The degrees of their so much vaunted intelligence, which is in general very limited, and rarely capable of being made subservient to the purposes of man, vary almost as much as the ever-changing outline of their form. From the grave and reflective Oran-Otang, whose docility and powers of imitation in his young state have been the theme of so much ridiculous exaggeration and sophistical argumentation, to the stupid and savage Baboon, whose gross brutality is scarcely relieved by a single spark of intelligence, the gradations are regular and easy. A remarkable circumstance connected with the developement of this faculty, or perhaps we should rather say, with its gradual extinction, consists in the fact that it is only in young animals which have not yet attained their full growth, that it is capable of being brought into play; the older individuals, even of the most tractable races, entirely losing the gaiety, and with it the docility, of their youth, and becoming at length as stupid and as savage as the most barbarous of the tribe.
Such, indeed, is the outline which we have been taught to frame to ourselves of this noble animal; and beautifully has this imaginary sketch, for such in a great measure it will be found on closer examination, been filled up by the magic pencil of Buffon, who, in this, as in too many other instances, suffered himself to be borne along by the strong tide of popular opinion. Yielding to the current, instead of boldly stemming it, he has added the weighty sanction of his authority to those erroneous notions which were already consecrated by their antiquity, and has produced a history of the Lion, which, however true in its main facts, and however eloquent in its details, is, to say the least, highly exaggerated and delusive in its colouring. The Lion of Buffon is, in fact, the Lion of popular prejudice; it is not the Lion, such as he appears to the calm observer, nor such as he is delineated in the authentic accounts of those naturalists and travellers who have had the best means of observing his habits, and recording the facts of which they have been themselves eye witnesses.