THE cordial reception given the Burgess Bird Book for Children,
together with numerous letters to the author asking for information
on the habits and characteristics of many of the mammals of
America, led to the preparation of this volume. It is offered
merely as an introduction to the four-footed friends, little and
big, which form so important a part of the wild life of the United
States and Canada.
There has been no attempt to describe or classify sub-species.
That is for the scientist and student with specific interests.
The purpose of this book is to acquaint the reader with the
larger groups—orders, families, and divisions of the latter,
so that typical representatives may be recognized and their
Instead of the word mammal, the word animal has been used
throughout as having a better defined meaning to the average
child. A conscientious effort to avoid technical terms and
descriptions has been made that there may be nothing
[viii] to confuse
the young mind. Clarity and simplicity have been the objects
kept constantly in view.
At the same time the utmost care to be accurate in the smallest
details has been exercised. To this end the works of leading
authorities on American mammals have been carefully consulted
and compared. No statements which are not confirmed by two or
more naturalists of recognized standing have been made.
In this research work the writings of Audubon and Bachman, Dr. E.W.
Neson, Dr. C. Hart Merriam, Dr. W.T. Hornaday, Ernest Thompson Seton
and others, together with the bulletins of the Biological Survey of
the Department of Agriculture at Washington, have been of the
greatest value. I herewith acknowledge my debt to these.
Whatever the text may lack in clearness of description will be
amply compensated for by the wonderful drawings in color and
black-and-white by Mr. Louis Agassiz Fuertes, the artist-naturalist,
whose hearty cooperation has been a source of great help to me.
These drawings were made especially for this book and add in no
small degree to such value as it may possess.
If the reading of these pages shall lead even a few to an active
interest in our wild animals, stimulating a desire to preserve
and protect a priceless heritage from the past which a heedless
[ix] present threatens through wanton and reckless waste to deny the
future, the labor will have been well worth while.
Only through intimate acquaintance may understanding of the animals
in their relations to each other and to man be attained. To serve
as a medium for this purpose this book has been written. As such
I offer it to the children of America, conscious of its
shortcomings yet hopeful that it will prove of some value in
acquainting them with their friends and mine—the animals of field
and wood, of mountain and desert, in the truest sense the first
citizens of America.
THORNTON W. BURGESS