of eight to 
a lodge, the well-known rule among Rocky Mountain 
trappers. It is amusing to find how systematic this 
class of men become in their calculations. 

Trappers often associate for the purpose of extend- 
ing their operations over a larger area, in which case 
they establish and provision camps, and assign the 
several branches of the work to different persons. 
When two or more are engaged in the same vicinity, 
and not associated, they adopt certain independent 
lines or routes, so that neither may interfere with the 
other. It is a custom among the trappers of the 
Rocky Mountains to recognize in each other proprie- 
tary rights in certain beaver districts. When a trap- 
per finds a new stream well stocked with fur-bearing 
animals, it takes his name, and is regarded as his ex- 
clusive range so long as he chooses to occupy it. 
Among such of the Ojibwa Indians on Lake Superior 
as engage in trapping, there is a similar custom. 
They divide the principal districts among themselves, 
after which each leaves to the others the undisturbed 


enjoyment of their respective beats. Each trapper, or 
family, or association, therefore, has a special round, 
upon which they make repeated expeditions during 
the season of the hunt. On the first journey, they 
carry in and distribute their traps, select and provision 
their camps, and prepare generally for an arduous 
winter's work. A single trapper can manage from 
fifty to seventy traps upon a line thirty or forty miles 
in circuit. At regular intervals, the traps, after being 
set, are visited, the captured animals removed, and the 
traps reset. This round of the traps, with the curing 
of the skins, fills out their time, and furnishes sys- 
tematic emploj^ment for the season. 

The life of the trapper, although one of hardship 
and privation, is full of adventure. They lead, to a 
greater or less extent, a life of solitude in the track- 
less forests, encountering dangers of every kind, en- 
during fatigue and hunger, and experiencing, in return, 
the pleasures, such as they are, afforded by the hunt. 
As a class they are generous, reckless, and intelligent, 
and very companionable. From their relations to 
each other of their adventures, and of their observa- 
tions upon the habits of animals, a kind of "animal 
lore" has been developed and propagated of very 
ample fullness and range, which, in course of time, 
may be considered worthy of perpetuation in written 
form. Their conclusions are not always veritable, as 
they are prone to be over-credulous; neither are their 
speculations always sound; but in both they display 
much acuteness and ingenuity. The regular trappers 
are an original and peculiar class of men, whose tend- 
encies of mind have led them away from human 
society, into a life substantially with the wild animals, 



and with Nature in her most rugged forms. Many of 
them, by natural endowments, were deserving of a 
higher destiny. 

It is one of their customs, and one which served 
me a useful purpose, to hang up the skulls of captured 
animals upon bushes and limbs of trees on the lines 
of their routes. This practice is alluded to by Samuel 
P. Ely, Esq , in the following letter, which I take the 
liberty to insert for its humorous reference to this 
custom. Having written to him for some beaver 
skulls to complete my collection, his answer came 
under date of February 26, 1866, as follows: "I can 
obtain the skulls, and have arranged with two differ- 
ent trappers for thirty each. If they both fulfill their 
engagements, your craniology of the beaver will be 
unimpeachable. Accompanying them will be an oc- 
casional mink, otter, and lynx skull, which may be 
useful for purposes of comparison. It is fortunately 
quite easy to procure these skulls. It appears that a 
custom is quite prevalent among trappers to hang up, 
among the bushes on their line, the skulls of the 
animals whose fur and flesh they have appropriated; 
and it is nothing more than the collection of them on 
one of their tours to get thirty or forty specimens. 
Since nothing of this kind is done without motive, 1 
present you gratuitously my theory on that point. 
1st. It is subjectively encouraging to the trapper, 
when the hunt fails him for a time, and his traps are 
empty, to look upon the memorials of his past success. 
" 2d. It is objectively calculated to produce on the 
living animals, which also view these relics, a feeling 
of resignation to the fate, which, once deemed finally 
inevitable, they are the less careful to avoid. 


"It is interesting, however, that so remarkable a 
custom should furnish immediately such a mass of 
materials for scientific investigation. Think of sixty 
skulls off-hand ? They are promised to me without 
fail. Do not, however, count them already sure, 
because these sons of the forest, as a general thing, 
fail to apprehend the relation between a promise and 
its fulfillment, which the more civilized man finds it 
convenient to observe."^ 

The number of beavers taken during a season's 
hunt varies, of course, with the skill of the trapper 
and the supply within his district. On the south 
shore of Lake Superior, an Indian family of four 
effective persons will capture from seventy-five to one 
hundred and fifty, if their hunting grounds are well 
stocked. Fifty and a hundred are not an uncommon 
number.^ But the business must be assiduously fol- 
lowed to secure any degree of success. 

The statistics of the fur trade sufficiently prove that 
beavers existed in immense numbers in different parts 
of North America at the several epochs of their set- 
tlement. A brief reference to some of the figures 
will make this apparent. In 1624, the Dutch West 

^ It is proper to add that the promise was amply redeemed by 
the production, in due time, of forty skulls. 

* John Hutchins, a famous trapper, now residing in Manlius, 
New York, estimates the number of animals he has caught in 
traps, or taken in other ways in the course of his life, as follows : 
"one hundred moose; one thousand deer ; ten caribou ; one hun- 
dred bears ; fifty wolves ; five hundred foxes ; one hundred rac- 
coons ; twenty-five wild-cats ; one hundred lynx ; one hundred 
and fifty otters; six hundred beavers ; four hundred fishers; mink 
and marten by the thousands, musk-rats by the ten thousands." — 
Newhouse^s Trapper's Guide, p. 64. 


India Company exported from New Amsterdam four 
hundred beaver skins, and thus inaugurated this trade 
with the New World. This number had increased by 
1635 to fourteen thousand nine hundred and eighty- 
one. During the ten immediately previous years the 
whole number exported was eighty thousand one hun- 
dred and eighty-three.^ Each pelt was then worth 
about two dollars and a quarter. The trade steadily 
increased until the dominion of the Dutch ended, in 
1664. Beaver pelts were then a measure of value, 
and formed a part of the currency; and the beaver 
himself was adopted for the central symbol in the seal 
of the province. Their furs continued, under English 
rule, to be the chief article of export from New York 
until the year 1700, after which the exportation de- 
clined rapidly, and soon became extinct. In 1687, 
Thomas Dongan, governor of the province of New 
York, remarks in an official letter as follows: "We 
find this year that the revenue is very much dimin- 
ished, for in other years we were used to ship off for 
England thirty-five or forty thousand beavers, besides 
peltry; this year only nine thousand and some hun- 
dreds, peltry and all."^ Again, in November, 1700, 
Governor Bellomont wrote to the lords of trade in 
equally discouraging language: "The beaver trade 
here and at Boston is sunk to little or nothing, and 
the market is so low for beaver in England that 'tis 
scarce worth the transporting. I have been told that 
in one year, when this province was in possession of 
the Dutch, there were sixty-six thousand beaver skins 
exported from this town ; and this last year there was 

1 Natural Hist. New York, Pt. I., Zoology, p. 13. De Kay. 

2 Colonial Hist. New York, iii. 476. 


but fifteen thousand two hundred and forty-one ex- 
ported hence. "^ During the same periods, large num- 
bers of beaver skins were exported from Delaware, 
Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and from New 
England. In the early part of the last century the 
trade ceased within these portions of the United States. 

Shortly before the year 1800, American enterprise 
was directed to the fur trade on the Northwest Coast, 
and the several organizations which sprang up were 
finally merged in the American Fur Company, whose 
field of operations was upon the head waters of the 
Columbia, the Yellowstone, and the Missouri, and the 
shores of Lake Superior. This company is still en- 
gaged in the general business, but the amount of 
beaver skins now obtained is comparatively small. 
Formerly it was large, but the statistics of their trade 
are not within my reach. 

The Hudson's Bay Company has been the most im- 
portant and efficient organization in North America 
for the capture of the fur-bearing animals. Possess- 
ing exclusive jurisdiction over an immense area, of 
little value for settlement, but of great value for the 
production of fur, they have enjoyed a monopoly of 
this trade for nearly two centuries. Their exporta- 
tion of beaver skins alone has often exceeded a hun- 
dred thousand per annum. In 1743, one hundred 
and fifty thousand were received at Rochelle and 
London, the greater portion of which was from the 
Hudson's Bay territory and the Canadas. From the 
recent catalogues of the sales of this company, it ap- 
pears that they sold at their houses in Edinburgh and 

1 Colonial Hist. New York, iv. 789. 


London, in January and August, 1854, five hundred 
and nine thousand two hundred and forty beaver 
skins; in January and August, 1855, sixty-tvi^o thou- 
sand three hundred and fifty-two; and in January, 
1856, fifty-six thousand and thirty-three;^ making in 
the aggregate the enormous number of six hundred 
and twenty-seven thousand six hundred and twenty- 
five beaver skins in the course of two and a half years. 
It is to be inferred that the large number sold in 1854 
was the accumulation of a few previous years, and 
that the numbers sold in 1855 and in the first half of 
1856 show the average annual production at this 
late period. 

The foregoing statistics are sufficient to indicate the 
numerical extent to which the species had become de- 
veloped and increased in North America, as well as 
to mark the areas in which they were the most abund- 
ant. A statement before made may be here repeated, 
that the beaver, with his life, has contributed in no 
small degree to the colonization and settlement of the 
British Provinces and the United States. 

Having in the preceding pages discussed the princi- 
pal questions with reference to the beaver and his 
works, it is proposed, in a final chapter, to consider 
some of those relating to Animal Psychology. Al- 
though a digression from the main subject to one 
entirely independent, the two are strictly correlated. 
It must be the ultimate result of investigations con- 
cerning the habits and lives of animals to raise Ani- 
mal Psychology to the rank of a science, by afibrding 

^ Schoolcraft's Hist., Cond., and Pros., of the Indian Tribes, 

vi. 128. 


the necessary materials for solving questions relative 
to the mental qualities of the mutes. 

Note. — In closing these pages upon the works of the beaver, 
I desire to make special mention of my friend, William Cameron, 
of Marquette, to whom I am indebted for my first acquaintance 
with the beaver lore of the trappers. Although I have not ven- 
tured to use it, except with caution, I have found it useful in the 
progress of this investigation. A quarter-blood Ojibwa, and the 
son of one of the factors of the Hudson's Bay Company, Cam- 
eron married an Ojibwa woman, adopted the customs of her 
nation, and is now drawing near the end of a long life spent on 
the shores of Lake Superior, As a voyageur, he has traversed 
the continent to the Pacific coast ; as a trapper, he has explored 
the great forests around Lake Superior, as well as portions of the 
Hudson's Bay Territory ; and lastly, as a soldier in the army of 
the United States, he has served his country with fidelity. A 
thoroughbred woodman, an honest and most unselfish man, he is 
every way a clever companion. I shall ever hold him in pleasant 
remembrance as one of those eccentric and unspoiled children of 
nature whom we occasionally meet with in the journey of life. 



Inquiries proposed — Whether the Mutes possess a Mental Principle — 
Whether its Qualities are similar to those manifested by the Human 
Mind — AVhether the Differences are of Degree, or of Kind — Considerations 
from Structural Organization — The Principle of Life — Memory — Reason 
— Imagination — The Will — Appetites and Passions — Lunacy of Animals 
— General Conclusions. 

The popular mind has always been in advance of 
the metaphysicians with reference to the mental en- 
dowments of animals. For some reason there has 
been a perpetual hesitation among many of the latter 
to recognize, in the manifestations of the animal 
mind, the same characteristics that are displayed by 
the human intellect: lest the high position of man 
should be shaken or impaired. Besides this, the con- 
nection in man between the intellectual faculties and 
the moral sense is found to be so intimate, that the 
concession of the former has seemed, to cautious 
minds, to draw after it the necessary admission of 
the latter. In attempting to escape this imaginary 
dilemma, the metaphysicians have been betrayed, as 
it would seem, into a false position. This is shown 
by the invention, in modern times, of a vague, not to 
say jfictitious, principle, with which all animals have 
been arbitrarily endowed for the government and 
maintenance of their lives. There can be no objec- 
tion to the use of this principle, which is termed "in- 


stinct," to explain, or rather to leave unexplained, 
certain mental phenomena exhibited equally by man- 
kind and the inferior animals, so long as it is restricted 
to those mental processes which are beyond the reach 
of consciousness. But the attempt to explain all the 
mental phenomena manifested by the mutes by means 
of an arbitrary term is an evasion of the true ques- 
tion involved. It would be difficult, in right reason, 
to discover the slightest tendency to lower the per- 
sonal dignity of man, or to alter in the least his re- 
sponsibility to God, by recognizing the existence in 
the mutes of a thinking self-conscious principle, the 
same in kind that man possesses, but feebler in de- 
gree; nor even by conceding their possession of a 
moral sense, although, so far as our present knowl- 
edge extends, it is so faintly developed as scarcely to 
deserve the name. Man, at least, should neither ad- 
mit nor deny the moral sense to the lower animals 
because of the supposed bearing of such an admission 
upon his own relations to the Supreme Being. The 
question of the degree and kind of their mental en- 
dowments should stand upon its own basis, and be re- 
solved upon its own merits, I trust the sensibilities 
of no one will be disturbed by this method of intro- 
ducing the subject of Animal Psychology; and that 
the subject may be considered unaffected by external 
complications, and be studied independently upon its 
own authoritative facts. 

When the Creator brought into existence the vari- 
ous species of animals, He intrusted to each individ- 
ual being the care of his own life. As a principle of 
intelligence was indispensable to capacitate each one 
to maintain and preserve that life, we find each indi- 


vidual endowed with a mental or spiritual essence 
which is distinct from the body, but associated with 
it iij a mysterious manner. It requires no argument 
to prove that the mutes possess a principle of intelli- 
gence which performs for them the same office in 
governing their conduct that the human mind does 
for man. When the existence of mind in the mutes 
is recognized, the qualities it manifests become the 
subject of investigation. As we know nothing of the 
ultimate nature of the human mind, so in like man- 
ner we know nothing of the ultimate nature of the 
animal mind; but since the former manifests certain 
faculties, as memory, certain passions, as anger, cer- 
tain appetites, as hunger, and puts forth a certain 
power, the will, — the true inquiry is, whether the 
latter manifests certain faculties, as memory, certain 
passions, as anger, certain appetites, as hunger, and 
puts forth a certain power, the will ? If the affirma- 
tive is found to be true as to each of these proposi- 
tions, then the next question must be, whether any 
difference in kind can be discovered between the 
memory of a man and the memory of a mute; be- 
tween the anger of the one and the anger of the 
other; the hunger of the one and the hunger of the 
other; or the will of the one and the will of the other. 
Unless some real and determinate difference can be 
found by which to differentiate the qualities of the 
animal mind from those of the human mind, it must 
necessarily follow that the mute and the man are 
both endowed with a similar mental principle; and 
that man owes his superior dignity not to the exclu- 
sive possession of this principle, but rather to its en- 
joyment in a higher, more ample, and more distin- 
guishing degree. 


It is one of the extraordinary features of this Divine 
gift that it is capable of adaptation to so many, and 
to such diversified organisms; and not less remarkable 
that it should still reveal the fundamental similarities 
of a common principle through all its ramifications, 
so far as we are able to observe its manifestations. 
Our knowledge of the lives of the higher animals is ex- 
tremely limited, and founded upon observation alone; 
while of the inferior species it is next to nothing. 
The discussion of the subject of Animal Psychology 
is, therefore, necessarily limited to the higher ani- 
mals, and to such facts, with reference to these, as are 
well authenticated and universally admitted. Any 
argument which passes beyond the range of ascer- 
tained facts is incapable of proving or disproving any 

Neither is it desirable to perplex ourselves with the 
question, whether or not the mutes possess a con- 
science, or the moral sense. While a negative decla- 
ration proves nothing, an affirmative assertion is 
without support in existing knowledge. The prior 
question, in point of time, is concerning their mental 

It is equally unnecessary to discuss the grounds of 
the artificial distinction which is made between the 
appetites and passions on the one hand, and the intel- 
lectual powers on the other. The concession of the 
former to the mutes in common with mankind, and 
the withholding of the latter as an independent and 
distinguishing gift, is an assumption which tends to 
mislead without advancing the true inquiry. The 
passion of anger and the pain of hunger can only be 
predicated of a mental principle, of which they are 


manifestations as absolutely as memory or imagina- 
tion. Indeed, it is an axiom in moral as well as in 
intellectual science, that pain and pleasure are expe- 
rienced in the mind, and not in the organs of the 
body. When, therefore, we find the phenomena of 
pleasure and pain displayed by individuals of every 
species, and to be essentially the same in kind 
among them all, it leads to the same general con- 
clusion; namely, that all living creatures possess a 
similar mental principle. This leaves the question of 
difference in degree, which was rendered necessary 
by difference in species. 

I propose to submit, in a brief form, a series of con- 
siderations or arguments based upon the structural 
organization, and authenticated acts, of the higher 
animals, tending to show : first, that they possess a 
mental principle; secondly, that the qualities which 
it manifests are essentially the same as those displayed 
by the human mind ; and lastly, that the difference 
between these qualities, and, inferentially, between 
the principles they respectively represent, is one o^ 
degree and not of kind. The discussion, to be brief, 
must necessarily be general ; and it is entered upon 
rather for the purpose of offering suggestions upon 
branches of the subject, than of treating it systematic- 
ally as a whole. I have neither the facts nor the 
ability to prepare a treatise upon this important but 
difficult theme. 

I. Structural Organization. It has been demon- 
strated, by anatomical comparisons, that the struct- 
ural organization of the vertebrate animals conforms 
to a general plan, the fundamental features of which 
run through all the species, genera, orders, and classes 


of this branch of the animal kingdom. The several 
species thus stand in fixed relations to each other, 
and are all bound together by the common creative 
thought which is incorporated in the diversified forms 
of the individual representatives of each. Man, there- 
fore, is not permitted to overlook the fact that he is a 
constituent member of this vertebrate branch; and 
although endowed, relatively, with the highest capa- 
cities, and invested with the highest organization, he 
cannot free himself from the bond by which its sev- 
eral members are indissolubly united. 

