musk animal limbs
MUSK-RAT. A name commonly applied to an animal also called MUSQUASH (Fiber zibethious), of the sub-family Arvicolinw family Muriche.1 It is related in structure and habits to the English water-vole, but is of larger size, the head and body being about 12 inches in length and the tail but little less. It is rather a heavily-built animal, with a broad head, no distinct neck, and short limbs ; the eyes are small, and the ears project very little beyond the fur. The fore-limbs have four toes and a rudimentary thumb, all with claws ; the hind limbs are larger, with five distinct toes, united by short webs at their bases. The tail is laterally compressed, nearly naked, and scaly. The hair much resembles that of a beaver, but is shorter ; it consists of a thick soft under-fur, interspersed with longer stiff, glistening hairs, which overlie and conceal the former, on the upper surface and sides of the body. The general colour is dark umber-brown, almost black on the back and grey below. The tail and naked parts of the feet are black. The musky odour from which it derives its name is due to the secretion of a large gland situated in the inguinal region, and present in both sexes.
The Musk-rat is the only species of its genus and is peculiar to America, being extensively distributed in suitable localities in the northern part of the continent, extend ing from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Rio Grande to the barren grounds bordering the Arctic Seas. It is aquatic in its habits, living on the shores of lakes and rivers, swimming and diving with great facility, feeding on the roots, stems, and leaves of water-plants, or on fruits and vegetables which grow near the margin of the streams it inhabits. Musk-rats are most active at night, spending the greater part of the day concealed in their burrows dug out of the bank, consisting of a chamber with numerous passages, all of which open under the surface of the water. For winter quarters they build more elaborate houses of conical or dome-like form, composed of sedges, grasses, and similar materials plastered together with mud. As their fur is an important article of commerce, large numbers are annually killed, being either trapped or speared at the mouths of their holes.
The name Musk-rat is applied in India to a large species of Shrew (Some exruleseens or indices) which frequents houses at night, hunting round rooms for cockroaches and other insects, occasionally uttering a sharp shrill cry. The strong musky odour of the animal arises from large glands beneath the skin of the side of the body, a short distance behind the fore-limbs. This odour is so powerful and penetrating that it is popularly believed in India that if the animal runs over a corked bottle of wine or beer it will infect the fluid within. Jerdon says that certainly many bottles are met with quite undrinkable from the peculiar musky odour of their contents, but, rejecting the possibility of its passing through the glass, he attributes it to the corks having been infected previously to bottling, stating in corroboration of this view that he has never found the odou•in liquors bottled in England.