On Hunting


Xenophon, creator; Scripta Minora; Marchant, E. C. (Edgar Cardew), 1864-1960, editor, translator; Bowersock, G. W, (Glen Warren), 1936-, editor, translator

For hunting the wild boar provide yourself with Indian, Cretan, Locrian and Laconian[*](i.e., Laconian hounds of the Castorian variety; see 3.5.) hounds, boar nets, javelins, spears and caltrops. In the first place the hounds of each breed must be of high quality, that they may be qualified to fight the beast.

The nets must be made of the same flax as those used for hares, of forty-five threads woven in three strands, each strand containing fifteen threads. The height should be ten knots, counted from the top,[*](This means, I believe, ten meshes, so that the net would be about 150 inches high. Otto Manns (Uber die Jagd bei den Grieschen), however, thinks that the net was five feet high only, i.e., four meshes (cf. 4.5); but (1) it is hard to see how four meshes can be got out of ten knots, and (2) the bosom (see 7) requires a considerably greater height than five feet.) and the depths of the meshes fifteen inches. The ropes at top and bottom must be half as thick again as the nets. There must be metal rings at the elbows, and the ropes must be inserted under the meshes, and their ends must pass out through the rings.[*](The ends of the upper ropes appear to have been used for fastening the nets together.) Fifteen nets are sufficient.[*](It is strange that the author does not state the length of the nets.)

The javelins must be of every variety, the blades broad and keen, and the shafts strong. The spears must have blades fifteen inches long, and stout teeth at the middle of the socket, forged in one piece but standing out; and their shafts must be of cornel wood, as thick as a military spear. The caltrops must be similar to those used in hunting deer. There must be several huntsmen, for the task of capturing the beast is no light one even for a large number of men. I will now explain how to use each portion of the outfit in hunting.

First then, when the company reach the place where they suppose the game to lurk, let them slip one of the Laconian hounds, and taking the others in leash, go round the place with the hound.

As soon as she has found his tracks, let the field follow, one behind another, keeping exactly to the line of the track. The huntsmen also will find many evidences of the quarry, the tracks in soft ground, broken branches where the bushes are thick, and marks of his tusks wherever there are trees.

The hound following the track will, as a rule, arrive at a well-wooded spot. For the beast usually lies in such places, since they are warm in winter and cool in summer. As soon as the hound reaches the lair, she will bark.

But in most cases the boar will not get up. So take the hound and tie her up with the others at a good distance from the lair, and have the nets put up in the convenient anchorages, hanging the meshes on forked branches of trees. Out of the net itself make a long projecting bosom, putting sticks inside to prop it up on both sides, so that the light of day may penetrate as much as possible into the bosom through the meshes, in order that the interior may be as light as possible when the boar rushes at it. Fasten the (lower) rope to a strong tree, not to a bush, since the bushes give way at the bare stem.[*](The text is doubtful. I now think συγκλῶνται probable for συνέχονται.) Wherever there is a gap between a net and the ground,[*](The text is again uncertain, but the sense is clear. I incline to ὑπὸ δ᾽ ἑκάστην.) fill in the places that afford no anchorage with wood, in order that the boar may rush into the net, and not slip out.

As soon as they are in position, let the party go to the hounds and loose them all, and take the javelins and the spears and advance. Let one man, the most experienced, urge on the hounds, while the others follow in regular order, keeping well behind one another, so that the boar may have a free passage between them; for should he beat a retreat and dash into a crowd, there is a risk of being gored, since he spends his rage on anyone he encounters.

As soon as the hounds are near the lair, they will go for him. The noise will cause him to get up, and he will toss any hound that attacks him in front. He will run and plunge into the nets; or if not, you must pursue him. If the ground where he is caught in the net is sloping, he will quickly get up; if it is level, he will immediately stand still, intent on himself.

At this moment the hounds will press their attack, and the huntsmen must fling their javelins at him warily, and pelt him with stones, gathering round behind and a good way off, till he shoves hard enough to pull the rope of the net tight. Then let the most experienced and most powerful man in the field approach him in front and thrust his spear into him.

If, in spite of javelins and stones, he refuses to pull the rope tight, but draws back, wheels round and marks his assailant, in that case the man must approach him spear in hand, and grasp it with the left in front and the right behind, since the left steadies while the right drives it. The left foot must follow the left hand forward, and the right foot the other hand.

As he advances let him hold the spear before him, with his legs not much further apart than in wrestling, turning the left side towards the left hand, and then watching the beast’s eye and noting the movement of the fellow’s head. Let him present the spear, taking care that the boar doesn’t knock it out of his hand with a jerk of his head, since he follows up the impetus of the sudden knock.

In case this accident should happen, the man must fall on his face and clutch the undergrowth beneath him, for, if the beast attacks him in this position, he is unable to lift the man’s body owing to the upward curve of his tusks; but if his body is off the ground, the man is certain to be gored. Consequently the boar tries to lift him up, and, if he cannot, he stands over and tramples on him.

For a man in this critical situation there is only one escape from these disasters. One of his fellow huntsmen must approach with a spear and provoke the boar by making as though he would hurl it; but he must not hurl it, or he may hit the man on the ground.

On seeing this the boar will leave the man under him and turn savagely and furiously on his tormentor. The other must jump up instantly, remembering to keep his spear in his hand as he rises, for safety without victory is not honourable.

He must again present the spear in the same way as before, and thrust it inside the shoulder-blade where the throat is, and push with all his might. The enraged beast will come on, and but for the teeth of the blade, would shove himself forward along the shaft far enough to reach the man holding the spear.

His strength is so great that he has some peculiar properties which one would never imagine him to possess. Thus, if you lay hairs on his tusks immediately after he is dead, they shrivel up, such is the heat of the tusks. While he is alive they become intensely hot whenever he is provoked, or the surface of the hounds’ coats would not be singed when he tries to gore them and misses.

All this trouble, and even more, the male animal causes before he is caught. If the creature in the toils is a sow, run up and stick her, taking care not to be knocked down. Such an accident is bound to result in your being trampled and bitten. So don’t fall under her, if you can help it. If you get into that position unintentionally, the same aids to rise that are used to assist a man under a boar are employed. When on your feet again, you must ply the spear until you kill her.

Another way of capturing them is as follows. The nets are set up for them at the passages from glens into oak coppices, dells and rough places, on the outskirts of meadows, fens and sheets of water. The keeper, spear in hand, watches the nets. The huntsmen take the hounds and search for the likeliest places. As soon as the boar is found, he is pursued. If he falls into the net, the net-keeper must take

his spear, approach the boar, and use it as I have explained. The boar is also captured, in hot weather, when pursued by the hounds; for in spite of his prodigious strength, the animal tires with hard breathing.