Among the conspicuous features of this plan of 
structure is the brain, which is enveloped in a skull, 
and placed in immediate connection with the organs 
of sense. The nervous system, of which the brain is 
the centre, is universally regarded as the seat of the 
mental principle. Since all the vertebrate animals 
possess both the one and the other, they are all alike 
raised to the first condition necessary for the mani- 
festation of intelligence. In the next place, they all 
agree in the possession of the organ of vision, located 
in the head in immediate connection with the brain; 
of the organs for smelling and hearing (with the ex- 
ception perhaps of some species), similarly placed, and 
holding similar relations to the brain. Besides these, 
are the senses of taste and touch. These several senses, 
operating through similar mechanisms, have but one 
office, that of communicating impressions of external 
objects to the brain for the information of the mental 
principle. By their means a second condition of in- 
telligence is secured; namely, perception. Without 
one or more of these senses, which are the instru- 
ments of perception, the bare continuance of animal 


life would be impossible; and yet, without the pres- 
ence of a mental principle to take cognizance of the 
impressions thus conveyed, their object would neces- 
sarily be defeated. 

These intimacies of structure are particularly re- 
markable among the mammals. The office and func- 
tions of the several bones and muscles of the animal 
frame are much the same in the different species. So 
the nervous system, which is centralized in the brain, 
is distributed throughout the body in such a manner 
that the relative position as well as functions of its 
several parts are similar, if not precisely the same, in 
all. The several ganglia are found in the same con- 
nection with the nerves of sensation and of motion, 
and performing the same offices in a similar manner. 
Such minute differences as exist find their explana- 
tion in the special adaptation of each animal to his 
sphere of life. In like manner, the circulating sys- 
tem is constructed upon the same general plan, em- 
ploying the same organs, with slight variations of 
form. The same is equally true of the organs of res- 
piration and of the digestive apparatus. One nomen- 
clature suffices for the minutest subdivisions of the 
mammalian form. The anatomist traces, with facil- 
ity, this conformity of structure through all the 
diversities which specific difference creates. Such 
modifications of particular organs as occur are seen 
to be necessary to meet special exigencies, such for ex- 
ample as relate to subsistence and to motion. Thus, 
the organs of respiration admit of considerable diver- 
sity in size and form, according to the amount they 
are required to furnish. Birds need a large quantity of 
respiration to give to their muscles the strength, and 


to their bodies the lightness necessary to flight; whence 
they have not only a double circulation of the blood, 
and an aerial respiration, but they also respire by other 
cavities besides the lungs. In most animals the quan- 
tity of respiration is moderate, because they are formed 
to walk rather than to run; in reptiles, which are 
formed to creep or hop, it is lower still; while in fishes 
it is least of all, since they are suspended in a medium 
of nearly their own specific gravity, and require but 
little muscular strength for motion. These differ- 
ences are chiefly produced by variations of the same 
organs. From the fact that the vertebrate animals 
share a common typical structure, a strong presump- 
tion arises that they also share a common principle of 

This presumption is materially strengthened by 
other considerations. The structure of the higher 
animals leads directly to the inference that each of 
their organic forms was designed to be actuated and 
governed by a thinking principle; a principle not 
only capable of receiving impressions conveyed by 
the organs of sense, but also of making a rational 
use of the perceptions which these organs were 
designed to throw perpetually under its cognizance. 
To deny the existence of the principle, or its power 
to act, is a denial of the obvious purpose of the elab- 
orate mechanism of the animal frame. 

From every point in which the structural relations 
of the vertebrate animals are considered, a common 
plan of creation is not only seen, but this, in turn, 
becomes deeply significant upon the question of sim- 
ilar mental endowments. These intimacies of struct- 
ure are the foundation of corresponding intimacies in 


the principle of intelligence by which they are actu- 

II. The Principle of Life. Life in all its forms is a 
mystery. As a formative power, it builds up the 
infantile body from weakness into maturity and 
strength. It maintains a perpetual conflict with the 
elements of disorder and decay until the organism in 
which it dwells breaks up, or wears itself out. Is 
death the destruction of this principle? or is it imma- 
terial, and expelled, like the spirit, from the body? 
If it be a principle, and, therefore, immaterial, it 
would be difficult to show that the living and think- 
ing principles are separate and distinct entities. It 
seems to be more than surmisable that the two are 
identical. It is I — the spirit — which lives, and not 
the body, which is material. If life comes of the 
union of body and spirit, then it is not an entity, but 
a result; and all there is of life is the life of the spir- 
itual essence, or of the principle of intelligence. 

Vegetable life cannot be compared with animal, be- 
cause the former, to omit other differences, is without 
self-consciousness. Will it be said that the mutes are 
without consciousness? It is answered that conscious- 
ness is an inseparable and essential quality of the 
mental principle. When a beaver stands for a mo- 
ment and looks upon his work, evidently to see whe- 
ther it is right, and whether anything else is needed, 
he shows himself capable of holding his thoughts be- 
fore his beaver mind; in other words, he is conscious 
of his own mental processes. 

The possession of the principle of life by the higher 
animals, from its most robust to its most sensitive forms, 
draws after it whatever this principle may represent. 


III. Memory. The mind is known by its qualities 

As a principle, or essence, it is not divisible into 
parts, or faculties, or organs, each having an independ- 
ent existence. "The utmost ingenuity," says Aber- 
crombie, "has not been able to advance a step beyond 
the fact that the mind remembers, reasons, imagines; 
and there we must rest contented." 

It cannot for a moment be doubted that the animal 
mind remembers, and that it displays this quality as 
purely and as absolutely as the human mind. Memory, 
then, must be conceded to be one of its qualities. Its 
quickness or slowness, its retentiveness or weakness, 
are wholly immaterial. It is sufficient that the animal 
mind is able to recall a former perception, or previously 
known fact, and to have treasured it during the inter- 
val. The inference that follows from the recognized 
possession of a principle capable of remembering is 
very important. Memory is one of the qualities by 
which the existence of the human mind is demon- 
strated. By the same quality the existence of a cor- 
responding principle in the mutes is also estabHshed. 
If a comparison of the two acts of remembrance show 
them to be in all respects similar, then the two prin- 
ciples of which they are manifestations are, inferen- 
tially, the same in kind. The difference is indeed im- 
mense between the memory of a familiar object, or 
even of a series of antecedent facts, which a mute 
may exhibit, and that powerful memory in man, 
which not only is able to hold the facts of universal 
knowledge, but also to reproduce the process of reas- 
oning, by which the great truths of science have been 
demonstrated. This difference, however, is immate- 



rial, since it is one of degree, and not of kind. As 
there is a gradation of its power among the individ- 
uals of the human species, so there is undoubtedly a 
similar gradation among the several species of the 
vertebrate animals. 

^'Memory," says Sir William Hamilton, "is an im- 
mediate knowledge of a present thought, involving an 
absolute belief that this thought represents another 
act oip knowledge that has been." As the mind is a 
unit, the whole mind remembers, and not one of its 
fractional parts. If the power to remember were re- 
moved from the mental principle, it would become 
powerless, and perhaps be overthrown. The past, in 
such a case, would be utterly lost, the present vanish- 
ing with every instant, the future inconceivable, and 
the external world a blank. On the other hand, let 
any created being possess, in addition to the senses, a 
something capable of remembering, and it has more 
than the power to remember; it has, with it, a capa- 
city to know, to understand, and to reason. That 
something is the mental principle. Every other infer- 
ence is excluded. Knowing the qualities of this prin- 
ciple as it exists in the human species, and conscious 
of its unique and extraordinary character, when we 
find the mutes in possession of a something w^hich dis- 
plays the same qualities, the philosophical axiom at 
once suggests itself, namely, "that a plurality of prin- 
ciples is not to be assumed, when the phenomena can 
possibly be explained by one." 

IV. Reason or Judgment. The mutes perceive ex- 
ternal objects in the same manner that we do. After 
admitting that no distinction can be found between 
their manner and our own of acquiring a knowledge 


of external things^ through the organs of sense, it has 
been denied that they are able to make a rational use 
of the perceptions thus obtained. Their acts, in in- 
numerable instances, are seen to be acts of intelligence 
and knowledge, such as a man would perform under 
similar circumstances, and yet, there is an unwilling- 
ness to recognize in them the results of deliberate pro- 
cesses of reasoning, followed by an exercise of the 
will. A large class, it is true, acknowledge some reas- 
oning powers in the mutes, but under such qualifica- 
tions, lipaitations, and restrictions, that, in effect, it 
denies to them the possession of a free intelligence. 
The real c|uestion is practically evaded. Their acts 
should be tested by the same analysis which is applied 
to human acts, and full credence be given to the re- 
sults. As we cannot place ourselves in personal con- 
nection with the animal mind and thus obtain their 
testimony concerning their mental processes, we are 
remitted to their personal acts. Upon these, however, 
a judgment can be formed as definitely as one man 
can pronounce upon the act of another man. While 
this method is not as irrefragable as an appeal to 
consciousness, it is one upon which mankind act 
implicitly in their own affairs. 

'' Reason," says Abercrombie, "consists in comparing 
and weighing facts, considerations, and motives, and 
deducing from them conclusions, both as principles of 
belief and rules of conduct " * * * * "It is the 
exercise of mind by which we compare facts with 
each other, and mental impressions with external 
things." There are many simple forms of reasoning; 
such as the relation of cause and effect; the compari- 
son of one fact with another, and drawing an inference 


therefrom; and the separate consideration of the sev- 
eral qualities of an object. It will be sufficient for 
the present purpose to take a few of the more simple 
acts of animal intelligence, and test them by the or- 
dinary standards by which human reasoning is meas- 
ured and determined. 

Anecdotes of the intelligent conduct of animals are 
innumerable. They are not only constantly appearing, 
and arresting attention, but a sufficient number of in- 
stances to illustrate the subject are within the personal 
knowledge of every individual. It will not be neces- 
sary, therefore, to seek a large number of cases, or to 
choose such as are the most remarkable. Such only 
will be selected as tend to illustrate particular forms 
of reasoning. 

It is said that a dog, when attempting to track his 
master by the scent of his footsteps, will, if he finds 
the road branching, turn up one branch, and failing to 
find his scent, will then return and go up the other 
without putting his nose to the ground. It shows he 
drew the inference that because he did not take the 
one branch, he must necessarily have taken the other. 
The act being conceded, the interpretation given be- 
comes an unavoidable conclusion. 

Again, a dog will open a gate with his paw, a self- 
taught act. From the fact that he applied the means 
to effect the end, the inference arises necessarily that 
he understood the connection between the means and 
the end. This is, pure and simple, a case of reason- 
ing; and, more than that, a kind of reason which can 
only be predicated of a thinking principle. The fol- 
lowing artifice for catching fish, resorted to by the 
tiger of the Amazon, is related by Herndon. It in- 


volves the same form of reasoning, but covers a wider 
range of facts. "An enormous tiger," he remarks, 
"was extended full length upon a rock level with the 
water, about forty paces from me. From time to time 
he struck the water with his tail, and at the same 
moment raised one of his fore paws and seized a fish, 
often of an enormous size. These last, deceived by 
the noise, and taking it for the fall of fresh fruit (of 
which they are very fond), unsuspectingly approach, 
and soon fall into the claws of the traitor."^ This 
self taught device, founded upon a practical knowl- 
edge of the habits of fish, displays the operation of 
unfettered reason. If an analysis of the act were 
made for the purpose of discovering the mental pro- 
cesses involved, the formula and the result would be 
precisely the same as if it had been a human act. 
Reasoning upon the relations of causation must be of 
perpetual recurrence in the lives of animals. It is 
not conceivable that they could maintain their exist- 
ence from day to day without this mental power. 

Dr. Kane relates a somewhat similar artifice of 
his dog Grim to escape duty in harness. "Grim," 
he says, " was an ancient dog : his teeth indicated 
many winters, and his limbs, once splendid tractors 
for the sledge, were now covered with warts and 
ringbones. Somehow or other, when the dogs were 
harnessing for a journey, 'Old Grim' was sure not 
to be found; and upon one occasion, when he was 
detected in hiding away in a cast-off barrel, he in- 
continently became lame. Strange to say, he has 
been lame ever since except when the team is away 

^ Valley of the Amazon. Part I., 312. 


without him."^ How came Grim, it may be asked, 
to understand the relation between sound legs and 
the sledge? and beyond that, to feign lameness as an 
excuse from duty? To reach this final device re- 
quired a lengthy process of reasoning, as well as a 
recognition of the sense and justice of his master, 
upon both of which he intended an imposition. To 
say the least, these acts transcend the supposable 
powers of "an agent which performs ignorantly and 
blindly a work of intelligence and knowledge."^ 
They can only be explained as the operations of a 
free intelligence. 

The works of the beaver afford many interesting 
illustrations of his intelligence and reasoning capa- 
city. Felling a tree to reach its branches involves a 
series of considerations of a striking character. A 
beaver seeing a birch-tree full of spreading branches, 
which to his longing eyes seemed quite desirable, 
may be supposed to say within himself: "If I cut this 
tree through with my teeth it will fall, and then I 
can secure its limbs for my winter subsistence." But 
it is necessary that he should carry his thinking be- 
yond this stage, and ascertain whether it is sufii- 
ciently near to his pond, or to some canal connected 
therewith, to enable him to transport the limbs, 
when cut into lengths, to the vicinity of his lodge. A 
failure to cover these contingencies would involve him 
in a loss of his labor. The several acts here described 
have been performed by beavers over and over again. 
They involve as well as prove a series of reasoning 

^ Arctic Explorations, 1. 149. 

"^ Sir William Hamilton's definition of " Instinct." 


processes undistinguishable from similar processes of 
reasoning performed by the human mind. 

Again, the construction of a canal from the pond 
across the lowlands to the rising ground, upon which 
the hard wood is found, to provide a way for the 
transportation of this wood by water, is another re- 
markable act of animal intelligence. A canal is not 
absolutely necessary to beavers any more than such a 
work is to mankind; but it comes to both alike as the 
result of progress in knowledge. A beaver canal 
could only be conceived by a lengthy and even com- 
plicated process of reasoning. After the conception 
had been developed and executed in one place, the 
selection of a line for a canal in another would in- 
volve several distinct considerations, such as the 
character of the ground to be excavated, its surface, 
elevation above the level of the pond, and the supply 
of hard wood near its necessary terminus. These, 
together with many other elements of fitness, must 
be ascertained to concur before the work could be 
safely entered upon. When a comparison of a large 
number of these beaver canals has demonstrated that 
they were skillfully and judiciously located, the in- 
ference seems to be unavoidable that the advantages 
named were previously ascertained. This would re- 
quire an exercise of reason in the ordinary accepta- 
tion of the term. 

And this leads to another suggestion. Upon the 
Upper Missouri these canals are impossible, from the 
height of the river banks; and besides this they are 
unnecessary, as the cotton-wood, which is the prevail- 
ing tree, is found to the edge of the river. While, 
therefore, canals are unknown to the Missouri beavers, 


they are constantly in use among the beavers of 
Lake Superior. On the other hand, the "beaver- 
sUdes" so common and so necessary on the Upper 
Missouri, are unnecessary, and therefore unknown, in 
the Lake Superior region. Contrary to the common 
opinion, is there not some evidence of a progress in 
knowledge to be found in the beaver canal and the 
beaver-slide? There was a time, undoubtedly, when 
the canal first came into use, and a time, consequently, 
when it was entirely unknown. Its first introduction 
was an act of progress from a lower to a higher artifi- 
cial state of life. The use of the slide tends to show 
the possession of a free intelligence, by means of 
which they are enabled to adapt themselves to the 
circumstances by which they are surrounded. In like 
manner it has been seen that the lodge is not con- 
structed upon an invariably typical plan, but adapted 
to the particular location in which it is placed. The 
lake, the island, and the bank lodge are all different 
from each other, and the difference consists in changes 
of form to meet the exigencies of the situation. These 
several artificial works show a capacity in the beaver 
to adapt his constructions to the particular conditions 
in which he finds himself placed. Whether or not 
they evince progress in knowledge, they at least show 
that the beaver follows, in these respects, the sugges- 
tions of a free intelligence. 

"Instinct," says Dr. Reid, "is the habitual power 
of producing effects like contrivances of reason, yet 
so far beyond the intelligence and experience of the 
agent, as to be wholly uuexplainable by reference 
to them." Habitual acts can only be understood 
from human experience. Acts to be performed habit- 


ually or meclianically must first be learned by an 
exercise of intelligence. It is a very unsatisfactory 
explanation of the works of a beaver, to affirm that 
he was endowed at his birth with a mechanical skill 
which, by the laws of mind, must be acquired by 
experience. An assertion that the acts of a beaver in 
felling a tree, in constructing a dam, or in excavating a 
canal, are beyond his intelligence, is mere assumption, 
as well as a contradiction of terms. This conclusion 
flows legitimately from the original blunder of at- 
tempting arbitrarily to endow animals with a super- 
natural principle, which enables them to perform 
ignorantly and blindly works of intelligence and 
knowledge. While this mysterious "agent" performs 
its office intelligently, the animal is a mere machine, 
according to the theory of Descartes. In other words, 
he is made a dwelling for a principle of intelligence; 
but this principle being superior to, and in some way 
independent of, the mute, holds no other relation to 
him than that of master and guide. Can anything 
be found in the whole range of human speculation 
more feeble than this expedient of human reason to 
explain a class of phenomena as simple as the sim- 
plest in the natural world? 

The practice of beavers, while moving their short 
cuttings by water, of placing one end against the 
throat and pushing it from behind, of carrying mud and 
stones under their throats, holding them there with 
the paws, and of packing mud upon their lodges and 
dams by a stroke of the tail, have elsewhere been ex- 
plained. They are severally intelligent acts, performed 
sensibly and rationally. Their method of shoving or 
rolling the larger billets of wood with their hips is 


even more ingenious. The little ants resort to a simi- 
lar expedient to move bits of grain, but shove them 
with their shoulders. Their ingenuity and intelli- 
gence attracted the attention of ancient observers, 
several of whom recognized in them the possession of 
a mental principle.^ Cicero says of the ant, who ex- 
cels the beaver in systematic industry : " In formicam 
non modo sensus, sed etiam mens, ratio, memoria." 
Personal labor of every kind and description depends 
upon, as well as evinces, the continuous operation of 
a mental principle. 

