Hugh Bamford Cott (6 July 1900 – 18 April 1987) was a British
zoologist, an authority on both natural and military camouflage, and a
scientific illustrator and photographer. Many of his field studies
took place in Africa, where he was especially interested in the Nile
crocodile, the evolution of pattern and colour in animals. During the
Second World War, Cott worked as a camouflage expert for the British
Army and helped to influence War Office policy on camouflage. His book
Adaptive Coloration in Animals
1 Life and career 2 Camouflage 3 Artwork 4 Legacy 5 Writings 6 References 7 Bibliography
7.1 By Cott 7.2 About Cott
8 External links
Life and career
Cott was born in Ashby Magna, Leicestershire, England, on 6 July 1900;
his father was the rector there. He was schooled at Rugby. In 1919,
he graduated from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and was
commissioned into the
While trying to photograph a hen partridge on her nest, Cott waited for hours for the bird to return, finally taking some pictures of the empty nest before giving up. On developing the photographs, he realized the bird had been there all along, perfectly camouflaged. As a camouflage expert during the Second World War, Cott likened the functions of military camouflage to those of protective coloration in nature. The three main categories of coloration in his book Adaptive Coloration in Animals are concealment, disguise, and advertisement. He studied, described and presented examples of such diverse camouflage effects as obliterative shading, disruption, differential blending, high contrast, coincident disruption, concealment of the eye, contour obliteration, shadow elimination, and mimicry. In his wartime lectures at Farnham Castle, he described nine categories of visual deception:
merging, e.g. hare, polar bear disruption, e.g. ringed plover disguise, e.g. stick insect mis-direction, e.g. butterfly and fish eyespots dazzle, e.g. some grasshoppers decoy, e.g. angler fish smokescreen, e.g. cuttlefish the dummy, e.g. flies, ants false display of strength, e.g. toads, lizards
Two rail-mounted guns are shown in the photograph. A countershaded one camouflaged by Hugh Cott (above) and one in conventional style (below), August 1940
Cott's account of all this (illustrated by his own pen and ink drawings) is the 550-page book Adaptive Coloration in Animals (1940). It was proof-read by Kerr, who commented on its publication 'It is by far the finest thing of the kind in existence'. His co-workers' first-hand accounts of his work in military camouflage can be found in the memoirs of two of his fellow camoufleurs: Julian Trevelyan and Roland Penrose. Peter Forbes wrote of Cott's book:
Adaptive Coloration in Animals
Cott was critical of attempts at camouflage not based on "vigorous
disruptive contrasts". 1943 painting by
The book was written as war loomed, and published in wartime. Cott makes use of his knowledge of natural history to draw parallels between survival in nature and in war, and to advise on military camouflage, for example commenting:
Various recent attempts to camouflage tanks, armoured cars, and the roofs of buildings with paint reveal an almost complete failure by those responsible to grasp the essential factor in the disguise of surface continuity and contour … in nature vigorous disruptive contrasts are frequently seen at work, and their wonderful effectiveness in hindering recognition needs to be experienced in the field to be fully appreciated.
Forbes notes that
Adaptive Coloration in Animals
But Cott's book is still valuable today for its enormous range, for its passionate exposition of the theories of mimicry and camouflage.
Cott attempted to persuade the British army to use more effective
camouflage techniques, including countershading. For example, in
August 1940, with the
Battle of Britain
These photographs furnish most convincing proof of the effectiveness of countershading, and are especially valuable in that we have in them a direct comparison between the two methods.
