Francis Wharton.

Wharton and Stillé's medical jurisprudence .. online

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than local records had hitherto known. Already its angry
waters dashed in foam over the key-stones of Triana bridge ;
the transpontine suburb was submerged to the second
floors ; from its flat roofs starving men and women cried
for bread as boats passed by, navigating, Venetian-fashion,
the flooded streets. The city itself was an island — only
preserved from inundation by incessant labour at the
embankments, over whose topmost stones the menacing
waves already lapped, when a lull in the storm saved
Seville. A breach in that embankment or a further rise,

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and the stately and historic city had been swept away — as
Consuegra and many a small town or village was swept
away in Southern Spain during the terrible floods of

Such climatic conditions would not be wholly unfavour-
able for deer-stalking — ^reducing the area over which the
game is scattered — provided there should now be some
cessation of the down-pour. A lull had at length occurred,
and the writer set out from Seville to spend the few
remaining days of the season in a remote region of those
brush-clad prairies which cover so vast an area in Southern
Spain. My only companions were two Spanish cazadoreSy
brothers, men of keen eye and of tried skill in woodcraft.
The object was to endeavour by rastreando, or still-hunting,
to secure a few of the old and warj' stags which roamed
over these barren down-lands ; but which were far too
cunning to lose their lives in the customary Spanish
hatidasy Or drives. Was it possible, single-handed, and on
such comparatively open ground, to out-manoeuvre these
old forest-monarchs, which, on a former visit, we had seen
make good their escape from six or eight rifles? This
question we decided to solve, and to devote the remaining
days to " still-hunting," abandoning every other form of

The rains had left much of these rolling downs too wet
for shelter, many of the thickets and patches of ** scroggy "
wood being breast-deep in water. The picaros tunantes,
i.e., cunning old rogues, as Manuel termed our friends
the big stags, were therefore reduced for dry-lying to the
higher ridges and plateaux of the plains; and these, it
chanced, lay at the greatest distance — a long two-days' ride.

The sun was low ere our horses' hoofs resounded on dry
land, instead of the constant splash, splosh through
flooded hollows or standing pools of rain-water. Here, too,
the swelling prairie afforded rather more covert. We had
now reached favourable ground, and from each rising point
we examined the surrounding country with minute scrutiny,
scanning each nook and corner with the binoculars. After
a while we made out the head of a stag, apparently feeding

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beyond a belt of aboldgas and jangle-grass. A direct

stalk — which otherwise seemed fairly feasible — would,
under existing conditions, have necessitated swimming a

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considerable part of the distance, and the lateness of the
hour forbade our making a long detour, which also seemed
to offer a chance of success. We therefore adopted a third
course, and after quickly covering some two miles, mostly
through prickly spear-grass or water, reached a ridge
which my companion reckoned would command the course
of the deer as he fed forward. On peering through the
bushes on the crest, the stag was nowhere to be seen — we
had overshot the point, and he was now far to the right.
Before us stretched a long tongue of marshy water, choked
with grasses, and aquatic herbage floating on its surface.
With a sardonic grin, M. assured me that that grass would
prove the death of our stag. " He will feed along that pool,'*
he whispered, " nibbling the water-plants and sprouting
grass ; but first the daylight must decline." Ten minutes
later, the antlers showed, stealing from some distant covert ;
then the beast stepped into the open, advancing towards
the water. But suspicion torments him — between each
petulant snatch at the herbage, he stops and listens,
raises his antlered head to gaze back towards the point
whence we had first viewed him : he little thinks the
enemy he fears behind is now close in his front.
Presently suspicion seems allayed : he advances with
stealthy strides along the grassy edge, and already
approaches the limits of very long range. The express was
ready cocked when the stag recommenced sniffing and gaz-
ing, now he turns and walks away : the wind is shifty, and
to get it full in his nostrils he bears from us. Clearly he
will not now pass our point near enough for a shot, so back
to lower ground we " slither," and run forward at best
speed to cut him out at another point. Still he is out of
shot — 300 yards off — and another race to the front is
necessary, a lung-trying spin of a quarter-mile. Now, we
must perforce rest, panting, for a few moments, ere we
again crawl up the ascent and " speer " over the ridge.
The stag is nowhere to be seen — yes, there he is ! he has
both heard and seen us now, and is bounding at top-speed
over our very ridge, not seventy yards in advance. Ere
the rifle can be levelled and a ball dispatched, the stag