Many animals, among which the beaver and the 
ant are good examples, provide a store of provisions 
for their sustenance during winter. This act shows 
a forecast of the future. To satisfy present hunger 
is a simple act of intelligence; but to anticipate dis- 
tant wants and provide for them is a much higher act 
of knowledge. What motive could induce the mutes 
to make such provision unless they knew, or had 

^ Ac veluti iDgentem formicse farris acervum 
quum populant, hiemis memores, tectoque reponunt: 
it nigrum campis agmen, prsedamque per herbas 
convectant calle angusto; pars grandia trudunt 
obnixse frumenta humeris; pars agmina cogmit, 
castigantque moras ; opere omnis semita fervet. 

"Virgil, J^neid, iv. 402. 

Ac si quis comparet onera corporibus earum, fateatur, nullis 
portione vires esse majores. Gerunt ea morsu. Majora aversse 
postremis pedibus moliuntur, humeris obnixae. Et iis Republicas 
ratio, memoria, cura. 

Pliny, Nat, Hist., Lib. xi. c. xxxvi. 

The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat 
in the summer. Proverbs, xxx. 25. 

^ De Nat. Deoi'um. Lib. iii. c. ix. 


learned by experience, that winter followed the sum- 
mer, and that the preservation of their lives required 
the accumulation of a surplus of food? The posses- 
sion of a thinking principle renders all of these acts 
perfectly intelligible as w^ell as simple; and without 
it they are wholly incapable of a rational expla- 

The beaver, in a comparative estimate, is a low ani- 
mal in his structural organization, as has been shown. 
He lives upon the coarsest food, is slow of motion 
upon land, of low respiration, monotrematous, and 
aquatic. His vision is short in range, and his brain 
is without those convolutions which are regarded as 
indications of mental power. In the great catalogue 
of animals, which is constructed upon the basis of 
anatomical structure, he rises no higher than the rat, 
the porcupine, or the squirrel. There is no reason for 
supposing that he is more intelligent than any other 
rodent of a corresponding grade. And yet by his 
sagacity, his industry, and his artificial erections, he 
has raised himself to a very respectable position, in 
human estimation, for intelligence and architectural 
capacity. It is because he needs these erections to 
promote his comfort and safety that man is able to 
follow the evidences of his skill and intelligence, and 
to become satisfied of their extraordinary character. 
If then an animal, with such an inferior organization, 
manifests so large an amount of mental capacity, of 
how much more must those be capable whose organ- 
ization is found to be so much superior! 

There is no doubt that the highest forms of intel- 
ligence among the mutes are to be found in the car- 
nivorous animals. As an order they live pre-eminently 


by their wits; and they are unquestionably endowed 
with mental capacities, of higher relative power, to 
enable them to maintain their existence. The pro- 
pagation and perpetuation of their species to the 
present time, testifies to the continuous triumph of 
their superior intelligence over the feebler capacities 
of the non-carnivorous mutes upon whom they sub- 
sist. They are able to endure hunger and fatigue, 
to wait and watch for prey, and to invent and prac- 
tice many artifices for the capture of the latter. Many 
of them have great physical strength, a large brain, 
powerful respiration, and remarkable fleetness of foot. 
Their personal appearance commands both respect 
and admiration. Who ever looked into the clear 
round eye of a lion, without being impressed with the 
thought that there was a quick intelligence and a 
powerful will behind it, which, in the open plain or 
in the thicket, it would be hard to deceive and diffi- 
cult to overmatch ! 

The carnivorous animals construct nothing, save a 
burrow or a den. Their personal acts, which have 
never been carefully studied, furnish, therefore, the 
only sources of information concerning their mental 
endowments. But enough of these have been wit- 
nessed and authenticated to illustrate the subject. It 
will be sufficient for the present purpose to introduce 
one or two cases. 

The fox, when pursued, often takes to the bed of a 
shallow stream to conceal his footprints and suppress 
his scent; or runs back upon his own track for some 
distance, and then, making a long leap at a right 
angle, changes his direction. These devices were 
well adapted to embarrass and foil his pursuers. It 


seems to be an unavoidable inference that the fox 
understood the means by which he was followed, and 
that he possessed sufficient acuteness, as well as sub- 
tlety of mind, to counteract, in these ways, the danger. 
These expedients presuppose a consciousness of peril, 
which of itself involves a knowledge of antecedent 
occurrences; and the execution of the device shows 
deliberation, conclusion, and an exercise of the will. 
The acts themselves are unexplainable except as 
manifestations of a free intelligence. 

This animal, whose cunning is proverbial, has been 
known to simulate death, to secure his deliverance, 
under circumstances somewhat trying to his fortitude. 
A fox one night entered the hen-house of a farmer, 
and after destroying a large number of fowls, gorged 
himself to such repletion that he could not pass out 
through the small aperture by which he had entered. 
The proprietor found him, in the morning, sprawled 
out upon the floor apparently dead from surfeit; and 
taking him up by the legs carried him out, unsus- 
pectingly, and for some distance to the side of his 
house, where he dropped him upon the grass. No 
sooner did Reynard find himself free than he sprang 
to his feet and made his escape.' He seemed to know 
that it was only as a dead fox that he would be al- 
lowed to leave the scene of his spoliations; and yet 
to devise this plan of escape required no ordinary 
effort of intelligence, while its execution rather taxes 
our confidence in his possession of such steadiness of 

^ This incident was communicated to the author by Coral C. 
White, of Aurora, New York, who carried out the fox. His 
veracity is unimpeachable. 


nerves. A man placed in similar circumstances, and 
resorting to a like expedient, would be conscious of 
several distinct processes of reasoning. It is difficult 
to perceive how these processes could be possible, in 
either case, except by the agency of a mental princi- 
ple, or how they could differ as modes of thought. 

The several acts of the mutes here cited, as illustra- 
tions of the exercise of reason, can be fully explained 
as manifestations of a thinking principle. When the 
possession by them of such a principle is recognized, 
all difficulties vanish; and their conduct appears in an 
intelligible light. It also follows that their intelligence 
must necessarily be free to act within the range of its 
powers. In this discussion the relative strength of 
their mental capacities is left out of view, as imma- 
terial. Compared with those of the human intellect 
they are feeble and slight, but within their several 
spheres of life and action they are ample for the 
promotion of their individual happiness. 

V. Imagination. Whether the animal mind exhibits 
the quality of imagination it may be difficult to sub- 
stantiate. Although it is one of the highest quali- 
ties of the mental principle, yet it is manifested in 
many simple forms. The playfulness of childhood, 
which is also commonly exhibited by the young of 
animals, is superinduced, seemingly, by the pictures 
or images formed in the mind by the fancy or imagin- 
ation. This faculty, Kames observes, "is the great 
instrument of recreation." If an attempt is made to 
explain the songs of birds, it will be necessary to re- 
sort to imagination, since the art itself is imaginative. 
Animals are known to dream from physical indica- 
tions during sleep, and dreams are the works of mem- 


ory and imagination. Too little is known of the lives 
of animals to show whether they possess this quality 
in any sensible degree. 

VI. The Will. A doubt has been entertained whether 
the mutes possess a will, like the will of man, because 
responsibility must follow its exercise. Their own 
lives, at least, are intrusted to their keeping, the pres- 
ervation of which is the highest form of responsibility. 
With a free volition, they rise up or lie down; they 
go or come; they play or quarrel, they bark, or mew, 
or sing; and they lie in wait for prey, or seek it by 
long excursions. These several acts are performed 
under the influence of motives, and were preceded by 
an exercise of the will. Unless the mute has a free 
choice between alternative courses, one of which may 
lead to danger and the other to safety, his conduct 
^vould be unintelligent. He might lose his life at any 
moment. The will is that mental power that sets 
the body in motion to execute a resolution previously 
reached by a process of reasoning. It is the power 
which adopts and executes the conclusions of the 
judgment. Unless a difference can be discovered in 
the quality of the will, as displayed by the mutes and 
by mankind, there is no means of distinguishing one 
from the other, except in the degree of its strength 
and persistency. A will, also, presupposes the exist- 
ence of a mental principle, of which alone it can be 

VII. Ajypetites and Passions. The mutes have the 
appetites and passions in common wath mankind. No 
difficulty has ever been found in conceding a commu- 
nity of characteristics in these, the inferior, manifest- 
ations of the mental principle. While they differ in 


the degree of their strength, some of them are un- 
doubtedly wanting among the lowest grades of the 
vertebrate animals. As a portion of them excel man- 
kind in the acuteness of the senses, by means of which 
the feebleness of their mental powers is supplemented, 
so in some of the appetites and passions they may 
possess a delicacy of sensibility of which the human 
species are incapable. In their affections for their 
youiig, and for their mates (among such as pair), the 
highest evidence of their sensibility is found. They 
also display courage, fidelity, and gratitude, and to 
these, perhaps, in some rare instances, benevolence 
may be added. For the possession of these qualities, 
which are undistinguishable from the corresponding 
qualities manifested by the human mind, and for the 
beautiful illustrations of maternal affection which 
they display, they are entitled to our regard. 

Captain Stansbury gives the following account of a 
blind pelican upon one of the islands of the Great 
Salt Lake of Utah : " In a ramble around the shores 
of the island, I came across a venerable looking old 
pelican, very large and fat, which allowed me to ap- 
proach him without attempting to escape. Surprised 
at his apparent tameness, we examined him more 
closely, and found that it was owing to his being en- 
tirely blind, for he proved to be very pugnacious, 
snapping freely, but vaguely, on each side, in search of 
his enemies, whom he could hear but could not see. 
As he was totally helpless, he must have subsisted on 
the charity of his neighbors, and his sleek and com- 
fortable condition showed, that like beggars in more 
civilized communities, he had 'fared sumptuously every 
day.' The food of these birds consists entirely of 


fish, which they must necessarily obtain from Bear 
River, from the Weber, the Jordan, or from the Warm 
Springs on the eastern side of Spring Valley, at all of 
which places they were observed fishing for food. The 
nearest of these points was more than thirty miles 
distant, making necessary a flight of at least sixty 
miles to procure and transport food for the subsistence 
of their young. Immense numbers of young birds 
were huddled together in groups about the island, 
under the charge of a grave looking nurse or keeper, 
who, all the time that we were there, was relieved 
from guard at intervals as regularly as a sentinel."^ 

Incidents illustrative of this class of qualities could 
be multiplied to an indefinite extent. They tend in a 

^ Stansbury's Salt Lake, p. 193. Another incident related by 
the same writer, expressive of the maternal solicitude as well as 
intelligence of the pelican, is worth repeating. "Rounding the 
north point of Antelope Island, we called at the little islet, to 
which we had given the name of Egg Island, to look after our 
old friends, the gulls and pelicans. * * * One poor fellow, 
about four inches long, driven by the extremity of his fear, took 
to the water of his own accord, when he was swept out by the 
current to the distance of two or three hundred yards, and seemed 
quite bewildered by the novelty of his situation. As soon as he 
was discovered by the old birds, who hovered over our heads in 
thousands, watching our proceedings with great anxiety and noise, 
one — the parent, we judged, from its greater solicitude — lighted 
down by its side, and was soon joined by half a dozen others, 
who began guiding the little navigator to the shore, flying a 
little way before him, and again alighting, the mother swimuiing 
beside him, and evidently encouraging him in this, his first adven- 
ture upon the water. The little fellow seemed perfectly to under- 
stand what was meant, and wh(;n we sailed away, was advancing 
rapidly under the convoy of his friends, and was within a few 
yards of the shore, which he doul^tless reached in safet}"." — lb. 
p. 207. 



striking manner to show the uniformity of the opera- 
tions of the mental principle throughout the animal 

VIII. Lunacy of Animals. Under the preceding 
heads we have discussed a small number out of the 
great body of facts which tend to establish the exist- 
ence of a thinking reasoning principle among the 
mutes; and also tending to show that the qualities 
manifested by it cannot be distinguished from the cor- 
responding manifestations of the human mind, except 
in the degree of their strength. Cases have occurred 
among animals where their mental powers were over- 
thrown, and lunacy supervened, furnishing the same 
external indications which follow the overthrow of 
the human intellect, so that the animal has been seen 
in both conditions, when in the full possession of his 
faculties, and when their functions have been sus- 
pended. Dr. Kane relates several cases in point among 
his dogs, occasioned by the absence of light during the 
long arctic winter while he was ice bound in the far 
north. He remarks as follows: "The mouse-colored 
dogs, the leaders of my Newfoundland team, have for 
the last fortnight been nursed like babies. No one 
can tell how anxiously I watch them. They are kept 
below, tended, fed, cleansed, caressed, and doctored, 
to the infinite discomfort of all hands. To-day I give 
up the last hope of saving them. Their disease is as 
clearly mental as in the case of any human being. 
The more material functions of the poor brutes go on 
without interruption; they eat voraciously, retain 
their strength, and sleep well. But all the indica- 
tions beyond this go to prove that the original epilepsy, 
which was the first manifestation of brain disease 


among them, has been followed by a true lunacy. 
They look frenziedly at nothing, walk in straight and 
curved lines, with anxious and unwearying persever- 
ance. They fawn on you, but without seeming to 
appreciate the notice you give them in return; push- 
ing their heads against your person, or oscillating 
with a strange pantomime of fear. Their most intel- 
ligent actions seem automatic; sometimes they claw 
you as if trying to burrow into your seal skins; some- 
times they remain for hours in moody silence, and 
then start oif howling as if pursued, and run up and 
down for hours. So it was with poor Flora, our 
'wise dog.' She was seized with the endemic spasms, 
and after a few days of violent paroxysms, lapsed into 
a lethargic condition, eating voraciously, but gaining 
no strength. This passing off, the same crazy wild- 
ness took possession of her, and she died of brain 
disease (arachnoidal effusion) in about six weeks.''^ 

This account is so full and specific that it needs no 
comment. Such a case of lunacy was only needed 
to complete the analogy which seems to be sustained 
in every other of the more common manifestations o± 
the animal and of the human mind. 

From the foregoing but most incomplete and im- 
perfect consideration of some of the branches of the 
subject of Animal Psychology, it would be venture- 
some to urge any other than the more simple conclu- 
sions. Two or three only will be suggested. 

In the first place, the term "instinct," to explain 
the intelligent acts of animals, should be abandoned. 
This term was an invention of the metaphysicians to 

^ Arctic Explorations, i. 157. 


assert and maintain a fundamental distinction be- 
tween the mental principle of the human species and 
that of the inferior animals. With its multiform defi- 
nitions, and with the repeated enlargements of its 
signification, it is wholly incapable of explaining the 
phenomena of animal intelligence. As a vain attempt 
to embody a system of philosophy in a definition, it 
has proved a failure, as might have been expected. 
When carried to its legitimate results, it endows every 
animal with a supernatural principle, and makes 
each of his intelligent acts little short of a miracle. 
As a term or invention it is functus officio. With its 
disuse the subject of Animal Psychology is freed from 
all extraneous embarrassments, and the mental phe- 
nomena manifested by the mutes can be investigated 
and explained on philosophical principles. 

In the second place, we are led to recognize in the 
mutes the possession of a free intelligence. In other 
words, that they are endowed ,with a mental principle 
which performs for them the same office that the 
human mind does for man; that this principle is free 
to act in view of motives and premises; and that it is 
ample in measure to enable each animal, within his 
sphere of action, to preserve his life and govern his 
conduct. This conclusion seems necessarily to follow 
from their possession of the organs of sense, from 
their manifestation of the appetites and passions, and 
from their ability to perceive, to remember, to reason, 
and to will. 