However (like Kerr before him in the First World War), Cott did not
succeed in influencing policy on camouflage, and he resigned from the
Art with a purpose: Cott's invisible potoo, disruptively patterned
Cott was a founding member of the Society of Wildlife Artists, and a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. From material gathered in field expeditions, he made contributions to the Cambridge University zoological museum. Cott possessed considerable artistic skill. Like Abbott Thayer, he used his artistry in his scientific work, including in Adaptive Coloration in Animals, to help argue the case he was making. For example, his black-and-white potoo shows this rainforest bird sitting motionless on a mottled tree trunk, its behaviour and disruptive pattern combining to provide effective camouflage. The philosopher and jazz musician David Rothenberg wrote of Cott's art:
Back to Hugh Cott's marvelous engraving of a potoo hidden in a black and white Costa Rican forest, frozen vertically like the tree trunk on which it hides. In nature the visible and invisible dance back and forth with each other, depending on how much we have learned to see. The science and art of this magic merge into one at the moment we grasp it.
Legacy The journalist and author Peter Forbes praised Cott's balance of science and artistry:
..in the conflict between artists and biologists, he was both. Cott was a competent illustrator as well as a biologist. Without having Nabokov's precisianism and anti-Darwinism, he brought an artistic sensibility to bear on these phenomena. His text is radiant with the wonder of these adaptations.
Over 60 years after its publication, Adaptive Coloration in Animals remains a core reference on the subject; the evolutionary biologists Graeme Ruxton, Thomas N. Sherratt and Michael Speed conclude their book on animal coloration by writing
The study of animal coloration and associated anti-predator adaptations has a long history... this field of research has been blessed from the earliest years with the insights of particularly gifted scientists. The writings of Wallace, Bates, Müller, Poulton and Cott truly stand up to the test of time: these individuals deserve even better renown not just as great natural historians but as exceptional scientists too.
The biologist Steven Vogel commented that
The zoologist Hugh Cott had the final word in Adaptive Coloration in
Animals (1940), a definitive synthesis of everything known about
camouflage and mimicry in nature. Cott ruffled fewer feathers [than
In addition to Adaptive Coloration in Animals, Cott wrote two essays
on camouflage: “
^ Forsyth, 2012. Page 67.
^ a b "Papers of Hugh Cott". SEPP/COT (formerly HC/1-2). Janus.
Retrieved 25 July 2012.
^ Forsyth, 2012. Page 127.
^ Cott, Hugh B. (1934). "The Zoological Society's Expedition to the
Zambesi, 1927: No. 5. On a Collection of Lizards, mainly from
Portuguese East Africa, with Descriptions of new Species of Zonurus,
Monopeltis, and Chirindia". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of
London. 104 (1): 145–173.
^ a b c d "Hugh Bamford Cott". University of Glasgow. Retrieved 17
^ Campbell, Bruce; Lack, Elizabeth (2013). A Dictionary of Birds. A
& C Black. pp. Entry: H.B.C. – Hugh Bamford Cott.
^ London Gazette 26 January 1920. Cott is in the Leicestershire
^ Forbes, Peter. (2009) Pages 155-156.
^ Forsyth, 2012. Page 124.
^ "Fison Memorial Lectures" (PDF). King's College London. Archived
from the original (PDF) on 6 January 2014. Retrieved 5 January
^ Cott, Hugh B. (1961). "Scientific results of an inquiry into the
ecology and economic status of the
Bibliography By Cott
Cott, Hugh B. (1940). Adaptive Coloration in Animals. Methuen.
Cott, Hugh B. (1975). Looking at Animals: a
Cott, Hugh B. (1936). "The effectiveness of protective adaptations in the Hive-Bee, illustrated by experiments on the feeding reactions, habit formation, and memory of the common toad (Bufo bufo bufo)". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 106 (1): 111–133. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.1936.tb02283.x. Cott, Hugh B. (1951). "The Palatability of the Eggs of Birds: Illustrated by Experiments on the Food Preferences of the Hedgehog (Erinaceus Europaeus)". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 121 (1): 1–41. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.1951.tb00726.x. Cott, Hugh B. (1952). "The palatability of the eggs of birds: illustrated by three seasons' experiments (1947, 1948 and 1950) on the food preferences of the Rat (Rattus norvegicus); and with special reference to the protective adaptations of eggs considered in relation to vulnerability". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 122 (1): 1–54. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1952.tb06312.x. Cott, Hugh B. (1953). "The palatability of the eggs of birds: illustrated by experiments on the food preferences of the Ferret (Putorius furo) and Cat (Felis catus); with notes on other egg-eating Carnivora". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 123 (1): 123–141. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.1953.tb00160.x. Cott, Hugh B. (1938). Wonder Island of the Amazon Delta; on Marajo Cowboys Ride Oxen, Tree-Dwelling Animals Throng Dense Forests. National Geographic Magazine.
