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Full text of "The rabbit : with a chapter on Cookery"

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Fur, Feather, & Fin Series 

edited by 
ALFRED E. T. WATSON 



THE RABBIT 



FUR, FEATHER, AND FIN SERIES. 

Edited by A. E. T. WATSON. 



*V* The Volumes are also issued half-bound in leather, with gilt 
top. The price can be had from all Booksellers. 

THE PARTRIDGE. NATURAL HISTORY— By the 

Rev. H. A. Macpherson. SHOOTING— By A. J. Stuart- 

Wortley. COOKERY— By George Saintsbury. With 

ii Illustrations and various Diagrams. Crown 8vo. 5s. 

THE GROUSE. NATURAL H/STORY-By the Rev. 

H. A. Macpherson. SHOOTING — By A. J. Stuart- 

Wortley. COOKERY— By George Saintsbury. With 

13 Illustrations and various Diagrams. Crown 8vo. 5^. 

THE PHEASANT. NATURAL HISTORY— By the 

Rev. H. A. Macpherson. SHOOTING— By A. J. Stuart- 

Wortley. COOKERY— By Alexander Innes Shand. 

With 10 Illustrations and various Diagrams. Crown 8vo. $ s - 

THE HARE. NATURAL HISTORY— By the Rev. 

H. A. Macpherson. SHOO TING— By the Hon. Gerald 

Lascelles. COURSING— By Charles Richardson. 

HUNTING— By J. S. Gibbons and G. H. Longman. 
COOKERY— By Col. Kenney Herbert. With 9 Illus- 
trations. Crown 8vo. 5.?. 

RED DEER. NATURAL HISTORY.— By the Rev. 

H. A. Macpherson. DEER-STALKING— By Cameron 

of Lochiel. STAG-HUNTING— By Viscount Ebring- 

ton. COOKER Y— By Alexander Innes Shand. With 

10 Illustrations. Crown 8vo. $s. 

THE SALMON. By the Hon. A. E. Gathorne-Hardy. 
With Chapters on the LAW OF SALMON-FISHING 
by Claud Douglas Pennant; and COOKERY by Alex- 
ander Innes Shand. With 8 Illustrations. Crown 8vo. 5*. 

THE TROUT. By the Marquess of Granby. With 
Chapters on BREEDING by Col. F. H. Custance ; and 
COOKERY by Alexander Innes Shand. With 12 Illustra- 
tions. Crown 8vo. $s. 

THE RABBIT. By James Edmund Harting. With 

a Chapter on COOKERY by Alexander Innes Shand. 
With 10 Illustrations. Crown 8vo. 5s. 

WILDFOWL. By the Hon. John Scott-Montagu, 

&c. With Illustrations. {In preparation. 



LONGMANS, GREEN & CO., 39 Paternoster Row, London 
New York and Bombay. 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
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HERE S ONE SITTING' 






THE RABBIT 



JAMES EDMUND HARTING 

WITH A CHAPTER ON 

COOKERY 
BY ALEXANDER INNES SHAND 




ILLUSTRATIONS BY ARCHIBALD THORBURN, G. E. LODGE 
S. ALKEN AND CHARLES WHYMPER 



LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO. 

39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON 
NEW YORK AND BOMBAY 



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PREFACE 



The design of the Fur, Feather, and Fin Series is 
to present monographs, as complete as they can 
possibly be made, on the various English birds, 
beasts and fishes which are generally included 
under the head of Game. 

Books on Natural History cover such a vast 
number of subjects that their writers necessarily 
find it impossible to deal with each in a really 
comprehensive manner ; and it is not within 
the scope of such works exhaustively to discuss 
the animals described, in the light of objects of 
sport. Books on sport, again, seldom treat at 
length of the Natural History of the creatures 
which are shot or otherwise taken ; and, so far 
as the Editor is aware, in no book hitherto 
published on Natural History or Sport has 
information been given as to the best methods 
of turning the contents of the bag to account. 



PREFACE 



Each volume of the present Series will, there- 
fore, be devoted to a bird, beast, or fish. Their 
origin will be traced, their birth and breeding 
described, every known method of circumventing 
and killing them— not omitting the methods em- 
ployed by the poacher — will be explained with 
special regard to modern developments, and 
they will only be left when on the table in 
the most appetising forms which the delicate 
science of cookery has discovered. 

ALFRED E. T. WATSON. 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER PAGE 

I. Natural History of the Rabbit . . i 

II. The Warren 51 

III. Ferreting 82 

IV. Shooting 95 

V. Trapping, Snaring, Netting, and Bolting 126 

VI. Poaching 150 

VII. The Ground Game Act .... 173 

VIII. Rabbit-Hawking with the Goshawk . . 213 

IX. The Cookery of the Rabbit . . . 222 

Index . . . . . . . . 249 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

BY 

A. Thorburn, G. E. Lodge, S. Alken and C. Whymper. 

{Reproduced by the Swan Electric Engraving Company) 



6 Here's One Sitting ' 

Maternal Instinct 

Stoat hunting Rabbit 

A Warrener of the Olden Time 

Ferreting 

Rabbit-Shooting in the Open 
Rabbit-Shooting in Covert 
Rabbit-Shooting with a Rifle 
An Old Hand .... 
Just Missed Him . . . . 



Frontispiece 
To face p. 20 
38 
74 
94 
100 
108 
124 

156 



THE RABBIT 

CHAPTER I 

NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 

As a ' beast of warren ' the rabbit has been well 
known in England for many centuries. Whether it 
is indigenous to this country, or whether, like the 
pheasant, the swan, and the fallow deer, it was intro- 
duced by the Romans, as some have asserted, is a 
question which, for want of direct evidence, will 
perhaps never be satisfactorily settled. We have it 
on the authority of the Yorkshire antiquary Whitaker 
that we are indebted to Roman enterprise, not only 
for the introduction of the rabbit, but also for the 
ferret, which they employed to hunt it ; and the Latin 
names for these animals, cuniculus and furectus, both 
of which are described by Pliny, 1 give some colour to 
the assertion. 

From what is stated by Greek and Latin authors, 

1 Hist. Nat. viii. 55. 

B 

3 



THE RABBIT 



it may be safely inferred that in early times the rabbit 
was not indigenous either in Greece or Italy, nor was 
it known eastward of these countries. The ancient 
Jews were unacquainted with it, and there is no 
mention of it in the Bible ; for it is now generally 
acknowledged that the Hebrew word shdphan, which, 
in the Authorised Version, is rendered ' coney of the 
rock,' is not our familiar rodent, but the Syrian Hyrax 
(Hyrax syriacus). The ancient classic authors, then, 
derived their knowledge of it through the early ex- 
plorers of Western Europe. Strabo, writing about the 
year 50 B.C., expressly mentions the rabbit as being 
abundant in Spain. He writes : ' Of destructive 
animals there are scarcely any with ._ the exception of 
certain little hares which burrow in the ground (7rXrjv 
tQ)v y€(Dpvx<tiv AayiSeW) and destroy both seeds and 
plants by gnawing at the roots. They are met with 
throughout almost the whole of Spain, extending to 
Marseilles, and infesting the islands also. It is said 
that formerly the inhabitants of the islands Majorca 
and Minorca sent a deputation to the Romans soliciting 
that a new land might be given them, as they were 
quite driven out of their country by those animals, 
being no longer able to stand against their vast multi- 
tudes.' Further on he observes that to check the 
increase of these c little hares,' many ways of hunting 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 3 

have been devised, amongst others by wild weasels 
from Africa trained for the purpose (Kai Srj yaAas 
ay peas as rj Aifivrj <j>€p€L rpicfrovcriv iTrcTrjSes). Having 
muzzled these, they turn them into the holes, where 
they either drag out the animals they find there with 
their claws, or compel them to fly to the surface, 
where they are taken by people standing by for that 
purpose. 1 

^Elian, also, who lived in the third century of the 
Christian era, particularly describes the rabbits of 
Spain. 2 Pliny says : ' There is also a species of hare in 
Spain, which is called cuniculus ; it is extremely prolific, 
and produces famine in the Balearic islands, by destroy- 
ing the harvests.' Further on he adds : ' It is a well- 
known fact that the inhabitants of the Balearic islands 
begged of the late Emperor Augustus the aid of a 
number of soldiers to prevent the too rapid increase 
of these animals. Ferrets (viverrce) are much prized 
on account of their hunting these animals ; they are 
put into the burrows, with their • numerous outlets, 
which the rabbits form, and from which circumstance 
they derive their name ; and as the ferrets drive them 
out, they are taken above. ' 3 The Latin word cuniculus 
denotes both a rabbit and an underground passage. 

1 Geograph. iii. 2, §6. 2 Hist. Nat. xiii. 15. 

3 Hist. Nat. viii. 55. 

B 2 



THE RABBIT 



Varro * suggests that the rabbit derived its name from 
the burrow it forms, and Martial avers that rabbits 
first taught men to undermine enemies' towns. 2 

Cognate with the Latin cuniculus we have the 
Italian coniglio, Spanish conejo, Belgic konin, Danish 
and Swedish kaning, German kaninchen, Old French 
connin, Welsh cwningen, and Old English conyng and 
coney ) which, indeed, is our oldest name for the animal. 
The word rabbit, anciently rabbet, was originally 
applied only to the young animal. In the Promptorium 
Parvulorum (1440) we find 'Rabet, a yonge conye,' 
apparently derived through a French source, as 
indicated by the diminutive termination, ette. In 
Russell's ' Book of Nurture ' (1424) we find rabbettes. 
At the present day, as everyone knows, the name 
rabbit is bestowed indifferently on young and old. 

Another name for the animal, to be found in 
ancient books on hunting, is riote, the use of which 
may be here referred to incidentally as explaining the 
meaning of the phrase 'to run riot.' In an old MS. 
preserved in the Bodleian Library we may read the 
following instructive directions to a huntsman : — 

' What rache {i.e. a hound hunting by scent) that 
renneth to a conyng yn any tyme, hym aughte to be 
ascryed {i.e. assailed with a shout), saying to hym 

1 De Re Rustica, iii. 12, §6. 2 Efiigr. xiii. 60. 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 5 

loude war ryote war I for noon other wylde beest yn 
Ingelande is called ryote saf the conyng alonly.' 

The structural differences between a rabbit and a 
hare are chiefly apparent in the skull, and the relative 
length of the ears and hind limbs, which are much 
shorter in the rabbit than in the hare. In the latter 
animal we note the greater complexity of the maxillo- 
turbinal bones, and Professor Rolleston, commenting 
upon this, observed, ' It is obvious that the rabbit, 
living usually in a subterranean atmosphere, is 
advantaged by having that atmosphere warmed as 
much as possible before entering the lungs.' 

The dentition in both hare and rabbit is typical 
of a rodent or gnawing animal. Four large incisors, 
two in the upper and two in the lower jaw, are formed 
of hard bone (dentine), the front surfaces being com- 
posed of layers of very hard enamel. In the natural 
condition these teeth are in opposition, and wear 
each other away in the act of gnawing. The hard 
enamel in the upper pair cuts away the softer dentine 
in the lower, leaving the sharp front edge of enamel 
standing up like the edge of a chisel, and the lower 
perform the same duty for the upper. Thus four 
sharp chisel-edged teeth are formed, which act most 
efficiently in gnawing the hard food of the rodent, 
such as bark or roots. If by any accident the lower 



THE RABBIT 



jaw of the animal is displaced, as occasionally happens 
from the impact of a shot, the incisors in the fractured 
jaw are distorted, and do not meet those above them, 
and as they are not then worn away by use, they con- 
tinue to grow, sometimes to an extraordinary length. 
The manner in which animals thus deformed adapt 
themselves to new conditions is marvellous. They 
not only contrive to feed, but to live a long time after 
the injury, as shown by the ossified condition of the 
fracture when at length it comes to be examined. 
The different mode in which hares and rabbits feed 
is noteworthy. A Suffolk farmer, who is a good 
sportsman as well as shrewd observer of facts con- 
nected with natural history, asserts that you may 
generally tell whether your turnips are nibbled by 
hares or rabbits by the difference in the mode of 
attacking the roots. A hare will bite off the peel and 
leave it on the ground ; a rabbit will eat peel and all. 
There is a marked difference also in the method 
pursued by a rabbit and a rat when eating a turnip, 
as observed by Mr. R. M. Barrington. If the turnip 
is growing, and a portion of the bulb is still in the 
ground, a rat generally eats all round it and leaves 
the centre for the last ; whereas a rabbit begins at one 
side and works right through to the other side. A 
rat will bite off the rind, as a hare does, and will leave 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 7 

it in chips on the ground ; a rabbit, as just remarked, 
will eat peel and all. Rats very often will leave a 
turnip half eaten to go to another ; but if they mean 
to consume the bulb, they invariably finish in the 
middle. The top falls over at last with a truncated 
portion of the bulb attacked. 

In pointing out some of the most marked dif- 
ferences which exist between a rabbit and a hare, 
allusion has been made inter alia to that which exists 
in the relative length of the limbs, and this is cor- 
related with the different mode of retreat adopted by 
the two species. A rabbit seeks safety by conceal- 
ment in a burrow; a hare seeks safety in flight. 
Obviously the greater length of the hind legs in the 
latter animal gives greater power and speed, and this 
is especially noticeable when a hare is going uphill. 
The shorter limbs of the rabbit are useful in other 
ways, namely, for throwing out the soil behind it when 
burrowing, and for giving the alarm to its companions 
by thumping on the ground, and so attracting the 
attention of those within hearing. 

The advantage of having a white under-surface 
to the tail is also apparent on reflection ; for when, 
on the approach of an intruder while rabbits are 
out feeding, those nearest to him begin to scuttle 
away, the little white flag in motion at once attracts 



THE RABBIT 



the attention of others, and all speedily make for 
their burrows. 

One of the most important differences between 
the rabbit and hare is the condition of the young 
at birth. In the case of the former, the young are 
born underground, and are blind at birth ; l in the 
case of the latter they are deposited in a ' form ' on 
the surface of the ground, and are born with the eyes 
open. This difference is correlated, no doubt, with 
the divergent habits of the two species ; for the very 
young leverets are so soon able to move away from the 
place of their birth that they do not stand in need of 
the same protection and concealment as the blind and 
helpless young of the coney. 

The wild rabbit will begin to breed at the age of 
six months, and may have half a dozen litters in a 
year. Early rabbits will breed the same year. The 
period of gestation is twenty-eight days, and the 
number of young in a litter is generally from five to 
seven. 

1 In the case of a rabbit in captivity it was observed that 
the doe went 29 days with young, which were not only born 
blind but with their ears closed ; nor could they move them 
until the tenth day. On the eleventh day they began to see ; 
on the twelfth their ears were quite open, and on the thirteenth 
day they could erect their ears. They shed their first coat 
when about three months old. 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 9 

Instances in which rabbits have produced their 
young aboveground, like hares, have been occasion- 
ally reported, but cannot be regarded as common. A 
good deal depends upon the nature of the soil in the 
locality frequented by them. For example, on moors 
where the soil is very wet, rabbits will sometimes 
refrain from burrowing, and content themselves with 
runs and galleries formed in the long matted heather 
and herbage. In very stony ground, too, where 
burrowing is more laborious, they will sometimes 
merely scratch a slight hollow, and make a ' form ' 
like a hare. In The Field of December 2, 1876, 
Mr. W. Southam, of Durrington, near Amesbury, re- 
ported a typical case of a rabbit breeding above 
ground. On November 27, a flat 'form,' like that of 
a hare, was found in turnips, and contained four 
newly born young. Unluckily the old doe was shot 
as she left the ' form ' before it was discovered. 
Another observer, Mr. John Cordeaux, of Great 
Cotes, Lincolnshire, found four young rabbits a few 
days old in a bare fallow field in the Humber marshes. 
They were nestling together in a slight hollow bedded 
with down. There was no covert or shelter whatever 
for them, the nest being as bare and exposed as that 
of a lapwing. In some cases in which newly born 



THE RABBIT 



young have been found aboveground, it is quite 
likely that they may have been temporarily removed 
by the parent from some source of danger, as, for 
example, the flooding of the burrow by heavy rain. 
Under such circumstances these animals will quickly 
remove their young, carrying them one at a time in 
the mouth, as a cat does her kittens. One of the 
oddest places in which to find young rabbits, that we 
can call to mind, was the body of a ' scarecrow.' It 
had lain in a field, near Oakham, since the previous 
autumn, and consisted of an old bag stuffed with 
straw. Inside this, the following spring, were found 
five young rabbits. 1 

Although the regular breeding season with rabbits 
is from February until September, does in young are 
sometimes killed as late as November 2 ; but this is 
not a common occurrence, and is perhaps to be attri- 
buted to the prevalence at the time of very mild and 
open weather. 

The practice of ferreting and shooting rabbits 
after the close of the shooting season, say, after the 

1 Although many cases have been reported of hares going 
to ground, generally when pursued and hard pressed, we are 
not aware that any instance has been noted of a hare producing 
young in a burrow. White hares constantly seek refuge in 
rocks — that is, in holes under rocks and stones. 

2 The Field, December 14, 1889. 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT n 

first of February, has always seemed to us a repre- 
hensible one. As above stated, rabbits begin to 
breed in February, and while there can be no satis- 
faction in shooting does that are scarcely able to run, 
a great deal of cruelty is thoughtlessly perpetrated by 
killing rabbits whose young ones are consequently 
left to die of starvation in the burrow. Keepers, by 
way of excuse, will assert that they have not had time 
to kill the rabbits by the end of the shooting season. 
But this is nonsense. There is plenty of time if they 
choose to do it, and without disturbing the coverts 
too, for they can ferret and catch them in nets, a 
proceeding which, if quietly and properly carried 
out, will not unduly disturb the pheasants. In our 
opinion, rabbits should not be maintained in such 
numbers that they cannot be killed down, so far as 
is necessary, between September i and February i. 
Humanitarians, no doubt, would advocate a close 
time for rabbits in the spring ; but, in view of the 
extraordinary rate at which these animals increase, 
and the adverse nature of existing legislation, as indi- 
cated by the Ground Game Act of 1880, it is extremely 
doubtful whether such a measure would be generally 
acceptable. 

One may tell an old rabbit from a young one 1 
by feeling the joints of the forelegs. When the * 



THE RABBIT 



extremities of the two bones which unite to form the 
joint are so close together that no space can be felt 
between them, the rabbit is an old one. On the 
other hand, if there is a perceptible separation at the 
joint the animal is a young one, and is more or less 
so as the bones are more or less separated. Another 
mode of distinguishing the two is by the claws, which 
in an old rabbit are very long and rough, in a young 
one short and smooth. The latter also has a softer 
coat. 

When fresh killed a rabbit will be stiff and the 
flesh white and dry ; when stale it will be limp, and 
the flesh will have a bluish tinge. 

When taken young and domesticated, wild rabbits 
not only become soon accustomed to the altered con- 
ditions of life, but will live for many years in captivity. 
One, which was captured in Buckinghamshire when 
about ten days old and brought to London, had 
the run of the house and area, was tame, amusing, 
and cleanly in its habits. It would follow the cook 
about like a dog, and was a constant playmate in 
the nursery. In these circumstances it lived for six 
years. 1 

A wild rabbit, which had been captured in 
February, 1873, when only a few weeks old, and was 
1 The Field, July 16, 1892. 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 13 

brought up by hand, was reported to be alive and 
well in its eleventh year. 1 

The average weight of a wild rabbit may be set 
down at from 3 lb. to 3J lb., or about the same 1 
weight as a good wild mallard, or a cock pheasant ; 
but, as in the case of pheasants, much depends upon 
the abundance or otherwise of food, and the differ- I 
ence in weight between rabbits on a light soil, 
with nothing but innutritious grass to feed upon, 
and those from highly cultivated farm-lands, growing 
plenty of roots and clover, is very noticeable. In 
The Field of December 3, 1892, it was noted that a 
rabbit, shot in Lincolnshire, weighed 4 lb. iooz., and 
several have been recorded which weighed consider- 
ably over 4 lb. 2 An old buck, killed in the snow just 
before Christmas, weighed 4 lb. 13 oz. before being 
paunched, and this was in a district where no fresh 
stock had been introduced to increase the size. 
Under similar conditions, at Newport Pagnell, in 
January, 1890, one which attracted attention from 
its size was found to turn the scales at 4 lb. 14 oz. 

Rabbits weighing 5 lb. and upwards, although of 
course not common, have several times been reported. 
One such, killed at Hambleton, South Buckingham- 

1 The Zoologist, 1883, p. 173. 

2 See The Field of September 30, 1893 5 October 17 and 
November 21, 1896. 



i 4 THE RABBIT 



shire, weighed 5 lb. 2 oz. ; and another, caught by a 
dog at East Molesey, just below Tagg's Island, was 
stated to have weighed 5 lb. 10 oz. when fiaunched. 1 
A correspondent at Lichfield wrote word, in February, 
1890, that he had obtained one which weighed 6 lb. 
all but 2 oz., and was of opinion that it was a pure- 
bred wild rabbit. 

When so-called wild rabbits of such extraordinary 
size are reported, there is naturally some reason to 
suspect that they must be the result of a cross with 
tame rabbits, that have been turned down, if not on 
the same ground, at all events on adjoining land ; 
and in some cases this has been proved to be so. 
For example, in The Field of February 14, 1891, 
Mr. G. M. Chamberlain, of Stratton Strawless, near 
Norwich, wrote to report that he had shot a rabbit in 
one of the coverts there, which weighed no less than 
6^ lb. j but the following week a former agent on 
the estate announced that he well remembered several 
half-bred animals being killed there in 1881, and that 
on inquiry he had discovered that tame ones had 
been turned down to increase the size, and that 
some killed that year were marked with white. 

We regard it as a mistake to turn down tame 
rabbits on a sporting estate, for although the result no 



The Fields January 7, i£ 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 15 

doubt will be to increase the size of the progeny, that 
is not what is wanted if they are to afford sport with 
the gun, and tame rabbits will not burrow, but live on 
the surface like hares. The desideratum is a strong 
active rabbit with the highest possible turn of speed, 
and not a clumsy animal that can hardly be made to 
move. In a warren, of course, where rabbits are only 
reared for market, and are always ferreted and netted, 
or trapped, the case is different ; speed counts for 
nothing, and the heavier the animal the better will be 
the market price obtained. 

Size may be increased by cutting if desired, 1 
although for sporting purposes, as above remarked, 
no advantage will be gained therefrom. 

It is remarkable that insular forms are always 
much smaller than those on a mainland, and a 
notable instance of this may be observed in the 
rabbits on the island of Porto Santo, Madeira. This 
feral breed, however, is known to have descended from 
some which were turned down about the year 141 8 
by Gonzales Zarco. They are now much smaller 
than their European relatives, being nearly one-third 
less in weight; the upper parts are much redder 
and the lower surface greyer, while the tail is reddish 
brown above. 

1 Daniel, vol. i. p. 486. 



16 THE RABBIT 



Rabbits exist on the Saltee and Keragh Islands 
off the coast of Wexford, and on the Island of 
Inishtrahull, Co. Donegal ; but evidence is wanting to 
show whether they are smaller, lighter in weight, or 
darker in colour. This might be ascertained, and it 
would be interesting also to obtain statistics on these 
points from some of the western isles of Scotland ; for 
instance, from the Isle of Handa, Sutherlandshire, 
where rabbits are very abundant. 

Within certain limits, wild rabbits are subject to 
some variation in colour, without any admixture from 
tame stock. White, black, sandy, and silver-grey are 
all well-known varieties, and although they cannot be 
said to be common, several localities might be men- 
tioned in which there is an unusual preponderance of 
either white or black ones. 1 White ones may be 
seen any day in Bos worth Park, Leicester, and on the 
estate of Mr. Joseph Lescher, of Boyles Court,- Essex ; 
and black ones occur sporadically in Cheshire, notably 
in the large warrens of Lyme Park, and not infre- 
quently in the coverts of Mr. Assheton Smith, of 
Vaynol, North Wales. Dr. Laver, in his recently 
published work on the mammalian fauna of Essex, 

1 See The Zoologist ', 1866, p. 385; and The Essex Naturalist, 
vol. ii. p. 33, and vol. iii. p. 25. 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 17 

states that a silver-grey rabbit is generally black in its 
first coat. 

' Silver-greys ' can be readily reared in the open, 
and there is no difficulty in keeping them apart from 
the ordinary wild stock ; but they have nothing to 
recommend them from the sportsman's point of 
view, and the value of their skins at the present day 
is hardly sufficient to warrant any special outlay in 
rearing them. 

The question whether rabbits and hares ever 
interbreed is one that is frequently asked, and appa- 
rently many persons believe in its possibility. They 
point to the so-called ' Belgian Hare ' or ' Leporine,' 
which they assert is a well-known hybrid between 
these two species. That the animal is well known 
there is no doubt ; it appears at every rabbit and 
poultry show of importance, and special prizes are 
offered for the most typical specimens. Its appear- 
ance, too, is that of a hybrid hare ; but the resem- 
blance is merely superficial. About forty years ago 
a breed of rabbits originated in Belgium which some- 
what distantly resembled the ordinary brown hare, and 
some enterprising breeder pretended that he had suc- 
ceeded in crossing the hare with a rabbit, and that 
these were the produce. Since this introduction the 
so-called ' Leporines ' have been bred repeatedly, with 

c 



18 THE RABBIT 



a twofold object — to increase size, and ostensibly to 
develop a rabbit of the form, colour, and fur of the 
wild hare. 

After what has been stated above as to the very 
different condition of the rabbit and hare at birth — 
the young of the former being naked and blind, while 
those of the latter are clothed with fur and with their 
eyes open — it needs not much reflection to conclude 
that a cross between these two animals is a physio- 
logical impossibility. No scientific investigator who 
has taken due precautions has ever succeeded in 
obtaining such a hybrid. 

The so-called i Leporine ? is merely a large 
domesticated variety of the common rabbit, resem- 
bling a hare in form and colour. On examination it 
will be found that its forelegs are not above half the 
length of those of the common hare, and if the fur of 
the back be turned up, it will be seen that the hair 
next the skin is quite dark instead of light coloured. 
The experiment of turning out ' Belgian Hares ' for 
the purpose of increasing the size of the ordinary wild 
rabbit has often been made, and with partial success ; 
but as they are very tame and confiding, and never go 
to ground (for tame rabbits never burrow), they easily 
fall a prey to vermin and poachers. If it is desired to 
increase the size of the rabbits on ground where they 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 19 

are reared only for the market, and not for sporting 
purposes, the best mode of procedure is to net a wild 
buck rabbit and place it with a Belgian doe in a 
partially darkened loose box in a stable otherwise un- 
used. When they have been long enough together, 
the buck should be restored to liberty, and the off- 
spring, when weaned, turned into different burrows. 
It will not answer so well to catch a wild doe and 
place it with a Belgian buck, for the wild doe does not 
breed so readily in captivity. The progeny in the 
former case always resemble the wild rabbit more than 
the so-called Belgian hare. 

The rabbit is usually regarded as one of the 
most timid of animals, seldom permitting a very near 
approach (unless when in a ' seat ' it believes itself to 
be undiscovered) and usually taking to flight at the 
least alarm. The case is different, however, when a 
doe has young to look after. Her maternal courage 
is then displayed in a way that is sometimes asto- 
nishing. 

One day in September 1890, while Mr. Randolph, 
of Modbury, Wiltshire, was passing through a wood, 
he observed a weasel hunting a young rabbit about 
the size of a man's fist. He stood still to watch the 
result. The chase did not last long, for the young 
rabbit soon gave up, and the weasel killed it. An old 

c 2 



THE RABBIT 



rabbit, presumably the parent, suddenly dashed out 
upon the scene from a bank, and fairly ' went for ' 
the weasel. The latter turned tail at once and aban- 
doned his prey. But the old rabbit still continued 
to follow him with the greatest fury till she had driven 
him completely off the ground. 

On another occasion, in October, 1891, a game- 
keeper in the service of Mr. Deacon, of Southborough, 
Tunbridge Wells, on going through a wood saw a 
stoat which had caught a young rabbit, playing with 
it as a cat does with a mouse, letting it go and then 
catching it again. Before the keeper could interfere, 
he saw a full-grown rabbit, probably the doe, rush 
out of some underwood close by, knock over the 
stoat, and carry off the young one in its mouth. The 
stoat, on recovering itself, followed through the under- 
wood, but presently reappeared in retreat pursued by 
a couple of rabbits. 

A friend of the writer resident in North Wales 
was once witness to a similar incident when the 
aggressor was a crow. A young rabbit had strayed 
a little too far from the mouth of the burrow, when a 
carrion crow suddenly alighted close to it, and in a 
series of hops gave chase, and was about to seize it. 
Suddenly from the mouth of the burrow an old rabbit 
came with a rush, and going full tilt at the crow, 




1 t 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 21 

knocked it over before it could get out of the way. 
The discomfited bird, with a hoarse croak, scrambled 
on to its feet and hastily took flight. 

Nor are these exceptional cases. Similar instances 
of the courageous behaviour of rabbits in defence of 
their young have been from time to time recorded. 1 

In one of the instances above related it will be 
observed that the parent rabbit, after driving away a 
stoat, carried off her young one in her mouth. It is, 
perhaps, not generally known that both hares and 
rabbits transport their young in this way, just as cats 
will carry their kittens, or dogs their puppies. Many 
such instances have come under our notice, more 
often in the case of hares, which convey their young 
in this manner, when they have been discovered, to a 
place of greater safety. 

It is somewhat curious that, notwithstanding the 
fierce way in which both rabbits and hares will defend 
their young, they seldom attempt to bite anyone 
when taken from a net, or on being picked up when 
wounded by shot. The writer in twenty-five years' 
experience, during which time he must have shot and 
seen others shoot thousands of rabbits, has never 

1 See Couch, Illustrations of Instinct, p. 231 ; The Essex 
Naturalist, vol. ii. (1888), p. 71 ; The Field, September 8, 1888, 
September 20, 1890, November 7, 1891, May 7, 1892, Octo- 
ber 7, 1893, an( l August 14, 1897. 



THE RABBIT 



personally witnessed anything of the kind. Pre- 
sumably, therefore, such instances are rare, although, 
from time to time, a few have been recorded. The 
head-keeper at Craigincat, Perthshire, reported, in 
January, 1894, that, having shot at and wounded a 
rabbit, he sent a spaniel to retrieve it, when to his 
surprise he heard the dog howling. On running to 
see what was the matter, he found that the rabbit had 
caught hold of the dog by the lip, and the dog was 
howling and swinging the rabbit round and round 
trying to get rid of it. Eventually the rabbit let go, 
and the dog retrieved it. A somewhat similar case 
was reported by Mr. S. E. Moony, of The Doon, 
Athlone. His keeper was about to take a rabbit out 
of a trap, and had seized it by the hind legs, when 
the rabbit made a sudden snap at the man's other 
hand and fixed its teeth in his thumb sufficiently 
deep to draw blood. Although this man had been 
engaged in trapping rabbits for nearly thirty years, 
he stated that he never before knew a rabbit to 
retaliate. 

In December, 1893, Mr. H. Selby, of Stoborough, 
near Wareham, was severely bitten by a rabbit that 
he was picking up after it had been shot through the 
hind quarters. Its teeth met through the thickest 
part of the flesh inside the third finger of the right 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 23 



hand, and the wound, having begun to fester, had 
to be poulticed. Mr. Eustace Banks, of the Rectory, 
Corfe Castle, who reported the ca?e in The Field 
of February 17, 1894, mentioned this as the only 
instance of a wounded rabbit biting that had come 
to his knowledge, and he considered it therefore 
of very rare occurrence. On the other hand, Mr. 
J. Simpson, of Wortley, Yorkshire, whose excel- 
lent book on the rabbit we shall have occasion to 
quote later on, thus commented on the occurrence : 
' Until reading the notes which have appeared lately 
in The Field, I was under the impression that it was 
pretty well known that rabbits would bite when pro- 
voked. I have been bitten a number of times by 
both tame and wild rabbits — the latter in a tame state 
— and on every occasion it happened when I had 
incautiously put my hand near a nest of young. The 
doe sprang with a bound at my hand and gave just 
one severe grip. I got so well aware of this when 
a boy, that I used always to collar the doe before 
putting my hand on the nest.' 

Here, it will be observed, the attack was made 
in defence of the young, which is a different matter 
from the case of a rabbit biting when wounded, an 
event, as above stated, of fortunately rare occurrence. 

As to the comparative speed of hares and rabbits 



24 THE RABBIT 



some difference of opinion prevails. On this point 
we are disposed to agree with Mr. Allan Gordon 
Cameron, of Ledaig, N.B., who, writing in The Field 
of November 30, 1895, gives the following result of 
his experience : — 

' My brother and I used to course both hares and 
rabbits on Costa Hill in Orkney, where the turf is 
smooth and undulating, the grass, storm-swept with 
Atlantic spray, remarkably sweet, and the hares and 
rabbits constitutionally vigorous. A little greyhound 
bitch we had, who was wonderfully smart at getting 
away, used to account for most of the rabbits lying 
outside a radius of fifty yards, or thereabouts, from 
the burrow ; but she could not have picked up a hare 
in a similar distance ; and sometimes a strong hare 
dipping over the cliff after a long run, would fairly 
beat our four dogs — two of them powerful brutes, that 
would stop a deer single-handed. Our impression is 
that a rabbit gets up its top speed at once, and has 
no spurt at a pinch ; but a hare requires pressing, will 
not get properly extended unless pressed, and answers 
splendidly to every effort of the dogs that may be 
almost touching her.' 

A rabbit is said to run faster than a hare for 
thirty-five yards ; and no one would think of com- 
paring the two but for the few seconds that elapse 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 25 

after a rabbit is pushed from its ' seat ' — when it runs 
its fastest — and after the hare is started, uncertain, 
timidly cantering off, but occasionally racing away 
at a speed which few four-footed creatures excel. The 
rabbit, with its short legs, only half the length of a 
hare's, and its shorter body, twists and swerves aside 
with a jerky motion, and really seems to be going at 
a tremendous pace. The hare, with her long legs, 
and the stride and grace of a racehorse, moves away 
so evenly that most people do not realise her true 
speed. No one who has shot at a hare can doubt 
her superior pace. 

Sportsmen who shoot much over marshes, and 
districts where dykes and drains abound, must have 
noticed that hares, and occasionally rabbits also, will 
take to the water when hard pressed. Hares have a 
great liking for sitting out upon the higher ground of 
the saltings, and there, of course, when overtaken by 
a spring-tide, they are sometimes forced to swim the 
creeks in order to reach dry land. Rabbits probably 
have less occasion for exercising their swimming 
powers ; nevertheless they have been occasionally ob- 
served to swim well. In October, 1897, Mr. H. Sharp, 
author of an excellent book on 'Wild Fowling,' was 
one of a party shooting hares on an Essex 'salting.' 
During the day much amusement was caused by the 



26 THE RABBIT 



boldness of a rabbit, which, on being disturbed from 
a snug ' seat ' in a tuft of grass, made straight for a 
wide creek, and entering the water, struck out boldly 
for the opposite side, carrying the head well elevated, 
and progressing at a good pace. 

Mr. G. H. Warrender, of Springfields, Wolver- 
hampton, reported that one day in September, 1890, 
he was walking along a canal side, when he saw a 
young rabbit, apparently about a month old, on the 
towing-path. He chased it a few yards, when he was 
astonished to see it leap into the canal and swim 
like a water-rat to the far side. This occurred in the 
morning. He had occasion to pass the same spot 
in the evening, when he saw something plunge into 
the water on the towing-path side, which he thought 
at first sight was a water-rat, but on closer observa- 
tion, it proved to be a young rabbit — the same, 
probably, which he had seen leap into the canal in 
the morning. He pulled it out of the water and 
put it on dry land, when it ran of! into a small 
covert, apparently little the worse for its aquatic 
adventure. 

