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.
I am afraid I have been led away from my legitimate subject, and in discussing shooting I am trespassing on ground that will, I expect, have a volume to itself in this series. In America they classify all shooting under the head of hunting, and that must be my excuse for having referred to the gun. Between the man who shoots and the man who hunts there is, I regret to say, very often a great deal of jealousy and unpleasantness. Sport should be a common bond of sympathy between them, and if they would only extend a little consideration towards each other's particular amusement, they might for ever be the best of friends. I am not going to draw any comparison between the two forms of sport, because it would be manifestly unfair : being a staunch advocate of one side, I could hardly be expected to hold the scales of justice impartially. Those who both hunt and shoot we are not in any way concerned with; but those with large game - preserves, who never ride to hounds, we ought always to consider, lest the pursuit of our pleasure should cause them annoyance. A tactless master or some officious member of the hunt stupidly tells a covert-owner that his keepers kill the foxes, and then there arises a quarrel that will upset the whole neighbourhood. It is very probably true that the keepers have killed foxes, but the man who brings the accusation has no evidence to show, and no one likes to have his servants found fault with by others on mere assumption. Of course, if it were possible to bring proof of vulpicide against the keepers, the matter should be laid before the men's employer, but it must always be a very delicate business to approach, and should be done in a conciliatory, not an aggressive spirit. The man who rears a large stock of pheasants and also hunts, ought always to make it his business to see that the foxes in his coverts are never interfered with. I can sympathise with the man who does not hunt and thinks his sport is being injured by the foxes ; but the selfish fellow who hunts in one country and allows his keepers to slay foxes in another, is an individual who can only be described by words that are not to be found in a dictionary. Social ostracism is the least punishment that should be meted out to him, and his offence should be cried from the housetops. I am thankful to say, however, that few instances of such disgusting selfishness occur ; but whenever the charge can be fully proved, I think it is the duty of the master, whose hunt the man patronises, to request him not to follow his hounds.
The brotherhood of sport should be a link to make men tolerant of each other and bind them together in a union for the common good. The keen fox-hunter will tell you that there is no sport to compare with fox-hunting, and, personally, I agree with him ; but we must not quarrel with others because they do not think with us on this point. I suppose it is a question of taste and nature, that has not made us all alike. In following that which seems to us best, we ought always to consider whether we are likely to injure the prospects of those who seek enjoyment in some other direction. Some men prefer shooting, and others like hunting, the hare ; but though their interests may occasionally clash with fox-hunting, we must remember they are good sportsmen and have a right to amuse themselves in their own way.
Love of hunting is one of the strongest features in the character of the human race, and must have been transmitted to us by some remote ancestor. This love is not, however, inherited by all alike : in some it is entirely absent, others only have it in a mild form, whilst a few are so thoroughly impregnated with it that it becomes the ruling passion of life. There must be many men who possess this curious instinct strongly, but who are condemned through circumstances to an office stool, and never see a hound all their lives. Denied its legitimate outlet, this hidden force finds a vent usually in lavishing affection on dogs and other animals. The instinct is occasionally inherited by certain families, but as a rule it is very wayward, cropping up in the character of individuals by whose breeding one would least expect it, and being entirely absent in the descendants of men who have possessed it fully. One brother may be an ardent hunter, and the other may hate the sight of a hound. Love of hunting is not often seen side by side with that commercial spirit which lays up for itself the riches of this world, though of course there may be exceptions to this as to every other rule. The man whose chief centre of interest is hunting and hounds will very seldom find time for the making of money. There will always be found plenty of sneaking Jacobs to take advantage of the easy-going, sport-loving Esaus of this life.
The cry of hounds appeals to something within us that we cannot define, and our first impulse is to follow. If we do not possess a horse, we follow on foot as fast and as far as we can; but we cannot explain why the music of the pack has suddenly created this mad desire. When hounds run through a village, it is a common sight to see the whole population, young men and maidens, old men and boys, all turn out, and with one accord commence to run. They know they will be left behind in the first field, but they never stop to think of that, and only blindly obey the dictates of the impulse which urges them on. My only explanation for this is that hunting is the natural recreation of man, as it is the best means of procuring fresh air and exercise. I am very glad to see that in this, the latter part of the century, the nation has awakened to the necessity of bodily exercise: what with bicycles and games, there are very few young men nowadays who do not get a chance of exerting some of their muscles every day. Formerly, when a boy left school or college, he took to the business of life without ever thinking of his body, and thereupon commenced to lay on a tissue of fat that made him an old man at forty. It is not, however, the health of the man to-day of which I am thinking, so much as that of future generations. The body cannot be healthy without exercise, and unless a man is healthy, he cannot have healthy children. However devoted a man is to books and brain-work, he should not neglect to work his muscles, and he may be certain his brain will be all the clearer for bodily exertion. Why is it that so many clever men beget fools ? The reason is, I believe, that having allowed brain-work to absorb all their time to the detriment of their physical powers, they are unable to transmit a healthy vitality to their children. Of course the same may be said of the muscular man who never uses his brain ; but he, at any rate, will get healthy children, and the brain-power will not be lost, only hid beneath a thicker covering. There is no better or pleasanter form of exercise than riding to fox-hounds or running to foot-beagles : do one or other, but do both if you can. Forgive me for thus launching out and laying down the law, but exercise has ever been my hobby. The breeding of hounds and other animals has been the study of my life, which makes me take an interest in the breeding of the human race. I suppose the main object of recreation is exercise ; but what is of nearly as much importance is that the sport or game should possess sufficient interest to crowd out every other thought from the mind. Dwelling too long on one subject is bad for the brain. There is nothing to make you forget the troubles and worries of life that can compare with hunting. You may start out in the morning after reading a sheaf of unpleasant letters, feeling bothered and worried ; but as you near the meet your black reflections gradually fade away, and by the time the fox is found, they have completely disappeared. Then you return at night, weary in body perhaps, but with a brain refreshed, and can tackle with ease the problems which appeared in the morning to overwhelm you. The glorious uncertainty of hunting is one of its greatest charms. You never know what the day will bring forth, for what may appear to you a most unlikely morning for scent may turn out the best day of the season. A good fox may be found where previous experience has led you to expect foxes to be short-running. You get a good start from the covert, and the horse you had thought before only a moderate hunter t carries you brilliantly.