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has dipped the crest : but the second barrel, after a flying
run to the ridge, affords more deliberate aim at about
120 yards. " He has it," quietly remarks my companion,
and as the galloping stag displays his extended flank, the
blood-patch on his side is clearly marked, but too far Jxuk.
Poor beast ! though fatally struck, there is no chance to
recover him to-night, for already the sun dips behind the
distant j>ma/<'« — it is too late to think of following him, and
sadly we return to our horses. Ten miles to ride, and the
evening spent discussing "muckle harts" and their
haunts on the neighbouring wilds.

All night wind and rain: at daybreak the clouds
indicated better things, but after a few fitful gleams of
sunlight, the deluge set in once more. This and the next
day were very bad : — wasted. It was only possible to pass
the time shooting a few rabbits for the use of the rancho —
the partridges were all paired long ago ; but a lucky shot at
a nervous band of sand-grouse secured four, and in some
rush-clad backwaters we picked up a few snipe and two
or three couples of wild-duck.

Next morning, at dawn, we set out to look for deer, the
pannier-ponies following at a distance, with instructions
never to come up unless shots had been fired. Facing the
gale, we struck out across far-extending heaths, where the
scrub, as a rule, is of convenient height for shooting over,
but where, in the hollows or dells, are found deep thickets,
or manchas. These jungle-patches cover from one or two
up to thirty acres in extent : here the growth of thorny
shrub and pampas-grass is much higher, thicker, and more
densely entwined, iiJbrding secure '^ lying " for deer and
other animals.

No rain had fallen since the early hours of the morning :
hence the light, sodden soil exhibited the traces of every
beast which had traversed it to perfection. It was some
time before we found tracks large enough to betoken one of
our friends, the tutmntes. The brothers had followed two
or three rastros for short distances, but were not satisfied
with their importance. Small stags, hinds, lynx, fox and
boar had wandered hither and thither, and were now doubt-

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less sleeping away the hours of daylight in some of the
neighbouring thickets. Hours passed, but no rostra gordo
(heavy track) was discovered, though every sign and
impress on the light sandy soil was read as a book by the
brothers, who quartered the ground to right and left like a
brace of first-rate setters. M. was the first to find :
suddenly he stopped and beckoned : — ^yes, those prints are
undoubtedly of far larger hoofs than any we have yet seen :
nor are they the spoor of one tunante, but of two. Here,
says M., look where the two big beasts have stopped
together to nibble the shoots of this escohon (genista) —
there they have stripped a romero (rosemary) of its mauve-
coloured blossoms — and here, along this hollow, they have
taken their way at daybreak, direct towards some thicket-
sanctuary. Now, we will not leave them, adds the wild
man, till you have had a carambola d boca de jarro / '^2i»
right-and-left at half-range." For three or four miles,
we follow the line, the men hardly deigning to look on the
ground, but making, as by instinct, for points at which we
invariably picked up the trail. At first it was all plain
sailing ; but presently we came to places where to our eyes
no trace of spoor existed — to swamps where the uninitiated
would detect no sign in bruised water-flower or bent sedge-
shoot ; we passed beneath pine-coppices where the thick-
lying needles told him no tale of nimble feet that had
pressed them hours before. At such spots a check occa-
sionally occurred, when the brothers, muttering maledic-
tions on old stags in general, and still more scandalous
reflections on the maternal ancestry of these two in par-
ticular, opened out till one or the other caught the thread.
The discovery was signalled by holding up a hand, and on
we file, all three pressing quickly forward along the fatal
trail. A pretty sight to watch these men cast like sleuth-
hounds, when the trace was apparently lost — though lost
it never was.

