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a curious local circumstance. A pair of guardias civiles,
the military police of Spain, is stationed close below the
col. Here is the explanation. None of the serrawo^ pay the
gun-license, — twenty shillings, — and capture, red-handed,
means disarmament. Hence the presence of this pair of
civil guards signifies nothing less than security to the
isolated ibex of the Eiscos ; their withdrawal would be the
signal for extermination within a few years.

We had already pitched our tent on a slope above
the col (5,600 feet), just within the lower fringe of
snow, and were wondering at the non-arrival of our
hunters. They had taken a short cut across the
mountains, and should have been the first to reach the
spot. But after enjoying a delicious bathe in an adjoin-
ing bum, and setthig on the oUa to stew on an impro-
vised anafe (a hollowed trench, in the deep centre of
which was kindled a fire), we suddenly saw them all
appear, leaping down the opposite slope with the agile
bounds of wild animals. They had simply lain hidden
for hours, reconnoitring the movements of the civil
guards ! Their first act on arrival was to hide their guns
among the green piornales. Again, when one evening the



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Plate XXII. OUR CAMP ON THE RISCOS DB VALDEREJO. Page 152.



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5*"^ .' ■■-•'L.jIJWIi^iI-S



IBEX-SHOOTING IS SPAIN. 153

dreaded pair was reported to be ascending towards our
eyry, the stampede was electric — each man seized his gun
and all disappeared like rabbits among the rocks. The
incident serves to show the effective power wielded by this
fine corps in rural Spain.

The conformation of this sierra was simple — on the
north side the slope was gradual, though abrupt: on the
south almost perpendicular: that is, it formed a sheer
rock-wall some three miles long and perhaps 2,000 feet
high, measuring from the head of the talus.* We found
here a herd of nearly a score of ibex, ensconced in well-
frequented lairs among the loose rocks and piomales along
the highest ridge (they had not been disturbed for
months), and on so limited an area felt sure of more
certain success than on the boundless sierras of Gredos,
with their snow-sanctuaries always open to the ibex. Bub
matters were not so simple, nor were the goats. Here,
too, they had their sanctuaries. We will not weary the
reader with merely sporting detail, but go at once to the
point. After being "hustled" for two or three days
(during which the big males always managed to keep out
of shot), the ibex-leaders evidently realized the gravity of
the situation: a vote of urgency was carried, and the
Riscos declared in a state of siege. The space at their
command was limited: there were no snow-fields
available: and they resolved to seek safety in those
impenetrable rock-walls and canchos which flanked their
stronghold on the south. Into these they retreated : and
from them, no power of ours could dislodge the ibex,
though among the slanting canchos on the western flank
our intrepid rock-climbers despatched a couple of slouching
wolves. By sheer force of reasoning power and sagacity,

• The highest point of the Biscos appeared to be about 7,000 ft*,
and commanded a superb panorama of the whole Sierra de Gredos,
with its towering peaks and snow-fields stretching away to their apes
in the Plaza de Ahnanzor. With regard to altitudes, we here write with
some uncertainty, as our aneroid, after being depressed to twenty-one
inches, appeared to exhibit some irregularities, and had possibly
suffered some internal or constitutional injury.



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154 WILD SPAIN.

the ibex had found a retreat as secure as the mer de
(jlace of Aimanzor. Long may they live to enjoy it !

The retreat, however, was not gained, on one occasion,
without loss — we, too, had learned by past experience.
Already the driving line had appeared on the eastern
heights, suggesting that another beat was to prove blank :
not a sign of game had appeared — nothing save the
Alpine choughs* and crag-martins, Alpine swifts, and a



IBEX-HUNTERS OF GREDOS— A .SKETCH BY THE CAMP-FIRE.

pair of peregrines gyrating in the upper air : at intervals
also a pair of golden eagles, whose huge eyrie projected
from a rocky pinnacle, passed over in stately flight, their
broad square tails deflected very conspicuously sidelong,
to guide their aerial evolutions. Here purple tufts of

* We succeeded in taking several eggs of this bird in the crevices
of a sheer crag, after a somewhat perilous climb. Tliese eggs are
very light -coloured ; the ground coloiu" is pale cream, faintly spotted
with brown and dull greyish splashes.



