An extract from
Cynegeticus, a supplement to
The works of Xenophon
by Flavius Arrianus Xenophon c.AD 150
translated by H.G. Dakyns
London, MacMillan, 1890
A Sportsman's Manual
To the gods themselves is due the discovery, to Apollo and Artemis, patrons of the chase and protectors of the hound. As a guerdon they bestowed it upon Cheiron, by reason of his uprightness, and he took it and was glad, and turned the gift to good account. At his feet sat many a disciple, to whom he taught the mystery of hunting and of chivalry--to wit, Cephalus, Asclepius, Melanion, Nestor, Amphiaraus, Peleus, Telamon, Meleager, Theseus and Hippolytus, Palamedes, Odysseus, Menestheus, Diomed, Castor and Polydeuces, Machaon and Podaleirius, Antilochus, Aeneas and Achilles: of whom each in his turn was honoured by the gods. And let none marvel that of these the greater part, albeit well-pleasing to the gods, nevertheless were subject to death--which is the way of nature, but their fame has grown--nor yet that their prime of manhood so far differed. The lifetime of Cheiron sufficed for all his scholars; the fact being that Zeus and Cheiron were brethren, sons of the same father but of different mothers--Zeus of Rhea, and Cheiron of the nymph Nais; and so it is that, though older than all of them, he died not before he had taught the youngest--to wit, the boy Achilles.
Thanks to the careful heed they paid to dogs and things pertaining to the chase, thanks also to the other training of their boyhood, all these greatly excelled, and on the score of virtue were admired.
If Cephalus was caught into the arms of one that was a goddess, Asclepius obtained yet greater honour. To him it was given to raise the dead and to heal the sick, whereby, even as a god among mortal men, he has obtained to himself imperishable glory. Melanion so far excelled in zest for toil that he alone of all that flower of chivalry who were his rivals obtained the prize of noblest wedlock with Atalanta; while as to Nestor, what need to repeat the well-known tale? so far and wide for many a day has the fame of his virtue penetrated the ears of Hellas.
Amphiaraus, what time he served as a warrior against Thebes, won for himself
the highest praise; and from heaven obtained the honour of a deathless life.
Peleus kindled in the gods desire to give him Thetis, and to hymn their nuptials at the board of Cheiron.
The mighty Telamon won from the greatest of all states and wedded her whom he desired, Periboea the daughter of Alcathus; and when the first of Hellenes, Heracles the son of Zeus, distributed rewards of valour after taking Troy, to Telamon he gave Hesione.
Of Meleager be it said, whereas the honours which he won are manifest, the misfortunes on which he fell, when his father in old age forgot the goddess, were not of his own causing.
Theseus single-handed destroyed the enemies of collective Hellas; and in that he greatly enlarged the boundaries of his fatherland, is still to-day the wonder of mankind.
Hippolytus was honoured by our lady Artemis and with her conversed, and in his latter end, by reason of his sobriety and holiness, was reckoned among the blest.
Palamedes all his days on earth far outshone those of his own times in wisdom, and when slain unjustly, won from heaven a vengeance such as no other mortal man may boast of. Yet died he not at their hands whom some suppose; else how could the one of them have been accounted all but best, and the other a compeer of the good? No, not they, but base men wrought that deed.
Menestheus, through diligence and patient care, the outcome of the chase, so far overshot all men in love of toil that even the chiefs of Hellas must confess themselves inferior in the concerns of war save Nestor only; and Nestor, it is said, excelled not but alone might rival him.
Odysseus and Diomedes were brilliant for many a single deed of arms, and mainly to these two was due the taking of Troy town.
Castor and Polydeuces, by reason of their glorious display of arts obtained from Cheiron, and for the high honour and prestige there from derived, are now immortal.
Machaon and Podaleirius were trained in this same lore, and proved themselves adepts in works of skill, in argument and feats of arms.
Antilochus, in that he died for his father, obtained so great a glory that, in the judgment of Hellas, to him alone belongs the title "philopator," "who loved his father."
