This section is from the book "Creatures Of The Night: A Book Of Wild Life In Western Britain", by Alfred W. Rees. Also available from Amazon: Creatures Of The Night: A Book Of Wild Life In Western Britain.
When, just before the quarrel, Brock sought for his bone, as he was wont to do on returning home, he scented it in the litter beneath a spot completely overlapped on every side by some part or other of his recumbent sire. For a few moments, he was nonplussed by the situation; then, desperate for his plaything, he suddenly began to dig, and, in a twinkling, was half buried in the hay and leaves ; while to right and to left he scattered soil and bedding that fell like a shower over his mother and sister. Before the old dog-badger had realised the meaning of the commotion, Brock had grabbed his treasure, and, withdrawing his head from the shallow pitfall he had hurriedly fashioned, had caused his drowsy parent to roll helplessly over. This was more than a self-respecting father could possibly endure in his own home and among his own kin, so, with unexpected agility, as he turned in struggling to recover his balance, he gripped Brock by the loose skin of the neck, and held him as in a vice from which there seemed no escape. Brock, doubtless thinking that his right to the bone was being disputed, strove vigorously to get hold of his sire, but the grip of the trap-like jaws was inflexible, and kept him firmly down till his rage had expended itself, and he was cowed by his parent's prompt, easy show of tremendous power. When, at last, the old badger relinquished his hold, Brock shook himself, and sulkily departed from the "set," followed to the door by his relentless chastiser.
An hour before noon, Brock heard the note of a horn — sounding far distant, but really coming only from the other side of the hill—succeeded by the eager baying of a pack of foxhounds. Then, for a while, all was silent, but soon the cries of the hounds broke out again, away beyond the farm by the river. Evidently something was amiss. Brock, though hardly, perhaps, alarmed, shifted uneasily in his retreat under the yellow bracken, and finally, almost fascinated, lay quiet, watching and listening. Presently the ferns parted; and a fox-cub appeared in full view, treading lightly, his tongue lolling out, his jaws strained far back towards his ears, and his face wearing the look of a creature of excessive cunning, though for the time frightened nearly out of his wits. The fox-cub paused an instant, turned as if to look at something in the dark thickets by the glen, climbed the mound, and, after another hasty glance, entered his home among the outer chambers of the "set." Unknown, of course, to Brock, the leading hounds were running mute on the fox-cub's scent down the path by the river. They swerved, and lost the line for a moment, then, "throwing their tongues," crashed through the briars into the fern; and at once Brock was surrounded.
Luckily, he had neither been punished too severely by his sire, nor had exhausted himself in hotly resisting the chastisement. For a few seconds, however, as the hounds pressed closely in the rough-and-tumble fray, trying to tear him limb from limb, he was disconcerted. But quickly regaining his self-possession, he began to make the fight exceedingly warm for his assailants. A hound caught him by the leg; turning, he caught the aggressor by the muzzle. His strong, sharp teeth crashed through nose and lip clean to the bone, and the discomfited hound, directly one of the pack had " created a diversion," made off at full speed, running "heel," and howling at the top of his voice. One after another, Brock served two couples thus, till the wood was filled with a mournful chorus altogether different from the usual music of the hounds.
Little hurt, except for a bruise or two on his loose, rough hide, and feeling almost as fresh as when the attack began, Brock, with his face to the few foes still remaining to threaten him hoarsely from a safe distance, retired with dignity to the mound, and disappeared in the tunnel just as reinforcements of the enemy hastened up the slope.
Henceforth, even in leafy summer, he seldom remained outside his dwelling during the day, and any fresh sign of a dog in the neighbourhood of his immediate haunt never failed to fill him with rage and apprehension.
Since the time when their silvery-grey coats had turned to brownish-yellow, the badger cubs had become more and more independent of their parents; and before long, familiar with the forest paths, they often wandered alone. Yet so regular was their habit of returning home during the hour preceding dawn, that, unless something untoward happened, the last badger to reach the "earth" was rarely more than a few minutes after the first. Towards the end of autumn, however, the female cub seemed to have lost this habit; on several occasions dawn was breaking when she sought her couch; and one morning she was missing from the family. Her regular home-coming had given place to meeting, in a copse over the hill, a young male badger reared among the rocks of a glen up-stream; and by him she had at last been led away to a home, which, after inspecting several other likely places, he had made by enlarging a rabbit burrow in a long disused quarry.
