Monday, July 15, 2013

Did Linnaeus classify the hare as a ruminant?

Yes and no. Or maybe.

The common claim is:
In fact, Linnaeus at first classified the hare as a ruminant, even though the four-stomach apparatus was lacking.
Yet, see this recent comment by David Ohsie:
BOGUS CLAIM #2: Linnaeus originally classified hare as a ruminant. This copy of what I think is his first edition table doesn't seem to agree with that "myth".
The specific portion of the table is in the first column, third box down, Glires, which is a grouping of rodents and lagomorphs:

Thus, he puts them with rodents, not with ruminants, which would be Pecora, the group of hoofed mammals that contain most of the ruminants, in the same first column, but in the bottom box.

However, this table from the First Edition of Systema Naturæ is not necessarily the beginning and end of Linnaeus' classification. I assume that he wrote a lot of material, and this table is just a summary of his conclusions.

Here is another report of Linnaeus and hares, which seems to me to be the more precise version of what Linnaeus did, from Field sports of the north of Europe, by Captain Llewelyn Lloyd, in 1885.

That is, of course Linnaeus classified it as Glides, not Pecora. However, that was because it differed in its level of rumination.

Yet, he considered it a ruminant, because he thought it used two cavities rather than four, and macerated the food in one cavity and digests it in the other.

Further, we should find where in his work Linnaeus writes the above, about ruminating though less than Pecora. It might even be that, within that portion of text, he even classified it as Pecora, and only later changed it, within the table of the first edition of Systema Naturæ, to Glides. Or maybe not. However, this claim I only traced as far back as Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Hard Sayings of The Bible, 1996, page 158.

The first edition of Systema Naturæ had only eleven pages. The final edition, the 13th, had approximately 3000 pages. During the development of the work, Linnaeus did change classifications. (See here.) If so, it seems probable that the claim was of some original classification, which then seems not to be the case. Unless somewhere in one of the middle editions he changed it and changed it back? There is a lot to look through, and it is in Latin.

In sum, the claim seems to have been mangled, but there is a separate claim, that:
Linnaeus tells us that such is the case, though in an inferior degree to the Pecora, which have a stomach of four cavities, whereas the hare has only two; that the hare macerates the food in one cavity and digests it in the other.

1 comment:

David Ohsie said...

This is interesting, but I remain skeptical given the motivations implied by belief in the Bible. Even if Linnaeus really said what is alleged (and I'm a bit skeptical of that), it could just mean that he believed what the Bible told him.

As an aside, I was not able to easily find via internet search any other "intermediate" tables, but I again am skeptical that he switched it back and forth.

There is this entry in about the hyrax in "Lane":

it is [said to be] a ruminant; [but this is not the case;] and therefore it is said in a trad., that when a man in a state of إِِحْرَام kills it, he must sacrifice a sheep or goat: (TA:)

The stuff in square brackets are his additions so the original medieval source is indicating that the hyrax is a ruminant. But again, the influence of the Bible cannot be ruled out as the cause.


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