Imágenes de página

"A very large stag was known for 200 years in the Mona-Lia,-a range of mountains lying between Badenoch and Inverness. He was always seen alone, keeping the open plains, so that he was unapproachable. He was always distinguished from all others by his immense proportions. About 1777, Angus Macdonald got within shot of this large stag,

called Damh-mor-a Vinalia, and wounded him in the shoulder blade, but he got away. In 1907, thirty years after this, the same deer was shot at the head of Badenoch. After a minute examination, the ball of 1777 was found in the left shoulder, an inch under the skin, which still retained the mark of an old-standing perforation."

The belief in the extraordinary longevity of the deer is not peculiar to the Highlands. A gentleman who attended the Duke of Saxe Cobourg's hunts, informed Mr. Scrope that he had lately seen, in the mountains of Thuringia, a stag of stupendous height and dimensions, whose great age is quite a tradition, having been handed down from father to son in the village from a very remote and untraceable period of time, though he still appears in full vigour he has long enjoyed an indemnity, the Duke having restricted every one from firing at him. The woods are of oak, and the acorns are one great cause, no doubt, of the large growth of the German deer.* It is confidently asserted that a white hind continued to be seen ie Be alder for two hundred years, and there is at the present time a hind which was marked ninety years ago. There was also a large hart well in the forest for seventy years. He was said to carry eighteen branches. He has disappeared. however, during the last three years. There is now also a hart which has been remarked for many years; he has a peculiar formation of antlers; and it is well ascertained that he was shot through the body some years ago, and is now perfectly recovered: a deer that has been wounded has, ever after, his horns deformed. It must however be noticed, that, in a tame state, or confined in a park, deer do not attain any considerable age; and that the keeper of Richmond Park (Lucas) does not remember but one that lived to twenty years; and that was the Knap-hill stag, turned out by order of George the Third. Besides sports of this animating description, the chase of the WOLF also was followed in former times with considerable ardour. Some traditionary notices there are of the destruction of the last wolves seen in Sutherland, consisting of four old ones and their whelps, which were killed about the same time, at three different places, widely distant from each other, and as late as between the years 1690 and 1700. Indeed some of these detested prowlers continued to ravage the Northern Highlands till the disappearance of the pine forests deprived them of retreat and shelter. The last survivors of this rabid race were destroyed at Achermore, in Assynt, in Halladale, and in Glen-Loth. The death of the last wolf and her cubs, on the eastern coast of Sutherland, was attended with some remarkable circumstances:

"Some ravages had been committed among the flocks, and the howl had been heard in the dead of the night, at a time when it was supposed the villanous race was extinct. The inhabitants turned out in a body, and very carefully scoured the whole country, but not successfully; for,

after a very laborious search, no wolf could be found, and the party broke up.

"A few days afterwards, a man of the name of Polson (not Porson), who resided at Wester Helmesdale, followed in the search, by minutely examining the wild recesses in the neighbourhood of

* Pennant mentions a belief existing in India of an immense specimen of deer, or elk, now existing in the deep and remote forests, and but rarely seen,-" Quale portentum neque militaris," &c. See Outlines of the Globe, by W. Pennant, 4 rols. 4to.

[ocr errors]

Glen-Loth, which he fancied had not been sufficiently attended to before. He was accompanied by only two young lads, one of them his son, and the other an active herd-boy. Polson was an old hunter, and had much experience in tracing and destroying wolves and other predatory animals; forming his own conjectures, he proceeded at once to the wild and rugged ground that surrounds the rocky mountain gully which forms the character of the base of Sledale. Here, after a minute investigation, he discovered a narrow fissure in the midst of a confused mass of large fragments of rock, which, upon examination, he had reason to think might lead to a larger opening or cavern below, which the wolf might use as his den. Stones now were thrown down, and other means resorted to, to rouse any animal that might be lurking within. Nothing formidable appearing, the two lads contrived to squeeze themselves through the fissure, that they might examine the interior, whilst Polson kept guard on the outside. The boys descended through the narrow passage into a small cavern, which was evidently a wolf's den, for the ground was covered with bones and horns of animals, feathers and egg-shells, and the dark space was somewhat enlivened by five or six active wolf-cubs. Not a little dubious of the event, the voice of the poor boys came up hollow and anxious from below, communicating their intelligence. Polson at once desired them to do their best, and destroy the cubs. Soon after, he heard the feeble howling of the whelps, as they were attacked below, and saw, almost at the same time, to his great horror, a fullgrown wolf, evidently the dam, raging furiously at the cries of her young, and now close upon the mouth of the cavern, which she had approached unobserved

