On Hunting, by Xenophon


For breeding purposes choose winter, and release the bitches from hard work;1 which will enable them to profit by repose and to produce a fine progeny towards spring, since that season is the best to promote the growth of the young dogs. The bitch is in heat for fourteen days,2 and the moment at which to put her to the male, with a view to rapid and successful impregnation, is when the heat is passing off. Choose a good dog for the purpose. When the bitch is ready to whelp she should not be taken out hunting continuously, but at intervals sufficient to avoid a miscarriage through her over-love of toil. The period of gestation lasts for sixty days. When littered the puppies should be left to ther own dam, and not placed under another bitch; foster-nursing does not promote growth in the same way, whilst nothing is so good for them as their own mother’s milk and her breath,3 and the tenderness of her caresses.4

Presently, when the puppies are strong enough to roam about, they should be given milk5 for a whole year, along with what will form their staple diet in the future, but nothing else. A heavy diet will distort the legs of a young dog, engender disease in other limbs, and the internal mechanism will get out of order.6

They should have short names given them, which will be easy to call out.7 The following may serve as specimens:— Psyche, Pluck, Buckler, Spigot, Lance, Lurcher, Watch, Keeper, Brigade, Fencer, Butcher, Blazer, Prowess, Craftsman, Forester, Counsellor, Spoiler, Hurry, Fury, Growler, Riot, Bloomer, Rome, Blossom, Hebe, Hilary, Jolity, Gazer, Eyebright, Much, Force, Trooper, Bustle, Bubbler, Rockdove, Stubborn, Yelp, Killer, Pele-mele, Strongboy, Sky, Sunbeam, Bodkin, Wistful, Gnome, Tracks, Dash.8

The young hounds may be taken out to the chase at the age of eight months9 if bitches, or if males at the age of ten. They should not be let loose on the trail of a hare sitting,10 but should be kept attached by long leashes and allowed to follow on a line while scenting,11 with free scope to run along the trail.12

As soon as a hare is found, provided the young hounds have the right points13 for running, they should not be let loose straight off: the huntsman should wait until the hare has got a good start and is out of sight, then let the young hounds go.14 The result of letting slip young hounds, possessed of all the requisite points and full of pluck,15 is that the sight of the hare will make them strain too violently and pull them to bits,16 while their frames are as yet unknit; a catastrophe against which every sportsman should strenuously guard. If, on the other hand, the young hounds do not promise well for running,17 there is no harm in letting them go. From the start they will give up all hope of striking the hare, and consequently escape the injury in question.18

As to the trail of a hare on the run, there is no harm in letting them follow it up till they overtake her.19 When the hare is caught the carcass should be given to the young hounds to tear in pieces.20

As soon as these young hounds refuse to stay close to the nets and begin to scatter, they must be called back; till they have been accustomed to find the hare by following her up; or else, if not taught to quest for her (time after time) in proper style, they may end by becoming skirters21 — a bad education.22

As long as they are pups, they should have their food given them near the nets, when these are being taken up,23 so that if from inexperience they should lose their way on the hunting-field, they may come back for it and not be altogether lost. In time they will be quit of this instinct themselves,24 when their hostile feeling towards the animal is developed, and they will be more concerned about the quarry than disposed to give their food a thought.25

As a rule, the master should give the dogs their food with his own hand; since, however much the animal may be in want of food without his knowing who is to blame for that, it is impossible to have his hunger satisfied without his forming an affection for his benefactor.26

1 Or, “Winter is the time at which to pair dogs for breeding, the bitches to be released from hard work, so that with the repose so secured they may produce a fine litter in spring.”

