Archibald Hamilton.

The red deer of Exmoor, with notes on those who hunted them, from Robert D'Auberville, 1070, to Robert Arthur Sanders, 1906 online

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Online LibraryArchibald HamiltonThe red deer of Exmoor, with notes on those who hunted them, from Robert D'Auberville, 1070, to Robert Arthur Sanders, 1906 → online text (page 15 of 22)
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knife to the most honourable person present — even









to a lady — to administer the coup de-grdce, a practice
which called down a strong denunciation from Mr.

The curee, or rewarding of the hounds with the
entrails, was also carried out with much ceremony
and blowing of horns, the hounds being kept back
till all was ready, and the skin and head spread
over the hounds' portion, when at a given signal the
skin was whipped off, and the hounds allowed to fall
to amid loud cries of " Devour."

Hound language appears to have been, at least in
early times, very simple and much akin to that of
the present day. We find the harbourer cheering
his limehound with " Ho moy, ho moy, ho moy,
hola ! hola ! " We find the huntsman encouraging
his hounds with " Cy va, ^y va, Beaumont" or

These cries seem from Shakespeare to have been
simply rendered in English. We find in The
Tempest .- —

Stage Direction :

A noise of hunters heard. Enter divers spirits in shape of dogs
and hounds and hunt them about. Prospero and Ariel setting
them on.


Prospero. Hey, Mountain, hey !

Ariel. Silver 1 there it goes, Silver !

Prospero. Fury, Fury ! There, Tyrant, there ! Hark !

A good deal seems to have been left to individual
taste in the matter of hound language, but we are
told " A huntsman should speak to his hounds in


the most beautiful and gracious language that he


Twici or Twety, huntsman to Edward II., who
wrote a short treatise on hunting in Norman French,
gives some instances of hound language, among
which we find " Oyez a Beaumont, oyez assemble a
Beaumont," and also a more elaborate cheer, " Oyez
a Beaumont que il quite trouver le coward a la courte


We also come across the familiar tally ho ! dis-
guised in A^arious forms. In Hardouin de Fontaines
(1394) it appears as " ta ho! ta ho!" The
Seneschal of Normandy used " ty hautlau ! " Du
Fouilloux says " ty a hillaut" signifies a " view\"
Under whatever form it is clearly the halloa used by
huntsman and harbourer in addition to the note and
recheat when the harboured stag is roused and
viewed, and the " finders " are being uncoupled.

Much more importance was attached to the art of
sounding the horn correctly.

In the Middle Ages everyone who went hunting
carried a horn and was supposed to be able to blow
it. In early times the horn was an ordinary, curved
cow's horn. The head or mouth is recommended to
be as wide as possible, and the horn cut or driven
as thin as possible, nearly to the "fleu" or mouth-
piece. Horns were bound round with thread in
places, and a covering of green wax was held vastly
improving to the tone.

Horns of this kind were only capable of a high


note and a low note, which may be the foundation
for the refrain of a rather ribald song in Beaumont
and Fletcher's play, The Beggar's Bush : —

My horn goes too high, too low, too high, too low.

The various calls depended on the length of the
note or sound and the intervals between two sounds.
They were naturally of a simple character, and it was
not till the introduction of the brass French horn
that anything like a tune was practicable.

The old books contain several elaborate sets of
directions much too lengthy to be set out here,
but it may be of interest to give an insight into the
principle of the thing, and set out the calls most in
use, such as the recheat and those mentioned above.

A mote was a single note either long or short, but
usually long.

On uncoupling the hounds three motes were blown,
as we read in Chaucer's " Dream " : —

The Mayster hunte anone fote hote,
With his horn blew three motes
At the uncoupling of his houndes.

Twici, who sets out a number of calls, expresses

them in syllables thus : ^rout for a single long note,

trourourout for two short notes and a long ; put

in the usual symbols, this would be trout —

trourourout ^-< w^- — .

A recheat was trourourourout three times repeated,
thus : w. s_. ^ — ^ ^ ^ ^ — ^ s_^ w v_. — ,

If anyone viewed the deer he blew a mote and


recheat thus : — w- ^-^ -^ — ^-^ v_. -^ —

When hounds were at fault and the huntsman
wanted the lymer, he blew a recheat and a mote,

If any person caught a view of the stag when
hounds were at fault, he blew a mote and recheat for
the view, and two motes to call up the hounds.