The appearance presented by a rabbit when 
swimming, as compared with a squirrel and stoat, is 
well shown in a sketch by Mr. J. G. Millais, at page 
44 of his work on ' British Deer' (1897). For the 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 27 

purpose of obtaining accurate pictures of the various 
modes in which wild animals swim, he had live speci- 
mens caught and placed in the water, and then rowed 
alongside them for some distance, until he had made 
correct outline sketches. 

Although rabbits are strictly speaking terrestrial 
rodents, they occasionally show a tendency to arboreal 
habits. Strange as it may appear, they will ascend 
the sloping trunks of trees, not only when pursued by 
a dog and no burrow is near, but also from choice. 
Naturally they climb best on a tree which, has rough 
bark or ivy on it, and which has been blown or is 
leaning out of the perpendicular. Sometimes they 
will occupy the hollow of a decayed tree, at other 
times the crown of a pollard. Instances are on 
record of rabbits being found in such situations, at 
heights varying from seven to ten or twelve feet from 
the ground. 1 Colonel Hawker, in his i Instructions to 
Young Sportsmen' (p. 256), mentions a case of a 
rabbit being found sitting in a tree ; and a friend of 
the present writer claims to have accomplished the 
unique feat of shooting ' a rocketting rabbit,' which, 
on being dislodged from a tree, sprang into the air 

1 See The Field of December 20 and 27, 1879; Janu- 
ary 10, 1880 ; July 7, 1888; March 14, 1896, and February 20 
and 27, 1897. 



28 THE RABBIT 



and received a charge of No. 6 shot before it reached 
the ground ! 

Rabbits are unquestionably the kind of stock to 
make the finest turf; they bite closer than any other 
animal that grazes, and the best turf for gardens is that 
taken from warrens, or from downs on which rabbits 
abound. Sandy commons, covered with furze, are a 
favourite resort of rabbits, and on such ground they 
often increase rapidly in numbers. The soil being 
light and friable is easily excavated, and the furze 
affords, not only a secure retreat, but a never-failing 
supply of food in the young tops of the plants, which 
are sufficiently tender before the spines have become 
matured. 

In the choice of food rabbits do not appear to be 
very particular. They will eat almost - anything that 
is green. Indeed, so destructive are they to most 
plants and young growing trees, that it is a matter 
of importance to game preservers, who want under- 
wood in the coverts as shelter for pheasants, to 
ascertain what shrubs are ' rabbit proof.' Common 
rhododendron, though not absolutely ' rabbit proof,' 
is not so liable to be attacked as many other shrubs. 
It will grow in shady places better than any other 
evergreen, especially if the soil is sandy and moist. 
But, although as a rule rabbits will not injure 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 29 

rhododendrons when the latter are well established, 
they will gnaw them when freshly planted, unless 
protected, like Aucubas. It is said that they will not 
touch Rhodode?idron ponticum, even if the plants are 
small and the winter severe. Nor will they feed upon 
Elder, which has the recommendation of growing well 
under trees, and when pleached (or ' plashed,' as it is 
termed locally) rabbits will lie well under it. They 
are not to be trusted near Hollies or young Osiers. 
Indeed they seem to be rather partial to Hollies, and 
in time of snow will attack even old trees. In hard 
weather, too, both Laurels and Privet suffer from their 
depredations. The larger kinds of Box, Snowberry 
plant (Symphoricarpus\ and Butcher's Broom (Ruscus 
aculeatus) are recommended where the soil is favour- 
able to their growth, and, for wet places, Scarlet Dog- 
wood (Cornus sanguined). In moist woods, too, a 
good thing to plant is Carex pendiria, a common 
sedge, which forms good evergreen ground covert, 
and is very free. In like soil the Wood-rush, Briar, 
and Wood-grass (Aird) may be recommended. 

In the way of berried shrubs nothing is more 
beautiful than a well-grown specimen of Cotoneaster 
affinis. Every year it is laden with bunches of glossy 
red berries. It is well adapted for planting along the 
edges of game coverts, as it affords plenty of food for 



3 o THE RABBIT 



pheasants, which are very fond of the berries. Pro- 
bably the more it is exposed to the influence of the 
sun the more freely does it produce its beautiful 
clusters of fruit. 

Apropos of ornamental plants, we may usefully 
give here, on the recommendation of Sir Herbert 
Maxwell, the following list, which he tells us l contains 
well-nigh all the ornamental shrubs which may be 
relied on to defy the attacks of rabbits ; although 
there are others, such as the American Partridge berry 
(Gauttheria), and several kinds of Barberry which, if 
protected when first planted out, can take care of 
themselves afterwards : — 

Azalea, rhododendron, honeysuckle, fly honey- 
suckle (Lonicera xylosfeum), tree peony, lilac, syringa, 
snowberry, hardy fuchsia, spurge laurel {Daphne 
laureola and Daphne mezereum), St. John's wort, 
spindlewood (Euonymus europczus), guelder-rose 
( Viburnum Opu/us), wayfaring -tree ( Viburnum Lan- 
tana), laurustinus, cotoneaster, hawthorn, dogwood, 
sea buckthorn (JTippophae rhamnoides), spiraea, deutzia, 
and all kinds of Ribes and arbutus. 

Before leaving the subject of shrubs suitable for 
planting where rabbits and hares are numerous, it 
may not be superfluous to notice some that will thrive 
1 Memories of the Months ■, 1897, p. 92. 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 31 

under the drip of trees ; for this is a matter of some 
importance in coverts composed of forest trees of 
large growth with very little underwood. Here it is 
not a question of food, but shelter, and nothing is 
more annoying to shooters when walking through such 
woods f in line ' than to see all the ground game going 
forward, just out of shot, for the reason that there is 
nothing to hide them. The owner of the covert 
will perhaps say he can get nothing to grow under 
the spread and drip of the trees. This need not 
necessarily be so. Several shrubs might be named 
which will thrive under such conditions ; but the 
planter would be well advised if, instead of scattering 
the different kinds singly all over the ground at wide 
distances apart, he were to plant them in clumps — 
say, each plant three to four feet apart — and a mixture 
of a few kinds in masses, taking care to keep the low- 
growing and less straggling sorts next to the wood- 
rides. Amongst those adapted to such treatment may be 
mentioned : Common and Portugal laurels; Rhododen- 
dron ponticum ; Azalea pontica ; Taxus baccata ; Ruscus 
aculeatus and R. hypoglossum ; Cotoneaster buxifolia, 
C. microphylla and C. Hookerii ; Pernettya mucronata 
(for peat soils) \Phillyrea, of sorts ; Rhamnus alaternus ; 
Broom ; Leycesteria formosa ; Box, of sorts ; Juniperus 
communis andy. Sabina; Potentilla fruticosa; Buddleia 



32 THE RABBIT 



globosa; Viburnum Lantana and V. Opulus; Gaultheria 
Shallon ; Ribes, of sorts ; Weigelia rosea ; Euonymus 
euroftceus; Berberis Aquifolium^ B. dulcis, B. Darwinii, 
B. vulgaris ', and B. vulgaris purpurea; Hippopha'e rham- 
noideS) and H, angustifolia ; Arbutus Unedo ; Garry a 
elliptica; Rosa rubiginosa ; Symphoria racemosa. 

A writer in the weekly journal Woods and Forests 
remarks : c It is difficult to get two people to agree as 
to the trees with which rabbits and hares meddle. 
Some experienced planters say that these animals cut 
Pinus Laricio very much if planted small, but do not 
touch Pinus austriaca. Now, as for the latter, I can 
confidently assert that they cut it more than any other 
of the pine tribe. With me they have attacked and 
thoroughly destroyed fine plants of it four and five 
feet high. A neighbour, who has planted Pinus 
Laricio (I have none except guarded), says that it is 
' rabbit proof/ and on his assertion I have now planted 
some hundreds. The fact is, I believe, in a really 
severe winter, rabbits will attack anything. In a deep 
snow I have had yews eaten down, but in the gene- 
rality of years certain things escape.' 

Yews cannot be recommended for planting in 
game coverts, for although the leaves may be eaten 
with impunity by rabbits, as is the case with goats, it 
is otherwise with pheasants, several instances having 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 33 

been reported in which these birds have been picked 
up dead, and found on examination to have their 
crops filled, or partly filled, with yew leaves. 1 Death 
seems to have been due to the action of the poisonous 
leaves producing inflammation of the digestive organs ; 
but why well-fed pheasants should sometimes eat 
yew leaves, and on other occasions pass them un- 
touched, it is difficult to explain. Shirley mentions a 
case in which deer were poisoned by eating yew at 
Badminton in Gloucestershire. 2 

M. Barbier, of Orleans, writing in December, 1892, 
recommended the Corsican pine as the only tree un- 
touched by rabbits where planted with Pinus sylvestris 
and black Austrian pine; but this only shows that 
where several different kinds are growing together, 
the Corsican pine may be the least appreciated. In a 
woody district in Sussex, where a field was planted with 
this, it was found that nearly every plant was gnawed 
and injured. Although the shoots are not always 
eaten, they are often nibbled, and pieces taken off the 
bark, so as to cause the resinous sap to run down. 

The unsightly appearance and cost of smearing 
make it of very little use. Extensive plantations are 

1 See The Field, November 25 and December 2, 1876 ; De- 
cember 20, 1890; September 17, 1892, and November 11, 1893. 
- English Deer Parks, p. 245. 

D 



34 THE RABBIT 



often formed of small trees less than a foot high, and 
even if there were both time and means to smear the 
stems of every one of these little trees with one or 
other of the compounds which some people recom- 
mend, the rabbits would still take off the tops and 
leave the smeared stumps. The idea is absurd, from 
the standpoint of an extensive planter • for 20,000 
trees, of the size referred to, do not go far in planting 
even a small field. 

In young plantations where rabbits and hares 
abound there is nothing so effectual as wire-netting 
until the trees are strong enough and tall enough to 
be out of the way of their attacks. 

For permanent protection the best fence is an 
iron-bar fence, wired with a one-inch mesh to the top, 
or, say, to a height of 4 ft., with 6 in. of wire under- 
ground ; 3 ft. 6 in. might do as well, but generally it 
will be found best to wire to the top of an ordinary 
iron-bar fence, so that all danger from snow, leaves, 
and stock getting through may be effectually avoided. 
For larch plantations, and for temporary work, 3 ft. 
6 in. wire may be used. As a rule, it is advisable to 
use simple iron supports for the wiring of young 
plantations, rather than stakes cut out of underwood 
for supporting the netting, as these rot very soon. 
Larch poles are an exception, however, and good 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 35 

stakes of larch, well put in, will probably last as long 
as the young wood needs protection. 

Fences, designed to keep rabbits only out of young 
plantations, may be made to cost considerably less 
than one shilling per yard. A rabbit-warren fence 
4 ft. high, with flap-turned top and bottom, is made 
of i\ in. wire netting, ' strong,' 36 in. wide for the top 
of the fence, and 1 \ in. netting, 24 in. wide, for the 
bottom, costing together about 40^. per 100 yards ; 
stout oak stakes to match, one yard asunder, No. 4 
galvanised wire rope for the top, double or single, 
annealed wire to support the turned-in flap, staples 
and labour, complete, all done by the piece, cost from 
is. to is. 3d. per yard run, and will resist cattle and 
horses. 

It is, perhaps, not generally known that, in addition 
to old roots and hay, which make the best winter food, < 
rabbits are fond of acorns, and fatten well on them. 
The oak, indeed, is an invaluable tree in game 
coverts ; for not only rabbits, but pheasants, wood- 
pigeons, and wild-ducks are all very partial to acorns, 
and feed greedily on them. Mr. J. Simpson, of 
Wortley, recommends them especially for feeding- 
rabbits in warrens. Writing in The Field of Decem- 
ber 9, 1893, he says : — 

' For the last five vears the rabbits in the warren 



36 THE RABBIT 



here have considerably exceeded the average weight 
of wild rabbits, although I believe, and am told by 
visitors, that the number on the ground is altogether 
unprecedented ; but this season (December, 1893) 
they are larger and fatter than usual, which I attribute 
to the unusually heavy crop of acorns shed by a 
number of old oak trees growing here and there in 
the warren. As soon as the acorns began to drop, the 
rabbits attacked them, and now nothing but the husks 
are left, scattered like chaff on the pasture, for the 
rabbits eat the kernel only. I had the curiosity to 
make a post-mortem examination of two killed pro- 
miscuously for use, weighing together nearly 7 lb. 
after paunching, and was struck by the large amount 
of fat in both, the kidneys being quite bedded in fat. 
Rabbits, such as you buy, are usually almost destitute 
of fat, and in our case, no doubt, it is due to the rich 
nourishing acorn food, which contains an enormous 
percentage of potash, lime, and phosphoric acid. The 
rabbits have been remarkably lively also, and the fur 
of those killed is fine and dense. As acorns, when 
moderately plentiful, can be collected by children for 
&d. or is. per bushel, it will be understood what an 
excellent and cheap supply of food is often available 
for rabbit warrens, where a bushel goes a long way. 
Acorns are often collected in this way for deer in 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT • 37 

hundreds of bushels. As there has been no mortality 
among the rabbits worth mentioning, I conclude that 
acorns may be supplied freely in large quantities.' 

In addition to acorns, such pasture as they can 
get for themselves may be supplemented by hay, 
crushed oats, and wood-cuttings for the sake of the 
bark. This of course applies rather to warrens and 
to places where the food is restricted by reason of 
enclosure with wire-netting. 

Where rabbits are not restrained within certain 
limits, but are able to get out and roam where they 
list in quest of food, they can generally manage to get 
a living without any such assistance as that above 
indicated, even in districts which look most bare and 
unproductive. It would not be supposed that there 
is much nourishment to be derived from sand-grass, 
for example ; and yet, in the sand-hills by the sea 
the rabbits are generally in very good condition. The 
mention of sand-hills reminds us of a ' dodge ' for 
bolting a rabbit without the aid of a ferret when the 
burrow happens to be within reach of the sea-shore, 
and the footprints of the occupant show that he is 
' at home.' Having "obtained a lively specimen of a 
shore crab, produce a piece of wax or composite 
candle, about an inch in length, and having stuck it 
on the back of the "crab with a few drops of melted 



38 THE RABBIT 



wax, light the wick, and start the bearer of it down 
the burrow. The rabbit will probably come out in 
such a hurry that the crab will be knocked over, and 
the light will be put out, but that will be of little con- 
sequence if the rabbit is also knocked over by a well- 
directed charge of shot. 

If it were not for the extraordinary fecundity of 
the rabbit, the number of litters to which a doe will 
give birth in a year, and the number of young pro- 
duced in each litter, the species Lepus cuniculus, with 
such a host of enemies, foremost of which is man, must 
long ago have become extinct. As if it were not 
enough to face the gun, and run the risk of capture 
by ferret, gin, brass wire, or drop-down net, the 
unfortunate ' Bunter ' has a host of natural enemies 
to contend with, both furred and feathered. Fore- 
most amongst these, perhaps, because so pertinacious 
a pursuer, hunting by scent, is the stoat {Mustela 
erminea), who need never go without a dinner where 
rabbits abound. He will not only enter a burrow like 
a ferret and cause the inmates to bolt, but will pursue 
a rabbit in the open like a foxhound, and sooner or 
later overtake and kill him. The present writer has 
on several occasions been an eye-witness of both 
these manoeuvres, and, standing motionless to watch 
the performance, has been struck with the courage 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 39 

and pertinacity displayed by a stoat in attacking and 
vanquishing an animal so very much larger and 
heavier than itself. It has been already shown, how- 
ever (p. 20), that in defence of her young a plucky 
doe rabbit finds courage enough to attack a stoat, 
and will even succeed in repulsing him altogether. 

While the stoat will boldly hunt a rabbit under- 
ground (an example which its smaller relative the 
weasel essays to imitate, though, from its diminutive 
size, it can take toll of comparatively small rabbits, 
preferring mice and small birds), the fox will lie in 
wait for rabbits of any size when aboveground^ and 
usually captures them by stealth or stratagem. 

The badger will dig down upon the young at the 
end of a burrow and scratch them out, as may be 
seen by the marks of his claws in the soil, and bits of 
fluff that lie scattered about near the scene of his 
operations. There is, perhaps, no greater enemy to 
young rabbits than the common brown rat, not only 
on account of his ferocity, size, and weight, which 
amounts sometimes to 2 lb. and upwards, 1 but also 
because he comes not singly but in droves. During 
the summer months rats quit the barns, stables, 
out-houses and styes, where they have been hiding 

1 See The Field of January II and 18, 1896; January 2 
and 9, 1897. 



40 THE RABBIT 



throughout the winter, and. pilfering in all directions, 
and take to the woods and fields, just as Londoners quit 
town for change of air when the fine weather sets in. 
In the woods they take heavy toll of the pheasants' 
food, eggs, and young pheasants, too, when they are 
hatched, unless the gamekeeper looks sharp after 
them and keeps down their number. In the fields 
they take to the hedgerows, and especially frequent 
such banks as have been already perforated by 
rabbits. Here they have a fine time of it until the 
ratcatcher comes along with his ferrets and ' varmint ' 
dogs, and does his best to clear them out. 

In a dry summer we are accustomed to hear com- 
plaints of a scarcity of rabbits, and the complainants 
usually attribute it to the drought. Probably the dry 
weather has nothing to do with it, and the true cause 
should be looked for in one of two directions : either 
the rats are out for their ' autumn manoeuvres,' and 
the country wants ferreting, or the rabbits have been 
too long isolated, and fresh stock needs to be im- 
ported. They inter-breed to such an extent that if 
new blood be not introduced from time to time their 
numbers will eventually decrease. 

From the above remarks it will be gathered that 
the stoat and the rat are rivals in the chase of the 
wild rabbit ; they are also deadly enemies. The 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 41 

stoat, like a good sportsman who hunts his quarry by 
scent, evidently looks upon the rat as a poacher, and 
whenever he encounters him in his hunting forays 
6 goes for him ' at once. 

We have watched stoats hunting both rats and 
rabbits, and were once witness to a most determined 
fight, on a road which crosses a Sussex common, 
between an average-sized stoat and an enormous rat, 
which was certainly much heavier than its adversary. 
This fight, which was atrial of ' weight versus science,' 
ended in favour of the stoat,, which killed its adversary 
and dragged it off the road into the furze on the 
common. 

We are not at all in favour of exterminating 
stoats. Where rabbits are plentiful a few stoats will 
not do them much harm, and, as above hinted, will 
do good in keeping down the rats, and thus saving 
the pheasants' food and the pheasant chicks. Rats, 
being so much more numerous than stoats, will do 
much more mischief than the latter where game and 
rabbits are concerned. 

The list of natural enemies of the rabbit would not 
be complete without mention of the cat, which, from 
its stealthy actions and skill in stalking, proves itself 
on occasions to be an expert rabbit-catcher. This is 
especially the case with the cats of cottagers who live 



42 THE RABBIT 



in proximity to game coverts. These animals get into 
he habit of leading a roving life, gradually become 
confirmed poachers, and sooner or later fall victims 
to a trap or a charge of shot. Occasionally a cat 
will take up its abode temporarily in a rabbit burrow, 
and many instances are on record of cats being 
bolted by ferrets, to the astonishment of those who 
were anxiously expecting the appearance of a rabbit. 1 
The following note from Mr. R. B. Lee is to the 
point. He writes : ' On two occasions, during a 
period extending over about a dozen years, have I 
been ferreting rabbits when a cat has bolted from the 
hole. The first time I thought it a most unusual 
occurrence ; the second time I was accompanied by a 
gamekeeper and a clever rabbit-catcher, both of 
whom had had previously a similar experience, and 
said that a cat was more easily driven by a ferret than 
any other animal. It is, however, but seldom a cat 
lays up in a bona fide rabbit burrow. Some years 
ago I shot over ground which included a large extent 
of rock, in which there were crevices and long under- 
ground passages — not rabbit burrows properly, but 
still holding a great number of rabbits. These holes 
were favourite retreats for the semi-wild cats with which 
the place was infested ; and certainly our ferrets had 
1 See The Fields February 14, 21, and 28, 1885. 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 43 

often less difficulty in making them bolt than they 
had the rabbits.' 

It is, of course, well known that cats, when deprived 
wholly or in part of their young, will suckle the young 
of other animals, and they seem to take very kindly 
to young rabbits. This usually happens when the 
latter are purposely supplied to them ; but instances 
are on record in which cats have been known to bring 
home young rabbits on their own account, and nurse 
them with care. Mr. H. D. Nadin, of Burton-on- 
Trent, writing on May 17, 1890, says: 'A cat kept 
by the blacksmiths in their shop at a colliery in which 
I am interested, gave birth to three kittens a short 
time ago. One of these died at once, and the mother 
was much distressed by the loss. She accordingly 
made a journey across some fields to a rabbit warren 
distant about a hundred yards, whence she obtained 
and carried back a young rabbit (about ten days old), 
which she suckled along with the two remaining 
kittens, treating it in every way as if it were her own 
progeny. This she continued to do for four days, but 
during that time she gradually became uneasy, as the 
workmen persisted in coming to view the novel sight. 
She then commenced to carry both the kittens and 
rabbit about, and on the fifth day they were not 
to be found. After a good search, however, the two 

/A '^ 



44 THE RABBIT 

kittens were found alive under a heap of scrap iron, 
but the rabbit was not found until some time later, in 
a different part of the building ; but, when discovered, 
was unfortunately dead. The men left the rabbit with 
the cat, I suppose to convince her of its decease ; 
but, sad to relate, on returning a short time later, 
found she had made a meal of it. I regret the cat 
had not been removed to a quiet spot ; but the fact 
that she herself carried a former lot of kittens to the 
place where these were born, led the men to suppose 
she would rest quietly where she was.' 

So much for the c furred enemies ' of rabbits. 
Amongst their ' feathered foes ' may be named the 
golden and white-tailed eagles, both of which prey on 
them habitually (as they do also upon hares), sweep- 
ing round a hillside, and carrying them off unawares 
before they can get to ground. Only last autumn a 
friend of the writer witnessed the capture of a rabbit 
by a golden eagle in Scotland, and as the great bird 
sailed away with its booty, which was held by the head 
in one foot, the body of the rabbit was seen swinging 
like a pendulum, as long as its captor remained in 
sight. The common buzzard, as well as the rough- 
legged buzzard, are both partial to rabbits, but take 
them in a different manner. They will sit on the 
limb of a tree at the edge of a covert, and wait till the 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 45 

rabbits come out to feed. As soon as one of them gets 
far enough out from the fence, the buzzard will glide 
noiselessly down and pounce upon his back in an 
instant. Escape is then hopeless, for the powerful 
talons grip him like a steel trap, and his fate is sealed. 
The goshawk is so good a rabbit-catcher that its 
skill in this respect is turned to excellent account by 
falconers, who train this bird to do, for their amuse- 
ment, what it habitually does for its own living. Of 
this we shall have more to say later, when dealing 
with this particular branch of sport in which the 
rabbit is concerned. 

One more bird deserves a passing notice in this 
connection. The brown owl, known also as the 
tawny or wood owl, although preying usually on rats, 
mice, field voles, and small birds, is by no means 
averse to taking a young rabbit when it gets the 
chance. But probably only the very small ones fall 
victims in this way, for it has neither the strength nor 
the weight sufficient to hold a heavy old buck or doe 
in the frantic efforts which it would make to escape. 

When dealing on a preceding page with the 
subject of the maternal instinct which prompts an old 
rabbit to attack an intruder in defence of its young 
(p. 20), mention was incidentally made of the way in 
which a carrion crow was driven away when on the 



46 THE RABBIT, 



point of killing a tiny rabbit, which had incautiously 
wandered too far from the parental burrow, and it 
is probable that most of the crow family, and 
particularly the carrion crow and the raven, are cun- 
ning enough, now and then, to secure a young rabbit 
for supper, in spite of the vigilance of its courageous 
parent. 

Rabbits, like other animals, have their ailments j 
and few people probably would suspect the variety 
of diseases to which they are subject. Amongst the 
chief causes of disease are over-stocking, breeding 
in-and-in, and living and feeding on tainted and 
unwholesome ground. To these causes may be attri- 
buted enteric or typhoid fever and tuberculosis — 
maladies which sometimes manifest themselves with 
such virulence as to give rise to a general and alarm- 
ing mortality. 

Occasionally rabbits are found lying dead in all 
directions. This may arise from ' scouring ' produced 
by a flush of grass after a dry season, or (if fed) by 
giving too much green food, or food that is too wet 
with dew or rain upon it. But sometimes rabbits will 
die when about half grown, which, on examination, 
will be found to have been suffering from an enlarged 
abdomen and tuberculous liver. It is a true saying 
that prevention is better than cure, and this especially 



NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RABBIT 47 

holds good in the present case, for cure is out of 
the question ; the only rational treatment being the 
extirpation and removal of the diseased animals, and 
the introduction of fresh, healthy stock when the 
ground, after a dressing of salt and lime, has recovered 
its pristine freshness, and become wholesome. 

Salt, though not a direct ' plant food/ has an 
important indirect effect upon the potash, lime, and 
magnesia in the soil, affecting their decomposition, 
and rendering them in an available condition to be 
taken up by the roots ; in other words, salt acts as a 
purveyor to the plants. Lime, on the other hand, is 
a direct ' plant food,' and indirectly it acts in many 
important ways, neutralising poisonous acids, and 
causing the decomposition of organic matter. The 
application of these manures, therefore, will be found 
to increase the amount of herbage considerably. The 
land should be first dressed with gas lime, say, three 
tons to the acre, and subsequently with salt, say 
2 cwt. 

Quite distinct from tuberculous liver is the dis- 
ease known as ' pulmonary tuberculosis,' caused by 
the presence in the lungs of a parasitic worm, Stron- 
gylus commutatus (Filaria pulmonalis of Frolich). 
Hares as well as rabbits are attacked in this way, 
but from the observations of M. Megnin it would 



THE RABBIT 



appear to be less known in England than on the Con- 
tinent. 

Rabbits are also liable to be affected with large 
hydatids, or watery tumours, which usually appear on 
the hind quarters. These indicate the early stage of 
a tape-worm, which is matured in the intestinal canal 
of the dog. Fortunately this does not affect the 
human species, so that when gamekeepers puncture 
such tumours, and send the rabbits to market, there 
is no danger to be apprehended by the consumer. 
Should, however, a rabbit thus affected be eaten, or 
partly eaten, by a dog, the germ will develop into a 
mature tape-worm, whose eggs, when perfect, are voided 
by the dog, and swallowed on the herbage eaten by 
rabbits. They then produce, not tape-worms, but the 
original hydatid, which again gives rise to a repetition 
of this series of changes. 

The researches of the late Dr. Spencer Cobbold, 
and other helminthologists, have demonstrated the 
curious fact that tape- worms and other entozoa found 
in the intestines of men and animals, pass the early 
stages of their existence in a larval form in the flesh 
of animals on which man feeds ; and, seeing how in- 
strumental a dog may become in spreading disease of 
this kind, it is obviously of importance to prevent use- 
less curs from wandering about the fields and coverts, 



NATURAL UIS70RY OF THE RABBIT 49 

lest, by feeding on infected rabbits, they finally infect 
others in their turn. We may appropriately quote 
here Dr. Cobbold's salutary caution to owners of 
sporting dogs. ' Sportsmen,' he says, c who care for 
the welfare of their dogs should never allow them to 
devour the entrails of hares captured in the field. In 
the county of Norfolk I have myself witnessed this 
piece of carelessness on the part of keepers, and have 
ventured to remonstrate accordingly. Almost every 
hare (and the same may be said of full-grown rabbits) 
harbours, within its abdominal cavity, a larval parasite 
(Canurus pisiformis\ which, when swallowed by the 
dog, becomes transformed into a tape-worm {Tmiia 
serratd) varying from two to three feet in length. In 
harriers and greyhounds this serrated tape-worm is 
very abundant, but in other dogs it is comparatively 
rare.' This significant fact should not be lost 
sight of. 

If we examine a rabbit thus affected we find the 
hydatid or tumour, sometimes as big as a filbert, sur- 
rounded by a couple of investing membranes, the 
outer one belonging to the unfortunate host, the inner 
one being part of the hydatid itself. On opening the 
body cavity, it will be found to contain amongst the 
viscera hundreds of the smaller pisiform species of 
hydatid which, when eaten by dogs, becomes the 

E 



5o THE RABBIT 



Tcenta serrata. These hydatids, which, as above 
stated, are produced from the minute eggs of the 
tape-worm voided by the dog and swallowed with 
herbage by the rabbit, cause the emaciation and 
ultimately the death of the unfortunate animal they 
infest. 

Those who may desire to pursue this subject 
further should consult a paper, by Dr. C. W. Stiles, 
■ On the Tape-worms of Hares and Rabbits,' printed 
in the 'Proceedings of the United States National 
Museum' (vol. xix. 1896, pp. 145-235), in which will 
be found two plates illustrating tape-worms of the 
rabbit. Dr. T. S. Palmer, in a Report on the Rabbits of 
the United States, observes : l ' Many persons have a 
prejudice against eating rabbits because at certain 
seasons they are infested with parasites, or because the 
flesh is supposed to be " strong." This prejudice, how- 
ever, is entirely unfounded. The parasites of the rabbit 
are not injurious to man ; furthermore, the ticks and 
I warbles occur at a season when the rabbit should not 
be killed for game, while the tape-worm can only 
develop in certain of the lower animals, as, for ex- 
ample, in the dog.' 

1 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bulletin No. 8 (1896). 



5i 



CHAPTER II 

THE WARREN 

In its original sense the word ' warren/ old French 
warenne and varenne, later garenne, mediaeval English 
{e.g. in ' Piers Plowman ') wareine, and Low Latin 
warenna, signified a preserve in general, and came 
subsequently to be restricted to an enclosure especi- 
ally set apart for coneys and hares. ' Coney-close ' 
(' Paston Letters, 5 iv. 426) had the same meaning, and 
c coney-garth ' (Palsgrave), ' garth ' signifying in the 
North of England, according to Ray, a small en- 
closure adjoining a house. Halliwell, who also gives 
this meaning, 1 adds that of a ' warren.' In almost 
every county in England, as remarked by the editor 
of the ' Promptorium Parvulorum,' near to ancient 
dwelling-places the name 'Coneygare,' 'Conigree,' or 
' Coneygarth ■ occurs, and various conjectures have 

1 Diet. Archaic and Prov. Words. 



52 



THE RABBIT 



been made respecting its derivation, which, however, 
is sufficiently obvious. 1 

From ' warren ? we get ' warrener,' Latin wari- 
narius (' Prompt. Parv. ') corrupted into the surname 
Warner. 

When considering the precise meaning of the 
word ' warren' at the present day, we have to 
distinguish between what is indicated by the legal 
expression ' free warren ' and what is popularly known 
as a warren. The latter is merely an enclosed field, 
or piece of down-land, in which coneys and hares are 
reared. Any one may have such a place, and it would 
be protected under the Larceny Act (24 & 25 
Vict. c. 96, s. 17) ; but its possession gives none of 
the rights of { free warren/ which can only be derived 
by a grant from the Crown — a privilege no longer 
extended 2 — or by prescription or long use, which pre- 
supposes or implies a grant. 

The right of ' free warren ' is a franchise in that 
sense of the word which implies an exemption from 
ordinary rule, and attached to its original creation 
was the condition of keeping others off the land. It 
confers upon the grantee the exclusive right to kill or 

1 See Hartshorne's observations on names of places in 
Salopia Antiqua, p. 258. 

2 Woolrych, Game Laws, p. 26. 



THE WARREN 53 



take c beasts and fowls of warren ' within certain 
limits, and to prevent others from killing or taking 
them, even on lands of which they are the free- 
holders. 

As to what species are, or were, included amongst 
' beasts and fowls of warren ' there is some little con- 
flict of opinion. Manwood, in his ' Treatise and 
Discourse of the Lawes of the Forrest ' (the first 
edition of which was printed in black letter in 1598), 
asserts that this expression included the hare, the 
coney, the pheasant and the partridge, 'and none 
other,' justifying this definition from the ' Register of 
Writs,' and ' Book of Entries,' which show that in 
every case in which an action was brought by any 
grantee of free warren against a trespasser, the state- 
ment of claim invariably ran ' et lepores, cuniculos, 
phasianos, et perdices cepit et asportavit.' He was 
quite clear, therefore, that the ' beasts and fowls of 
warren' were limited to these four species. In 
Coke's report of Sir Francis Barrington's case (8 Rep. 
138) the same definition is given ; but in his treatise 
upon Littleton the Lord Chief Justice enlarges con- 
siderably, as though a much longer list of species 
was allowed in his day. He says : * There be both 
beasts and fowls of the warren; beasts, as hares, 
coneys and roes (called in records capreoli) ; fowls of 



54 



THE RABBIT 



two sorts, viz. terrestres and aquatiles ; terrestres of 
two sorts, silvestres and campestres ; campestres, as 
partridge, rail, quail, &c. ; silvestres, as pheasant and 
woodcock, &c. ; aquatiles, as mallard, heme, &c.' 
The validity of this definition was questioned in a 
celebrated case, the ' Duke of Devonshire v. Lodge ' 
(7 B. and C. 36), in which the defendant was charged 
with shooting grouse on land over which the plaintiff 
claimed the right of free warren. The shooting was 
admitted, and the only question to be decided by the 
Court was whether a grouse was a bird of warren. 
Manwood being considered a higher authority on the 
Forest Laws than Coke, it was held that a grouse is 
not a bird of warren. Lord Tenterden's judgment 
in this case puts the matter very tersely and clearly. 
He remarked, i The franchise of free warren is of great 
antiquity, and very singular in its nature. It gives a 
property in wild animals (animals feroe naturce), and 
that property may be claimed in the land of another, 
to the exclusion of the owner of the land. Such a 
right ought not to be extended by argument and 
inference to any animal not clearly within it. . . .' 
Relying, therefore, upon Man wood's doctrine, he 
non-suited the plaintiff. 

A right of free warren differs from the right of 
forest, chase or park in that the latter implies the 



THE WARREN 55 



ownership of the soil ; while the former is an incor- 
poreal right, and does not necessarily imply any right 
to the soil, the reason being that a franchise of warren 
may be claimed by prescription, but land cannot, the 
title by prescription being only applicable to incor- 
poreal hereditaments. 1 The right of free warren has 
usually been granted to the lord of a manor over the 
demesne lands of the manor, 2 i.e. such lands as are in 
the lord's own hands, though sometimes over Crown 
lands when it is a warren in gross. As to the privi- 
leges of an owner of a free warren, he may not only 
prosecute a trespasser who is in pursuit of beasts and 
fowls of warren, whether he be a stranger in the 
locality, or a tenant of lands within the limits of the 
free warren, but he may also kill any dogs found 
hunting in his warren, whether they are doing damage 
at the time or not. His rights, moreover, are ex- 
pressly safeguarded by Section 8 of the principal 
Game Act (1 & 2 Will. IV., cap. 32). Free warren is 
not forfeited by non-user, and it is important to note 
that an occupier of land within the limits of a free 
warren is not entitled, under the Ground Game Act 
of 1880, to kill rabbits on the land in his occupation, 

1 Earl Beauchamp v. Winn, L.R. 6 H.L. 223. 

2 The words] of the ancient grant were, ' quod ipse et 
heredes sui habeant liber am warrenam in omnibus dominicis 
terris suis in A. in comitatu B.' — Manwood, fol. 23. 



56 THE RABBIT 



as he would otherwise be at liberty to do were no 
such franchise claimed by the lord of the manor. 
This point was made clear by the case of ' Lord 
Carnarvon v. Clarkson.' The question arose under 
Section 5 of the Ground Game Act, which provides 
that ' Nothing in the Act shall affect any special right 
of killing or taking ground game to which any per- 
son other than the landlord, lessor, or occupier may 
have become entitled before the passing of this Act 
by virtue of any franchise, charter, or Act of Parlia- 
ment.' Lord Carnarvon was lord of the manor of 
Highclere, Hampshire, and at the same time a person 
' other than the landlord,' and he claimed the fran- 
chise of free warren over the land of which Mr. 
Clarkson was the occupier. This deprived Mr. 
Clarkson of the benefit of the Statute, and the opera- 
tion of this saving clause (Sect. 5) is curious ; for it 
enabled Lord Carnarvon to do as ' lord of the manor ' 
what the Act expressly prevents him from doing as 
' owner ; ' in other words, the lord of the manor is 
thus placed in a better position than the landlord. 
A report of the case will be found in The Field of 
May 18, 1895. It did not come into court, but 
was settled practically by the occupier admitting 
himself to be mistaken in his interpretation of the 
Statute. 