And in the third and last place, as we are unable, 
in similar specific acts, to find any difference in kind 
between the manifestations of perception, appetite 
and passion, memory, reason and will on the part of 


a mute, «ind the corresponding manifestations on the 
part of a man, we are led to the conclusion that the 
difference is one of degree, and not of kind; and 
therefore that the principle from which they emanate 
is the same in kind, but bestowed in different meas- 
ure, to adapt each species to its particular mode of 

This theory, when rightly considered, is neither 
novel nor subversive of moral truth. The general 
intelligence of mankind, which embodies, in a greater 
degree than is usually supposed, the highest sense of 
the human understanding, never adopted the spec- 
ulations of the metaphysicians with reference to the 
endowments of the inferior animals. On the con- 
trary, it has ever been disposed to recognize in them 
the possession of a rational, thinking principle, as free 
to act as the mind of man. To this view later 
writers are drawing sensibly nearer. Among the 
number. Max Mliller has quite recently put forth 
some very sensible observations. "I mean," he re- 
marks, "to claim a large share of what we call our 
mental faculties for the higher animals. These ani- 
mals have serisation, perception, memory, will, and in- 
tellect — only we must restrict intellect to the inter- 
lacing of single perceptions. All these points can be 
proved by irrefragable evidence. * * * There are, 
no doubt, many people who are as much frightened 
at the idea that brutes have souls, and are able to 
think, as by ^the blue ape without a tail.' * •=' * 
It does not follow that brutes have no souls, because 
they have no human souls. It does not follow that 
the souls of men are not immortal, because the souls 
of animals are not immortal; nor has the major 


premiss ever been proved by any philosopher, namely, 
that the souls of brutes must necessarily be destroyed 
and annihilated by death. Leibnitz, who has defended 
the immortality of the human soul with stronger 
arguments than even Descartes, writes: 'I found at 
last how the souls of brutes and their sensations do 
not at all interfere with the immortality of human 
souls; on the contrary, nothing seems better to 
establish our natural immortality than to beheve that 
all souls are imperishable.'"^ To nearly the same 
effect, Agassiz had previously expressed himself. 
"When animals fight with one another," he says, 
"when they associate for a common purpose, when 
they warn one another in danger, when they come to 
the rescue of one another, when they display pain or 
joy, they manifest impulses of the same kind as are 
considered among the moral attributes of man. The 
range of the passions is even as extensive as that of 
the human mind, and I am at a loss to perceive a dif- 
ference in kind between them, however much they 
may differ in degree, and in the manner in which 
they are expressed. * * * This argues strongly 
in favor of the existence in every animal of an im- 
material principle similar to that which, by its excel- 
lence and superior endowments, places man so much 
above animals. Yet the principle exists unquestion- 
ably, and whether it be called soul, reason, or in- 
stinct, it presents in the whole range of organized 
beings a series of phenomena closely linked together; 
and upon it are based not only the highest manifesta- 
tions of mind, but the very permanence of the specific 

^ Science of Language. Scribner's ed., lee. ix. p. 349. 


differences which characterize every organism. Most 
of the arguments of philosophy in favor of the im- 
mortality of man apply equally to the permanence of 
this principle in other living beings." ^ 

With two or three further suggestions this discus- 
sion will be concluded. It cannot be said that the 
views, herein presented, tend to lower the personal 
dignity of man; but, on the contrary, they rather 
serve to distinguish his position. His great superior- 
ity is abundantly assured by the bestowment of the 
highest structural organization, of the fullest mental 
endowments, and by the possession of articulate 
speech. The distance which separates him from the 
highest of the mutes is sufficiently immeasurable to 
relieve his pride from all sense of humiliation from 
the consciousness of sharing the principle of intelli- 
gence with the latter. Sidney Smith has touched 
this point with his satirical pen in the following lan- 
guage : " I confess I feel myself so much at ease about 
the superiority of mankind — I have such a marked 
and decided contempt for the understanding of every 
baboon T have ever seen — I feel so sure that the blue 
ape without a tail will never rival us in poetry, paint- 
ing, and music, that I see no reason whatever that 
justice may not be done to the few fragments of soul 
and tatters of understanding which they mny really 
possess." The mental principle here derided, while 
its possession is admitted, has, nevertheless, the in- 
herent dignity of w^hich a thinking principle cannot 
be divested. By his pre-eminent endowments, man 
stands at the head of the animal kingdom, the great 

» Nat. Hist. U. S., i. 64. 


exemplar of this principle, and separated by a wide 
interval from its other possessors. The separation is as 
marked and real as could be desired. But it is doubt- 
ful whether he possesses the sum of the powers of the 
principle called mind. It is precisely here, as it seems 
to the writer, that God has revealed a feature in the 
plan of creation not less wonderful than the original 
conception of a mental principle. Having called into 
existence this marvelous principle, and created a series 
of organic forms, He apportioned it among them all 
in such measure as to adapt each individual being to 
the sphere of life in which he was designed to move. 
The widest possible range for the exercise and devel- 
opment of mind was thus provided. A full compre- 
hension of its powers and capacities must therefore 
be sought in its varied manifestations by the several 
species. It is not probable that the whole of its powers 
are possessed by any species : but rather that in their 
totality they are to be found among the members of 
the animal kingdom as a whole. A true system of 
mental philosophy, therefore, cannot be developed 
until all the manifestations of this principle are com- 

The hiatus between man and the nearest species 
below him in the scale of intelligence is so wide as to 
disturb the symmetrical gradation of the several 
orders of animals. We can neither conjecture that 
some intermediate order has fallen out of existence, 
nor assume the permanent degradation of any existing 
species; but, on the contrary, it seems to have been a 
part of the original plan of creation that man should 
stand without a compeer or contestant, the indisputable 
head of the series of organic forms, and the recipient, 


in the largest measure, of the gift of the mental prin- 
ciple. Some explanation of his excessive superiority 
may be found in the progress he has made since his 
emergence from his primitive condition. For ages, 
the bounds of which are unknown, mankind were im- 
mersed in a barbarism the depths of which can be 
but feebly conceived. They were without arts, with- 
out agriculture, without flocks or herds, depending 
chiefly upon fish, and the spontaneous fruits of the 
earth for subsistence. There are glimpses aflbrded to 
us, here and there, of a state of society in which the 
family relations were unknown, and in which violence 
and passion reigned supreme. The contrast between 
such a condition of mankind, and that of the present 
time, is so great that it is difficult to recognize in these 
primitive barbarians our lineal progenitors. Out of 
that condition man has struggled through a long and 
painful experience until he has been finally rewarded 
with the amenities of civilization. Language has 
been the great instrument of this progress, the power 
of which was increased many fold when it clothed 
itself in written characters. He was thus enabled to 
perpetuate the results of individual experience, and 
transmit them through the ages. Each discovery 
thus became a foundation on which to mount up to 
new discoveries. With the knowledge he has gained, 
and the elevation he has experienced, it is now diffi- 
cult to realize the low condition from which his line 
of advancement commenced. Portions of the human 
family are still found in the darkness of ignorance, 
and in the feebleness of mental imbecility; and yet, 
although the distance of their intellectual separation 
is very great, it is much less than that between the 


latter and the most intelligent of the inferior animals. 
The difference expresses the superiority of his struc- 
tural organization and of his mental endowments. 

On the other hand, can it be truly affirmed that 
the inferior animals have been stationary in tlieir 
knowledge from the commencement of their exist- 
ence? This conclusion should not be over-hastily 
assumed. Within the period of human observation, 
their progress has seemed to be inconsiderable — but 
yet not absolutely nothing. For example, dogs under 
training have developed special capacities, such as the 
pointer and the setter, and have transmitted them to 
their offspring. This shows not only progress, but 
that of so marked a character as to work a transform- 
ation in the characteristics of the animal. Many ani- 
mals, as the elephant, the horse, the bear, and even 
the hog — the type of stupidity — have been taught a 
variety of performances, under the stimulus of re- 
wards, of which they were previously ignorant. 
These examples, however, are less important than 
the knowledge acquired by undomesticated animals, 
and transmitted, as a part of their experience and 
knowledge, in the species in which they were ac- 
quired. Of this kind are the several varieties of the 
beaver lodge and dam, and the development and per- 
petuation of the idea of a beaver canal. When care- 
ful and patient investigation has been made of these 
several subjects, the results will materially modify, 
in all probability, our present impressions. 

Finally, is it to be the prerogative of man to uproot 
and destroy not only the masses of the animal king- 
dom numerically, but also the great body of the spe- 
cies? If the human family maintains its present hos- 


tile attitude toward the mutes, and increases in 
numbers and in civilization at the present ratio, for 
several centuries to come, it is plain to be seen that 
many species of animals must be extirpated from the 
earth. An arrest of the progress of the human race 
can alone prevent the dismemberment and destruction 
of a large portion of the animal kingdom. Domestica- 
tion or extermination is the alternative already ofiered 
not alone to species, but to families and orders of ani- 
mals. It may be that this result was never intended in 
the councils of Providence. It is not unlikely that 
God has adjusted a balance among the several orders 
of animals which cannot be overthrown except at the 
peril of the aggressor; and that in some mysterious 
way this balance is destined to be preserved. The 
present attitude of man toward the mutes is not such, 
in all respects, as befits his superior wisdom. We 
deny them all rights, and ravage their ranks with 
wanton and unmerciful cruelty. The annual sacri- 
fice of animal life to maintain human life is frightful, 
if considered only with reference to its excess beyond 
our reasonable wants. When the Creator made man 
omnivorous. He designed his use of animal food. It 
is not sentimentalism but rather sense, to say that he 
should exercise the right with reason and forbearance. 
When we claim that the bear was made for man's food, 
we forget that man was just as much made to be Ibod 
for the bear; and that our right to eat the bear rests 
upon no higher sanction, than his coequal right to feast 
upon our flesh if he overcomes in battle. Man's do- 
minion over the mutes is in virtue of his superior 
endowments; but it is equally clear that the great 
Author of existence designed the happiness of the 


smallest and least endowed of all His creatures as 
completely and as absolutely as He did the happiness 
of man. If we recognize the fact that the mutes pos- 
sess a thinking, and reasoning, and perhaps an im- 
mortal principle, our relations to them will appear to 
us in a different, and in a better light. 



From Hearne's Journey, etc, Lond. ed. 1795, p. 226. 



From Gardens arid Menagerie. Zoolog. Soc'ty. Quadrupeds. I. 153. 


nsr o T IE, 

The annexed articles by Hearne and Bennett, Appendices 
B and C, are the best and most authentic extant upon the 
beaver. They have been made the foundation of the later 
accounts of this animal which are found in the Encyclope- 
dias, and in current works on Natural History. It was their 
brevity, and consequent incompleteness, which induced the 
publication of this work, for the purpose of furnishing a more 
detailed exposition of the habits of the beaver, and of his ar- 
lificial erections. 


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II. Differences between the European and the American 

If naturalists have found it difficult to agree as to the proper 
classification of the beaver, they have been scarcely less troubled 
to decide whether the beavers of the Old and the New World con- 
stitute one or more species. Some reference to this subject might 
be expected in a work like the present; and in order to limit the 
discussion I propose to examine only the views given by Dr. 
Brandt, as being the latest and most elaborate, and probably the 
most conclusive, that can be adduced in favor of the diversity of 

In a series of essays published in the " Memoires de I'Academie 
de St. Petersbourg," Brandt has discussed many questions relating 
to the beaver with great ability and thoroughness of investiga- 
tion. His conclusions on the point before us are expressed in 
the following summar}^ : 

"1. From the investigations of Kuhl, Oken, and previously of 
Brandt and Ratzeburg, no outward characteristic appears afford- 
ing evidence of a specific difference. 

"2. That in respect to the relative size of the body, the Ameri- 
can beaver, from previous experiences, does not differ from the 
European in any essential particular, and probably not at all. 

"3. That in respect to the relation of the head-, ear-, foot-, and 
tail-formation, no distinctive characteristics have yet been dis- 

"4. That, on the other hand, by the comparison of eight skulls 
of the European beaver, with five skulls of beavers from the 
northwest coast of America, manifold constant differences, in 
part very striking, become apparent between the beavers of the 
Old and New World. 

" 5. That many of the differences in these skulls involve also 
variations in the external structure. 

" 6. That, finally, the well-known histological variation in the 
castor sacs, which exists between the beavers of the Old and the 
New World, and also the difference in the appearance of their 
secretion, seem to establish a specific difference between the two.'" 
P. 62. 

Excluding then, as we may do, all but the two points named, 


viz., the differences observed in the skull, and in the castoreum 
organs, it remains to inquire whether these variations are con- 
stant and essential, and such as characterize species, or only 

The fact that the beavers of the Old and the New World present 
certain points of difference in the skull formation is not to be de- 
nied, and the attempt has been made to eliminate those which 
are considered unessential from those which possess an invariable 
character in the two races, so as to establish just grounds for the 
specific distinction. It is important to realize the tendency to 
variation which exists in the cranial structures, and I therefore 
quote from Brandt, from an article "TTpon the variation of par- 
ticular bones of the Beaver Skull," op. cit. p. 6T. 

"If we have the opportunity of comparing with each other a 
large number of skulls of one and the same species, we not unfre- 
quently learn, on closer inspection, that no one of them agrees 
perfectly with the others, but that all show more or less striking 
variations. These variations are often so considerable, that if we 
thus examined but two or three skulls, we should have no hesi- 
tancy in deciding, according to the prevailing method of determ- 
ining zoological species, that there was a specific difference in 
the animals to which such skulls belonged. The examination of 
a larger number of beaver skulls convinced me how erroneous 
would be a conclusion drawn from the examination of a small 
number of specimens. 

" The following remarks, therefore, have only for their object to 
name the variations which I have seen occur in the skulls of the 
species Castor, and to show that it is only by several, or better, 
by many specimens of one and the same species, that we can 
with anj- degree of certainty determine the boundaries of such 

In the comparisons made by Brandt of European and American 
beaver skulls, he refers to eight of the former, and five of the lat- 
ter variety. We have, in our collection, over ninety skulls of the 
American beaver from the region near Lake Superior, and through 
the kindness of Prof. James Hall, of the New York State Mu- 
seum, and Prof Spencer F. Baird, of the Smithsonian Institution, 
I have had the opportunity to examine skulls from other American 
localities, in all over one hundred specimens. Prof. Baird has 



also favored me with a European skull, No. 6564, from the 
Smithsoaian Institution.^ 

By comparing the skulls of this extensive series with the de- 
scriptions given by Brandt in the following article, I find that 
many more resemblances may be traced between the European 
and the American beaver than he has observed, thus reducing the 
amount of constant differences between the two varieties. 

We give the translation of the whole of his article in which 
the two kinds of skulls are compared, adding to the sections the 
results obtained by an examination of the skulls of the American 
series referred to above. 

"Memoires de I'Academie de St. Petersbourg, VI. Serie, p. 53. 

" § 1. Superior aspect of different beaver skulls. 

" If we examine the skull of the European and of the American 
beaver, we notice the following special differences: 

" 1 . The portion of the frontal bone lying between the arches of 
the eyebrows, in all the European skulls is shorter and broader, 
much broader than long; but in the American, narrower and 
somewhat longer (quite as broad as long) ; so that the middle 
transverse diameter of the anterior portion of the frontal bone — 
that part lying between the eyes — is in the American skulls 
nearly or quite as long as the arch of the eyebrows ; but in the 
European it appears longer than this." 

This is true generally of the American skulls ; but in six speci- 
mens the average length of the eyebrow portion is 81"'f, and 
the average width of the middle portion is 1'' 08"'^, being an 
excess of width of 26"'|. 

" 2. In the European skulls the arches of the eyebrows are 
shorter, and their posterior tubercles, opposite the highest point 
of the malar bone, are strongly developed. In the American, on 
the contrary, the posterior eyebrow processes, only indicated, 
sometimes scarcely indicated at all, or at least but slightly devel- 
oped, can be seen back of the highest point of the malar. The 
anterior eyebrow process is in all the European skulls likewise 
stronger than in the American." 

The highest point of the malar in American skulls is in advance 
of the posterior processes; but in one skull (No 20) it is on a line 

1 I am also indebted to Prof. Baird for the use of several works, relating 
to the beaver, from the Smiihsonian Institution. 

DR. w. w. Ely's notes on chapter ii. 291 

with these processes, as in the European variety. In the older 
and larger American skulls, both processes are strongly developed, 
particularly the anterior. In many skulls the posterior processes 
are as strongly marked as in the European skull. In the young 
New York skull they are even stronger than in the young and 
larger European skull. 

"3. The snout, measured from the inferior orbital opening to 
the inferior corner of the nostril in two European skulls of equal 
size (Nos. 56 and 186 of the Kiew Col.), is broader and somewhat 
longer than in an American skull of equal size in the Academic 

" 4. The nasal bones show the greatest variations. Their length 
in all the European is much above one-third the length of the 
skull, measured from the incisor teeth to the crista occipitalis ; 
while, on the contrary, in the three larger of the American skulls 
the length of the nasal bones is only a little if any over one-third, 
and the smallest not even one-third the length of the skull. The 
nasal bones of the six older skulls lying before me of the European 
beaver are therefore longer, and extend more or less far poste- 
riorly, i.e. more or less beyond the anterior prominence of the 
arch of the eyebrows, so that they (the nasal bones) lie with their 
posterior borders nearly or quite opposite the middle of the mar- 
gins of the orbits. In a young Polish beaver (No. 57 of the Kiew 
Col.) they i*each, however, only to the anterior third of the orbital 
ring (note — our Caucasian skull can serve as an example of 
strong lengthening of the nasal bones) — and in our young Lap- 
land beaver they lie nearly as in our California beaver skull, op- 
posite only the circumference of the anterior border of the orbital 
ring. In none of the five American skulls, lying before me, on 
the contrary, do the nasal bones extend beyond the anterior 
prominence of the eyebrows In nearly all the skulls of the 
European beaver, compared with the five American ones lying 
before me, the nasal bones are in form longer in the middle and 
posterior, however, in general narrower, so that their breadth in 
their middle varies between one-fourth and one-fifth of their 
length, while in our five American skulls the breadth of their 
middle portion attains to between one-third and one-fourth of 
their length. Although the nasal bones of the American beaver 
are thus on the whole broader, still they vary less in this respect 
than in their lesser length. The external border of the nasal 


bones of the European beaver is not so strongly curved as in the 
American. Two of the European skulls, however, approach 
quite to the American in this respect. The superior surface oi 
the anterior half of the nasal bones is in six of the European 
skulls pretty plane ; in two of the others, on the contrary (Nos. 51 
and 1955 of the Kiew Col.), as in all the five American, it is 
strongly convex. In regard to the character (or relation) of the 
nasal bones, there remains, therefore, in consequence of the pre- 
ceding remarks, only their more considerable length in compari- 
son with the skull as a mark of the European beaver; since the 
greater lengthening posteriorly of the nasal bones cannot be so 
rigorously proven in all European beavers, especially not in our 
Lapland specimens. It is possible, however, that the nasal bones 
are less prolonged posteriorly in younger animals than in full- 
grown, so that in this way the full-grown European might be 
recognized by its posteriorly prolonged nasal bones. Confirm- 
atory of this view are the following facts : 1. That in all of the six 
old skulls lying before me of European beavers, the posterior ex- 
trem.ities of the nasal bones reach more or less far posteriorly, 
and that this happens in a young skull of the Kiew Collection 
(No. 57), the length of which is four lines greater than that of 
the one from Lapland ; and 2, that in one very young American 
skull, the nasal bones extend backward somewhat less relatively 
than in the full grown." 

It is in respect to the nasal bones that the greatest difference 
has been observed between the European and the American 
beavers. The most striking obvious difference being the back- 
ward extension of the nasals in the European variety. In ex- 
treme cases, their posterior margins are found behind the middle 
of the margin of the orbital ring: and over the anterior margin 
of the upper molars — a point probably never reached by the 
nasals in the American skull ; but this feature of the European 
skull is not constant. Brandt has not found it in the Polish and 
the Lapland beaver, and he expressly yields the point as to its 
being a characteristic mark of the European variety ; it cannot, 
he says, "be rigorously proven in all European skulls." In the 
New York skull the nasals are elongated as represented in the 
Polish skull. It does not appear that the lengthening of the 
nasals in the American skull is invariably due to age — since 
their proportional length, in some young skulls, perhaps equals 

DR. w. w. Ely's notes on chapter ii. 203 

that of older specimens. The form of these bones, i.e. their 
width and convex outer margin, differ much in American speci- 
mens. Having examined this subject with much care, Brandt 
concludes in respect to the nasal bones, that there remains "only 
their more considerable length in comparison with the skull as 
a mark of the European heaver.''^ 

I have carefully examined over one hundred skulls in reference 
to this point, the measurements being made with callipers, the 
length being estimated from the inferior border of the intermax- 
illary to the occipital crest in the median line. 

