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owing to the softness of that fleshy substance termed the ball, is tender, nature has supplied the hare with those which are scarcely susceptible to hurt ; that portion of her foot on which the weight of the animal rests when in action, instead of being soft and fleshy, is covered with a strong coarse fur, and she is consequently enabled to tread on the hardest beaten track, or most rough and stony road, and glide over it with a rapidity unharmed ; whereas no dog could there follow her without being very shortly crippled.
Ďuring frosty weather she has a great superiority of speed over most animals. When a horse can scarcely walk, or a dog move beyond a trot, a hare will fly to the utmost of her pace ; when the greyhound and the harrier would lacerate their feet and start their claws, the bare runs as on the softest down. Were, then, this gentle and fearful animal gifted with cunning, or blessed with the craft of a fox, doubtless secured to many other beasts for a wise purpose, the advantages we have named would soon become evident ; and then where find the greyhound, where the pack, the ground being in her favour, which could run her to the death? No ; fear is alone her weapon of defence : the moment the approach of man or dog sends the shaft of terror to her heart, she flies; and when the powers of nature fail, she employs no craft or cunning to escape, but uses simply those means common to her, in the hour of rest, in the hour when seeking the nourishment of life, or gambolling with those of her race. That the hare, then, is the most fearful and timid of living animals, it appears may be fully admitted, as delineated under all circumstances and on all occasions.
Yet the sport she affords, and the recreation she gives to man, though torture to herself, if equalled, can be surpassed by few other animals, whether it be on the coursing ground, in the hunting field, or to the shooter ; and, notwithstanding all her natural terror of man, she may and has been frequently known to become as domesticated even as the cat, actually sitting on the same hearth with a greyhound, famed as the destroyer of many of her race. There are many who assert their powers of distinguishing a buck from a doe when on foot ; such may be proved, though we own to doubts on the subject, and it can only be material where their numbers are few on a hunting ground, or to prevent the destruction of a litter during the breeding season.
The females have undoubtedly not so much strength or fleetness as the males, and, with the nature of their sex, are more alive to fear, from which cause a female will probably rise from her form sooner than will a male, on the approach of dog or man ; and they are likewise said to double more frequently ; but this, like all other of their actions, is caused by excessive timidity. As to the possibility of deciding on the sex of the animal in flight, however, it appears to us to be a stretch of sporting acuteness which we certainly lay no claim to. If a hare should rise immediately before you when shooting, or you observe her on her form, you may then give such opinion with every probability of correctness, otherwise her death alone will decide the question.
We will say but a few more words on the subject of the hare as an animal, and then proceed to hunt her. We have already endeavoured to prove that a hare is no knave, but that she acts entirely from the instinct of fear. As a last observation on this matter, observe the remarkable fact that, however frequently pursued by hounds or other dogs, she seldom leaves the place of her nativity, or that where she usually
rests; she ranges within a certain limit to secure the support of life, and there ends her rambles. And it is by no means an uncommon or rare instance to find her on the morrow in the very same form from which the day previous she had been started and lived through a long chase, thus leaving it within the power of man to seek her with success again and again on the same ground. Does this look like cunning ?
As to the value of her carcass in the larder, it is unquestionably a matter of taste in which no man has a right to dictate to his neighbour; for we believe there is an old adage which says, • Eat and drink to please yourself, dress and act so as to please others.” Nevertheless, we are very partial to hares ; indeed we would rather have a hare than a haunch of venison or a brace of woodcocks, save for the gratification of sending to our friends that which to them might be agreeable. Hare-soup, well made, is no bad thing on this side of the Border : in Scotland it is not eatable. Hare-pie, boned and well seasoned, is a rare dish for breakfast. Jugged hare we can dine off with gusto. But a hare which has been run into and killed by a pack of hounds, served the same day, with a trifle of currant-jelly, is marvellously appetissant, and no mistake. It is a very pleasant thing indeed to run into puss after a sharp half-hour, and pleasing also is it to fork puss into yourself after a day's hunting.
