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twice circling round them, we saw that at eighty or ninety
yards' distance, they would stand it no longer : so turning
in the saddle, gave them both barrels, but without effect,
as they sailed away about a mile and settled. On a second
approach, as they rose at 200 yards, it looked as though
they were impracticable, but doubting if there were other
birds in that neighbourhood, we kept on, and followed them
in this second flight, which this time was shorter. Again
they rose wild — ^wilder than ever, at fully 300 yards. They
came down upon a patch of the barley-stubbled plain where
we were able to mark their position to a nicety, for they
pitched close to a somhrajo^ or sun-shade for cattle (a thatch
of palmetto spread on aloe-poles). On approaching the
place, and not seeing the bustards afoot, we concluded they
were resting after their repeated flights ; but having
reached almost the exact spot, we could still see nothing of
them. This was perplexing. We knew they could not have
risen, for our eyes had never left the spot where they had
settled. What could have become of them? .... All
at once we saw them, squatting flat within thirty yards of
us, each bird pressed close down with his neck stretched
along the ground. All trouble was now rewarded. It was
not a chance to be risked by shooting from the saddle : and
as we slid to the ground, gun cocked, and facing the birds,
we felt it was the best double rise at big bustards that ever
man had. As we touched the ground, they rose : one fell
dead at forty yards, a second, wheeling back, showed too



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BUSTARD-SHOOTING SINGLE-HANDED. 46

much of his white breast to be let oflf ; the third flew far
beyond view, and the only regret, for a moment, was that
there were no treble-barrelled breech-loaders. Half an
hour later we fell in with a band of young bustards, which
allowed us to approach near enough to drop one ; so that
evening the old pony had a good load to carry home.



GREAT BUSTARDS— AN APRIL DAWN.



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46 WILD SPAIN.



CHAPTER IV.

BIG DAYS WITH BUSTABD.

I. — Jedilla.

The two following examples of fortunate days will serve
to illustrate the system of bustard-shooting as practised on
the corn-lands of Southern Spain, and convey some idea
of the haunts and habits of this noble game-bird, in a
region where they still remain abundant.

The rendezvous was at the Cortijo de Jedilla, a farm
lying some twelve miles away, and the hour fixed was nine
o'clock on an April morning. This, along a road that
resembled the remains of an earthquake, necessitated an
early start. For near three hours we rattled and jolted
along in the roomy brake, that lurched at times like a
cross-channel steamer, to the merry-jingling bells of a
four-in-hand mule-team.

At the hour appointed our ponies and people stood
around the broad-arched entrance of the cortijo, all under
the direction of old Bias, the keen-eyed mountaineer,
equally at home on rugged sierra, or bestriding bare-backed
his restive colt, and intimately acquainted with every inch
of the wide country around. Bias had left home long
before daybreak on that lovely spring morning, and after
covering the four leagues across the plains at a hand-
gallop, had already — like swift Camilla — scoured all the
cultivated lands around the cortijo, in search of the big
birds while yet they were busy seeking their matutinal
feed. He received us with the gratifying intelligence that
he had marked tres handadas — three packs of bustard. In
a few minutes we were mounted, the guns slung in the
fundas, and away.



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BIG DAYS WITH BUSTAKD JEDILLA. 47

Bias led the file of horsemen towards the nearest band.
We were a party of four, with a contingent of six mounted
hands under Bias' directions in the ticklish work of driving.
Presently the bustards are descried, their lavender heads
and lighter necks visible, through the glasses, above the
biznagas (visnaya of LinnsBus) on a hillside some 1,000
yards away.

Their position, on a hill of so gentle. a slope as to com-
mand all the plain around, was most difficult to surround ;
however, as a forlorn hope, and rather with the object of
moving them to more favourable ground, we rode slowly
past them on the north, at about 300 yards, the birds
perking their heads and taking the most lively interest in
the string of horsemen. When the nature of the land
afforded a cover from the birds' view, we rode round to the
southern side, but always at too great a distance to pro-
mise anything like a fair chance of getting the birds over
us.* Our four guns, however, now spread out along the
slope, covering among them some quarter-mile of possible
flight. The men, riding round to the northern side again,
opened out in line, and slowly came in towards the com-
mon centre. At first the pack came straight for the guns ;
but the leader, flying higher than the rest, caught sight of
a foe — of No. 1 gun lying full length on the soil — swerved,
and took with him the whole pack, out of shot on the
extreme right. The latter fact our inexperienced friend in
that quarter did not comprehend, for he let drive a couple
of quick and useless barrels. Worse than useless ! for, as we
watched the splendid birds streaming away into space
across the valleys of spring corn, we knew that our chance
at that bandadu was gone — at least for the day.

