On Hunting


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

The first pursuit, therefore, that a young man just out of his boyhood should take up is hunting, and afterwards he should go on to the other branches of education, provided he has means. He must look to his means, and, if they are sufficient, spend as much as the benefit to himself is worth; or, if they are insufficient, at least let him supply enthusiasm, in no way coming short of his power.[*](The text of this paragraph is open to suspicion. The words from εἶτα to ἔχοντα may be an afterthought.)

I will give a list and a description of the intending hunter’s outfit, and the explanation of each item, in order that he may understand the business before he puts his hand to it. And let no one regard these details as trivial; inasmuch as nothing can be done without them.

The net-keeper should be a man with a keen interest in the business, one who speaks Greek, about twenty years old, agile and strong, and resolute, that, being well qualified to overcome his tasks, he may take pleasure in the business.

The purse-nets should be made of fine Phasian[*](i.e., Colchian. Much flax and linen was exported from Colchis.) or Carthaginian flax, and the road-nets and hayes of the same material.

Let the purse-nets be of nine threads woven in three strands, each strand consisting of three threads. The proper length for these nets is forty-five inches, the proper width of the meshes six inches. The cords that run round[*](The cords meant here are those that ran round the mouth of the purse, and served as a running noose to close it when the hare got in.) them must be without knots, so that they may run easily.

The road-nets should be of twelve threads, and the hayes of sixteen. The length of the road-nets may be twelve, twenty-four or thirty-feet; that of the hayes sixty, a hundred and twenty, or a hundred and eighty feet. If they are longer, they will be unwieldy. Both kinds should be thirty knots[*](i.e., ten meshes, so that the extreme height, if the net was fully stretched, would be five feet. Poachers now use slip-knots or nets about four feet deep with a mesh of two-and-a-half inches.) high, and should have meshes of the same width as those of the purse-nets.

At the elbows at either end let the road-nets have slip-knots of string and the hayes metal rings,[*](The rings running down the two sides were used for joining two nets together.) and let the cords[*](i.e., the cords running along the top and bottom of the nets.) be attached by loops.

The stakes for the purse-nets should be thirty inches long, but some should be shorter. Those of unequal length are for use on sloping ground, to make the height of the nets equal, while those of the same length are used on the level. These stakes must be so shaped at the top that the nets will pull off readily and they must be smooth.[*](The author means, I think, to imply a contrast between the stakes of the purse-nets and those of the other nets. The second αὗται in the text can scarcely be right: possibly καὶ αὗται λεῖαι should be omitted, or αὐταί, they themselves, read with Dindorf.) The stakes for the road-nets should be twice the length of these, and those for the hayes forty-five inches long. The latter[*](Or perhaps he means both sets. ) should have little forks with shallow grooves, and all should be stout, of a thickness proportioned to the length.

The number of stakes used for the hayes may be large or small; fewer are required if the nets are strained tight when set up, more if they are slack.

A calf-skin bag will be wanted for carrying the purse-nets and road-nets and hayes and the bill-hooks for cutting wood and stopping gaps where necessary.

The hounds used are of two kinds, the Castorian and the Vulpine.[*](Both are Laconian varieties, the Castorian being much the larger. The Vulpine resembled a fox; hence the erroneous idea that it was a hybrid between dog and fox (O. Keller, die antike Tierwelt, i. 121).) The Castorian is so called because Castor paid special attention to the breed, making a hobby of the business. The Vulpine is a hybrid between the dog and the fox: hence the name. In the course of time the nature of the parents has become fused.

Inferior specimens (that is to say, the majority) show one or more of the following defects. They are small, hook-nosed, grey-eyed, blinking, ungainly, stiff, weak, thin-coated, lanky, ill-proportioned, cowardly, dull-scented, unsound in the feet.

Now small dogs often drop out of the running through their want of size; hook-nosed dogs have no mouth and can’t hold the hare; grey-eyed dogs and blinkers have bad sight; ungainly dogs look ugly; stiff ones are in a bad way at the end of the hunt; no work can be got out of the weak and the thin-coated ones; those that are lanky and ill-proportioned are heavy movers and carry themselves anyhow; cowards leave their work and give up and slink away from the sun into shady places and lie down; dogs with no nose seldom scent the hare and only with difficulty; and those with bad feet, even if they are plucky, can’t stand the hard work, and tire because they are foot-sore.

Moreover, hounds of the same breed vary much in behaviour when tracking. Some go ahead as soon as they find the line without giving a sign, and there is nothing to show that they are on it. Some move the ears only, but keep the tail still; others keep the ears still and wag the tip of the tail.

Others prick up the ears[*](The Greek hound had short ears (cf. 4.1) like a foxterrier.) and run frowning along the track, dropping their tails and putting them between their legs. Many do none of these things, but rush about madly round the track, and when they happen upon it, stupidly trample out the traces, barking all the time.

Others again, continually circling and straying, get ahead of the line when clean off it and pass the hare, and every time they run against the line, begin guessing, and if they catch sight of the hare, tremble and never go for her until they see her stir.

Hounds that run forward and frequently examine the discoveries of the others when they are casting about and pursuing have no confidence in themselves; while those that will not let their cleverer mates go forward, but fuss and keep them back, are confident to a fault. Others will drive ahead, eagerly following false lines and getting wildly excited over anything that turns up, well knowing that they are playing the fool; others will do the same thing in ignorance. Those that stick to game paths and don’t recognise the true line are poor tools.

A hound that ignores the trail[*](The trail of the hare is the path she takes in going to her seat.—Beckford.) and races over the track of the hare on the run is ill-bred. Some, again, will pursue hotly at first, and then slack off from want of pluck; others will cut in ahead and then get astray; while others foolishly dash into roads and go astray, deaf to all recall.

Many abandon the pursuit and go back through their hatred of game, and many through their love of man. Others try to mislead by baying on the track, representing false lines as true ones.