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IBEX-SHOOTING IN SPAIN. 155

saxifrage lent colour to the barren greys : and amidst the
fringe of snow grew delicate mauve and white crocuses :
on a granite rock, hard by, warbled lustily a little songster,
not unlike our hedge-sparrow, but whose scientific name
is Anthits spipolettay its tender blue-grey throat swelled
with song. Suddenly a new sound diverted instant atten-
tion from all such things — it was a loud ''sneeze,'*
twice repeated : and I knew that some wild animal stood
close behind the big rock which concealed me. Then
followed the clatter of horny hoofs rattling on rock : and
a few moments later, upon the very ridge where I lay, not
ten yards from the muzzle, appeared a pair of ibex.
Hardly a whole instant did they pause — pictures of high-
strung wild nature, and quivering in every nerv^e — a lovely
spectacle. At ten yards' range (a hoca de jarro in Spanish
phrase), my right barrel missed fire : and simultaneously
the ibex were gone — had leaped oflf the ridge and down
among the rocks a dozen yards below. They were,
however, still near enough; and the second bullet sent
the largest pitching forward on its knees, all but
dividing the spine. It instantly recovered its feet, and the
pair went on : but on a rock-ledge a quarter-mile away
they stopped, and one lay down : a long range, random
shot from the express, and the other went on alone : but
the stricken beast was already dead. And then, on the
rocks close by, I perceived a little wild kid, long of limb
and somewhat ungainly in form, but of infinite grace in
movement. Tame and confiding seemed the little mite ;
yet on approach, it bounded off down those broken rocks,
with a speed and agility that defied pursuit. These two
ibex were, in Spanish words, a cahra and a chivata.

Five other ibex (two males) sought to reach the refuge
of the main rock- wall by a lower pass, where two guns
were posted. Here, as they scrambled slantingly up the
perpendicular face, one bullet sped true, and the best
macho fell back, struggling to maintain a foot-hold.
This his paralyzed quarters forbade, and soon what
little life remained was extinguished as the stricken
animal fell bouncing from rock to rock till it finally lodged



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156 WILD SPAIN.

in a cleft of a projecting spur. He proved an eight-year-
old ram, with horns measuring nearly twenty-eight inches
in length, with a circumference of over nine inches and a
** sweep " of nearly twenty-three.

At length the time arrived to bid farewell to these
rock-ramparts of Old Castile, and their primitive simple
folk, kindly and honest as the day; Dionysio actually
returned to our camp before daylight next morning— a
two^-league walk — to return a pair of boots left by one
of lis at his cottage ! Each man already seemed an old
friend. "Hasta la otra," said Juan Guarro y Guarro
as he offered his hand, ** y si no, que lo pasen ustedes
bien ! " — ** Till the next time, and, if for ever, fare ye
well!" The conclusions we came to were that both our
visits were rather too early (May), and that the most
favourable season for ibex-shooting is in July and August :
but even then, whether by stalking or driving, the work
is hard in the extreme.



IBEX (FEMALE)- RISCOS DE VALEDREJO.



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157



CHAPTEK XIII.
IBEX-SHOOTING IN SPAIN— (Continued).

III. — Sierra Bermeja (Mediterranean) .

In the last chapter are described some experiences with
ibex in the distant Cordilleras of Castile : but we have the
wild cabra vwntes much nearer — indeed within sight of our
Andalucian home. The Sierra Nevada is one of their
chief abodes, and herds of goats roam the still nearer
heights of Ubrique, Bermeja, and the Palmitera. As the
circumstances of the ibex here vary from those already
described, we now add some details of campaigns on these
Mediterranean ranges.

We pitched our tents one March evening on a narrow
flat plateau, barely over 2,000 feet, at a point in the
Bermeja range, where our pioneer — we had employed a
native cazadm- to "prospect" for five or six weeks^ — had
localized two or three small herds of ibex. The steep moun-
tain-sides around were clad to their utmost summits with
strong brushwood and with scattered patches of pine and
a species of fir (piiisajx)) — admirable-looking ground for pig,
but not at all so, according to preconceived ideas, for the
wild-goat. It was, therefore, an agreeable sui^prise when,
early next morning, there were descried three ibex; quietly
grazing on the bloom of the aholdga brush beyond a deep
ravine, and only about 1,(XX) feet above the camp. These'
three, while we watched, were joined by other two,*
when some make-believe "sparring" ensued between a
pair of rams: but at this season (March) there was
obviously no great development of the combative'
instinct.



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158 WILD SPAIN.

