On Hunting, by Xenophon


In the first place, this true type of hound should be of large build; and, in the next place, furnished with a light small head, broad and flat in the snout,1 well knit and sinewy, the lower part of the forehead puckered into strong wrinkles; eyes set well up2 in the head, black and bright; forehead large and broad; the depression between the eyes pronounced;3 ears long4 and thin, without hair on the under side; neck long and flexible, freely moving on its pivot;5 chest broad and fairly fleshy; shoulder-blades detached a little from the shoulders;6 the shin-bones of the fore-legs should be small, straight, round, stout and strong; the elbows straight; ribs7 not deep all along, but sloped away obliquely; the loins muscular, in size a mean between long and short, neither too flexible nor too stiff;8 flanks, a mean between large and small; the hips (or “couples”) rounded, fleshy behind, not tied together above, but firmly knitted on the inside;9 the lower or under part of the belly10 slack, and the belly itself the same, that is, hollow and sunken; tail long, straight, and pointed;11 thighs (i.e. hams) stout and compact; shanks (i.e. lower thighs) long, round, and solid; hind-legs much longer than the fore-legs, and relatively lean; feet round and cat-like.12

Hounds possessed of these points will be strong in build, and at the same time light and active; they will have symmetry at once and pace; a bright, beaming expression; and good mouths.

In following up scent,13 see how they show their mettle by rapidly quitting beaten paths, keeping their heads sloping to the ground, smiling, as it were to greet the trail; see how they let their ears drop, how they keep moving their eyes to and fro quickly, flourishing their sterns.14 Forwards they should go with many a circle towards the hare’s form,15 steadily guided by the line, all together. When they are close to the hare itself, they will make the fact plain to the huntsman by the quickened pace at which they run, as if they would let him know by their fury, by the motion of head and eyes, by rapid changes of gait and gesture,16 now casting a glance back and now fixing their gaze steadily forward to the creature’s hiding-place,17 by twistings and turnings of the body, flinging themselves backwards, forwards, and sideways, and lastly, by the genuine exaltation of spirits, visible enough now, and the ecstasy of their pleasure, that they are close upon the quarry.

Once she is off, the pack should pursue with vigour.18 They must not relax their hold, but with yelp and bark full cry insist on keeping close and dogging puss at every turn. Twist for twist and turn for turn, they, too, must follow in a succession of swift and brilliant bursts, interrupted by frequent doublings; while ever and again they give tongue and yet again till the very welkin rings.19 One thing they must not do, and that is, leave the scent and return crestfallen to the huntsman.20

Along with this build and method of working, hounds should possess four points. They should have pluck, sound feet, keen noses, and sleek coats. The spirited, plucky hound will prove his mettle by refusing to leave the chase, however stifling the weather; a good nose is shown by his capacity for scenting the hare on barren and dry ground exposed to the sun, and that when the orb is at the zenith;21 soundness of foot in the fact that the dog may course over mountains during the same season, and yet his feet will not be torn to pieces; and a good coat means the possession of light, thick, soft, and silky hair.22

As to the colour proper for a hound,23 it should not be simply tawny, nor absolutely black or white, which is not a sign of breeding, but monotonous — a simplicity suggestive of the wild animal.24 Accordingly the red dog should show a bloom of white hair about the muzzle, and so should the black, the white commonly showing red. On the top of the thigh the hair should be straight and thick, as also on the loins and on the lower portion of the stern, but of a moderate thickness only on the upper parts.

There is a good deal to be said for taking your hounds frequently into the mountains; not so much for taking them on to cultivated land.25 And for this reason: the fells offer facilities for hunting and for following the quarry without interruption, while cultivated land, owing to the number of cross roads and beaten paths, presents opportunities for neither. Moreover, quite apart from finding a hare, it is an excellent thing to take your dogs on to rough ground. It is there they will become sound of foot, and in general the benefit to their physique in working over such ground will amply repay you.26

They should be taken out in summer till mid-day; in winter from sunrise to sundown; in autumn any time except mid-day; and in spring any time before evening. These times will hit the mean of temperature.27

1 Pollux, v. 7; Arrian, “Cyn.” iv.

2 meteora, prominent.?See Sturz, s.v.

3 tas diakriseis batheias, lit. “with a deep frontal sinus.”

4 Reading makra, or if mikra, “small.”

5 Al. “well rounded.”

6 “Shoulder blades standing out a little from the shoulders”; i.e. “free.”

7 i.e. “not wholly given up to depth, but well curved”; depth is not everything unless the ribs be also curved. Schneid. cf. Ov. “Met.” iii. 216, “et substricta gerens Sicyonius ilia Ladon,” where the poet is perhaps describing a greyhound, “chyned like a bream.” See Stonehenge, pp. 21, 22. Xenophon’s “Castorians” were more like the Welsh harrier in build, I presume.

8 Or, “neither soft and spongy nor unyielding.” See Stoneh., p. 23.

9 “Drawn up underneath it,” lit. “tucked up.”

10 Al. “flank,” “flanks themselves.”

11 Or, as we should say, “stern.” See Pollux, v. 59; Arrian, v. 9.

12 See Stonehenge, p. 24 foll.

13 Lit. “Let them follow up the trail.”

14 Lit. “fawning and wagging their tails.”

15 Lit. “bed” or “lair.”

16 Or, “by rapid shiftings of attitude, by looks now thrown backward and now forwards to the . . .” Reading kai apo ton anablemmaton kai emblemmaton ton epi tas kathedras tou l., or if with L. D., kai apo ton a. kai emblemmaton eis ton ulen kai anastremmaton ton epi tas k., transl. “now looking back at the huntsman and now staring hard into the covert, and again right-about-face in the direction of the hare’s sitting-place.”

17 Lit. “form”; “the place where puss is seated.”

18 Lit. “let them follow up the chase vigorously, and not relax, with yelp and bark.”

19 dikaios, Sturz, “non temere”; “and not without good reason.” Al. “a right good honest salvo of barks.”

20 Lit. “Let them not hark back to join the huntsman, and desert the trail.”

21 i.e. “at mid-day”; or, “in the height of summer”; al. “during the dog-days”; “at the rising of the dog-star.”

22 See Pollux, ib. 59; Arrian, vi. 1.

23 See Stonehenge, p. 25; Darwin, op. cit. ii. 109.

24 But see Pollux, ib. 65, who apparently read gennaion touto to aploun alla therides; al. Arrian, vi. See Jaques de Fouilloux, “La Venerie” (ap. E. Talbot, “Oeuvres completes de Xenophon,” traduction, ii. 318).

25 Or, “pretty often, and less frequently over.”

26 Lit. “they must be benefited in their bodies generally by working over such ground.”

27 Or, “You may count on a moderate temperature at these times.”


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:02