Aeneas saved the ancestral gods--his father's and his mother's; yea, and his own father also, whereby he bore off a reputation for piety so great that to him alone among all on whom they laid their conquering hand in Troy even the enemy granted not to be despoiled.
Achilles, lastly, being nursed in this same training, bequeathed to after-days memorials so fair, so ample, that to speak or hear concerning him no man wearies.
Such, by dint of that painstaking care derived from Cheiron, these all proved themselves; of whom all good men yet still to-day are lovers and all base men envious. So much so that if throughout the length and breadth of Hellas misfortunes at any time befell city or king, it was they who loosed the knot of them; or if all Hellas found herself confronted with the hosts of the Barbarians in strife and battle, once again it was these who nerved the arms of Hellenes to victory and rendered Hellas unconquered and unconquerable.
For my part, then, my advice to the young is, do not despise hunting or the other training of your boyhood, if you desire to grow up to be good men, good not only in war but in all else of which the issue is perfection in thought, word, and deed.
The first efforts of a youth emerging from boyhood should be directed to the institution of the chase, after which he should come to the rest of education, provided he have the means and with an eye to the same; if his means be ample, in a style worthy of the profit to be derived; or, if they be scant, let him at any rate contribute enthusiasm, in nothing falling short of the power he possesses.
What are the aids and implements of divers sorts with which he who would enter on this field must equip himself? These and the theory of each in particular I will now explain. With a view to success in the work, forewarned is forearmed. Nor let such details be looked upon as insignificant. Without them there will be an end to practical results.
The net-keeper should be a man with a real passion for the work, and in tongue a Hellene, about twenty years of age, of wiry build, agile at once and strong, with pluck enough to overcome the toils imposed on him, and to take pleasure in the work. The ordinary small nets should be made of fine Phasian or Carthaginian flax, and so too should the road nets and the larger hayes. These small nets should be nine-threaded [made of three strandes, and each strand of three threads], five spans in depth, and two palms at the nooses or pockets. There should be no knots in the cords that run round, which should be so inserted as to run quite smoothly. The road net should be twelve-threaded, and the larger net (or haye) sixteen. They may be of different sizes, the former varying from twelve to twenty-four or thirty feet, the latter from sixty to one hundred and twenty or one hundred and eighty feet. If larger they will be unwieldy and hard to manage. Both should be thirty-knotted, and the interval of the nooses the same as in the ordinary small nets. At the elbow ends the road net should be furnished with nipples (or eyes), and the larger sort (the haye) with rings, and both alike with a running line of twisted cord. The pronged stakes for the small nets should be ten palms high, as a rule, but there should be some shorter ones besides; those of unequal length will be convenient to equalize the height on uneven ground, and those of equal length on level. They should be sharp-tipped so as to draw out easily and smooth throughout. Those for the road nets should be twice the height, and those for the big (haye) nets five spans long, with small forks, the notches not deep; they should be stout and solid, of a thickness proportionate to their length. The number of props needed for the nets will vary--many or few, according to circumstances; a less number if the tension on the net be great, and a larger number when the nets are slack.
Lastly, for the purpose of carrying the nets and hayes, for either sort there must be a bag of calf-skin; and billhooks to cut down branches and stop gaps in the woods when necessary.
There are two breeds of sporting dogs: the Castorian and the fox- like. The former get their name from Castor, in memory of the delight he took in the business of the chase, for which he kept this breed by preference. The other breed is literally foxy, being the progeny originally of the dog and the fox, whose natures have in the course of ages become mixed.
Both species present a large proportion of defective animals which fall short of the type, as being under-sized, or crook-nosed, or gray-eyed, or near-sighted, or ungainly, or stiff-jointed, or deficient in strength, thin-haired, lanky, disproportioned, devoid of pluck or of nose, or unsound of foot. To particularize: an under-sized dog will, ten to one, break off from the chase faint and flagging in the performance of his duty owing to mere diminutiveness. An aquiline nose means no mouth, and consequently an inability to hold the hare fast. A blinking bluish eye implies defect of vision; just as want of shape means ugliness. The stiff-limbed dog will come home limping from the hunting-field; just as want of strength and thinness of coat go hand in hand with incapacity for toil. The lanky-legged, unsymmetrical dog, with his shambling gait and ill- compacted frame, ranges heavily; while the spiritless animal will leave his work to skulk off out of the sun into shade and lie down. Want of nose means scenting the hare with difficulty, or only once in a way; and however courageous he may be, a hound with unsound feet cannot stand the work, but through foot-soreness will eventually give in.
