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BY LORD WILLIAN LENNOX.
“Thy greyhounds are as swift as breathed stags, ay, fleeter than the roe."--Intro
duction to TAMING OF THE SHREW.
Among the dogs which attended our ancestors to the chase, none seem to have been so highly prized as the greyhounds. They were, indeed, the favourite species during the middle ages,
When a nobleman travelled he never went without these dogs: the hawk he bore upon his hand, and the greyhounds, which ran before him, were certain testimonies of his rank; and, in ancient rolls, payments appear to have been often made in these valuable animals. They were chiefly useful in the pursuits of the hart, stag, and roebuck. Dr. Caius, the able assistant of Buffon, tells us the leporarius, or greyhound, takes its name quod præcipui gradus sit inter canes, the first in rank among dogs. And that it was formerly esteemed so, appears from the forest laws of King Canute, who enacted, that no one under the degree of a gentleman should presume to keep a greyhound. And still more strongly from an old Welsh saying, “ Weth ei Walch ei Eurch a'i adwaener Bonbeddig," which, for the benefit of English country gentlemen, we translate : “You may know a gentleman by his hawk, his horse, and his greyhound.” Froissart tells an anecdote which does not reflect much credit upon the fidelity of this dog; for when Richard the Second was taken in Flint Castle, his favourite greyhound deserted him, and fawned on his rival, Bolingbroke. The greyhound, according to an ancient authority (Wynkyn de Werde, 1496) ought to answer the following description :
“ Headed like a snake,
And neck yd like a drake,
And chyned like a breme." The greyhound is mentioned at a very early period in our history, and no country gentleman in the time of the courtier-snubbing Dane, Canute, was ever seen abroad without his hawk on his hand and his greyhound by his side. Henry the Second, John, the three Edwards, Queen Elizabeth (in whose reign the laws of coursing were established by the Duke of Norfolk), and Charles the First, were all devoted to greyhounds. The Isle of Dogs, now converted to purposes of commerce, derived its name from being the place where the spaniels and greyhounds of Edward the Third were kept: and this locality was selected as being contiguous to Waltham and other Royal forests in Essex, where his Majesty proceeded to from his sporting and hunting quarters at Greenwich, in pursuit of woodcock shooting and red deer coursing
The story of the faithful Gêlert, the favourite greyhound of
Llewellyn, Prince of Wales, is well known to most of my readers. What a graphic description the writer of the ballad (William Spencer) gives of the “ hound smeared with gore," of the “frantic father plunging his vengeful sword in Gelert's side," then his remorse after finding his “cherub boy" unhurt by the side of a great wolf "tremendous still in death” –
“ Ah! what was then Llewellyn's pain !
For now the truth was clear :
To save Llewellyn's heir." In the days of Queen Elizabeth, when the virgin Queen was not herself disposed to take an active part in the pleasures of the chace, she usually stationed herself at the window to see the deer coursed with greyhounds. At Cowdray, Sussex, the present seat of Lord Egmont, formerly the property of Lord Montecute, the Queen witnessed from a turret “sixteen bucks, all having fayre lawe, pulled down with greyhounds."
In ancient times the coursing of deer was divided into two partsthe paddock, and forest. For the former a brace of greyhounds only were used, with a mongrel, whose business it was to drive the deer, before the greyhounds were slipped. The paddock was usually a piece of ground paled in within a park, about a mile in length, and a quarter of a mile in breadth. At the farther end the spectators took up their station, while at the starting-post were houses for the dogs, and pens for the deer. The course was duly marked, and posts were placed at certain distances—the first, called the “ Law Post, was one hundred and sixty yards_from home-at the quarter, and half mile came the “Pinching Post," and then the “Ditch," made to receive tbe deer, and save them from their pursuers. The articles of coursing were as follow :-"The dogs who are to run the match will be led into the dog-house, and be delivered to the keepers, who are to see them fairly slipt. The owners will draw lots for places. The dog-house door will then be shut, and the deer will be turned out; after about twenty yards' law, the mongrel will be let loose to hunt the deer forward, who when he passes the law-post, the greyhounds will be slipped. If the deer swerves before he gets to the pinching-post, so that his head is judged to be nearer the doghouse than the ditch, the match will be off, and will be run again three days after. But if there is no such swerve, and the deer runs straight beyond the pinching-post, then the dog which is nearest the deer (should he swerve) gains the contest; if no swerve happens, then the dog which first leaps the ditch shall be the victor. In coursing deer in the forest two ways were adopted : the one from cover to cover, and the other upon the open green sward. In the first, some hounds were used to make the deer break cover, while the greyhounds were slipped when he got out on the open. A relay of greyhounds were often used when the deer broke cover at too great a distance for one brace; while, on the other hand, if the “poor sequestered stag" was not of a proper age or size, he was allowed to escape scot free, or rather was permitted to live, so that he might be hunted upon another day. In coursing upon the green sward, the keeper selected a deer, which he lodged for that purpose; and the distance given the greyhounds depended mainly upon the merits and demerits of the respective animals.