In six American skulls the average length is b" 39'"^. The 
average length of the nasals is \" 80'"|, an excess of 13'^'^ 
over one-third the length of the skull. 

In three skulls having an average length of 4" 42'", the 
length of the nasals is \" 58'"|, making the excess over one- 
third 34'". 

In seven skulls whose length respectively is b" 10'", 3" 95"', 
5" 10"', 5" 13"', 4" 94'", 5" 13'", 5" 17"', the excess of 
length of the nasals over one-third the length of the skull is 63'", 
34"', 30'", 42'", 46"', 51'", 47"'. 

In the New York skull. No. 1U72, in which the backward pro- 
iection of the nasals resembles some of the European skulls, the 
excess over one-third is but 11'". In the European skull, No. 6564, 
in which the backward projection of the nasals appears to have its 
maximum, this excess is 29"', which is much less than in many 
American skulls. We must conclude, therefore, that the back- 
ward projection of the nasals, and their greater proportionate 
length as compared with American skulls, are not constant and 
distinctive features of the European variety. 

"5. The frontal portion of the lachrymal bone of the American 
beaver is more triangular, posteriorly twice as broad as ante- 
riorly, and smaller than in the European ; it is also nearly limited 
to the space between the malar and frontal bones ; since it im- 
pinges onl}"- with its anterior border-like narrow end upon a small 
process of the upper jaw, or even only approaches it. In the 
beavers of the Old World, however, the larger, more quadrangu- 
lar, anteriorly and posteriorly equally broad frontal portion of the 
lachrymal bone lies not only between the malar and frontal bones, 
but is united in similar extent equilaterally with the superior 


I find American skulls in which the upper surface of the lachry- 
mal bone has the quadrangular form, as broad anteriorly as pos- 
teriorly, and united as in the European skull, to the intermaxillary, 
while in the greater number of instances the description above 
given is found to be correct. 

" § 2. Anterior aspect of the skull. 

" On the closer study of the beaver skull anteriorly, we learned 
that in all the examined skulls of the European beaver the nasal 
opening appears triangular, inferiorly narrow, and hence more or 
less pointed; while the lateral margins, raised like a crest, and 
bounding it inferiorly, approached each other at a more or less 
acute angle. In the American skulls, on the contrary, the nasal 
opening has a quadrangular form, and appears below only a little 
narrower than above; while the lower ends of the crest-like ridges 
of the lateral margins are nearly parallel, and curved inward but 

The tendency to the quadrangular form of the nasal opening 
in the American beaver, and to the triangular form of the Euro- 
pean, is evident. Yet there are American skulls where the form 
of the opening is nearly if not quite as triangular as in the Euro- 

"A comparison of the both equally large European skulls with 
the American skull of equal size of the Kuprianow skeleton, 
showed that the inter- and inferior maxillary, together with the 
incisor teeth, are strikingly broader iu the European, but some- 
what lower than in the American skull. So much so indeed that 
the br'^adth of the American intermaxillary is to that of the Eu- 
ropean as 9 : 13, nearly as 3 : 4. The breadth of a single inci- 
sor tooth of the upper jaw in the European beaver is something 
more than one-third the breadth of the anterior inferior border of 
the intermaxillary, while each single upper incisor of the American 
beaver is equivalent in breadth to one-third the transverse di- 
ameter of the inferior border of the intermaxillary." 

In the measurement of five skulls I find the breadth across the 
incisor portion of the intermaxillary to average 88"', and the 
average width of a single upper incisor to be 3Q'". In five other 
skulls the intermaxillary width is 18'", and the width of an inci- 
sor is 27'". In another skull the intermaxillary width is 91'", 
and the width of the incisor is 32'". This is "something more 
than one-third." 

DR. w. w. Ely's notes on chapter ii. 295 

" § 3. Lateral aspect of the beaver skull. 

"A comparison in profile of the two European skulls mentioned 
above (Nos. 55 and 186 Kiew), with a skull of equal size of the 
Kupriauow skeleton, gave the following results : 

" 1. As has already been mentioned above, a straight line drawn 
from the anterior extremity of the nasal bone to the crista occip- 
italis, shows no essential difference between the American (of 
Kuprianow) and the two European skulls of corresponding size. 
The same result is also furnished by a comparison of all the other 
European and American skulls. 

" 2. The zygomatic process of the superior maxillary appears 
on the external surface of that portion lying up near the superior 
maxillary process of the malar bone, in the European at least half 
as broad, generally more than half as broad as the adjacent end 
of the superior maxillary process of the malar bone, and in fact 
even in the younger specimens (also in No. 57 Kiew, and in our 
Lapland skulls). 

"In all of the three larger American skulls the zygomatic pro- 
cess of the superior maxillary lying near the anterior and upper 
malar bone, attains to only about one- quarter the breadth of the 
upper end of the superior maxillary process of the malar bone, 
and appears, at least in its middle and upper portion, only as a 
border, a condition especially noticeable in our smallest American 
skulls, in which even the lower end of the zygomatic process of 
the superior maxillary appears like a border." 

In five American skulls the zygomatic process of the superior 
maxillary equals, or exceeds in breadth, one-half the width of the 
corresponding portion of the malar. 

"3. The nasal process of the intermaxillary of the older and 
old European skulls, in which the posterior ends of the incisors 
appear to extend less high than in the older American, is pro- 
vided with a longitudinal depression of greater or less size run- 
ning from before backward, above the posterior ends of the upper 
incisors where they are located in the skull, which depression is 
also present in the very young American skulls in which, in va- 
riation from the three larger American skulls lying before me, the 
posterior ends of the incisors go backward in a straighter direc- 
tion than in the European skulls of different ages. 

" 4. The malar bone of the European appears in general higher 
in the middle of its broader portion. 


"5. The ridge formed by the parietal and frontal, behind and 
below the posterior tubercle of the eyebrow arches, in the Eu- 
ropean skull, is more considerable, and enters into combination 
with a ridge elevating* itself out of the squamous portion of the 
temporal, which ridge in the American is generally wanting, or 
only indicated." 

Brandt's largest American skull was but a medium sized one, 
measuring 5" 24"' by 3" 60'". In an American skull of this 
size before me the ridges in question exist; but in the older and 
larger skulls they are strongly developed, 

" 6. The hook-formed process of the zygomatic process of the 
temporal bone lies with its anterior point, in the American beaver, 
hardly or only a little behind the anterior border of the temporal 
fossa, while in the European beaver it always lies more or less 
behind it. In the European beaver the end of the zygomatic 
process of the temporal bone appears on the whole more ap- 
proached to the occiput and osseous auditory meatus." 

According to my own observation, the hook-formed process 
referred to above is in the American beaver longer than in the 
European. We have but one or two skulls in which it appears 
somewhat shortened, without becoming as short as in the Eu- 
ropean variety. With respect to the relations of the zygomatic 
process and the auditory tube, the American skulls are variable, 
and strong resemblances could undoubtedly be found to the Eu- 
ropean form. 

"7. In the American beaver there extends downward from 
the posterior angle of the posterior end of the parietal bone a 
more or less triangular, somewhat cuiwed process, which pro- 
ceeds between the posterior crucial process of the squamous por- 
tion of the temporal bone and the squamous portion of the occip- 
ital bone. In consequence of this but slightly indicated process 
in many European beavers, as in our Rolaer, the posterior and 
upper angle of the squamous portion of the temporal bone of the 
American beaver is generally more rounded, but in the European, 
triangular and shorter." 

I have found but a single and partial exception to the above 
statement. In an American skull. No. 2031, S. I., there is an 
exact correspondence between the above-described processes and 
those of the European beaver, No. 6564, on the left side ; on the 
riffht side the American skull shows a faint indication of the 

DR. w. w. Ely's notes on chapter ii. 297 

uncial process of the parietal, and a slight but more obtuse devel- 
opment appears also in the European. 

" 8. In the beaver of the New World the end of the coronal 
process of the lower jaw is slightly or not at all hooked, at least 
not so strongly hooked as in several European. In all five lower 
jaws of the American beaver the anterior opening of the canalis 
infra-maxillaris lies under the alveolus of the anterior inferior 
molar, in the European beaver somewhat before the same." 

In a lai'ge proportion of eases the coronal process of the lower 
jaw in the American beaver presents the hooked form. It is some- 
times very much hooked. The description given of the anterior 
mental foramen correspond* with my observations. 

" § 4. Posterior aspect of the skull. 

" The general form of the squamous portion of the occipital 
bone shows no essential variations. The middle portion of its 
posterior surface shows in the American as well as in the Eu- 
ropean a shallower or deeper, broader or narrower groove, or a 
single, sometimes even doubled longitudinal ridge. 

" The occipital foramen, on the contrary, in all the European 
skulls, is narrower than in the American, but appears extended 
further upward than in the latter, so that its upper margin is 
nearly on a level with the base of the zygomatic process of the 
temporal bone, while in the American skulls the superior margin 
of the occipital foramen lies about opposite the inferior border of 
the zygomatic process. Correspondingly with the first-described 
relation of the occipital foramen the squamous portion of the oc- 
cipital bone over the occipital foramen appears in the European 
skulls lower than in the American — an appearance especially 
striking in the two skulls of equal size with the American skull 
of Kuprianow " 

If we examine a large number of skulls of the American beaver, 
the great variety of forms presented by the occipital foramen ap- 
pears remarkable. It is sometimes low and broad, again a 
rounded arch, and in other instances shows the high triangular 
shape peculiar to the European variety. This form is found fre- 
quently in young, and occasionally in old skulls. 

" § 5. Inferior aspect of the European and American skulls. 

" The groove occurring on tlie inferior surface of the base of 
the occiput so characteristic of the species Castor, from three to 
four lines deep, six to seven lines broad, posteriorly six to eight 


lines long, is in all the European skulls lying before me larger, 
deeper, and more rounded, and inclosed by rounded margins, pos- 
teriorly particularly strongly curved, so that it appears three to 
four lines deep, six to eight lines long, and posteriorly six to 
seven lines broad. In the same skulls we find it more or less 
widened back of its middle portion, while in the American skulls 
it appears smaller in comparison with its breadth, longer and 
narrower, not widened back of its middle point ; at its posterior 
end even more or less narrowed ; and possesses, in addition to 
its more lengthened form, nearly straight margins and less depth. 
Its longitudinal diameter is about six lines, its greater transverse 
diameter four to five lines, and its depth two and a half to three 

Brandt has well described the basilar cavity as it appears in 
the American, compared with the European beaver. Its form, 
however, in the American beaver, is subject to variation, being 
sometimes narrow and shallow, with its lateral borders nearly 
parallel, and in some cases it is more rounded — its length and 
breadth being equal — thus presenting an approximation to the 
European variety. 

" The posterior processes of the inner sphenoidal wings pro- 
ceeding to the osseous bullae of the temporal bone, are in all the 
European shorter, and therefore the bullae of the ossa temporum 
are moved further forward than in the American." 

The European beaver skull before me presents the peculiarity 
named above, and the difference between the two varieties in this 
respect, is confirmed by my observations. 

" The palate bones vary in the European and American skulls, 
both in length and breadth, as well as in the greater or less 
acuteness of their anterior extremity. In both there are skulls 
in which they agree or vary more or less." 

Having but one European skull, I can only state that the 
palate bones in this skull, and in an American skull before me, 
agree perfectly in form, and in the position of the palatal fora- 
mina. There is undoubtedly some difference among American 
skulls as to the posterior width of the palate bones. The palatal 
foramina are sometimes opposite the space between the second 
and third molars, sometimes a little anterior to this. 

" The malar arches often appear in the European beaver thicker, 
but in manv individuals no thicker than in the American." 

DR. w. w. Ely's notes on chapter ii. 299 

" The symphysis of the inferior maxillary is shorter and nar- 
rower iu the European." 

"In the structure of the molar teeth, I did not, in addition, 
succeed in finding any difference." 

I have thus endeavored to show, from an examination of a 
large number of skulls of the American beaver, that a greater 
tendency to variation in these structures exists, than was observed 
by Dr. Brandt, in the smaller number (five American and eight 
European skulls) on which he based his differential character- 
istics. It will be remembered that Brandt does not insist upon 
the most obvious feature which distinguishes the Old World 
beaver from that of the New World, viz., the greater lengthening 
posteriorly of the nasal bones, since it "cannot be rigorously 
proven in all cases." Following out then the principle which 
guided his researches, many additional exceptional instances have 
been found to invalidate the conclusion that the European and 
the American beaver constitute different species. The extremes 
of difference, in their aggregate, on the one side and the other, 
are sufficiently striking to justify us in regarding them as varie- 
ties of one and the same species; while the want of constancy 
in these peculiarities suggests the inference, that these varia- 
tions are due to long separation of the races, and to accidental 
causes, rather than to original diversity of the stock. It is con- 
ceded by the advocates of a diversity of species that the beavers 
of the Old and the New World cannot be distinguished by any 
external characteristic. The same is true of their habits and in- 
stincts, except so far as they have evidently been controlled by 
external influences. The castoreum secretion is variable, even in 
European beavers, and there are facts to show that the elements 
of the food of the animal are sometimes found in it. The differ- 
ences observed in it, being more of degree than of kind, are not 
of such a character as to render it improbable that they are due 
to the influence of climate, food, and accidental causes. That the 
beavers of the Old and the New World would prove fertile inter se, 
is, from their great similarity, almost certain. The beaver is a 
very old animal, as is proved by his fossil remains. As an 
aquatic animal, and a vegetable feeder, it is prol)able that he lived 
at a very early epoch, perhaps before the present configuration 
of the continents, so that from his tendency to extensive dis- 
tribution, and his prolific nature, there would be nothing to hinder 


the spread of a single species over botli continents. That long 
separation should have developed certain peculiarities of structure 
might reasonably be expected. From the observed tendency to 
variation exhibited by the skulls of consanguinei, we should 
even expect to find these differences greater, in separated races, 
than actually occurs. There appears, therefore, to the writer, to 
be no necessity for assigning a separate and distinct origin to the 
beavers of the Old and the New World, in order to account for 
the differences which have thus far been observed between them. 

III. Castoreum Organs, and Generative Organs, 

The beaver has long been celebrated for the peculiar secretion 
called castoreum, which has been much used in medicine. Other 
animals furnish highly odorous secretions, of which musk and 
civet are examples, the uses of which in relation to the animals are 
not well understood. Although much attention has been paid to 
the anatomy of the beaver, the organs furnishing the castoreum 
have not un frequently been erroneously described. It will be 
seen in the descriptions and figures which follow, that the beaver 
has two sets of glandular organs, lying below the pubis, of which 
the upper pair furnish the castoreum, and the lower, an oily secre- 
tion. In the Le9ons d'Anatomie Comparee (Cuvier), vol viii. 
p. 245, also in the Dictionnaire des Sciences Medicales, Art. 
Castor, and in the U. S. Dispensatory, by Wood & Bache, the 
castoreum is incorrectly referred to the lower pair of organs, and, 
again, both the upper and lower glands have been said to furnish 
this secretion. 

The beaver has but a single orifice for the genito-urinary and 
the intestinal organs, and there is nothing in its external appear- 
ance by which its sex can be determined. 

When the animal is laid on its back there is a space between 
the pubis and the scaly tail about seven inches long, covered with 
hair like the rest of the body. In the centre of tliis space is the 
upper margin of the cloacal orifice, which is one and a half inches 
in length, just within which, at the lower margin, is the orifice of 
the intestine. The width of the tail where the scales commence 
is about four inches. 

On dissecting off the skin, the skin muscle is brought into view, 



and the forms of the sacs which it covers are recognized'. The 
surface of this muscle next to the sacs is smooth and but slightly 
attached to them : with the underlying muscles it forms an en- 
velope capable of compressing these sacs so as to expel their con- 
tents. The name given to these organs, in view of their supposed 
analogies, is preputial glands, though by Cuvier and others this 
term is applied to the lower sacs. I shall call the upper, the cas- 
toreum sacs, and the lower, oil sacs. By the trappers they are 
called the bark stone, and the oil stone. 

Fig. 1. 

Drawn by W. W. Ely. 
Note to Figure 1. 

1. Muscle covering pubis. 5. Oil sacs. 

2. Testicles. 

3. Penis. 

4. Castoreum sacs. 

6. Upper half of cloacal orifice. 

7. Endofrectum within the cloacal 

Figs. 1 and 2 exhibit these organs in a male and a female beaver, 
the latter being a small-sized animal, weighing 29^ lbs. The cas- 
toreum sacs, nearest the pubis, are oval, flattened, of a light color 
like parchment, and communicate freely with each other by their 
transverse portion. Linear marks and depressions on their sur- 
faces correspond with membranous duplicatures within, which 
add largely to the internal surface, forming septa and cells cov- 
ered and filled with castoreum. The larger folds have a general 
direction towards the outlet of the sacs. The sacs arc formed Oi 




several layers of connective tissue, li;ied by a tender membrane, 
which is colored by the secretion, and exhibits minute follicular 
apertures. The castoreum is light or dark yellow in different 
cases, viscid, adhesive, gritty from the presence of calcareous mat- 
ter, and has a strong, peculiar odor. Under the microscope, it 
shows granular and epithelial matter, and spherical crystals of 

Fig. 2. 

Drawn by W. W. Ely. 
Note to Figurks 2 and 3. 


Uterus and Fallopian 



Cloacal cavity laid open — above 


Bladder and ureters. 

the figure are the vaginal and 



urethral orifices, the clitoris 



and nymphse. 