These calls are in themselves tolerably simple and
easily to be understood, but when eight or ten excited
sportsmen tried to blow them, one after the other
according to the precedence of each, they must have
led to endless confusion, especially if any question
arose as to precedence. One can realise how it may
have come to pass that the black St. Huberts,
which, if they were at all like their modern
descendants, the bloodhounds, were extraordinarily
shy and nervous, utterly declined to cast themselves
at a check, sitting down and doing nothing, so that
Charles IX. said of them in contempt that they were
most useful for anyone with the gout, but not for a
man who wanted to shorten the life of a stag.

The forlong was blown by a man who was thrown
out, and he seems to have consoled himself with as
much of a tune as the horn was capable of : trout,
trout, trout, trout, trourouroutrout, trout, and then a

recheat, thus : , , — , ^^ ^-^ ^^

— w-^ -^ — ^^ -^ ^^ — Anyone hearing him
played the parfit, or perfect, to show him where the
hounds were : — , — ^-^ -^ i — , — ^^ ^^j — "-^


- ^ — ^-^ ^— ', — ■ — , — - ^ v^ ^-^^ repeated three

The pryse, which was blown while hounds were
being coupled up after the curee, and was the
equivalent of the Parliamentary " Who goes home ? "
was only blown by the chief personage, who blew four)
motes and then waited half an Ave Maria and then
blew four more motes, each a little longer.

Chaucer, who was deputy forester of Exmoor,

uses the forlong as a sign that the deer was lost :

The hart roused and staale away
. For all the houndes a prevy way.
The houndes had overshot him alle,
Therewith the hunte wonder faste
Blew a forlong at the laste.

" Measures of blowing " of marvellous complexity
are set out in " Hardouin de Fontaine " and in Blome's
" Gentleman's Recreation," but it is difficult to believe
that they can ever have been of any practical use in
the field.

French horns were introduced at the end of the
seventeenth century, and gave more scope, as they
allowed of a variation of tone.

The Marquis Dampiere, in the time of Louis XIV.,
composed many " tons de chasse " and fanfares with ,
the notation of ordinary music. M. le Couteulx de
Canteleu sets out no less than sixty-nine, some
of which are regular tunes with several verses of
words to them, and all appear to us very unneces-
sarily long. The requete or recheat, one of the
simplest, is as follows : —






w -w w




- m=m~


^^ P^33^ ^

The Master of Game describes in graphic terms
the joy which the huntsman feels at every phase of
the chase, particularly in noting the work of indivi-
dual hounds, and says : " And when all the hounds


shall have passed before him then shall he rout and
blow as loud as he may with great joy and great
pleasure, and I assure you he thinketh of no other
sin and no other evil. And when the hart be over-
come and be at bay he shall have pleasure. And
after when the hart is spayed and dead he undoeth
and maketh his curee and suquerreth or rewardeth
his hounds, and so he shall have great pleasure and
when he cometh home he drinketh joyfully, for his
lord hath given him to drink of his good wine at the
curee, and when he doth come home he shall doff
his clothes and his shoes and his hose, and shall
wash his legs and his thighs and peradventure his
whole body. And in the meantime shall order well
his supper with wortes and of the neck of the hart,
and of other good meats and of wine and ale. And
then he shall take the air in the evening of the night
for the great heat that he hath had. And then shall
he go and drink and lie in his bed in fair fresh clothes,
and shall sleep well and stedfastly all the night
without any evil thoughts of any sins, wherefore I
say that hunters go into paradise when they die and
live in this world more joyfully than any other men."
Ceremony has gradually passed away, but we see
in these old accounts, which are reproduced and
enlarged and commented on by many writers both
in French and English, such as Charles IX.,
Du Fouilloux, Turberville, and others, that all the
essential principles have been preserved to the
present day. Nothing new has been or can be


written about hunting — not even a joke in Punch.
Everyone knows Punch's huntsman who complained
on a hot April day that hounds could not hunt " with
all they nasty, stinkin' wi'lets about," but few have
read the lines written five centuries before : " Also
in that time the herbs be best and flowers in their
smelling, each one in their kind, and when the
hounds hope to scent the beast they hunt the sweet
smelling of the herbs takes the scent of the beast
from them."

Old and valuable as are the maxims handed down
to us by Edward, Duke of York, they do not form the
oldest account of a staghunt at force.

