With unique fish-like tails, chainsaw teeth, a pungent musk, and astonishing building skills, beavers are unlike any other creature in the world. Not surprisingly, the extraordinary beaver has played a fascinating role in human history and has inspired a rich cultural tradition for millennia.
In Beaver, Rachel Poliquin explores four exceptional beaver features: beaver musk, beaver fur, beaver architecture, and beaver ecology, tracing the long evolutionary history of the two living species and revealing them to be survivors capable of withstanding ice ages, major droughts, and all predators, except one: humans.
Widely hunted for their fur, beavers were a driving force behind the colonization of North America and remain, today, Canada’s national symbol. Poliquin examines depictions of beavers in Aesop’s Fables, American mythology, contemporary art, and environmental politics, and she explores the fact and fictions of beaver chain gangs, beaver-flavored ice cream, and South America’s ever-growing beaver population. And yes, she even examines the history of the sexual euphemism. Poliquin delights in the strange tales and improbable history of the beaver. Written in an accessible style for a broad readership, this beautifully illustrated book will appeal to anyone who enjoys long-forgotten animal lore and extraordinary animal biology.
spermatic cord. However, beavers are uniquely endowed with a second pair of scent organs – the castor sacs – which are not glands but large pouches filled with densely packed layers of fibrous epithelium. Castor sacs are larger than the beaver’s anal glands and weigh 0.3 per cent of the beaver’s body weight, or about 60 g (2 oz). Both sexes possess both anal glands and castor sacs, and the two fluids are used for territorial marking. Like the anal scent glands, the castor sacs are connected to
naturally found in the bark of willow trees. Castoreum also contains phenol from Scots pine (used in some oral analgesics for its anaesthetic properties), benzoic acid from black cherry (used medicinally for fungal skin diseases), catechol from common cottonwood (used as a pesticide and vanilla-like flavouring) and hydroquinone from red pine (used in photo developing and as a skin whitener). The actual measure of therapeutic ingredients in castoreum is too small to cause either much good or
both appear in the arms of a family associated with the city’s history. The Beaver Contest winner of Flin Flon, Manitoba, 5 August 1946. Meanwhile, the double meaning of ‘beard’ stretched back at least to the sixteenth century. A story from A Hundred Merry Tales (1526) has a woman and a young lad engaged in ribald repartee. The woman comments on the youth’s beard, which has not yet filled in, growing luxuriously on his lip but sparse on his chin. ‘Sir’, she says, ‘ye have a beard above and none
shedding the yoke of civilization and returning to simpler times. When met with the soulful appreciation and sense of wonder that Grey Owl accredited to his aboriginal heritage, nature was a spiritual cleanser from the ills of modern life. But Grey Owl was not what he appeared to be. After his death, his English heritage was exposed. Grey Owl was born Archibald Stansfeld Belaney in the town of Hastings in East Sussex and had arrived in Canada as a young man in 1906. Over his years in the
p. 43; photo Libraries and Archives of Canada, Ottawa: pp. 78, 119, 149, 160, 172, 174, 176; Lovat Dickson Collection / Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa: p. 161; photo Bruce MacQueen / Shutterstock.com: p. 13; photo Mary Evans Picture Library: p. 136; photo Doug Meek / Shutterstock.com: p. 192; from Lewis Henry Morgan, The American Beaver (Philadelphia, PA, 1868): pp. 21, 122, 151, 153; from Cromwell Mortimer, ‘The Anatomy of a Female Beaver, and an Account of Castor found in her’,