Henry H. Tryon's
“ F E A R S O M E   C R I T T E R S
( 70th A N N I V E R S A R Y   H Y P E R T E X T   E D I T I O N )



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Cactus cat.
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THE CACTUS CAT
Felis spinobiblulosus

          Once very common in the Southwest, and well-known in the Pueblo and Navajo country. Now practically extinct, living chiefly in the memories of the few remaining old-timers. At one time frequently seen in the great cactus districts, being especialy abundant between Prescott and Tucson. Occasionally reported from Old Mexico.
          The cat-like body is covered with thorny hair which grows particularly long, sharp, and rigid on the ears and tail. The latter branched in cactus fashion, these branches having scattered thorny hairs similar to those growing on the ears. The distal portions of the foreleg radial bones are formed into two sharp, knife-like blades which the Cat skillfully employs in making deep, slanting slashes at the bases of the giant cacti. He peforms a number of these operations, always in a circular beat exactly 80 chains long. By the time the Cat has completed the circuit the sap exuding from the cacti first slashed has ferimented into a sweet, intoxicating pulque which is greedily lapped up by the Cat as he makes his second trip. By the time he finishes this round he is pretty soundly pickled, and usually waltzes off into the desert, rasping the bony forelegs across each other as an accompaniment to delighted yowls.
          In the earlier days when this animal was more common thirsty Mexicans often trailed him and Would anticipate him in in making the second circuit. This practice became so widespread that it probably hastened the extinction of the species. Occasional cases have been reported where the Cactus Cat overtook the marauding Mexcan and flogged him to death with his spiny tail. Owing to the reddened blebs appearing on the victim’s hide, such deaths were usually attributed by the laity to a severe attack of prickly heat. But the oldtimers knew better. It was the Cat.
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Fearsome Critters, Written by Henry H. Tryon • Illustrated by Margaret R. Tryon
(Cornwall, NY: Idlewild Press, 1939) Original Text and Illustrations Public Domain License.
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