* The grand secret of success in this sport (as elsewhere remarked)
is to place the guns close up to the game. The means by which the
primary object is attained can hardly be set down on paper — nothing
but practice, quick and good judgment, and a sportsman's instinct
will effect it. In more than one instance we have found a deadly
line ambushed within 150 yards of the most watchful bustards, and
on ground where, to a novice, the feat would certainly be set down as
impossible.



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48 WILD SPAIN.

The second band required a good deal of finding:
although Bias was confident he had correctly localized them,
we could descry no bustards anywhere in that neigh-
bourhood. At length one of our scouts brought us good
news ; the birds had walked more than a mile from where
Bias had seen them in the early morning. We now waited
for him to reconnoitre, and he soon reported that they
were basking in the sun amidst a sea of shooting barley — a
fact we shortly verified with our field-glasses. Not only were
they so favourably placed for a stalk that we would be able
to "horseshoe" the four guns behind them at almost
certain distance, but the drivers (by a long detour) would
also get well in at the front of their position unseen. The
two centre guns were placed in the valley at the foot of the
green slope, while the two flanking guns were enabled, by
the favouring ground, to creep well up the hillside — a dis-
position which would leave the birds wholly enclosed at
their first flight. The central posts had also the advantage
of a rank growth of weeds along the hollow, which
eflfectually concealed them from view. It was a short
affair. The writer (left flank) soon heard the whirr of
heavy wings : the game passed between him and the oppo-
site flanking gun, out of shot of either, but " entering "
beautifully to the centre. Both guns rose to watch the
tableau. Straight as a line passed forward the huge
barhones — some five-and-twenty of them, the resplendent
plumage of rich orange and contrasting black and white
set off against the green background ; their great swollen
necks appeared almost disproportionately heavy, even for
those broad pinions and (seemingly) leisurely flight. But
bustards, like all heavy game, travel vastly quicker than
appears to be the case, as the sequel proved.

Now they are on the very fringe of the darker green of
the hollow ; our centre guns have them at their mercy.
Don't they see them ? Yes ; two figures rise from the rank
weeds, and flashing barrels enfilade the flock. One, two,
three, four reports ring out ; but .... not a bird comes down,
the frightened monsters spread asunder, winging a quicker
flight in all directions. One huge harhudo behind the rest



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Plate IX. Page 48.

GREAT BUSTARDS AMONG THE SPRING CORN.



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BIG DAYS WITH BUSTARD — JEDILLA. 49

wheels back and almost gives us a chance as he takes the
hill in reverse; but he sees the danger and passes to the right,
swerving in his course too near our vis-a-visy and before we
hear the report we can see the ponderous mass of 301bs. of
bustard collapse. He is struck well forward, in head and
neck, and pitches heavily earthwards, splitting his broad
chest as it rebounds from the unyielding soil. We had —
and that by sheer chance — a single head to show for this
carefully-planned drive.

Our young friends in the valley were sad indeed, but
over such things let us draw the veiL The drivers, too,
had witnessed their failure. It may be safer rather to
leave their feelings to the sympathetic reader to imagine
than to describe. Old Bias declared they had "llenado
el ojo de came " — that the huge bulk of the birds had con-
cealed from over-anxious eyes the rapidity of their flight.
After lunch what had appeared a catastrophe became a
jest.

