Thursday, November 18, 2010

Raccoon Run-in

Well, this has nothing to do with history, but I thought I'd share this photograph of a huge raccoon I found hanging from my living room ceiling just before dawn this morning! (Note, things are not usually such a mess in this room - the raccoon had been throwing stuff around.)
People in premodern times regularly slept in a shared room with a menagerie of animals, but in contemporary life its rare to find oneself close quarters with a confused bear-like creature. This mama raccoon and I had a tussle shortly after this picture was taken (I had already chased out her baby, who was calmly eating my cat's food!) I got a tiny scrape on my leg; the raccoon escaped, shaken but unharmed. Current wherabouts: unknown.
To make this utterly frivolous post a bit more appropriate to RES OBSCURA, here's what I suspect might be one of the earliest appearances of the raccoon in a European natural history text. Raccoons are native to North and Central America, so they weren't known to the compilers of bestiaries in the Old World until the sixteenth century. Here we harken back to Edward Topsell's History of Foure-Footed Beasts, which I wrote about for my first post on this blog. Topsell describes this beast, rather charmingly, as an "Indian Mouse, Or a Mouse From Some Other Country." It looks to me like a short-furred tropical subspecies of raccoon!

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