The next spectacle was less welcome. On the height of
the ridge, high above us, we descried against the sky-line
the crouching figure of a man, stealthily advancing as
though in touch of game. This ill-omened apparition, as
the sequel proved, was the key-note of this campaign : the
scmana santa of Easter-tide had commenced, we were fore-
stalled by native cazadores, and a carefully-planned and
well-organized exhibition resulted in comparative failure.



IBEX (FEMALE)- BERMEJ A.

Nor had the danger of this been entirely unforeseen, but
adverse circumstances had delayed our movements.

Despite our local competitors, luck at first seemed in-
clined to be propitious. While going to our positions,
along the knife-edged spur that enclosed our glen, an ibex
fell to the rifle of one of our party, who had come suddenly
on five (four good males) quietly feeding in a pine-clad
corrie, and a standing shot, at 70 yards, secured one — un-
fortunately the only cahra; for, their heads being con-



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IBEX-SHOOTING IN SPAIN. 159

cealed among the scrub, the sex was not distinguislied*
This female (shot March 26th) was found, on being
gralioched, to contain a pair of kids, which would not
have seen the light under three weeks. Another female,
followed by her chirata, was shot on this beat, though
eventually lost, by one of our Spanish cazadorea^ Juan
Marquez. •

The field of our operations was all scrub — strong thorny
bushes clothing the steep and rock-strewn slopes, amidst
which we subsequently found many " lairs " of the ibex —
regular seats, like those of a hare or fox. Hidden in these
strongholds, the ibex, our men asserted, would deliberately
allow the beaters to pass them by : but we have strong
grounds for the opinion that this only applied to the
females — all ages or sexes, be it repeated, are alike to a
cazador — and never to the males, which, always wild and
crafty, rely for safety on far bolder tactics and modes of
escape.

Pines and fir interspersed the scrub to the very reules
or utmost heights of Bermeja — 4,800 feet by aneroid :
and Palmitera, though the snow lies longer there, is of a
trifle less altitude. Though, on this occasion, our sport
was marred and exuberance of spirit tempered by the
constant competition of local hunters — by those visions of
the hated ** gente de Enalguacil '' scampering like the
goats themselves up the rocks before us — ^yet, at least, we
enjoyed, from the crest of Bermeja, a spectacle which is
probably without rival in Europe, and the like of which
we have not gazed upon in our lives. Looking down from
near 5,000 feet altitude, we had portions of two continents
spread out as a map at out feet. The vast expanse of
deep blue Mediterranean visible from such elevations is
hard to picture — ^the level sea appears to tower up, regard-
less of physical laws, among the clouds themselves : yet,
far beyond its southern shores, we could look right into
the dark continent, across range beyond range of African
mountains, terminating only in the glittering snow-peaks
of the Atlas, on the verge of Saharan deserts. Gibraltar
looked like a tiny islet in the Straits, midway between



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160 WILD SPAIN.

Jebel Moosa's cloud- wreathed mass, and the loftier Spanish
sierras beyond Algesiraz. Tangier, Genta, and MeUlla, on
liie African shore, were faintly discernible ; and, on the
Spanish side, the unbroken snows of Nevada, fifty miles
away, glistened in the sunshine as though within rifle-
shot, with all the swelling vegas of Western Andalucia ;
while, right beneath us, lay the rich Ensenada de Mar-
ftrfto, .the fertile fringe that borders the Mediterranean,
white with waving fields of sugar-cane, cotton, and carob,
prolific of date-palm and fig-tree, of com, oil, and wine
— one of earth's most fruitful gardens.

From our posts, at the head of a dizzy tumble of rocks
and screes, no fewer than five distinct mountain-ranges
were in sight, one. rising beyond the other, the last and.
loftiest clad in snow. To and fro in mid-air, far beneath,
sailed a. superb pair of lammergeyers, their expanded*
pinions gleaming almost white in the . sunlight. These
giant birds had their eyry in a series of granite canclios
near, the apex of the gorge ; but, at intervals, also entered
a cave in another crag which, we subsequently ascertained,
had formed their home in a previous year.

Amongst the birds observed here, which may be men-
tioned as typical of the Mediterranean sierras, were golden,
booted, and BonelU's eagles, a single griffon-vulture, pere-
grine and goshawk, a pair of sparrow-hawks, busy carry-
ing sticks, ravens, jays, great spotted woodpecker, wrens,
crag-martins (Co^iZ^ rtipestris), the usual chats, and a few
cushats. Hawfinches and great tits were abundant among
the pines, and in the early dawn the melodious song of the
blue-thrush reminded one of Scandinavian springs and
the redwing's note. Another small bird causes recurrent
annoyance to the ibex-shooter. With a loud "rat-tat-
tat," closely resembling the patter of homy hoofs on rock,
its song commences ; then follows a curious hissing note,
not unlike the passing of a heavy body through brushwood
— for a moment one hopes that the coveted and long-
awaited game at length is coming. No! confound that
bird ; it's only a redstart !