An unsuccessful manoeuvre followed, and we had to ride
afar to seek fresh handadas. After traversing leagues of
corn-land — at this season as lonely as an African desert,
— we descried a considerable pack, and again luck favoured
us as to site. An arroyo, or stream, ran along the valley
below — one of those small rapid currents that, in winter,
tear deep and narrow guUeys, and in the summer become
quite dry, save in a few of the deeper pools or favoured
comers which resist the heat and afford nesting homes for
the mallard and drinking resorts for the bustard. Now,
there was water all along, and tall reeds and canes grew
several feet in height. Could we place the guns along this
ditch the drive was secure. The question was. Would the
birds allow a mounted group to pass so near ? We tried
and succeeded. Witness's luck placed him in a cane-
brake, whence he could watch every movement of the
bustards at leisure. On rising, the pack bore straight to
the gun on the left. Luckily (for us), this " point-gun,"
in his undue anxiety, showed too soon — before the birds
had come well in. The pack swung in our direction, right
along the line, giving a chance to both centre guns (only



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50 WILD SPAIN.

one of which was taken advantage of), and then bore
straight for the writer, well overhead, and not over 60 feet
high — an emharras de richease.

The first and second shots, with the 12-bore, stopped a
pair of what appeared the biggest of the pack, coining in —
right and left — and then, picking up a single 4-bore, there
followed the further satisfaction of pulling down a third
old male at very long range. These three superb birds
weighed 931b8. — a notable shot, probably without parallel
in sporting annals.

Before night we found twice more, and each of the
bati(Ui8 added a bird to the bag, the result of the day's
sport being seven noble harhones, or male bustard, now in
the fullest glory of their splendid spring plumage.

Thus ended a successful day, on which Fortune had
favoured us, on several occasions, in finding the game in
accessible situations. Such good luck does not always,
nor even often, await the bustard-shooter ; and even when
it does, there still remains the real crux — the quick in-
tuition of the requisite strategical movements and their
successful execution.



n. — Santo Domingo. An Idyl.

The chimes of San Miguel were already ringing out the
summons to even-song. Graceful figures in dark lace and
mantillas hurried across the palm-shaded Plaza, as two
Ingleses («w« senidoi'ea de vstedes) rode out of the city on
an April afternoon.

It was rather for a ride than with any special sporting
object in view that we set out. Yet, as is always the case
in Spain, the guns were slung behind the saddle, and we
remembered that, only a few days before, one of us had
encountered a band of thirteen bustards — a dozen of which
should still be basking on the green corn-lands of Santo
Domingo, within a league of the octroi boimdary.

The binoculars, however, swept the swelling grounds
without disclosing any occupants more important than a



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BIG DAYS WITH BUSTARDS SANTO DOMINGO. 51

group of grey cranes and a pair of partridges indulging in

vernal flirtations, careless of a kite which hovered hard by.

Beyond the corn-land lay undulated manchoneSy or



THE BUSTARD-SHOOTER— TRIUMPH !

fallows, clothed with a short growth of grass and thistles,
and here on the summit of a flat-crowned knoll, a mile
away, we descried a band of eight bustards. Hardly could
a more unfavourable spot be selected. Their sentries

E 2



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62 WILD SPAIN.

commanded every visible approach, and we advanced in
Indian file to reconnoitre, with the conviction that any
operation must be in the nature of a forlorn hope. But
a skill and rapid perception of the least advantage, worthy
of a field-marshal, were at work, directed against the hap-
less eight. Biding circuitously aroimd the game, we had
approached as near as prudence allowed — some 300 yards,
when an almost imperceptible depression served for a
few moments to screen us from their view. Hardly had
the last head sunk below the sky-line than one of the two
guns rolled out of the saddle, passing the reins to his com-
panion, who, in ten more yards, had reappeared to the
already suspicious bustards. By the invaluable aid of a
tiny furrow, worn by the winter's rains, but barely a foot in
depth. No. 1 managed to worm a serpentine progression to
the shoulder of the hill, — a point some 100 yards up the
gentle slope, and barely twice that distance from the game, —
while No. 2, slowly encircling the birds at 200 yards radius,
gradually contracting and in full view, gained the reverse
of the hill. Twice the big sentry had given the warning to
"be ready"; as often the hunter widened his course till
suspicion was allayed. Critical moments these, when success
or failure depend upon a thread : upon instant diagnosis
of what is passing in one's opponent's mind, divining, so
to speak, his intentions before he has actually perfected
them, or even decided himself.