Castoreum sacs. 


End of rectum. 


Oil sdcs. 


Pubis, concealing the bladder 

and uterus. 
Upper half of cloacal orifice. 

carbonate of lime; these crystals are also found in the urine of the 
beaver. In the male, the castoreum sacs measured 4^" in length, 
2" W" in width, with a circumference of 4|". Weight of one 
sac and contents, 900 grains. From both sacs 415 grains of pure 
castoreum was obtained, but the whole of the secretion could not 
be removed. 

The oil sacs, or "preputial glands" (Cuvier), are connected 

DR. w. w. Ely's notes on chapter ii. 303 

with the castoreum sacs, and are pyriform in shape. Each has a 
duct, which opens within, by the side of the cloacal orifice at its 
upper margin, surrounded by a dark areola. On everting the 
oriiice of the duct, it appears to be a cul-de-sac, having three 
minute orifices at its bottom Although each oil sac appears as 
one, there is, in addition to the principal gland, two smaller ones, 
which may be separated, each having its communication with the 
tube which furnishes the outlet; in each cavity are hairs loose or 
growing from its surface, and the smaller cavities are sometimes 
filled with them. The walls of the oil sacs are much thicker than 
the castoreum sacs, and contain many follicles of consideral)le size. 
The cavities contain a thick, oily, creamy fluid. From the larger 
cavity, about two drachms were obtained, having, when recent, 
a faint odor of castoreum. This secretion, after standing six 
months, is about half clear oil, and the remainder a whitish sedi- 
ment. The whole is soluble in ether, except a small residue of 
epithelial matter, but the oil is sparingly soluble in strong alcohol. 
In a female beaver. Fig. 3, the castoreum sacs are 5^" long, and 8" 
broad. The oil sacs are 2|" long. The amount of castoreum in 
these sacs was small and dark colored. 

The Rodents, as a class, are very prolific ; this is true of the 
beaver. Their genital organs are consequently strongly developed. 
The statement of Cuvier, however, that the size of the testicles 
in the Rodents exceeds ordinarily that of the kidneys, is not true 
of this animal. Yiii. 104. 

In Fig. 1, the form of the penis is shown, curved and retracted. 
When extended it is five inches long, and 1|" in circumference. 
The glans is flattened, 1" 20''' in length, and covered with a 
rough integument. It contains a bone equal to its length, and 
largest at the base. The transverse communication of the casto- 
reum sacs is behind the prepuce. The urethra has a spongy portion 
3i" long, and a membranous one 2^". Cowper's glands lie be- 
hind the pubis. The prostate glands lie by the side of the ure- 
thra at its origin. The vesiculae seminales are united, and lie 
behind the neck of the bladder, each being 1" 80'" long, 90"' 
wide, and 60'" thick. It is possible that these glands were hy- 
pertrophied, as their cavities contained a dense fibrous substance, 
a portion of which had escaped into the urethra, distending and 
obstructing its membranous portion. The testicles are contained 
in a sac projecting from the inguinal opening, and are 1^" iu 



The Weberian organ, or the uterus masculinus, is well devel- 
oped in the beaver. It is triangular in shape, flattened and thin 
antero-posteriorly, and is connected by its edges with the vasa 
deferentiae. It lies between the bladder and the vesiculge semi- 
nales. Below it seems lost in the thin connective tissue. In the 
upper part, where it is l^" in width, is a small cavity without 
any outlet. The filaments which extend from the superior angles 
lie upon the vasa deferentiae, and disappear at the bottom of the 
testicles, being 6|" in length. Tlie significance of this structure, 
so interesting to the philosophical anatomist, is but at present a 
matter of speculation. Homologous with the uterus, the vesi- 
cula prostatica, as it is sojnetimes called, like the mammas of the 
male, suggests the idea of typical structures, or of organs of 
original utility, but dwarfed in the progress of development. 

Brawn by \V. W. My. 

In Fig. 3, the genital organs of the female arc represented. The 
parts being dissected from the'r connections, and laid on a flat 
surface before the drawing was made, their natural relations are 
somewhat altered. The oil sacs and castoreum sacs are discon- 
nected. They are much larger than the other specimen, relatively 
to the size of the animal. The cloaca is laid open, and the vaginal 
orifice is higher than in the natural state ; this, and the urethral 



orifice, would be retracted and concealed hj the nymphte, which 
would be nearer the external orifice. The clitoris is small, dim- 
pled, and surrounded with a prepuce, and the nymphoe are thin, 
composed of a membrane similar to that of the castoreum sacs, 
their lateral portions extending downward in the direction of the 
opening- of the oil sacs R. Wagner asserts that the nymphae 
are wanting in the inferior mammalia, but Cuvicr says more 
correctly: "Le fait est que les nymphes existent chez plusieurs 
Rongeurs." Viii. 256. 

The orifice of the urethra is half an inch behind the clitoris. 
The urethra and the vagina are each 4" long. The latter is 
strongly muscular, and smooth within. The bladder, which lies 
in front of, and conceals the uterus, is contracted, thick, and 
rugose. The position of the ureters is seen in the figure. The 
uterus is 1^" long, and its vaginal extremity is lobulated. It is 
divided into two cavities by a firm septum, each cavity opening 
into "the vagina by a separate orifice. The Fallopian tubes are 
9|" long. The ovaries are small, oval, 67'" long, 32"' in width. 
It is probable, though I cannot affirm it, that pregnancy in the 
beaver is Fallopian, as in the rat and the rabbit. 

Castoreum. — The difference in the castoreum as furnished by 
the European and the American beavers has long been known 
to chemists and physicians ; the Russian castoreum being most 
esteemed as a medicine. The fresh specimens of American cas- 
toreum which I have seen, differ in amount, appearance, and con- 
sistence. The following are Brando's analyses of this substance : 


Volatile oil 1-00 

Resin 13-85 

Castorin 0-33 

Albumen 0-05 

Osmazome 0-20 

Carbonate of lime 33-62 

Other salts 2-82 

Mucus 2-30 

Animal matter like horn 230 

Membrane 2000 

Moisture and loss 22-83 



Volatile oil 2-0 

Resin 58-6 

Castorin 2-5 

Cholesterin 1-2 

Albumen 1-6 

Gelatin 10-4 

Osmazome 2-4 

Matter soluble in alcohol 1-6 

Carbonate of lime 2*6 

Other salts 2-4 

Membrane 3*0 

Moisture and loss 11-7 




The European castoreum is supposed to contain a larger propor- 
tion of the volatile oil, castorin, and resin, and probably its superior- 
ity as a medicine depends upon the resinoid element. A specimen 
of castoreum which I obtained from a male American beaver 
more than a year ago was, at first, of a hght yellow color, soft, 
and very adhesive. At the present time the color is the same ex- 
cept where it has had access to the air, which has changed the 
surface to a dark brown. One hundred parts of this castoreum 
lost fifty-six parts in boiling alcohol. Of the residuum, thirty- 
three parts dissolved with effervescence in diluted hydrochloric 
acid, affording evidence of a large amount of carbonate of lime. 
The remaining eleven parts appeared to be chiefly animal matter, 
but it was not critically examined. The alcoholic solution on cool- 
ing showed no trace of castorin. Mixed with water the alcoholic 
solution became milky. On filtration and thorough drying of the 
filter there resulted 4 1 parts of resin. 


Samuel Reamers Article on the Beaver. 

From Samuel Hcarne's "Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort to the 
Northern Ocean." London: 4to., 1795, ch. vii. p. 22G. 

The beaver being so plentiful, the attention of my companions 
was chiefly engaged on them, as they not only furni.shed delicious 
food, but their skins proved a valuable acquisition, being a prin- 
cipal article of trade, as well as a serviceable one for clothing, etc. 

The situation of the beaver houses is various; where the beavers 
are numerous, they are found to inhabit lakes, ponds, and rivers, 
as well as those narrow creeks which connect the numerous lakes 
with which this country abounds ; but the latter are generally 
chosen by them where the depth of water and other circumstances 
are suitable, as they have then the advantage of a current to 
carry wood and other necessaries to their habitations, and be- 
cause, in general, they are more difficult to be taken than those 
that are built in standing Avater. 

There is no one particular part of a lake, pond, river, or creek. 


of Avhich the beaver make choice for building their houses on in 
preference to another; for they sometimes build on points, some- 
times in the hollow of a log, and often on small islands ; they 
always choose, however, these parts that have such a depth of 
water as will resist the frost in winter, and prevent it from freez- 
ing to the bottom. 

The beavers that build their houses on small rivers or creeks, 
in which the water is liable to be drained off when the back sup- 
plies are dried up by the frost, are wonderfully taught by instinct 
to provide against that evil by making a dam quite across the 
river, at a convenient distance from their houses. This I look 
upon as the most curious piece of workmanship that is performed 
by the beaver ; not so much for the neatness of the work as for 
its strength and real service ; and at the same time it discovers 
such a degree of sagacity and foresight in the animal of approach- 
ing evils, as is little inferior to that of the human species, and is 
certainly peculiar to these animals. 

The beaver dams differ in shape according to the nature of 
the place in which they are built. If the water in the river 
or creek has but little motion, the dam is almost straight; 
but when the current is more rapid, it is always made with a 
considerable curve, convex toward the stream. The aiaterials 
made use of in these dams are drift-wood, green willows, birch 
and poplar, if they can be got; also mud and stones, intermixed 
in such a manner as must evidentl}^ contribute to the strength of 
the dam ; but in these dams there is no other order or method 
observed, except that of the work being carried on with regular 
success, and all the parts being made of equal strength. 

In places which have been long frequented by beavers, undis- 
turbed, their dam, by frequent repairing, becomes a solid bank, 
capable of resisting a great force both of water and ice ; and as 
the willow, poplar, and birch generally take root and shoot up, 
they, by decrees, form a kind of regular-planted hedge, which I 
have seen in some places so tall, that birds have built their nests 
among the branches. 

Th(3ugh the beaver which build their houses in lakes, and 
other standing waters, may enjoy a sufficient quantity of their 
favorite element without the assistance of a dam, the trouble of 
getting wood and other necessaries to their habitation without 
the help of a current, must, in some measure, counterbalance the 


other advantages which are reaped from such a situation ; for it 
must be observed that the beaver which build in rivers and creeks, 
always cut their wood above their houses, so that the current, 
with little trouble, conveys it to the place required. 

The beaver houses are built of the same materials as their 
dams, and are always proportioned in size to the number of 
inhabitants, which seldom exceed four old, and six or eight 
young ones ; though, by chance, I have seen above double that 

These houses, though not altogether unworthy of admiration, 
fall very short of the general discription given of them; for in- 
stead of order or regulation being observed in rearing them, they 
are of a much ruder structure than their dams. 

Those who have undertaken to describe the inside of beaver 
houses, as having several apartments appropriated to various 
uses, such as eating, sleeping, store-houses for provisions, and 
•one for their natural occasions, etc., must have been very little 
acquainted with the subject; or, which is still worse, guilty of 
attempting to impose on the credulous by representing the great- 
est falsehoods as real facts. Many years constant residence 
among the Indians, during which I had an opportunity of seeing 
several hundreds of these houses, has enabled me to affirm that 
everything of the kind is entirely void of truth ; for notwithstand- 
ine: the sagacity of these animals, it has never been observed that 
they aim at any other conveniences in their houses than to have 
a dry place to lie on ; and there they usually eat their victuals, 
which they occasionally take out of the water. 

It frequently happens, that some of the large houses are found 
to have one or more partitions, if they deserve that appellation ; 
but that is no more than a part of the main building, left by the 
sagacity of the beaver to support the roof On such occasions 
it is common for these different apartments, as some are pleased 
to call them, to have no communication with each other but by 
water ; so that, in fact, they may be called double or treble houses, 
rather than different apartments of the same house. I have seen 
a large beaver house built in a small island, that had near a dozen 
houses under one roof; and, two or three of these only excepted, 
none of them had any communication with each other but by 
water. As there were beavers enough to inhabit each apartment, 
it is more than probable that each family knew its own, and 


always entered at their own door without having any further 
connection with their neighbors than a friendly intercourse; and 
to join their united labors in erecting their separate habitations, 
and building their dams when required. It is difficult to say 
whether their interest on other occasions was any way recipro- 
cal. The Indians of my party killed twelve old beavers, and 
twenty-five young- and half-grown ones, out of the houses above 
mentioned ; and on examination found that several had escaped 
their vigilance, and could not be taken but at the expense of 
more trouble than would be sufficient to take double the number 
in a less difficult situation.^ 

Travellers who assert that the beaver have had doors to their 
houses, one on the land side, and the other next the water, seem 
to be less acquainted with these animals than others who assign 
them an elegant suite of apartments. Such a proceeding would 
be quite contrary to their manner of life, and at the same time 
would render their houses of no use either to protect them from 
their enemies, or guard them against the extreme of culd in 

The quiquehatches or wolvereens, are great enemies to the 
beaver; and if there were a passage into their houses on the land 
side, would not leave one of them alive wherever they came. 

I cannot refrain from smiling when I read the accounts of dif- 
ferent authors who have written on the economy of these ani- 
mals, as there seems to be a contest between them who shall 
most exceed in fiction. But the compiler of the "Wonders of Nature 
and Art" seem.s, in my opinion, to have succeeded less in this re- 
spect; as he has not only collected all the fictions into which 
other writers on the subject have run, but has so greatly im- 
proved on them, that little remains to be added to his account of 
the beaver besides a vocabulary of their language, a code of their 
laws, and a sketch of their religion, to make it the most complete 
natural history of that animal which can possibly be offered to 
the public 

There cannot be a greater imposition, or indeed a grosser insult 
on common understanding, than the wish to make us believe the 

1 The difficulty here alluded to was the numberless vaults the beaver had 
in the sides of the pond, and the immeuse thickness ol the house in some 


stories of some of the works ascribed to the beaver; and though 
it is not to be supposed that the compiler of a general work can 
be intimately acquainted with every subject of which it may be 
necessary to treat, yet a very moderate share of understanding is 
surely sufficient to guard him against giving credit to such mar- 
vellous tales, however smoothly they may be told, or however 
boldly they may be asserted by the romancing traveller. 

To deny that the beaver is possessed of a very considerable de- 
gree of sagacity would be as absurd in me as it is in these authors 
who think they cannot allow them too much. I shall willingly 
grant them their full share : but it is impossible for any one to 
conceive how, or by what means, a beaver whose full height when 
standing erect, does not exceed two feet and a half, or three feet 
at most, and whose fore paws are not much larger than a half- 
crown piece, can " drive stakes as thick as a man's leg into the 
ground three or four feet deep." Their "wattling these stakes 
with twigs," is equally absurd ; and their "plastering the inside 
of their houses with a composition of mud and straw, and sv/im- 
ming with mud and stones on their tails," are still more incredible. 
The form and size of the animal, notwithstanding all its sagacity, 
will not admit of its performing such feats ; and it would be as 
impossible for a beaver to use its tail as a trowel, except on the 
surface of the ground on which it walks, as it would have been 
for Sir James Thornhill to have painted the dome of St. Paul's 
Cathedral without the assistance of scaffolding. The joints of 
their tail Avill not admit of their turning it over their backs on 
any occasion whatever, as it has a natural inclination to bend 
downwards; and it is not without some considerable exertion 
that they can keep it from ti'ailing on the ground. This being 
the case, they cannot sit erect like a squirrel, which is their com- 
mon posture, particularly when eating, or when they are clean- 
ing themselves, as a cat or squirrel does, without having their 
tails bent forward between their legs; and which may not im- 
properly be called their trencher. 

So far are the beaver from driving stakes into the ground when 
building their houses, that they lay most of the wood crosswise, 
and nearly horizontal, and without any other order than that of 
leaving a hollow or cavity in the middle ; when any unnecessary^ 
branches project inward, ihey cut them off with their teeth, and 
throw them in among the rest to prevent the mud from falling 


through the roof. It is a mistaken notion that the woodwork is 
first completed and then plastered; for the whole of their houses, 
as well as their dams, are from the foundation one mass of wood 
and mud mixed with stones, if they can be procured. Tlie mud 
is always taken from the edge of the bank, or the bottom of the 
creek or pond, near the door of the house ; and though their fore 
paws arc so small, 3*et it is held close up between them under 
their throat, that they carr}'- both mud and stones ; while they 
always drag the wood with their teeth. 

All their work is executed in the night, and they are so expe- 
ditious in completing it that in the course of one night I have 
known them to have collected as much mud at their houses as to 
have amounted to some thousands of their little handfids; and 
when any mixture of grass or straw lias appeared in it, it has 
been most assuredly mere chance, owing to the nature of the 
ground from which they had taken it. As to their designedly 
making a composition for that purpose it is entirely void of truth. 

It is a great piece of policy in these animals to cover, or plaster, 
as it is usually called, the outside of their houses ever}'" fall with 
fresh mud, and as late as possible in the autumn, even when the 
frost becomes pretty severe ; as by this means it soon freezes as 
hard as a stone, and prevents their common enemy, the quiqui- 
hatch, from disturbing them during the winter. And as they are 
fi'cquently seen to walk over their work, and sometimes to give a 
flap with their tail, particularly when plunging into the water, 
this has, without doubt, given rise to the vulgar opinion that they 
use their tails as a trowel, with which they plaster their houses ; 
whereas that flapping of the tail is no more than a custom, which 
they always preserve, even when they become tame and domes- 
tic, and more particularly so when they are startled. 

Their food chiefly consists of a large root, something resembling 
a cabbage stalk, which grows at the bottom of the lakes and rivers. 
They eat also the bark of trees, particularly that of the poplar, 
birch, and willow; but the ice preventing them from getting to 
the land in winter, they have not any barks to feed upon during 
that season, except that of such sticks as they cut down in sum- 
mer and throw into the water opposite the doors of their houses; 
and as they generally eat a great deal, the roots above men- 
tioned constitute the chief part of their food during the winter. 
In summer they vary their diet by eating various kinds of herb- 


age, and sucb berries as grow near their haunts during that 

When the ice breaks up in the spring, the beaver always leave 
their houses, and rove about the whole summer, probably in search 
of a more commodious situation ; but in case of not succeeding 
in their endeavors, they return again to their old habitations a 
little before the fall of the leaf, and lay in their winter stock of 
woods. The}^ seldom begin to repair the houses till the frost 
commences, and never finish the outer coat till the cold is pretty 
severe, as has been already mentioned. 