Similarly many different modes of hunting a line of scent are to be seen in the same species of hound. One dog as soon as he has found the trail will go along without sign or symptom to show that he is on the scent; another will vibrate his ears only and keep his tail perfectly still; while a third has just the opposite propensity: he will keep his ears still and wag with the tip of his tail. Others draw their ears together, and assuming a solemn air, drop their tails, tuck them between their legs, and scour along the line. Many do nothing of the sort. They tear madly about, babbling round the line when they light upon it, and senselessly trampling out the scent. Others again will make wide circuits and excursions; either forecasting the line, they overshoot it and leave the hare itself behind, or every time they run against the line they fall to conjecture, and when they catch sight of the quarry are all in a tremor, and will not advance a step till they see the creature begin to stir.
A particular sort may be described as hounds which, when hunting or pursuing, run forward with a frequent eye to the discoveries of the rest of the pack, because they have no confidence in themselves. Another sort is over-confident--not letting the cleverer members of the pack go on ahead, but keeping them back with nonsensical clamour. Others will willfully hug every false scent, and with a tremendous display of eagerness, whatever they chance upon, will take the lead, conscious all the while they are playing false; whilst another sort again will behave in a precisely similar style out of sheer ignorance. It is a poor sort of hound which will not leave a stale line for want of recognising the true trail. So, too, a hound that cannot distinguish the trail leading to a hare's form, and scampers over that of a running hare, hot haste, is no thoroughbred.
When it comes to the actual chase, some hounds will show great ardour at first starting, but presently give up from weakness of spirit. Others will run in too hastily and then balk; and go hopelessly astray, as if they had lost the sense of hearing altogether. Many a hound will give up the chase and return from mere distaste for hunting, and not a few from pure affection for mankind. Others with their clamorous yelping on the line do their best to deceive, as if true and false were all one to them. There are others that will not do that, but which in the middle of their running, should they catch the echo of a sound from some other quarter, will leave their own business and incontinently tear off towards it. The fact is, they run on without clear motive, some of them; others taking too much for granted; and a third set to suit their whims and fancies. Others simply play at hunting; or from pure jealousy, keep questing about beside the line, continually rushing along and tumbling over one another.
The majority of these defects are due to natural disposition, though some must be assigned no doubt to want of scientific training. In either case such hounds are useless, and may well deter the keenest sportsman from the hunting field. The characters, bodily and other, exhibited by the finer specimens of the same breed, I will now set forth.
In the first place, this true type of hound should be of large build; and, in the next place, furnished with a light small head, broad and flat in the snout, well knit and sinewy, the lower part of the forehead puckered into strong wrinkles; eyes set well up in the head, black and bright; forehead large and broad; the depression between the eyes pronounced; ears long and thin, without hair on the under side; neck long and flexible, freely moving on its pivot; chest broad and fairly fleshy; shoulder-blades detached a little from the shoulders; the shin-bones of the fore-legs should be small, straight, round, stout and strong; the elbows straight; ribs not deep all along, but sloped away obliquely; the loins muscular, in size a mean between long and short, neither too flexible nor too stiff; flanks, a mean between large and small; the hips (or "couples") rounded, fleshy behind, not tied together above, but firmly knitted on the inside; the lower or under part of the belly slack, and the belly itself the same, that is, hollow and sunken; tail long, straight, and pointed; thighs (i.e. hams) stout and compact; shanks (i.e. lower thighs) long, round, and solid; hind-legs much longer than the fore-legs, and relatively lean; feet round and cat- like.
Hounds possessed of these points will be strong in build, and at the same time light and active; they will have symmetry at once and pace; a bright, beaming expression; and good mouths.
