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For she came out of the great road at Lippoch, which is just by, and reposing herself on a bank smoothed for that purpose, -lying about half-a-mile to the east of Woolmer pond, and still called Queen's Bank-saw, with great complacency and satisfaction, the whole herd of red deer brought by the keepers along the vale before her, consisting then of about five hundred head. A sight this worthy the attention of the greatest sovereign !”.
The red deer no longer wander at large over the forest of Windsor, for even from this home they were driven in 1814, by the disafforesting of this wide tract, when part was allotted to various parishes in exchange for pasturage rights, and other portions comprehended in Windsor Park. Into the enclosures all the deer were driven, after many hunts, in which even the Horse Guards joined, a numerous body being ordered out to assist in hemming in the terrified animals. Many were destroyed by the country people, who adopted the notion that as soon as the disafforesting statute passed, the deer were no longer the property of the crown, but might be shot by any persons.
It is not likely that whole forests will be ever again appropriated to the red deer in England, where the increase of population has caused the decrease of woods, and the enclosure of thousands of once wild moorlands. Our old monarchs would have looked
upon the future with bitter feelings, could they have foreseen that a day would come, when all England would not furnish one herd of tall deer, like those pursued by them with hound and horn. But the ardent sportsman may yet find, in the solitudes of the Highlands, the excitement of “deer-stalking,” for which even a prince has recently visited those regions of hills and lakes. The labour attending this sport is humorously described by Mr. Scrope, whose account may not, however, induce many to look upon stalking” as a sport in any sense of the word. The writer is sketching the qualities of a hunter, and if any reader fancies these are possessed by himself, we shall not be sorry to hear of bis visit to the Highland tracts where deer much abound.
“Your consummate deer-stalker should not only be able to run like an antelope, and breathe like the trade-winds, but should also be enriched with various other undeniable qualifications. As, for instance, he should be able to run in a stooping position at a greyhound pace, with his back parallel to the ground, and his face within an inch of it, for miles together. He should take a singular pleasure in threading the seams of a bog, or in gliding down a burn, like that insinuating animal the eel,-accomplished he should be in skilfully squeezing his clothes after this operation, to make all comfortable. Strong and pliant in the ancle he should most indubitably be, since in running swiftly down precipices picturesquely adorned with sharp-edged, angular, vindictive stones, his feet will, unadvisedly, get into awkward cavities and curious positions : thus, if his legs are devoid of the faculty of breaking,
so much the better; he has an evident advantage over the fragile
He should rejoice in wading through torrents; and be able to stand firmly on water-worn stones, unconscious of the action of the current; or if, by fickle fortune, the waves should be too powerful for him, when he loses his balance, and goes floating away upon his back, (for if he has any tact, or sense of the picturesque, it is presumed he will fall backwards,) he should raise his rifle aloft in the air, lest his powder should get wet, and his day's sport come suddenly to an end. A few weeks practice will make him quite au fait at this. We would recommend him to try the thing in a speat, during a refreshing north wind, which is adverse to deer-stalking; thus, no day will be lost pending his education. To swim he should not be able, because there would be no merit in saving himself by such a paltry subterfuge ; neither should he permit himself to be drowned, because we have an affection for him, and moreover it is very cowardly to die.
“ That deer-stalking is a chase," says Mr. Scrope, “which throws all other field-sports in the background, and, indeed, makes them appear wholly insignificant, no one who has been initiated in it will attempt to deny. The beautiful motions of the deer, his picturesque and noble appearance, his sagacity, and the skilful generalship which alone insure success in the pursuit of him, keep the mind in a state of pleasurable excitement. Yet, with all this excitement, the fall of the noble animal recalls the lament
“ Magnificent creature, to reach thee I strain
Through forest and glen, over mountain and plain ;
And lament that the reign of thy greatness is o’er.” The high excitement connected with the sport forms the attraction which draws so many to the Highland glens, and is influencing some to turn their estates into pasture-grounds for the deer.
When we hear of some English gentlemen leaving the pleasures and ease of their homes to traverse the wilds of North America in company with the rude hunter, in pursuit of a more stimulating species of sport than the partridge or pheasant shooting in their own countries can afford, we need not marvel at the favour in which deer-stalking is held. The magnificent scenery which surrounds the sportsman, and the wild solitudes of the mountains and vales, supply that colouring of romance which is in itself so much the object of the cultivated sportsman.
We are not about to enter into the much-debated question, whether such pursuits are favourable to manly habits in their bighest forms, as such a discussion would involve us in matters far more difficult to manage than deer-stalking itself. We are not, therefore, disposed to join with those who regard the sportsman as a mere butcher, or at the best, a man who sacrifices humanity to selfishness; for a thousand instances to the contrary would contra
Nor are we, on the other hand, about to utter a sentimental wailing over the departure of the red deer, which are undoubtedly associated with some of the most melancholy periods of English history. If the sports of the field have a beneficial effect on the habits of the English gentleman, enough of these remain for this purpose without bringing back the wastes on which the red deer roamed. We may, therefore, contemplate, with ail the pleasure which the distant picturesqueness of old times can afford, the past ages with their imposing hunts, on which regal pomp was lavished, without longing for the return of such barbaric displays.