Now, after four miles or more, the trail gave certain
indications that were interpreted to mean a desire on the
part of the deer to seek shelter for the day — not a change
in their course but its import was calculated by the


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hunters. As the spoor approached each small jungle, the
writer went forward in advance, leaving the men to follow
the r astro. Several thickets had been tried in this way, but
each time the beasts had passed through and gone on. Now
there stretched away before us a long narrow belt of covert,
and approaching this the indications of the spoor showed
that the two deer, as the men put it, van de recojida, i.e.,
had entered the jungle wearily, and would now be couched
within it. The covert was too long to risk putting the gun
at the end, as the game might break on either side ; so we
decided to walk through it in line. Unluckily the growth
was dense and high — in most places we could not see two
yards in front, a tantalizing situation when one knew that
each step might now bring one to the promised right-and-
left ! We had barely progressed 200 yards when the
startled deer arose.* I heard the rush and the crash of the
undergrowth, but could see nothing ; my ear told me they
had gone to the right, and pushing through the jungle in
that direction, a slight clearing in the long grass showed
a gUmpse of the two heads appearing now and again
above the scrub as the deer bounded away. I fired both
barrels of the express, directing one at each animal. After
the shots nothing could be seen ; but one hart was down, a
beast of twelve points. The other barrel appeared to have
been a miss — the larger tunante of the two had escaped,

* These old and cunning stags do not always break covert so
readily, as the following incident will show. We had tracked a hart
for some miles, till eventually the trail led towards quite a small
clump — not two acres — of 20-ft.gor8e and tree -heath with an outer fringe
of bamboo, all growing on dry ground, though entirely surrounded by
flood- water. Every indication pointed to the stag having couched in
this congenial covert ; the hunters, however, traversed it without
moving game. The water- weeds outside showed no sign of the stag
having passed onward : but, to make sure, we took a wide cast on the
drier ground beyond, separating so as completely to encircle the
mancha. No vestige of a trail could be seen ; clearly the beast still
lay in the recesses of his island-sanctuary. The gun once more took
up his position to leeward, and the covert was beaten again — ^this time
more effectively, for presently, amid crash of branches and bamboos,
the stag, which had been l^ing like a hare in its form, bounded out
across the shallow marsh — with the usual result !

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Caramha! Not for long did such doubts torment us, for, on
cutting oflf the spoor outside the covert, the tell-tale blood
was seen on the cistus-twigs and on the sandy soil. We
followed the wounded beast for four hours through possible
and even impossible places. His pace never slackened — he
seemed to be bound for Portugal. I suggested slipping a
couple of dogs; but the idea was overruled. "The
tunante is struck in the haunch," said they, " and before
dogs, would run for hours : he would reach the big pinoles,
six leagues away. Our chance consists in his keeping the
more open ground and smaller thickets. Before sun-
down we will overtake him ; but then, you must put your
bullet in a better place." These bloodhounds never
doubted — on we went, patiently following the now easier
trail, and before sundown we did overtake him. Then, as
he rushed from a clump of big bulrushes in a shallow
lagoon, where the fevered beast had lain down in the
water, the express bullet lodged in el mismissimo corazon=^
in his very heart: and the panniers were balanced with
two of the heaviest old stags that ever roamed on Anda-
lucian plain.

The next day, a downpour of rain just at the critical
moment — when game and other wild beasts are returning
to their lairs — obliterated every rostra, and a fresh strata-
gem had to be employed. This was to find and rouse the
stag, and then to follow the trail — necessarily a longer and
more delicate operation than that last described, since the
suspicions of the animal are thoroughly aroused ; he is
alarmed, and traverses great distances ere again he goes to
cover. He is, moreover, apt to go away very wild on the
second approach. The half-inundated condition of the
country, however, was in our favour; and late in the
afternoon, having traced a stag for many weary leagues, I
had the satisfaction of pulling down a beast of ** royal"
rank by a very long shot.

