On Hunting


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

The scent of the hare lies long in winter owing to the length of the nights, and for a short time in summer for the opposite reason. In the winter, however, there is no scent in the early morning whenever there is a white frost or the earth is frozen hard. For both white and black frost hold heat; since the one draws it out by its own strength, and the other congeals it.

The hounds’ noses, too, are numbed by the cold, and they cannot smell when the tracks are in such a state until the tracks thaw in the sun or as day advances. Then the dogs can smell and the scent revives.

A heavy dew, again, obliterates scent by carrying it downwards; and storms, occurring after a long interval, draw smells from the ground[*](ἄγειν τῆς γῆς has no parallel in Greek prose: perhaps ἐκ has fallen out or τὴν γῆν should be read.) and make the earth bad for scent until it dries. South winds spoil scent, because the moisture scatters it, but north winds concentrate and preserve it, if it has not been previously dissolved.

Heavy showers drown it, and so does light rain, and the moon deadens it by its warmth,[*](Or deadens the heat if we read τὸ θερμόν with Gesner. But the Greeks did attribute heat to the moon.) especially when at the full. Scent is most irregular at that time, for the hares, enjoying the light, fling themselves high in the air and jump a long way, frolicking with one another; and it becomes confused when foxes have crossed it.

Spring with its genial temperature yields a clear scent, except where the ground is studded with flowers and hampers the hounds by mingling the odours of the flowers with it. In summer it is thin and faint, for the ground, being baked, obliterates what warmth it possesses, which is thin; and the hounds’ noses are not so good at that season, because their bodies are relaxed. In the autumn it is unimpeded; for the cultivated crops have been harvested and the weeds have withered, so that the odours of the herbage do not cause trouble by mingling with it.

In winter and summer and autumn the scent lies straight in the main. In spring it is complicated; for though the animal couples at all times, it does so especially at this season;[*](The March hare.) so instinct prompts them to roam about together, and this is the result they produce.

The scent left by the hare in going to her form lasts longer than the scent of a running hare. For on the way to the form the hare keeps stopping, whereas when on the run she goes fast; consequently the ground is packed with it in the one case, but in the other is not filled with it. In coverts it is stronger than in open ground, because she touches many objects while running about and sitting up.

They find a resting-place where there is anything growing or lying on the ground, underneath anything, on the top of the objects, inside, alongside, well away or quite near or fairly near; occasionally even in the sea[*](See The Hare, Fur and Feather Series, p. 38 f.) by springing on to anything she[*](The fluctuation between plural and singular is in the Greek.) can reach, or in fresh water, if there is anything sticking out or growing in it, the hare,[*](The distinction is not, as often supposed, between hares with different habits (squatters, εὑναῖοι, and roamers, δρομαῖοι—a non-existent distinction), but merely between the behaviour of all hares in different circumstances. The unusual, but not unexampled, position of the article—ὁ and οἱ—has misled interpreters. Blane saw the true meaning.) when going to her

form generally choosing a sheltered place for it in cold weather and a cool one in hot, but in spring and autumn a place exposed to the sun; but hares on the run do not do that, because they are scared by the hounds.

When she sits, she puts the hind-legs under the flanks, and most commonly keeps the fore-legs close together and extended, resting the chin on the ends of the feet, and spreading the ears over the shoulder-blades, so that[*](I do not think that εἷτα δὲ can mean this, and suspect that εἷτα is wrong.) she covers the soft parts. The hair too, being thick and soft, serves as a protection.

When awake she blinks her eyelids; but when she is asleep the eyelids are wide open and motionless, and the eyes still. She moves her nostrils continually when sleeping, but less frequently when awake.

When the ground is bursting with vegetation they frequent the fields rather than the mountains. Wherever she may be she remains there when tracked, except when she is suddenly alarmed at night; in which case she moves off.

The animal is so prolific that at the same time she is rearing one litter, she produces another and she is pregnant. The scent of the little leverets is stronger than that of the big ones; for while their limbs are still soft they drag the whole body on the ground.

Sportsmen, however, leave the very young ones to the goddess.[*](Artemis.) Yearlings go very fast in the first run, but then flag, being agile, but weak.

Find the hare’s track by beginning with the hounds in the cultivated lands and gradually working downwards.[*](The cultivated land is on the lower slopes of the mountains.) To track those that do not come into cultivated land, search[*](There is evidently a gap in the Greek before τοὺς λειμῶνας, which has nothing to govern it.) the meadows, valleys, streams, stones and woody places. If she moves off, don’t shout, or the hounds may get wild with excitement and fail to recognise the tracks.

Hares when found by hounds and pursued sometimes cross brooks and double back and slip into gullies or holes. The fact is they are terrified not only of the hounds, but of eagles as well; for they are apt to be snatched up while crossing hillocks and bare ground until[*](Not so long as; cf. 14.) they are yearlings, and the bigger ones are run down and caught by the hounds.

The swiftest are those that frequent mountains; those of the plain are not so speedy; and those of the marshes are the slowest. Those that roam over any sort of country are difficult to chase, since they know the short cuts. They run mostly uphill[*](i.e. when pursued.) or on the level, less frequently in uneven ground, and very seldom downhill.

When being pursued they are most conspicuous across ground that has been broken up, if they have some red in their coats, or across stubble, owing to the shadow they cast. They are also conspicuous in game paths and on roads if these are level, since the bright colour of their coats shows up in the light. But when their line of retreat is amongst stones, in the mountains, over rocky or thickly wooded ground they cannot be seen owing to the similarity of colouring.

When they are well ahead of the hounds, they will stop, and sitting up will raise themselves and listen for the baying or the footfall of the hounds anywhere near; and should they hear the sound of them from any quarter, they make off.

Occasionally, even when they hear no sound, some fancy or conviction prompts them to jump hither and thither past and through the same objects, mixing the tracks as they retreat.