This is another species not found in England at the present time, except in a few wild northern parks; though the animal is not so rare in Scotland, being found in the forests which cover certain parts of the Grampians, and also on various estates to the north of that range.
The Welsh mountains and the Cheviot hills formerly gave shelter to these deer, and their bones are sometimes found in the alluvial soil in our southern counties ; proving that once the animals wandered over the downs of Hampshire and the wealds of Sussex.
The roebucks never present the noble spectacle offered by a large herd of red deer, for the former do not love to associate in large bodies, preferring to wander in small bands from covert to covert. Sometimes, however, vast herds are seen, as if a sudden love of company had seized upon the animals, and induced them to confederate, like the migrating tribes of ancient countries, for some great purpose.
The roebuck in general avoids all such pompous displays, choosing the quiet depths of the woods for its home, where ihe northern sportsman may hope to meet with this elegant and active deer. In cunning, it is esteemed superior to the red variety, resorting to more devices and doublings when pursued, and giving no little trouble to a pack of hounds.
The male of this creature is distinguished by the fondness it evinces for one female, with which it constantly associates, and the young cling to their parents long after they have ceased to require their aid. It is this propensity which leads to the formation of those small herds among the roebucks, which live in the most perfect peace in the gloomy hiding-places of the woods.
As these animals shew little tendency to associate with one another, neither are they accustomed to receive mankind to their confidence. A certain degree of wildness always clings to the roebuck, even after it has been kept and fed in enclosed grounds.
They seem as if constantly suspecting mischief, and not unfrequently some trivial event increases their suspicion to terror, when the animals make the most desperate efforts to escape from their usual abodes. At such times they are by no means agreeable tenants of a park, as they strike furiously, not only at sheep and other animals, but at men themselves, who may find the horn of an enraged buck as formidable as that of the bull. None of our readers, however, need feel the least apprehension when next passing through an English park well stocked with deer, for this variety is not found in one estate in a thousand; a more domesticated and tractable species being more usually seen in England.
We must now say something respecting the only remaining species of deer known to the British islands. This is
which is the only variety ever seen by the great majority of Englishmen; since but few are able to hunt the red deer on his mountains, or pursue the roebuck in its northern forests. This is the species abounding in the richly-timbered parks of modern England, and adding an additional charm to many a beautiful combination of hill and dale. It is in this domesticated state alone that we have any acquaintance with the fallow-deer; but in other countries they are found in their original wildness, inhabiting the bleak hills and desolate forests which yet cover many districts in Europe. Even in Scotland the traveller may still see large herds in the mountainous regions, though these are perhaps the descendants of tamed deer which have at different times escaped from the more enclosed grounds. These beautiful animals now wander at large over parts of the Grampians, in the deep glens of which they group when the sharpness of winter forces them from the bleaker portions of the hills. Even the farms and gardens of the Highland peasantry are sometimes visited by the hungry deer, when driven by storms and snow-falls from their accustomed homes.
The fallow-deer are generally supposed to have travelled to us from Norway; a fact which perhaps is not remembered by the majority of those who witness the perfect domestication of these animals in the English parks. The creatures seem to be quite at home in their quiet retreats, and exhibit no characteristics of mountain fierceness. The period of their introduction to this country was probably in the reign of James I., who was struck with the appearance of these animals during his visit to Norway, where his future wife Anne, of Denmark, dwelt. Thus, England not only received from Norway a queen, but the English gentry have to thank that land of mountain and lake for these ornaments of many a park. The Stuart king did not, however, bring the fallow-deer into this country direct from Norway, as they were first brought into Scotland, a country more resembling their original home than the less hilly and more fertile south. They were afterwards placed in Enfield chase and Epping forest, where the king could often visit his horned favourites from his palace of Theobalds. Those Londoners who have joined in the Easter hunt at Epping, must therefore remember that into this ancient forest the fallow-deer was introduced on its first visit to this country. Whether the animals were natives of the north or the south is disputed; for whilst their introduction into Britain from Norway favours the notion of their northern origin, yet Cuvier himself hints that the fallow-deer
may have had their original homes in Africa. This will rather startle most readers, who can scarcely fail to conclude that a journey from Africa to Norway is rather a surprising tour even for a deer. At the same time, we must remember that they abound in the south of Europe, and are found in Greece, the north of Turkey, Syria, and perhaps in some of the Barbary States. This again countenances the idea of their southern origin. we need not discuss this point at present, remaining satisfied with the fact that we have them amongst our woodlands, where they are as much at home as if they had been indigenous to these islands.
The most beautiful variety of this species is a white breed; but as this is rare, we may spare the reader and ourselves a description. With respect to the variety found in our English parks, we can only say that a further account seems unnecessary, for few readers can be ignorant, in these times of rapid travelling, of the forms and appearances of the fallow-deer.