THE WARREN 57 



The lord of a manor with a grant of free warren 
generally may place his coneys wherever he pleases, 
either within the manor, or elsewhere, and not even 
a commoner can interfere with him. Under the 
altered conditions, however, which regulate sport, and 
the requirements of agriculturists at the present day, 
it is doubtful whether any one so circumstanced 
would think of asserting his strict legal right to such 
an extent as this. If he has a warren by prescription, 
he may use his right according to the accustomed 
privilege, but not further. If he has it by grant, he 
may go to the extent of his grant, but not beyond ; 
and in these cases, according to Serjeant Woolrych 
('Game Laws,' p. 31), it seems to be the same 
whether there be or not any difference between 
' warren ' and ' free warren, 5 i.e. whether the limited 
right should be termed 'warren,' and the more en- 
larged franchise 'free warren.' On the other hand, 
no action will lie against a lord of the manor for 
keeping coneys on land over which he has a right of 
warren. 

Any owner of a warren, whether enclosed or not, 
may prosecute a trespasser for killing rabbits or hares 
there. The remedy is specially provided by Section 
17 of the Larceny Act (24 & 25 Vict. c. 96), which 
runs as follows : — ' Whosoever shall unlawfully and 



58 THE RABBIT 



wilfully, between the expiration of the first hour after 
sunset and the beginning of the last hour before sun- 
rise, take or kill any hare or rabbit in any warren or 
ground lawfully used for the breeding or keeping of 
hares or rabbits, 1 whether the same be enclosed or 
not, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour : and whoso- 
ever shall unlawfully and wilfully, between the begin- 
ning of the last hour before sunrise and the expiration 
of the first hour after sunset, take or kill any hare or 
rabbit in any such warren or ground, or shall at any 
time set or use therein any snare or engine for the 
taking of hares or rabbits, shall, on conviction thereof 
before a Justice of the Peace, forfeit and pay such 
sum of money not exceeding five pounds as to the 
Justice shall seem meet.' 

We shall have occasion later on to refer to further 
points of law when dealing with other portions of the 
general subject. 

Having now briefly glanced at the subject of 

1 The ground must be used mainly for that purpose, for if 
only a few rabbits are kept, for example, in a rick-yard mainly 
used for other purposes, this offence would not be committed 
(Regina v. Garratt, 6 C. & P. 369). In the case of Bevan v. 
Hopkinson (34 L.T. 142), where B. was caught with rabbits at 
night in a field forming part of a farm over which H. had the 
right of shooting, the Justices found as a fact that this field was 
not a warren within the meaning of this Act, and convicted B. 
of night poaching, under 9 Geo. IV. c. 69, s. 1. 



THE WARREN 59 



warrens from the legal aspect, and having thus ob- 
tained, as I trust, a clear conception of the meaning 
of the term in its twofold signification, we may pro- 
ceed to consider some of the more important details 
connected with the formation and general manage- 
ment of a warren. 

It will be gathered from what has been already 
stated, that a warren may be unenclosed, and of con- 
siderable extent, as, for instance, when on sandhills 
by the sea, or upon open down-land ; or it may be 
of comparatively small size, say, forty or fifty acres, 
and enclosed for greater protection. The larger the 
feeding area, of course, the better, and the less need 
is there for enclosure, unless cattle or sheep are 
allowed to graze in the vicinity, since the rabbits have 
less incentive for straying, and the very openness of 
the ground gives greater security, for it makes it 
more difficult for an enemy to approach unseen. It 
is naturally otherwise when the warren is confined 
to a comparatively small area, for to prevent them 
from straying in search of ' fresh woods and pastures 
new,' it becomes necessary to confine them within 
stone walls or a rabbit-proof fence, which may serve 
the double purpose of preventing the rabbits from 
getting out, and other creatures from getting in. 

The question of soil is of the first importance, for 



6o THE RABBIT 



upon the suitability or otherwise of the ground 
selected the success of the undertaking will, in a 
great measure, depend. A stiff clay soil, for example, 
is very undesirable ; nor can rabbits burrow properly 
where the ground is too rocky. What suits them 
best is a light sandy soil, and peaty ground, as on 
moorlands, will do well enough provided it does not 
lie so low as to become flooded after heavy rain, in 
which case, of course, the young rabbits would be 
drowned, and the older ones driven out of house and 
home. ' Burrows in flat ground,' says Mr. Simpson of 
Wortley, 'are the cause of serious loss, for during 
heavy and sudden rains, the holes become reservoirs 
into which the water quickly drains, and drowns the 
young rabbits.' In an old warren in his neighbourhood, 
which is level — and where the rabbits are forced to 
burrow on the flat surface — not a year passes without 
serious loss from drowning. Two years in succession 
it was reckoned that nearly the whole of the first 
brood was lost. After a storm every burrow would 
be full of water, and numbers of very young rabbits 
might be seen lying dead, floated out at the mouths 
of the holes. 

Hilly, sloping, or undulating ground, with a light 
soil, is what one would naturally select if available ; 
failing this, heavy land may be treated in such a way 



THE WARREN 61 



as to counteract, in a great measure, its natural dis- 
advantages. For example, on a clay soil, wherein 
rabbits evince a disinclination to burrow, their com- 
fort may be secured by artificially throwing up 
mounds of earth on the surface, and sowing them 
with grass seed. Mr. Simpson recommends that 
such mounds should be thrown up in parallel lines, 
about ioo yards apart, They are easily made, 
and will cost about gd. per cubic yard to throw up. 
They may be about four yards wide, and three feet 
above the ground line at the apex. In making them, 
the following directions should be given to the 
labourers : ' Set out a circular piece of ground, four 
yards wide, and round that a ring a yard wide. Dig 
the soil out of the outer ring, and throw it roughly 
into the centre, gradually making a conical heap, 
with holes here and there, formed by rearing up on 
end two large sods, and placing them gable-wise. 
Above this the earth should be piled loosely till the 
desired height is attained.' 

With this incentive to begin digging on their 
own account, the rabbits will soon complete these 
excavations, and form regular burrows. Mr. Simpson 
notes the importance of having them so made at first, 
that the rabbits can find shelter in them at once, 
and when fresh stock is introduced into a warren, the 



62 THE RABBIT 



animals should always be put into the burrows on 
arrival. Strange rabbits, he says, if put down in the 
open, will wander round the outskirts at the fence, 
and will lie and sulk for some time before they find 
a burrow ; whereas when put into the burrows they 
stick to them, and are sooner at home. When a 
mound is finished, it should slope with a curve to the 
bottom of the trench out of which the soil has been 
dug, where it will be about five yards in diameter. 
Should the soil or subsoil be of such a nature as to 
cause the rain water and drainings from the heap to 
stand in the trench, igrips or drains should be made 
to the nearest field drain or outlet to let the water off. 
The object of having these mounds of moderate 
size, and about ioo yards apart, is to ensure the 
rabbits cropping the pasture regularly in every part, 
from beginning to end of the season, and a greater 
distance than ioo yards apart is not desirable, as 
experience will soon prove. Besides, rabbits breed 
best in small colonies. If there be objections to the 
mounds being so close, they may be put wider apart, 
but they must be proportionately larger. Two men 
will throw the heaps up in a very short time, and 
should the ground come to be used for any other 
purpose, they can be quickly levelled down again. 1 

1 See some very practical remarks on * Artificial Rabbit 
Burrows ' in The Field of March 18, 1893. 



THE WARREN 63 



The success of a warren, however, depends on the 
burrows being distributed regularly over the pasture. 
If this be attended to the rabbits will eat all the 
grass, and be proportionately prolific : otherwise loss 
is certain. 

It should be observed that this excellent advice of 
Mr. Simpson is chiefly applicable to warrens in which 
rabbits are bred for the market, and are taken by 
means of ferrets and nets, or with a specially con- 
structed 'trap fence.' Where the warren is laid out 
for the purpose of shooting, something more than 
this is required. For example, it will be found a 
good plan to throw down heaps of faggots, which 
afford excellent temporary shelter from wind and 
rain. Rabbits love to lie under them, snug and dry, 
and previous to a day's shooting the stacks may 
easily be ferretted, and the rabbits, when driven out, 
prevented from returning by surrounding the stacks 
with wire-netting, which can be afterwards removed. 

From what has been already stated, under the 
heading of Disease (p. 46), it will be seen that it is 
of great importance that the ground should not 
become stale or tainted, if a healthy stock of rabbits 
is to be maintained ; and to prevent this one can 
hardly do better than follow the advice of Mr. Lloyd 
Price, whose experience in such matters is well 
known. He recommends that portions of the ground 



64 THE RABBIT 



should be fenced with wire-netting, and crops of 
clover, oats, or beans grown within the enclosure. 
When these have been carried, or partly so, the wire- 
netting may be removed, and the rabbits allowed 
access to this reserved ground. By changing the 
position of these plots the rabbits get access periodi- 
cally to fresh untainted ground, and thrive ac- 
cordingly. 

Mr. Simpson doubts the probability of the land 
becoming what has been termed ' rabbit-sick ? if it is 
dressed — as he has practised annually — with a good 
dressing of gas lime and salt. 1 It may be imagined 
that this offensive-smelling manure would be injurious 
to the rabbits, and prevent their feeding on the 
ground treated with it. This supposition, the author 
maintains, is a fallacy, as, so far from the gas lime 
being repulsive to rabbits, they will even make their 
burrows in a heap of it. 

He attributes the failure of many of the old 
warrens to the fact that thousands of rabbits have 
been removed from them year after year, and perhaps 
forty to fifty thousand pounds weight of meat and 
bones taken away annually, and nothing put back. 
His estimate of the number of rabbits that can be 
kept on an acre of grass, properly manured with gas 
1 As to this, see under heading < Disease,' p. 47. 



THE WARREN 65 



lime and salt, is from fifty to a hundred per year. 
On the larger inclosed warren at Wortley Hall, which 
is only partially stocked (77 acres of park land with 
some covert adjoining), the average number of rabbits 
taken up each year has been 3,000, which is about 
forty rabbits per acre, and a good deal of grass is left 
uneaten. It is not to be inferred from this, however, 
that a warren half the size would produce the same 
number of rabbits to the acre. No doubt half the 
number of acres will suffice to feed 3,000, but they 
require space as well as food or their domestic 
arrangements will be sadly interfered with. Over- 
crowding means interference with the does when 
suckling, and there ought to be room enough to 
obviate their being disturbed, as they would be if there 
were too many occupants of one burrow. If a warren 
is to pay for maintaining there is no need to waste 
half the food it will produce. This implies a loss. 
If there is to be a profit, the area and the feed upon 
it should be no greater than is actually required to 
support the stock. The question how many rabbits 
should go to the acre can only be answered in general 
terms, for it is obvious that an acre in one county 
may contain double the quantity of food found on 
another where the soil and the nature of the vegeta- 
tion may vary considerably. 

F 



66 THE RABBIT 



It goes without saying that, where shooting is the 
object in view, the more natural covert there is upon 
a warren — in the shape of gorse, fern, heather, or 
tussocks of grass — the better, not only for the rabbits, 
but also for winged game, especially partridges and 
woodcock. Natural shelter of this sort is always 
attractive to the latter, and the enjoyment of a day's 
rabbit-shooting is always heightened by coming 
suddenly upon a covey that lies well in such ground 
or flushing (and, let us hope, bagging) an unexpected 
woodcock. 

The amount of fencing which may be required to 
protect a warren adequately must depend wholly 
upon circumstances. The ground may be so situated 
as to be surrounded either wholly or in part by stone 
walls, which only require to be topped with wire to 
constitute an efficient rabbit-proof barrier. Where 
this is the case a considerable saving of expense 
may be effected ; for all that is needed, after stopping 
holes and crannies, is to surmount the wall with wire- 
netting, laid on sticks a yard long, in such a way as 
to slope inwards, and so prevent the rabbits from 
jumping out, the sticks being kept in their places 
by heavy stones, and earth rammed into the inter- 
stices. 

Where no such boundary walls exist, one must 



THE WARREN 67 



have recourse to fencing, the cost of which, according 
to Mr. Simpson, need not exceed one shilling per 
yard. For this outlay one may construct a fence 
which will keep in the rabbits, prevent their burrow- 
ing under or leaping over, and strong enough to turn 
cattle or ordinary trespassers. The fence is made 
with two sizes of wire-netting ; that at the bottom 
must be at least 18 in. wide, with ij in. mesh, as a 
larger mesh lets through the younger rabbits, which do 
not return. The upper wirework is 2§ ft. wide, with 
a i\ in. mesh. This wirework is supported by oak 
or larch posts, 5^ ft. long, charred at the bottom. 
The netting is placed inside the posts, which are driven 
eighteen inches deep, a yard apart, so that they stand 
four feet out of the ground. Each piece of netting is 
folded so that part of it is horizontal ; six inches of the 
lower netting lies flat on the ground — this, it is found, 
prevents the rabbits burrowing under; and six inches of 
the upper netting, also, is turned in horizontally, and 
is supported by bolts and a wire, so as to prevent the 
rabbits running up and leaping over. The tops of 
the posts are secured by being connected with stout 
wire, either plain or barbed, the latter making it cattle 
proof. This wire is found to prevent the entrance 
of foxes. 

Where sheep or cattle are allowed to graze on the 



THE RABBIT 



outside of a warren there is always a risk of their 
breaking down the wire-netting by pressing against it 
from the outside in their attempts to reach the herb- 
age within, and some further precaution on this score 
may be necessary. To obviate this danger Mr. Lloyd 
Price recommends that short posts, standing a foot 
above the surface of the ground, should be driven in 
outside the warren fence, and about two feet away 
from it, and that a barbed wire should be run along 
the tops of them ; that is to say, at a height designed to 
catch the knee of an animal proceeding to examine 
the permanent fence with a view to offensive opera- 
tions ; and when once any beast has had a taste of 
its quality, the low, inoffensive-looking wire is always 
avoided most carefully in future, thus saving the 
regular fence from much ill-usage in the shape of 
horning, rubbing, or other attacks. Of course, this 
little extra precaution adds to the expense, but it is 
an excellent safeguard. 

If the warren is not intended to be shot over, but 
is merely maintained for the purpose of breeding 
rabbits for the market, they may be taken either by 
ferreting and netting, or by means of an ingenious 
contrivance designed by Mr. Simpson, and termed 
by him a l rabbit trap-fence.' This is a long piece of 
wirework, as long as the covert to be worked, say, 50 



THE WARREN 69 



or 100 yards. It is reared up and temporarily sup- 
ported on its whole length with stakes, the bottom 
just touching the ground. Parallel to it another 
length of fencing is set up, the lower part of which 
projects inwards, and is supported by a number of 
pieces of loose stick, propping it up every twenty feet. 
When the rabbits come out to feed they run under 
the first netting, the lower part of which is open, but 
cannot pass the second ; and a man who is concealed 
at some distance pulls a galvanised wire, which upsets 
the whole of the sticks holding up the flap of wire, 
which consequently falls down, and as many as 500 
rabbits have been caught at once between the two 
fences. 

As there are probably many landowners who would 
prefer to lay out a warren on a less extensive plan 
than that advocated by Mr. Simpson, it may be well 
to quote here the experience of Mr. J. H. Leche on 
a warren of forty acres only, as described by him in 
The Field of February 24, 1894. He writes : — c The 
total acreage is about forty acres, of which seventeen is 
grass only, with no burrows on it ; the remainder is 
young covert, about twenty years old. Part of that 
which is planted is sandy, and part clay subsoil ; the 
open part is, generally speaking, strong soil. It was in- 
closed in April, 1893, and when we shot it, we killed 



7o THE RABBIT 



exactly 1,000 rabbits to six guns before luncheon. 
Only seventy of these were killed in the open, and the 
rest were killed crossing rides, in the part which is 
wood. The wood is divided down the centre by a 
broad grass ride, and there are eight cross rides. In 
August and September 250 live rabbits were turned 
into the warren which had not been bred there. 
About October 1 (or three weeks before we shot) I 
found the rabbits were very thin, and between then 
and the time we shot they consumed about fifteen 
loads of swedes, two bags of Indian corn, and two 
trusses of best hay. Inferior hay is of no use; 
rabbits will not eat it, or, if they do, it does them 
very little good. The hay was placed under sheets 
of corrugated iron, supported by four ordinary stakes. 
By this means it was kept dry — a most important 
thing to see to, for unless kept dry rabbits will scarcely 
look at it. The swedes were grown on a piece of 
land inside one of the coverts, which was ploughed 
for the purpose, and, having the old turf in it, the 
land required no manure of any kind. Since we shot 
I have had every rabbit I could get hold of destroyed, 
and I re-stocked the warren about the last week in 
January. Altogether about 1,100 rabbits were killed. 
* The open part of the warren is land worth, say, 
1/. per acre to farm, and I have limed all the rough- 



THE WARREN 71 



est part, applying about five tons to the acre, and 
since then it has been moss harrowed. The part 
which is eaten off bare will be dressed with a light 
application of dissolved bones, also the main ride 
down the centre of the wood. 

' You cannot have a large stock of rabbits, year 
after year, on a small warren like this, without periodi- 
cally doing something to help the land upon which 
you keep them ; but, by clearing the ground for three 
months every year, and occasionally liming, I believe it 
to be quite possible ; and I see no reason why a rabbit 
warren should not pay if you do not shoot the rabbits, 
but watch the markets, and either trap or net them.' 

Trapped or snared rabbits should realise, say, 
2s. gd. a couple ; shot ones 2s. 2>d. a couple ; taking 
out, of course, any badly shot, and sending only good 
sound rabbits to market. 

It is important to bear in mind the difference 
between farming a warren for profit, and laying it out 
for sporting purposes. In the former case you may 
have four or five times as many rabbits to the acre as 
can be maintained in the latter case. Mr. Simpson, 
referring to the former, writes : — ' I know, and am 
sure, that fifty rabbits can be produced to an acre 
of fair pasture ; but I should expect a hundred.' l 

1 The Field, March 14, 1896. This opinion is confirmed 
by another writer in The Field of November 9, 1889. 



72 THE RABBIT 



Another correspondent wrote : — ' In a season like 
the past summer, when grass was abundant, our ground 
would have produced at least 150 rabbits to the acre. 
As it is, fifty to the acre have not consumed one 
quarter of the pasture. Large tracts of it are still 
untouched. So rank was the herbage in August and 
September that about thirty cattle had to be turned 
in to help to eat it down.' 

On the other hand, rabbit warrens which are used 
for sporting purposes only, and are not shot until 
November, will not bear ten rabbits to the acre 
without serious damage. Warrens which are farmed, 
and snared or netted from the end of September 
onward, are not so unremunerative ; but the gun should 
be discarded until the very last. 

As to the effect of rabbits on pasture, a practical 
observer, after three years' experience, has remarked 
that l a rabbit puts nothing back into the ground, 
though he extracts the utmost from it. He leaves 
little manure on the grass, and his droppings have 
little manurial value.' This is not the case where 
rabbits are farmed in hutches, and the hutches are 
periodically shifted. Major Morant, in his ' Profitable 
Rabbit Farming,' writes : — ' It is generally believed 
that the manure of rabbits injures the ground ; but 
this is a great mistake : it is as beneficial as that of 



THE WARREN 73 



sheep.' The question is : Do rabbits in hutches which 
are frequently moved, injure or benefit pasture ? The 
answer to this is supplied by a writer in The Field of 
January 11, 1896, who remarks: — 'I have had 300 
rabbits in hutches on a pasture in front of my house, 
and the hutches were moved twice a week. The 
effect on the pasture was simply marvellous — quite 
equal to the effect of sheep. The manure from fixed 
hutches was sold to farmers at seven shillings for a 
small cartload, and the demand was far in excess of 
the supply.' 

As to the profit to be made out of rabbit-farm- 
ing, that must depend upon various circumstances — 
acreage, and proportionate cost of fencing, rent, and 
keepers' wages, cost of winter feeding (old hay, 
swedes, Indian corn, &c), cost of dressing with gas- 
lime and salt where the impoverished herbage re- 
quires it (see p. 47), and so forth. 

The result obtained by Mr. Simpson, in Yorkshire, 
seems to have been very different from that obtained 
by Mr. Elwes, in Gloucestershire, where, if we are not 
mistaken, the rabbit land is poor pasture on the 
oolite limestone, and not worth more than $s. per acre, 
pastured, moreover, with sheep to its fullest capacity. 
Mr. Elwes is no believer in the profits supposed to 
be made out of rabbit warrens, or in the possibility 



74 THE RABBIT 



of keeping fifty or even a hundred rabbits to the 
acre for a series of years, 1 As Mr. Simpson, how- 
ever, has demonstrated that it can be done, and 
has answered Mr. Elwes's objections, 2 it is evident 
that no general rule can be laid down, and that 
results must in every case depend upon the conditions 
under which the warren is formed, and the nature of 
the ground selected for the purpose. 

Whether warrens deteriorate in their productive 
qualities in course of time, or not, is a disputed 
question, to which Mr. Lloyd Price, however, has 
given a decided answer. He asserts that if properly 
managed, a warren does not deteriorate, but continues 
its production per acre without cessation, subject only 
to the chance of very inclement and wet seasons. 
After fifteen years' experience, he found, in 1894, that 
the same land which, under sheep, yielded 2s. 6d. per 
acre, produced i8<r. per acre when under rabbits. 

All these subjects are discussed in his book 
( Rabbits for Profit, and Rabbits for Powder ; ' and are 
dealt with also by Mr. Simpson and Major Morant in 
their respective treatises above mentioned. 

The limited space at disposal here precludes our 
discussing them at greater length. To these sources 
of information, therefore, we may refer the reader 

1 The Field, March 7, 1896. 2 Ibid. March 14, 1896. 




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THE WARREN 75 



who is desirous of going into greater detail than we 
have been enabled to do in the foregoing pages. 

The duties of a warrener at the present day are 
somewhat different from what they used to be when 
Sam Aiken, that prince of sporting artists, portrayed 
the good old-fashioned sort which we see depicted 
on the opposite plate — a facsimile reproduction from 
his drawing. On looking at it, one cannot but 
admire the sturdy and weather-beaten form accus- 
tomed to work single-handed in all weathers, and the 
' scratch pack ' by which he is accompanied, any 
member of which is able to catch and hold the 
heaviest buck rabbit, or tackle a stoat or polecat with 
the slightest encouragement. 

A century ago the wold warreners were wont to 
catch their rabbits with 'fold-nets,' with ' spring nets,' 
and with ' tipes,' or tip-traps. The ' fold-nets ' were 
set about midnight, between the burrows and the 
feeding ground, the rabbits being driven in by dogs, 
and kept enclosed in the fold until morning. The 
warrener would drive towards the net with the wind 
if possible ; a side wind would do, but nothing could 
be done if the wind blew over the net towards the 
outlying rabbits. This is also very noticeable when 
catching hares with ' hays,' and arises from their very 
keen sense of smell. 



76 THE RABBIT 



A rough-coated dog, called a lurcher, smaller and 
shorter than a greyhound, but somewhat of the same 
build, was often used to drive the rabbits towards the 
nets, and with the warrener's training was rendered 
extremely useful, for he was taught to watch the 
rabbits out at feed, when he would dart on them 
without the least noise, and carry them one by one to 
his master, who would wait in some convenient spot 
to receive them. 

The £ spring net \ was generally laid round a hay- 
stack or other object likely to attract rabbits in 
numbers. 

The 'tipe,' or tip-trap, was a kind of cistern, with 
a lid nicely balanced on a pin through its centre, 
over which the rabbits were led through a narrow 
meuse, The lid was at first bolted so as not to tip 
up, and the rabbits were allowed to go through the 
meuse, and pass over it for some nights until they 
get accustomed to the run. The bolt was then with- 
drawn, and one after another they would be tipped 
into the cistern, from which, in due time, they were 
c culled ' by the warrener, who killed the fat ones, and 
turned the others out to improve. By this means, at' 
the end of the season, the bucks and does were sorted, 
one of the former being considered sufficient for six 
or seven of the latter, and the nearer they could be 



THE WARREN 7? 



brought to this proportion, the greater was the 
produce of young expected. Great precaution was 
needed in using these traps, for should too many 
rabbits be admitted at once, or allowed to remain for 
too many hours in the closed cistern, numbers would 
die from heat and suffocation, and the carcasses would 
be spoiled. The cisterns, therefore, had to be care- 
fully watched, and when the required number was 
caught the meuse was stopped, and the trap-door 
fastened. In this way it was possible to take five or 
six hundred rabbits in a single night. 

The trap-fence adopted by Mr. Simpson, and 
already described (p. 68), is an improvement on this 
method, and has much to recommend it ; but the 
majority of warreners at the present day are content 
to get their rabbits by trapping, ferreting, netting, and 
digging out. A rabbit thus caught always fetches a 
better price at market than one which has been shot, 
for the skin is then uninjured, and there are no ugly 
wounds, nor extravasation of blood beneath the skin, 
to spoil the appearance of the meat. 

When treating of the natural enemies of the 
rabbit (pp. 39-44) we took occasion to allude briefly 
to the stoat, weasel, polecat, fox, badger, rat, and cat. 
The warrener who knows his business will not tolerate 
the presence of any of these on the warren if he can 



7 8 THE RABBIT 



help it. The three first-named are best caught in one 
of two ways : either in an iron trap (or gin) over which 
a bait is suspended, or in a box-trap. In the former 
case the trap should be set close to the wall or fence 
which surrounds the warren, and on the outside, not 
only to avoid catching a rabbit, but because a stoat 
or weasel, in an attempt to get in, wi]l run a long 
way on the outside of the fence and quite close to it. 
The bait should be suspended at a little height above 
the trap, so as to cause the animal to rear up in its 
attempt to reach it, and, by overbalancing, to drop 
on the plate of the trap and so get caught. The trap 
in this case should always be set with the catch next 
the wall, for, if placed the other way, the intended 
victim might not be heavy enough to weigh down the 
lever and so spring the trap. The entrails of a rabbit 
or fowl make as good a bait as can be used, the smell 
being attractive for a long distance. If this cannot 
be procured immediately it is wanted, and a bit of 
butcher's meat has to be substituted, it may be made 
more enticing by scenting it with musk, or oil of 
rhodium, or aniseed. This will be attractive also to 
rats and cats ; but of them we shall have more to say 
later. A trap should never be re-set in the same 
place after a kill, and should be handled as little as 
possible, and with gloves on, for these wild creatures 



THE WARREN 79 



are wonderfully quick in detecting the taint of the 
Afiuman hand. 

The second mode of catching stoats and weasels 
is by means of a good-sized box-trap, not single^ like a 
mouse-trap, but double — that is, to open at both ends ; 
and it may be either baited with a strong smelling 
bait, or have an unbaited gin set in the middle of it. 
A stoat or weasel is more likely to enter a box-trap if 
he can see daylight through it than if it be closed at 
one end like a mouse-trap. For this reason it will 
often answer well to place a gin in a culvert or drain, 
or set one (unbaited) at each end. A modification of 
this plan is to set a few slates or tiles in a sloping 
position, and in a row against the foot of a wall with 
an unbaited gin behind them on the ground. We 
have caught many a rat by this plan, and it is equally 
efficacious for weasels. For our own part, however, 
we would not ruthlessly trap and kill every weasel 
and stoat on the warren. A few of these animals, if 
left to their own devices, are useful in checking too 
abundant an increase of rabbits, and, indirectly, im- 
proving the stock by killing the weakly ones, which 
are more easily captured. 

The utility of the weasel, in checking the devasta- 
tion of field mice, has never been more clearly 
established than by the evidence which was tendered 



8o THE RABBIT 



to the Committee appointed by the Board of Agri- 
culture to inquire into the plague of field voles in 
Scotland, in 1892. In the Minutes of Evidence ap- 
pended to the Report of this Committee, issued in 
1893, will be found numerous statements, elicited by 
cross-examination of the witnesses, which tend to 
prove beyond doubt that the weasel is the natural 
enemy of field mice, and that no greater mistake 
could be made than to destroy the former where the 
latter are numerous, or threatening to become so. 
The field mice did incalculable mischief in Scotland 
by eating up the grass on the sheep runs, thereby 
causing the sheep to starve, and consequently to 
depreciate in value, while the failure of lambs was so 
serious as to cause heavy loss to the farmers. It is 
easy to foresee what would be the effect in a rabbit 
warren if it were to be similarly over-run by field 
mice, and there were no weasels to keep them in 
check. 

From a huntsman's point of view, of course, foxes 
are best left alone — that is, if the warren is in a hunt- 
ing country. They must eat to live, and being fond 
of rabbits, they will take these where they can get 
them easily, and pay the less attention to pheasants and 
other game. Should the warren, however, happen to 
be situated in sandhills near the sea, on unrideable 



THE WARREN 81 



moorland, in rocky ground, or in a country unvisited 
by fox-hounds, the warrener probably will not be 
much troubled with conscientious scruples in regard 
to the destruction of foxes, when, if they should prove 
to be too numerous, a poisoned bait, an iron trap, or 
a well-timed shot, will put a stop to the too rapid 
consumption of coneys. 

Wandering cats, as every gamekeeper knows to 
his cost, are an unmitigated nuisance, and when they 
take to feeding on young rabbits, of which they are 
very fond, the warrener will have to put a stop to such 
proceedings as soon as possible. The quickest way 
to get rid of them is to shoot them, although, by the 
expenditure of a little more time and trouble, they 
may be cleared off by poisoning, or trapping. In wet 
weather cats will walk along the wall of a plantation, 
when it will be found a good plan to hollow out a 
coping stone and set a round trap in it. 

Rats, also, have to be reckoned with, and in 
warrens are best got rid of by ferreting ; but by digging 
out and bolting them, a good many may be killed 
with the aid of the ' scratch pack ' above referred to. 
The ferret, however, is so indissolubly associated with 
the rabbit, and so important an ally of the warrener, 
as to deserve special treatment in the next chapter. 



THE RABBIT 



CHAPTER III 

FERRETING 

When the Romans introduced the rabbit into Italy 
they introduced the custom of hunting it with ferrets ; 1 
and when they carried the same animal into Britain 
they imported the same custom with it. The great 
reason for the Roman introduction of the former 
animal into both was the pleasure which they took in 
hunting it with the latter. The Britons adopted what 
the Romans practised, and have transmitted to us, 
their successors, the Roman-Spanish hunt, and the 
Roman-Spanish name for the animal employed in it ; 
denominating the latter Viverra, in Welsh Guivaer, 
and in Irish Firead, or Ferret. 

The early use of ferrets is made apparent from 
several sources of information. They were employed 
by Genghis Khan 2 in his imperial hunting circle at 
Termed in 1221, and are mentioned by the Emperor 

1 Pliny, Hist. Nat. lib. x. cap. 21. 

2 Ranking, Historical Researches on the Sports of the Mon- 
gols and Romans (1826), p. 33. 



FERRETING 83 



Frederick II. of Germany in 1245, amongst the 
animals used for hunting. 1 

So long ago as 1390 m Richard II. 's time a statute 
was passed prohibiting anyone from keeping or using 
greyhounds and fyrets who had not lands or tenements 
of the annual value of 40^. Both the fy chew and the 
fyret are mentioned in 'Thystorye of Reynard the 
Foxe,' as printed by Caxton in 148 1, 2 and in the ' Book 
of St. Albans ' in i486. In the ' Household Book 
of Lord William Howard of Naworth,' several entries £ 
occur which clearly indicate the employment of ferrets 
and nets for taking rabbits in Cumberland in 1621. 3 

Many writers have asserted that the ferret is a 
native of Africa, but the statement lacks confirmation 
from the fact that the animal has not been met with 
in a wild state in any part of that continent, where, 
however, other kinds of weasels exist. The better 
opinion is that the ferret is merely a domesticated 
variety of the polecat, with which it is frequently 
crossed for the purpose of improving the breed. 
There are positively no cranial, dental, or other struc- 

1 De arte Venandi, ed. Schneider, 1788, tome i. p. 3. 

2 Ed. Percy Society, p. 109. 

3 This volume is of much interest not only to antiquaries but 
also to sportsmen from the numerous allusions which it contains 
to blackgame, roedeer, woodcock, wild-fowl, salmon, &c. It 
was printed for the Surtees Society in 1878. 

G 2 



THE RABBIT 



tural characters by which they can be distinguished, 
and the brown variety of the ferret is so like a 
polecat that it might well be mistaken for one. The 
appearance of a ferret is too well known to require 
description. With most wild animals the result of 
domestication is to increase their size and weight. 
With the ferret it is otherwise. The average weight of 
a male polecat is 2§ lb., and of a female if lb. ; 
no such weights have ever been recorded for ferrets. 
The reason for this is no doubt to be found in the 
different conditions of existence to which the two 
animals are subjected ; confinement, want of fresh 
air, insufficient exercise, and want of warm animal 
food operate in the case of the ferret to produce an 
undersized, weakly, and spiritless progeny. 

There can be no doubt that the more the treat- 
ment of ferrets approximates to the natural conditions 
of life, the hardier and better they will be, and this is 
the secret of success in their management. Instead of 
keeping them in a shed or outhouse, in a small hutch 
with a bedding of musty straw, saturated with wet 
and dirt, so productive of 'foot rot,' 'sweat,' and 
other diseases, with a small saucer of sour milk and 
a piece of tainted meat on which to live or starve, 
they should be kept, at all events for the greater part 
of the year, as much as possible in the open air. 



FERRETING 85 



If there is sufficient ground at disposal, a good 
method of keeping ferrets is to make an enclosure with 
planks set edgewise one above another, and held in 
proper position with stakes. The sides should be 
high enough to keep the ferrets in, and low enough to 
be stepped over when necessary for the purpose of 
cleaning out the hutches. The latter should be off 
the damp ground, and have small openings for the 
animals to go in and out, so that they may be comfort- 
able and warm at night. They are thus enabled 
during the fine weather to gallop about the enclosure, 
bask in the sun, and breathe pure air, the result being 
that they remain lively and vigorous, and free from 
disease. 

The most suitable food is bread and milk, or 
porridge (not too wet, and by no means allowed to 
become sour), varied occasionally with fresh meat in 
the shape of small birds, mice, young rats, or a piece 
of freshly killed and warm rabbit. This should be 
tied to a staple with a bit of string to prevent the 
ferrets from dragging it into their sleeping place and 
thus soiling the bedding. They should never be fed 
in the morning of the day on which they are to be 
used, but on being brought home should have a good 
supper as soon as possible, and should then be allowed 
to go to sleep. 



86 THE RABBIT 



On commencing to keep ferrets it is of course 
important to get hold of healthy stock, and the inex- 
perienced beginner who is no judge of points must 
be guided by the advice of friends, or rely upon a 
good breeder. The sexes are distinguished as ' hob ? 
(or ' dog ') and ' jill,' and should be kept apart except 
at pairing time, when they may run together for a day or 
two. Ferrets will breed twice a year, but usually only 
once, in summer. The period of gestation lasts six 
weeks, and the young, usually six or seven in number, 
are born blind, and do not open their eyes for a month. 
Within a week of their being expected, the sleeping 
compartment of the mother should be closed, after 
making up a fresh bed, and not be reopened for the 
next five or six weeks ; for if disturbed before then 
the mother will probably destroy them. 

When they first show themselves outside their 
sleeping box and begin to feed with the ' jill,' they will 
require careful attention and must be fed three or 
four times a day. When about ten weeks old, if 
looking strong and well, they may be put in another 
hutch. 