among the rocky inequalities of the place. She attempted to leap down at one bound from the spot where she was at first seen: in this emergency, Polson instinctively threw himself forward upon the wolf, and succeeded in catching a firm hold of the animal's long and bushy tail, just as the fore part of the body was within the narrow entrance of the cavern. He had unluckily placed his gun against a rock when aiding the boys in their descent, and could not reach it. Without apprising the lads below of their imminent peril, the stout hunter kept a firm grip of the wolf's tail, which he wound round his left arm, and although the maddened brute scrambled and twisted, and strove with all her might to force herself down to the rescue of the cubs, Polson was just able, with the exertion of all his strength, to keep her from going forward. In the midst of this singular struggle, which passed in silence,-for the wolf was mute, and the hunter, either from the engrossing nature of his exertions, or from his unwillingness to alarm the boys, spoke not a word at the commencement of the conflict, his son, within the cave, finding the light excluded from above for so long a space, asked in Gaelic and in an abrupt tone-Father, what is keeping the light from us?' 'If the root of the tail breaks,' replied he, you will soon know that.' Before long, however, the man contrived to get hold of his huntingknife, and stabbed the wolf in the most vital parts he could reach. The enraged animal now attempted to turn and face her foe, but the hole was too narrow to allow of this; and when Polson saw his danger, he squeezed her forward, keeping her jammed in, whilst he repeated his stabs as rapidly as he could, until the animal being mortally wounded was easily dragged back and finished."

[ocr errors]


This interesting exploit, so spiritedly narrated by Mr. Scrope, Hogg the Ettrick Shepherd has entirely spoilt, by depriving it of all verisimilitude, in the attempt to make it his own. He has turned the wolf into a boar, which never dies in silence, and which has not a bushy tail, many gentlemen at wakes and fairs and rural sports, can, to their sorrow and disappointment, tell. This mention of the aper fulmineus leads us to observe, that, in our author's account of the Forest of Marr, in Aberdeenshire, he mentions that the present Earl of Fife has tried many spirited experiments of the introduction of different animals into this celebrated forest. He brought over Capercalies (Cock of the Wood) from the North, and they increased to the number of twelve; but when the place was let, and the birds removed, they soon died. He has now procured two more old ones, and has succeeded, we are told, in rearing up another brood.*

* Could not the Gelinote, or Poule de Bois, be introduced into Scotland? it is

The wild boar was introduced also, on the advice of the Margrave of Anspach, who was at Marr Lodge for a fortnight, but the experiment did not answer for want of acorns, which are their principal food: if these animals, however, were turned out young, the ant-hills, which abound in the forest, might probably be an efficient substitute.* Rein-deer were also introduced by his Lordship, but they all died, notwithstanding one of them was turned out on the summits, which are covered with dry moss, on which, it was supposed, they would be able to subsist. In spite of these failures, Lord Fife wished to see if the chamois would live in his Alpine domains, and he imported five of these animals from Switzerland ; his late Majesty, however, having expressed a wish to have them at Windsor, they were accordingly sent there, where they produced young ones. A wooden tower was built for them, and they raced up and down it as if they had been among their native rocks. They died from having eaten some poisonous herb; so that, on all accounts, it is much to be regretted that they were not sent originally to the Marr forest.†

There is towards the close of the volume a very interesting account by Mr. Macneil, of Colonsay, of the Highland deer-hound-the Canis Venaticus, celerrimus, audacissimusque,-a title he still preserves, though his race, like the race of all other heroes, in these days, is hastening to decay. Le chien sans peur et sans reproche, like the Chevalier of the same title, will soon, we fear, be known only in the records of history: and Buskar and Bayard will be the last of their respective genealogies. It appears that the Highland deer-hound and the celebrated Irish wolfdog are the same at an early period these dogs were known by the same Celtic name, Miol chù, a tradition still prevailing among the Highlanders that a much larger species of deer than the present formerly existed on their hills, which they called Miol (Elk?) Evelyn, in his Diary in 1670, says-"The bulls, (i. e. bull-dogs), did exceedingly well; but the Irish wolf-dog exceeded, which was a tall greyhound, a stately creature indeed, who beat a cruel mastiffe." Buffon considers this race of dogs as original in our island, and that they were called by the ancients dogs of Epirus, or Albanian dogs; and the dogs at present in use on the mountains of Macedonia, for the purpose of deer-coursing, are similar in figure, colour, disposition, and in the texture of their hair, to those used in this country. They are exceedingly rare, and only to be found in the

found so near us as the forests of the Ardennes. It is now two years since the last bustard was seen in Norfolk.