The next day — and the last of the season — might have
been one of those contributory to the Noiichian deluge.
Again, despite wind and weather, a venado of eleven points
rewarded our efforts. This stag gave us much trouble:

F F 2

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put up early in the morning, it was night ere he was
secured. My first shot, a long one, struck him heavily,
but he ran for hours before the dogs. We took to our
horses in pursuit, but thrice he foiled us — both scent and
spoor being obliterated by the rain. Twice, by wide
" casts " of a mile or more in circuit, we recovered the lost
thread, but the third time not a trace could we discover,
and had almost given him up for lost, when he jumped up,
a long way ahead, before the dogs. At top-speed we ran
him to the deep waters of Martinazo, and when at last we
overhauled him, he was making his last gallant fight with
the two hounds, which held him at bay, breast-deep, in the

During the long homeward ride on the morrow, we came
on the big round " pugs '* of a lynx, and after following
them a couple of miles to his lair, he, too — a big and
handsome male — was added to the bag by a single shot
from the express. By nightfall we again reached the
outposts of civiUzation, well content with the results of
the campaign — four good stags and a lynx — and the
wind-up of the sporting season of 1891-92.

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The large game, or caza mayor, of Spain comprises nine or
ten animals, several of which have been dealt with specifically
in separate chapters. We now describe more particularly those
not mentioned elsewhere, and complete a general review of
other Spanish mammalia by a few supplementary remarks.

The beasts of chase in the Peninsula are the red, roe, and
fallow deer ; the Spanish ibex and chamois ; wild boars, and
bears of two varieties, the wolf and Spanish lynx.

Eed Deeb (CervMS elaphus),
Spanish: Ciervo, Venado,

Scattered locally throughout the Peninsula, the Spanish red
deer present two distinct types, both differing from the Scotch
animal in the absence of the neck-ruff, or mane. The forest-
deer of the wooded plains, or cotos, carry small and rather
narrow heads, measuring from 24 to 28 inches in length of
horn, and some 18 to 24 in beam.

The mountain-deer, on the other hand, often exhibit a magni-
ficent horn-development. We have seen heads from the Sierra
Morena, and from the Montes de Toledo, whose massive antlers
rival those of the wapiti, reaching 36 and even 40 inches and
upwards in length, with a breadth of three feet.

The rutting season of the red deer commences in the Goto
Donana at the end of August (the last quarter of the August
moon), and continues till the full moon in September. We

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have seen fawDS following their mothers as earlj as January,
but May is the month when they are usually dropped.

The antlers fall in April — ^fcw stags are seen with them in
May. During the hornless period of spring and summer, the
stags seek shelter in the densest thickets with damp lying:
they also "lie out," like hares, in open country, and it is
surprising how they conceal themselves — a big hart will lie
completely hidden among rushes not two feet high. The flies
at this season are a terrible torture to them, attacking the
sprouting horns and tender surroundings.

Beer-shooting commences in November, and ends in February
or early in March ; and it is only necessary to add that all
lands in which deer are found, both on moimtain and plain,
are preserved.

Measubement of Ebd Deeb Heads.

Length. Gircomference.


No. 1.

8 points (small)

17f ...

3i ...

16| inches.

., 2.

11 „

24i ...

3J ...

19i .,

„ 3.

12 „



5i ...

25 „

„ 4.

13 „


22f ...

4tV -

m ..




No. 1.

12 points

34| inches


32 inches.

.. 2.

12 „

36 „


84 „

„ 3.

15 „

37i „


s^ „

»» *.

17 ..

40 „


36i ..

* No. 4. This magnificent beast, of which we annex two photos {see
pp. 360 and 480), was shot near Marmolejos in the Sierra Morena.

FAiiLOw Deeb {Cervus dama).

In Spanish : Game, Paleto,

These deer are not indigenous, but were introduced by the
Romans, probably from Asia Minor ; and are, as at home, more

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or less private property. At the same time they exist in a
perfectly wild state, and quite unenclosed, at several places —
especially in the neighbourhood of Madrid, where the Royal
estates of Aranjuez, Rio-frio, El Pardo, &c., have tended to
disseminate a wild race outside their boundaries.

The Spanish fallow deer are of the spotted axis-like type.