As above stated the ferret will breed readily with 
the wild polecat, and there can be no doubt that a 
cross with the latter improves the breed materially, 
for the young are stronger in constitution, and work 



FERRETING S7 

quicker and longer than ordinary ferrets, which after 
two years get slow and lazy. The half-bred progeny 
while growing up require more handling and more 
work than ordinary ferrets do, or they get shy of being 
picked up. The second cross is perhaps the best for 
general purposes, although the first cross produces 
capital ratworkers round stacks where agility is indis- 
pensable. 

On the subject of muzzling and coping much 
difference of opinion prevails. The writer favours 
the view that a ferret should never be muzzled, and 
it is doubtful whether coping ought not also to be 
dispensed with, as it clearly should be when hunting 
rats. A coped ferret cannot kill a rabbit, but will 
scratch and worry it in the attempt to do so. A rabbit 
will bolt much sooner from a ferret that is free. If 
the ferret be worked on a line, care should be taken 
that there are no roots of trees or rocks underground, 
or the line will soon get fast, and occasion much 
trouble. 

It will not do to handle ferrets while they are quite 
young, or the old one will very likely destroy them. It 
will be time enough to handle them when half grown, 
and it should then be done boldly without snatch- 
ing the hand away, or it will provoke them to bite. 

As to the mode of transport nothing can be more 



THE RABBIT 



objectionable than the time-honoured ' bag ' which 
most keepers and warreners use to save themselves 
trouble. Carried in this, a ferret is never at rest, 
and is so cramped and worried as to lose half its 
energy for work. Should the bag get wet, as is often 
the case, either from a downpour of rain or from 
being laid down on wet grass, the ferret is made 
thoroughly miserable, and will take an early oppor- 
tunity of ' laying up ' in the first comfortable burrow 
it enters. The best way to carry ferrets about is in a 
small wooden box with a rope handle. It should be 
perfectly dry, and one half may be partitioned off, with 
a small hole for ingress and egress, and be littered 
down with fine shavings of willow, or deal ; or, failing 
either of these, straw. Carried about in a box like 
this, they will get rest, and be much more lively when 
wanted for use. 

In ' entering ' young ferrets it is a good plan to 
let them run with the mother, who will soon initiate 
them in working a rabbit burrow. If they are slow 
to follow her down a hole, she can be used with a 
line and pulled back from time to time to entice them 
forward. It is as well to give a young ferret its first 
chance in a burrow where it will be sure to find a 
rabbit, as in a short sandy hole, and to reward it with 
a kill. Nor should it be worked too long at first, but 



FERRETING 89 

be allowed an occasional rest. If a rabbit is bolted 
and shot, it should be pegged down outside the hole, 
so that the ferret on coming out may find it at once, 
and be rewarded. Should a ferret ' lay up ' or remain 
a long time in a hole, another ferret on a line should 
be run in, and the truant dug out ; hence the desira- 
bility of choosing an easy place to begin with when 
entering young ferrets. 

A rabbit will sometimes decline to bolt, and will 
be killed in a burrow ; the ferret will then have a 
gorge and 'lay up.' In that case the plan is to leave 
a boy to watch the burrow, or to set a box-trap just 
outside, and visit it next morning. 

An old ferret that has been used constantly in 
the same neighbourhood, will learn to find its way 
home like a dog. Instances of this ' homing instinct,' 
as it has been termed, have been frequently com- 
mented on, and reported. See The Field, January 25, 
and February 1 and 8, 1873 \ January 23 and 30, 
1886 j March 17, 1888. 

The late Dr. G. J. Romanes, in his book on 
' Animal Instinct,' x states that on one occasion while 
ferreting rabbits he lost a ferret about a mile from 
home, and that some days afterwards the animal 
returned. He adds : ' I once kept a ferret as a 

1 Internat. Sci. Series, vol. xli. second edition, 1882. 



go THE RABBIT 



domestic pet. He was a very large specimen, and 
my sister taught him a number of tricks such as 
begging for food, which he did quite as well and 
patiently as any terrier, leaping over sticks, &c. He 
became a very affectionate animal, delighting much in 
being petted and following like a dog when taken out 
for a walk. He would, however, only follow those 
persons whom he well knew. That his memory was 
exceedingly good was shown by the fact that after an 
absence of many months during which he was never 
required to beg, or to perform any of his tricks, he 
went through all his paces perfectly the first time that 
we again tried him.' 

It is perhaps not generally known that other 
animals of the weasel kind, besides the ferret, are 
capable of being tamed, and make very pretty and 
engaging pets. 

Mademoiselle de Faister described her tame 
weasel to Buffon as playing with her fingers like a 
kitten, jumping on her head and neck, and if she 
presented her hands at the distance of three feet, it 
jumped into them without ever missing. It distin- 
guished her voice amidst twenty people, and sprang 
over everybody to get at her. She found it impossible 
to open a drawer or a box, or even to look at a paper 
without his examining it also. If she took up a paper 



FERRETING 91 

or book, and looked attentively at it, the weasel im- 
mediately ran upon her hand, and surveyed with an 
inquisitive air whatever she happened to hold. 

But to return to the ferret. We have already 
referred to the importance of preserving cleanliness 
in the hutches if ferrets are to be kept in health. 
The various diseases by which they may be attacked 
result chiefly from inattention to this point. Dis- 
temper or sweat, red mange or eczema, and foot-rot 
generally arise from the animals being kept in a dirty 
condition or in a damp situation. 

Three or four times a year the hutches should be 
washed out and disinfected with Condy's fluid, and 
then whitewashed inside. This is the best way to 
keep them clean and sweet ; at the same time, of 
course, attention must be paid to the bedding, which 
should never be allowed to remain wet or musty, nor 
should the ferrets be allowed to carry their food into 
their sleeping place, for any that is left there will soon 
turn sour, and become injurious. 

Ferrets do not require to be fed often; once in 
twenty-four hours should suffice ; for if given food 
more frequently they are liable to get fat and lazy, 
instead of being (as they should be) keen and active. 

It is not easy to compress into a few pages all the 
points upon which it might be desirable to touch in 



92 THE RABBIT 



connection with the management and working of 
ferrets, but this perhaps is not altogether necessary, 
for several books written by experts have been devoted 
entirely to this subject. It will suffice to give a few 
hints that will be found useful in practice. 

When handling a ferret take it under the forelegs, 
above the ribs, and if it struggles, let its forelegs go 
through the fingers. Ferrets do not like to be held 
below the ribs. Do not handle a ' jill ' ferret about 
to have a litter. The young ones should not be 
allowed to run with the old male, or ' hob,' until they 
can use their teeth to defend themselves. By calling 
them to their food at meal-times they soon learn to 
obey a whistle like a dog, and give no trouble on being 
picked up. Moreover they can then be let out much 
more frequently to run about, and with this indulgence 
are less likely to contract foot-rot. 

A ferret trained in this way will work a hedgerow 
from end to end by himself, affording his owner shot 
after shot if he stands well out in the open. 

Bells are of no use. They only alarm the rabbits, 
and are not heard in deep burrows. 

Nothing makes a rabbit lie so close as the sound 
of men tramping and talking, and terriers yapping 
overhead ; a terrier used for ferreting should be mute. 
Never talk loud, therefore, while ferreting, "and never 



FERRETING 93 

stand in front of a hole, but always away from it, or 
the rabbit will not bolt. Where possible choose the 
holes over which the wind is blowing towards you, for 
a rabbit's sense of smell and hearing is very acute. 

When the ferret issues from a burrow do not be 
in a hurry to pick it up, but let it get a few feet from 
the hole, or it may perhaps dodge back and refuse to 
come out again. Should this happen the truant may 
be enticed out by throwing down a dead rabbit at the 
mouth of the burrow. 

Everyone who has had experience of rabbit-shoot- 
ing must have remarked a fact which indicates either 
a want of intelligence in rabbits or an inability to 
learn by experience. When alarmed they run for 
their burrows, and when they reach them, instead of 
entering, they very frequently squat down to watch 
the enemy. Now, although they well know the 
distance at which it is safe to allow a man to approach 
with a gun, excess of curiosity, or a mistaken feeling 
of security in being so near their homes, induces 
the animals to allow him to approach within easy 
shooting distance. Yet that in other respects rabbits 
can learn by experience must be evident to all who 
are accustomed to shoot with ferrets. From burrows 
which have not been much ferreted, rabbits will bolt 
soon after the ferret is put in ; but this is not the case 



94 THE RABBIT 



where rabbits have had previous experience of the 
association between ferrets and sportsmen. Rather 
than bolt under such circumstances, and so face 
the known danger of the waiting gun, rabbits will 
often allow themselves to be torn with the ferret's 
claws and teeth. This is the case no matter how 
silently operations may be conducted ; the mere fact 
of a ferret entering their burrow seems to be enough 
to assure the rabbits that sportsmen are waiting for 
them outside. 




FERRETING 



95 



CHAPTER IV 

SHOOTING 

Every lover of the gun will admit that he owes a debt 
of gratitude to the ubiquitous rabbit, and its extinction, 
which is not merely threatened by existing legislation, 
but in some places has been actually accomplished, 
will be a matter of regret for everyone but the agri- 
culturist who possesses no sporting instincts. The 
absence of a close time and the knowledge that rabbits 
may be shot all the year round — though we have ven- 
tured to protest against killing them after the expiration 
of the shooting season when the does are suckling their 
young (see pp. 10, 1 1) — afford many persons an excuse 
for a day's sport when game cannot be killed ; while 
the fact that there are a great many shooters whose 
means do not permit of their renting partridge-ground 
or pheasant-coverts, justifies their regarding the rabbit 
as especially created for their particular diversion. 
Truly, a day's covert-shooting without rabbits would 



THE RABBIT 



be deprived of very much of its enjoyment, and a 
day with spaniels or terriers on a furze-clad' common 
under similar circumstances would be rendered prac- 
tically abortive. The supply of ' rabbit-pie ' would 
be dependent upon the commonplace efforts of the 
warrener, and half the charm of a day with the gun 
in the open would be gone. 

Who does not remember with feelings of pleasure 
the day when, allowed for the first time to carry a gun 
in company, his earliest efforts were directed towards 
circumventing and slaying a ' bunny ' ? He was sure 
of a find, he could choose his distance, and pick his 
shot. Not only was the target a sufficiently large 
one, but, unlike the whirring partridge, it travelled at 
a speed sufficiently moderate to give time to aim, and 
with a little practice the young sportsman soon got 
into the way of handling his gun properly, and 
swinging it well forward with the happiest result. 

The schoolboy home for the Christmas holidays 
and taken out with a gun and ferret has good cause 
to be grateful for the lessons taught him by the wily 
rabbit, and if from inheritance, or choice, he possesses 
the true sporting instinct, he will in after days look 
with satisfaction upon his earliest efforts at rabbit- 
shooting. Many will be the ' misses, 5 perhaps, and 
few the ' hits,' but there is sport even in missing, and 



SHOOTING 97 



the day at length will come when the nerves are 
sufficiently steady and the aim sufficiently good to 
justify his being one of a shooting party under the 
guidance of an older hand. 

Not until the autumn leaves have commenced to 
fall, and briar and bramble have begun to look thin 
in the coverts, can rabbit-shooting be prosecuted with 
any advantage. The undergrowth is still too thick 
for any game to move through it rapidly, and the 
rabbits can only creep about, scarcely showing them- 
selves, and affording but poor chances of a shot 
across the rides. For as long as there is covert they 
will stick to it, and until the underwood gets thinner, 
they will double back and defy the most strenuous 
efforts of beaters to get them out. 

Nevertheless, long before the big woods can be 
beaten, rabbits will afford some amusement in the 
hedgerows amongst old pastures, if worked with one 
or two good spaniels and a gun on either side to 
shoot those that can be forced to bolt. Again, when 
the corn is ripe, and the reaping machine is at work, 
going round and round the field, laying swathe after 
swathe, and gradually reducing the area of standing 
grain, the rabbits instead of bolting will work towards 
the centre, availing themselves to the last of the little 
shelter that remains, until the men, at the bidding of 

H 



THE RABBIT 



the sportsmen, stop the horses, and constituting 
themselves beaters for the occasion, put out rabbit 
after rabbit towards the expectant gunners. Thus 
pressed they will make in fine style for the nearest 
hedgerow until turned head over heels by a well- 
directed charge of No. 6 shot. In this way a score 
of rabbits may often be killed in half an hour 
by a single gun, while if two guns are posted on 
opposite sides, the fun will be all the merrier while 
it lasts. The farmer will be well pleased, and the 
harvesters too, if they receive, as they should do, a 
rabbit or two apiece for their pains. 

Pending the advent of covert-shooting, there are 
few pleasanter ways of spending an afternoon than 
by shooting rabbits on a furze-clad common, either 
with dogs or beaters, or both. The surroundings are 
particularly exhilarating. The weather is usually 
splendid, everyone is in a good humour, the common 
is all aglow with the golden furze on which here and 
there the stonechat sits and clacks his disapproval 
at the invasion of his haunts. The merry spaniels 
eager to begin can scarce control their excitement, 
and the mere sight of a rabbit elicits from them a 
veritable yell of delight. With difficulty they are 
restrained until the guns are properly posted, each 
commanding a ride cut through the thick furze, with 



SHOOTING 99 



one behind the beaters to take toll of any rabbits that 
may go back. The word is given to advance, and 
the dogs at once dash in. It is marvellous how they 
face the furze, and how untiringly they work through- 
out a hot afternoon. The young shooter who leaves 
the ride and essays to follow them in quest of an 
open space in which he thinks to get plenty of 
shooting, is soon taught to wonder what sort of skin 
a dog possesses, when his own is lacerated at every 
step, and his knees above the gaiters are turned to 
pincushions. But the irritation of the moment is for- 
gotten in the excitement of the sport. A spaniel 
gives tongue on his right, a sudden movement of 
the furze is seen, a great brown hare slips out in 
front of him and, cantering some way down the ride 
to his left, disappears on the other side before he has 
time to recover from his surprise. He has quite 
forgotten to ask his host whether hares are to be shot 
or not, so thinking it is perhaps rather too early in 
the season, he has prudently refrained from firing, 
and is pleased to be told later that he has done 
right. 

A shot from a neighbour's gun followed by the 
squeal of a rabbit tells him that the latter was very 
nearly missed, but one of the spaniels has got hold of 
it, and it is speedily put out of pain. Another shot, 

H 2 



THE RABBIT 



and another, serve to announce that the sport has 
now fairly started. Rabbits are everywhere on the 
move, working towards the rides down or across which 
they scamper in their haste to avoid the dogs, yet 
giving (if they only knew it) to the sportsmen a better 
chance of killing them than if they had remained in 
the furze. The dogs are in ecstasies of delight — the 
place is full of rabbits, and their pursuers are per- 
petually changing the quarry. But steadily the line is 
advancing, and every rabbit must, if possible, go for- 
ward, or break to the right or left across a ride in 
which a gun is posted. A dozen yards from where 
we stand, a little brown head peeps out, a large dark 
eye regards us wistfully, the owner of which is 
evidently speculating on his chance of crossing the 
ride in safety ; his ears twitch nervously ; he ' bucks 
up,' and we instinctively grasp the gun-stock tighter in 
the expectation of an immediate shot. But his dis- 
cretion overcomes his valour ; we see the whisk of a 
white tail, and in an instant he has turned back and 
is lost to sight in the furze from which we fondly hoped 
he was about to bolt. Whilst marking the spot and 
wondering whether he will reappear (for a beater is 
not far off), another little brown face peers out, this 
time lower down the ride, and in an instant a brown 
streak crossing within easy range offers so quick a 



SHOOTING Tot 



chance, that we are scarcely surprised to see the turf 
receive the bulk of the charge a few inches behind 
the mark. So close a shave was it, however, that we 
mechanically walk to the spot for the purpose of seeing 
precisely how far we were out in our calculation, when, 
much to our satisfaction, we find the rabbit lying stone 
dead within a foot or two of the edge of the ride — a 
few outside pellets have done their work, and the 
career of that merry ' bunter ' is ended. c Guns to 
the right of us, guns to the left of us ' proclaim a con- 
tinuation of the fray. A sudden yelp, another in a 
higher key, and then a chorus of spaniels as the entire 
pack sweep down a ride in full pursuit of a rabbit, 
and so close behind it that shooting is out of the 
question. A sudden wrench to the left, the leading 
dog overshoots the mark, and the second dog with 
the rabbit in his mouth falls headlong into the furze, 
the others tumbling head over heels upon them, a 
brown and white mass of struggling, writhing forms. 
The rabbit is with difficulty taken from them, and 
thrown down on the ride where a goodly row is 
already laid out and marks the progress that has been 
made. In the parallel ride a similar row is in evidence, 
amongst them a black one, and also a nice young 
leveret which someone has mistaken for a sandy 
rabbit. We are now approaching the end of the first 



THE RABBIT 



strip of furze, and as the beaters close up and the 
rabbits that have gone forward are getting towards 
their last place of refuge, the guns are having a lively 
time of it. ' Rabbit on the right ! ' shouts an excited 
beater ; ' Rabbit coming out to the left ! ' yells another. 
Shot after shot rings out, and many a grey form turns 
a somersault on the green ride, followed instantly by 
a spaniel, which after mouthing it for a few seconds, 
and wagging his tail, turns into the furze again to 
find another. 

And here we may remark upon the advantage of 
having one or two spaniels that can retrieve. It often 
happens that a wounded rabbit crawls away into thick 
furze, where without the aid of a dog it is difficult to 
find. The stuff is often so dense that it is impossible 
to see the surface of the ground, and many a rabbit 
hit hard, or, as sometimes happens, killed by the dogs, 
is left behind for want of one that can bring it out. 
On this account spaniels are preferable to terriers, and 
being less excitable, they are not given to wander so 
far from the guns. Their longer coats too serve them 
in good stead in the sharp-pointed furze-brakes which 
they are compelled to face. 

As dogs and beaters draw nearer together, and the 
excitement increases, great care has to be exercised by 
the guns lest some unlucky spaniel, more impetuous 



SHOOTING 103 



than the rest, should receive a charge of shot not in- 
tended for him. And here the schoolboy should be 
told to take the cartridges from his gun, and watch 
the cool procedure of the older hands. He should be 
taught always to ' play for safety/ and never to risk 
a shot where there is the least danger of striking any- 
thing but the object aimed at. It is so easy to kill a 
rabbit and a dog with one shot, or miss a rabbit and 
pepper a beater, that the wonder is it does not happen 
oftener. The beaters themselves often get so excited 
as to create an element of danger by the excitement 
they cause in others, especially in young sportsmen, 
who for want of experience have not yet acquired the 
nerve and self-control so essential when rapid firing is 
going on. The danger arising from this cause is even 
greater in covert-shooting, owing to the fact that the 
beaters work towards the guns, and are nearest to 
them when the heaviest shooting takes place. It is 
then that accidents are more likely to occur. In pure 
thoughtlessness we have seen a young sportsman, aye, 
and a middle-aged one too, who ought to have known 
better, fire at a rabbit in covert when the advancing 
line of beaters was within range of his gun. This is 
bad enough when the object fired at is on the ground, 
as in the case of a rabbit or hare, but it is ten times 
worse when the shooter recklessly fires at a low-flying 



104 THE RABBIT 



pheasant before it has left the covert, and while at an 
elevation calculated to drop the shot in the face of 
some unfortunate beater. We have seen this happen 
more than once, and have shudderingly awaited the 
result, expecting instantly to hear a cry of pain from 
some recipient of the dropping pellets, an anticipation 
which we regret to state has been occasionally fulfilled. 
Had the positions of guest and host been reversed we 
should have had no hesitation in rating the delinquent 
soundly in the hearing of the other guns, and warning 
him that a repetition of his offence would mean dis- 
qualification for the rest of the day, and the non- 
receipt of any future invitation. 

The responsibilities of a shooting host are greater 
than many seem to consider. Not only is the life of 
the game both furred and feathered in his hands, but 
he is responsible to a great extent for the lives of the 
beaters, who are placed in considerable peril when 
called upon to advance towards reckless shooters, and 
his first care should be to reduce the danger of the 
situation to a minimum. 

Let us quit the furze-clad common where we left 
the shooting party with their spaniels at the end of 
their first beat — for one beat is very much like another 
— and take a glimpse at the very different scene which 
presents itself when the leaves are falling in the big 



SHOOTING 105 



woods and pheasants claim more attention than the 
rabbits, although the latter constitute very often an 
important item in the day's account. 

The modus operandi is altogether different. It is 
true that in the earlier part of the season, when the 
underwood is still pretty thick, and patches of fern 
and bramble afford strongholds for game that can 
scarcely be invaded without the help of dogs, spaniels 
are extremely useful, for they can creep through places 
where a beater would be ' hung up,' and push forward 
many a rabbit which would otherwise be certain to 
1 go back.' In such covert, also, the wily woodcock 
will often lie so close without rising as to allow a 
beater to walk past him, while his scent will betray 
him at once to the questing spaniel, who will very 
soon have him on the wing. On this account a team 
of close-hunting spaniels will be found invaluable early 
in the season, especially if broken, as they should be, 
to hunt always within range of the guns, and to drop 
to hand when bidden. 

Later on, when the woods get more open, and 
the beaters can move more freely, the spaniels may 
be dispensed with, and in their place two or three 
steady retrievers may be employed, which should 
never leave the heels of their employers until bidden 
to ' hie lost.' They should then be allowed to work 



io6 THE RABBIT 



entirely under the direction of their owners, and not 
be confused by directions given by other people, who 
are often too prone to tell a dog what to do instead 
of leaving him alone to his own devices, which are 
much more likely to lead him right if he is a good 
bred one, and has been properly handled. Nor 
should the impetuous young sportsman who sees his 
winged pheasant or dead rabbit in the mouth of a 
retriever be in a hurry to take it from him. The dog 
should be allowed to carry it straight back to the 
man who sent him, and whom he knows. Not only 
is this much better for the dog, which is then not con- 
fused, but it will prove a considerable saving of time 
in the course of a day's shooting, especially if the 
object be a big bag and there be much ground to 
get over. 

It is not our intention to attempt here anything 
like directions for covert-shooting, for not only would 
this be superfluous in the eyes of readers who know 
a great deal more about it than the writer, but it 
would be out of place in a volume designed to treat 
exclusively of the rabbit. Moreover, this part of the 
subject will be found fully dealt with by masters of 
the craft in the volumes which have already appeared 
on the ' Pheasant ' and * Hare.' 

We may content ourselves with a few observations 



SHOOTING 107 



which have reference more especially to rabbit-shoot- 
ing in covert, and are designed to give some insight 
into that particular phase of sport. Such prelimin- 
aries as the placing of ' stops/ and the pegging down 
of low nets along the rides where the woods are of 
considerable extent, and have to be beaten in sections, 
may be taken for granted. It goes without saying 
that inattention to such matters as these will have an 
important bearing on the results of a day's covert- 
shooting. 

Both hares and rabbits are possessed of a keen 
sense of hearing, and no sooner do they hear the 
' tapping ' of the beaters, or the bark of a spaniel, 
than they at once begin to move forward, and seldom 
pause until they are beyond the reach of such disturb- 
ing sounds. The forward guns then get plenty of 
shooting, and the campaign is generally opened with 
a good show of rabbits. The instinct of the pheasant 
on the other hand induces him to crouch on hearing 
a noise, and to seek safety, in the first instance at all 
events, by trusting to the protective coloration of his 
natural surroundings rather than to flight. As the 
beaters come nearer, he will run forward a little way, 
and crouch again, repeating this manoeuvre as long 
as it is feasible, until he is suddenly scared by the 
appearance of a dog or beater, or until he has run up 



io8 THE RABBIT 



to the edge of a ride in which one or more guns are 
posted. Then it is time to take wing, and if the 
nearest gun knows his business, the fate of that cock 
pheasant is sealed. 

It is otherwise with rabbits. They will cross a 
ride at lightning speed as if aware that their lives 
depend upon it ; pausing only on the edge before 
crossing, if they happen to come out unexpectedly 
near to the gun. And, indeed, their safety often 
depends upon their crossing as near the gun as 
possible ; for no one with any regard to the condition 
of game when picked up will care to risk blowing a 
rabbit to pieces at such close quarters. 

Where the stuff is very thick, rabbits will often 
linger on the edge of a ride until the beaters are 
almost upon them, and ' the fun then becomes fast and 
furious/ Three or four rabbits may be seen crossing 
at the same time, and it often happens that on a cry 
of ' Rabbit for'ard ! ' the shooter's attention is directed 
so closely to the ground in front of him, that he 
misses a good chance at a cock pheasant which 
skims noiselessly overhead while he is f otherwise 
engaged.' 

The variety of shots afforded by rabbits in covert 
is best known to those who have tried to hit them, 
and many a keen shooter has discovered, by the 



SHOOTING 109 



number of empty cartridge cases, how easy they are 
to miss. The secret of success lies in holding well 
forward, and swinging the gun ahead as the trigger is 
pulled. This is especially the case when rabbits are 
crossing a narrow ride, when it becomes necessary to 
shoot not ' where they are,' but ' where they will be ' 
by the time the charge is delivered. 

And here we may remark on the advantage of 
light loads in a long day's shooting. It is frequently 
forgotten that the majority of shots in covert-shooting 
are made at a distance under thirty yards, and a full 
charge of three drachms of black powder, or the equiva- 
lent in nitro-compounds, with 1^- oz. or ij- oz. of shot, 
is not only unnecessary but unadvisable. With 2§ 
drachms and 1 oz. of shot the gunner will not only kill 
his game well, but will do so with greater comfort to 
himself; for under these conditions there will be less 
recoil, no sore shoulder, and no headache to complain 
of at the end of the day, while the rabbits will not 
present the unsightly appearance which they do when 
' plastered ' at short ranges with a heavier charge. 

In some of the more remote country districts 
beagles are extensively used for rabbit-shooting, and 
more especially is this the case in the southern 
counties. Where rabbits are numerous, the coverts 
small, or where hares are plentiful, beagles are not a 



THE RABBIT 



success ; but in the big straggling Sussex woodlands 
that once formed part of extensive forests, the sport is 
frequently indulged in. In these localities, after the 
regular season is finished there are still a few rabbits 
to be killed down, and an opportunity is afforded to 
give the farmers and their friends a day's rabbit- 
shooting. The employment of an army of beaters to 
drive the rabbits to the guns would be expensive, and 
therefore beagles take the place of human beaters. 
Many of the farmers keep a beagle or two, and 
frequently a man may be the possessor of a good 
hard-working dog, which secures his owner many an 
invitation to a day's rabbiting. As a general rule 
the keeper is allowed to invite the guns, and he, as a 
matter of policy, asks first the tenants whose land 
adjoins his coverts and then a few others to make up 
the party, but invariably those farmers are first asked 
who are likely to suffer most damage from the depreda- 
tions of the rabbits. l 

' The owner of a couple of good beagles is tolerably 
sure of some shooting during the season, and often 

1 For these remarks on rabbit-shooting with beagles we are 
indebted to a writer in The Field, who is evidently well qualified 
to deal with the subject, but who chooses to be anonymous. We 
can say from experience in the county to which he refers, that 
his description is quite accurate, and on that account we prefer 
to quote his own words rather than paraphrase them. 



SHOOTING 



dogs are borrowed from non-shooting men, who get 
a couple of rabbits as an acknowledgment for the use 
of their beagles. 

The dogs may be of all colours and sizes, but 
they know their work, and are hardly likely to give 
much trouble unless they hit the line of a fox, or 
break away after a hare. In the latter case, however, 
they generally bring her back, and can then be 
stopped \ but once on the line of a fox they will at 
times run for a couple of miles or so. The guns take 
up their positions in the most likely places, generally 
on a ' ride ' where there is a clear view in front, or in 
an open glade where they can see to shoot for some 
distance in every direction. The beagles search every 
clump of brambles, and push through the decaying 
bracken and thick undergrowth, until at last we hear 
a whimper from one hound as he puts out a rabbit, 
followed by a burst of music as the others rush up on 
hearing him give tongue. The guns are able to tell 
in which direction the rabbit has gone as the cry of 
hounds approaches or retreats. Then comes a pause 
as they overrun the line, a doubtful note succeeds, 
which increases once more into a burst of melody as 
they hit off the scent, and push the rabbit along at 
top speed toward the guns. A flash of brown fur 
across the ' ride,' and a snapshot as it disappears in the 



THE RABBIT 



brushwood is followed by silence as the beagles 
come up and find their quarry dead. 

Soon another rabbit is found, and once more the 
wood re-echoes the cry of the hounds, broken by the 
quick report as a shot rings out, which, however, 
does not always mean the death of a rabbit. Some- 
times the rabbit will come quietly dodging along 
through the brushwood, affording an easy pot shot ; 
but more frequently, especially when hard pressed, 
he dashes along at lightning speed. Occasionally 
hounds will succeed in killing a rabbit, or in driving 
him to ground. As a general rule, the burrows are 
ferreted a day or two before, and the holes either 
stopped up or ' paraffined ' in order to make the 
rabbits lie out and afford more sport. Old hands at 
the sport can tell at once when the beagles get on 
the line of a hare, and then out comes the pipe, the 
gun is put down against a tree, and the shooter takes 
things coolly, until warned by the approaching music 
that the hare has circled round, and hounds are then 
stopped and encouraged to pursue their more legiti- 
mate sport. Needless to say, the beagles used for 
rabbit-shooting must not be gun-shy. It is seldom that 
they work long at a burrow when once a rabbit goes 
to ground — and in this respect they are greatly to be 
preferred to terriers, that will often half bury thern- 



SHOOTING 113 



selves in their endeavour to scratch out a rabbit. It 
is absolutely necessary for the guns to remain per- 
fectly quiet and not move about, otherwise rabbits 
will not approach.' 

It has been already remarked how materially 
rabbits help to fill the bag in a day's covert-shooting, 
and it may be added that they also go far to relieve 
the monotony of continuously firing overhead shots 
at pheasants. So well is their utility in this respect 
recognised that, for some days before a big shoot, a 
vast amount of trouble is taken to stop them out, and 
insure their being tound when wanted. To do this 
properly will give employment for several days to the 
keeper and his men, and requires no little skill and 
judgment. On this subject we shall have something to 
say in the next chapter, where we propose to consider 
the various methods of trapping, snaring, netting, and 
stopping out which are usually adopted where rabbits 
are numerous. 

Mr. Lloyd Price has made us acquainted with all 
that pertains to a sporting warren, and in his excellent 
little book on 'Rabbits for Profit and Rabbits for 
Powder ' has shown what extraordinary bags may be 
made of rabbits only, when the ground is laid out 
especially for their preservation, and attention is paid 
to the proper way of 'showing them.' 

1 



114 THE RABBIT 



He cites bags of 1,850, 2,500, and 1,650 rabbits 
' killed in' one day, only beating half the ground,' and 
since the publication of his book these figures have 
been considerably exceeded on his own ground at 
Rhiwlas/ North Wales. For instance, a party of nine 
guns shooting there in 1883 killed 3,684 rabbits in a 
single day, and on another day, in 1885, as many as 
5,086. Of this last number no fewer than 920 were 
shot by Lord de Grey. The next best bag of rabbits 
made by a single gun was that of the late Sir Victor 
Brooke, who, shooting in his own park at Colebrook, 
Co. Fermanagh, in 1885, killed 740 rabbits in a 
day to his own gun. He fired exactly 1,000 cart- 
ridges, and shot from his right shoulder for one half 
of the day, and from his left the other half. 

To show what may be done in this way upon a 
comparatively small shooting, The Field of De- 
cember 1, 1894, contained the announcement that on 
the previous November 19, Mr. Charles Eley and a 
friend, each shooting with two guns in a forty-acre 
warren, on the East Bergholt Highlands Estate, killed 
no fewer than 900 rabbits, or twenty-three to the acre. 
With a large party and on a much larger acreage, one 
of the most celebrated days at rabbits was that which 
happened at Bradgate Park, Leicestershire, the seat 
of Lord Stamford, where on a certain day in December, 



SHOOTING 115 



1861, thirteen guns accounted for 3,333 rabbits besides 
twenty-six head of other game. The way in which 
the operations were carried out on this memorable 
occasion has been described by the park-keeper, Mr. 
J. B. Lucas, in the following terms : 

' Being in the service of the late Earl of Stamford 
as park-keeper at Dunham Massey, one of my duties 
was to attend the large battues on his lordship's other 
estates. I kept account of the game killed, and 
assisted the late Mr. Reeves in the management of the 
beaters, &c, at Bradgate, from 1855 to 1865, which 
included the season in which the celebrated " threes " 
bag was made. 

' The principal home of the rabbits was an extent of 
several hundred acres of hills and rocks, rough, poor 
ground, covered with fern, rushes, and coarse grass. 
A small herd of red deer existed in this part of the 
park, which was surrounded by a stone wall, six or 
seven feet high, built without mortar, in the manner 
usual on Charnwood Forest. The deer park adjoined 
it on one side. Three walls, which were built at right 
angles to the main boundary wall, and ran out into the 
deer park, formed two inclosures, one about thirty 
acres, the other about forty acres. Holes were made, 
and fitted with wooden doors, at intervals along the 
main wall, so that the rabbits could be allowed to feed 



n6 THE RABB 

in the deer park at pleasure. They were never allowed 
to establish burrows in the two inclosures named, and 
as there was plenty of fern and rough grass in them, 
there was no lack of covert for shooting purposes. 

1 A good many rabbitswere bred in another part of 
the deer park. To get at these, a portion of the best 
feeding ground was kept free from burrows. The 
same tactics were pursued inside the warren. Large 
patches of ground alongside the wall were set apart, 
the fern mown down at times to improve the grass, 
and all holes dug out. The rabbits were not allowed 
to feed on these patches and inclosures for a few days 
before the day of shooting, and great was the anxiety 
of all concerned when the night for the " pitch " arrived. 
This was, of course, the night before the appointed 
shooting day, and the bag depended on the wind and 
weather being favourable. Everything was kept as 
quiet as possible inside the park and warren, and as 
soon as the proper moment had come, when the 
rabbits were supposed to be well on the feed (this 
varied with circumstances), the doors in the wall were 
shut and locked, and long nets of the usual square- 
meshed stop pattern were set between the burrows 
and feeding patches. Sometimes the whole thing was 
a failure. Thick fog or heavy rain will keep rabbits 
at home effectually. When the ' pitch ' was successful 



SHOOTING 1 17 



the shooting was very pretty, and by no means easy. 
The rough ground was always well covered with long 
grass and fern, so that by the time the guns were 
posted and at work the rabbits were seated all over 
their allotted area. 

'In the first inclosure 808 rabbits were shot in 
twenty-three minutes on the " threes " day. The year 
previous, 2,103 were killed over the whole beat in one 
day.' l 

Not unconnected with / big bags ' is the subject of 
' odd shots,' for it is only natural on occasions when 
more than the ordinary amount of shooting takes place 
that some of the shots should be unusual ones. Two 
rabbits at a shot would not be a remarkable perform- 
ance in a warren, or on ground where rabbits have 
been previously stopped out ; but two rabbits with 
each barrel, or four at a double shot, is a feat which 
is hardly likely to be performed often. Yet such an 
achievement is described in The Field of July 14, 
1894. 

In October, 1888, a sportsman in the neighbour- 
hood of Ripon, walking over a rough grass field, kicked 
up and shot a rabbit at twenty-five yards distance. 
To his surprise he found that he had killed a hare by 
the same shot, her ' form ' being directly in the line of 
1 The Field, April 19, 1884. 



n8 THE RABl 



fire. Only a foot separated the two as they lay dead. 
A similar thing happened at Beverley in September, 
1 890, except that the order was reversed. The shooter 
fired at a hare and killed it, when immediately a rabbit 
was seen to leap up a few yards further and tumble 
over dead. 