Forbes, Peter (2009). Dazzled and Deceived:
Janus: Cott's papers
Archives Hub: Cott's own copies of books, with personal annotations,
v t e
1st World War
Lucien-Victor Guirand de Scévola Jean-Louis Forain Loyd A. Jones John Graham Kerr Paul Klee Franz Marc Alister Hardy André Mare Solomon Joseph Solomon Abbott Handerson Thayer Maximilian Toch Leon Underwood Edward Wadsworth Everett Warner Norman Wilkinson
2nd World War
Tony Ayrton Geoffrey Barkas Hugh Casson John Codner Edward Bainbridge Copnall Hugh B. Cott Victorine Foot Frederick Gore Stanley William Hayter Ivan Konev Jasper Maskelyne Oliver Messel Colin Moss Roland Penrose Peter Proud Fred Pusey Brian Robb Peter Scott Edward Seago Alan Sorrell Basil Spence Steven Sykes Ernest Townsend Julian Trevelyan Wilfred Clement Von Berg
v t e
Camouflage Countershading Active camouflage Counter-illumination Disruptive coloration Motion camouflage Multi-scale camouflage Multi-spectral camouflage Snow camouflage
As evidence for natural selection Crypsis Decorator crabs Flower mantises Mimicry
Batesian Müllerian Aggressive
Edward Bagnall Poulton
The Colours of Animals
Abbott Handerson Thayer
Concealing-Coloration in the Animal Kingdom
Lucien-Victor Guirand de Scévola John Graham Kerr Norman Wilkinson Everett Warner Johann Georg Otto Schick Hugh Cott
Adaptive Coloration in Animals
Geoffrey Barkas Timothy O'Neill
Roy Behrens Innes Cuthill Thomas N. Sherratt Martin Stevens
Middle East Command
Up to WWII
Late 20th Century
v t e
Allied military deception in World War II
Dudley Clarke Victor Jones
London Controlling Section
John Bevan Dennis Wheatley Ronald Wingate
Soviet military deception
Middle East Cmd
Geoffrey Barkas Tony Ayrton Hugh Cott Peter Proud Steven Sykes
Louis Dalton Porter Ellsworth Kelly David Slepian Bill Blass Art Kane
Ernest Townsend Jasper Maskelyne more
Paradummy Starfish site
John Cecil Masterman
Fictional units (British / US)
First United States Army Group Fourth British Army Twelfth British Army Fourteenth United States Army
British XIV British XVI US XXXIII US XXXV Airborne US XXXVII
US 6th Airborne US 9th Airborne US 11th Infantry US 17th Infantry US 21st Airborne US 25th Armored US 48th Infantry US 55th Infantry British 58th Infantry US 59th Infantry
1st SAS Brigade
Copperhead D-Day naval deceptions Ferdinand Fortitude Graffham Ironside Titanic Quicksilver Zeppelin
Accumulator Barclay Bertram Boardman Cascade Chettyford Cockade Forfar Hardboiled Mincemeat Pastel Scherhorn Span
Bodyguard of Lies
British Intelligence in the
Second World War
v t e
George Montagu (Ornithological Dictionary)
WorldCat Identities VIAF: 79090760 LCCN: n85803179 ISNI: 0000 0000 5787 739X GND: 1043810358 SUDOC: 084997710 BNF: cb12316628n (data) SNAC: w6