Otterday! And Open Thread.

Today’s otter image comes via Project Gutenberg. It’s a rendition of an otter skull, from Natural History of the Mammalia of India and Ceylon, Robert A. Sterndale, 1884. The author’s introduction makes it clear that he believes there had been no previous study of regional mammals outside of central Empire holdings. He goes on to begin his natural history with a cataloguing of the Indigenous humans of the area, and some speculation about “Monkey-men” of the jungle.

On to the otter:

Line drawing of otter skull from top and side

Some of the accompanying text:

For a pretty picture of young otters at play in the water, nothing could be better than the following description from Kingsley’s ‘Water Babies’:—

“Suddenly Tom heard the strangest noise up the stream—cooing, grunting, and whining, and squeaking, as if you had put into a bag two stock-doves, nine mice, three guinea-pigs, and a blind puppy, and left them there to settle themselves and make music. He looked up the water, and there he saw a sight as strange as the noise: a great ball rolling over and over down the stream, seeming one moment of soft brown fur; and the next of shining glass, and yet it was not a ball, for sometimes it broke up and streamed away in pieces, and then it joined again; and all the while the noise came out of it louder and louder. Tom asked the dragon-fly, what it could be: but of course with his short sight he could not even see it, though it was not ten yards away. So he took the neatest little header into the water, and started off to see for himself; and when he came near, the ball turned out to be four or five beautiful creatures, many times larger than Tom, who were swimming about, and rolling, and diving, and twisting, and wrestling, and cuddling, and kissing, and biting, and scratching, in the most charming fashion that ever was seen. And if you don’t believe me you may go to the Zoological Gardens (for I am afraid you won’t see it nearer, unless, perhaps, you get up at five in the morning, and go down to Cordery’s Moor, and watch by the great withy pollard which hangs over the back-water, where the otters breed sometimes), and then say if otters at play in the water are not the merriest, lithest, gracefullest creatures you ever saw.”

Professor Parker, who also notices Kingsley’s description,[9] states that the Canadian otter has a peculiar habit in winter of sliding down ridges of snow, apparently for amusement. It, with its companions, scrambles up a high ridge, and then, lying down flat, glides head-foremost down the declivity, sometimes for a distance of twenty yards. “This sport they continue apparently with the keenest enjoyment, until fatigue or hunger induces them to desist.” […]

General McMaster also quotes from a letter by “W. C. R.” in the Field about the end of 1868, which gives a very curious incident of a crocodile stealing up to a pack of otters fishing, and got within thirty yards; “but no sooner was the water broken by the hideous head of the reptile, than an otter, which evidently was stationed on the opposite bank as a sentinel, sounded the alarm by a whistling sort of sound. In an instant those in the water rushed to the bank and disappeared among the jungle, no doubt much to the disgust of the mugger.”

I have not heard any one allude to the offensive glands of the Indian otter, but I remember once dissecting one and incautiously cutting into one of these glands, situated, I think, near the tail. It is now over twenty years ago, so I cannot speak with authority, but I remember the abominable smell, which quite put a stop to my researches at the time.

Please feel free to use this thread to natter about anything your heart desires. Is there anything great happening in your life? Anything you want to get off your chest? Reading a great book? Anything in the news that you’d like to discuss? Commiserations, felicitations, temptations, contemplations, speculations?

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Categories: Life

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14 replies

  1. I love Project Gutenberg..
    With the weather changes in Sydney, I’m having a hard time concentrating.. now that the Southerly has finally come through, I’m feeling better and have been able to sit and concentrate for longer than 10 minutes..
    the storm last night was beautiful – the thunder, and lightning, and the rain.. I remember when I was very little, mum told me some of the Norse legends, of Thor and Freia, and the tricksy one whose name I can’t conjure right now.. I kinda liked the idea of Thor running his chariot across the skies.. and I think mum turned Thor into “Thora” for me, because when I asked if any other “pretend” people rode chariots across the sky, she mentioned a girl called Thora..
    More weather related stuff, one of my sisters visited recently, and we were talking about weather, especially that of thunder and lightning.. she told me the story of how she finally became brave when the thunder and lightning storms hit.. it involved one of my brothers who passed away some time ago.. it made my heart melt..
    as a family we loved the thunder storms.. mum would turn off all the electic lights, and we would sit in the lounge room, the big windows open with candles lit and mum would tell us stories.. once the lightning passed, we were allowed to run around in the rain..

  2. and the tricksy one whose name I can’t conjure right now.
    I love thunderstorms too — I love all the energy in the air.

  3. For those in Oz with cable telly, UKTV is having a Doctor Who Season 4 marathon this weekend.

    So. Much. Donna. Awesome.

  4. @Beppie – thanks, yes Loki! for all the searching in mythology books, I could never find a “Thora”..

  5. I just got back from Take Back The Night.
    Fuck this year was harsh.
    I don’t think I can do this anymore.

  6. Hi folks, I’ll likely be out of commission internet wise for the next week. Have fun!

  7. @Anna
    Not fun? What happened?
    This month I’m house-sitting, and this month the cats are happy because the house sits next to a garden. They don’t get to go outside alone because they are Indoor Cats*, so I put seed in the garden and the birds entertain them.
    I made an effort to watch the birds and listen to their chirps. So far, I think they have five words:
    Come here, I have found food!
    Come here, there is a New Thing that needs investigating!
    And there might be one that goes “Bugger off!” but that’s only between the males, so it could be a breeding season thing.
    *Whenever I say this, they say “No, we are versatile, responsible cats! We would never savour delicious wildlife, and come home whenever you called!”

  8. The Amazing Kim,
    Maybe if I had done the march through the streets part, I would have felt better, but I just did the rally, and I think I am out of that wellspring from which our ability to cope springs from. 14 year old girls talking about being raped at 9, calling it “losing my virginity”. 22 year olds who attempted suicide this week because of being gang raped. This woman who started crying on the mic. I just cannot cope anymore.

  9. Oh, no =( *e-hugs Anna*
    Well, nothing interesting happening my end. I keep missing out on the daytime to go do things. And I have a post up at! Had to deal with someone getting defensive over his racist bullshit, yesterday. In the end, I ascertained that he was just another testosterone-filled type and no longer engaged.
    Um, that’s it.

  10. Virtually hugs Anna.

  11. Anna – I’m with you on the emotional burnout thing. The Roman Polanski thing knocked me sideways – I was avoiding the Internet for a couple of days because I just couldn’t read anything more about it. Damn patriarchy.

  12. I think I’m done watching Good News Week. Shouldn’t have given it so many second-chances. I try to watch as much comedy as I can, but this is actively de-calcifying my funny bone.
    And the ads. God, the ads.

  13. Emma Thompson has signed that foul pro-Polanski petition. I am… just so horrified.

  14. Book Girl, someone on that Shakesville thread chased up the email address of Thompson’s agent ( so I’m going to send a note. I know it may seem absurd to try to contact a single signatory instead of focussing on the people driving this wretched campaign, but if there was any one person I felt I could trust to continue to act like a human being it was her, and I think she should know how much it hurts people to see something like this.

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