Two instances of an unseen rabbit being killed 
when a grouse was shot at, occurred at Strathardle in 
the autumn of 1890 — one on August 20, when the 
grouse was killed, and on being picked up a rabbit 
was found kicking close by ; the other on Septem- 
ber 22, when the grouse was missed and a rabbit 
came rolling down the brae. In December, 1888, Mr. 
Alfred Ware, while rabbit-shooting on his father's 
warren on Dartmoor, fired at a rabbit crossing a bog. 
On going to pick it up, he found he had also killed a 
jack-snipe. On examination the snipe was found to 
be lying just where the bulk of the charge had struck 
the ground. Probably other instances of the kind will 
occur to our readers as having happened within their 
own knowledge. 

One of the most curious episodes in rabbit-shooting 
which has fallen within the experience of the writer, 
occurred some years ago in Sussex, during a day's 
rabbiting with beagles. We were shooting a ' hanger ' 
under the hill, into which the beagles had driven a lot 



SHOOTING 119 



of outlying rabbits from under the juniper bushes on 
the downs above. And rare sport did they afford, for, 
pressed by the dogs, they made straight down hill for 
the covert immediately below them, into which they 
fell rather than ran, unless stopped halfway by a 
charge of shot which ended their career. This did 
not always happen, for a downhill shot at right-angles 
is one of the most difficult with a fast rabbit, since the 
gun has not only to be swung a good way in front, 
but also dipped, and one is very apt to shoot over the 
mark. We had followed the survivors down, and 
forming line at one end of the ' hanger ' with a gun 
above and below, and a third inside with the dogs, 
we began slowly to advance. The writer was the 
lowest gun on the left, in a rough field across which 
innumerable ' runs ' indicated the presence of lots of 
rabbits in the covert. Presently the gun inside shouted, 
' Rabbit out on the left ! ' and in an instant, sure enough, 
a rabbit showed on the bank, paused for an instant, 
jumped the ditch, and raced across the field within a 
very few yards of the outside gun. So close was he, 
in fact, that he was given a little ' law,' and when about 
twenty-five yards off the gun covered him. Before 
the trigger was touched, however, he suddenly turned 
a somersault and fell dead, as much to the astonish- 
ment of the writer as to that of the inside gun, who 



120 THE RAB 



had jumped on the bank to see the result of the shot. 
He saw the gun go up, no smoke and no report, and 
yet the rabbit went head over heels. Well might he 
ask, ' What sort of gun do you call that ? ' It was not 
until the owner of the gun stepped forth to pick up the 
rabbit that the mystery was solved. The rabbit on 
leaving the covert had taken to a well-worn ' run ' in 
which not far out some poacher had set a brass wire. 
Into this the rabbit had rushed full speed, and 
broken its neck. 

Another phase of rabbit-shooting remains to be 
mentioned — namely, rabbiting on the sand-hills and in 
the cliffs, the enjoyment of which depends rather on 
the remoteness of the situation, the picturesqueness 
of the surroundings, and the invigorating air which 
blows in from the sea, than upon the amount of 
shooting to be obtained. For it will often happen 
that rabbits on the coast-line may be plentiful enough, 
but from the nature of their haunts — which may be 
exposed sand-hills with innumerable burrows, or 
rugged cliffs full of holes and crannies — it is by no 
means easy to get within shot of them. They will 
often wait apparently with little or no concern until 
you are very nearly, though not quite, within range, 
and then, having admirably judged the distance at 
which they feel safe, will scuttle off to their burrows 



SHOOTING 121 



out of harm's way. Now and then, perhaps, you 
come unexpectedly upon a coney which, trusting to 
its protective coloration, has crouched amidst some 
sand-grass in the hope of escaping detection, and 
pays the usual penalty for his temerity ; or peeping 
over a boulder cautiously, you spy a number out at 
feed, some of which are within shot of your ambush, 
and two of which you manage to secure. In another 
instant the ground, erstwhile teeming with life, is 
completely deserted; every rabbit has disappeared 
beneath the surface, and the only living creatures to 
be seen are a few wheatears which flit jerkily away, 
or a solitary ringed-plover which, after piping for 
some seconds on the ground, flies rapidly over the 
sand-hills and is lost to sight. 

In such situations as this, and indeed on exposed 
ground of any extent, such as a warren, or open down- 
land where rabbits are plentiful but covert scarce, the 
weapon to use is not a 12 -bore breechloader, but a 
small-bore rifle. Not only will this be found most 
effectual at rabbits beyond the ordinary range of a 
shot-gun, but it makes so much less noise that rabbits 
are not nearly so much scared by the report. The 
comparative lightness of a small-bore single rifle, 
and the rapidity with which it may be fired and 
reloaded when fitted with a modern ejector, makes it 



THE RABBx 



an extremely handy little weapon for the purpose in 
view. Moreover it affords the shooter no end of amuse- 
ment, and a greater test of skill than a shot-gun ; for 
it is obviously more difficult to hit a rabbit with a small 
bullet at sixty or seventy yards than it is to stretch him 
out with an ounce of No. 6 shot at five-and-twenty. 

As to the particular pattern to be recommended 
much difference of opinion prevails. During the 
months of May and June, 1895, a voluminous corre- 
spondence on this subject took place in the columns 
of The Fields from which it appeared that hardly two 
of the writers were agreed as to the requisites of a 
perfect rook and rabbit rifle. If they approved a 
particular bore, they differed as to whether the bullet 
should be conical or spherical, and if the former, 
whether it should be hollow-fronted or not. If they 
agreed upon these points, they differed in the choice 
of powder, or in the charge to be used. There 
seemed, however, to be a consensus of opinion that 
with a view to safety in an enclosed country the 
smaller the bore the better consistent with efficacy at 
fifty yards, and that other requisites are a flat tra- 
jectory, powder that may be as nearly as possible 
smokeless, noiseless, and non-fouling, and a bullet 
that by expansion on striking will reduce to a mini- 
mum the chance of a rabbit getting away. 



SHOOTING 123 

Shooting without a rest, a fairly steady shot with 
an accurately sighted rifle should be able to put a bullet 
in a 3 -in. circle at 50 yards, while with a rest of any kind 
a 2-in. circle at the same distance should be an easy 
mark. It would be beyond the scope of the present 
volume to enter upon a discussion of the comparative 
merits of all the modern rabbit rifles that are now 
upon the market, nor shall we attempt it. There are 
several so good of their kind that it would be no 
easy matter to choose between them. 

So far as the writer's personal experience extends, 
he could not wish for a better weapon than Messrs. 
Hollands' '250 hammerless ejector with hollow-fronted 
bullet for rabbits, and solid bullet for rooks. Tried 
on the target by an expert, its accuracy was un- 
doubted, while its killing power when subsequently 
tested in a warren was all that could be desired. 

As to powder for small-bore rifles, there is much 
to be said in favour of ' Amberite,' the advantages of 
which are absence of smoke, less noise (which enables 
one to get more shooting at rabbits on a* still evening) 
and less fouling than with black powder. 

The less frequently a rifle requires wiping out the 
better, and for this purpose the best material is a bit 
of old flannel, torn up into strips three or four inches 
long, and either wound round the end of a brass 



124 THE RABB 



cleaning-rod, or tied to a piece of string and pulled 
through after dropping the string down the barrel by 
means of a small weight. 

When shooting rabbits with a rifle, it is not a bad 
plan to have a wattled hurdle put up here and there 
in the warren or open ground where the rabbits lie 
out, under cover of which they may be approached or 
waited for within range. Their sense of smell and 
hearing being very acute, they should always be 
approached up wind. Another good plan is to sit up 
in a tree, for by being above them they are less likely 
to smell you. Success, of course, will in a great 
measure depend on the skill of the shooter, coupled 
perhaps with a certain amount of luck in getting shots 
at short ranges. It is obvious that the most perfect 
rabbit rifle in the world may become useless in the 
hands of a man who tries to use it like a gun. An 
experienced London gunmaker was of opinion that 
30 per cent, of misses with a rabbit rifle might be 
excused, but one who has made good trial of the -250 
asserts that - with hollow bullets and fairly good 
shooting not more than 6 or 8 per cent, of rabbits hit 
should escape. With solid bullets the percentage 
would be greater. Much, of course, will depend on 
the distance at which they are fired at. It is not 
every bullet that proves fatal to a stricken coney. If 



SHOOTING 125 



hit too far back, they will often drag themselves away 
towards a burrow and escape. For this reason we 
would not fire at a rabbit beyond eighty yards ; for at 
a greater distance than this a dog would not have 
time to run up and secure it before it reached a hole. 
Some experts advocate the retention of a ferret on a 
line in case of need, so that should a wounded rabbit 
go to ground, the ferret may be used to drag it out. 
It is well to bear in mind when shooting rabbits in 
this way, that the dead ones should be allowed to lie 
where they fall until it is time to go home ; for if you 
leave your ambush periodically to pick them up the 
chances of sport will be materially lessened. 

As we have described some ' odd shots ' at rabbits 
with a shot-gun, we may mention one with a rifle that 
is worthy of record. It was reported in The Field 
of September 9, 1893. Mr. W. C. Pickering, of 
Rhewl House, Mostyn, Flintshire, shooting with one 
of the handy little rifles above referred to, fired at 
three rabbits in line and killed them all ; and, strange 
to say, on a subsequent occasion, so he said, he re- 
peated the performance. 



126 THE RA 



CHAPTER V 

TRAPPING, SNARING, NETTING, AND BOLTING 

By these terms are understood the various methods 
or devices usually employed for killing or capturing 
wild rabbits. It is, of course, true that other creatures 
besides rabbits, to wit so-called ' vermin,' may be 
trapped, snared, or netted as occasion may require, 
but this does not at present concern us. 

The best known form of trap for taking rabbits or 
vermin is the gin. This word, as now commonly 
applied, is generally understood to mean an iron spring 
trap, though it did not always bear that signification. 
It is a very old word. The author of the treatise on 
' Fyshynge with an Angle,' printed in the second 
edition of the 'Book of St. Alban's,' 1496, alluding to 
the avocation of the fowler, saith ' many a gynne and 
many a snare he makyth.' Shakespeare has employed 



TRAPPING, SNARING, NETTING, &c. 127 

the word as if synonymous with the snare or springe 
with which woodcocks and snipe are taken. 

Now is the woodcock near the gin. 

Twelfth Night, Act ii. sc. 5. 

and again : 

So strives the woodcock with the gin. 

Henry VI. part 3, Act i. sc. 4. 

Izaak Walton in the first chapter of his ' Complete 
Angler,' 1653, alludes to 'the pleasure it is sometimes 
with gins to betray the very vermin of the earth.' In 
this particular sense of ' trap ' or ' snare,' the word is 
really Scandinavian, the Icelandic ginna meaning 
to dupe or deceive. The Middle English ' gin,' as 
remarked by Professor Skeat, was employed in a 
wider sense than that now used, and was in many 
cases certainly a contraction of the French engin (Lat. 
ingenium), a contrivance or piece of ingenuity. 

At the present day, as every reader knows, it is 
commonly restricted to an iron trap having two rows 
of teeth set in such a manner that the teeth are forced 
together by a spring when the animal to be captured 
treads upon a small iron • plate which is concealed 
by having some soil loosely sprinkled over it. 1 

1 Of the cruelty inflicted by these traps we shall have some- 
thing to say anon (p. 131). It would have been well indeed 
had the Ground Game Act entirely prohibited the use of them. 



128 THE RAB~** 



There are various patterns of gins, some of which 
are so clumsy and so badly constructed that they are 
of very little use. As an exception may be mentioned 
Burgess's Spring Trap, described and figured in The 
Field of March 26, 1887. One of the best we know 
is made by F. Lane, of Plymouth, in which the parts 
are so well fitted that with fair usage they will never 
break or wear out. It is specially commended by 
Mr. W. Carnegie, who, in his little book on ' Practical 
Trapping,' thus describes it :— 

' Most gins are wholly made of iron, but this is 
not so, for zinc and copper are introduced. The 
spring, the most important part of the trap, is 
thoroughly well tempered and strong, but nevertheless 
easily pressed down when the trap is being set. The 
flap and catch, and other important parts in which 
most makers fail, are of copper, and do not wear 
away like iron, nor do they rust, which would clog the 
trap and prevent it acting. The plate is square with 
the four corners taken off, and is of zinc, being so 
fitted as to be level with the jaws when set. These 
latter are thick and rounded, the teeth fitting one 
into another, though not closely, a space of ^ in. 
being left between. The teeth should on no account 
be sharp or pointed, as their being so tends to 
break the leg and cut the sinews, thus liberating the 
rabbit ; nor should the teeth be continued round the 



TRAPPING, SNARING, NETTING, &c. 129 



turn of the jaw. The superior finish and general 
quality of these traps make them rather dearer than 
the ordinary ones. They cost is. gd. each, but a re- 
duction is made if taken by the dozen. 

' In order to prevent the rabbit when caught draw- 
ing the trap away, the back piece of the gin is 
furnished with a hole at the end through which a 
chain about a foot long is attached by means of 
an S hook. This chain should have about eight 
links with a swivel in the middle, and a ring of 
1^ in. diameter at the end. It is purchasable apart 
from the trap, and should be well tested, as the 
weakness will be found where least looked for, viz. 
in the swivel, and this should always be examined. 
The ring is for a stake which is driven into the ground 
to hold the trap. The best wood for this is ash, 
which should be cut in lengths of 18 in., and split, 
then rounded off to the required size, fitted tightly to 
the ring, driven on to within i\ in. from the top, and 
be overlapped by this part, which ought to be left un- 
rounded as far as the ring comes.' 

The best way to set a gin is to cut out a piece of 
the turf or soil, and place the trap so that the plate is 
on a level with the surface of the ground, and then 
sprinkle it over with loose soil. Unless this is done 
a rabbit will be certain to avoid it. 

K 



130 THE R, 

The number of traps required will of course de- 
pend upon the extent of ground and the abundance 
or scarcity of coneys. It is not advisable to put down 
all the traps at once, but to begin with a few, and 
keep on increasing the number each day until they 
are all in use. 

Since the Ground Game Act of 1880 came into 
operation, it has become illegal for anyone except 
an owner in occupation of his own land to set gins 
anywhere except within the mouth of a burrow, on 
account of the risk if set aboveground of catching 
pheasants or partridges, foxes or hounds. On this 
account, therefore, the directions given in old books for 
setting traps in hedge-banks, under walls or fences, or 
in ' runs ' across open fields, must now be disregarded. 

In the words of the Act (43 & 44 Vict. cap. 47) 
'no person shall, for the purpose of killing ground 
game, employ spring traps except in rabbits' holes.' 
It has been decided, however, by the Court of 
Queen's Bench (November 26, 1885), in the case of 
Smith v. Hunt that this section does not apply to 
owners occupying their own land. 

The Act referred to is of such importance to 

those who are interested in rabbits, whether as owners, 

occupiers, or shooting tenants, that we propose in 

another chapter 1 to give a brief exposition of its pro- 

1 See Chapter VII. 



TRAPPING, SNARING, NETTING, &c. 131 

visions, and deal with some of the vexed questions of 
construction which have arisen in respect of it, and 
have been authoritatively decided by courts of law. 
We shall then have occasion to say something more 
on the law relating to trapping. 

Before dismissing the subject here, we would say 
a word or two on the score of humanity, for we take it 
that every reader who reflects at all on the matter must 
admit that trapping as ordinarily practised by game- 
' keepers and professional rabbit-catchers has a detest- 
able element of cruelty in it which cannot be gainsaid. 
What greater barbarity, for example, can there be than 
to allow a poor frightened rabbit (or any other 
animal for that matter) to remain for hours in an iron 
trap, struggling until exhausted, or possibly contriving 
to get away with the loss of a limb ? The modifica- 
tions which have been suggested at various times 
to lessen the injury done by a trap, by covering the 
teeth with list or india-rubber, have not proved wholly 
successful, for this plan has been found to lessen the 
grip to such an extent as frequently to permit of the 
animal escaping. Much more humane and quite as 
efficacious as an instrument of death is the wire snare, 
so well known to gamekeepers and to poachers. 

If properly made of fine brass wire, and adroitly 
set in a 'run,' it means speedy death to the first 

K 2 



132 THE < 

unfortunate rabbit that get nto it. Snares 

give much less trouble t^aii traps, ai i. are more 
easily carried about. Their construction, too, is very 
simple. All that is required are a few pegs about a 
foot long with a hammer to drive them in, and a few 
yards of the fine wire used for picture-hanging. The 
rest is merely manipulation. Picture wire is found to 
answer the purpose best because it remains in the 
position in which it is set without kinking. The peg 
is sharpened at one end and has a hole bored through 
the other. Through this hole the wire fifteen inches 
long is passed and tied. With the other end a noose 
is formed about three inches in diameter with a slip 
knot which runs up the moment any pressure is made 
on the noose. The peg is driven well down into the 
ground, and the wire is set at the height of a hand's 
breadth above the surface. The thing is simplicity 
itself, and the art consists in setting it where it is 
most likely to catch something. How to discover 
the most likely places can only be learnt by patient 
observation of the rabbits' haunts and habits. A 
well-used ' run ' should be selected in preference to 
one that looks as if only just made, and the snare 
should be set in or near the middle of it, and not at 
either end, for a rabbit starts slowly, and not until he 
has made up his mind to cross from one side of a 



TRAPPING, SNARING, NETTING, &>c. 133 

field to another will he put on pace enough to carry 
him into th snare before he perceives it. It then 
appears to him nothing more than a grass stalk lean- 
ing across the run, and the mistake is discovered 
when it is too late. 

From a humanitarian point of view the wire snare 
is open to the objection that its victims generally 
undergo a slow process of strangulation in their 
efforts to get free, but this is not invariably the case, 
for the speed at which a rabbit goes headlong into 
a snare will often dislocate the neck. A so-called 
' humane rabbit snare ' has been devised which will 
hold a rabbit without strangling it. This con- 
trivance, which will be found described and figured 
in The Field of December 19, 1891, is in fact a very 
slight modification of the ordinary wire snare. It 
merely requires a knot to be made in the wire in such 
a position as to prevent its being drawn through the 
loop beyond a certain point. In other words, the 
noose when over the head slips up to a knot which 
effectually prevents strangulation and yet holds the 
rabbit firmly and securely. Consequently the animal 
suffers no pain, and is simply tethered with the wire 
round its neck until liberated. It may then be either 
mercifully killed, or removed alive for liberation else- 
where if desired. We understand that hundreds of 



i 34 THE RABBIT 



rabbits have been caught in this way on the property 
of Mr. Lloyd Price at Rhiwlas, near Bala, and re- 
moved without pain from fields and gardens, where 
they were doing mischief, to the warren, where they 
were liberated uninjured. 

Another humane way of catching rabbits in warrens 
by means of a pitfall has been already described (see 
p. 76). 

During the month of September, 1894, a corre- 
spondence was carried on in The Field for some 
weeks on the subject of ' Humane Rabbit-traps, 7 and 
a particular trap so-called was recommended by 
Captain J. Dunbar Brander. Several correspondents; 
however, who experimented with it expressed unfavour- 
able opinions, and although regarded by some as 
theoretically good, it was found by others to be practi- 
cally useless. Writing on this subject in The Field of 
September 15, 1894, Lieut.-Col. Butler, of Brettenham 
Park, Bildeston, Suffolk, remarked : 

' 1 strongly recommend those who have taken part 
in the correspondence on this subject to try the 
Brailsford trap, which catches all kinds of vermin alive 
and uninjured, and is far more effective and durable 
than any other trap I have yet seen. It consists of a 
wire cage very strongly made, and open at both ends, 
the doors being kept up by a simple method of setting. 



TRAPPING, SNARING, NETTING, &c. 135 

There is a treadle inside, and as soon as that is touched 
the doors close and the victim is imprisoned. I have 
had many of these traps in use for some years, set in 
runs and at drains about my garden, where they re- 
main the whole year round, and I scarcely ever visit 
them without finding something caught. For stoats, 
weasels, hedgehogs, rats, squirrels, rabbits, and almost 
every other kind of quadruped they are invaluable, and 
one advantage they possess over other traps is that they 
can be set all through the winter, as neither frost nor 
snow affects them. In setting them in runs under 
shelving banks or by the side of wire netting, I usually 
make wings at each end of fir boughs, or something of 
that kind, to guide the animal in, but when set at 
drains or holes, it is only necessary to make a wing at 
the end furthest from the hole, the trap at the other 
end fitting close up to the entrance of the drain. If a 
rabbit is found freshly killed by a stoat or weasel, it is 
a good plan to place it inside the trap at one end, and 
to set it with only one door open (the door, of course, 
furthest from the rabbit), so that the stoat has to step 
on the table to get to it. I find these traps most use- 
ful also set in this way, i.e. with only one door open, 
for catching ferrets that have laid up. In fact, if set 
at the main entrance of the earth the ferret is in, and 
the rest of the holes stopped, it is certain to be found 



i 3 6 THE RABBIT 



caught in the morning, especially if a bait be used. 
It is as easy to set them in the dark, if visited at night, 
as by daylight ; and for all-round use they are, in my 
opinion, by far the best traps yet invented. I may 
add, in conclusion, that they are made in different 
sizes, the smallest being for mice, and from that up- 
wards to any size ordered ; but I have found the size 
for cats and rabbits the best for general use.' l 

It is very important when setting snares for rabbits 
to have one's hands clean — that is to say, free from any 
smell of powder, rabbits or dogs ; for, as already re- 
marked, rabbits have a very keen sense of smell, and 
will keep clear of any trap or snare that to their per- 
ception is evidently tainted by human contact. Some 
keepers when trapping will advocate the use of an old 
pair of hedging gloves. A good plan, however, is first 
of all to wash one's hands well in soap and water, and 
then to rub them with mould scraped up near the 
place where the snare is to be set. When it is time 
to put the wire into shape, and smooth out any bends 
or kinks in it, this should be done, not with the bare 
finger and thumb, but with a bit of wash-leather be- 
tween them. It is easily carried in the waistcoat 
pocket, and a snare rubbed down with this will be 

1 This trap may be obtained from Messrs. Artingstall & Co. , 
manufacturers, Warrington, Lancashire. 



TRAPPING, SNARING, NETTING, &c. 137 

found to run as smoothly as possible when touched 
by a rabbit. Moreover, this intercepts any scent from 
the bare hand. 

Snares set in the morning, says an old keeper, 
catch twice as many rabbits as those set in the evening 
or afternoon, because the scent gets off and evaporates 
during the day, whereas in the evening the dews fall 
and preserve the scent freshly all night, thus warning 
off the rabbits. The same thing applies to trapping 
as well as snaring. 

Taking rabbits in nets is a much more serious 
business than either trapping or snaring, and is cer- 
tainly more deserving of the name of 'sport.' It may 
be considered under the following headings : (1) nett- 
ing with the use of ferrets ; (2) with long-nets outside 
coverts, when large numbers are wanted for the 
market ; (3) gate-nets ; (4) purse-nets, and (5) drop- 
down-nets for keeping rabbits out while at feed, when 
a good show is wanted for the next day's shooting. 

With regard to nets for ferreting, we have already 
indicated, in a previous chapter, the desirability of 
having some good ferrets, and have given directions 
for managing them and keeping them in good health. 
A good terrier that will ' mark ' well at the entrance of 
a burrow is equally desirable. He must have a good 
nose that will enable him, on visiting one hole after 



138 THE RABBIT 



another, to tell at once whether there is a rabbit ' at 
home ' or not, and he must be absolutely mute. His 
business is simply to aid the warrener by pointing, or 
' marking ' as it is termed, at the entrance of a burrow 
which holds a rabbit, and thus to save a considerable 
amount of time and trouble. 

The net used for this purpose is about 3 feet by 
2 feet, the narrower sides having brass rings fastened 
to them, for pegging down, when necessary. It is 
thrown over the hole when the dog has * marked,' a 
ferret is then introduced, and the rabbit is bolted into 
the net. It is much better to have the net slack than 
pegged down tight, as the rabbit is then more likely to 
get rolled up in it, instead of going back, as it would 
attempt to do, on feeling the net strained. 

The performance may be varied by bolting the 
rabbit with a fuse instead of a ferret, on which subject 
we shall have more to say anon. 

The ' long-net ' is a useful thing in the hands of 
rightful owners, but its utility, unfortunately, is well 
known to poachers, who do not scruple to make good 
use of it whenever they get a chance. The employ- 
ment of the ' long-net,' in fact, is one of the most 
troublesome forms of poaching with which game- 
keepers have to contend. Its extreme lightness, when 
made of silk, and the great lengths which may be 



TRAPPING, SNARING, NETTING, &c. 139 



carried without inconvenience, enable it to be readily 
transported from one part of the country to another, 
and as easily concealed. 

Should there be too many rabbits in a particular 
covert, and comparatively few where wanted on a 
remote part of the shooting, the capture of a sufficient 
number may be easily effected with the 'long-net.' It 
is usually made in lengths of from 50 to 100 yards or 
more, and the width is generally about 5 feet, the 
meshes, 2\ in. square, being large enough to allow a 
very small rabbit to get through. Long-nets are 
usually set about two yards from the side of the covert. 
If further away, the rabbits are more likely to see 
persons moving near them than if closer to the covert. 

In the second series of his ' Letters to Young 
Shooters' (p. 419), Sir R. Payne-Gallwey writes: 
6 When you use nets to catch rabbits, have them 
made with their lower halves of light cord, and their 
upper of dark (this does not add to the cost), the 
lower and lighter half will then appear to a rabbit as 
an opening under the darker part, and he will un- 
hesitatingly run into it.' We are not told, however, 
how long the light-coloured cord will remain so. Not 
long probably ; for a few nights' work over wet grass, 
and a few tramplings under foot when setting or 
picking up, will very soon cause the net to get dirty 



i 4 o THE RABBIT 



and to look all of one colour. To work it effectively, 
a tolerably dark night should be selected, with 
the wind blowing from the covert. A number of 
hazel pegs are prepared about two and a half feet 
long, with a bit cut out of the top of each so as to 
form a shoulder. One man carries the pegs, another 
the net gathered up by coiling the top line, and 
putting a little strap through to buckle the folds 
together till wanted. The former begins by driving 
in a peg, and then another and another at intervals 
of ten paces apart ; the latter follows, giving the top 
string of the net one turn round the top of each peg 
to hold it in position. This must be done as noise- 
lessly as possible, and when all is in readiness, one of 
the men, making a circuit to get round the rabbits 
(which on a dry night will feed a long way out from 
covert), gradually drives them in, while the other, with 
one or more helpers as the length of net may require, 
stays back to extricate them from the net, or to knock 
them on the head with a stick as they try to force 
their way through. 

A dog that will hunt mute, and has a good turn 
of speed, is invaluable for this kind of work, as he can 
get so quickly and yet so quietly round -the rabbits, 
and work them in the required direction as a colley 
works sheep. Sometimes a few hares get ' run in,' 



TRAPPING, SNARING, NETTING, &>c. 141 

but as a rule they escape on account of their feeding 
at a greater distance from covert, and, being very 
cautious when alarmed, .they break away right or left 
instead of going forward, while rabbits will rush back 
to the place they came from as fast as their legs can 
carry them. Indeed, so prone are they to do this, 
that it is not always necessary to get right round the 
field before beginning to drive them, for they will 
commence to run home if man or dog shows up on 
either side of them, or even between them and the 
net. To save time and to ensure pushing up any 
rabbits that may be squatting, a long line, called by 
poachers ' a dead dog,' is sometimes used and is trailed 
across the field by a man at each end. 

It may so happen that an owner of coverts may 
not require to use ' long-nets ' on his ground, having 
no occasion to send any large number of rabbits away 
at one time. Or he may prefer to shoot them, or 
leave them to the tender mercies of the warrener and 
his ferrets. In this case it will be well to see that 
poachers are not allowed a chance to help themselves 
in this way, and a keeper or watcher should go round 
the coverts every night, or every other night, and run 
the rabbits in, taking care to see by daylight that the 
fields lying round it have been well ' bushed.' After 
being treated like this for a time, the rabbits will 



1 42 THE RABBIT 



learn to feed earlier in the evening, and will contrive 
to get their supper before the time comes for running 
them in. They will then be out again for breakfast at 
daylight, when netting them would be impracticable. 

A modified form of ' long-net ' is the ' gate-net ' 
(or ' sheet-net ' as it is called in some parts of the 
country) used for taking hares. This is about six 
feet wide, and six or seven yards long. When sup- 
ported on sticks it stands about a yard high, the 
lower half being spread on the ground towards the 
gateway in front of which it is hung. 

A still smaller net, the ' purse-net/ is used for 
taking hares as they come through a meuse. It is 
made something like a landing-net but longer, with a 
running string through every mesh round the mouth 
of it. This kind of net is inserted in a meuse through 
which a hare is expected to pass, with the opening of 
course facing the covert or ground about to be driven. 
Two or three of the top meshes are forced into the 
interstices of the wall to keep the net up, and are 
held there with pieces of short stick, or it may be 
with little lumps of stiff clay, if there happens to be 
any at hand. The end of the running string is 
fastened to a peg which is driven into the ground, and 
all is then in readiness. The dog does the rest, and 
the hare if anywhere within reach is very soon in the 



TRAPPING, SNARING, NETTING, &>c. 143 

net. This is truly a poacher's contrivance, but has its 
legitimate use when live hares are wanted to stock 
ground at a distance. 

The last net to be described is the ' drop-down- 
net.' Everyone who owns game-coverts is familiar 
with the fact that rabbits have a provoking habit of 
feeding a little way outside their burrows, where at a 
respectable distance they may be viewed perhaps in 
hundreds; but the instant an attempt is made to 
approach them within shooting distance, they bolt 
back into covert and are safe. It must often have 
struck others as it has the writer, that if a net could 
be contrived, elevated, and fixed in such a way as to 
drop behind the rabbits when they are fairly out, and so 
cut off their retreat, a much better toll might be taken 
of their number, and if it were thought desirable this 
might be effected without any shooting, and in a way 
which need not disturb the pheasants. A contrivance 
of this kind has been patented by Mr. A. R. Warren, of 
Warren's Court, Lisarda, Co. Cork, and has been de- 
scribed in The Field of December 3, 1892, with 
illustrations. 

The net recommended is of 2-in. mesh, 3 ft. 
deep, 100 yards long, made of the finest Irish flax, 
with plaited running lines of the same, and may 
be obtained of the patentee with the apparatus, if 



i 4 4 THE RABBIT 



desired. 1 The bottom line of the net, or that which 
rests on the ground, runs freely through the meshes, 
and is not made taut at intervals like the top line. 
One end of the bottom line is fastened to the net, 
and has a ring on it to slip over a pole which is 
driven into the ground and maintained at an angle of 
70 by wire stays and pegs. The other end of the 
bottom line is not fastened, and is three or four yards 
longer than the net, so that it may be tightened or 
slackened at will. The top line is set in the usual 
way for long nets, and should be out of reach of a 
rabbit when standing up. Intermediate poles are 
then twisted into the top line so as to have it perfectly 
taut from end to end. 

Thus far in the mode of setting there is nothing 
new ; the novelty consists in the lifting up and setting 
the bottom line with triggers in such a way that upon 
a pull of the trigger cord, each trigger releases the 
short arm of a lever on which the bottom line rests, 
and so drops it. The mode of setting is somewhat 
as follows : — To the intermediate poles are attached 
the ' elevator ' by means of brass sockets. These 
1 elevators ' have brass catches or holding pieces at 
the back, into which one end of a bar or trigger is 

1 The London agents are Messrs. Hughes, Eli & Hughes, 
76 Chancery Lane. 



TRAPPING, SNARING, NETTING, &c. 145 

inserted and held, so that it may turn in a horizontal 
plane from either side. Below the catch there is 
pivoted a lever, with the long arm hanging down, the 
short arm up. The bottom line of the net is now 
hung upon the long arms throughout its length, the 
short arms being hitched under the triggers. On a 
pull of the trigger-cord at any reasonable distance, 
the triggers release the short arms of the levers, and 
the net drops, the rings on the end poles sliding 
down to the bottom. There are one or two further 
points, however, which may be noticed. The ' eleva- 
tors ' are to be fixed on the poles with the brass 
catches at the backs thereof — that is, in the opposite 
direction from that in which the rabbits are driven. 
Then, at the bottom of each pole are what the in- 
ventor terms ' guides.' These are light slips of wood, 
about six feet in length, which are run on to spindles 
nearly flush with the ground. As the bottom line of 
the net hangs on the long levers, each ' guide ' is passed 
through the mesh next the line, spindle end first, 
brought under the net and slipped on the spindle. In 
this position the top end of each ' guide ' should rest in 
a slanting position against the bottom running line, 
close to the end of the lever. Looking at it sideways 
the net will be seen to hang between the ' guides ' 
and 'elevators.' The 'guides' serve to keep the 

L 



i 4 6 THE RABBIT 



net in an outward direction when falling, and keep 
the bottom line firmly to N the ground at each pole. 
The advantages claimed for this method of netting 
are that it can be used by daylight; that before a 
drive the rabbits are not disturbed by any noise 
behind them ; and that, owing to the instantaneous fall 
of the net, rabbits feeding even within a few feet of it 
cannot get back to covert before the net stops them. 

Messrs. Denman, of Overton, Hants, have de- 
signed and patented a so-called drop-down fencing 
intended to answer the same purpose, but it is more 
expensive to erect, and, being made of wire instead of 
string-netting, is more likely to injure game going 
hard at it than is the case with the softer material. 

We come now to a subject which may be appro- 
priately dealt with in the present chapter, since it 
affects the question ' how to make rabbits lie out.' It 
will be admitted by most people who have tried it that 
ferreting as a preliminary to a big shoot is slow work ; 
it unnecessarily frightens the rabbits, and many get so 
mutilated by the ferrets that they never come above- 
ground again. 

A good deal will depend upon the kind of ground 
on which they are to be ' stopped out.' If there is no 
covert, or very little, and that not of the right sort, all 
one's efforts to induce rabbits to lie out will be in vain. 



TRAPPING, SNARING, NETTING, &c. 147 

Nor will it be of much avail if the grass is thick but 
grazed over by cattle, or disturbed by dogs, for rabbits 
will then get no rest, and will be very loth to stay 
there. There is no covert so good as brambles, and 
next to that long sedgy grass. If the ground is bare, 
a good plan is to scatter small bunches of light thorns 
about the fields in the spring. Through these the 
grass will grow up, and while, by reason of the thorns, 
it will escape the mouths of cattle, it will form snug 
lying for rabbits. 

To get the latter out into ground thus prepared, 
or for that matter any other ground that has sufficient 
covert to hold them, the easiest plan is to send some 
men round with spades, and let them stop every hole 
they can find. The second day they should take a 
pail of paraffin, 1 and some pegs, about 8 in. long, 
with a slit in the top into which is inserted a piece of 
folded paper. These are dipped in the oil and stuck 
in the ground immediately opposite the holes that 
have been opened. On the third day all open holes 
should be stopped again • on the fourth, paraffin once 
more ; on the fifth, stop all holes effectually ; and on 
the sixth day, shoot. During this time the covert all 
round should be left perfectly quiet and undisturbed, 

1 Some keepers mix two-thirds paraffin with one-third 
animal oil. 



THE RABBIT 



and after the shoot all traces of paraffin should be 
removed. 

If paraffin is not to be obtained just when wanted, 
spirits of tar will answer the purpose. One who has 
tried it recommends the use of a rope's end frayed 
out, soaked in paraffin, and lighted at the windward 
holes of the burrows. 

The use of sulphur is not to be recommended, for 
two reasons : if only a moderate dose be applied, it 
will cause a rabbit not merely to bolt, but to desert 
the hole for ever ; while if the fumes a,re too strong, 
the result will be suffocation on the spot. 

