From the Civets, to which it closely approaches in the number and in some degree also in the form of its teeth, in the asperity of its tongue, and in the semi-retractility of its claws, the group of which the Egyptian Ichneumon forms the type is distinguished by its narrower and more pointed muzzle, by the shortness of its lower lip, and more especially by the absence of the double cavity beneath the tail, which is replaced by a single pouch of considerable size, but destitute of secreting glands. Their hair is long, crisp, brittle, and always more or less variegated in colour, in consequence of each separate hair being marked by alternate rings of different shades.
The Jackal, one of the greatest pests of the countries which he inhabits, is spread over nearly the whole of Asia and the north of Africa, occupying in the warmer regions of those continents the place of the Wolf, of whom in many particulars he may be considered as offering a miniature resemblance. In size he is about equal to the common fox, but he differs from that equally troublesome animal in the form of the pupils of his eyes, which correspond with those of the dog and of the wolf, in the comparative shortness of his legs and muzzle, in his less tufted and bushy tail, and in the peculiar marking of his coat. The colouring of his back and sides consists of a mixture of gray and black, which is abruptly and strikingly distinguished from the deep and uniform tawny of his shoulders, haunches, and legs: his head is nearly of the same mixed shade with the upper surface of his body, as is also the greater part of his tail, which latter, however, becomes black towards its extremity; his neck and throat are whitish, and the under surface of his body is distinguished by a paler hue.
These singular animals were among the first fruits which accrued to natural history from the discovery of New South Wales, a country which has since proved so fertile in new and remarkable forms both of the animal and vegetable creations. Their natural habits in a wild state are still, however, very imperfectly known. They appear to live in small herds, perhaps single families, which are said to submit to the guidance of the older males, and to inhabit in preference the neighbourhood of woods and thickets. They are, as might be inferred from the small size of their mouths and the peculiar character of their teeth, purely herbivorous, feeding chiefly upon grass and roots. Their flesh is eaten by the colonists, by whom it is said to be nutritious and savoury, an assertion which is confirmed by those who have partaken of it in England. In order to procure this they are frequently hunted in their native country; but the dogs who are employed in this service sometimes meet with dangerous wounds, not only from the blows of their powerful tail, which is their usual weapon of defence, but also from the claws of their hind feet, with which they have been known to lacerate the bodies of their assailants in a shocking manner. But, unless when thus driven to make use of such powers of self-defence as they possess, they are perfectly harmless and even timid; and, when domesticated, are not in the least mischievous. In several collections in this country, and particularly in the Royal Park at Windsor, from which the specimens in the Menagerie were obtained, they have become almost naturalized, and appear to be but little affected by the change of climate. When confined in a small enclosure, they uniformly make their path round its circuit, seldom crossing it or passing in any other direction except for the purpose of procuring their food. Their whole appearance, and especially their mode of progression, is singularly curious and even to a certain extent ludicrous.