When they shift their habitations, or when the increase of their 
number render it necessary to make some addition to their houses, 
or to erect new ones, they begin felling the wood for these pur- 
poses early in the summer, but seldom begin to build till the mid- 
dle or latter end of August, and never complete their houses till 
the cold weather be set in. 

Notwithstanding what has been so repeatedly reported of these 
animals assembling in great bodies, and jointly erecting large 
towns, cities, and commonwealths, as they have sometimes been 
called, I am confident from many circumstances, that even where 
the greatest number of beaver are situated in the neighborhood 
of each other, their labors are not carried on jointly in tiie erec- 
tion of their different habitations, nor have they any reciprocal 
interest except it be such as live immediately under the same 
roof; and then it extends no further than to build or keep a dam 
which is common to several houses. In such cases it is natural 
to think that every one who seemed benefited from such a dam, 
should assist in erecting it, being sensible of its utility to all. 

Persons who attempt to take beaver in winter should be thor- 
oughly acquainted with their manner of life ; otherwise they will 
have endless trouble to effect their jjurpose, and probably with- 
out success in the end ; because they always have a number of 
holes in the banks which serve them as places of retreat when 
any injury is oifered to their houses, and in general it is in these 
holes that they are taken. 

When the beaver which are situated in a small river or creek 
are to be taken, the Indians sometimes find it necessary to stake 
the river across, to prevent them from passing; after which they 
endeavor to find out all their holes or places of retreat in the 
banks. This requires much practice and experience to accom- 


plish, and is performed in the following manner: every maa being 
furnished with an ice chisel, lashes it to the end of a small staff, 
about four or five feet long; he then walks along the edge of the 
banks, and keeps knocking his chisel against the ice. Those 
who are acquainted with that kind of work will know by the 
sound of the ice when they are opposite to any of the beaver 
holes or vaults. As soon as they suspect any, they cut a hole 
through the ice big enough to admit an old beaver, and in this 
manner proceed until they have found out all their places of re- 
treat, or at least as many of them as possible. While the prin- 
cipal men are thus employed, some of the understrappers and the 
women are busy in breaking open the house, which at times is 
no easv task ; for I have frequently known these houses to be five 
and six feet thick, and one in particular was more than eight feet 
thick on the crown. When the beaver find that their habitations 
are invaded, they fly to their holes in the banks for shelter ; and 
on being perceived by the Indians, which is easily done by at- 
tending to the motion of the water, they block up the entrance 
with stakes of wood, and then haul the beaver out of his hole 
either by hand if they can reach it, or with a large hook made 
for that purpose, which is fastened to the end of a long stick. 

In this kind of hunting every man has the sole right to all the 
beaver caught by him in the holes or vaults; and as this is a con- 
stant rule, each person takes care to mark such as he discovers, 
by sticking up the branch of a tree or some other distinguishing 
post by which he may know them. All that are caught in the 
house also are the property of the person who finds it. 

The same regulations are observed, and the same process used 
in taking beaver that are found in lakes and other standing waters, 
except it be that of staking the lakes across, which would be both, 
unnecessary and impossible. Taking beaver houses in these situ- 
ations is generally attended with less trouble and more success 
than in the former. 

The beaver is an animal which cannot keep under water- long 
at a time, so that when their houses are broken open, and all their 
places of retreat discovered, they have but one choice left, as it 
may be called, either to be taken in their houses or their vaults; 
in general they prefer the latter, for where there is one beaver 
caught in the house, many thousands are taken in their vaults in 
the banks. Sometimes they arc caught in nets, and in the sum- 


mer very frequently in traps. In winter they are very fat and 
delicious ; but the trouble of rearing their young, the thinness 
of their hair, and their constantly roving from place to place, 
with the trouble they have in providing against the approach of 
winter, generally keep them very poor during the summer season, 
at which time their flesh is but indifferent eating, and their skins 
of so little value that the Indians generally singe them, even to 
the amount of many thousands in one summer. They have from 
two to five young at a time. Mr. Dobbs, in his account of Hud- 
son's Bay, enumerates no less than eight different kinds of beaver ; 
but it must be understood that they are all of one kind and species ; 
his distinctions arise wholly from the different seasons of the 
year in which they are killed, and the diflerent uses to which 
their skins are applied, which is the sole reason that they vary 
so much in value. 

:1c ***** * 

Lefranc, as an Indian, must have known better than to have 
informed Mr. Dobbs that the beaver have from ten to fifteen 
young at a time; or if he did he must have deceived him willfully, 
for the Indians, by killing them in all stages of gestation, have 
abundant opportunities of ascertaining the usual number of their 
offspring. I have seen some hundreds of them killed at the 
season favorable for these observations, and never could discover 
more than six young in one female, and that only in two in- 
stances, for the usual number, as I have before observed, is from 
two to five. 

Besides this unerring method of ascertaining the real number 
of young which any animal has at a time, there is another rule 
to go by with respect to the beaver, which experience has proved 
to the Indian never to vary or deceive them, that is by dissection; 
for on examining the womb of a beaver, even at a time when not 
with young, there is always found a hardish round for every 
young she had at the last litter. This is a circnmstance I have 
been particularly careful to examine, and can afiirm it to be true 
from real experience. 

Most of the accounts, nay I may say all the accounts now ex- 
tant respecting the beaver, are taken from the authority of the 
French, who have resided in Canada; but their accounts difier 
so much from the real state and economy of all the beaver to the 
north of that place, as to leave great room to suspect the truth of 


tbcin altog-ether. In the first place, the assertion that they have 
two doors to their houses, one on the land side and the other 
next the water, is as I have before observed, (juite contrary to 
fact and common sense, as it would render their houses of no use 
to them, either as places of shelter from the inclemency of the 
extreme cold in winter, or as a retreat from their common enemy 
the qui(juehatch. The only thing- that could have made M. Da 
Pratz, and other French writers, conjecture that such a thing did 
exist, must have been from having seen some old beaver houses, 
which had been taken by the Indians; for they are always obliged 
to make a hole on one side of the house before they can drive 
them out ; and it is more than probable that in so mild a climate 
as Canada the Indians do generally make these holes on the land 
side, which without doubt gave rise to the suggestion. 

In respect to the beaver dunging in their houses, as some per- 
sons assert, it is quite wrong, as they always plunge into the 
water to do it. I am the better enabled to make the assertion 
from having kept several of them till they became so domesti- 
cated as to answer to their name, and follow those to whom they 
were accustomed, in the same manner as a dog would do ; and 
they were as much pleased at being fondled as any animal I ever 
saw; I had a house built for them, and a small piece of water be- 
fore the door, into which they always plunged when they wanted 
to ease nature ; and their dung being of a light substance, imme- 
diately rises and floats on the surface, then separates, and sub- 
sides to the bottom. When the winter sets in so as to freeze the 
water solid, they still continue their custom of coming out of 
their houses and dunging and making water on the ice ; and when 
the weather was so cold that I was obliged to fake them into my 
house, they always went into a large tub of water which I set for 
that purpose, so that they made not the least dirt, though they 
are kept in my own sitting room, where they were the constant 
companions of the Indian women and children, and were so fond 
of their company, that when the Indians were absent for any 
considerable time, the beaver discovered great sig-ns of uneasi- 
ness, and on their return showed equal marks of pleasure, by 
fondling on them, crawling into their laps, laying on their backs, 
sitting erect like a squirrel, and behaving to them like children 
who see their parents but seldom. In general during the winter 
they lived on the same food as the vv^omen did, and were remark- 


ably fond of rice and plumb-pudding; they could eat partridges 
and fresh venison very freely, but I never tried them with fish, 
though I have heard they will at times prey on them. In fact 
there are few of the graminivorous that may not be brought to be 
carnivorous. It is well known that our domestic poultry will eat 
animal food ; thousands of geese that come to London market 
are fattened on tallow scraps ; and our horses in Hudson's Bay 
would not only eat all kinds of animal food, but also drink freely 
of the wash or pot liquor intended for the hogs. And we are as- 
sured by the most authentic author, that in Iceland, not only black 
cattle, but also the sheep, are almost entirely fed on fish and fish- 
bones during the winter season. Even in the Isles of Orkney, 
and that in summer, the sheep attend the ebbing of the tide as 
regular as the Esquimaux curlew, and go down to the shore which 
the tide has left to feed on the sea- weed. This however is through 
necessity ; for even the famous Island of Pomona will not afford 
them an existence above high water mark. 

With respect to the inferior or slave beaver, of which some 
authors speak, it is in my opinion very difficult for those who 
are best acquainted with the economy of this animal, whether there 
are any that deserve that appellation. It sometimes happens 
that a beaver is caught which has but a very indifferent coat, and 
which has broad patches on the back and shoulders, almost 
wholly without hair. This is the only foundation for asserting 
that there is an inferior or slave beaver among them. And when 
one of the above description is taken, it is perhaps too hastily 
inferred, that the hair is worn off from these parts by carrying 
heavy loads ; whereas it is most probable that it is caused by a 
disorder that attacks them somewhat similar to the mange, for 
were that falling off of the hair occasioned by performing extra 
labor, it is natural to think that instances of it would be more 
Trequent than there are ; as it is rare to see one of them in the 
course of seven or ten years. I have seen a whole house of these 
animals that had nothing on the surface of their bodies but the 
fine soft down, all the long hairs having molted off. This and 
every other deviation from the general run is undoubtedly owing 
to some particular disorder. 

Bennett's article on the beaver. 317 


Bennett's Article on the Beaver. 

From "The Gardens and Menagerie of the Zoological Society Delineated." 
Quadrupeds. Vol. i. p. 153. Published iu 1835. 


(^Castor Fiber, Linn.) 

Among the numerous, widely dispersed, and prolific tribes of 
animals which compose the extremely natural order, called by 
Linnajus and the writers of his school Glires, there are none 
perhaps which possess so many claims on our attention as the 
well-marked and circumscribed little group on the history of 
which we are about to enter. The beavers, in fact, interest us 
not only as furnishing a most valuable fur, and producing a pe- 
culiar secretion occasionally and advantageously employed in 
medicine, but also as offering the most remarkable of the few in- 
stances occurring among quadrupeds of that architectural instinct, 
so remarkably prevalent in the inferior classes, which impels them 
to construct their own habitations with materials selected for the 
purpose, brought from a distance, and cemented together so as to 
form a regular and uniform structure. 

The first and most essential character of the order to which 
they belong is obviously derived from the great development of 
their incisor teeth ; and this peculiarity in structure, as might 
naturally be expected, is connected with a peculiarity in habits 
equally remarkable. So striking, indeed, is the propensity to 
gnawing, which distinguishes these animals, that many late zoolo- 
gists, of the French school especially, have thrown aside the older 
designation applied to them by LinnaBus, and adopted in its place 
the expressive name of Rongeurs or Rodentia. Of this faculty 
the beavers appear to exhibit the highest degree of devel- 
opment ; their powerful incisor teeth not only serving them to 
strip off and divide the bark of trees, which forms their principal 
nutriment, but also enabling them, when urged by their instinct 
of construction, to gnaw through trunks of considerable thick- 
ness, and thus to obtain the timber of which they stand in need 


for the building of their habitations. These important organs 
contribute, therefore, in an especial manner, to supply them both 
with food and shelter. 

The incisor teeth of the beavers are two in number in each 
jaw ; they are broad, flat, and generally colored of a deep orange 
or almost chestnut brown anteriorly, and pass into acute angles 
on their posterior surface. Their extremities terminate externally 
in a cutting edge, and shelve considerably inward ; for the ante- 
rior surface being alone coated with enamel, and consequently 
oifering the greatest resistance, is less easily worn down by the 
action to which they are exposed. Those of either jaw cor- 
respond exactly with their opposites, and the form of the articu- 
lation of the lower jaw admitting of little or no lateral motion, 
their action is always from behind forward and vice verna. They 
have no true roots, but arc of equal thickness throughout, and 
are implanted within the jaw in sacs or capsules, which repro- 
duce them from the base as fast as they are worn down at the 
extremity. So strong a tendency have they to increase by this 
process, that whenever one of the incisors of either jaw has been 
accidentally injured or destroyed, the opposite tooth, meeting 
with no resistance from its antagonist, is propelled forward by a 
continual enlargement from the base to such an extent as to be- 
come at length perfectly monstrous. This mode of growth is 
common to the whole order, and the number of the incisor teeth 
is also the same in all the groups that compose it, with the excep- 
tion of the family of which the hare forms the type. 

The entire absence of canine teeth, leaving a vacant space of 
some extent between the incisors and the molars, is another char- 
acter which the beavers have in common with all the Rodent an- 
imals ; but the structure of their molar teeth differs from that of 
any other group. These latter organs furnish indeed the best 
characters that have yet been employed for the separation of the 
Rongeurs into distinct and natural genera. In the beavers they 
ai'e four on each side in either jaw, and their crowns present a 
flattened surface on which the lines of enamel are so disposed 
as to form three folds on the outer side and one on the inner in 
those of the upper jaw, while those of the lower offer an arrange- 
ment directly the reverse. They were formerly suspected by M. 
F. Cuvier, who has paid particular attention to the teeth of the 
mammiferous quadrupeds, to be destitute of proper roots, and to 


increase from their base in the same manner as the incisors; but 
he has since candidly confessed the error into which he had been 
led by the inspection of a cranium in which they were not yet 
fully developed, and he now admits that in the adult animal they 
arc furnished with true roots, and are consequently incapable of 
receiving any addition to their growth when once completely 
formed. Their flattened crowns suinciently indicate that the 
food which they are intended to masticate is entirely vegetable. 

In the regularity of their line of profile from the back of the 
head to the extremity of the nose, the lateral position of their 
diminutive eyes, the depth, obliquity, and obtuseness of their 
muscle, the vertical fissure of their upper lip, the softness and 
closeness of their fur, and the greater length and muscularity of 
their posterior limbs, the beavers may be regarded as almost 
typical of the order to which they belong. They exhibit, how- 
ever, in their external form several striking modifications peculiar 
to themselves. Of these, the most remarkable consists in their 
tail, which differs in structure from that of every other quadruped. 
This organ, which is nearly half as long as the body, is broadly 
dilated, oval, flattened both above and below, covered at its 
thickened base alone with hair similar to that which invests the 
rest of the animal, but overlaid throughout the greater part of 
its extent with a peculiar incrustation which assumes the form of 
regular scales closely resembling those of fishes. The feet all 
terminate in five toes, those of the anterior extremities smaller 
and shorter than those of the posterior, and divided almost to the 
base, while the latter are united to their very tips by the inter- 
vention of a strong duplicature of the skin, which allows of their 
separation to a considerable extent, and forms a broad and pal- 
mated expansion, similar in form and serving for the same useful 
purpose with the webbed feet of the swimming birds. The nails 
are thick and strong; and that of the second toe of the hinder 
feet is remarkable for being formed of two portions, an upper one 
corresponding with those of the remaining toes, and an under, 
placed obliquely, and having a sharp cutting-edge directed down- 

The gait of the beavers is waddling and ungraceful, owing 
partly to the shortness and inequality of their limbs, and partly 
to the outward direction which is given to their heels to enable 
their feet more efficiently to fulfill the office of paddles in swim- 


ming. The toes alone of the anterior feet, but the whole of the 
under surface of the solo in the posterior, are applied to the 
ground in walking. The awkwardness of their appearance in 
this action is moreover heightened by the clumsiness of then* 
figure, and by the difficulty which they seem to experience in 
dragging after them their cumbrous tail, which is generally suf- 
fered to trail upon the ground, but is sometimes slightl}^ elevated 
or even curved upward, and is occasionally moved in a direction 
from side to side. In the water, however, this member becomes 
most useful, both as a paddle and a rudder, to urge them onward, 
and to direct them in their course. 

It has often been questioned whether the beavers of Europe 
and America constitute two distinct species. M. F. Cuvier has 
lately pointed out some slight variations in the form and relative 
dimensions of different portions of the skulls which he had an 
opportunity of examining; but his observations cannot yet be 
regarded as conclusive. Other naturalists again have broadly 
maintained that the solitary and burrowing mode of life of the 
one, and the social and constructive propensities supposed to be 
peculiar to the other, alone afforded sufficient grounds of dis- 
crimination between them. But numberless instances ha /e shown 
that these differences in their modes of life are the natural results 
of the circumstances in which the animals ai'e respectively placed ; 
and that the habits of each, in a situation favorable to the change, 
undergo a thorough revolution. Place the means within his reach, 
and the constructive instinct of the solitary beaver becomes fully 
developed; withdraw those means, and the once skillful builder 
degenerates into a burrowing hermit. Those of Europe are, for 
the most part, met with in the latter predicament, the neighbor- 
hood of civilized man havipg thinned their numbers and rendered 
their associations perilous. In America, on the contrary, they 
form populous villages ; but only in the back and unsettled parts 
of the country; those which are found on the confines of the 
different settlements have precisely the same habits with the 
European animals. 

That similar villages formerly existed in various parts of 
Europe, and more especially in the north, we have abundant 
proofs in the ruins of these ancient edifices. But it seems to have 
been too hastily taken for granted that none such are to be found 
at the present day. In the Transactions of the Berlin Natural 


History Society for 1829, aa extremely interesting account is 
given by M. de Meyerinck of a colony of beavers, which hap 
been settled for upwards of a century on a little river called the 
Xuthe, about half a league above its confluence with the Elbe, 
in a desert and sequestered canton in the district of Magdeburg. 
Our author speaks of this little settlement as consisting, in the 
year 1822, of no more than from fifteen to twenty individuals; 
but few as they were they executed all the laborious tasks of a 
much more extensive society. They formed themselves burrows 
of thirty or forty paces in length, on a level with the stream, with 
one opening below the surface of the water, and another upon 
the land ; built huts eight or ten feet in height, of branches and 
trunks of trees, laid without any regularity, and covered over 
with soft earth ; and constructed of the same materials a dyke so 
perfect as to raise the level of the water more than a foot. All 
their habits indeed, as here described, coincide so exactly with 
those of the American beavers, that we should feel some surprise 
at M. de Meyerinck's assertion that they differed from them in 
several particulars, and especially in their manner of building, 
were it not manifest that his ideas of the transatlantic race were 
gleaned from the relations of those travellers who have indulged 
their imaginations, instead of relying upon their observations, in 
all that they have written concerning these singular animals. 

