This section is from the book "Hunting: A Manual of Fox, Hare, Stag & Otter Hunting", by J. Otho Paget. Also available from Amazon: Hunting: A Manual of Fox, Hare, Stag & Otter Hunting.
The horse and the hound were made for each other, and the fox is the connecting link between the two. This remark of the celebrated Jorrocks has always seemed to me a very happy way of explaining the situation. I am quite certain the horse loves the hound, though I am not quite so sure that the hound always reciprocates the feeling, at least when the horse means a large and hard-riding field; but without the fox they would not be able to enjoy the sport they both love. There is something in the look of a wild fox that makes one's pulse beat faster, and breeds a desire to pursue him. Even at some solemn shooting function, if a fox crosses the ride, the man who has been knocking over pheasants in a cool, businesslike way, will burst out with a ringing tally-ho, and there will be a sparkle in his eye that no amount of feathered game could bring there. I think, however, it is the wildness of the fox which constitutes his greatest charm. The tame animal you see occasionally tied to a barrel does not make you feel in the least excited, and your only feeling is one of pity. It is the idea that you are not hunting the wild animal which makes the turning out of a bagman such an objectionable proceeding to all good sportsmen. Hunting bag-foxes is a prostitution of a noble sport, and can only be excused under very special circumstances. The pursuit of any wild animal is a pleasure and a sport, whatever means are employed ; but personally I consider the use of the hound as the best and highest form. The wilder the animal and the more difficult it is to get at, the greater the pleasure in bringing it to hand. Deer-stalking is a very exciting sport, but who would care to shoot a semi-tame stag from his dining-room window ?
In my estimation, a great part of the pleasure of any wild sport lies in a knowledge and a study of the animal you are pursuing. It is for this reason that the paid servants, the huntsman and the gamekeeper, very often get more pleasure out of the sport than those who employ them. I should advise any one who is just commencing to hunt, to study the ways of a fox, and he will then find a far greater interest in every run than if he knew nothing about the animal. Of course, those who intend to hunt hounds themselves must be close observers of the fox's habits, if they ever hope to become successful either as amateurs or professionals. Therefore, you budding fox-hunter, allow me to suggest that you cultivate a habit of observation, and let nothing within the range of your vision ever escape your eye. Any one bred in the country, and who calls himself an all-round sportsman, should not only be familiar with every species of wild animal in his district, but should be able at once to recognise the impression of its footmarks on the ground. He should also know every wild bird and the smaller vermin that are beneath his notice for sport. The man who goes about a country with his eyes shut misses much that would give him pleasure. You see a rabbit dodging in and out of a fence in what seems to you an aimless way ; but stand still for a minute, and you will probably see the lithe form of the relentless stoat gliding swiftly in his track. You may have never seen a stoat hunt a rabbit, and if not, it is a thing the lover of wild life should see.1 Few people know the difference between the stoat and the weasel. The result is that the latter, who does much good in killing mice, is ruthlessly destroyed. To an ear accustomed to the sounds, the note of alarm in a blackbird, or the screech of defiance from magpie and jay, will tell you that some enemy, and most likely a fox, is in the neighbourhood. When you see rooks circling round one spot and cawing excitedly, you may generally conclude they are reminding a fox of that bit of cheese which the ancient fable tells us one of their tribe lost. I have never been able to account satisfactorily to myself why there should be this enmity between the bird and the beast. Except an occasional fledgeling that hops out of the nest before it can fly, and falls to the ground, a family of rooks seems to me to be out of all danger from a fourfooted animal that cannot climb. They are evidently bitter enemies, however, and a beaten fox will be followed for miles by rooks, mobbing him and jeering at his distress.
1 See Wild Life in Hampshire Highlands (Haddon Hall Library), page 276.
The marten-cat, once an honoured beast of chase, has now become practically extinct, but we still have the badger and the otter. I am afraid that our brothers of the rod are sworn enemies of the otter, and I expect many fall victims to fish-keepers; but they are still fairly plentiful, and will not be easily exterminated. Master" Brock is in our midst more often than people imagine, and owing to his strong digging powers he is able to make himself a home from which it is not easy to dislodge him. Unfortunately, he does not afford us much sport, as I certainly do not call it sport for a terrier to draw him out of a box, and he has too much advantage of the terrier in his own earth. When there is snow on the ground in the spring, you may have a very enjoyable day by going to some well-known earths and tracking one as he wandered the previous night; but in mid-winter they will very often sleep for a week or more at a time.
The badger is occasionally accused of killing foxes, and I believe that it is true he does sometimes kill a cub; but I feel quite certain he never kills a full-grown fox. Not that he is unable to do it, but the fox is much too wary to quarrel with an animal of more than twice his strength. I believe the fox rather imposes on brock's good nature, and makes himself at home in the other's house whenever it suits him. Then Mrs. Fox has a large family in brock's best bedroom, and all goes happily together until that family begins to run about. One day, when the mother fox is out on a foraging raid, the cheeky little cubs scamper about brock's private sanctum, and wake him from a blissful sleep. One snap from the powerful jaws and a cub is dead ; but I do not believe a badger will ever go out of the way to kill either fox or cub. How it comes about can only be a matter of conjecture, but cubs are occasionally found dead at the mouth of the earth with a bite through the head, and the badger is accused of committing the crime.