Brock was in no hurry to find himself a spouse; he waited till the end of winter. Meanwhile, the colour of his coat changed from yellow to full, dark grey, and simultaneously a change became apparent in his disposition. Wild fancies seized him; from dusk to dawn he wandered with clumsy gait over the countryside, little heeding how noisily he lumbered through the undergrowth. The gaunt jack-hare, that, crying out in the night, hurried past him, was not a whit more crazy.
At one time, Brock met a young male badger in the furze, attacked him vigorously, and left him more dead than alive. At another time, he even turned his rage against his sire. The old badger was by no means unwilling to resent provocation: he, too, felt the hot, quick blood of spring in his veins. The fight was fierce and long— no other wild animal in Britain can inflict or endure such punishment as the badger— and it ended in victory for Brock. His size and strength were greater than his father's; he also had the advantage of youth and self - confidence; but till its close the struggle was almost equal, for the obstinate resistance of the experienced old sire was indeed hard to overcome. Brock forced him at last from the corner where he stood with his head to the wall, and hustled him out of doors. Then the victor hastened to the brook to quench his thirst, and, returning to the "set," sought to sleep off the effects of the fight. When he awoke, he found that the mother badger had gone to join her evicted mate. The inseparable couple prepared a disused part of the " set" for future habitation; there they collected a heap of dry bedding, and, free from further interruption, were soon engaged with the care of a second family.
For nearly a week after his big battle, Brock felt stiff and sore, and altogether too ill to extend his nightly rambles further than the boundaries of the wood. But with renewed health his restlessness returned, and he wandered hither and thither in search of a mate to share his dwelling. A knight-errant among badgers, he sought adventure for the sake of a ladylove whose face he had not even seen.
Sometimes, to make his journeys shorter than if the usual trails from wood to wood had been followed, he used the roads and by-ways leading past the farmsteads, and risked encounter with the watchful sheep-dogs. For this indiscretion, he almost paid the penalty of his life. Crossing a moonlit field on the edge of a covert, he saw a flock of sheep break from the hurdles of a fold near the distant hedge, and run panic-stricken straight towards him. Long before he had time to regain the cover, they swept by, separating into two groups as they came where he stood. Immediately afterwards, he saw that one of the sheep was lying on her back, struggling frantically, while a big, white - ruffed collie worried her to death. The dog was so engrossed with his victim that the badger remained z unnoticed. Having killed the sheep, the dog sat by, panting because of his exertions, and licking the blood from his lips. Suddenly, raising his head, he listened intently, his ears turned in the direction of the fold. Then, growling savagely, he slunk away, with his tail between his legs, and disappeared within the wood.
He had scarcely gone from sight, when the farmer and his boy climbed over the hedge near the field and hastened across the pasture. They saw the sheep lying dead, and, not far from the spot, the badger lumbering off to the covert. Instantly believing that Brock was the cause of their trouble, they called excitedly for help from the farm, and dashed in pursuit. As Brock gained the gap by the wood, he felt a sharp, stinging blow on his ribs. On the other side of the hedge, he reached an opening in the furze, and the sticks and stones aimed at him by his pursuers, as he turned downwards through the wood, fell harmlessly against the trees and bushes. The noise he made when crashing through the thickets was, however, such a guide to his movements, that he failed to baffle the chase till he reached a well worn trail through the open glades. Luckily for him, as he emerged from cover a cloud obscured the moon, and he was able to make good his escape by crossing a deep dingle to the lonely fields along his homeward route, where, in the shadows of the hedges, though now the moon again was bright, he could not easily be seen.
It was fortunate for the badger, not only that the moon was hidden by a cloud as he crossed the dingle when fleeing from the wood, but also that his home was distant from the scene of the tragedy in the upland pasture near the farm. A hue-and-cry was raised, and for days the farmer's boy searched the wood around the spot where Brock had disappeared, hoping there to find the earth-pig's home. Other sheep were mysteriously killed on farms still further from the badger's " earth"; then watchers, armed with guns, lay out among the cold, damp fields to guard the sleeping flocks; and the collie, a beautiful creature whose character had hitherto been held above reproach, was shot almost in the act of closing on a sheep he had already wounded, close to the corner of a field where a shepherd lay in hiding.
The farmer and his boy were chaffed so unmercifully—for this story of the badger was now considered a myth—that they grew to hate the very name of "earth-pig," and to believe that after all they must have chased through the wood some incarnation of Satan.