In following up scent, see how they show their mettle by rapidly quitting beaten paths, keeping their heads sloping to the ground, smiling, as it were to greet the trail; see how they let their ears drop, how they keep moving their eyes to and fro quickly, flourishing their sterns. Forwards they should go with many a circle towards the hare's form, steadily guided by the line, all together. When they are close to the hare itself, they will make the fact plain to the huntsman by the quickened pace at which they run, as if they would let him know by their fury, by the motion of head and eyes, by rapid changes of gait and gesture, now casting a glance back and now fixing their gaze steadily forward to the creature's hiding-place, by twistings and turnings of the body, flinging themselves backwards, forwards, and sideways, and lastly, by the genuine exaltation of spirits, visible enough now, and the ecstasy of their pleasure, that they are close upon the quarry.
Once she is off, the pack should pursue with vigour. They must not relax their hold, but with yelp and bark full cry insist on keeping close and dogging puss at every turn. Twist for twist and turn for turn, they, too, must follow in a succession of swift and brilliant bursts, interrupted by frequent doublings; while ever and again they give tongue and yet again till the very welkin rings. One thing they must not do, and that is, leave the scent and return crestfallen to the huntsman.
Along with this build and method of working, hounds should possess four points. They should have pluck, sound feet, keen noses, and sleek coats. The spirited, plucky hound will prove his mettle by refusing to leave the chase, however stifling the weather; a good nose is shown by his capacity for scenting the hare on barren and dry ground exposed to the sun, and that when the orb is at the zenith; soundness of foot in the fact that the dog may course over mountains during the same season, and yet his feet will not be torn to pieces; and a good coat means the possession of light, thick, soft, and silky hair.
As to the colour proper for a hound, it should not be simply tawny, nor absolutely black or white, which is not a sign of breeding, but monotonous--a simplicity suggestive of the wild animal. Accordingly the red dog should show a bloom of white hair about the muzzle, and so should the black, the white commonly showing red. On the top of the thigh the hair should be straight and thick, as also on the loins and on the lower portion of the stern, but of a moderate thickness only on the upper parts.
There is a good deal to be said for taking your hounds frequently into the mountains; not so much for taking them on to cultivated land. And for this reason: the fells offer facilities for hunting and for following the quarry without interruption, while cultivated land, owing to the number of cross roads and beaten paths, presents opportunities for neither. Moreover, quite apart from finding a hare, it is an excellent thing to take your dogs on to rough ground. It is there they will become sound of foot, and in general the benefit to their physique in working over such ground will amply repay you.
They should be taken out in summer till mid-day; in winter from sunrise to sundown; in autumn any time except mid-day; and in spring any time before evening. These times will hit the mean of temperature.
The tracks of hares are long in winter owing to the length of night, and short for the opposite reason during summer. In winter, however, their scent does not lie in early morning, when the rime is on the ground, or earth is frozen. The fact is, hoar frost by its own inherent force absorbs its heat, whilst black frost freezes it. The hounds, moreover, with their noses nipped by the cold, cannot under these conditions use their sense of smell, until the sun or the mere advance of day dissolves the scent. Then the noses of the hounds recover, and the scent of the trail begins to exhale itself perceptibly.
Heavy dews also will obliterate scent by its depressing effect; and rains occurring after long intervals, while bringing out odours from the earth, will render the soil bad for scent until it dries again. Southerly winds will not improve scent--being moisture-laden they disperse it; whereas northerly winds, provided the scent has not been previously destroyed, tend to fix and preserve it. Rains will drown and wash it away, and so will drizzle; while the moon by her heat-- especially a full moon--will dull its edge; in fact the trail is rarest--most irregular--at such times, for the hares in their joy at the light with frolic and gambol literally throw themselves high into the air and set long intervals between one footfall and another. Or again, the trail will become confused and misleading when crossed by that of foxes.