Having now said so much in regard to the nature of the hare, we will endeavour to say a few words as to the hunting ; for the pleasure of hunting the hare is one of the most delightful recreations in the life of a sportsman. Nevertheless, there are thousands of young England's “Gambado” school, who would laugh to scorn so bold an assertion : to them we leave the glory of a twenty minutes' race over ditch or fence, frequently without the sight of a hound, after they break cover ; twenty-mile ride home again, to the edification of their sporting propensities and the profits of the tobacco-trade ; to us the pleasure of seeing hounds do their work when in pursuit of game. Not that we admit a preference for, or a comparison between the hunting of a hare and the chase of a fox, as far as the real excitement of the sport is concerned ; for the latter, in our humble opinion, admits of no comparison among sports, save in the stalking of a deer. And were we an officer quartered at this present moment in some outlandish detachment in Ireland, with nought to break on the common routine of life but a daily visit to the stables of our troopers, diversified by a cigar on the corn-bin, and that some kind friend were to say—“Linton, my boy, pray do what you like for two months, and we will pay the piper," our reply would be—“Two months' leave ; four thorough-bred nags, in tip-top order, and fit to carry twelve stone ; a hack; an unlimited supply of books and newspapers ; and a comfortable lodging in the centre of the Pytchley or the Duke of Beaufort's hunts." We speak humbly, and aspire not to Melton. With such opinions and such tastes, we nevertheless declare the hunting of the hare as she ought to be hunted, not as she most frequently is hunted, to be one of the most diversified and most interesting of all sports. We have hunted with many packs, and could probably name some of the best in England, but we desire not to intrude on the privacy of any man's tastes or style of hunting ; we shall therefore speak generally. Moreover, there may be half-adozen packs of equally good hounds, and which are equally well hunted,
OBSERVATIONS ON THE HARE, AND
and yet two only of the half-dozen may have excellent sport, the remaining four rarely a run. The causes are many, but the principal one the nature of the country in which they are hunted. For instance, keep a pack of harriers in the neighbourhood of extensive down or open land, with coverts at some distance the one from the other, and, above all, a thin population, and not in the immediate neighbourhood of a large
In such a country as this hares will fly like foxes ; and, as they generally go some distance at night to feed, and, above all, are not ridden over or run over by a host of fellows on foot, who try to kill the hare themselves instead of allowing the hounds to do their own work, you will have sport. Such hunting grounds are to be found in Dorsetshire, Devonshire, and elsewhere, and most gratifying sport have we there witnessed with harriers. In other parts of Devon the country is so wooded--so intersected with roads and bye-lanes, with impracti. cable fences, and impossible coverts—that it is out of the question to show sport, save a chance race through, though the hounds may be the best in the kingdom, and these hunted to perfection. But, of all the destructive places to harriers and their owners' tempers, is a country, be it ever so good, in the immediate neighbourhood of a large town. Brighton must be bad enough ; but Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, or Bristol must be accursed cities of the plague to masters of harriers. Should the meet be within ten miles of these cities, the pouring out of the buckskin and booted population, as well as the coatless and breechless crowds, may be conducive to the killing of a hare; but as to the hunting of her-save in their own manner, and according to their own rules, in spite of hounds, master, or persuasion—it is out of the question. The hare is ridden down or shouted down, or worried to death ; the hounds are often ridden over, and the fences broken over. The hallooing and shouting are alone sufficient to break the heart of the gentle, timid animal they pursue ; and the possibility of hounds running to a scent crossed a thousand times, all is truly marvellous, notwithstanding their extraordinary instinct. It is such causes as these which induce even first-rate sportsmen to declaim against harriers. And why? Simply that they might never have had an opportunity of seeing harriers hunt and kill a hare unaided, save under circumstances and from causes when a huntsman has a right to enforce his will and authority. And yet, amid the motley crowd who issue from the city on a fair hunting morning, to meet a pack of harriers, there are often
who are excellent riders and good sportsmen, who know what ought to be done, but will not do it ; and when the motley throng rushes forth for the scent, they, the first in their mighty prowess, as knowing better are most to blame. Well, full well we know the nervous excitement which rushes to the heart at the sight of a pack of hounds in full cry ; well we know how difficult, how very difficult it is to refrain from endeavouring to head the throng ; but, recollect, with harriers, particularly in places and under the circumstances we have named, they may race for three fields, and turn on the same ground. Press them too much, they overrun the scent, and a good run is lost. But we neither wish nor presume to lecture ; our object is to show why and when good sport with harriers is often lost, and thus hare-hunting is by many despised, and how and where hare-hunting may be had to perfection, and enjoyed accordingly.