There has always been a tradition in Somerset-
shire that King Alfred — at least, that is the writer's
recollection of the legend as told him when a small
boy — nearly lost his life staghunting on Mendip by
riding over the edge of the Cheddar Cliffs.

For years it was no more than a legend, but at
length that indefatigable body, the Somersetshire
Record Society, undertook an examination of the
records of the old borough of Axbridge, where the
Saxon kings undoubtedly had a borwe, or hunting
lodge. The legend turns out to be true, except that
instead of Alfred it was his grandson Edmund who
so nearly lost his life. An old manuscript tells the
story in most graphic terms :^

" When they reached the woods they took various
directions among the sylvan avenues ; and lo, from
the varied noise of the horns, and the barkings of the


dogs many stags began to fly about. From these
the King, with his pack of hounds, selected one for
his own hunting, and pursued it long through devious
ways with great agility on his horse, and with the
dogs following. Jn the vicinity of Ceoddir (Cheddar)
were several abrupt and lofty precipices hanging
over profound declivities. To one of these the stag
came in his flight, and dashed himself down the
immense depth with headlong ruin, all the dogs
following and perishing with him. The King,
pursuing the animal and hounds with equal energy,
was rushing onward towards the precipice ; he saw
his danger and struggled violently to stop his courser ;
the horse disobeyed awhile his rein ; he gave up the
hope of life ; he recommended himself to God and
his saints, and was carried to the very brink of
destruction before the speed of the animal could be
checked. The horse's feet were trembling on the
last turf of the precipice before he stopped."

Can we not imagine the King waiting impatiently
with his "relay" of hounds while the lymerer and
huntsman roused the stags ? Of course, the King
was put in the most likely spot, and, of course, the
good stag came by him. Was it likely an impatient
monarch would wait for the field ? No doubt he
blew motes and recheats and halloaed, but he laid
his hounds on, and chanced the rest catching him
up as he swept along — probably above Charterhouse
Warren — heading for the big woods on the north
slope of the hills. One can imagine him swinging


round by Green Ore, avoiding the old lead works by
Priddy, and then heading due west over the best
stretch of galloping turf in England. Mile after mile
he would sweep on with nothing to stop him — not a
covert in sight but the little coppices in the combe
by Westbury, and the broad marshes of Somerset
stretching miles away to the Severn Sea eight
hundred feet below him. One cannot, it is true,
hunt the stag here to-day, but the Wells Harriers
can and do cross this glorious stretch of country
at racing pace, as the writer can testify. Can one
not imagine the King letting his good horse go his
own pace, revelling in the joys of the gallop ? A
slight rise is in front of him, and as he reaches the
top, a short downward slope of the smoothest and
slipperiest of turf leads down to the gorge of Cheddar
— fivehundredfeetof sheer precipice. The first hurried
snatch at the reins no doubt produces nothing more
than a fiing of the head and a little increase of pace ;
but the King is a horseman, and takes a sturdy,
resolute pull. The horse sees his danger, but he is
going fast, and not even a trained polo pony could
turn on that slope, and it is only by a frantic effort,
ending in a prolonged slide, that he stops on the
very brink, forelegs extended, and hindlegs doubled
up and crouched under him.

Such is the tale as it comes down to us. Does it
throw any light on the method of hunting in those
days ? I think it does. We must remember that
the King was the person who was doubtless meant to


have the best view of the deer and the best start ;
yet he does not accompany the huntsman to rouse
the deer; he apparently takes the first "relay" to
the spot where the stag is likely to cross, while the
huntsman and others take the " finders," or tufters,
to rouse the stag. We note from " The Master of
Game" that this is where he expects the great
person to go. That they found several stags, and
blew horns and halloaed ; that the King in his
impatience laid on to the wrong stag, or merely
vauntlayed, is simply an incident. We have the
main features of a staghunt. A stag had clearly
been harboured, otherwise the huntsman would not
have known where to draw, or where to place the
King ; secondly, we have the stag roused by tufters,
and then the pack laid on. The details may differ,
but we can there trace the same principles acted on
by King Edmund a thousand years ago as are acted
on by the Master of the Devon and Somerset stag-
hounds to-day.




Two dogs of black Saint Hubert's breed,
Unmatch'd for courage, breath, and speed,
Fast on his flying traces came.