The English greyhound of the present day differs greatly from the wolf-dog of former times. He no longer possesses the ferocity of that race, but has become gentle and passive. Still he comes up to that description given by the great Magician of the North :
“Remember'st thou my greyhounds true?
O'er holt or hill there never flew,
More fleet of foot or sure of fang." Some years ago the Earl of Orford, who looked upon the present breed of greyhounds as deficient in game and perseverance, crossed one of his favourite bitches with a bull-dog. The female whelps were then put to some of his fleetest greyhounds; the result was, that after a certain number of generations all trace of the bull-dog was lost except his courage. This cross is now universally adopted; and although the noble lord was not a little bull-ied at the time, for what was then considered a most irregular cross, he lived to see bis plan adopted by all his coursing brethren. An ancestor of the noble lord's established the Swaffham Coursing Society in the year 1776, confining the numbers of members to the numbers of letters in the alphabet; and when any member died, or retired, his place was filled up by ballot. On the decease of the worthy founder, the members of the society unanimously agreed to purchase a silver cup, to be run for annually; and it was then intended to pass on from one to another, like the whip at Newmarket. This, however, was given up; and it was agreed that an annual cup should be purchased by the society to be run for in November.
For many years the pedigrees of the most celebrated greyhounds have been recorded with as much care as the best bred horses upon the turf. This originated with an ancestor of the present Lord Oxford's (the late Colonel Thornton), and Major Topham. Czarina Jupiter, Claret, Snowball, Miller, Schoolboy, and Major, were the property of the two last-mentioned sportsmen, and are entitled to some little notice. Cyarina, bred by Lord Orford, and purchased after his lordship's decease by Colonel Thornton, with a view of improving the breed at Thornville Royal, completely answered the purpose. She was the dam of Claret and young Czariya, both of whom challenged all Yorkshire, and won their matches. This bitch showed no signs of having any progeny until she had completed her thirteenth year, when she produced eight whelps by Jupiter, all of whom lived, and turned out most worthy scions of a dam who had won forty-seven matches, without ever having been beaten. Snowball and Major, two own brothers, by Claret out of a favourite bitch of Major Topham's, proved themselves superior dogs; Snowball won four cups (couples), and upwards of thirty matches, at Malton and upon the Yorkshire Wolds. He also beat the Scotch champion, Schoolboy, bred by Sir Charles Bunbury, and won a great number of matches at Newmarket. The Miller, who at nine months old was so heavy, clumsy, and unpromising, that no thoughts were entertained of ever bringing him into the field, proved the truth of the old adage, " that a bad beginning often makes a good ending,” for he won
seventy-four successive matches without having been once beaten. But we have not time or space to enumerate the prowess of the greyhounds of the present period or bygone days; suffice it to say that the breed has not degenerated, and that coursing is now as popular as it ever was; and sincerely do we hope to see the time when every farmer, freed from the fetters that now encumber him by the withdrawal of that protection which he had a right to expect would be continued to native industry, will be enabled to keep his greyhounds and “his bit of blood," and devote his leisure hours to that manly and exhilarating sport-second alone to hunting-coursing. If bares are looked upon as enemies to the farmer, let the latter bave at least the amusement and satisfaction of hunting them down.
Among the most distinguished patrons of coursing may be mentioned the names of the late Duke of Gordon, Lords Orford, Craven, and Rivers, Sir H. P. Dudley, the present Lord_Stradbroke, the late Colonel Thornton, and Major Topham. Lord Orford may literally be said to have possessed “the ruling passion strong in death," for on the morning that his lordship's favourite bitch, Czarina, who had started forty-seven times and had always proved victorious, was matched in a heavy stake, the noble patient eluded the care of his medical adviser, and appeared on the course. The greyhounds were in the slips, the owner of Czarina was all anxiety: again was she successful; but at the moment that this fresh honour was heaped upon her, her kind, though eccentric master, fell from his pony, and, pitching upon his head, was killed. The late Lord Rivers's kennels at Strathfieldsaye were the finest in England, and at one time his lordship carried off every prize : but breeding too much in-and-in, and looking for speed more than stoutness during the latter years of the noble lord's life, his greyhounds often suffered defeat.
