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not at any time fall short of what is required for the welfare of the deer.
The average duration of trees differs, as is well known, in different species, and they exhibit different symptoms of decay. There are oaks in Windsor Great Park certainly not less than a thousand years old and which exhibit even now no appearance of approaching the end of their life. Mr. Menzies, the Deputy Surveyor of the Royal Park, in his interesting and magnificently illustrated work,* describes some of the indications of incipient decay which are peculiar to the several kinds of trees. When a beech begins to fail, he says, fungi appear either at the roots or on the forks, the leaves curl up as if they had been scorched, and the tree quickly perishes. In an elm a great limb first fails, while the rest of the tree continues green and vigorous, but in a few years the whole tree suddenly dies. Coniferous trees die gradually but quickly. The oak shows the first symptoms of failing at the points of its highest branches, while the rest of the tree will remain healthy and sound for years. This peculiarity of the oak did not escape the eye of Shakspeare, that universal observer, who describes the monarch of the woods as not only having its boughs mossed with age, but its
'High top bald with dry antiquity.'
We are indebted for some of the most picturesque trees in our oldest parks to a practice which once extensively prevailed, of pollarding for 'verte,' or firewood, boughs of oak and beech being lopped off for the deer to gnaw the bark of which they are excessively fond; but no bough was permitted to be cut larger than a buck was able to turn over with his horns. Deer are very destructive to trees in the rutting season. They have singular preferences for particular species, and even for individual trees, and Mr. Menzies recommends that a few which can be best spared should be cut down every year; the deer will, he says, amuse themselves for hours by butting at them and tearing off the bark. In the royal parks browse-wood was once regularly supplied for the winter feeding of deer, but it was discontinued owing to the abuses to which it gave rise, large quantities of timber having been cut under that pretext and fraudulently appropriated.
The largest deer park in England is Tatton, in Cheshire, being nearly eleven miles in circumference, and it is well stocked with herds both of red and fallow deer. The oldest park is probably Eridge, near Tunbridge Wells, the wild and beautiful domain of
*The Great Park of Windsor, its History,' &c.
the Earl of Abergavenny. Perhaps the most varied in its features is the Earl of Winchelsea's park of Eastwell. The height which fern attains in this park is extraordinary, reaching, in years favourable to its growth, up to the shoulders of a man on horseback and completely concealing the deer which can only be discovered by their leaps and bounds. The park of Blenheim is said to be the first in England that was surrounded with a stone wall, for which it has been suspected many villages were destroyed to provide materials. Four parks in England possess herds of wild cattle, namely, Chartley in Staffordshire, Craven in Yorkshire, Chillingham in Northumberland, and Lyme in Cheshire. They are supposed to be the descendants of a breed which was introduced by the Romans. Virgil, in his second Georgic,' alludes to the white cattle used in triumphs and sacrifices:
"Hinc albi, Clitumne, greges, et maxima taurus
The white wild cattle of Lyme were probably derived from the great forest of Macclesfield from which the park was enclosed. They retain the instincts and habits of wild animals, and their flesh bears the same relation to beef that venison does to mutton, having a flavour which is highly appreciated. One or two are killed every Christmas and a side of beef is regularly sent to her Majesty as a royalty. The wild cattle of Chartley are also white or rather of a creamy colour. Those of Craven are devoid of horns, while the Chartley breed have short horns, the points of which are tipped with black. The Chillingham cattle have similar horns, but their ears, like those of Lyme, are red. There were, doubtless, many other parks or chaces in England in which cattle long continued to roam in a wild state. Leland notices the fair park by the Castle of Auckland' as having not only fallow deer but wild bulles and kin;' and Leigh Court, the seat of Sir William Miles, retained a herd until the year 1806, when on account of their savage character it was deemed prudent to destroy them.
The proportion of red to fallow deer in our English parks is small. It was formerly the custom to keep the two species within separate enclosures, on the supposition that the stags would attack and kill the fallow bucks, but the fear proved to be groundless, and herds of both now dwell peaceably together in about thirty of our parks. Fallow deer are now reared in large numbers for the market, and venison may be purchased as readily as mutton by those who can pay for it. For fattening bucks are
commonly turned into paddocks at the conclusion of the rutting season. The Earl of Winchelsea, in a communication to Mr. Shirley, gives the following account of the way in which they are caught for that purpose:
To catch deer artistically,' he says, 'two dogs are required, one on each side. When the keeper has pointed out the deer he wishes to be taken up, a horseman rides into the herd in order to separate him from the others. This operation requires a horse well in hand and well on his haunches, so as to turn quickly as the deer turns. The dogs also must be well trained and under perfect command; they are loose and follow the keeper's horse. As soon as the deer is singled out he lays them on by giving the signal, "Hold him up:" this may be done with steady dogs even if a few does should break away with the buck, as the dogs will take no notice of them, but stick to the male deer. If he happens to be strong and in good condition the course may last for about a mile, but in general the deer is brought to bay in a much shorter distance. The dogs are trained to seize him by the ear, and no well bred dog will fasten on any other part. When two that understand their business have thus pinioned a deer, they hold him fast without a possibility of budging until some one can jump off the horse, and catching hold of his hind legs just below the houghs, fling him on his side or back, in which position he is easily held till more strength arrives.'
In this manner about sixty deer are annually caught in the park at Eastwell.