Scott {The Lady of the Lake).

One cannot help wondering with what hounds our
ancestors hunted the stag in the middle ages, how
they were bred, and how they would compare for
size, nose, and pace with the modern hound. In this,
as in so much relating to staghunting, there is but
little to help one, and one is driven to eke out the
small amount of information derived from old writers
by pure conjecture.

Britain was celebrated for its hounds even before
the Christian era, and, according to Gratius (B.C.
17), though having little in the way of looks to
commend them, yet when hard work and courage
were wanted they were equal to the wonderful dogs
of Molossus. Strabo notes them as being exported
to Gaul on account of their excellence in the chase.
Oppian, in his " Cynegaticon " (book i., 468), writing
in A.D. 264, says : " There is beside an excellent
kind of scenting dogs, though small yet worthy of


estimation. They are bred by the fierce nation of
painted Britons, who call them Agassaeus ; in size
they resemble worthless greedy house dogs that
gape under tables. They are crooked, lean, coarse
haired, and dull eyed, but armed with powerful claws
and deadly teeth. The Agassaeus is of most
excellent nose, not only sagacious in finding the
track of animals, but skilful to discover the aerial

Our Saxon and Danish forefathers probably
brought some hounds with them when they settled
in the country, and these crossed with the indigenous
race — the Agassaei — formed the hounds with which
they hunted up to the time of the Norman Conquest.

The Normans no doubt introduced hounds from
France, hounds which, as we have seen, contained
an admixture of British blood. At this time, and for
several centuries afterwards, France was the acknow-
ledged home of hunting, and the source from which
all hunting lore sprang. And although it may seem
certain that hounds in England still contained a
strong basis of indigenous blood, it is to France one
must look to see what strains were in most repute
for hunting, and therefore would be the most likely
to be imported into this country.

The earliest authentic information on this subject
is derived from the MS. work of Gaston de Foix,
the illustrations to which have been admirably
reproduced by Mr. and Mrs. Baillie Grohman in
their beautiful edition of " The Master of Game."

R 2


From them and from the text we can efain some
ideas as to the " raches," or running hounds which
were then used for hunting at force.

In the frontispiece we see Gaston de Foix seated,
surrounded by all kinds of sporting dogs, grey-
hounds, alaunts, prick-eared brutes whose looks
justify all the bad things the Duke of York had to
say for them, the obvious ancestors of the coarse
butchers' dogs shown in old pictures of bull-baiting
and bear-baiting ; there are also heavy round-headed
dogs which may represent the ancestors of the
present mastiffs, and one which probably is intended
for a bloodhound, in addition to which are dogs
which are obviously hounds, in the modern accepta-
tion of the word, of two sizes which no doubt
represent the raches and kennets or harriers. The
rache is represented by the artist as mostly white,
with various markings which differ somewhat in
colour, though the writer of the text says tan is the
best colour ; they are fairly deep through the heart,
but are leggy and light of bone, with moderately
good necks and heads, but with ridiculously short
noses and the upper lip hanging down in an exagge-
rated manner. Their loins and flanks are weak, and
the whole of the hindquarters reminds one strongly
of a pointer. The raches are all represented as
smooth-coated hounds. This type of hound is, with
some variations, reproduced in all the other pictures
illustrating the various scenes in hunting described
in the MS. On reading the text one cannot help


feeling that the artist, then as now, did not always
reproduce what the writer intended. The depicting
of animals in a manner true to nature is an art of
modern development, as may be seen by looking
at the horses and hounds in pictures of the early
part of the last century, and the caricatures which
do duty as portraits of some of the early celebrities
on the turf. In spite of the iteration of the same
adjective one can realise better from the text what
manner of hound the great French sportsman had in

" A running hound should be well born and well
grown of body, and should have great nostrils and
open, and a long snout but not small, and great lips
and well handing down, and great eyes red or black,
and a great forehead and great head, and large ears
well long and well hanging down, broad and near
the head, a great neck, great breast and shoulders
and great legs and strong and not too long, and
great feet, round, and great claws and the feet a
little low, small flanks and long sides and good chine
bone and great back, good thighs and great hind
legs, and the hocks straight and not bowed, the tail
great and high and not cromping upon the back, but
straight and a little cromping upward."