Some keepers dispense with ' stopping ' and con- 
tent themselves with sticking the pegs in front of the 
holes two clear nights before the coverts are shot. 
Our late friend, Mr. T. J. Mann, of Hyde Hall, Saw- 
bridgeworth, one of the most practical sportsmen that 
ever lived, had another plan which he found to be very 
effectual, and he thus described it for the benefit of 
readers of The Field. ' Two days before we shoot the 
woods,' he said, 'the keepers take a lined ferret on the 
back of which is smeared a strong solution of asafce- 
tida. The ferret is then worked a short way into all 
the holes which can be got at. The good sport subse- 
quently obtained in the rough meadows round the 
woods affords the best criterion as to the success 



TRAPPING, SNARING, NETTING, &c. 149 



of this plan ' — and from personal experience we can 
vouch for its efficacy. The only drawback is the time 
it takes when a large number of burrows have to be 
worked. 

One other method of bolting rabbits remains to be 
noticed, namely by means of a fuse. Several different 
kinds have been advocated ; perhaps the most efficient, 
judging by results, are those made by Messrs. Brunton 
& Co., Cambrian Safety Fuse Works, Wrexham. It 
is on record that in the park at Weald Hall, Brent- 
wood, Essex, after the use of some of these fuses a 
party of six guns shot 1,027 rabbits in one day, 
and on the following day over the same beat 405 
more. l 

It is to be observed, however, that in the employ- 
ment of fuses, success must in some measure depend 
upon the nature of the ground ; for where the burrows 
are large and rambling, it has been found by 
experience that fuses are of little or no use. 2 

1 The Field, November 12 and 26, 1892. 

2 Ibid. February 4 and n, 1893. 



THE RABBIT 



CHAPTER VI 

POACHING 

In the last chapter we described the legitimate 
employment of traps, snares, and nets for the pur- 
pose of killing or taking rabbits. It is the illegitimate 
use of these {inter alia) that constitutes poaching. 

It was correctly observed by the late Richard 
Jefferies that there are three kinds of poachers : the 
local men • the raiders coming in gangs from a dis- 
tance; and the 'mouchers' — fellows who do not 
make precisely a profession of it, but who occasionally 
loiter along the roads and hedges, picking up what- 
ever they can lay hands on. Of the three, perhaps, 
the largest amount of business is done by the local 
men, who are often sober and apparently industrious 
individuals working during the day at some handi- 
craft in the village. Their great object is to avoid 
suspicion, knowing that success will be proportionate 
to their skill in cloaking their operations; for in a 
small community when a man is suspected, it is 



POACHING 151 



comparatively easy to watch him, and a poacher 
knows that, if he is watched, he must sooner or later 
be caught. Secrecy is not so very difficult ; for it is 
only with certain classes that he need practise con- 
cealment ; his own class will hold their peace. 

Perhaps the most promising position for a man 
who makes a science of it, says the observant writer 
just quoted, is a village at the end of a range of 
downs, generally fringed with large woods on the 
lower slopes. He has then ground to work alternately, 
according to the character of the weather and the 
changes of the moon. If the weather be wet, windy, 
or dark from the absence of the moon, then the wide 
open hills are safe ; while, on the other hand, the 
woods are practically inaccessible, for a man must 
have the eyes of a cat to see to do his work in the 
impenetrable blackness of the plantations. So that 
upon a bright night the judicious poacher prefers the 
woods, because he can see his way, and avoids the 
hills, because, having no fences to speak of, a watcher 
may detect him a mile off. 

Meadows with high banks and thick hedges may 
be worked almost at any time, for one side of the 
hedge is sure to cast a shadow, and instant cover is 
afforded by the bushes and ditches. Such meadows 
are the happy hunting-grounds of the local poacher 



152 THE RABBIT 



for that reason, especially if not far distant from 
woods and consequently overrun with rabbits. 

Rabbits are not easily dislodged in rain, for they 
avoid getting wet as much as possible ; they bolt best 
when it is dry and still. Nor will a poacher who 
means ferreting choose a windy night (though it is 
otherwise when he is after pheasants), for he has to 
depend a great deal on his sense of hearing to know 
when a rabbit is moving in the ' bury,' and where it 
is likely to bolt, so as to lay hold of it the moment it 
is in the net. 

Poachers who use ferrets prefer white ones for 
night work, as they are more easily seen, and are not 
so likely to be picked up by a dog in mistake for a 
rabbit, although poachers' dogs as a rule are generally 
too well trained to make such mistakes. Keepers 
are only too glad to get hold of poachers' ferrets when 
they can, for they are almost certain to be good ones. 

The favourite implement, however, with rabbit 
poachers is, no doubt, the wire snare. This is 
easily carried about in the pocket, to be set as occasion 
or opportunity may arise, and is easily removed. 1 
It is otherwise with nets, which usually require the 

1 Several instances have been reported in which two rabbits 
have been caught in one snare, either by the legs, or one by 
the leg the other by the neck. See The Field, April 2 and 7, 
1892, and January 30, 1897. 



POACHING 153 



attention of more than one person, thus increasing the 
chance of detection. The keeper, who in the course 
of his rounds may happen to detect a number of 
'wires,' has two courses open to him. He may either 
pull up the pegs and take the snares bodily away 
(unless, of course, they have been set by an ' occupier ' 
on land in his occupation, when the keeper has no 
right to remove them *), or he may watch the place 
to discover who comes to look at them. In the latter 
case he should give the culprit time, and if possible 
catch him in the act of taking a rabbit out of a snare. 
The plan of putting a dead rabbit in a wire and allowing 
the poacher to find it is not to be recommended, for in 
the event of a prosecution this would afford a loophole 
for escape, since the keeper, if cross-examined for the 
defence, would have to admit that he himself placed 
the rabbit where it was found. It is much better to 
allow the culprit to walk away with any rabbit he 
may have seen him kill, and then to question him. 

In the case of ' long-netting ' it is better to counter- 
act the setting by ' bushing ' the field, or driving the 
rabbits into cover at night (about 10 p.m. and again 
about 1 a.m.) with a good dog, than to take pro- 
ceedings against the offenders after the rabbits have 
been killed and removed. 

1 See Hobbs v. Symons, The Field, March 31, 1888. 



154 THE RABBIT 



Some keepers advocate turning out a few white 
rabbits, which are more readily seen at night than 
the others, and by keeping a watch on them observe 
whether they disappear. This will show whether there 
is any poaching going on or not ; though a wily 
poacher who knows his business will, of course, take 
care to let any white ones go that he may happen to 
capture. The most effectual way, however, to prevent 
' long-netting ' is to bush the fields around the coverts, 
not with fixed bushes or stakes, but with loose thorns, 
or short pieces of bramble or furze strewn loosely about 
in the field. These will be dragged by the net and 
cause it to become so hampered and entangled as to 
be useless. A gamekeeper, writing in The Field of 
August 4, 1894, recommended the scattering of small 
pieces of wire netting, 1 but although this might defeat 
the poachers, it would hardly suit farmers who have 
sheep or other stock to turn on the land. 

When coverts are surrounded by stone walls, it is 
usual to leave openings called ' meuses ' here and there 
for the hares and rabbits to go in and out. A poacher 
who intends to use a ' purse-net ' will previously block 
up all the ' meuses ' except those in which he intends 
to hang his nets, and, to enable him to distinguish at 

1 This was also recommended by another correspondent, 
The Fields January 25, 1896. 



POACHING 155 

night those which are blocked from those which are 
open, will place on the wall immediately above the 
open ones a loose stone, a stick, or a piece of turf to 
mark them. A keeper on going his rounds, therefore, 
should be on the look out for such objects, and when 
found should carefully shift them over the closed holes, 
and so defeat the object in view. To counteract the 
use of ' gate-nets/ it is not a bad plan for a keeper 
to use some himself for a few nights, and after catching 
several hares liberate them immediately. This will 
cause the hares to fight shy of gates, and quit the fields 
in some other way. Another effective plan is to paint 
the lower bars of the gates white, and the hares will 
then avoid them. 

The raiders who come in gangs armed with guns 
and shoot the best coverts, generally selecting 
pheasants at roost, are usually colliers, miners, or the 
scum of manufacturing towns, led by some ruffian who 
has a knowledge of the ground. These gangs display 
no skill, but rely on their numbers, arms, and known 
desperation of character to save them from arrest, as 
unfortunately it very often does. 

The ' mouchers ' who sneak about the roads and 
hedgerows with dogs on Sundays, and snap up a rabbit 
or a hare, do not do so much damage except in the 
neighbourhood of large towns, where they are more 



156 THE RABBIT 



numerous. Shepherds, toa, sometimes require looking 
after, for they often have dogs which, though supposed 
to be used only for sheep, are extremely clever in 
helping their owners to get hold of a hare or rabbit. 
Even a ploughman will leave his horses to set a wire 
in a gateway or gap where he has noticed the track of 
a hare ; but this is generally for his own eating, and is 
not of much consequence in comparison with the work 
of the real local professional. These regular hands 
form a class, now more numerous than ever • for the 
price obtainable for game from local dealers causes 
many a man to turn poacher in a small way who 
would otherwise lead a respectable and honest life. 
Moreover, the spread of railways into the most out- 
lying districts enables poachers, or their aiders and 
abettors, to get hampers of game speedily out of reach 
of the local policeman. 

The people who require most looking after, how- 
ever, are the small higglers, or ' general dealers ' as 
they call themselves, who go round the countryside 
with a cart, and, under pretence of selling fish, or 
buying and selling poultry, are frequently in league 
with poachers, especially during the egging season, 
when they become possessed of large quantities of 
pheasants' and partridges' eggs. As an instance of the 
mischief which may be done by these gentry^ it may 



! 



1 



l ; 




AN OLD HAND 



POACHING 157 



be noted that on May 26, 1898, one Charles Gooch, 
a marine-store dealer, was prosecuted by the Field 
Sports Protection Association, at the Saxmundham 
Petty Sessions, where, being convicted of being in un- 
lawful possession of 655 partridges' eggs, he was fined 
one shilling per egg, or 32/. 15^. and costs, or in default 
two months' imprisonment with hard labour. It would 
be well if this example were followed more frequently 
by justices at petty sessions in other parts of the 
country, and much might be done to prevent poach- 
ing if County Councillors and Boards of Guardians 
would follow the lead of those at Wimborne who, on 
July 30, 1898, refused to grant to a general dealer a 
licence to deal in game. 1 

The power to grant such licences has been trans- 
ferred from the Justices to the Guardians, and the 
Act conferring such power (1 & 2 Will. IV. cap. 32) 
expressly provides (Sect. 18) that 'a licence to 
deal in game cannot be granted to an innkeeper or 
licensed victualler, or person licensed to sell beer by 
retail, or to the owner, guard, or driver of any mail 
coach or conveyance used for carrying the mails, or of 
any stage coach, waggon, van, or other public convey- 
ance, or to a carrier or higgler, or to a person in the 
employment of any of the above.' 

1 For report of this case see The Fields August 6, 1898, 
p. 267. 



158 THE RABBIT 



To judge by the local press reports of the poach- 
ing cases which come before the magistrates at petty 
sessions, it would seem that the majority of convictions 
are for poaching rabbits, the proceedings being taken 
under the principal Game Act, 1831 (1 & 2 Will. IV. 
cap. 32), the Night Poachers' Act, 1828 (9 Geo. IV. 
cap. 69) modified by the Night Poaching Act, 1844 
(7 & 8 Vict. cap. 29), the Larceny Act, 1861 (24 
& 25 Vict. cap. 96), or the Poaching Prevention 
Act, 1862 (25 & 26 Vict. cap. 114). 

As a good deal of ignorance prevails on the subject 
of the law relating to rabbits, not only amongst game- 
keepers, who can hardly be supposed to know very 
much about it, but also amongst their employers, who 
might be expected to be better informed, it may not 
be out of place in a volume pertaining exclusively to 
' The Rabbit ' to devote a few pages to the consideration 
of cases which continually arise, and to the law which 
governs them. A little plain law on the subject may 
be acceptable both to masters and servants, and we 
shall endeavour so to expound it as to free it as much 
as possible from technicalities, confining attention 
chiefly to the duties of gamekeepers (in respect of 
rabbits) as regulated by Acts of Parliament. 

Perhaps the simplest mode of dealing with the 
subject will be to look into the provisions of the 



POACHING 159 

above-mentioned statutes, and see how they affect 
the questions which are likely to arise where rabbits 
are concerned. 

With regard to trespass by day in pursuit of game 
or rabbits (coneys they are styled in the Statute) Sec- 
tion 30 of the principal Game Act (1 & 2 Will. IV. 
cap. 32) expressly states that if any person shall com- 
mit a trespass by entering in the day-time l upon 
any land in search or pursuit of game or coneys, he 
shall be liable on conviction to a penalty not exceed- 
ing 2/. and costs, or, in default, to imprisonment with 
hard labour for a term not exceeding two months. 
And if the offence be committed by a party of five or 
more persons, the penalty on conviction may be 5/. 
and costs, or, in default, imprisonment with hard 
labour as before. 

In such case anyone may lay an information, and 
one justice may receive it. It need not be in writing, 
though it usually is, and it need not be on oath, 
unless a warrant for the apprehension of an offender 
be applied for by the informant, and then the informa- 
tion must be a sworn one. It must be for one offence 

1 Section 34 of this Act states that day-time shall be 
deemed to commence at the beginning of the last hour before 
sunrise, and to conclude at the expiration of the first hour after 
sunset. Night will therefore mean the remaining portion of the 
twenty-four hours. 



i6o THE RABBIT 



on one day only, but an information against several 
persons for a joint offence will hold good. In any 
case the prosecution must be originated within 
three calendar months after the commission of the 
offence. 

If an offender, after being served with a summons, 
does not appear, the keeper (or other informant) may 
either apply for a warrant or proceed in his absence. 

We need not here concern ourselves with the 
defence likely to be set up by a rabbit poacher, for 
that is a matter to be determined by the justices at the 
hearing of the summons ; unless a bona-fide claim of 
right is pleaded, in which case the magistrates' jurisdic- 
tion would be ousted, and the dispute would have to 
be settled in a superior court. But cases may arise in 
which, for want of proper instruction, a keeper may 
be induced to let an offender escape. For example, 
it is settled law that a right of common carries with it 
no right to kill the ground game on a common which 
belongs to the lord of the manor. 1 If, therefore, a 
gamekeeper of the latter sees a person shooting 
rabbits on a common, and on remonstrating with 
him is informed that he is a commoner and merely 
exercising his privilege, he should reply civilly that he 

1 Watkins v. Major, 44 LJ. M.C. 164 and L,R, 10 C.P, 
662. 



POACHING 161 

is mistaken ; that commoners have no right to kill 
rabbits ; that he must desist ; and that if he continues 
to shoot, he will be summoned. The owner of a 
free warren, also, may prosecute tenants of land 
within the limits of the free warren if they kill 
rabbits, or give permission to others to do so ; and 
he should instruct his keeper to let it be known that 
he claims the rabbits on the land of such persons 
under a grant of free warren (see p. 55). It has been 
decided also in several reported cases that a dog 
found hunting rabbits in a warren may be killed by 
the keeper or warrener ; and the owner of a franchise 
of a park may kill a dog chasing game in the park. 1 
In other cases, a keeper would do well to abstain 
from shooting a trespassing dog, or he may find him- 
self made liable in damages to the owner. 2 His 
proper course is to give the owner of the dog notice 
in writing to restrain him from trespassing, and to 
intimate that, unless he does so, traps will be set. 

Should any doubt arise in the mind of a game- 
keeper as to the ownership of a hedge in which he 
may find snares set for rabbits or hares, he may note 

1 Vere v. Lord Cawdor, 1 1 East, 568 ; Protheroe v. 
Matthews, 5 C. and P. 581. 

2 See the report of a case at Cardiff in which a gamekeeper 
was ordered to pay 12/. for shooting a dog while in pursuit of 
a rabbit. — l^he Field, February 27, 1897. 

M 



1 62 THE RABBIT 



that a hedge is always presumed to belong to the 
person in whose field the ditch is not ; the reason 
being that the person who makes a hedge bank 
by cutting a ditch must throw up the soil on his own 
land, and not on his neighbour's ; he thus becomes 
the owner of the hedge. If there are two ditches, 
one on each side of a hedge, the ownership of the 
hedge will depend on the past exercise of rights over 
it, or the liability to repair it. 

It often happens that a poacher, with a view to 
avoid a charge of trespass, confines his operations to 
one side or the other of a high road, along which he 
may pretend to be walking quietly if disturbed. It 
is well to remember, therefore, that a highway (sub- 
ject to the right of the public to use it for all usual 
and lawful purposes) is deemed to be land in the 
possession of adjoining owners and occupiers, and 
therefore a poacher under such circumstances may be 
treated as if he were a trespasser on the adjoining 
land. Moreover, if he is using a gun for shooting 
through the hedge, he may not only be prosecuted 
for trespass in pursuit of game, but may be summoned 
under Section 72 of the Highway Act (5 & 6 Will. 
IV. cap. 50) for discharging a gun within fifty feet from 
the centre of the highway. By shooting from a high 
road a trespass is committed as if the shooter had 



POACHING 163 



entered the adjacent field. This was decided by the 
Court of Queen's Bench in the case of Regina v. 
Pratt, 24 L J. (N.S.) 113. If the facts warrant it, 
he may also be prosecuted for shooting game without 
a licence. 

It is a question for the justices to determine 
whether a defendant is ' in pursuit of game ' or not. 
In a case tried at Cheltenham in January, 1892, in 
which two persons were summoned for trespass in 
pursuit of game, it was contended on their behalf 
that, although they had a. dog and gun, there was no 
evidence of their being 'in pursuit of game.' The 
magistrates, however, considered that their intention 
was sufficiently evident, and fined them ten shillings 
each and costs. 

If the owner of a hedge which he proposes to 
ferret, steps over into his neighbour's field for the 
purpose of shooting any rabbits that may be put out 
to him, he is clearly a trespasser, for it is only by 
permission that a person can stand on his neighbour's 
land for the purpose of killing game started on his 
own property. 

Should it happen that a person convicted of 
trespassing in pursuit of game, or rabbits, under 
Section 30 of the Act 1 & 2 Will. IV. cap. 32, is the 
holder of a gun or game licence, that licence will 



1 64 THE RABBIT 



become forfeited, and if he intends to shoot again, he 
will have to take out a fresh licence under penalties 
prescribed in the Game Licence Act, i860, and the 
Gun Licence Act, 1870. A gamekeeper, therefore, 
who has obtained a conviction will do well to bear 
this fact in mind. 

Disputes often arise as to who has or who has not 
the right to kill rabbits, and as the law which formerly 
held good has been materially altered by the Ground 
Game Act, passed in 1880, the consideration of this 
part of the subject may be reserved for another 
chapter, in which we propose to deal exclusively with 
the provisions of that particular statute. Since that 
Act, however, does not affect the rights of owners 
and occupiers under leases executed before the 
passing of the Act, it may be well to note here that 
rabbits do not come within the definition of ' game ' 
laid down in the principal Game Act, and therefore, 
where ' game ' only is reserved to a landlord under a 
lease dated prior to 1880, the tenant may kill the rabbits 
or authorise his servants to kill them for him, l but not 
strangers ; for the game being reserved, the permission 
of the tenant is no defence to strangers prosecuted 

1 Spicer v. Barnard, 28 L.J. M.C. 176 ; and Padwick v. 
King, 29 L.J. M.C. 42. It is otherwise in the case of 
tenancies created since the passing of the Ground Game Act, as 
will be explained in the next chapter. 



POACHING 165 



by the landlord for trespassing in pursuit of it, or of 
woodcocks, snipes, quails, landrails, or rabbits. l 

Two very important points remain to be considered, 
the right to arrest, and the right to search. As pro- 
bably more mistakes are made by keepers in these 
matters than in any others with which they have to 
deal, it will be well to state clearly how the law 
stands. 

Any person may order an ordinary trespasser to 
quit his land, and may remove him if he refuses to 
do so, but he has no power at common law to sum- 
marily arrest him. If, however, the offender be 
trespassing in search of game, Section 31 of the 
principal Game Act authorises any person having the 
right of killing the game, or the occupier of the land, 
or the gamekeeper or servant of either of them, to 
arrest him under certain specified circumstances ; 
namely, if he refuses to tell his real name or place of 
abode, or gives a false name and address (to the 
keeper's knowledge), or wilfully continues on the land 
or returns to it, he may be apprehended and taken 
as soon as possible before a Justice of the Peace, 2 

1 Pryce v. Davies, 35 J. P. 374; and Morden v. Porter, 
29 L.J. M.C. 213. 

2 The section requires that he must not be detained more 
than twelve hours, and if, for any sufficient reason, he cannot 
be brought before a Justice of the Peace within that time, he 



1 66 THE RABBIT 



and on being convicted of any such offence, is liable 
to a penalty not exceeding 5/. and costs, or in default, 
two months' imprisonment with hard labour. 

If any of the parties authorised as above can 
see game in possession of the trespasser, they may de- 
mand it, and if refused, may seize it, but they may 
not search a person on suspicion, nor can they seize 
his gun. The only person empowered to search is 
a constable under circumstances mentioned in the 
Poaching Prevention Act, 1862, to be presently 
referred to. 

Under the Night Poachers' Act, 1828 (9 Geo. IV. 
cap. 69) modified by the Night Poaching Act, 1844 
(7 & 8 Vict. cap. 29) any one taking or killing 
game or rabbits at night^ either on open or enclosed 
land, or upon any highway or the sides thereof, or 
entering such places for the purpose, is liable on 
conviction to three months' imprisonment with hard 
labour for a first offence, six months' for a second 
offence, and a still longer term for any subsequent 
offence. 2 Such person also may be apprehended, 

must be discharged, and proceeded against by summons or 
warrant, as if no such apprehension had taken place. 

1 Night is deemed to commence at the expiration of the 
first hour after sunset and to conclude at the beginning of the 
last hour before sunrise. See p. 159, note. 

2 It is important to bear in mind that before he can be con- 
victed he must have actually killed or taken a rabbit. It is 



POACHING 167 



and delivered over to a constable, to be brought 
before two Justices of the Peace to be dealt with 
as the Act provides. If such person offers violent 
resistance, and assaults those authorised to apprehend 
him, he is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable on 
conviction to transportation for seven years, or to 
imprisonment with hard labour for two years. 

The Larceny Act, 1861 (Section 17) makes it an 
offence to kill hares and rabbits at night ' in a warren ' 
(see p. 57), an extension, as it were, of the Night 
Poaching Acts which relate to taking or killing game 
or rabbits ' in open or enclosed lands.' Whether the 
land in question is ' a warren,' or not, may be a 
question for the determination of the justices. l If it 
be quite certain that the offence was committed ' in a 
warren,' the offender may be prosecuted under the 
Larceny Act, otherwise under the Night Poaching 
Acts. One must, of course, bear in mind the dis- 
tinction between an ordinary warren and the right of 
free warren, as explained in a former chapter (see p. 52). 

not sufficient for him to be merely on the land in search of 
rabbits. The keeper therefore, if he sees a trespasser at night 
whom he has reason to suspect, should give him time before 
making his appearance. The reason for this anomaly, which 
arises on a question of construction of the Act, is fully explained 
in an article on ' Rabbit Poaching by Night,' in The Field of 
February 15, 1890. 

1 Bevan v. Hopkinson, 34 L.T. 142. See p. 58, note. 



THE RABBIT 



Poachers will sometimes capture in one night with 
the long net more rabbits than they can carry away. 
They will accordingly be compelled to hide them, 
and remove them subsequently as best they may. If 
they escape detection when capturing them, but are 
caught while removing them, the rabbits being then 
dead, it becomes a question whether the offence is 
one of larceny or not. The point was decided in the 
case of Regina v. Lewis Townley, reported in The 
Field of April 29, 187 1. A poacher, who had assisted 
in taking 126 rabbits which were concealed with 400 
yards of netting, was subsequently caught removing 
them, and was prosecuted and convicted of larceny 
for stealing them. But on appeal, the Court for the 
Consideration of Crown Cases Reserved quashed the 
conviction on the ground that the act of killing and 
removing was continuous, and that that which was 
not larceny in its inception could not be so in its 
natural fulfilment of the original intention. 

On the other hand, if the offender had been charged 
with poaching and convicted, the conviction would 
probably have been affirmed. This is shown by the 
case of Horn v. Raine. 1 In this case, the poacher 
Raine, standing in his own allotment, fired over the 
wall at a grouse that was sitting on Lord Westbury's 
1 Law Times ; July 16, 1898. 



POACHING 169 



land adjoining, and killed it. He did not at once 
seek to remove it, and Horn (Lord Westbury's game- 
keeper), who was attracted by the shot, found the dead 
bird and removed it without being seen by Raine. 
Some hours later Raine returned, and climbed over 
the wall and began looking for the dead bird. He 
was charged with trespassing on the land in pursuit of 
game. The magistrates dismissed the charge on the 
ground that the distance of time between the act of 
killing and the act of taking prevented them from 
treating the two as one continuous act. A Divisional 
Court, however, on a case stated, remitted the case 
to the magistrates with directions to convict on the 
ground that on the facts stated the killing and taking 
constituted one continuous act. 

We come now to the Poaching Prevention Act, 
1862 (25 & 26 Vict. cap. 114), the provisions of 
which apply to rabbits as well as to game. It is an 
extremely important Act, because it empowers police 
constables in certain cases to search suspected persons 
without a warrant, a proceeding which, as we have seen 
(p. 165), is not in the power of any owner, occupier, 
gamekeeper or other person acting under his or their 
directions. 

Section 2 of this Act enables a constable to search, 
in any highway, street, or public place, any person 



i;o THE RABBIT 



suspected of coming from land where he has been un- 
lawfully in pursuit of game, and to take from him 
any game, eggs of game, or rabbits that may be found 
in his possession, or any gun, part of gun, or nets, 
or engines used for killing or taking game. It also 
enables a constable to stop and search any cart, or 
conveyance, in which he suspects any of these things 
to be concealed, and, if found, to seize and detain 
them. In such a case, the constable must apply to 
a magistrate for a summons citing the offender to 
appear before two justices at petty sessions, if in 
England or Ireland, or before a sheriff or any two 
justices if in Scotland, to be dealt with as the Act 
provides. 

This statute, in the words of Mr. Justice Byles, 1 
' not only creates a new criminal jurisdiction, but 
changes the burden of proof in a criminal case, and 
therefore we must give it a strict construction. Now it 
appears that there are four requisites : first, that the 
suspected person should be found on the highway, &c. ; 
secondly, that there should be good ground of suspicion 
that he has come from land where he has been un- 
lawfully pursuing game, and that he has in his pos- 
session game unlawfully obtained, or certain other 
specified articles ; thirdly, that he should have in his 
1 Clarke v. Crowder and others, L.R. 4 C.P. 638. 



POACHING 171 



possession on the highway such game, &c. ; fourthly, 
that game, &c. should there be found on him, i.e. seen, 
or heard, or felt on him, so as to constitute a finding 
by the senses of a witness.' 

As pointed out by Mr. Warry, one of the latest 
writers on the game laws, 1 this is the only statute 
which directly invokes the aid of the police for the 
protection of game. A constable is authorised under 
Sections 9, to of the Gun Licence Act, 1870, to 
demand the production of gun licences, and may be 
asked to assist keepers to effect an arrest under the 
Game Act, 1831 (Section 31), or the Night Poaching 
Act, 1828 (Section 2), but the public have generally 
viewed with disfavour the employment of constables 
to assist in the preservation of game. In consequence, 
however, of frequent breaches of the peace and 
murderous assaults arising from the necessity of 
arresting poachers, this statute was passed to assist 
keepers in this respect, that (whether from informa- 
tion received from them or otherwise) a constable on 
duty might be enabled to stop and search persons on 
their return from what he might suspect to be a 
poaching expedition, and if game was found on them, 
to lay the same onus on such persons of accounting 

1 The Game Laws of England, with an Appendix of the 
Statutes relating to Game. London, Stevens & Sons, 1896. 



172 THE RABBIT 



for the possession of it, as the law lays upon the 
possession of stolen property. 

It is not to be expected, nor would it be possible 
in the limited space here at disposal, that we should 
enter into more minute details of the law concerning 
rabbits, or consider its application in every case that 
might be likely to arise. All that we have attempted 
to do in these pages is to give a few broad outlines 
for the guidance of those masters and servants who, 
having rabbits to care for and protect from poachers, 
may desire to know briefly what are their legal rights 
and remedies. 

It remains to consider the provisions of the 
Ground Game Act, which is of such importance to 
owners, occupiers, and shooting tenants as to require 
separate treatment in another chapter. 



173 



CHAPTER VII 

THE GROUND GAME ACT 

It may be said without much fear of contradiction 
that no Act of Parliament in modern times has caused 
more misunderstanding, . ill-feeling and general dis- 
satisfaction than the Ground Game Act of 1880. It 
has pleased nobody, except perhaps the promoters of 
it. Naturally it has not pleased the landlord, for, 
regardless of the legal maxim cujus est solum ejus est 
usque ad ccelum^ it has deprived him of the liberty of 
contract, and the right of doing what he pleases with 
his own. It has decreed that from the date of the 
passing of the Act his interest in hares and rabbits 
shall be shared with his tenants, who are to have as 
much right to kill or take them as he has himself. If 
he does not shoot, or preserve game for his friends to 
shoot, this might not at first sight appear to be of 
much consequence ; but if he lets his shooting it 
makes all the difference in the world — a difference, 
that is to say, in the value of the shooting, or the 



y 



174 THE RABBIT 



amount of rent which he is able to secure for it. For 
no shooting tenant now-a-days will give as much rent 
as he would be willing to pay if the landlord could 
let him the exclusive right to kill hares and rabbits, 
which under the new regime he is unable to do, 
unless he happens to be an owner in occupation of 
his own land. 

Shooting tenants with some reason complain that 
things are very much altered for the worse. They 
find that the tenants, or * occupiers ' as they are 
termed in the Act, under cover of exercising their 
privileges and keeping down the ground game, are 
perpetually disturbing the ground at all seasons of the 
year. Whether the partridges or pheasants are sitting 
or have led off their broods makes no difference to 
them. They are trapping, wiring, or shooting all the 
year round, and the evidence adduced on the hearing 
of summonses for trespass in pursuit of game shows 
only too plainly that they are not always careful to con- 
fine their attention to fur, but kill winged game when 
they think they can do so without risk of detection. 
The result of this constant disturbance of the ground, 
especially during the egging season, is only too 
apparent when the first of September comes round. 
The frequent ferreting of the hedgerows causes many 
a partridge to desert the eggs, and those which contrive 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 175 

to hatch off often become so wild as to be almost 
unapproachable. Hares there are none, or so few in 
comparison to what there were, that the shooting 
tenant is woefully disappointed. Nor can rabbits be 
found in anything like their accustomed number. 
On many farms, excepting those which adjoin large 
coverts not included in the letting to the tenant 
farmer, rabbits are almost cleared off; and every 
shooting man knows how coneys tell up in the bag 
at the end of a day's shooting. It is not the loss of 
their intrinsic value that is deplored, but the loss of 
sport which is implied by their absence. 

Nor are the tenant farmers much better pleased 
than the landlords with the result of the new legislation, 
although the Act was passed ostensibly in their in- 
terest — ' to protect their crops from injury and loss 
by ground game.' Formerly if a standing crop was 
damaged by the depredations of hares and rabbits, 
the farmer made a claim against the landlord, a 
valuer was appointed to look into the matter, and an 
amount of compensation was agreed upon which was 
generally deducted from the rent. In some cases a 
landlord who had paid, or allowed, compensation for 
some years on this score would perhaps lose patience, 
and in order to relieve himself for the future of this 
annual claim, would consent to reduce the rent at 



176 THE RABBIT 



once by an agreed amount for the remainder of the 
term, on condition that he should hear no more of 
compensation for damage done by ground game. 
This satisfied both parties. At all events the landlord 
had the right to make his own terms in regard to the 
letting of his own land (which under the Ground 
Game Act he is now precluded from doing), and the 
tenant had the satisfaction of knowing that he had 
secured perhaps a substantial reduction of rent for 
the remainder of his term. Now the tenant or 
' occupier ' has a concurrent right to the ground game, 
of which he cannot divest himself much as he might 
like to sell the exclusive right of killing it ; for any 
agreement in contravention of this is declared by the 
third section of the Act, as will be seen later, to be 
void. Still he is not happy, and notwithstanding that 
when rabbits attack his crops he has the remedy in 
his own hands and is at liberty to destroy them, he 
still seeks to get compensation when he can from the 
landlord, or from the tenant to whom his landlord 
has let the shooting over his farm. From the reported 
decisions in actions of this class, it would seem that, 
wherever a tenant in the occupancy of a farm has a 
right to kill rabbits, he has no claim for damage done 
by them to his crops, provided they are bred or 
burrow on his farm ; for if they are thus permitted to 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 177 

increase, the fault is his own. But, if his crops are 
damaged by rabbits reared and allowed to increase in 
plantations or coverts within and around the farm 
and which are not in his occupation, he certainly has 
a claim of damages (for the loss sustained) against 
his landlord. In the Scotch case of Inglis v. Moir's 
Tutors and Gunnis, where a tenant brought an action 
against both landlord and shooting tenant for damage 
done to crops by rabbits, it was held that the landlord 
was liable, but not the shooting tenant, Lord Justice 
Clerk in giving judgment said : ' As regards the case 
against the game tenant, if he did any personal act 
to the injury of the agricultural tenant (such as tread- 
ing down corn or breaking fences) he would be 
responsible. But he is under no obligation to kill 
rabbits for the benefit of the farmer. There is no 
mutual obligation between them. Neither the 
omission to kill rabbits, nor the destruction of 
vermin, which are matters entirely within the power 
of the game tenant to do or omit, can give the agri- 
cultural tenant any just cause of action. His claim 
lies against his landlord under the contract with him, 
which is neither enlarged nor restricted by the rights 
given to the tenant of the shooting.' 1 

1 See reports of claims for damage done by rabbits, Cameron 
v. Drummond, The Field, February 4, 1888, and Smith v. 
Brand, The Field, November 9, 1895. 

N 



178 THE RABBIT 



Sometimes a shooting tenant is induced to consent 
to a clause in the lease to indemnify his landlord against 
claims by tenants for damage done by ground game — 
a proviso which should be refused unless he is very 
anxious to secure the shooting, and the landlord will not 
let it otherwise, regarding such clause as tantamount 
to a guarantee that the ground game will be well kept 
down. This happened in the case of Rashleigh and 
another v. Veale, which came before his Honour Judge 
Grainger in the St. Austell County Court in January, 
1895, the result being that the defendant (who was 
the sporting tenant), as was to be expected, was held 
liable on his covenant. 

Another grievance on the part of an ' occupier ' 
who holds land over which someone else has a grant 
of 'free warren,' is that he cannot kill any rabbits 
at all, notwithstanding his supposed rights under the 
Ground Game Act. t Witness the case of Lord 
Carnarvon v. Clarkson, to which allusion has been 
already made. 1 

There is still another class of persons who profess 
themselves aggrieved by the operation of the Ground 
Game Act — namely, the agricultural labourers. The 

1 See pp. 55, 56, and a precis of the case in The Field of 
May 18, 1895, under the heading ' Occupiers who have no 
Right to Ground Game.' 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 179 

nature of the grievance may be best exemplified by 
relating a conversation which the writer had some 
years ago with a south -country ' beater ' well known 
to him. 

' Well, John, how do you like the new Ground 
Game Act ? ' 

' Not at all, sur \ never get a robbut now, let be 
howtle.' l 

' Oh ! how's that then ? ' 

'Why, you see, sur, when Mister C. wur head- 
keeper 2 if I'd a mind to a robbut of a Saturday for 
my Sunday's dinner, why, I used to go up to hisn 3 and 
ask for un, aye, and get un too. Now if I goes up to 
the noo keeper and asks, he ses, " Let's see," he ses, 
" who do you work for? " and I ses Varmer Rye, I ses. 
Well, he ses, " Then you'd better go and ask he for un ; 
for he have the right to kill un same as me." So I 
goes to Varmer Rye and asks he, and what d'ye 
think he ses ; why, he ses, " I aint got no robbuts for 
no one ; I ca-a-nt get enough for mysel'." So I comes 
away wi'out un. That's how it be, sur.' 

