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0248 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 248 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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232   127. CATORS

cakora and chê-ku : the cakora is a bird of Central Asia and eastern Mongolia, while the Chinese francolin, Francolinus chinensis, only occurs in south-eastern China and Indo-China (cf. DAVID and OUSTALET, Les oiseaux de la Chine, Nos. 572, 579). One would, however, like to know more about the history of the word chê-ku. J. DELACOUR and P. JABOUILLE's great work, Les Oiseaux de l'Indochine française, 1931, 4 vol., unfortunately does not give native names.

At any rate, I think it possible to establish that the bird referred to by Polo's « cator » is not the cakora or «chakôr », or the Caccabis chukar, to use the incorrect form of the name which has prevailed among naturalists. The Caccabis chukar, with its red beak and legs, is no other than the bird so well known in Chinese Turkestan as arks käklik, already mentioned in the 11th cent. by the Quta5'yu bilig and Kâsyari (BROCKELMANN, 102), and still so called in various Turkish dialects (RADLOV, II, 1063); the name has passed into Kalmuk as kekaliG and hcikiliG (RAMSTEDT, Kalm. Wörterbuch, 176, 223, who also gives a form kakilig in written Mongolian, for which I find

no authority); the Chinese name is   shih-chi (cf. Ross, loc. cit. No. 126). As YULE says,
this is the bird which was referred to as « francolin » by MOORCROFT. But, more than five centuries before MOORCROFT, Polo mentioned in Persia francolins « different from the other francolins of the other lands, for they are black and white mixed together and they have the feet and the beak red » (see Vol. I, 120). These « francolins » are mentioned a second time, again in Persia (Vol. I, 123). A third mention occurs in that section of the description of Hang-chou (see « Quinsai ») which is only found in RAMUSIO (« ... pernici, fagiani, francolini, coturnici ... »; cf. Vol. I, 328). PAUTHIER (Pa, 76) explained « francolin » as « gelinotte » (hazel-grouse), Tetrastes bonasia, which, owing to the geographical distribution of this bird, is certainly not right. According to YULE ( Y, I, 99), Polo's « francolin » is « the Darrte j of the Persians, the black partridge of English sportsmen, sometimes called the red-legged francolin »; CORDIER adds as the scientific name Tetrao francolinus. On the other hand, YULE says in Hobson-Jobson 2, 99, that « black partridge » is the popular Anglo-Indian name of the common francolin of south-eastern Europe and western Asia (Francolinus vulgaris). But Polo makes a positive statement to the effect that the Persian « francolin » is different from those of other countries. It seems beyond doubt that Polo's «francolin» actually is, as YULE had it, what the Persians call durrâj (originally an Arabic word), a red-legged partridge (cf. VULLERS, I, 819; J. L. SCHLIMMER, Terminol. médicopharmaceutique, Teheran, 1874, 66), which must be similar to, but not identical with the European francolin. Bâbur, when describing the birds of India, connects the durrâj" with the käklik as to size and song, but considers them different birds (BEVERIDGE, The Memoirs of Bâbur, 496-497). In fact, the two species are near enough to have often been called by the same name; « red-legged partridge» and «chakôr» have both been used for the « black partridge » as well as for the Caccabis chukar or käklik. I am convinced that if Polo had meant to speak of « chakôr » at Cayân-nôr, he would have simply called them « francolins ». As to the francolini of « Quinsai » mentioned in RAMUSIO's text, if they really have a Polian origin, it may be that Polo anticipated modern naturalists in recognizing a francolin in our Francolinus chinensis; it is surprising, however, that the latter bird should have lived in a wild state as far north as Hang-chou.

But if we dismiss YULE'S correction of « cator » to « çacor », we are left with an original text which makes the quail bigger than the partridge. I have no certain solution to suggest. Although