THE order of mammals known as rodents are nearly all small-sized and are generally not valuable for their fur. They are distinguished by their chisel-edged teeth, of which they possess two in each jaw. There are no canine teeth and a wide vacant space divides the incisors from the grinders. The rabbit is an exception, having four incisors in the upper jaw.
For furs, the most useful animals of this order are the beaver of the beaver family, the muskrat of the mouse family and the rabbit of the hare family. None except the rabbit can be domesticated, but they can be kept under control to a certain extent, especially the muskrat.
While muskrat is one of the lowest priced pelts, it has risen rapidly in value in recent years. In 1911, the best northern muskrat cost the furrier about 80 or 85 cents each and, in 1912, the price of the best skins was approaching $1.25 each. The price for the trapper is, of course, considerably less, being about 55 cents at the pr esent time. The demand has been increased by the new uses found for this fur. The handsome and popular `Hudson Bay seal,' which is made from the muskrat, even in our own dressing and dyeing establishments, has given the fur much of its present value. About ten millions of pelts are used annually and the high prices are sure to spur trappers and hunters to greater efforts and, if the fur continues fashionable, may result in the depletion of the species in some sections.
Because of the ease of stocking a marsh and feeding the rat, it is feasible for owners to take charge of their marshes, control the number killed, improve the housing and nesting conditions and supply food by planting suitable crops and feeding vegetables and fruits.
In the salt marshes around Delaware and Chesapeake bays, on the Atlantic coast of the United States, a good quality of rat is produced and the marshes are protected by the owners. The `ratting' privileges are rented, usually for one half of the catch. Use is made of the fur, the flesh and the musk bags. The flesh, known as marsh hare or mar sh rabbit, is sold in large quantities on the Baltimore, Philadelphia, Nor-folk and Washington markets and is said to be very agreeable in the fall and early winter, but to be unfit for food in the spring because of the musky flavour. The Indians consider it a splendid dish. In the proper season, canning companies will purchase as much as can be put up.