Siberian tiger

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Sep 28 04:50:01 UTC 2009

I tend ignore the OED WOD that arrives at my mailbox at regular
intervals, mostly because the words have no relevance and their
selection seems to be completely arbitrary. But I do preserve the emails.

Today's word is "Siberian". Under definition 2., we have:

2. In special applications: a. In names of animals or birds, as
*/Siberian cow, dog, husky, ibex, rabbit, tiger, weasel; Siberian crane,
crow, falcon, finch, thrush,/* etc.

The entry is followed by a long list of examples--what I presume to be
the earliest spotted use for each combination. Specifically, for
"Siberian tiger", we get,
*1895* R. LYDEKKER /Hand-bk. Carnivora/ I. 150 A specimen of the
*Siberian Tiger, apparently the first brought alive to Europe, was
exhibited recently in Hagenbeck's menagerie in Amsterdam. *1956* M. L.
TAYLOR /Tiger's Claw/ vii. 59 ‘Can you read the Chinese ideogram on his
head?’ he inquired of me. ‘It is /wang/ meaning king. In the north it is
believed that only Siberian tigers carry this mark.’ *1978* /Times/ 27
Oct. 32/8 (Advt.), Large Siberian tiger skin mounted on red satin, £600.

Now, that sounded a bit late to me. Sure enough, GoogleBooks' very first
hit predates the citation (1891). But I can actually push the line back
to *1836*, with a possibility that earlier editions of one of the books
may yield an even earlier date. [Note that all the *emphasis* here and
below, except for /Latin names of species/, has been added.]

But, starting from the top,

George Kennan, Siberia and the exile system, Volume 2, *1891*, p. 63

>  > I asked our driver what it was, and he replied that he presumed it
was the Siberian tiger that was to be brought to Irkutsk for exhibition
from some place on the Amur.

Another occurrence is in the January *1890* Century Magazine (vol. 39,
p. 414--a poem, To the Tsar, by Florence Earle Coates).

>  > From sunless casemates by the Neva shore,
 From parching steppes where lifeless waters flow,
 From polar wastes, from mines where men explore
Grief's inner mysteries, that cry of woe
Moves trembling unto God:
And thou who, like *Siberian tiger* caged,
Must secret journey o'er thy native sod,
In bomb-proof chambers masked 'gainst perils dim
That threaten thee from wretched ones enraged--
Dost thou not falter at the thought of Him?
[formatting not preserved, except for line breaks]

Yet another entry goes back to *1864*--and, shockingly for a periodical,
actually represents the January 1864 issue of The Natural History Review
(London). The review in question starts on p. 204 and the citation is
from pp. 209-210.

Reisen im Süden von Ost-Siberian in dan Jahren 1855-59 incl. im Auftrage
der Kats. Geogrphiscen Gesellschaft ausgerführt von Gustav Radde. Band
I. Die Saügethier-Fauna. St. Peresburg, 1862.

>  > 20. /Felis tigris/.--The ordinary occurrence of the Tiger on the
Amoor, and even in the ice-bound island of Sachalin, has already been
noted ... *The Amurian Tiger*, as regards its external appearance,
differs from the typical form, "first, in the greater development of the
white underneath the body, and, secondly, in the paleness of the red
colour of the upper parts;" the latter character being particularly
noticeable in the long-haired winter pelage. In this respect the
*Siberian Tiger* approaches very near to specimen from the Caucasus. ...
We find little in H. Radde's remarks tending to confirm the suspicions
entertained by certain English Naturalists, that the *Siberian Tiger* is
not the same species as his brother of Bengal, and may turn out to be
the lingering remnant of the great /Felis spelæa/, which formerly
inhabited Northern Europe.

It's important to note two things here--first, it is clear that the use
of "Siberian Tiger" is not merely a calque from German, as the creature
is said to have been discussed by "English Naturalists". Second, there
is still the suspicion that the Siberian Tiger does no represent a
distinct species (since the hypothesis has not been proved to any
satisfaction). Neither of these is a useful philological point except to
note that the subject clearly has been discussed and the term has been
in use prior to the publication date--in English, no less.

