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PORCUPINE. This word, derived from the French porc-epic, or " spiny pig," is applied to the members of the Ifystricida,, a family of rodents whose most prominent peculiarity is their covering of long stout spines, which form a highly efficient protection against enemies, and which are better developed in this family than in any other mammal. Zoologically the porcupines are allied to the ca,vies, chinchillas, agoutis, &.c., and with them form the great section Hystricomorpha or porcupine-like rodents (see MAMMALIA, xv. p. 420).
The Hystricidx are readily divisible into two sub-families according to their geographical distribution, the Hystricina or True Porcupines being confined to the Old World, and the Synetherina to the New. The Hystricina are distinguished by their semi-rooted molars, imperfect collar-bones, cleft upper lips, rudimentary pollices, smooth soles, six mamrrup, and by many important cranial char-acters. They range over the south of Europe, the whole of Africa, India, and the Malay Archipelago as far east-wards as Borneo. They are all stout heavily-built animals, with blunt rounded heads, fleshy mobile snouts, and coats of thick cylindrical or flattened spines, which form the whole covering of their body, and are not intermingled with ordinary hairs. Their habits are strictly terrestrial. Of the three genera in this section, the first and best-known is Hystrix, characterized by its curiously inflated skull, in which the nasal chamber is often considerably larger than the brain-case, and by its short tail, tipped with nuinerous slender stalked open quills, which ma,ke a loud rattling noise whenever the animal moves. Its longest-known inember is the Common Porcupine (IL cristata), which occurs throughout the south of Europe and North and West Africa, but is replaced in South Africa by H. africx-australis, and in India by the Hairy-nosed Porcupine (IL leucura), whose habits are described in the following notice extracted from Jerdon's ifammats of India.
" Hystrix leticicra is found over a great part of India, from the lower ranges of the Himalayas to the extreme south, but does not occur in lower Bengal, where it is replaced by Lengaiensis. It forms extensive burrows, often in societies, in the sides or hills, banks of rivers and nullalts, and very often in the bunds of tanks, and in old mud walls, Sr.c. Ia. In some parts of the country they are very destructive to various crops, potatoes, carrots, aml other vegetables. They never issue forth till after dark, but now and then one will be found returning to his lair in daylight. Dogs take up the scent of the porcupine very keenly, and on the Nilghiris I have killed many by the aid of dogs, tracking them to their dens. They charge backwards at their foes, erecting their spines at the sante time, and dogs generally get seriously injured by their strong spines, which are sometimes driven deeply into the assailant. The poreupine is not bad eating, - the meat, which is white, tasting something between pork and veal."
Besides the three large crested species of Ilystrix above-mentioned, there arc some four or five smaller species without nuchal crests occurring in north-cast India and in the NIalay region, from Nepal to Borneo. The second genus of Old-World porcupines is Atheretra, the Brush-tailed Porcupines, much sinaller animals than the last, with long tails tipped with bundles of peculiar flattened spines. Of the .three species two are found in the Malay region and one in West Africa. TI-ichys, the last genus, contains but one Bornean species, T. lipura, externally very like an Atherura, but differing from the members of that genus in many important cranial characteristics.
The New-World porcupines, the Synetherina, have rooted molars, complete collar-bones, uncleft upper lips, tuberculated soles, no trace of a pollex, and four mainnne only. Their spines are to a great extent mixed with long soft hairs ; they a,re less strictly nocturnal in their habits ; and, with one exception, they live entirely in trees, having in correspondence with this long and powerful prehensile tails. They consist of three genera, of which the first is formed by the common Canadian Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatus), a stout heavily-built animal, with long hairs almost or quite hiding its spines, four anterior and five posterior toes, 8,nd a short stumpy tail. It is a na,tivc of the greater part of Canada and the United States, where-ever there is any remnant of the original forest left. Syn-etheres, the second genus, contains some eight or ten species, known as Tree Porcupines, a,nd found throughout the tropical parts of South America, one of them extending northwards into Mexico. They are of a lighter build than the ground porcupines, are covered with short, close, many-coloured spines often mixed with hairs, and their tails are always prehensile. Their hind feet have only four toes, owing to the suppression of the hallux, but instead they have a peculiar fleshy pad on the inner side of the foot, between which and the toes boughs and other objects can be firmly grasped as with a hand. The last genus is Cketontys, distinguished by the shape of its skull and the greater complexity of its teeth. It contains only one species, C. subspinosus, a native of the hottest parts of Brazil.