The history of the beaver teems in fact with the most ridicu- 
lous exaggerations. Even the absurdities of the ancients have 
in this instance been exceeded by the credulity of the moderns. 
The former, indeed, knew the animal only in a state compara- 
tively solitary, and could not therefore attribute to him those 
ideas of social policy and that settled system of government for 
which the latter have given him unbounded credit. This delusion, 
which was perhaps natural enough to those who took but a su- 
perficial view of the faculties of this almost mechanical animal, 
has now, however, passed away ; and the intelligence of the 
beaver is recognized as nothing more than a remarkable instinct 
exerted upon one particular object, and upon that alone. In all 
respects, except as regards the skill with which he constructs his 
winter habitation, and the kind of combination into which he 
enters with his fellows for carrying their common purpose into 
effect, his intelligence is of the most limited description. He has, 
in fact, no need of those artful contrivances to which many ani- 



mals are compelled to have recourse. His food is simple and 
easily procured. His enemies, man excepted, are few, and rarely 
of a formidable description; but if surprised by danger, he is quite 
unable to evade it by the exercise of cunning or sagacity, and his 
only hope of safety is in flight. It has been said that he is docile 
in captivity, and may be easily rendered obedient to the com- 
mands of his keeper ; but it would appear that his docihty is 
limited to a patientendurance of his condition, and his obedience 
to a simple recognition of those who take care of him, and whom 
he may be taught to follow from place to place. 

His peculiar conformation renders the beaver what is com- 
monly, although improperly, termed an amphibious animal, the 
greater part of his existence being passed in the water, in which 
he swims and dives with great dexterity. It is for this reason 
that he always selects for his dwelling-place the banks of rivers 
or lakes. Here he lives secluded during the summer in holes 
which he burrows in the earth, and which he quits only in search 
of his food, and to indulge himself with bathing. But as the au- 
tumn advances, he begins to look out for society, and to prepare 
against the rigors and the dearth of winter. With this view he 
associates himself with a band of his fellows, sometimes amount- 
ing in number to two or three hundred, and the whole body im- 
mediately set to work either to repair their old habitations, or if 
they have been compelled to desert their former place of abode, 
to construct new ones on the same plan. 

The mode by which this is accomplished has been so repeat- 
edly described by French and English travellers in the northern 
parts of America, that it might seem almost superfluous to enter 
into any details upon such a subject, were we not well assured that 
many of the facts vouched for in their relations, and most of the 
coloring which has been given to them, have been derived either 
from the warmth of their imaginations, from partial and imper- 
fect observation, or from the credulous ignorance of their inform- 
ants. Under these circumstances, we cannot do better than recur 
to the statements of one or two practical men, whose residence 
in the country, and close connection with the fur trade, gave 
them the best opportunities for obtaining correct information, and 
whose narratives bear in themselves the stamp of authenticity. 
Such were Hearne, one of the most intelligent and enterprising 
agents whom the Hudson's Bay Company ever employed; and 

Bennett's article on the beaver. 323 

Cavtwright, who resided for nearly sixteen years on the coast of 
Labrador for the sole purpose of procuring furs. From the jour- 
nals of these two plain-dealing and matter-of-fact men we shall 
proceed to give the principal facts with which they furnish us 
relative to the habits of the beaver in its native state, and to the 
various modes adopted by the hunters for possessing themselves 
of its valuable skin. 

The situations in which the beavers build are very various. 
Sometimes they take their abode in a pond or a lake, in which 
the water is tolerably uniform in height and pretty deep imme- 
diately under the bank ; but they generally make choice of a run- 
ning stream as more convenient for the conveyance of their ma- 
terials. They are also said to select in preference the northern 
side for the advantage of the sun, and the bank of an island 
rather than that of the mainland, as affording them greater se- 
curity from the attacks of their enemies. In this selection, how- 
ever, their instinct frequently misleads them, for they have been 
known to build in situations where they have been unable to pro- 
cure food, and where they have consequently perished from star- 
vation, or to have fixed upon a stream which has been so swelled 
by the effects of a heavy thaw as to sweep away not only their 
magazine of provisions, but sometimes even their habitations. 

When the water in the stream is not sufficiently deep for their 
purpose, or is liable to be diminished by the failure of the supply 
from above in conseq-uence of frost, they commence their opera- 
tions by throwing a dam across it below the part which they in- 
tend to occupy. In slow rivulets this is made nearly straight ; 
but where the current is strong, it is formed with a curve of 
greater or less extent, the convexity of which is turned toward 
the stream. The materials of which this dam is constructed con- 
sist of drift-wood, and the branches of willows, birch, and pop- 
lars, compacted together by mud and stones. The work is raised 
in the form of a mound, of considerable thickness at the base, 
and gradually narrowing toward the summit, which is made per- 
fectly level, and of the exact height of the body of water which 
it is intended to keep up. Cartwright adds that he has frequently 
crossed the rivers and creeks upon these dams with only slightly 
wetting his shoes. The sticks which are used in their construc- 
tion vary in size from the thickness of a man's finger to that of 
his ankle, but are seldom larger unless where no others are to be 


procured. They are mostly obtained from the neighboring woods, 
where they are cut with a dexterity truly astonishing. A beaver, 
according to Cartwright, will lop off with its teeth at a single 
effort a stem of the thickness of a common walking-stick as 
cleanly as if it had been done by a gardener's pruning-knife. 
When compelled to have recourse to the larger trunks, they gnaw 
them round and I'ound, always taking care that they shall fall in 
the direction of the water, in order as much as possible to save 
themselves carriage. Judging from the number of large trees 
sometimes cut down in a season, it would appear that the per- 
formance of this operation cannot occupy a very considerable 
time. As soon as the tree is felled they commence lopping off 
its branches, which, as well as the smaller trunks, they cut into 
lengths, according to their weight and thickness. These are 
dragged in their mouths, and sometimes on their shoulders, to the 
water side, where they are thrown into the stream, and towed 
with the current to their destination. 

Exactly the same materials are employed in the construction 
of their habitations. These are built either immediately beneath 
the bank, or, if the pool be shallow, at some little distance from 
it. They begin by hollowing out the bottom, throwing up the 
mud and stones around it, and intermingling them with such 
sticks as they can procure. The walls having been thus raised 
to a sufficient height, the house is covered in with a roof in the 
shape of a dome, generally emerging about four feet, but some- 
times as much as six or seven, from the water. The entrance is 
made beneath a projection which advances several feet into the 
stream with a regular descent, terminating at least three feet be- 
low the surface, to guard against its being frozen up. This is 
called by the hunters the angle, and a single dwelling is some- 
times furnished with two or more. Near the entrance, and on 
the outside of their houses, the beavers store up the branches of 
trees, the bark of which forms their chief subsistence during the 
winter ; and these magazines are sometimes so large as to rise 
above the surface of the water, and to contain more than a cart- 
load of provisions. 

In all these operations there appears to be no other concert or 
combination among the beavers than that which results from a 
common instinct impelling them to the performance of a common 
task. The assertion that they are superintended in their labors 

Bennett's article on the beaver. 325 

by an overseer, who gives notice to his workmen when to be at 
their posts by flapping with his tail upon the water, divides them 
into parties for each several kinds of Avork, distributes their em- 
ployments, assigns their stations, and superintends the execution 
of his commands, is too absurd to require refutation. But there 
are many other statements regarding them equally untrue, 
although not at first sight so palpably ridiculous. Thus it is said 
that their tails are used by them as sledges for the conveyance of 
their materials, a purpose for which the conformation of this ap 
pendage renders it highly improbable that it can serve, and which 
observation has proved to be performed in a very different man- 
ner. But not content with metamorphosing this organ into a 
sledge, our travellers have also made it a trowel, and have given 
very particular descriptions of the manner in which the beaver 
employs it in spreading the plaster, with which, according to 
their accounts, his work is overlaid. Unfortunately, however, it 
is equally unfitted by its structure for such an operation ; and the 
only organs employed in mixing up the mud with the rest of the 
materials, are the fore paws and the mouth. These, in fact, are 
the instruments with which all the labors of the beavers are 
effected; and it is sufficiently obvious that neither with their 
assistance, nor indeed with the united powers of all their organs, 
could these animals drive stakes of the thickness of a man's les" 
three or four feet deep into the ground, or execute a variety oi 
other feats for which they have obtained general credit. 

The sticks and branches which they use, instead of being 
driven into the ground, are laid for the most part in a horizontal 
direction, and they are only prevented from floating away by the 
stones and mud which are brought up by the beavers in their 
paws from the bottom to be laid upon them, and which gradually 
become cemented into a firm and compact mass. All their work 
is performed during the night. Although the favorable nature or 
the situation may have induced many families to assemble in the 
same spot, they do not on that account carry on their operations 
in common ; unless when a dam of large extent is to be built, 
when they usually unite their forces for its completion. Each 
family occupies itself exclusively on its own habitation, which 
has in general but one apartment. The idea of their houses 
being divided into several chambers, each allotted to its appro- 
priate purpose, may have originated from the fact of their some- 


times building by the side of a deserted dwelling, with which 
they occasionally open a communication. The families vary in 
the number of individuals of which they are composed, but sel- 
dom exceed two or four old ones, and twice as many young; the 
females producing once a year, from two to three or four at a 
birth, and the young ones generally quitting their parents at the 
age of three years, and seeking out or building a separate habita- 
tion for themselves. 

Jn summer-time they feed either upon the bark of trees or 
upon the green herbage and the berries which grow in their 
neighborhood ; but in winter their diet is almost restricted to the 
former article, of which they lay in a large stock previously to 
the setting in of the frost. From this store they cut away por- 
tions as their necessities require ; and after tearing off the bark 
reject the wood, leaving it to float away with the current. Willow, 
poplar, and birch, are their favorite kinds, and the latter, accord- 
ing to Cartwright, renders their flesh "the most delicious eating 
of any animal in the known world." The root of the water-lily 
also aifords them an occasional supply, and makes them very 
fat, but gives their flesh a strong and unpleasant flavor. 

It is not, however, for the delicacy of their flesh, but for the 
peculiar closeness of their soft and glossy fur, that a war of ex- 
termination is carried on by man against these peaceful and in- 
noxious beasts. That this fur was at an early period in great 
request for the manufacture of hats is proved by a proclamation 
issued in the year 1638, by which it was forbidden to make use 
of any materials therein except beaver stuff or beaver wool. From 
this time the attention of the North American Indians has been 
incessantly directed toward these poor animals, and vast quanti- 
ties have in consequence been destroyed every year. Of the 
numbers thus sacrificed, and of the importance of the trade, some 
idea may be formed by the amount of the sales at various places 
and at different periods. In 1143 the Hudson's Bay Company 
alone sold 26,'750 skins; and 121,080 were imported into Ro- 
chelle. Upwards of 170,000 were exported from Canada in 1788; 
and Quebec alone, in 1808, supplied this country with 126,927, 
which, at the estimated average of eighteen shillings and nine 
pence per skin, would produce no less a sum than £118,994. 

The skin of the young or cub beaver is the most valuable, as 
being the darkest and the most glossy; and the winter coat is 

Bennett's article on the beaver. 327 

far superior to the summer. The former season is consequently 
preferred for taking them, and various means are adopted for the 
purpose. Sometimes the ice is cut through both above and be- 
low their dwellings, nets are thrown across, and the devoted 
animals are driven from their shelter by the breaking down of 
their houses, and compelled to enter the nets. Sometimes a 
number of holes are made in the ice, and they are in like manner 
driven from their habitations ; when, as they are unable to remain 
under water for any long time, they rise to the surface where the 
ice is broken, and are easily secured. Under these circumstances 
they will frequently take refuge in the holes in the banks, which 
serve them for summer retreats; but the experienced hunters 
readily detect the situation of these vaults by striking with their 
chisels on the ice, and always select such spots for making their 
apertures, in which they seldom fail of capturing their victims. 
In summer it is more usual to take them in their houses by 
what is termed staking them. For this purpose the hunters first 
make an aperture in the roof to ascertain the situation of the 
angle, and having adapted a number of stakes to the opening so 
as completely to blockade it, cover in the top, and leave the stakes 
on one side ready for use. They then drive the beavers from all 
parts of the pond or river by means of dogs; and when the terri- 
fied animals have succeeded in reaching their home, they replace 
the stakes before the entry, remove the temporary covering from 
the roof, and either take them alive, or spear them in their house. 
When the sheet of water which they inhabit is merely kept up by 
a dam, they are still more easily taken by letting oflF the water 
and leaving their huts completely dry. The gun is also some- 
times, but not very commonly used ; and log traps, baited with 
poplar sticks, occasionally add in a trifling degree to the havoc 
made among them. 

So little is known of the manners of the beaver in a domesti- 
cated state, that we feel a peculiar gratification in having it in our 
power to give the extremely interesting history of an individual 
which belonged to Mr. Brodloip, to whose kindness we are in- 
debted for the following statement : 

"The animal arrived in this country in the winter of 1825, 
very young, being small and woolly, and without the covering of 
long hair which marks the adult beaver. It was the sole survi- 


vor of five or six which were shipped at the same time, and it 
was in a very pitiable condition. Good treatment quickly restored 
it to health, and kindness soon made it familiar. When called 
by its name, ' Binny,' it generally answered with a little cry, and 
came to its owner. The hearth-rug was its favorite haunt, and 
thereon it would lie stretched out, sometimes on its back, some- 
times on its side, and sometimes flat on its belly, but always near 
its master. The building instinct showed itself immediately it was 
let out of its cage and materials were placed in its way ; and 
this before it had been a week in its new quarters. Its strength, 
even before it was half grown, was great. It would drag along 
a large sweeping-brush, or a warming-pan, grasping the handle 
with its teeth so that the • load came over its shoulder, and ad- 
vancing in an oblique direction till it arrived at the point where 
it wished to place it. The long and large materials were always 
taken first, and two of the longest were generally laid crosswise, 
with one of the ends of each touching the wall, and the other 
ends projecting out into the room. The area formed by the 
crossed brushes and the wall he would fill up with hand-brushes, 
rush baskets, books, boots, sticks, cloths, dried turf, or anything 
portable. As the work grew high, he supported himself o-n 
his tail, which propped him up admirably, and he would often, 
after laying on one of his building materials, sit up over against 
it, appearing to consider his work, or, as the country people say, 
'judge it.' This pause was sometimes followed by changing 
the position of the material 'judged,' and sometimes it was left 
in its place. After he had piled up his materials in one part of 
the room (for he generally chose the same place), he proceeded 
to wall up the space between the feet of a chest of drawers, which 
stood, at a little distance from it, high enough on its legs to make 
the bottom a roof for him, using for this purpose dried turf and 
sticks, which he laid very even, and filling up the interstices with 
bits of coal, hay, cloth, or anything he could pick up. This last 
place he seemed to appropriate for his dwelling ; the former work 
seemed to be intended for a dam. When he had walled up the 
space between the feet of the chest of drawers, he proceeded to 
carry in sticks, cloths, hay, cotton, and to make a nest ; and 
when he had done he would sit up under the drawers and comb 
himself with the nails of his hind feet. In this operation, that 

Bennett's article on the beaver. 329 

which appeared at first to be a malformation was shown to be a 
beautiful adaptation to the necessities of the animal. The huge 
webbed hind feet of the beaver turn in so as to give the appear- 
ance of deformity ; but if the toes wei'c straight instead of being 
incurved, the animal could not us^ them for the purpose of keep- 
ing its fur in order and cleansing it from dirt and moisture. 

"Binny generally carried small and light articles between his 
right fore leg and his chin, walking on the other three legs ; and 
large masses, which he could not grasp readily with his teeth, he 
pushed forward, leaning against them with his right fore paw 
and his ciiin. He never carried anything on his tail, which he 
liked to dip in water, but he was not fond of plunging in the whole 
of his body. If his tail was kept moist, he never cared to drink ; 
but if it was kept dry, it became hot, and the animal appeared 
distressed, and would drink a great deal. It is not impossible 
that the tail may have the power of absorbing water, like the 
skin of frogs, though it must be owned that the scaly integument 
which invests that member has not much of the character which 
generally belongs to absorbing surfaces. 

" Bread, and bread and milk, and sugar, formed the principal part 
of Binny's food ; but he was very fond of succulent fruits and roots. 
He was a most entertaining creature, and some highly comic scenes 
occurred between the worthy, but slow beaver, and a light and 
airy Macauco that was kept in the same apartment." 

An animal so sociable in his habits ought to be affectionate; 
and very affectionate the beaver is said to be. Deage mentions 
two young ones which were taken alive and brought to a neigh- 
boring factory m Hudson's Bay, where they throve very fast until 
one of them was killed accidentally. The survivor instantly felt 
the loss, began to moan, and abstained from food until it died. 
Mr. Bullock mentioned to the narrator a similar instance which 
fell under his notice in North America. A male and female 
were kept together in a room, where they lived happily till 
the male was deprived of his partner by death. For a day or 
two he appeared to be hardly aware of his loss, and brought food 
and laid it before her. At last, finding that she did not stir, he 
covered her body with twigs and leaves, and was in a pining 
state when Mr. Bullock lost sight of him. 

The specimens in the garden were sent to the Society from 


Canada by Lord Dalhousie. They were partially deprived of 
sight before their arrival in this country, but one of them has 
still the use of one eye ; and the other, although totally blind, 
dives most perse veringly for clay, and applies it to stop up every 
cranny in their common habita'tion that can admit "the winter's 
flaw." They both appear happy and contented. 




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