No creature suspects danger sooner than a fat buck. In this he resembles the red stag who appears to know perfectly when the stalking season has arrived as he screens himself then as much as possible from observation. The sight and hearing of fallow deer are almost as acute as those of red deer. They are so extremely watchful that it is almost impossible to stalk them in a park. If they perceive a person approaching stealthily they instantly take alarm, and, after gazing steadily for a moment or two, bound off into the nearest thicket:
The best mode of deceiving them,' says Lord Winchelsea, is to walk on as if quite indifferent to their presence, and they are thus thrown off their guard. The fairest chance of shooting a buck in a park is for several persons to get into a pony carriage, and endeavour to appear as much as possible like a party of strangers. The deer will then usually let you approach within shot. This plan, however, will not do for more than once or twice, for they are soon up to it," and then the reappearance of the pony carriage is enough to clear the horizon of every deer within sight.'
If a fair shot is obtained at a buck, it may always be ascertained whether it has taken effect or not by the motion of his tail. A fallow buck always carries his tail in the air as he bounds
unscathed over the ground; but if he is wounded it is sure to be seen in a drooping position. A buck, if struck, does not always bleed, and his 'slot' may be followed for a considerable distance without finding any trace of his having been hit, the fat quickly closing round the orifice of the wound. Many are the tales related of the insensibility of fallow bucks to a bullet. Mr. Boner, in his book on chamois-hunting, mentions the fact of his having shot a fine white buck in the Park of Eichstädt when it was standing upon a slope, and of having brought it rolling down to the foot of the declivity. The successful sportsman was examining his prize when the buck suddenly rose and got clear off, and it was only on being followed by a hound and brought to bay that it was again sent rolling over by a second shot, and yet the bullet which first struck it was well lodged, and might reasonably have been expected to prove immediately fatal:
"It is quite astonishing,' he adds, 'to see how little effect even a number of bullets will have upon a fat buck as long as no vital part is struck. On going out on the morning after a shooting expedition to scarch for a buck that had been, as I supposed, mortally wounded, I found him quietly and comfortably grazing with so many bulletwounds in his body that I fear to specify the number.'
A singular incident connected with buck-shooting is related by the same author:
'The strangest sight,' he adds, I remember to have witnessed occurred with a fallow deer-a buck-I came suddenly upon him while grazing in a glade. I looked to see the result of my shot, but he neither fell nor dashed away. In a moment he began rocking to and fro where he stood. I went towards him, but he took no notice of my approach, and continued the rocking motion as before. I pushed him with my hand, and he rolled over and was dead. The shot-hole was quite round, and showed no redness; not the least sign of blood was visible, and the opening was filled up by the chewed grass on which the animal had been feeding.'
The antlers of the stag form his distinguishing characteristic, and a more beautiful frontal ornament could not be bestowed by nature upon the fairest of her creatures. They give to the head that expression of commanding majesty which no one who has ever seen a stag break cover and stand for a moment at gaze can ever forget. The progress by which the horns of the stag is reproduced is one of the greatest marvels of natural history. About the end of April the antlers which the creature has borne throughout the greater portion of the previous year fall like a sere and yellow leaf to the ground. In a day or two a new horn is
seen spining from the base of the old one. As it gradually assumes a defined shape it is found to be enveloped in a velvet sheath which protects the points from injury. So delicate is this covering that the slightest friction produces exquisite pain, and the most trifling abrasion brings blood. The life which a stag leads during this period is one of great discomfort. He shuns the dense coppice and seeks the young woods or open glades. Stags have moreover a propensity to hide themselves from observation at this time. They wander about, sometimes in dozens together, and carefully try to keep out of sight of the hinds, as if they were ashamed to show themselves to their wives in so humiliating a condition. When a stag casts his horns he is said to bite them, if he can, to pieces, and to strive to hide such portions of them as he cannot destroy. This accounts for the comparatively small number of cast antlers found by keepers. In about three months the points of the new antlers become comparatively hard, and the stag now endeavours to deprive them of their protecting envelope; he therefore rubs them against the stems of young trees, and strips off the thick rind which covered them, and the stately appendage is again displayed in its full beauty, first white as ivory, but soon to acquire its habitual colour of dark brown. The stag is now in his lightest condition, sleek, robust, and in the full pride of conscious strength and vigour.
Deer, for the annual renewal of their horns, require a large amount of phosphate; it is of importance therefore to dress the park occasionally with chalk, lime, or crushed bones. The weight of a stag's antlers varies from ten, twelve, to fifteen pounds, and they have been found in Germany as heavy as thirty-two pounds. The new antlers are always an exact counterpart of those shed, with the addition of one or more sprays. The form of the whole, however, whether spreading or narrow, elongated or short, preserves its distinguishing characteristics, and thus for a series of years a stag may be recognised as surely as we recognise a human acquaintance.
Old stags are fond of prowling about in the neighbourhood of corn-fields until the corn is well grown, then hiding themselves in the middle of the field by day and eating to repletion at night. The damage done by deer when they escape, as they occasionally do, from their parks, is considerable. They have a fine scent, and detect a turnip-field a great distance off. They destroy more turnips than they consume, and many cartloads have been found pulled up in a single field by these mischievous marauders in the course of a single night. Bucks are particularly destructive, as, after taking only one bite of a turnip they pull it up and toss it