' Well, John, what do you do now, then ? ' 

' Do, sur ? Why ' (scratching his head) ' I'se forced 
to help mysel', I s'pose.' 

1 A provincialism ; ' let it be how it will. ' 

2 Before the passing of the Act. 

3 Meaning ' to his house.' 



i8o THE RABBIT 



Which being interpreted means, that a good 
honest labourer with a wife and family to support, 
and with perhaps only eighteen shillings a week to 
do it with, out of which four or five shillings a week 
has to go for cottage rent, turns poacher, and sooner 
or later is discovered by the keeper taking a rabbit 
out of a wire, with the usual result. And so it is 
that owners, occupiers, shooting tenants and agri- 
cultural labourers, all have something to say against 
the Act. 1 

It would not be possible within the limits of a 
single chapter to examine critically all the points 
which are suggested by a careful perusal of the Act, 
nor is it to be expected that we should take cogni- 
sance of the many legal technicalities which have 
been argued in the numerous actions at law to which 
this particular statute has given rise. All that we 
. can attempt to do here is to take a general view of 
the object and provisions of the Ground Game Act, 
and point out, as briefly as possible, some of the 
more important legal decisions which now materially 
affect its bearing. The importance of this at the 
present time will be apparent to those who already 
know how the construction of particular sections by 

1 See the numerous letters expressive of dissatisfaction for 
reasons stated which appeared in The Field during the months 
of November and December 1889. 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 



magistrates at petty sessions has been overruled by 
Courts of Appeal, while the utility of such a com- 
mentary as we propose to offer will, it is hoped, be 
acceptable to those readers who may perchance have 
a copy of the Act at hand, but no notes of the im- 
portant cases to which we shall refer. 

The full title of this Statute is ' An Act for the 
better protection of Occupiers of Land against injury 
to their Crops from Ground Game,' and it received 
the royal assent on September 7, 1880. 

The object of the Act is not, as some persons 
imagine, to transfer the right to kill hares and rabbits 
from ' owner ' to ' occupier,' but to protect the crops 
from injury by ground game, and this object is 
equally attained whether the animals are killed by 
either party. It is also a mistake to suppose that 
the Ground Game Act gives the landlord anything. 
It gives him no privilege nor concurrent right. It gives 
the tenant the concurrent right to hares and rabbits 
where they are reserved. As at common law, in the 
absence of any agreement between landlord and 
tenant with regard to ground game, hares and rabbits 
are the property of the tenant as occupier of the soil^ it 
is necessary in making agreements with tenants, that 
hares and rabbits should be mentioned and reserved, 
otherwise the landlord will have no right to kill them. 



1 82 THE RABBIT 



The Act contains eleven sections. 

The first section provides that : 

Every occupier of land shall have a right insepar- 
able from his occupation to kill ground game thereon, 
concurrently with any other person who may be entitled 
to it, subject to the following limitations : 

Subsection i. The occupier shall kill and take 
ground game only by himself or by persons duly 
authorised by him in writing : 

(a) The occupier himself and one other person 
authorised in writing by such occupier shall 
be the only persons entitled under this Act to 
kill ground game with firearms ; 

(b) No person shall be authorised by the occu- 
pier to kill or take ground game, except 
members of his household resident on the 
land, persons in his ordinary service on such 
land, and one other person bond fide employed 
by him for reward in taking ground game. 

(c) Every person so authorised by the occupier, 
on demand by any person having a concurrent 
right to the ground game (or any person 
authorised by him in writing to make such 
demand) shall produce his authority, and in 
default shall be deemed to be not an authorised 
person. 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 183 

The term ' occupier ' is not defined by the Act, 
but may be taken to mean the person for the time 
being lawfully entitled to and exercising the exclusive 
possession of land. Certain persons are expressly 
declared not to be occupiers (Sect. 1, subsect. 2) ; for 
example, 'a person having merely a right of common,' 
and ' a person occupying land for grazing purposes for 
a period not exceeding nine months.' These excep- 
tions will be considered further on. 

A landlord in occupation of his own land has been 
decided to be not an occupier within the meaning of 
the Act. 1 But an outgoing tenant who 'holds over' 
for the purpose of getting in his crops has been held 
to be an occupier, so as to maintain or resist an action 
for trespass. 2 So also persons permitted by the tenant 
to use small pieces of ground for the purpose of growing 
potatoes have been held to be ' occupiers.' 3 When a 
tenant sublets his land, he ceases to be an occupier 
for the purposes of the Ground Game Act. 

Whether the purchaser of a standing crop from an 
outgoing tenant having a right to be on the land for 

1 Smith v. Hunt, 54 Lazv Times Reports, 422. This case 
will be considered further on when we come to discuss the right 
of an owner to set spring traps aboveground. wSee p. 203. 

2 Boraston v. Green, 16 East 71 ; and Griffiths v. Puleston, 
13 M. & W. 358. 

3 Greenslade z: Tapscott, 3 L. J. Ex. 328. 



1 84 THE RABBIT 

the purpose of removing his crop is an c occupier ' 
within the meaning of the Act, and entitled to kill 
ground game on the land whereon the crop is stand- 
ing, is a question which has not been decided. It 
might well have been raised in the case of Lunt v. Hill, 
in the Nantwich County Court in January, 1895, but 
the only issue tried was whether an assault had been 
committed by the defendant in attempting to take from 
the plaintiff, the purchaser of the way-going crop, the 
rabbits which he had shot without any authority in 
writing from the tenant, and without a gun licence. l 

The term ' occupier ' will include joint tenants ; 
their powers of appointment of persons to kill or take 
ground game could only be jointly exercised ; but 
whether (as is probably the case) each could exercise 
the rights of an occupier in killing ground game by 
himself is a point which, so far as we are aware, has 
not been judicially determined. 

Before proceeding to subsection 2 of the first sec- 
tion, it may be well to emphasise the fact that the 
authority given by an c occupier ' to kill rabbits must 
be in writing. In a case decided at Carlisle in October, 
1 89 1 (Carter Wood v. Rule & Rule) a shooting tenant 
summoned two game-dealers for unlawfully killing 
rabbits at night. They pleaded authority. The occu- 

1 See a report of the case in The Field of January 26, 1895. 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 185 

pier, a farmer named Dunne, admitted authorising one 
of them, but stated that he paid no wages or commis- 
sion for the killing ; on the contrary, they paid him 
something for the privilege, and they got the rabbits 
for their own benefit. No authority in writing being 
produced, the magistrates convicted. l The defendants, 
thinking it important to obtain a legal decision whether 
or not a game-dealer who pays a farmer for permission 
to kill ground game and takes the game as his perqui- 
site, is ' a person bond fide employed for reward,' asked 
the magistrates to state a case for a superior court. 
This they declined to do, their view being that no 
question of law arose, but only an issue of fact, of 
' written authority ' or otherwise. Defendants then 
moved for a rule for a mandamus requiring the magis- 
trates to state a case, and the motion was argued before 
the Divisional Court (Justices Hawkins and Wills) on 
February 4, 1892. The Court held that the magis- 
trates had decided the case upon an issue of fact, viz : 
whether the ' occupier ' had statutably employed the 
defendants, and that they had evidence before them 
upon which they could arrive at a conclusion in the 
matter. They accordingly refused the application and 
thereby supported the conviction. 2 

1 Reported in The Field, November 4, 1891 
2 The Field, February 13, 1892. 



1 86 THE RABBIT 



As to what constitutes a ' resident on the land ' 
(sect, ib.) the word 'reside' has been held to mean 
' eat, drink, and sleep,' l and therefore, although a 
person merely spending the day would not be a resi- 
dent, a guest for a few days presumably might be. In 
the case of Stuart v. Murray, the Court of Justiciary 
in Scotland decided that a person bona fide invited to 
stay for a week was a member of the household resi- 
dent on the land. 2 

The question what constitutes a ' professional 
rabbit-killer ' is also one that often arises. Subsection 
i b. states that he must be £ a person bona fide em- 
ployed for reward,' and only one such person can be 
authorised at a tim£. This definition does not cover 
the case of a friend coming for a day's shooting, even 
if he receive a nominal sum for his services or a 
present of rabbits, although the fact of the shooter 
being a friend of the occupier would not necessarily 
invalidate the authority. Still, in the event of a 
shooting tenant feeling himself aggrieved and taking 
proceedings against such a person on the ground that 
he was not ' bona fide employed for reward,' the fact 
of the latter being a friend of the occupier would not 
unnaturally give rise to suspicion. 

1 Regina v. North Curry, 4 B. & C. 959. 
2 The Field, November 22, 1894. 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 187 

To take the case of a person who is not a friend 
of the occupier, and is not a rabbit-killer by pro- 
fession, but (as if he were) enters into an agreement 
with the occupier to kill rabbits, ostensibly for reward 
but in reality for his own recreation : 

In January 1893 one Gibbs, a wholesale con- 
fectioner at Oxford, was found by a keeper of the 
Earl of Abingdon shooting rabbits at Cumnor, on 
land in the occupation of one Townsend. He was 
summoned for trespass in pursuit of game, and 
pleaded that he had entered into an agreement with 
Townsend to kill rabbits for him, and to be paid for 
the work. Townsend confirmed this, and a written 
authority was produced showing that he was to be 
paid \s. a dozen for all rabbits he killed up to 
September 29, and after that date 2s. a dozen, the 
rabbits being given to Townsend. The question 
arose whether Gibbs, who had a large business of his 
own in Oxford with several shops to look after, could 
be regarded as a 'professional rabbit-killer 7 within 
the meaning of the Act? The magistrates on the 
evidence dismissed the case, reluctantly finding him 
qualified! It is, of course, difficult to understand 
a man in defendant's position posing as a professional 
rabbit-killer • but it is a free country, and if a man of 
means chooses to turn professional rabbit-killer there is 



THE RABBIT 



no law to prevent him. At the same time, cases of this 
kind are open to grave suspicion, and slight evidence of 
an intention to evade the Act and obtain a few days' 
shooting on pretence of killing the rabbits for the 
benefit of the tenant, might warrant a conviction for 
trespass in pursuit of game. And this was the result 
in a similar case tried in another county. 

In January 1883 the magistrates at Otley, York- 
shire, had a case before them, Taylor v. Bradley, in 
which this question was raised. The plaintiff, who 
was the shooting tenant over lands in the occupation 
of one Laycock, summoned the defendant (a nail 
manufacturer employing about twenty hands) for 
shooting rabbits on the said land. Defendant pro- 
duced an authority in writing from the occupier 
Laycock, and the latter stated in evidence that he 
paid defendant five shillings for his services, and 
presented him with a rabbit. The question raised 
was whether Bradley was a person bond fide employed 
for reward for the purpose of killing ground game. 
The magistrates decided that he was not, and fined 
him 20^. and costs. 

As to the formal appointment of a professional 
rabbit-killer, it may happen that a farmer is the 
'occupier 7 of two or more farms belonging to one 
owner, and may be in doubt whether he can appoint 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 



one professional rabbit-killer for each farm, or whether 
his right is limited under the Act to the appointment 
of only one such person. We are not aware that this 
point has ever been decided in a court of law. It 
would probably depend whether all the farms were 
included in one lease and treated as one holding, or 
let under different leases. In the latter case it would 
probably be held that he may appoint as many 
persons as there are farms in his occupation. 

The ' form ' of authority to be given in writing is 
not provided by the Act. The following may be 
suggested as sufficient for the purpose : 

' In pursuance of the provisions of the Ground 
Game Act 1880, I, A.B. of (give address), hereby 
authorise C. D. ('a member of my household, in my 
service,' or 'resident on the land in my occupation/ 
as the case may be) to kill or take ground game for 
me on any part of the land in my occupation in any 
lawful manner, 1 except by shooting. 

' Dated this day of 1898. 

(Signed) A. B.' 

If the occupier intends to authorise shooting, the 
form may be varied thus: 'to kill or take ground 
game by shooting, in the daytime only.' 

1 Poison is declared to be unlawful by Section 6. 



igo THE RABBIT 



This authority when given must be produced by 
the holder at any time when demanded by any person 
authorised to require its production. 

A commoner is not an ' occupier ' within the 
meaning of the Act; in other words, the right of 
common does not give or include any right to kill or 
take ground game. 1 Subsection 2 runs : 

' A person shall not be deemed to be an occupier 
of land for the purposes of this Act by reason of his 
having a right of common over such lands • or by 
reason of an occupation for the purpose of grazing 
or pasturage of sheep, cattle, or horses for not more 
than nine months.' 

A commoner may maintain an action against the 
lord of a manor for surcharging it with coneys, but 
he has no right to kill them or to fill up the burrows. 2 

In view of the latter half of this subsection, 
owner in occupation who wishes to keep the shooting 
in his own hands, but is willing to let the grass lands 
for grazing purposes, should take care to stipulate in 
a written agreement that the letting is for a term not 
exceeding nine months. Otherwise the grazier might 
claim a concurrent right to the ground game as 
an ' occupier/ and would be justified in so doing, 

1 See Watkin v. Major, L.R. 10 C.P. 662 

2 Cooper v. Marshall, 1 Burr, 259. 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 191 

under the Act. So if an owner in occupation lets his 
shooting to one person and the grazing to another, he 
should observe the same precautions. 

Subsection 3 relates to moorlands : 

1 In the case of moorlands, and uninclosed lands 
(not being arable lands), the occupier and the persons 
authorised by him shall exercise the rights conferred 
by this section only from the eleventh day of 
December in one year until the thirty-first day of 
March in the next year, both inclusive ; but this 
provision shall not apply to detached portions of 
moorlands or uninclosed lands adjoining arable 
lands, where such detached portions of moorlands 
or uninclosed lands are less than twenty -five acres in 
extent' 

This clause applies more especially to grouse 
moors on which the occupier's right to kill hares and 
rabbits is limited to about four months in the year 
(unless the occupier happens to be the owner in 
possession), namely, from the last day of grouse 
shooting until the beginning of the nesting season. 
But on small outlying patches of moorland holding 
rabbits which might do damage on adjoining arable 
land, the ' occupier ' is empowered to kill ground 
game all the year round. 

Whether a farmer who has the grazing of moorland 



1 92 THE RABBIT 



for a period of more than nine months, but has a right 
to kill the ground game only from December n 
until March 31, can claim compensation for damage 
done by rabbits during the remainder of the year, is 
a question which, so far as we are aware, has not been 
decided in a court of law, but we are inclined to think 
that such a claim would be well founded. 

A correspondent of The Field some time since put 
the following case under this section : 

' How would large tracts of downland with much 
gorse, in some instances more than 100 acres in extent, 
be considered ? Would they come under sect. 1, sub- 
sect. 3 of the Ground Game Act, and be considered 
for shooting purposes as " moorlands " ? 

' They can scarcely be considered, " uninclosed " ' 
here, for they are generally surrounded by fences. They 
are essentially grazing lands, being fed by sheep, the 
fences being required to keep them in. They are never 
ploughed, and, in some instances, are of very large 
extent. 

' It would seem to the ordinary mind that the farmer, 
as " occupier," should not shoot such tracts of land, or 
snare, trap, or in any way kill or take ground game 
before December 11 on such downland. Here, how- 
ever, the farmer invariably shoots the downland as early 
as he pleases. Is this within his right ? ' 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 193 

As this is a typical case we append the reply which 
was given to the question : l 

' From the wording of the third subsection of 
Section 1 of the Act, which empowers an occupier, and 
those authorised by him, to exercise the rights con- 
ferred upon the moorlands and uninclosed lands 
(not being arable land) only from the end of grouse 
shooting (December 10) until the following March 31 
— it seems clear that it is designed chiefly to prevent 
the disturbance of grouse during the nesting season ; 
and it is expressly stated that this provision is not to 
apply to detached portions of moorlands, or uninclosed 
lands adjoining arable lands, if they are less than 25 
acres in extent. In the case stated by our correspon- 
dent, the land in question is not moorland within the 
meaning of the Act ; consequently, there can be no 
limitation of the time within which the ground game 
may be killed by those entitled to it, and if it were 
uninclosed, and less than 25 acres in extent, the occu- 
pier might kill or take the ground game there through- 
out the year. But it is said to be inclosed, and to be 
considerably more than 25 acres in extent, and con- 
sequently the case does not come within the third 
subsection at all. It is rather to be governed by the 
second subsection immediately preceding it, which 

1 The Fields November 3, 1894. 

O 



194 THE RABBIT 



enacts that a person shall not be deemed an " occupier " 
by reason of his having a right of common over such 
lands ; or by reason of an occupation for grazing pur- 
poses for not more than nine months. Now, if the 
land in question is downland, over which the farmer 
has a " right of common," and it is merely enclosed with 
a wire fence, as many such lands are, to prevent the 
sheep from straying, we should say that the farmer has 
no right whatever to the ground game. On the other 
hand, if he is an occupier for the purpose of grazing 
sheep, he can only kill or take ground game if his 
tenancy is for a longer period than nine months. In 
this case it would follow that, if our correspondent 
wishes to keep the rabbit shooting in his own hands, 
he must take care to let the grazing for short periods 
of not more than nine months/ 

The second section of the Act provides that an 
occupier, who is entitled to kill ground game on land 
in his occupation, cannot divest himself wholly of such 
right. If he holds under a lease dated prior to Sep- 
tember, 1880, and the game has not been reserved to 
the owner, he has an exclusive right to game both 
furred and feathered, and can let that exclusive right 
to anyone he pleases. But, if his tenancy has been 
created since that date without any reservation of the 
game, he cannot let such right in its entirety, but only 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 195 

a right to the feathered game with a partial right to the 
ground game, for as ' occupier ' he is bound (under 
this section of the Act) not to divest himself wholly of 
his right to kill the hares and rabbits, however willing 
he may be to do so. All he can do is to refrain from 
exercising this inalienable right. 

The third section of the Act accordingly provides 
that any agreement in contravention of the occupier's 
right to kill ground game would be void ; that is to 
say, that no such agreement could be enforced in a 
court of law if either of the parties happened to change 
his mind and refused to fulfil his contract. In the 
case of Hicks v. Smith, tried in the Cheltenham County 
Court in February, 1888, the defendant, an occupier of 
land in Gloucestershire, let to the plaintiff as shooting 
tenant an exclusive right to kill game and rabbits, and 
afterwards proceeded to snare rabbits himself. The 
plaintiff brought an action for breach of contract, and 
the defendant pleaded that the agreement was void 
under Section 3 of the Act. It was held that both 
parties were in pari delicto^ the plaintiff knowing from 
the first that he was entering into an agreement that 
would be void under the Statute, and judgment ac- 
cordingly was entered for the defendant. 1 A similar 
view was taken by the judge of the County Court at 

1 The Field, February 25, 1888. 

o 2 



196 THE RABBIT 



Monmouth, in deciding the converse case of Morgan 
v. Jackson, where an occupier brought an action to 
recover rent from a shooting tenant to whom he had 
let his right to the ground game, and who pleaded in 
defence that the contract was void under Section 3 of 
the Act. On appeal, however, to the Divisional Court 
of Queen's Bench, it was held by Mr. Justice Day and 
Mr. Justice Wright, that Section 3 was intended only 
to prevent a tenant and landlord from combining to- 
gether to defeat the Act. There was nothing in that 
section (they said) to prevent the tenant (who was en- 
titled otherwise than in pursuance of the Act to kill 
and take ground game) being just as free as he would 
have been before the Act, and, in their opinion, Sec- 
tion 3 did not apply, since it merely prevented a 
tenant from surrendering his right to his landlord. 1 

It is curious that the limitation here given by the 
judges — that Section 3 was only intended to prevent 
collusion between landlord and tenant — was expressly 
considered when the Bill was in Committee. Mr. 
Chaplin moved to give the occupier of land of which 
he was also the owner, power to sublet ; but Sir 
William Harcourt said he could not consent to allow 
the right to kill ground game to be separable from the 
occupation of the land. Mr. Chaplin afterwards moved 
1 Reported in The Field, February 23, and May 4, 1895. 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 197 

to give the tenant power to sublet the ground game ; 
but Sir William Harcourt maintained that this would 
defeat the object of the Bill, by enabling the tenant 
to let to the landlord. Another member then suggested 
that the tenant should have the power to let to any 
other person than the landlord, but Sir William Har- 
court replied that he could not assent to so invidious 
a distinction. Now, however, it has been held by a 
Court of Appeal that there is such an invidious limita- 
tion (when the occupier is entitled to sporting rights 
otherwise than in pursuance of the Act), although it is 
not expressly mentioned in the Statute. 

The position, therefore, seems to be that an 
occupier of lands owning the exclusive right to the 
ground game (as when a landlord in letting has not 
reserved the game and rabbits) may let the sporting 
rights and recover the rent, if his tenant is not his 
landlord. If his shooting tenant were also his land- 
lord, the Court might possibly hold the contract void, 
and the rent irrecoverable — certainly a curious state 
of things. But in either case the occupier who is 
exclusive owner of sporting rights cannot divest him- 
self of his concurrent right to kill the ground game, 
and while nominally letting the exclusive right, he, 
literally speaking, lets only the concurrent right, so 
far as the ground game is concerned. 



THE RABBIT 



An application for leave to appeal (which had been 
refused by the Divisional Court) was made in the 
Court of Appeal before the Master of the Rolls, and 
Lord Justices Kay and A. L. Smith (July 22, 1895), 
and was again refused. Accordingly, the position of 
the occupier as above explained remains unaltered. 
In other words, as settled by the Divisional Court, 
an occupier under the Ground Game Act, although 
unable to divest himself of his right to kill ground 
game in favour of his landlord, may do so for money 
value, or rent, in favour of any other person, and an 
agreement in writing to that effect would not be void 
under the third section of the Act. 

The fourth section provides that a game licence is 
not required for killing ground game under this Act, 
but that, in pursuance of the Gun Licence Act, 1870, l 
a ten-shilling 'gun licence' must be taken out by 
every one who intends to kill ground game with fire- 
arms — unless, of course, he is already provided with a 
game licence. 

Under this section a variety of points arise. 
Assuming that it applies only to ' owners ' and 
' occupiers J — as is clear from the words ' nothing in 
this Act contained shall exempt any person from the 
provisions of the Gun Licence Act, 1870' — what is 
1 33 & 34 Vict. cap. 57. 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 199 

the position (as regards a licence) of a person who 
is neither ' owner' nor * occupier,' but who is, for 
example, an invited guest of the owner, or of the 
shooting tenant, or has permission to go over land by 
himself for the purpose of shooting rabbits only ? Is 
he bound to take out a game licence (though not 
intending to shoot feathered game, or hares), or will 
a ten-shilling gun licence suffice ? Before this point 
can be determined it is necessary to look at the 
provisions of no less than four statutes. l 

The principal Game Act in defining ' game ' does 
not include rabbits, woodcock, snipe, quail, or land- 
rail. Consequently it is not an offence under that 
Act (Section 23) to kill rabbits without a licence. 
But Section 4 of the Game Licences Act, i860 
(23 & 24 Vict. cap. 90) runs thus : — 

' Every person before he shall take, kill, or 
pursue ... or use any dog, gun, net, or other engine 
for the purpose of taking, killing, or pursuing any 
game, or any woodcock, snipe, quail, landrail, coney, 
or deer, shall take out a proper licence to kill game 
under this Act ... or forfeit 20/.' 

In other words, under the Game Licences Act, 

1 The principal Game Act, 1 & 2 Will. IV. cap. 32 ; the 
Game Licences Act, i860; the Gun Licence Act, 1870; and 
the Ground Game Act, 1880. 



200 THE RABBIT 



i860, a game licence is required to kill rabbits, 
although they are not ' game.' But certain persons 
are named to whom this does not apply, and rabbits 
may be killed without a game licence ' by the pro- 
prietor of any warren, or enclosed ground, or by the 
tenant of lands either by himself, or by his direction, 
or permission.' 

The Gun Licence Act, 1870, provides that every- 
one ' who shall use or carry a gun,' no matter for 
what purpose, shall take out a ten-shilling licence 
under a penalty of ten pounds ; while the Ground 
Game Act, 1880, as we have seen, declares that a ten- 
shilling licence is required for killing ground game. 

The net result of these various enactments appears 
to be that, while the holder of a game licence may 
kill any kind of game, as well as rabbits, woodcock, 
snipe, &c, a person who intends to confine his 
attention to rabbits may shoot them if holding a ten- 
shilling licence only. 1 In connection with this subject 
a curious point was recently raised, and only decided 
after two appeals, a propos of rabbits and the Gun 
Licence Act, the principal provision of which has 
been already stated. By the terms of this Act certain 
persons are exempted from taking out a gun licence, 

1 Both owners and occupiers may kill hares without a 
licence under the provisions of the Hares Act, 1848, and may 
authorise others to do so for them. 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 201 

and amongst others ' the occupier (or his nominee) of 
any lands using or carrying a gun for the purpose of 
scaring birds, or killing vermin.'' A Scottish farmer 
who, from an agriculturist's point of view, regarded 
rabbits as vermin, resisted payment of the gun licence 
on the ground that he came within this exemption. 
He was summoned before the Sheriff at Cupar, who, 
after hearing the case argued, decided that rabbits 
were not ' vermin.' From this decision the farmer 
appealed, and in February, 1898, Lord Stormonth- 
Darling, considering himself bound by precedent 
(Gosling v. Brown, 1878, 5 R. 755), though against 
his better judgment, reversed the Sheriff's finding, 
and decided that rabbits were vermin, and that the 
farmer was accordingly exempt from taxation. This 
verdict was once more challenged, and the full Court 
of Appeal in Edinburgh, a month later, reversed Lord 
Stormonth-Darling's decision, and, supporting the 
Sheriff's opinion, held that rabbits were not vermin. 1 
It is now therefore conclusively settled that rabbits 
are not 'vermin' within the meaning of the Gun 
Licence Act, 1870, and that a ten-shilling licence is 
required for shooting them. 

It may be here observed that the term ' gun ' 
includes a firearm of any description, and an air-gun, 
1 See .7^ Field of March 5jind April 2, 1898. 



THE RABBIT 



or any other kind of gun from which any shot, bullet, 
or other missile can be discharged. Even a toy 
pistol has been held to be a gun. 1 A catapult, of 
course, is not 'a firearm,' and although it may 'dis- 
charge a shot, bullet, or other missile,' it can hardly 
be called a 'gun.' If, instead of the words c or any 
other kind of gun,' the statute were to read ' or any 
other engine^' a catapult would come within the 
definition. 

To return to the Ground Game Act : 
The fifth section provides that an ' occupier ' can- 
not exercise his concurrent right to the ground game 
if the right to kill or take it has been already vested 
in some one else by lease dated prior to the passing 
of this Act. An important decision upon this section 
was given in the case of Allhusen v. Brooking by 
Mr. Justice Chitty, 2 who held that it extended to an 
agreement dated prior to the Act, whereby a lessor 
agreed to grant a lease for a term to commence after 
the passing of the Act, and the tenant was restrained 
from killing ground game otherwise than as provided 
by the terms of his agreement. 

1 See Campbell v. Hadley, 40 J. P. 756; and for further 
convictions for using a pistol without a licence, see The Fields 
April 10 and 17, 1897, and June 18, 1898. 

2 51 Law Times Reports, N.S. 57, See also Hassard v 
Clark, 13 L. Rep. Irish Ch. Div., 391 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 203 

It is further enacted by this section that : 

' Nothing in this Act shall affect any special right 
of killing or taking ground game to which any person 
other than the landlord, lessor, or occupier may have 
become entitled before the passing of this Act by 
virtue of any franchise, charter, or Act of Parliament.' 

This is a very important provision, since it defeats 
the right of an ' occupier ' to kill ground game if the 
land in his occupation happens to be land over which 
a right of free warren is claimed. We have already 
alluded to this contingengy in the chapter on warrens, 
where we have cited, by way of illustration (pp. 55, 
56), the typical case of Lord Carnarvon v. Clarkson, 
which see. 

The sixth section of the Act prohibits the shooting 
of ground game by night, setting spring traps any- 
where except in rabbit holes, and employing poison. 

The question has arisen whether this section — 
particularly the prohibition as to spring traps — applies 
to owners who are in occupation of their own land. 
The point was raised and decided in the case of 
Smith v. Hunt, 1 which came before the magistrates 
at Worcester in 1885. It was contended on the part 
of the prosecution that the Act applied to all persons 
having the right of killing ground game, including 
1 54 Law Times Reports, p. 422. 



204 THE RABBIT 



owners occupying their own land, and on the part of 
the defendant (an owner) it was urged that the Act 
applied to occupiers only. The magistrates were 
unable to agree as to the true construction of the 
section, and decided to dismiss the summons, and 
state a case for the opinion of a superior court. 
Accordingly in the Queen's Bench Division on 
November 26, 1885, before Justices Mathew and 
Smith, the case came on for argument, when the 
appeal was dismissed with costs, the judges being of 
opinion that Section 6 of the Act does not apply to 
owners who occupy their own land. 

It is a well-known principle in courts of justice that 
the meaning of an Act of Parliament must be based 
upon the wording of the Act, and not upon the sup- 
posed intention of those who framed it. Nevertheless, 
it is curious that judges so frequently refer to what they 
consider the manifest intention of the Legislature, and 
yet give a construction that is very different from what 
was explained in Parliament. 

So in the present case, Mr. Justice Mathew ob- 
served : ' I think it is clear from the wording of the Act 
alone, that the Legislature had no intention of restrict- 
ing the undoubted rights which landlords possessed 
before the Act was passed to deal with their land and 
kill the game thereon in any way they liked.' 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 205 

That this was not the intention of the Legislature 
may be seen from the report of the debates during the 
progress of the Bill through Committee. The clause 
relating to spring traps originally stood thus : i Neither 
such occupier nor any person authorised by him shall 
employ spring traps above ground for the purpose of 
killing ground game.' Had the Bill been passed in 
that form the limitation in the use of spring traps 
would, of course, not have applied to landlords ; 
but Mr. Gregory moved an amendment altering the 
clause to ' no person having a right of killing ground 
game under this Act or otherwise ; ' on which the 
Home Secretary, Sir William Harcourt, observed that, 
' Seeing that the amendment placed the landlord and 
tenant on the same footings he was willing to accept 
it.' It passed accordingly ; and what was afterwards 
Sir William Harcourt's view as to the meaning of the 
law which he was so instrumental in getting passed, is 
shown by what he stated in the House of Commons 
in May, 1883, in reply to Sir A. Gordon, who inquired 
whether Her Majesty's Government would move 
Parliament to restore in Scotland the liberty to use 
spring traps in rabbit runs, of which they have been 
deprived by the Ground Game Act. Sir William 
Harcourt said, ' It did not really take away from the 
tenant farmers anything which as a right they enjoyed 



2o6 THE RABBIT 



(i.e. before the passing of the Act), because under the 
terms of their leases they were prohibited from killing 
game in any way whatever. But during the progress 
of the Bill it was represented to him that other persons 
were allowed to set spring traps, and in this way they 
could kill a great many things besides rabbits. It 
seemed to him that spring traps were cruel things, and 
he intended to limit the use of spring traps not against 
tenants only, but against everybody. Nobody was 
allowed, whether proprietor or tenant \ to set a spring 
trap in the open, and for this reason, that it killed a 
great many animals that it was not desired to kill.' 

Thus it is clear that the construction placed upon 
the sixth section of the Act by the Justices of Appeal 
in Smith v. Hunt is not in accordance with the ex- 
pressed intention of the Government as stated by Sir 
William Harcourt. 

Nevertheless their decision has been followed in 
the case of McMahon v. Hannon, which came before 
the Exchequer Division, Dublin, on May 15, 1888, by 
way of appeal on a case stated by the Justices of the 
Co. Clare, sitting at Dunass. The Lord Chief Baron 
and Mr. Justice Andrews were of opinion that the 
sixth section of the Act did not apply to owners of 
land in fee simple in possession, but only to occupiers 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 207 



not in fee simple. From this view Baron Dowse 
dissented. 1 

The decision in these two cases, which had 
reference to spring traps only, will of course apply 
equally to the use of poison, and to shooting at night, 
as all are included in the same section. It would 
follow, also, that a sporting tenant who rents the 
shooting from an owner in occupation, will, in regard 
to Section 6 of the Act, be in the position of the owner. 
Under Section 7, a person (e.g. an ordinary shoot- 
ing tenant) who is not in occupation of the land, but 
has the sole right of killing the game thereon — subject 
to the concurrent right of the ' occupier ' to the ground 
game — has as much authority to institute legal pro- 
ceedings as if he were exclusive owner, without pre- 
judice of course to the right of the occupier. 

The eighth section of the Act defines the words 

'ground game' to mean ' Hares and Rabbits.' 

The ninth section provides that a person acting in 

conformity with this statute shall not thereby be 

1 Reported in The Field of May 26, 1888. See also the case 
of Saunders v. Pitfleld, which came before the Divisional Court 
by way of appeal from the magistrates at Bishop's Lydeard, 
Somerset. In this case the defendant claimed, as tenant from 
year to year under an agreement, made prior to the Act, in which 
there was no reservation of shooting rights to the lessor, and the 
magistrates decided that the Act did not apply. The Court of 
Appeal decided otherwise. See The Fields January 28, 1888. 



2o8 THE RABBIT 



subject to any proceedings or penalties in pursuance 
of any other statute. For example, if under this Act 
he were to take out a ten-shilling gun licence and 
proceed to shoot rabbits, he could not be prosecuted 
under the Game Licences Act i860, for shooting 
rabbits without a game licence. 

The tenth section has reference to the killing of 
ground game on days on which under other statutes 
the killing of game is prohibited (as for example on a 
Sunday or on Christmas Day, or at night), and is to 
be read in harmony with such statutes. 

Although rabbits may be killed all the year round, 
there is no close time for hares except Sundays and 
Christmas Day, when no dog, gun, net or other 
engine may be used to take them (1 & 2 Will. IV. 
cap. 32). 

The Hares Preservation Act of 1892, however, 
makes it illegal to sell or expose for sale any hare 
or leveret during the months of March, April, May, 
June or July, although this does not apply to foreign 
hares which may have been imported. The marked 
omission of the word ' kill ' in a statute framed osten- 
sibly for the purpose of preserving hares, will pro- 
bably strike most people as a reductio ad ahsurdum. 
In Ireland, however, by 42 & 43 Vict., c. 23, no 
one may kill or take a hare between April 20 and 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 209 

August 12, under a penalty of 20s. \ and in many 
counties this close time has since been varied by the 
Lord Lieutenant on application of the Grand Juries, 
so as to extend from April 1 to August 12. 

If a snare be set on a Saturday and game be 
caught on Sunday, it is deemed to be used on Sunday 
within the meaning of the Act, and the person setting 
it is liable to a penalty, though he may not have been 
on the land on Sunday. 1 

The eleventh and last section gives the short title 
of the Act and is as follows : — ' This Act may be cited 
for all purposes as the Ground Game Act 1880.' 

Various points from time to time arise which, 
although outside the direct wording of the Act, are 
nevertheless more or less connected with points 
expressly governed by it. For example, the question 
sometimes arises whether an ' owner ' has the right to 
ferret rabbits on the land which he has let to the 
1 occupier.' The farmer will maintain that he has not, 
and that he can only kill the ground game when out 
shooting. But the farmer is wrong. An ■ occupier ' 
has no monopoly of any particular method of capture 
conferred on him by the Ground Game Act. He has 
merely a concurrent right to kill the hares and rabbits 
on the land in his occupation, and the landlord 

1 Allen v. Thompson, L. R. 5 Q.I>. 336 ; 22 L.T. 472. 

P 



THE RABBIT 



retains a similar right. Both may employ dogs, 
ferrets, traps, nets, and snares; in fact, whatever 
method is legal to the one is legal to the other, unless 
the Act states otherwise. The fact that no mention 
of ' ferreting ' is made in the Act shows that the right 
remains unaltered ; for if the landlord had been de- 
prived of such right, the Act would have stated it in 
express terms. 