One may, perhaps, demur to the small fianks and
long sides, but the writer clearly had a hound in his
mind not far removed in general characteristics from
the hounds of to-day.

It is worthy of note in connection with description


that a lightness of loin and lengthy flat sides are the
criticisms generally passed on the old pack of stag-
hounds which were sold in 1825, as represented in
the picture in the " The Chase of the Wild Red

Nothing is said in " The Master of Game " as to
the size of these hounds, and the drawings are not
sufficiently trustworthy to enable one to form more
than a rough guess by comparing them with the
men, horses, and other dogs portrayed. The raches
are considerably smaller than the alaunts and
mastiffs, and shorter on the leg, as well as less long
in the body than the greyhounds, one of which, in
one of the numerous monochrome reproductions, is
apparently grey, with a long coat like a Scottish
deerhound. Assuming the height of men to be about
normal, and that of horses to be from 14.2 to 15
hands, which Mr. Dale, in his learned and convincing
work on polo ponies, asserts is the normal stature of
a horse, the raches would appear to have stood
somewhere about 24 to 25 in.

The Comte le Couteulx de Canteleu enumerates
and describes seventeen distinct breeds of French
hounds, ancient and modern, but says he agrees
with Charles IX. in his " Traite de Chasse " : "que
toutes les races de chiens courants venaient des
quatre races royales : St. Hubert ; grands chiens
blancs du roi ; chiens fauves de Bretagne ; chiens
gris de St. Louis." Which of these breeds is the
nearest to the "raches" represented in Gaston de


Folx's MS. cannot be said with certainty, but
probably they were Normandy hounds, a subdivision
of the St. Huberts.

We may dismiss the chiens fauves de Bretagne
and the chiens de St. Louis, as we know both to have
been rough-coated Hke a Welsh hound — the former
a dark tan, and the latter wolf-grey. The chiens gris
are described as having been fast, but to have had
bad noses and to have been liable to change. This is
practically the character given by the Comte le
Couteulx de Canteleu to the modern English fox-
hound. The fallow hounds must, on the contrary,
have had good noses, been very staunch, and
possessed of immense hardness and staying powers
if the wonderful performances with which they are
credited really took place — namely, that they ran a
stag from the forest of Ponthievre (250 miles) to
Paris in four days. When one reads of these
marvellous doings one cannot help wondering what
their feeding arrangements were.

The "grands chiens blancs du roi " did not exist
at the time Gaston de Foix wrote, so we are driven
to the conclusion that the hounds he writes of are
white St. Huberts crossed with some other breed.
The black St. Hubert is unquestionably the ancestor
of the modern bloodhound, while the white variety is
said to have been the source of the English Talbot
hound, long since extinct.

The origin of the " grands chiens blancs du
roi," or " greffiers " as they were commonly called,


is well known. A poor Norman gentleman presented
King Louise XII. (1482 to 1498) with a white St.
Hubert hound, but the King preferred his kennel of
" chiens gris " and passt d on the gift to his
seneschal, who passed it on again to Jacques de
Breze, Seneschal of Normandy, who appreciated his
superlative excellence, for this was the famous hound
Souillard from whom it was said no stag could
escape. He was crossed with an Italian bitch
belonging to the King's greffier or secretary, and
bred thirteen puppies, all as good as himself, and
Charles IX. says that by the time of Francis I.,
which would be 15 15, the breed of greffiers, as they
were called, was thoroughly established. These and
the Normandy hounds seem to have practically
superseded the St. Huberts as hunting hounds

They must have been of immense size, as the St.
Huberts stood from 27 in. to '^\\ in. high, though
possibly their stature may have been reduced by the
Italian cross, as we find the Normandy hounds^ also
a cross breed, are stated to have been 26 in. to 30 in.
in height, whether that were so or not they seem to
have merited the specific title of " grands."

What essential differences there may have been
between the Normandy hounds and the greffiers, or
as they were afterwards called the Vendeens, is not
clear, except that the former had more colour
marking, the latter having nothing but a very little
lemon colour or hare-pied marking.


It would seem probable that these two breeds must
have been largely introduced into England, and that
from their cross with existing hounds must have
been derived the animal so frequently referred to as

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Online LibraryArchibald HamiltonThe red deer of Exmoor, with notes on those who hunted them, from Robert D'Auberville, 1070, to Robert Arthur Sanders, 1906 → online text (page 15 of 22)