I. THE START
There was travelling with me at the time Doctor Francisco P. Moreno, of Buenos Aires. Doctor Moreno is at the present day a member of the National Board of Education of the Argentine, a man who has worked in every way for the benefit of his country, perhaps especially for the benefit of the children, so that when he was first introduced to me it was as the "Jacob Riis of the Argentine" - for they know my deep and affectionate intimacy with Jacob Riis. He is also an eminent man of science, who has done admirable work as a geologist and a geographer. At one period, in connection with his duties as a boundary commissioner on the survey between Chile and the Argentine, he worked for years in Patagonia. It was he who made the extraordinary discovery in a Patagonian cave of the still fresh fragments of skin and other remains of the mylodon, the aberrant horse known as the onohipidium, the huge South American tiger, and the macrauchenia, all of them extinct animals. This discovery showed that some of the strange representatives of the giant South American Pleistocene fauna had lasted down to within a comparatively few thousand years, down to the time when man, substantially as the Spaniards found him, flourished on the continent. Incidentally the discovery tended to show that this fauna had lasted much later in South America than was the case with the corresponding faunas in other parts of the world; and therefore it tended to disprove the claims advanced by Doctor Ameghino for the extreme age, geologically, of this fauna, and for the extreme antiquity of man on the American continent.
One day Doctor Moreno handed me a copy of The Outlook containing my account of a cougar-hunt in Arizona, saying that he noticed that I had very little faith in cougars attacking men, although I had explicitly stated that such attacks sometimes occurred. I told him, Yes, that I had found that the cougar was practically harmless to man, the undoubtedly authentic instances of attacks on men being so exceptional that they could in practice be wholly disregarded. Thereupon Doctor Moreno showed me a scar on his face, and told me that he had himself been attacked and badly mauled by a puma which was undoubtedly trying to prey on him; that is, which had started on a career as a man-eater. This was to me most interesting. I had often met men who knew other men who had seen other men who said that they had been attacked by pumas, but this was the first time that I had ever come across a man who had himself been attacked. Doctor Moreno, as I have said, is not only an eminent citizen, but an eminent scientific man, and his account of what occurred is unquestionably a scientifically accurate statement of the facts. I give it exactly as the doctor told it; paraphrasing a letter he sent me, and including one or two answers to questions I put to him. The doctor, by the way, stated to me that he had known Mr. Hudson, the author of the "Naturalist on the Plata," and that the latter knew nothing whatever of pumas from personal experience and had accepted as facts utterly wild fables.
Undoubtedly, said the doctor, the puma in South America, like the puma in North America, is, as a general rule, a cowardly animal which not only never attacks man, but rarely makes any efficient defence when attacked. The Indian and white hunters have no fear of it in most parts of the country, and its harmlessness to man is proverbial. But there is one particular spot in southern Patagonia where cougars, to the doctor's own personal knowledge, have for years been dangerous foes of man. This curious local change in habits, by the way, is nothing unprecedented as regards wild animals. In portions of its range, as I am informed by Mr. Lord Smith, the Asiatic tiger can hardly be forced to fight man, and never preys on him, while throughout most of its range it is a most dangerous beast, and often turns man-eater. So there are waters in which sharks are habitual man- eaters, and others where they never touch men; and there are rivers and lakes where crocodiles or caymans are very dangerous, and others where they are practically harmless - I have myself seen this in Africa.