* This forest consists of four contiguous glens on the north bank of the Dee. Its length may average 15 miles, and its breadth 8 miles, which would give an area of about 60,000 acres. It joins the forest of Atholl on the west, and that of Invercauld on the east. The stock of deer is reckoned about three thousand. In this forest are the last remains of the old pine forests of Scotland. The leaves of the pine trees are of a dark green, as compared with the common Scotch fir.



The boar is the animal above all others which the warriors of the pseudo-Ossian pursue the wolf is, I think, scarcely mentioned: and the stag less often than the But we have the Boar of the Mist, and the Boar of Runa, and the Boar of Gorwol, and two Scandinavian Kings engage in war from a dispute about killing a Boar; and Sarandrono was the King of the Land of Boars. The oak forests must also have flourished at that time (?), as they are mentioned often, and the pine but seldom. British dogs were known and esteemed among the Romans. Nemesian says, Sed non Spartanos tantum, tantumne Molossos

Pascendum catulos; divisa Britannia nutrit
Veloces, nostrique orbis venatibus aptos;

that is, as I understand it,-they received not only mastiffs, but greyhounds from Britain; and, if greyhounds, we must suppose, dogs of the original breed.

possession of the nobility.* In Ireland, at the present day, not a vestige of this breed is to be met with the same of England. In Wales some of these dogs may remain, though Mr. Scrope says that he has no evidence of the fact. In Scotland perhaps not a dozen pure deer-hounds are to be found. In their pristine and more perfect state they may have averaged in height thirty inches, in girth thirty-four inches, and in weight one hundred pounds. None of the canine race presents such a combination of qualities as the Highland deer-hound-speed, strength, size, endurance, courage, perseverance, sagacity, docility, elegance, and dignity: all these qualities are possessed by this dog in a very high degree, and almost all are called into exertion in pursuit of the game. What proves the supereminence of this breed is, that every attempt to improve it by crossing with any other species, has utterly failed. By the cross with the bull-dog courage was gained, but speed, strength, weight, and roughness for the protection of feet, was lost. Even the courage was in surplus quantity, for it led the animal to attack the deer in front, where all successful attack is impossible, and where the dog must be injured or killed. In the cross with the blood-hound no quality was gained but that of smell, while speed and size were diminished. With the Pyrenean wolf-dog, speed and courage were both lost. Sir Walter Scott's famous dog, of which, as well as of the false quantity in its epitaph, we have heard so much, was a cross with the blood-hound. The purest and finest specimens of this deer-hound now to be met with, are in the possession of Captain Macneil of Colonsay; of which he has in particular two dogs,† Buskar and Bran, and two bitches, Runa and Cavack. Two are of yellow, two of sandy red ; with black tips to their muzzle, tail, and ears. They are supposed to be quite as swift as a well-bred greyhound; but they are much stronger and bolder than the greyhound, and far more sagacious. There is also a distinct breed of grey-dogs considered pure in the districts of Lochaber and Badenoch:-but, strong, swift, and courageous as they are, there are few if any dogs who are capable, single-handed, of pulling down a fullgrown stag. A most spirited and picturesque account of a deer hunt in Capt. Macneil's' property in Gara, with all its wild and striking accompaniments, is given, but which is far too long for any room we have to spare yet, as old reviewers, like old dogs, learn to run cunning at last, we will cut across the field, and afford our readers a bird's eye view of the progress of the course.

"The dogs were slipped,-a general halloo burst from the whole party: and the stag, wheeling round, set off at full speed, with Buskar and Bran straining after him. The brown figure of the deer, with his noble antlers laid back, contrasted

with the light colour of the dogs stretching along the dark heath, presented one of the most exciting scenes it was possible to imagine. The deer's first attempt was to gain some rising ground to the left of the spot where we stood, and rather behind

* Dr. Chandler, in his Travels in Greece, appears to have been singularly afraid of the large and fierce dogs which accompanied the Albanian Shepherds, to guard their flocks against the wolves; et non solum in feras, sed in hostes, etiam latronesque ; which thieves and robbers they did not distinguish from a travelling Fellow and Doctor of Divinity, who returned exclaiming—“ Tray, Blanche, and Sweet Lips, they all bark at me."