2 Lit. “this necessity holds.” Cf. Aristot. “H. A.” vi. 20; Arrian, xxvii., xxxi. 3.

3 Cf. Eur. “Tro.” 753, o khrotos edu pneuma.

4 Cf. Arrian, xxx. 2; Pollux, v. 50; Columella, vii. 12, 12, ap. Schneid.

5 See Arrian, xxxi.; Stonehenge, p. 264.

6 Or, “the internal organs get wrong” (adika). Cf. “Memorabilia,” IV. iv. 5.

7 Cf. Arrian, xxxi. 2; Oppian, “Cyn,” i. 443; ap. Schneid.

8 The following is Xenophon’s list:—

Psukhe = Soul
Thumos = Spirit
Porpax = Hasp of shield
Sturax = Spike of spear at the butt end
Logkhe = Lance
Lokhos = Ambush, or “Company”
Phroura = Watch
Phulax = Guard
Taxis = Order, Rank, Post, Brigade
Xiphon = Swordsman
Phonax = Slaughterer, cf. “King Death”
Phlegon = Blazer
‘Alke = Prowess, Victory
Teukhon = Craftsman
‘Uleus = Woodsman, “Dashwood”
Medas = Counsellor
Porthon = Spoiler, “Rob Roy”
Sperkhon = Hastener, “Rocket”
‘Orge = Fury, Rage
Bremon = Growler, Roarer
‘Ubris = Hybris, Riot, Insolence
Thallon = Blooming, “Gaudy”
‘Rome = Strength, “Romeo”
‘Antheus = Blossom
‘Eba = Youth
Getheus = Gladsome
Khara = Joy
Leusson = Gazer
Augo = Daybeam
Polus = Much
Bia = Force
Stikhon = Stepping in rank and file
Spoude = Much ado
Bruas = Gusher
Oinas = (1) Vine, (2) Rockdove. See Aristot. “H. A.” v. 13, 14; i. 3, 10; Ael. “N. A.” iv. 58. = Columba livia = rockdove, the colour of ripening grapes; al. oinas = the vine.
Sterros = “Stiff,” “King Sturdy”
Krauge = Clamour. Cf. Plat. “Rep.” 607 B.
Kainon = Killer
Turbas = “Topsy-turvy”
Sthenon = Strong man
Aither = Ether
‘Aktis = Ray of light
Aikhme = Spear-point
Nors = Clever (girl)
Gnome = Maxim
Stibon = Tracker
‘Orme = Dash. So Arrian (“Cyn.” viii. 5) named his favourite hound.

For other names see Herodian, peri mon. l (on monosyllables), 12. 7; “Corp. Inscr.” iv. p. 184, n. 8319; Arrian, v. 6, xix.; Colum. vii. 12, 13. According to Pollux, v. 47, Xenophon had a dog named ippokentauros (cf. “Cyrop.” IV. iii. 17).

9 Cf. Pollux, v. 54; al. Arrian, xxv., xxvi.

10 Pollux, v. 12.

11 “The dogs that are trailing,” Blane.

12 See Stonehenge, “Entering of greyhound and deerhound, of foxhounds and harriers,” pp. 284, 285.

13 For points see the same authority: the harrier, p. 59; the foxhound, p. 54.

14 See Arrian’s comment and dissent, xxv. 4.

15 Lit. “which are at once well shaped and have the spirit for the chase in them.”

16 Al. “they will overstrain themselves with the hare in sight, and break a blood-vessel.” See Arrian, xxxi. 4, regnuntai gar autais ai lagones.

17 Or, “are defectively built for the chase.”

18 Or, “will not suffer such mishap.”

19 Perhaps read eos an thelosi, “as long as they choose.” The MSS. have elthosi.

20 See Stonehenge, p. 287, “blooded, so as to make him understand the nature of the scent”; ib. 284.

21 ekkunoi, cf. Arrian, xxv. 5.

22 poneron mathema, ib. 9.

23 anairontai sc. ai arkues, see above, vi. 26.

24 Or, “abandon the practice.”

25 See Stonehenge, p. 289 (another context): “ . . . the desire for game in a well-bred dog is much greater than the appetite for food, unless the stomach has long been deprived of it.”

26 Or, “If want in itself does not reveal to him the cause of his suffering, to be given food when hungry for it will arouse in him affection for the donor.”


Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 14:22