To illustrate the point, one only needs to go to the scanned copy of The
Monthly Review (London) of Jan-April *1841*. The first article to open
the March, 1841, issue (on p. 305) is the review of Notes on an Overland
Journey Through France and Egypt to Bombay, by Miss Emma Roberts; Memoir
about the Caspian and Aral Seas; and, The East-India Yearbook for 1841
(all published in London). The reference to Siberian tigers comes from
the second review (p. 314). In fact, the pamphlet turns out to have been
translated, again, "from the German of Lieut. Carl Zimmermann by Capt.
Morier, R. N.". [PS: Zimmermann's pamphlet, Memoir on the Countries
About the Caspian and Aral Seas, Illustrative of the Late Russian
Expedition Against Khivah, 1840, has also been scanned by Google from
the NY Public Library and the line there is substantially the same.]

>  > The royal tiger (youl bar of the Kirgiz) roams from Cape Comorin to
the latitudes of Berlin and Hamburg--a remarkable fact in the geography
of the animals. According to Ehrenberg's 'Researches,' the northern
*Siberian tiger* is of the same species as that of Bengal.

Note that both the 1841 and 1864 citations rely on translations of
German texts.

No such concerns exist with the citation from the *1863* American
edition (D. Appleton & Co) of Thomas H. Huxley's On the Origin of
Species: or The Causes of the Phenomena of Organic Nature. A Course of
Six Lectures to Working Men. (p. 114)

>  > The *Siberian tiger* has a thick fur, a small mane, and a
longitudinal stripe down the back, while the tigers of Java and Sumatra
differ in many important respects from the tigers of Northern Asia.

On the other hand, James Cowles Pritchard, in Researches into the
Physical History of Mankind (London, Vol 1, note on p. 90), wrote

>  > Though the *Siberian Tiger* differs considerably in some particulars
from the Indian, it is supposed, by M. Lesson, to be merely a variety of
the same species.

It should be noted, that this note appears in the same place in the 3rd
(*1836*) an the 4th edition (1841 *and* 1851), so if the earlier
editions contain the same footnote, the antedating of "Siberian tiger"
can be pushed even further. There is an advert that refers to the 3rd
edition of the same volume in Prichard's book from *1831* (The Eastern
Origin of the Celtic Nations), but I could not find an actual 1831 copy
of the 3rd edition.^** The first edition was published in 1813.

Also in *1836*, James Bell (in Volume 4 of A System of Geography,
Popular and Scientific, or A Physical, Political, and Statistical
Account of the World and Its Various Divisions, p. 44) wrote,

>  > In the department of zoology I already posses some very interesting
acquisitions: beautiful skins of the *Siberian tiger*, Soongarian
panther and leopard, and lynx-cat; a living Siberian marmot (/Arctomys
Biubac ;/) the horns of the wild Chinese cow with the horse's tail
(/Bosphoephagus Pallas ;/) and a hitherto unknown squirrel of the Altai

^** Note that the Celtic volume is billed as "Forming a supplement to
Researches into the Physical History of Mankind". It's worth browsing
for those interested in the history of the "Into-European hypothesis".


PPS: Going back to the *1864* piece from the The Natural History Review:

On p. 211, the reviewer notes the presence of '*"Persian" or "Angora"*'
cats (quotation marks in the original) as a distinct breed.

>  > These *Angora Cats* were always of a gray (/blau-grau/) colour and
not so common as the ordinary variety...

Note, however, that there is no distinction between Persian, Angora and
Siberian breeds that we have now (the face, color and fur length are
somewhat different between the three and I am not sure when the distinct
breeds have been identified as such). I don't have ready OED access so I
can't verify how this meshes with the first cited usage of "Persian cat"
('*"Persian" breed'* here) and "Angora cat".

Among the list of 94 species, there is also the appearance of *Siberian
Bear* on p. 206.

Further, on p. 215:

>  > A fine series of eleven specimens enables Herr Radde to give full
descriptions of the different sexes and ages of this little known
*Siberian Wild Goat*, which, in company with the great Snow Partridge,
inhabits (exclusively, as far as I know) the mountain ranges of Altai
and Sajan.

The bear, the wild goat and the tiger are the only three of the 94
species discussed that are given the denomination of "Siberian".

PPPS: I am sending a piece on *Siberian huskies* separately.

The American Dialect Society -

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