Spring with its tempered mildness is the season to render the scent clear, except where possibly the soil, bursting with flowers, may mislead the pack, by mingling the perfume of flowers with the true scent. In summer scent is thin and indistinct; the earth being baked through and through absorbs the thinner warmth inherent in the trail, while the dogs themselves are less keen scented at that season through the general relaxation of their bodies. In autumn scent lies clean, all the products of the soil by that time, if cultivable, being already garnered, or, if wild, withered away with age, so that the odours of various fruits are no longer a disturbing cause through blowing on to the line. In winter, summer, and autumn, moreover, as opposed to spring, the trail of a hare lies for the most part in straight lines, but in the earlier season it is highly complicated, for the little creatures are perpetually coupling and particularly at this season, so that of necessity as they roam together for the purpose they make the line intricate as described.
The scent of the line leading to the hare's form lies longer than that of a hare on the run, and for this reason: in proceeding to her form the hare keeps stopping, the other is in rapid motion; consequently, the ground in one case is thickly saturated all along with scent, in the other sparsely and superficially. So, too, scent lies better in woody than on barren ground, since, whilst running to and fro or sitting up, the creature comes in contact with a variety of objects. Everything that earth produces or bears upon her bosom will serve as puss's resting-place. These are her screen, her couch, her canopy; apart, it may be, or close at hand, or at some middle point, among them she lies ensconced. At times, with an effort taxing all her strength, she will spring across to where some jutting point or clinging undergrowth on sea or freshet may attract her.
The couching hare constructs her form for the most part in sheltered spots during cold weather and in shady thickets during the hot season, but in spring and autumn on ground exposed to the sun. Not so the running animal, for the simple reason that she is scared out of her wits by the hounds.
In reclining the hare draws up the thighs under the flanks, putting its fore-legs together, as a rule, and stretching them out, resting its chin on the tips of its feet. It spreads its ears out over the shoulder-blades, and so shelters the tender parts of its body; its hair serves as a protection, being thick and of a downy texture. When awake it keeps on blinking its eyelids, but when asleep the eyelids remain wide open and motionless, and the eyes rigidly fixed; during sleep it moves its nostrils frequently, if awake less often.
When the earth is bursting with new verdure, fields and farm-lands rather than mountains are their habitat. When tracked by the huntsman their habit is everywhere to await approach, except only in case of some excessive scare during the night, in which case they will be on the move.
The scent of the leveret lies stronger than that of the grown animal. While the limbs are still soft and supple they trail full length on the ground. Every true sportsman, however, will leave these quite young creatures to roam freely. "They are for the goddess." Full-grown yearlings will run their first chase very swiftly, but they cannot keep up the pace; in spite of agility they lack strength.
To find the trail you must work the dogs downwards through the cultivated lands, beginning at the top. Any hares that do not come into the tilled districts must be sought in the meadows and the glades; near rivulets, among the stones, or in woody ground. If the quarry makes off, there should be no shouting, that the hounds may not grow too eager and fail to discover the line. When found by the hounds, and the chase has begun, the hare will at times cross streams, bend and double and creep for shelter into clefts and crannied lurking-places; since they have not only the hounds to dread, but eagles also; and, so long as they are yearlings, are apt to be carried off in the clutches of these birds, in the act of crossing some slope or bare hillside. When they are bigger they have the hounds after them to hunt them down and make away with them. The fleetest-footed would appear to be those of the low marsh lands. The vagabond kind addicted to every sort of ground are difficult to hunt, for they know the short cuts, running chiefly up steeps or across flats, over inequalities unequally, and downhill scarcely at all.
Whilst being hunted they are most visible in crossing ground that has been turned up by the plough, if, that is, they have any trace of red about them, or through stubble, owing to reflection. So, too, they are visible enough on beaten paths or roads, presuming these are fairly level, since the bright hue of their coats lights up by contrast. On the other hand, they are not noticeable when they seek the cover of rocks, hills, screes, or scrub, owing to similarity of colour. Getting a fair start of the hounds, they will stop short, sit up and rise themselves up on their haunches, and listen for any bark or other clamour of the hounds hard by; and when the sound reaches them, off and away they go. At times, too, without hearing, merely fancying or persuading themselves that they hear the hounds, they will fall to skipping backwards and forwards along the same trail, interchanging leaps, and interlacing lines of scent, and so make off and away.