So perfect in this encounter was the strategy — so com-
plete the ascendency of mind over instinct — and the keenest
instinct of all, that of self-preservation — that in due time
the intervening space had been diminished, yard by yard,
almost to the fatal range. Presently the still hesitating
birds are little more than one hundred yards away — the
great sentinel some five yards nearer. Now : mark well every
movement of his — there is the signal at last : his stately
head is lowered — slowly lowered some six inches while he
still watches intently. Now he takes a rapid step forward
— he is going. But hardly have the huge wings unfolded
than the rider has sprung to his feet, and a couple of
charges of " treble A '* crash together into that broad back



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BIG DAYS WITH BUSTARDS SANTO DOMINGO. 63

and lowered neck. The distance is great — near 100 yards
— but mould-shot and cold-drawn steel barrels have done
it before, and will do it again : back to earth, which he had
barely quitted, returns the stricken monarch of the plain,
blood staining his snowy breast, and one great pinion hang-
ing useless by his side.

The seven survivors wing away straight towards the
point where the other gun lies hidden in the dry drain-
head. Mark ! Now the leading harbon checks his flight as
he sees the flash of barrels beneath : but it is all too late,
and down he, too, comes with a mighty crash, to earth. A
third, offering only a ** stern shot," continues a laboured
flight, his pinion-feathers sticking out at sixes and sevens,
and soon pitches on the verge of a marshy hollow where
storks are dotted about in search of frogs. It was an awk-
ward place, and necessitated moving him again : indeed,
this bird gave no small trouble to secure. The sun had
already set, and night drew on apace, ere the final shot,
ringing out amidst gathering gloom, told that he, too, had
been added to the spoils of that glorious afternoon.



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54 WILD SPAIN.



CHAPTER V.

TAUROMACHIA,

The Fighting Bull of Spain.

notes on his history: his breeds and rearing: and his
life up to the " encierro," i.e., the eve of his

DEATH.

We trust the reader may not fear that he is about
to suffer once more the infliction of the oft-described
Spanish bull-fight. We have no intention so far to
abuse his patience. The subject is exhausted : has been
dilated upon by almost every visitor to this country,
though nearly always with inaccuracy and imperfect
knowledge.

It is customary for such writers to condemn the bull-
fight* in toto on account of its cruelty : to denounce it
without reservation, as a barbarous and brutal exhibition
and nothing more. The cruelty is undeniable, and much
to be deprecated ; the more so as this element could, to a
large extent, be eliminated. But, despite the fate of
sacrificed horses, there are elements in the Spanish bull-
fight that the British race are accustomed to hold in esteem
— the qualities of pluck, nerve, and coolness in face of
danger. To attack in single combat, on foot, and with no

* The expression " Bull-fight " is a very inadequate interpretation of
the Spanish Corrida^ or Fiesta de Toros, even in its modem form,
and conveys no idea of the magnificent spectacular displays of the
middle ages. Then, the national heroic life was but reflected in the
arena, in scenes embellished with all the stately accessories and colouring
dear to semi-Oriental minds. The mimic pageantry of to-day is but
a relic of former grandeur.



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TAUROMACHIA, THE FIGHTING BULL OF SPAIN. 55

wei4)on bat the sword, a powerful and ferocious animal,
means taking one's life in one's hand, and relying for
safety and final triumph on cool intrepid pluck, on a
marvellous activity and truth of hand, eye, and limb, and
on a nerve which not the peril even of the supreme
moment can disturb.

There are doubtless balanced minds which, while in no
way ignoring or exculpating its cruelties, can yet recognize
in the torio an unrivalled exhibition of human skill,
nerve, and power, and can distinguish between the good
and the bad among its heterogeneous constituents.

The bull-fight, as a spectacle, has often been described :
bat no English writers have attempted to trace its origin
and history ; to explain its firm-seated hold on the affec-
tions of the Spanish people, and to show how their keen zest
for the national sport goes back to the days of chivalry.
Nor has anjrthing been written of the agricultural, or
pastoral side of the question, and of the picturesque scenes
amidst which the earlier stages of the drama are enacted,
on broad Iberian plain and prairie : of the feats of horse- \
manship and '' derring do *' at the tentaderosy or trials, and
later at the eneierro on that hot summer morning when
the gallant toro bravo is lured for ever from his native j
pastures, and led by traitor kin within the fatal enclosure/
of the arena.