+ A beautiful drawing of Buskar, by Mr. Landseer, is given in the title page-" dignusque numismate vultus." The pure bred dog must be of an entire colour, that is essential: so that Fingal's famous dog Bran was only a cross, for he is called "White-breasted Bran."-v. Ossian, &c. Fingal, Book vi. Temora, book viii. The height of the fine young brindled greyhound at Lucas', in Richmond Park, is either 29 or 30 inches, which is equal to that of Buskar.

us; but, being closely pursued by the dogs, he soon found that his only safety was in speed. And (as a deer does not run well up hill, nor, like a roe, straight down hill,) on the dogs approaching him, he turned, and almost retraced his footsteps, taking, however, a steeper line of descent than that by which he ascended. Here the chase became most interesting: the dogs pressed him hard, and the deer, getting confused, found himself suddenly on the brink of a small precipice, of about fourteen feet in height, from the bottom of which there sloped a rugged mass of stones. He paused for a moment, as if afraid to take the leap, but the dogs were so close that there was no alternative. At this time the party were not more than one hundred and fifty yards distant, and most anxiously waited the result, fearing, from the ruggedness of the ground below, that the deer would not survive the leap. They were, however, soon relieved from their anxiety; for though he took the leap, he did so more cunningly than gallantly, dropping himself in the most singular manner, so that his hind legs first reached the broken rocks behind: nor were the dogs long in following him. Buskar sprang first, and, extraordinary to relate, did not lose his legs. Bran followed; and on reaching the ground performed a complete somerset.


soon, however, recovered his legs; and the chase was continued in an oblique direction down the side of a most rocky and rugged brae: the deer apparently more fresh and nimble than ever. jumping through the rocks like a goat, and the dogs well up, though occasionally receiving the most fearful falls. From the high position in which we were placed, the chase was visible for nearly half a mile. When some rising ground intercepted our view, we made with all speed for a higher point, and on reaching it, we could perceive that the dogs, having got upon smooth ground, had gained upon the deer, who was still going at speed, and were close up with him. Bran was then leading, and in a few seconds was at his heels,

and immediately seized his hock with such violence of grasp, as seemed in a great measure to paralyse the limb, for the deer's speed was immediately checked. Buskar was not far behind; for, soon afterwards passing Bran, he seized the deer by the neck. Notwithstanding the weight of the two dogs which were hanging to him, having the assistance of the slope of the ground, he continued dragging them along at a most extraordinary rate (in defiance of their utmost exertions to detain him,) and succeeded more than once in kicking Bran off. But he became at length exhausted; the dogs succeeded in pulling him down, and though he made several attempts to rise, he never completely regained his legs. On coming up, we found him perfectly dead, with the joints of both his forelegs dislocated at the knee, his throat perforated, and his chest and flanks much lacerated: as the ground was perfectly smooth for a considerable distance round the place where he fell, and not in any degree swampy, it is difficult to account for the dislocation of his knees, unless it happened during his struggles to rise. Buskar was perfectly exhausted, and had lain down, shaking from head to foot, like a broken-down horse; but on our approaching the deer, he rose, walked round him with a determined growl, and would scarcely permit us to approach him: he had not, however, received any hurt or injury: while Bran showed several bruises, nearly a square inch having been taken off the front of his fore-leg, so that the bone was visible, and a piece of burnt heather had passed quite through his foot. Nothing could exceed the determined courage dis played by both dogs, particularly by Buskar, throughout the chase, and especially for preserving his hold, though dragged by the deer in a most violent manner. This, however, is but one of the many feats of this fine dog. He was pupped in Autumn 1832, and, before he was a year old, killed a full-grown hind singlehanded."

This is a noble chase indeed, worthy of the presence of Artemis herself, with her Cretan hunting shoes (evdpóμides) and well-stored quiver; and well may Mr. Scrope say, that this is a chase which makes all other field sports appear wholly insignificant; and probably such could not have been seen in any other part of Great Britain. We are told by the same authority that

"The speed of a deer may be estimated as nearly equal to that of a hare, though, in coursing the latter, from its turnings and windings, more speed is probably required than in coursing the former; but, on the other hand, if a dog is in

any degree blown when he reaches a deer, he cannot preserve his hold, nor recover it if once lost; indeed, it is only from his superior speed and bottom that a dog can continue to preserve his hold, and thus by degrees to exhaust the deer,

« AnteriorContinuar »