There is an old saying, that handsome children seldom grow up beanties; and this remark may be applied to greyhounds, for the rawboned, lean, loose-made, and unseemly whelps in every joint, usually turn out the best-shaped dogs; whereas those that after three or four months appear round and well-proportioned, are not worth bringing up, as they seldom were either useful or ornamental, swift or comely. It is also generally believed that the female turns out more speedy than the male. At two years old the greyhound is full-grown, and ought to possess the following points: a fine skin, thin hair, long lean head, sharp nose, a full, clear eye, large eyelids, small ears, a long neck, broad breast, body not too long, back straight and square, with a rising in the middle, little belly, broad shoulders, round ribs, strong stern, a round foot with large clefts, and his fore-legs straighter and shorter than his hinder. This prose description will be found quite to come up to the old poetical lines we have quoted at the commencement of this paper, and which proves that sportsmen have, in every age, agreed as to the quality of the dog we have thus briefly alluded to.
Coursing is one of the earliest of field sports in which we were initiated—we still keep up the editorial we--and never shall we forget the day when, mounted upon my pony “King Pepin,” we accompanied farmer H -, a great lover of the leash, over the Southdown-hills to enjoy a day with his greyhounds. It was during the holidays that this, at least to me, important event took place; need I say that I
hardly closed my eyes during the previous night? At daylight I started from my bed, looked out to see whether the morning was fair or frosty. Then with what haste did I deck myself out in my new corduroy breeches, my well-cleaned top-boots, my velveteen shootingjacket! and, after cating a hasty meal, ran down to the stable to see that my pony was well. There, to my great delight, I found the worthy farmer in attendance with Hero, Hector, Hebe, and Hellespont, and two or three other brace of as fine greyhounds as ever were seen.
“Good morning," said the kind-hearted tiller of the soil. “I'm happy to see you are not an idle, lazy lie-in-bed. We shall have glorious sport to-day.”
After returning this kind greeting, I led “King Pepin" out, mounted him, and proceeded to the South Downs. With what delight did I witness the first course! Never shall I forget the ex. citement—the gallop down the hills I now scarcely dare crawl along; the fences I flew over, and which now I should crane at! Even now I can conjure up to my mind's eye that day : I see Hellespont and Hector dashing gallantly through brakes and bushes; with what fire and resoluteness does the latter take a smuse after the timid hare! See how poor puss turns and doubles, and evades her swift pursuer, Now Hellespont gives the Trojan the go-by, and draws ihe flock from the hare. A thicket is in view ; the hunted animal shortens her stride, and is about to make a sudden spring, when Hector strikes at her, and in a second he has secured his prey.
Strange it is, that while all the ingenuity of man has been exercised in bringing the breed of greyhounds to the greatest perfection, so as to acquire speed, courage, and resolution, and every experiment has been tried to train and break-in the dogs, the hare, left to nature, continues to beat the greyhound single-handed. There are exceptions to every rule, and I well recollect upon one occasion the following circumstance taking place not far from Stoke, Sussex, the property of the Duke of Richmond, the present residence of Sir Horace Seymour: a brace of hares were started by the finder exactly at the same moment, one taking to the right and the other to the left of the valley underneath Bow-hill
. The greyhounds happened to be a little wide of each other, and in consequence each dog only saw one hare. Away they went gallantly after their respective game, and the field of eportsmen separated, following their favourite dogs. After a beautiful course, or, strictly speaking, two courses, the hares running very strong, both Luath and Loyal succeeded in killing their hares.
Although deer stalking ought properly to have a place to itself, yet as the dogs used in this sport of sports differ but little from the Irish or Scotch greyhounds, we shall briefly allude to it in this chapter. Deer-stalking in the Highlands has been so admirably described by Scrope, that I shall merely say it requires the greatest caution, patience, and perseverance ; "a quick heye and a good hobservation, as the thimble-riggers were wont to say, before the late Secretary of State for the Home Department annihilated their body; add to these a firstrate “ Purdy” rifle, and a couple of Grampian deer-hounds, an intelligent forester, and in the forests of Athol, Marr, Ben Ormin, Gaulock, Glenfiddich, and Corrichbah, you may have as fine and exciting a day's amusement as is possible to be enjoyed by mortal man. It may