These animals will give the longest run when found upon the open, there being nothing there to screen the view; the shortest run when started out of thickets, where the very darkness is an obstacle.
There are two distinct kinds of hare--the big kind, which is somewhat dark in colour with a large white patch on the forehead; and the smaller kind, which is yellow-brown with only a little white. The tail of the former kind is variegated in a circle; of the other, white at the side. The eyes of the large kind are slightly inclined to gray; of the smaller, bluish. The black about the tips of the ears is largely spread in the one, but slightly in the other species. Of these two species, the smaller is to be met with in most of the islands, desert and inhabited alike. As regards numbers they are more abundant in the islands than on the mainland; the fact being that in most of these there are no foxes to attack and carry off either the grown animal or its young; nor yet eagles, whose habitat is on lofty mountains rather than the lower type of hills which characterise the islands. Again, sportsmen seldom visit the desert islands, and as to those which are inhabited, the population is but thinly scattered and the folk themselves not addicted to the chase; while in the case of the sacred islands, the importation of dogs is not allowed. If, then, we consider what a small proportion of hares existent at the moment will be hunted down and again the steady increase of the stock through reproduction, the enormous numbers will not be surprising.
The hare has not a keen sight for many reasons. To begin with, its eyes are set too prominently on the skull, and the eyelids are clipped and blear, and afford no protection to the pupils. Naturally the sight is indistinct and purblind. Along with which, although asleep, for the most part it does not enjoy visual repose. Again, its very fleetness of foot contributes largely towards dim- sightedness. It can only take a rapid glance at things in passing, and then off before perceiving what the particular object is.
The alarm, too, of those hounds for ever at its heels pursuing combines with everything to rob the creature of all prescience; so that for this reason alone it will run its head into a hundred dangers unawares, and fall into the toils. If it held on its course uphill, it would seldom meet with such a fate; but now, through its propensity to circle round and its attachment to the place where it was born and bred, it courts destruction. Owing to its speed it is not often overtaken by the hounds by fair hunting. When caught, it is the victim of a misfortune alien to its physical nature.
The fact is, there is no other animal of equal size which is at all its match in speed. Witness the conformation of its body: the light, small drooping head [narrow in front]; the [thin cylindrical] neck, not stiff and of a moderate length; straight shoulder-blades, loosely slung above; the fore-legs attached to them, light and set close together; the undistended chest; the light symmetrical sides; the supple, well-rounded loins; the fleshy buttocks; the somewhat sunken flanks; the hips, well rounded, plump at every part, but with a proper interval above; the long and solid thighs, on the outside tense and not too flabby on the inside; the long, stout lower legs or shanks; the fore-feet, exceedingly pliant, thin, and straight; the hind-feet firm and broad; front and hind alike totally regardless of rough ground; the hind-legs far longer than the fore, inclined outwards somewhat; the fur short and light.
I say an animal so happily constructed must needs be strong and pliant; the perfection of lightness and agility. If proof of this lightness and agility be needed, here is a fact in illustration. When proceeding quietly, its method of progression is by leaps; no one ever saw or is likely to see a hare walking. What it does is to place the hind-feet in front of the fore-feet and outside them, and so to run, if running one can call it. The action prints itself plainly on snow. The tail is not conducive to swiftness of pace, being ill adapted by its stumpiness to act as a rudder to direct the body. The animal has to do this by means of one or other ear; as may be seen, when she is on the point of being caught by the hounds. At that instant you may see her drop and shoot out aslant one of her ears towards the point of attack, and then, apparently throwing her full weight on that pivot, turn sharp round and in a moment leave her assailants far behind.
So winsome a creature is it, that to note the whole of the proceedings from
the start--the quest by scent, the find, the pack in pursuit full cry, the final
capture--a man might well forget all other loves. Here it should be added that
the sportsman, who finds himself on cultivated lands, should rigidly keep his
hands off the fruits of the season, and leave springs and streams alone. To
meddle with them is ugly and base, not to speak of the bad example of lawlessness
set to the beholder. During the close season all hunting gear should be taken
down and put away.