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over their heads.
Bucks attain great obesity when they get an abundance and variety of food, their backs becoming as broad and as round as those of a prize sheep with often five inches of fat on their haunches. An old buck that had effected his escape from the Park of Eastwell and lived at free commons for a whole summer on the crops of the adjoining farms, was found on his capture to weigh 176 lbs.
It is very impolitic to overstock a park; a proportion of one deer to an acre is considered the proper one. Sheep should never be permitted to graze in a deer park, but it is considered an advantage to pasture with them a small number of rough cattle. We think that Mr. Shirley has scarcely attached sufficient importance to thorough draining, for upon it the health of the animals in a great degree depends. No creature is more affected by damp, and a disease analogous to the foot-rot in sheep is sure to be engendered in moist situations. The complaints to which deer are subject are various, the most common being foot-rot, often caught from sheep when they have imprudently been allowed to herd with deer. Disease of the liver is not unfrequent, particularly in parks which are imperfectly drained. The deer at Ashburnham in Sussex, Mr. Shirley says, which were attacked by this complaint, were cured by being supplied with branches of fir which they eagerly devoured, preferring the Scotch to the spruce fir or to any other. The disease was removed immediately and has never reappeared, the deer being supplied with an abundance of fir, especially in the spring and autumn. In this case the turpentine, which is a known ingredient in the medicine sold as a specific for the rot in sheep, was no doubt the cause of the cure. Protection against cold, particularly in exposed parks, is very important, great numbers of deer having died in severe winters from want of proper shelter.* Only fallow deer, however, need this care. The roe and red deer brave our hardest winters; this fact, with the paleontological evidence already referred to, gives support to the opinion of the great French Naturalist. Cuvier writes of 'Le Daim' (Cervus Dama, L.), in his Animal Kingdom':-'Cette espèce est devenue commune dans tous les pays d'Europe, mais elle paraît originaire de Barbarie.' In the edition of 1829 the author adds a note :'Depuis la publication de la seconde édition de nos Recherches
*At Bradgate, in Leicestershire, a very wild and exposed park, numbers,' Mr. Shirley says, perish every winter from the severity of the cold' (p. 144). So in the ancient chace of Cranbourne, in Dorsetshire, which, in 1828, contained 12,000 head of fallow deer, it is stated in the Chronicles of Cranbourne' (1841) that so many died that the earth was manured with their remains. The chace is now without deer.
sur les ossements fossiles, nous avons reçu un daim sauvage tué dans les bois au sud de Tunis.'* Beans and maize are considered excellent for winter-feeding; horse and Spanish chestnuts are equally good; and hay, when the herbage has become scanty, should be supplied in abundance.
Opinions differ with respect to the comparative merits of the venison of the red and fallow deer. We have heard the superiority of the former denied by connoisseurs who have partaken of it; and M. Soyer, no mean authority, pronounces it as in every respect inferior to that of the fallow deer. Much must, however, depend on the age, condition, and the time of year at which the animal is killed. A hart, like other creatures, possesses little fat while growing; and a haunch of red deer when out of condition will make but a sorry appearance on table and be far from satisfactory to a gastronome. There must be a considerable difference, too, between the flesh of the red deer confined in English parks and of such as have the free range of the forest and browse on the sweet grass and heather of the mountains; and we have been informed that in the hospitable hall of Blair Athol a haunch of fallow venison, although in the best condition and most artistically dressed, meets with little attention if one of red deer also forms part of the menu. It seems to have been customary in the middle ages to salt venison like other meat, for preservation, and there is in Rymer's 'Fœdera' a Royal Warrant of Edward III., ordering sixty deer to be killed for that purpose. The taste for 'high' venison does not seem to have always prevailed in England, and we cannot but think that it is sometimes carried to excess. In Pope's days, if we may judge from his lines, it certainly did not exist :
'Our fathers praised rank venison; you supposo
Not so: a buck was then a week's repast,
And 'twas their point, I ween, to make it last;
More pleased to keep it till their friends could come,
Venison, like mutton, should be kept until it is tender but not until it has acquired the taint of incipient decomposition.