The Eobbxjck in Spain.
{Cervua capreolus,)

Though plentiful in the wooded ravines of the sierras, where
it frequents sapling- thickets in preference either to scrub or
forest proper, yet the roe is seldom made a special object of
pursuit. The few roebuck — in Spanish, corzo — that have fallen
to our guns have been killed when in pursuit of pig or other

Yet to this deer we owe as narrow an escape as can be faced ;
while roe-shooting in the Sierra de la Jarda, and nding along a
precipitous goat-track, a projecting crag barred the way : in
rounding the obstruction, it was necessary that the horses
should simultaneously make an upward step or two on a sort
of rock-stair. During this awkward manoeuvre, one jaca
brought his flank sharply in collision with the crag, struggled
for one desperate moment to recover equilibriimi, and then
plunged, broadside on, down the precipice. His rider, spring-
ing from the stirrups, clutched a retamo bush, and thus hung
suspended "between the devil and the deep." Poor Bolero
fell crashing through the ilexes that clung to the crag — we
could hear the smashing of branch after branch as he broke
his way downwards. We descended to recover the gun, saddle,
and equipments from the killed horse ; but, to our amazement,
found him quietly grazing — the gun still in the slings, the
bridle over his nose — ^hardly, beyond a cut or two, the worse for
his adventure. The fall was over 100 feet, but the stout
branches of ilex and chaparroy with a marvellous measure of
luck, had saved his life.

Roebuck, in Spain, are mostly killed with large shot (slugs),
not ball ; and to those who are content with this game, nearly
all the southern sierras would yield a measure of sport, corn-

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bined with occasional chances at pig, and this often on unpre-
served grounds.

Roe are confined to the mountains — ^never found on the

The Spanish Ibex (Capra hispanica).

Of the Cabra month we have already treated (chapters xi.
to xiii., pp. 128-172), and now add some notes which we contri-


buted to the Badminton Library through our friend Mr. C.
Phillipps-WoUey, the editor of the Big Game volumes.

The Spanish mountaineer does not much affect ibex-hunting,
though there are in each mountain- village some who try to earn
a few precarious dollars by it. The peasants who follow this
pursuit in the alpine regions of Spain become fearless climbers :
with their feet clad in alparagatas, or hemp-soled sandals, they
traverse ridges and descend crags where nail-shod guide would
falter. The first object is to get as high as possible. Then,
crawling to the verge of some fearful abyss, the hunter corn-

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mauds the depths below, and, if he descry ibex, is enabled to
approach without the warning of the wind. Should he see
none, he imitates the shrill cry of the female, and not unfre-
quently a ram is thus betrayed by the whistle of love. The
ibex-hunter must be provided with limgs of leather, a steady
hand and eye, and untiring limbs.

The best time for ibex-shooting is during July and August,
when camping-out on the higher regions is practicable and even
enjoyable. The snow-storms and frozen state of the snow
render the winter- and spring-shooting both dangerous and

When ibex are known to be frequenting the lower valleys and
chasmfi of the sierra, guns are concealed among the broken rocks in
the higher regions commanding the ravines by which the montfses
are accustomed to ascend. Then the beaters enter from below,
shots and unearthly yells disturb the timid animals, and slowly
they ascend the mountain-side, listening ever and anon as they
look down from some shelving ledge or giddy point. So slowly,
indeed, do they sometimes come that the hunter may contem-
plate them for minutes before he can despatch his bullet. At
some vital spot it must take effect or the trophy is lost. Such
is the vital resistance of the wild-goat that unless killed out-
right he will manage to gain some inaccessible precipice, and
there on a hanging ledge give up his life.

Chamois (AntUope rupicapra).
Spanish : Bebeco, Sario,

The stronghold of the chamois — the Izard of the French
nimters, Beheco of Cantabria, and Sario in Arragon — is in the
Pyrenees, and their western prolongation, the Cantabrian ranges
of Santander, the Asturias, &c. They are specially abimdant
near the Picos de Europa. This animal is not found on any of
the Cordilleras of Central or Southern Spain. Mr. Packe's state-
ment that he saw two on a misty morning in the Sierra Nevada
probably arose from the similarity in size and form of the horns
of the young or female ibex. Chamois inhabit only the loftiest,
most wild and rocky mountain-summits, and are killed (usually
with large shot) in big " batidcus,'* or drives. How they manage
to sustain life on these barren snow-clad heights in tvinfer —

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since they never descend to the lower levels — passes under-
standing ; but the case of the ibex is no less inexplicable.

Lord Lilford writes : — In my opinion the chamois of the

Online LibraryFrancis WhartonWharton and Stillé's medical jurisprudence .. → online text (page 33 of 36)