No ibex, however, appeared here- to us expectant. The



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PlAte XXIII. Page 161.

IBEX-HUNTING- A SKETCH IX THE SIERRA BERMEJA.



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IBBX-SHOOTING IN SPAIN. 161

natives, tiradores of Enalguacil, of Coin, and other hamlets
of the sierra, sleeping on the open hill, and possessing
twice our speed of foot on their native rocks, were always
on our front ; and in order to get clear of competition, we
moved our camp across the ridge to the north. This
operation involved sending forward at daybreak a dozen
men with hatchets to clear a way for the laden mules,
some fifty or sixty well-grown pines, with hundreds
of lesser growth, perishing before a passage was practic-
able. We encamped on a forest-opening at a spot called
the Majada del Alcornoque, altitude 3,400 feet, the same
evening — first having to remove several hundred stones
from the camping-ground, for almost each afforded shelter
to a scorpion or gigantic centipede.

Here, during the next few days, we had the (to us)
singular experience of ibex-driving in thick pine-forest and
deep wooded ravines, with generally a strong undergrowth
of bushes and scrub — the bean ideal of a roe-deer country,
but the last place in the world in which we should have
expected wild-goat. The goats were there, nevertheless,
for females and young males were seen on different occa-
sions by guns or beaters. In one tremendous clam-shaped
gorge, an ibex and a wild pig were both on foot at once !
The only ibex the present writer had the luck to see in this
part of the sierra — which seemed to be composed almost
entirely of ironstone and other mineral ores — was by a
purely fortuitous encounter. On the sudden lifting . of a
dense cloud-bank which rested on the mountain-side, I
descried, right above me, four ibex — including two fair-
sized rams — all standing on a projecting rock, in bold
relief against the sky, and not above 400 yards away.
The intervening ground was rugged — rocks and brushwood
with scattered pines — and, except for the first fifty yards,
the stalk seemed to offer no great difficulty. Already I
had passed the dangerous bit, and had crawled near 200
yards, when, alas ! in a moment the wet mist settled down
again, and I saw no more of the game.

Curiously, on the fog first lifting, a large eagle sat, all
bedraggled and woe-begone, on a reck-point not forty

M



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162 WILD SPAIN.

yards from my shelter, his feathers all flufifed out, and a
great yellow talon protruding, as it seemed, from the very
centre of his chest. Then a faint sun-ray played on his
tawny plumage ; he shook himself together, and launched
out in air to renew his hunt, sweeping downwards close
past me — luckily without disturbing the ibex, though I
saw them take note of the circumstance.

To our other misfortunes was now superadded the dis-
comfort of bad weather. Here is an extract from, diary : —
March 31st.— Glass fell last night four-tenths to 25' 85",
and the morning broke with a whole gale from W.,
bitterly cold, with driving masses of cloud, gradually'
changing to rain and sleet — a bad prospect.



SOARING VULTURE.

The rain, fog, and gale continuing, sporting operations
were interrupted, and a fine male ibex, shot the night
before, was lost, it being no longer possible to follow the
trail. We endured a pretty bad time of it, under canvas,
in our mountain-perch; but for our poor beaters it was
ten-fold worse — sleeping on the bare ground beneath
torrential rains, or under such scant shelter of pine-
branches as they could rig up.

We had about a score of these mountaineers in our



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IBEX-SHOOTING IN SPAIN. 163

employ — a wild-looking lot, who, when not otherwise
engaged, were chiefly ccmtrabandistas. Many of these
serranos had joined our party purely for the love of sport,
and for no pay beyond such frugal fare as our camp might
afford — scanty enough some days, though good red wine
and cigarettes were never wanting. The previous week a
somewhat serious affray, we now heard, had taken place
close by. A gang of 100 smugglers convoying thirty
horse-loads of tobacco, &c., were attacked at the passage
of the Guadiarro by a force of fifty carabineers. Many
shots were exchanged, the smugglers being armed with
Remingtons, with the result that seven men were killed
and many others wounded. The whole of the thirty
cargoes were eventually captured, but the horses escaped,
the smugglers cutting the girth-ropes; nor were any
prisoners made. This information was given us by the
Colonel of carabineers commanding the district, whom we
met a few days later in Estepona.