The where is in a country thinly populated, tolerably open, and not in the immediate neighbourhood of a large or mercantile town. The how, by the presence of small fields of real sportsmen, who will listen to reason, have patience, and who leave to the old men and boys the lane-riding, and themselves ride like sportsmen, turning from nothing practical, but going at it only when hounds are running and circumstances require it ; but, above all, allowing hounds to hunt the hare solely by those means which nature and instinct have afforded them : rely on it, they know their duty better than all the huntsmen in England can teach them, and are as desirous to have themselves, and as willing to show to others, the best possible sport. No shouting, no hallooing, no interfering with dogs that are not yours, but which are kept at considerable expense and care by others for your amusement when you judge fit to join in the hunt-in fact, no interfering with hounds which do not belong to you. Keep to these rules, and be assured the sport which will be secured to you will soon prove the truth of our assertions.
(To be continued.)
AT HOME AND
(From the MS. Life of the Hon. Percy Hamilton.)
COMMUNICATED TO AND EDITED BY LORD WILLIAM LENNOX.
[NOTE BY THE EDITOR.-The following sketches from the daily journals of an old friend and Westminster schoolfellow have been placed in my hands with a view of publishing them ; and as I participated in many of the earlier “ freaks and follies,” and in some of the latter events, I have great pleasure in introducing to the public the Sporting Life of the Hon. Percy Hamilton.]
CHAPTER I. Birth, Parentage, and Education - Christmas at a Country-house – Journey to
London-A six inside Stage-coach of the Olden Time-The Lawyers' Clerk's Story of the Two Friends and the Highwaymen-Arrival in the Metropolis. The M.D.'s of Forty Years ago — Introduction to “Mother Pack,” Dean's Yard, Westminster.
“ Oft does my heart indulge the rising thought,
Which still recurs unlooked for and unsought;
As I have assumed a nom de guerre, it would be perfectly needless to inflict upon my readers a full, true, and particular account of the birth and parentage of the humble individual who now makes his first appearance before the public ; adopting, then, the phraseology of the apology
makers of the London theatres, I throw myself upon the indulgence of the sporting world, and, following out the system of modern melo-dramas, request my patrons will suppose that eight years have elapsed from the day of my birth until that upon which I am about to introduce myself upon the stage of the great drama of life. During that eventful period of pap, long-clothes, mewling, caps, rosettes, teething, crying, and sprawling, I was an average sample of juvenile humanity'; as a matter of course, my nurse pronounced me to be the sweetest, prettiest dear, she had ever clapped her eyes upon. My mother would not for worlds, as Gay quaintly remarks
“ Have changed her booby for another." My father hailed me as the most promising “young-’un" he had ever seen, and, before I had completed my sixth year, offered to back me against any one of my age and size, either across the country or in the pugilistic ring ; for in the days I write of, the knife had not been substituted for the fist. The huntsman looked upon me as a most oudacious young varlet ; the grooms called me an out-and-out trump; while the game-keeper declared that in the whole course of his life he had never seen such a hand at a sparrow, and that if I went on as I had begun, I should same day rival Colonel Hawker, the then crack shot of the day. At my christening an event occurred, of rather the sporting order, and which may, for what I know to the contrary, have given me a taste for dogs ever since. In the private chapel attached to the house baptisms were of rare occurrence ; but a severe fall of snow having blocked up the neighbouring roads, it was decided that the ceremony should take place at home. Before, however, it had proceeded very far, it was discovered that there was no font in the building ; the huntsman, old Tom Prior, soon detected this, and, rushing into the stableyard, quickly returned with a small stone basin that had been placed there for the use of a favourite retriever, Tip. In this was the ceremony concluded ; and from that day I received a sobriquet which will be attached to me to my last hour, that of Tip. The nurses called me Master Tip, while my relatives and friends dropped the former title of courtesy In after-life it has often puzzled my companions to know the origin of this appellation, and which until explained sounded as mysterious as those of Kangaroo, Punch, Bacchus, Teapot, Cupid, Pogey, Skirmish, Poodle, Ginger, Dodo, and others, which have been attached to bygone and present men about town. Of my parents, I shall merely say that I was the fourth son of a noble family, who, according to Burke, had done the state some service. The family mansion was situated in the western part of the county of Sussex ; and there, upon the eighth anniversary of my natal day—the 6th of January, 1809-I must introduce my readers. A large party had assembled for the Christmas holidays. Hunting and shooting had been the order of the day, while dancing, music, round games, snap-dragon, had beguiled the long winter evenings ; for at that period the dinner hour was six, instead of four hours before midnight, as it is at present in the fashionable country houses. All was gaiety and joy, and but for one dark thought, the writer of these pages would have been the happiest of the whole party. The gloom that occasionally would obtrude itself upon my then buoyant spirit, was caused by the remembrance that in three weeks