by Albany Poyntz
The attachment existing betwixt animals of different kinds is an undoubted
fact. Dogs have been known to take kittens under their protection during
the absence, or after the death of the parent cat. Most people who have
been at the Jardin des Plantes, must have noticed the affection evinced by
the lion for the little dog that shares his cage. Two horses and an ass
having fed from the same rack during a period of fourteen years, on the
death of the ass, his two companions refused food and died. These
inclinations are probably the result of the familiarity with mankind
produced by domestication, which destroys their natural instincts.
Parrots, starlings, jays, and magpies, do not talk in their wild state;
nor would a dog, or squirrel, of its free will, have turned a wheel.
In a Norman farm, so singular an affection subsisted between a hen and a
cat attached to the barn-yard, that the cat was frequently seen sitting
upon the nest during the absence of her friend; and the eggs thus hatched
produced a hybrid race of fowl and cat—a fact certified by an eminent
Norman naturalist, Dr. Vimond, at the close of the last century. Towards
the beginning of the present, there was exhibited in the Rue St. Honoré, a
mastiff bitch having a litter of two puppies and two cats, which she had
brought into the world at a birth.
The ancients frequently speak of monstrous progeny. Besides the famous
Minotaur of Crete, Pliny relates that a Roman lady, named Alcippa,
produced a young elephant, and that a female slave brought forth a
serpent. Julius Obsequens describes two Italian women, who, in the middle
of the fifteenth century, produced on the same day, the one a cat, the
other a dog. In such instances, dogs and cats seem to enjoy the
preference. A Swiss woman, however, is asserted to have produced a hare; a
Thuringian, a toad. Bayle speaks of a mare which produced a calf; and of a
woman, who became the mother of a black cat, which was burnt by command of
the Holy Inquisition in the belief that it was the offspring of the devil.
These marvels have been chiefly attested by monks and physicians; but
there is scarcely an instance in which any distinguished naturalist has
been able to confirm the fact.
During the thirteenth century, in three different places, at Wittenberg,
Misnia, and Villefranche, children were born without heads. They died upon
coming into the world; but not without having exhibited symptoms of life.
Carpi, the anatomist, mentions a child born in 1729, in whose head was
found nothing but clear water without a vestige of brain. On the other
hand, children have come into the world with a double volume of brain. In
1684, a woman gave birth to twins, of which the first-born survived only a
few hours, while the second exhibited a double head, having four eyes, two
noses, two tongues, but only two ears.
The annals of anatomy furnish many such instances; and the cases of the
Siamese twins, and of the unfortunate sisters of Sgöny, are too well known
to need description. But if all the instances on record were
recapitulated, these blunders of nature are but as a grain of sand
compared with the regularity of her productions through an infinity of
The idea of individuals having a double sex, created probably by Plato in
the fable of the Androgyne, the most ingenious fiction bequeathed to us by
antiquity, was for ages supposed to have its foundation in fact; and every
now and then, the irregularities of a Chevalier d’Eon revive the chimera,
to which anatomists oppose a decided negative. The beautiful statue of the
Florentine hermaphrodite at the Louvre is as much a chimerical being as a
The Memoirs of the Chevalier d’Eon, published in America, declare one of
the most illustrious dynasties of modern Europe to be his descendents; an
assertion easily disproved by a comparison of the date of his visit to
Russia with that of the birth of the Emperor Paul.
The Albinos were formerly considered a distinct race. They were sought in
the olden time as favourite appendages to the Courts of African and
Asiatic monarchs. Pliny places them in Albania, probably from the
similitude of name; but does not state that they constituted a nation. His
description of them, however, perfectly agrees with those of modern times;
having white hair, and eyes which he describes as resembling those of a
partridge. The Albinos are, in truth, an exceptional race; and their
peculiarities are seldom found to be hereditary.
The morbid longings of women during pregnancy afford many remarkable
facts. Goulard relates, that in the neighbourhood of Andernach, on the
Rhine, a woman experienced such a longing for the flesh of her husband,
that she murdered him, ate one half of the body and salted the other;
when her appetite being appeased, she confessed the deed to two friends of
In the Helvetic Chronicles it is related, that in the time of Martin IV.,
an illustrious lady of Rome, an object of affection to the supreme head of
the Church, gave birth to a son having the semblance of a wild beast;
which monstrous production was ascribed to the passion of his Holiness for
paintings of animals, numbers of which ornamented his palace, till the
continual view of such objects influenced the mind and body of his fair
A black child is generally believed to have been born to Marie Thérèse,
the wife of Louis XIV., in consequence of a little negro page in her
service having started from a hiding-place, and stumbled over her dress
early in her pregnancy. This child was educated at the Convent of Moret,
near Fontainebleau, where she took the veil, and where, till the epoch of
the Revolution, her portrait was shown.
Mallebranche has assigned the greatest scope of imagination to women under
such circumstances. He mentions one, who having been present at the
breaking of a criminal on the wheel, gave birth to a child whose limbs
were broken at the exact places where those of the criminal were
fractured. Scarcely an anatomical museum but contains monstrous
productions. The question unsolved is the influence of the imagination of
the mother in producing these aberrations of nature.