Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Barbel, any fish of the genus Barbus, of the family Cyprinidae. The dorsal fin, which is opposite the root of the ventral fin, and rarely includes more than nine branched rays, generally has the third ray enlarged and ossified; the anal fin is short and high; four barbules (whence the popular name) or fleshy tentacles grow from the lips - two at the nose, and one at each angle of the mouth. This genus contains nearly 200 species, and may be divided into three sections: - (1) Those with four barbules as in the Common Barbel (B. vulgaris); (2) those in which the barbules are reduced to two; and (3) those in which the barbules are absent, as in some East Indian forms. The greater number of species live in the fresh waters of India and the East Indian Archipelago, but the genus is widely represented in Asia and Africa, and moderately so in Europe, though the species decrease westward to two in France and one in Britain. The Common Barbel is usually about fifteen inches long, though specimens of more than three feet are on record; olive-green above, becoming lighter on the flanks and greenish white towards the belly, which, with the throat, is pearly white. The sides of the head are marked with black, and the marking is sometimes continued along the body. They feed almost entirely on aquatic plants and roots, boring with their snout into the banks of ponds and rivers to obtain them. The Barbel is plentiful in the upper reaches of the Thames, and is more valued by the angler for sport than as a food fish; but if boiled in salt and water and eaten cold with a squeeze of lemon juice the flesh will be found palatable. The roe is said to be poisonous and is removed before the fish is cooked. In cold weather these fish undergo a partial hibernation, and then are taken with a scoop-net. Other noteworthy species are B. bynni, from the Nile, B. canis from the Jordan, the large Barbels from the Tigris, and B. mosal from Indian mountain streams, probably the largest species known, the scales of which are as large as the palm of the human hand.