The only part of England in which wild red deer are now found in any considerable numbers and regularly hunted is a district of the north of Devon and Somerset. Hunting the stag with horses and hounds was probably never practised in the Highlands of Scotland, the nature of the country presenting great, if not insuperable, difficulties for horsemen, but in the West of England the sport is
carried on with great spirit and success. The herds of red deer which had once roamed over Devon and Somerset and parts of Cornwall had been gradually receding before the advance of agriculture, till, towards the end of the last century, the remnant had found a comparatively secure retreat in the wild region of Exmoor. In 1818, previous to which year stag-hunting had been carried on in almost princely style, the hounds became a subscription pack, and from this time the glory of the establishment appears to have been rapidly on the wane. Untoward circumstances and general dissatisfaction at the way in which the hunt was being conducted, brought it to an end; and the hounds, which were of a peculiar breed, and had existed for more than a century in the country, were sold and sent abroad in 1825. So much had this mismanagement affected the existence of the deer, and so great were the ravages inflicted on the herds at this time, that the then master of the pack was known to have gone out on more than one occasion with the avowed object of killing the last deer in the country. From this period, for several years, the few remaining deer were the objects of unceasing persecution. Every man's hand was against them. The farmers were their enemies on account of the injury they did to their crops; and every one who possessed or could borrow a gun thought them fair game. With a little judicious protection, however, the deer have now again greatly multiplied, proving how difficult it is to exterminate a race of wild animals in a district where the coverts are measured by miles rather than by acres. Their preservation must be attributed to the different feelings with which they have of late years been regarded by the tenant farmers. The range of country in which they are now to be found extends for about thirty miles from north to south, and forty miles from east to west, a large portion of it being singularly hilly and rugged. A portion of the hunt subscription is appropriated to compensate the farmers for any damage inflicted on their crops; occasional presents of venison are perhaps still more calculated to secure their good will, and they take a just pride in their county possessing so noble a sport. The hounds now used in the chase are of the largest but purest foxhound blood. From a communication with which we have been favoured by Mr. Bisset, the present master of the hounds, it appears that during the thirteen years which he has hunted the country, 80 stags and 63 hinds have been killed or captured. A run is often terminated by a take or kill in a river; and the spectacle is not uncommon of a stag swimming up and down the waters of the river Exe, the Barle, the Lynn and other rivers in that locality, with the pack at his haunches. Sometimes a deer will take to the sea and the hounds
after it, but its superior swimming enables it soon to distance its pursuers though it occasionally falls into the hands of an unlookedfor enemy, such as some Bristol trader, the crew of which are thus enabled to indulge in the unexpected luxury of a venison feast. It sometimes happens that a stag is run to the edge of one of those precipices which overhang the sea in that grand part of the coast of Devon and Somerset, and, falling over it in its headlong flight, is dashed to pieces on the rocks below. The chase of the wild red stag can now only be enjoyed in this part of Great Britain, and great credit is due to the gentlemen of the hunt, and especially to its energetic master, for keeping up so noble sport. The season of 1867 appears to have been unprecedented in its success; twelve 'warrantable' stags having been hunted and every one of them taken. The field is a numerous one, and the pace is so trying even to the strongest horses that many succumb to it, the runs often extending from twenty-five to thirty miles. The season for stag-hunting commences about the 15th of August and ends about the 10th of October. After this, hinds are hunted till about the end of November.
The sport afforded by the chase of the stag in a semi-domesticated state, as at Windsor, cannot vie in interest with the pursuit of the noble animal running wild from his native coverts. The runs, however, are longer than in fox-hunting, and the fleetness of the stag and his ingenuity, put the sportsman on his metal, although he has not the excitement of being 'in at the death,' for Her Majesty's staghounds are too well disciplined a pack to kill the object of their pursuit. Indeed it is not improbable that the hounds and stag fully understand one another, for they are generally old acquaintances.
The methods adopted for catching and preparing deer for hunting at Windsor are as follows. Occasionally a fine young stag is selected and run to bay by the hounds, ropes are then fastened about his horns and leather straps round his legs, and he is thus secured until he can be turned loose in the paddocks. This process, however, is excessively dangerous to the men and dogs employed, and it is now rarely resorted to. More often a small herd of red deer is run by the hounds into toils, where they often break their necks or backs before they are secured. The dogs employed are rough Scotch deerhounds. Six or eight stags are thus taken every year, then shut up in sheds for a short time, their horns sawn off, and in a few months they are fit for hunting. They are confined in large paddocks, fed upon beans and hay, and are kept in wind by being hunted occasionally round the field by a staghound or a bloodhound specially trained for the purpose. Hinds are caught in the same
manner, but if on being entered for hunting they show no good running power, they are allowed to be run into by the young hounds to blood them. A good stag will last for six or seven years, doing his three or four runs in a season. The deer are now most commonly caught by being driven into a shed, out of which there is an opening leading into a van, the person in charge of it using a moveable door as a shield to protect himself. Some of the old stags go in without occasioning any trouble and become remarkably tame. Every stag which runs attains a name from some incident in his first day's hunt, or perhaps from the line of country he takes, and sometimes, as a special mark of honour, he bears for the remainder of his life the name or title of some eminent person who had distinguished himself in the chase.
Red deer lingered in Cornwall until a recent period, and one or two are still occasionally seen in the extensive coverts on the eastern border of the county, but the large herds have long disappeared. Fifty years ago, according to Mr. Kingsley, red deer roamed over the barren tracts of Bagshot. The New Forest contained large herds both of fallow and red deer down to the year 1851, when having become a prolific source of crime, they were removed or destroyed. Poaching had long been carried on in a very systematic and cruel manner, the deer being snared by hooks baited with apples suspended on strong cords from the boughs of trees. The Forest of Dean, the most beautiful and varied of all the Royal Forests, was deprived of its deer about the same time. Nowhere had poaching been so daringly committed. Bands of armed men, too numerous and formidable for keepers to interfere with, shot deer in the open day and carried them off by night. One of the devices resorted to for killing deer in this forest was for a man to station himself among the branches of some wide-spreading oak with a heavy iron bar, which he dropped with fatal effect upon the neck of any deer that came under the tree to browse.
The Highland deer forests have been computed to comprise at least 2,000,000 acres, or 3125 square miles. The number of deer contained in the forest of Glentilt alone is said to exceed 13,000, and in that of Ben Aulder 8000. We find the agitation for the conversion into sheep-walks of these great tracts still persisted in by certain Scotch political writers, of whom Mr. Robertson, the title of whose recent lecture we have prefixed to this article, is an example. Having in a former number of the Quarterly Review* entered fully into this subject, we
* See the Article on Grouse, No. 235.
Vol. 125.-No. 250.