Here is another reflex of local character — a cutting from
a Malaga paper of April 1st, 1891, among the ordinary
items of local news : —

** Bandido. — The Civil Guard of Malaga encountered
on Wednesday, near Coin, the celebrated bandit Mena,
who has long held the whole of that district in terror.
The individuals of the Civil Guard demanded his
surrender, to which summons he replied with the dis-
charge of his weapon. This brought on a ferocious
struggle, resulting in the death of the freebooter, who
received two bullet-wounds from his aggressors."

Such tendencies become infectious, and, as a relief to
the tedium of forced inactivity, and wet days under canvas
— for the flooded gargantas made sport impossible — it
occurred to one restless spirit that we might ourselves
embark in this popular business of handolerismo. Had we
not a score of bold brigands ready at our hand ? And,
besides, there was not wanting eminently suitable material
for ** sequestration " — what a subject for a chapter !
But . . . well, the opportunity was thrown away, and,
the deluge still continuing, in the morning our smuggler-

M 2



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164 WILD SPAIN.

chief, old Marquez, came in to say that the people, like
the Israelites of old, wished to depart, each man to his
own house — " cada uno a su casa."

Though we did not succeed in obtaining a really first-



FOREST-IBEX— BERMEJA. (Showing narrower sweep of bom.)

rate ibex-head during this campaign in the southern
sierras, yet, judging from two machos subsequently secured
on an adjacent range (three and five-year-old males
respectively), the difference in the form of horn in these



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g g'^iF S Ks ::



IBBX-SHOOTING IN SPAIN. 165

forest-haunting goats from those of the Alpine sierras is
only trifling. Compared with circumference, the horns
are of lesser length, and hardly, perhaps, branch out so
widely ; but that may, after all, be only a question of age.
Ibex-stalking. — It may occur to the sportsman-reader
to observe that we have said very little of ihex-stalking.
The reason is that, as before mentioned, we have little but
negative experiences to relate, having met with no success
ourselves in that sport. Both in Andalucia and the
Castiles we have followed some of the longest and most
severe days' work in search of ibex, but without success.
The ibex are relatively very scarce^ scattered sparsely over
vast areas, and rarely to be seen on the move during daylight.
It is, of course, in all stalking a first essential that a great
extent of country be brought under survey. This implies
covering long distances; and the extreme difficulties of
locomotion on the Spanish cordilleras forbid this. We do
not speak without a basis of comparative experience,
having seen something of mountain-game in various lands.
It may be that we lack speed of foot in traversing those
rugged rock-peaks — ^we are far from denying this, let those
smile who may. Few will do so who have once attempted
to seek out and stalk the wild ibex — or it may be only
bad luck. At any rate, our hardest days on Nevada or
Gredos have not, so far, been rewarded by a single shot,
or even by the sight of an ibex in a position where a stalk
might be dreamt of.



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166 WILD SPAIN.

IV. — Nevada and the Alpujarras — Ten Days in a
Snow-cave.

The grandeur of the Sierra Nevada, with its lofty sky-
lines, all white and clean-cut against an azure background,
majestic Mulahacen and the Picachos de la Yeleta, are
familiar objects to most visitors to Southern Spain. The
majority, however, are content with the distant view from
the palace-fortresses of the Alhambra or the turrets of
the Generalife. Few dream of penetrating those alpine
solitudes or scaling their peaks, which look so near, yet
cost such toil and labour to gain. Yet the labour is
repaid, if the traveller has an eye for what is wildest and
grandest in nature.

For ourselves, we are not ashamed to^ admit that these
snow-clad sierras possess attractions that transcend in
interest even the accumulated art-treasures and wealth of
historic and legendary lore that surround the shattered
relics of Moslem rule — of an empire-city where for seven
centuries the power and faith of the crescent dominated
the south-west of Europe, and which formed the home
and the centre of mediseval chivalry and culture. These
subjects and sentiments, moreover, stand in no need of a
historian : they have engaged the sympathy of legion
pens, many directed by a grace, a power and a knowledge
to which we dream not of aspiring. To us Granada has
rather been merely a ** base of operations " whence the
ibex and lammergeyer might conveniently be studied or
pursued.

Of our own experiences amidst the twin heights of
Nevada and the Alpujarras we might write : but, in this



Online LibraryFrancis WhartonWharton and Stillé's medical jurisprudence .. → online text (page 13 of 36)