The custom of the toreo, if not the art, is so ancient,
its origin so lost in the mists of time, that it is difficult to
fix the precise period at which bull-fighting was first
practised. There is written evidence to show that en-
counters between men and bulls were not infrequent at the
time of the Arab invasion in the eighth century, and it
may be accepted that it was this eastern race that gave the
diversion its first popularity.* It is proved beyond doubt
that at the Moorish fetes encounters with bulls were one
of the chief sports, and when, centuries later, the Arab

* Spanish writers, however, jealous for the national origin of the
sport, insist that the " Fiestas de Toros '* were horn in Spain, that
there alone have they increased and flourished, and that in Spain will
they continue while time lasts.



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56 WILD SPAIN.

was finally driven from Spanish soil, they left behind them
their passion for these conflicts, as they left many of their
industries and many words of their language. Wherever
the expelled Arabs may now be, it is at least certain that
the bull-fight has taken root in no other land outside of
Spain.* During the interludes of war, when the opposing
forces of Moor and Christian made peace for a while, the
inauguration of a truce was celebrated by a bull-fight,
whereat knights of both sides rivalled each other in the
tauromachian fray. The heroic Cid, el Campeador {obiit^
A.D. 1098) signaUzed the contests of the eleventh century,
himself taking the chief part. His graceful horsemanship
in the arena was as favourite a theme for song and sonnet
as even his redoubtable deeds in the field. The ever-
popular ballad of Don Rodrigo de Bivar is still heard in the
mountain villages.

So frequent and of such importance had these JiestM
become that, after the termination of Moorish dominion,
Queen Isabel I. of Castile prohibited them by edict in all
her kingdoms : but the edict proved waste paper. Alarmed
by witnessing a corrida at which human blood was shed,
her Catholic majesty made strenuous efforts to put down
bull-fighting throughout the land : but the national taste
was too deeply implanted in the breasts of a warlike and
powerful nobility, whom she was too prudent to oflfend. In
a letter to her Father Confessor in 1498, she declares her
intention never again to witness a corrida, and adds : —
" Y no digo defenderlos (esto es prohibirlos) porque esto
no era para mi & solas*' — which is to say, that her will,
which could accomplish the expulsion of the Moor and the
Jew, was powerless to uproot the bull-fight.

* On this point, Sanchez de Nieva writes (" El Tordo," published
at Madrid, 1879) : — '* The Arabs were much given to bull-fighting,
and highly skilled in the lidia, whether mounted or on foot. It must,
however, be borne in mind that these encounters took place in Spain,
and that the so-called Arabs were in reaHty Spaniards — the Moorish
domination having then lasted for seven centuries. It may be
stated, without fear of error, that nearly all the inhabitants of this
country, after the first two centuries, were, though bom in Spain,
Arabs in origin."



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TAUROMACHIA, THE FIGHTING BULL OF SPAIN. 57

The power of the papacy was alike invoked in vain. In
1567 a papal bull issued by Pius V. prohibited all Catholic
princes, under pain of excommunication, from permitting
corridas in their dominions ; a similar punishment for all
priests who attended them, and Christian burial was denied
to all who fell in the arena. Not even these terrible measures
availed, and succeeding Pontiffs were fain to relax the
severity of the buUis of their predecessors, since each
successive prohibition was met by the magnates of the
land arranging new corridas. At length the time arrived
when masters of theology at Salamanca ruled that clerics
of a certain rank might licitly attend these spectacles.

Isabel's grandson, Charles I., killed with his own hand
a bull in the city of Valladolid, during the festivities held
to celebrate the birth of his eldest son, afterwards Philip II. ;
and, later, during the reigns of the House of Austria, to
face a bull with bravery and skill, and to use a dexterous
lance, was the pride of every Spanish noble.

It was a gay and imposing scene in those days when the
lidia, or tournament, took place — held in the largest open
square of the town, around which were erected the graded
platforms whence Dainas and Caballeros, in all the bravery
of medisBval toilet and costume, watched the performance.

The people were permitted only a servile share in these
aristocratic fiestas. The knight, mounted on fiery Arab
steed, was armed only with the rejon, or short sharp lance
of those days, five feet in length, and held at its extreme
end. At a given signal he sallied forth to meet the bull,
which, infuriated by sight of horse and rider, dashed from
his trammels and went straight to the charge. The first



Online LibraryFrancis WhartonWharton and Stillé's medical jurisprudence .. → online text (page 5 of 36)