When an ' owner ' has let his shooting for a term, 
he must be careful not to let before the expiration of 
that term any portion of the same land to an agricul- 
tural tenant who might claim as ' occupier ' a right to 
kill the ground game. This happened in the case of 
Reade v. Whitmore where a shooting tenant under 
these circumstances brought an action against the 
owner for breach of implied covenant for quiet enjoy- 
ment, and the Court decided in his favour. 1 

This shows the necessity, when letting shooting 
rights, of having a clear understanding as to the 
ground game ; and an owner who may contemplate 
a subsequent letting of some or all of the land for 
agricultural purposes should expressly stipulate with 
the shooting tenant that such letting shall not be 
deemed a breach of contract. The shooting tenant, 
on the other hand, should ascertain whether the land 
1 The Field, April 25, 1 891. 



THE GROUND GAME ACT 



is, or is not, in the owner's occupation, and if it is, 
should see that his agreement specifies the sum which 
is to be allowed off the rent in the event of any 
portion being subsequently let. Of course if the 
tenant agrees to the landlord's proviso, that any such 
letting for agricultural purposes is not to be deemed a 
breach of contract, no claim for reduction of rent can 
arise. 

When commenting on Section 7 of the Act 
(p. 207) we referred to the power of a shooting tenant 
to institute legal proceedings as if he were owner. 
It is important to note that when a right of shooting 
is let, the agreement between the parties should be 
in writing under hand and seal. A mere letter, such as 
would suffice in an ordinary case of bargain or sale, 
will not answer the purpose ; for the right of sporting 
is ' an incorporeal hereditament,' for the legal trans- 
fer of which a formal deed is necessary, and without 
this neither the lessor nor the lessee, in case of dispute, 
would be able to enforce his right. It is true that a 
simple permission in writing (for example by letter) 
would be sufficient authority to the holder for merely 
shooting over the ground ; but it would not enable 
him to prosecute trespassers in pursuit of game, nor 
to do any other act which is exercisable only by an 
owner. Half the disputes which arise over shooting 

p 2 



THE RABBIT 



agreements are generally N due to a disregard of this 
precaution. 

The patient reader who has followed us thus far 
will probably be of opinion that, although this lengthy 
chapter may even now be not quite exhaustive of the 
subject, for most practical purposes, perhaps, enough 
has been written. We need only add that a copy of 
c The Ground Game Act' costs but three-halfpence, 
and may be obtained from the Queen's Printers, 
Messrs. Eyre & Spottiswoode, East Harding Street, 
Fetter Lane, E.G. 



213 



CHAPTER VIII 

RABBIT-HAWKING WITH THE GOSHAWK 

In foregoing chapters some account has been given 
of the various ways of taking rabbits by netting, 
snaring, ferreting, and shooting, each of which will 
commend itself differently to different readers accord- 
ing to their respective tastes. There remains yet 
another phase of sport to be described ; and although 
in reality a very ancient one, it will probably appear 
to most people both novel and attractive. We refer 
to the art of taking rabbits with a trained goshawk. 
We find both rabbit and goshawk (as well as ferret) 
mentioned in the Book of St. Albans, i486, and 
learn from that very curious compilation the technical 
terms which were expected to be known by ' gentyl- 
men and honeste persones in comunynge of theyr 
hawkes,' and other animals. For instance, when 
referring to old rabbits it was customary to speak of a 



214 THE RABBIT 



'bury of coneys/ or if young, 'a nest of rabbettes.' * 
The sportsman found a coney ' syttynge,' and when 
killed, it was not skinned but 'unlacyd,' while the 
warrener's useful four-footed allies were referred to as 
a ' besynesse of ferettes ' — all very quaint, though the 
sport itself was pretty much the same then as now. 

Rabbit-hawking has much to recommend it. It 
is not difficult to carry out in an enclosed country 
where long-winged hawks cannot be flown; it is an 
effective mode of keeping down the stock of rabbits 
in places where they are apt to become too numerous ;' 
it may be practised at any season of the year, and, as 
it may be pursued without any noise, it does not, like 
shooting, disturb the winged game. As to the sport 
which it affords to those who participate in it, experto 
crede. 

The first thing to be done, of course, is to procure 
a goshawk, and for this one must send to France or 
Germany. It is very many years since a goshawk's 
nest was found in Great Britain ; not since Colonel 
Thornton, of Thornville Royal, Yorkshire, a keen 
falconer and good all-round sportsman, discovered 
one in the forest of Rothiemurcus and trained one of 
the young birds. This was at the end of the last, or 

1 See our remarks on the original application of the word 
rabbit, p. 4. 



RABBIT-HAWKING WITH THE GOSHAWK 215 

beginning of the present century, since which time no 
similar discovery has been recorded. The goshawks 
trained and flown in England at the present day (and 
we know of many) are procured from France or 
Germany ; chiefly from France, where, thanks to the 
good offices of some of the French falconers, they 
are annually looked after, the nests protected, and the 
young birds secured at the proper season. The price 
varies with the age and condition of the bird. You 
may get one through a German dealer for a couple 
of pounds, but it will be a chance whether the flight 
feathers will be unbroken, and perfect wings are a 
sine qua non in the case of a hawk that is to be 
trained and flown. It is better to pay a little more, 
as at the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris, and secure 
a good one. Occasionally a goshawk is taken in a 
bow-net by one of the Dutch hawk-catchers at 
Valkenswaard in North Brabant, and is sent to Eng- 
land with the falcons which are annually forwarded 
in autumn to the members of the Old Hawking Club 
and others ; but as a rule the birds captured there 
are peregrines, for which at the present day there is 
greater demand. 

As to the mode of training, if the purchaser of a 
goshawk has never handled a hawk before, and knows 
nothing of the matter, he will do well to provide him- 



216 THE RABBIT 



self with some modern treatise on the subject (such 
as 'Hints on the Management of Hawks,' published 
at The Field office), wherein he will learn the rudi- 
ments of falconry, and find a special chapter on the 
goshawk. If he wishes to find real enjoyment in the 
sport, he must train the bird himself, and not depute 
it to another. A hawk 'must learn to know her owner, 
or she will not allow him to take her up when she has 
killed her quarry. She must be fed by him ; carried 
by him on the glove as much as possible, bare-headed, 
that is unhooded, to accustom her to the sight of 
men and dogs, that she may put off all fear and 
become as fond of him as a dog would be, knowing 
his voice and obeying his call, or 'lure.' 

Supposing that the hawk has had put on the legs, 
just above the feet, 'jesses' (or little leather straps) 
by which she is held, to the ends of which are attached 
the ' swivel ' and ' leash ' by means of which she is 
tethered to the 'perch' or 'block,' the first step is to 
get her to come off the perch on to the glove to be 
fed ; and this is accomplished by offering a little bit 
• of meat, or the leg of a fowl, or rabbit. When she 
will step readily on to the fist, the leash being untied, 
the distance should be increased from a foot to a 
yard, and at length to several yards, until eventually 
she will fly willingly across the room to her master. 



RABBIT-HAWKING WITH THE GOSHAWK 217 

This lesson being repeated out of doors from a 
field-gate, or the top of a stone wall, while for 
safety a long line is attached to the swivel, she will in 
a few days come readily when ' called off,' and the 
line may then be discarded. 

She may then be lured with a dead rabbit, or a 
part of one, thrown down and drawn with a string 
along the grass. After coming readily to this several 
times, she is next to be ' entered ' to the live quarry. 
For this purpose a young rabbit or two may be easily 
procured by ferreting, and being placed under an 
inverted flower-pot which can be pulled over from 
a distance with a piece of string and a cross-stick 
through the hole in the bottom, the hawk is slipped 
at the right moment, and rarely fails to take the 
rabbit at the first attempt. Another trial or two of 
this kind, and she is ready to fly at a wild one. The 
critical part of the training is now at hand, and great 
care must be taken to avoid disappointing the hawk ; 
that is to say, the rabbit should be well in the open, 
and not within reach of a hedgerow or burrow into 
which it may pop just as the hawk is about to seize 
it. It must be remembered, says Capt. F. H. Salvin, 
who has paid much attention to the goshawk, that 
one great point in the successful training of all young 
hawks is to avoid, as far as possible, disappointment 



218 THE RABBIT 



in their early attempts. This necessitates the sacrifice 
of some few unfortunate birds or beasts, which have 
no chance of escape given to them, but is in reality 
little more than what other sports demand, such as 
cub-hunting, and the numbers of young grouse or 
other game annually sacrificed in the process of dog- 
breaking before the commencement of the shooting 
season. A small stock of rabbits, say four or five, 
had better be caught for the purpose of ' entering.' 
As soon as a goshawk will take these rabbits in a 
' creance ' (or long line) she may be considered ready 
for the field. Encouraged by the success of these 
first attempts, she will go on improving every day, 
and the more she is carried and flown the better she 
will become. 

The worst fault which a goshawk possesses is that 
of ' taking stand/ that is, perching on a tree in order 
to command a good position when the game is put 
up. Unless very keen, a hawk in this position will 
refuse to come down to the ' lure,' and will obstinately 
sit still, looking in all directions for the quarry. For 
this reason it is a good plan to begin the training on 
open ground destitute of trees. 

Some persons are under the impression that flying 
a trained hawk on a manor must tend to drive the 
game away ; but this is not the case. It has been 



RABBIT-HAWKING WITH THE GOSHAWK 219 

conclusively shown elsewhere l that flying falcons at 
grouse does not spoil the moor for shooting, and it is 
the same with the goshawk when flown at rabbits. 
All is done so quietly, that one may capture a dozen 
rabbits in an afternoon without disturbing the game 
half so much as if a dozen shots were fired. On this 
question the following letter, received from one who 
has tried it, is to the point : ' Having enjoyed four 
seasons' hawking with a well-known sportsman, who 
has about 5,000 acres of shooting, I have heard it said 
by many, and have noticed it myself, that we found 
more game on ground where we had had three 
seasons' hawking, than on those portions of the farm 
where we could not hawk. I hope the good old 
sport will increase.' 

To show what success may be attained even in the 
first season with a young goshawk, we may refer to 
the bag made by a falconer still living. In his first 
season with a young female goshawk (better than a 
male because larger and stronger) he took 322 rabbits, 
3 hares, and 2 magpies, and the following season 
280 rabbits, 2 leverets, n partridges, 4 magpies, and 
2 squirrels. 

A well-trained goshawk, belonging to Mr. John 

1 Hints on the Management of Hawks, second edition, 1898, 
pp. 89-92. 



THE RABBIT 



Riley, of Putley Court, Herefordshire, took 70 rabbits 
in fifteen days, killing to on her best day. This was 
in her third season. In 'her first year she took no 
rabbits, 2 pheasants, 1 3 water-hens, and 1 rat ; in her 
second season 130 rabbits, 1 pheasant, 3 water-hens, 
and 1 stoat. The same falconer trained a male gos- 
hawk, which in his first season took 26 partridges, 
10 pheasants, 16 rabbits, 5 landrails, 12 water-hens, 
and 1 stoat. 

In The Field of May 2, 1896, Sir Henry Boynton, 
of Burton Agnes, Hull, wrote as follows : 

' It may interest some of your readers, who are 
lovers of falconry, to learn what I have done with a 
nestling goshawk which I brought from Nordland, 
Norway, in June, 1895. She killed her first wild rabbit 
on September 1 7. Her two best days were as follows : 
the best 24 rabbits out of 24 flights ; the next best day 
20 rabbits out of 24 flights. The hawk had through- 
out the season, on an average, a three-quarter crop a 
day, and was consequently in the very highest condi- 
tion, which rendered her able to undergo the hardest 
work that a hawk is capable of enduring. She was 
flown on seventy days, and the total bag for the season 
was : rabbits 407, hare 1, rats 5, stoat 1, weasel 1, total 
415 head ; and every one of the quarry mentioned was 
killed in fair flight, without being handled in any way.' 



RABBIT-HUNTING WITH THE GOSHAWK 221 

It is, of course, not to be supposed that the hawk 
will kill every time she is flown. The rabbit may get 
to ground, or into a hedgerow, before he is overtaken ; 
and the owner, if he be wise, will not slip his hawk at 
a rabbit which is too near one or the other of such re- 
treats. There should be plenty of room, and the longer 
the course the better for all concerned. 

In the accompanying illustration it will be seen 
that a rabbit on being put up has made straight for a 
sandpit ; the hawk might have seized him on the very 
edge of it, but just as she has clutched at him, he 
has leapt boldly down the steep bank, and in another 
second will be gone to ground ' — 

* Whoo-oop ! ' 



THE RABBIT 



CHAPTER IX 

THE COOKERY OF THE RABBIT 

By Alexander Innes Shand 

The rabbit is a most useful and respectable animal, 
yet his merits have been unfairly ignored, simply 
because he is cheap and common. Almost unknown 
to the menus of the modern haute cuisine, we suspect 
that, as the conger eel often does duty for turtle, he 
has figured anonymously in dishes of world-wide 
reputation. To take a single example : we have good 
reason to surmise that he often served for the founda- 
tion of the famous potage a la Bagration, the secret 
of which was religiously kept by the defunct Freres 
Provengaux of the Palais Royal. That most seductive 
of soups was supposed to be based upon sweetbreads 
or chicken. A casual indiscretion leads us to believe 
that the rabbit entered largely into its composition, 
but the invaluable recipe is probably irrecoverable. 
While the Provengal brothers flourished, and since 
their demise, ' Bagration ' has been paraded in many 
a bill of fare, but neither at the Old Philippe's, nor 



THE COOKERY OF THE RABBIT 223 



at the Cafe Anglais, nor at Bignon's have we ever 
recognised the genuine masterpiece. 

The rabbit is cheap and common ; but he is grow- 
ing in popularity, and is destined to cut a more 
conspicuous figure in the future than in the past. 
The old order is changing, and the subversive spirit 
of democracy is invading the game market. Prices 
are being levelled downwards ; the luxuries of the 
last generation are losing in consideration, and what 
used to be rarities have ceased to be rare. The 
finest park-fed venison seldom appears now at private 
tables, and such a thing as the exquisite saddle of 
roedeer, the favourite Rehrilcke of the Germans, is 
never to be seen. As for the fore-quarters of the deer, 
they are become a mere drug in the market. The 
frugal housekeeper finds pheasants more economical 
than fowls, when the big shoots of the autumn are 
on ; and with the craze for deadly days, and the rivalry 
in record bags, they are likely in the future to sell as 
freely in the New Cut as in Bond Street. Moreover, 
British prejudices are breaking down, and year by 
by year the trade is growing in game from America 
and the Continent. It has been discovered that 
prairie-hens, hazel-hens, and the Russian and Scan- 
dinavian ptarmigan are very often excellent eating, 
though speculating in them is always something of a 



224 THE BABBIT 



lottery. Every intelligent man knows that when he 
buys a ' Norfolk hare,' it has more probably been 
imported from Central Germany, nor is it any the 
worse for that. In short, each ' piece ' of game 
begins to be taken on its merits, and when the rabbit 
has fair play with furred and feathered competitors, 
we are assured he must come to the front with the 
leaps and bounds which carry him out of the coverts 
into the sprouting wheat. 

What is certain is that we shall always have him, 
not only in a sufficiency but in superabundance, and 
out of sheer charity to the farmers we are bound 
to consume him. Fortunately it is a case where 
philanthropy should coincide with inclination. The 
coop-bred pheasant is an artificial product, and might 
disappear with a change in sporting fashions. Sir 
William Harcourt has shown us that a caprice of the 
Legislature may well nigh exterminate the aboriginal 
hare. But we defy the most drastic Act of Parlia- 
ment to set limits to the amazing fertility of the 
rabbit. He is as industrious in multiplying himself as 
the rat or the guinea-pig, and has resources in render- 
ing himself a nuisance which challenge competition. 
He swarms everywhere in sandy or light soil, and 
even when he seeks his settlements in the stiffest 
clay, he scoops out sanctuaries in labyrinths of 



THE COOKERY OF THE RABBIT 225 



burrows. They tell us that he originally passed into 
tawny Spain from more torrid Africa, though as to 
whether he was introduced by the invading Arabs, 
swam the Straits, or passed through the submarine 
tunnel by which the monkeys came from Apes Hill to 
the Rock of Gibraltar, the soundest historians are not 
agreed. Be that as it may, it seems certain that 
Spain is his European Stammland, whence he has 
spread over all southern countries to the shores of the 
yEgean. 

The Spaniards have always had him in high con- 
sideration. He is engraved on their ancient coins and 
medals, and we are told by Strabo that they used to con- 
sign him by shiploads to the Roman markets. ' Lord, 
what a draught London has ! ' exclaimed Scott in his 
diary, when he saw a fleet of Thames smacks fishing 
off Cape Wrath. But that was nothing to the draught 
of Republican or Imperial Rome, when a Lucullus 
or a Vitellius was ransacking- the Roman world for 
luxuries. As there were no refrigerating chambers 
in those days, we can only suppose that live rabbits 
were stowed away in hutches. Considering the 
length and chances of the voyage, the freights could 
not have been low, and the rabbits must have been 
intended for the tables of the wealthy. And they must 
have been consigned very much out of condition, as the 

Q 



226 THE RABBIT 



natives dredged in the Colchester beds or the shell-fish 
trapped off the Cornish tinneries. But in his native 
Spain the rabbit is indeed a delicacy. Perhaps he 
shows to the greater advantage by contrast ; for the 
beef is leather, and the mutton india-rubber. But the 
rabbit fattens on the best grazing going, and the very 
air he inhales is balm, among the wild thyme and 
aromatic shrubs of the dehesas and depoblados. So 
in a country where the game laws are laughed to 
scorn, the muleteer or mounted wayfarer has always 
the gun lying across the saddle bow, in readiness 
for the snapshot. Then the rabbit is stuffed into the 
mouth of the saddle bag, to be brought forth and 
stewed down for the evening's puchero. But though it 
is an agreeable variety on the rare scraps of rusty bacon 
or the garlic-scented sausages, the frugal Spaniard 
never hesitates to make merchandise of his prize. 
Many a time has the forlorn Englishman, riding far 
away from the lean larders of the fondas, and meditat- 
ing ruefully on the doubtful chances of supper in 
posada or venta, which only supplies shelter and fires, 
had a pleasant awakening when he met some poaching 
rascal with a rabbit or a brace of red-legged partridges 
to sell. There was slight haggling over the blissful 
bargain. And at nightfall, sitting over the smoulder- 
ing charcoal fire, in the mixed group of muleteers 



THE COOKERY OF THE RABBIT 227 

goatherds and mendicants, he could possess his soul 
in patience and the savoury steam of the stew where 
his rabbit was slowly simmering in the pipkin. The 
pleasures of hope were tryingly prolonged, but there 
was ample reward in the rich fruition. As we shall 
remark, the rabbit is conspicuous in our literature by 
its absence, but we have always marvelled that we 
hear little or nothing of it either in ' Don Quixote ' or 
' Gil Bias.' We know that the Governor of Barataria 
was a gourmand, and the worthy Squire of the Knight- 
errant, with the scent of an old dog fox, was the very 
prince of foragers. What gastronomist can fail to 
sympathise with his raptures when he exultingly 
marked the cowheels for his own ? It was like coming 
on a water spring in the wastes of the Sahara. And 
as it is inconceivable that he never picked up rabbits 
en route, we can only suppose that Cervantes had a 
prejudice on the subject. Possibly he was surfeited 
with rabbits when chained to the galley oars in Bar- 
bary ; but we confess that that theory is on the face 
of it improbable. 

Borrow, although a militant envoy of the Bible 
Society, inured to hard fare and rough quarters, had 
a strong dash of the gourmet in the natural man. 
We always remember with pleasure the unfeigned 
enjoyment of Lavengro over the round of beef at the 

Q 2 



228 THE RABBIT 



coaching house on the western road, when he rose like 
a giant refreshed at the invitation of the superstitious 
squire to walk away to a second dinner. Riding 
through the robber-haunted country from Lisbon 
to Madrid, he arrived at the heaven-forsaken hamlet 
of Pegoens. Expecting little, he was agreeably sur- 
prised in the miserable inn, which bore the ominous 
sobriquet of ' The Hostelry of Thieves.' i We had a 
rabbit fried, the gravy of which was delicious, and 
afterwards a roasted one, which was brought up on 
a dish entire : the hostess having first washed her 
hands, proceeded to tear the animal to pieces, which 
having accomplished, she poured over the fragments 
a sweet sauce. I ate heartily of both dishes, particu- 
larly of the last, owing perhaps to the novel and 
curious manner in which it was served up.' That 
semi-barbarous landlady knew what she ' was about, 
for the fault of roasted rabbit is the dryness. The 
fatless flesh parches in the cooking like the plains of 
La Mancha in the summer droughts. But Pegoens 
is in the very heart of a desolate country, where the 
rabbits, sheltering from the circling birds of prey, 
revel near the mouths of their burrows in the fragrant 
undergrowth which supplies them at once with food 
and protection. Borrow in his character of the 
Romany Rye must have been skilled in the dressing 



THE COOKERY OF THE RABBIT 229 

of the rabbit. For Mr. Petulengro and his other 
gypsy pals seldom take their strolls abroad without 
snares in their pockets : and where they bivouac the 
buries are laid under contribution. They have no 
objection to the pheasant or the fowl, but the rabbit 
in their menus ranks rather above the hare, and, in 
fact, comes only second to the hedgehog. 

The rabbit followed the Saracen — or preceded 
him — into Sicily and Southern Italy ; for we have 
seen that he was imported as a foreign delicacy in 
the time of the old Romans. We can sympathise 
the more cordially with Borrow at Pegoens, that we 
remember a famous stew unexpectedly served to us at 
Calatafimi, when the Sicilian muleteer had gone on 
an unsuccessful foray, and came back with nothing 
but sausages and black bread. Fleas and mosquitos 
were busy that night, but, thanks to that supper, after 
the weary ride, sleep set them at defiance. We have 
seldom seen the rabbit in Naples. He was a luxury 
beyond the reach of the Lazzaroni, who live through 
the summer chiefly on water-melons, and in winter 
on the untempting circular J>izze, apparently less 
nutritious than stale ship-biscuit. But he figures 
ostentatiously in the Roman markets, which are even 
more interesting to the naturalist and the student of 
national tastes than to the gourmet. The descendants 



230 THE RABBIT 



of a noble race may have degenerated, but at least 
they are superior to vulgar prejudices. They have 
laid to heart one precept of their saintly patron, for 
they call nothing that is edible common or unclean. 
Go into the Piazza Navona, or any of the other 
markets, of a morning, before the cooks have done 
bargaining for the provision of the day, and you will 
see as miscellaneous an assortment of viands as may 
be met with anywhere. Rabbits and frogs, and not 
unfrequently cats, rub shoulders with quails, beccaficos, 
and ortolans. The famous Roman dinner at the 
Minerva, and, still more, an improvised luncheon at 
some osteria in the Campagna, used to be a triumph 
of gastronomic license. The comparatively rare 
porcupine took the pas ; for the Romans are as 
devoted to that highly flavoured dainty as the 
Algerians and Kabyles ; but the rabbits, spitted or 
stewed, were always among the pieces de resistance. 
The motley morning spectacle in a Roman market 
reminds us of a more aesthetic group, elaborated by 
Eugene Sue in the ' Gourmandise ' of his ' Sept Peches 
Capitaux.' The Doctor Gasterini, in advocating the 
vice he maintains to be a virtue, leads his guest 
to the stall of his nephew, Leonard, the poacher. 
Leonard, with the inspiration of the sylvan artist, has 
arranged a game trophy ; the wild boar and the deer 



THE COOKERY OF THE RABBIT 231 

are swinging from a tree trunk, and rabbits are 
festooned around, with wild geese, pheasants and red 
partridges. But the French, being a nation of cooks, 
have set a due value on their rabbits, and not a few 
of their novelists have delighted to do them honour. 
A solide lapin is a title of respect, bestowed by the 
reckless criminal class on some truculent athlete. 
Sue, in the ' Mysteres de Paris,' makes the ' Lapin 
Blanc ' the resort of his outcasts and ruffians. The 
outlawed poacher Bete-puante, in his 'Enfant Trouve,' 
snares rabbits and tenches in the swamps where he 
goes to earth with the foxes and badgers. George 
Sand refers to the rabbit frequently in her romances 
of the desolate Sologne. We are somewhat surprised 
that Dumas makes no reference to him in ' Le 
Meneur de Loups,' where he passes most sorts of 
game under review. That explains itself, however • 
for, as Thiebault hunted with a cortege of wolves, the 
rabbits scuttled to their burrows when they heard the 
pack giving tongue. Then there are the cockney or 
realistic novelists of France who leave the field and 
the forest for the city and the cooking range. The 
gibelotte de lapin is a standard plat at all the bourgeois 
restaurants of thebanlieue and environs, from Boulogne 
to Vincennes and Enghien to Fontainebleau. Seldom 
is there a merry-making in Paul de Kock, Gaboriau, 



232 THE RABBIT 



or Zola, but the hungry holiday-makers are looking 
out for the gibelotte. And there is the standard joke 
that the cat often does duty for his confrere, when the 
absence of the head excites suspicion. Though that 
is, of course, a calumny in most cases ; for cats are 
less easily come by than coneys. 

In Belgium a profitable business is done in 
rabbit-breeding. Nothing except the rabbit of Spain 
can. be superior to the wild rabbit of the Ardennes ; 
but the so-called Belgian hares which are reared in 
hutches have lost much of the savage flavour. Great 
pains is taken in rearing them ; they are a large and 
very prolific variety of what is virtually a rabbit. The 
hutches have projecting roofs to throw off the rain 
and are floored with wire gratings ; the rabbits are 
shifted twice or thrice a day ; the young are soon 
separated from the mother, and killed under three 
months. Often as many as two hundred tons have been 
imported from Ostend in the cold season. Never- 
theless the meat is insipid and does not commend 
itself to the connoisseur. With the perfection of 
refrigerating chambers, the importation from Australia 
and New Zealand has been increasing fast. That is 
so far satisfactory ; but the rabbit threatens to be a 
curse to the distressed colonists. The enterprising 
gentlemen who sent over here for a few couples have 



THE COOKERY OF THE RABBIT 233 

pulled the string of an irrepressible douche bath. 
In the bracing climate and sandy soil, the new 
arrivals multiplied like fleas, and now they tell us that 
the supperless tiamp has only to sit down quietly by 
the track-side for his supper to jump into his arms. 
And as mutton in Australasia is still almost a drug, 
the destructive rabbit is superfluous for home con- 
sumption. In England he will always find a ready 
market, though prices may fall with an excessive 
supply. There was a .time, in the period of the 
carrier's cart and the sailing smack, when Scotch 
servants and retainers struck against the rabbits, as 
they did against the monotony of salmon and sea- 
trout. Nowadays, from the most northerly shootings, 
regular consignments are despatched to Liverpool or 
Hull, to be circulated through the mining districts 
and the Midlands. The rabbit has become a favour- 
ite food of the poorer classes, and all they have to 
learn is more appetising variety in cookery. 

It is suggestive that the rabbit is scarcely men- 
tioned in the English novel ; except, indeed, in those 
moral little tales where the virtuous peasant is first 
seduced into evil courses by snaring a hare or netting 
a rabbit for a sick wife, whence he passes on to the 
pot-house and the prison, and possibly to the gallows, 
after shooting a keeper. Scott, with his broad range 



234 THE RABBIT 



of the Buccleuch domains, made no account of such 
small deer, and in the caldron which Meg Merrilies 
cooked in the haunted Kaim of Derncleugh, there 
were hares and moor game, and partridges, and every- 
thing else but rabbits. Even Richard JefTeries, who 
can wax eloquent over a leg of mutton and mealy 
potatoes, and who must many a day have dined off 
rabbit on the Wiltshire Downs, ungratefully says not 
a word of it in its gastronomical aspects. In fact, 
the only allusion we can call to mind in the whole 
range of English domestic fiction is when the osten- 
tatious and parsimonious Jawleyford tells Mr. Sponge, 
on his return from hunting too late for lunch, that he 
had missed a most excellent rabbit pie. 

But in the olden time, in the charters of free 
warren granted by the Norman and Plantagenet 
kings, and before the advent of the pheasant or the 
preservation of the partridge, when rangers, fowlers, 
and fishermen were always abroad questing in the 
woodlands and on the meres, the rabbit received 
special attention. Now a warren has come to mean 
a space of ground entirely given up to him. Then he 
was the smallest, but the most common, of the lesser 
beasts of chase. The purveyors of the great barons, 
who daily fed in their halls whole troops of hungry 
retainers, found him extremely serviceable. More- 



THE COOKERY OF THE RABBIT 235 



over, he. was what the cooks of our middle classes 
call a company dish. At the grand feast given at 
the installation of the youngest brother of ' the King- 
maker' as Archbishop of York, in 1467, 4,000 rabbits 
appear in the bill of fare, taking immediate precedence 
of as many heronshaws. Archer, in his ' Highways 
of Letters,' describing ordinary dinners in the time of 
Chaucer, begins with a pottage, called ' buckernade,' 
made of fowl or rabbit, cut up fine and stewed, as 
was the fashion then,- with a diabolical variety of 
spices. The rabbit seems only to have lost caste 
with the change of dynasty on the demise of Queen 
Anne ; for the ' rabbit tart ' was a standing dish on 
the table of Her gouty Majesty, who was a noted 
gourmande and a voracious eater. In 'The Noble 
Boke of Cookry for a Prynce's Houseolde or any other 
estately houseolde,' which must have been written 
about the time of the great Neville banquet, rabbits 
are always set down in the services for the cooler 
months. Curiously enough, they seem generally to 
have been spitted — for, as we have said, a rabbit has 
no fat, and roasting is the worst use he can be put to. ) 
To make him tolerably succulent he must be elabo- 
rately basted. And no such careful basting could be 
practicable in the case of cooking four thousand 



236 THE RABBIT 



simultaneously. Here are some of those venerable 
recipes which have historic rather than gastronomic 
value. 

4 CONY ROST 

' A Conye tak and drawe him and parboile him 
rost him and lard him then raise his leggs and hys 
winges and sauce him with vinegar and powder of 
guinger and serue it.' Or 

< RABETTES ROST 

1 To rost rabettes tak and slay them draw them 
and rost them and let their heddes be in first par- 
boile them or ye rost them and serue them.' 

The sole alternative to the rough and ready ' rost ' 
was the ' cevy,' more artistic and in every way pre- 
ferable. 

' Smyt them in small pieces and sethe them in 
good brothe put them to mynced onyons and grece 
and drawe a Hour of brown bred and blod and seison 
it with venygar and cast in pouder and salt and 
serve it.' 

For as apple sauce has always gone with goose, 
bread sauce with white-fleshed birds, sweet sauce or 
wine sauce with venison, and barberry sauce with the 
strong-flavoured Italian wild boar, so onions were from 
the first associated with the rabbit, and with better 



THE COOKERY OF THE RABBIT 237 



reason than some of these other accompaniments. 
For the flavour of a mild onion is the complement of 
the modest gout of the rabbit, which it brings out by 
some recondite chemical attraction. The discoverer 
of the secret deserves well of posterity, though per- 
haps we are indebted for the sympathetic combination 
to stress of circumstances ; for when most vegetables 
were scarce with us. onions were common. Here is a 
good white onion sauce which, freely translated into 
French, might be called a la Soubise. 

Peel a dozen of onions and steep them in salt 
and water to blanch them. Boil in plenty of water 
and change it once at least ; chop them and pass them 
through a sieve, stir them up with melted butter, or 
roast the onions and pulp them. 

For a brown onion sauce, more prononce in 
flavour. Slice large Spanish onions : brown them in 
butter over a slow fire, add brown gravy, pepper and 
salt, and butter rolled in brown flour. Skim and put 
in a glass of port or Burgundy with half as much 
ketchup ; or, according to Meg Dodds, whose hints 
are always invaluable, add a dessert spoonful of 
walnut pickle or eschalot vinegar with some essence 
of lemon. 

She has a recipe for mushroom sauce for rabbits. 
' Wash and pick a large breakfast-cup full of small 



238 THE RABBIT 



button-mushrooms : take off the leathery skin and 
stew them in veal gravy, with pepper, cayenne, mace, 
nutmeg, salt, and a piece of butter rolled in flour or 
arrowroot to thicken, as the abounding gravy of the 
mushrooms makes this dish need a good deal of 
thickening. Stew till tender, stirring them now and 
then, and pour the sauce over the rabbits. Those 
who like a high relish of mushroom may add a spoon- 
ful of mushroom gravy, or the mushrooms may be 
stewed in cream and seasoned and thickened as above.' 

It is a good sauce, but, far from needing to 
strengthen the mushroom flavour, in our opinion it 
is essentially too strong. It somewhat oppresses the 
sweet simplicity of the rabbit, whereas, though it 
may seem paradoxical, currying appears to elicit it. 
This recipe is more suitable ; for celery is the most 
harmonious of all concomitants, though it does not 
come, like the onion, with a counterblast to provoke 
a piquancy : — 

Wash, pare and slice the sticks of celery. Blanch 
and boil and season with spices and pepper. Flavour 
the sauce with an infusion of lemon, but be niggardly 
with the condiments, which in excess must neutralise 
the flavour of the celery, not to speak of outraging the 
susceptibilities of the rabbit, 

Allusion to onions and sauces has tempted us on 



THE COOKERY OF THE RABBIT 239 

to the entrees, but in the due order of things we must 
turn back to the soups. For nothing does the rabbit 
come in more usefully than for mulligatawny : when 
that soup is most in request in cool weather, the 
rabbit is in his best condition ; there is as little 
reason to be frugal with him as with the Ettrick 
Shepherd's hare soup, and his recipe, if we remem- 
ber aright, was a half-dozen of hares to the tureen. 

Break up sundry rabbits and boil in three quarts 
of water w T ith a quarter-ounce of black pepper. Be 
sure to add a slice or two of bacon. Skim the stock 
when it boils, and let it simmer for an hour and a 
half before straining. Fry some of the choice morsels 
of the rabbit with sliced onions in a stewpan ; add 
the strained stock, skim, and, when it has simmered 
for three-quarters of an hour, throw in two dessert 
spoonfuls of curry powder, the same quantity of 
lightly browned flour, with salt and cayenne, and let it 
simmer again till the meat is thoroughly tender. A 
clove or two of garlic, shred and fried in butter, 
with a dash of lemon to taste, are decided improve- 
ments. 

N.B. Half the secret and charm of good mulli- 
gatawny is in the successful boiling of the rice, which 
ought to fall light and white and dry, like snow- 
flakes in frost or manna in the wilderness. The rice 



240 THE RABBIT 



after boiling should be drained and dried before the 
fire in a sieve reversed. 

As simple game soup, carve the rabbits carefully 
and fry with bacon, onions, carrots, &c. Drain and 
stew for an hour in beef stock, with celery and minced 
parsley. Small pieces of the rabbits may be fried and 
stewed in the broth. 

As we have seen, there were no rabbits in Meg 
Merrilies' caldron, but her namesake, Meg Dodds, 
gives a capital recipe for what she calls Poachers' 
Soup, or Soupe a la Meg Merrilies, for which 
rabbits may be used as well as anything else. Meg 
does not say whether it was the dish invented by 
M. Florence, chef to the Duke of Buccleuch, and 
served at Bowhill in honour of the author of 
1 Waverley.' 

' This savoury and highly relishing new stew soup 
may be made of anything or everything known by the 
name of game. Take from two to four pounds of the 
trimmings or coarse parts of venison, shin of beef, or 
shanks or lean scrag of good mutton, all fresh. 
Break the bones and boil this with a couple of carrots 
and turnips, four onions, a bunch of parsley and a 
quarter-ounce of peppercorns. Strain this stock when 
it has boiled for three hours. Cut down and skin a 
blackcock, a pheasant, half a hare or a rabbit, &c., 



THE COOKERY OF THE RABBIT 241 

and season the pieces with mixed spices. These may 
be floured and browned in the frying-pan, but as 
this is a process dictated by the eye as much as the 
palate, it is not necessary in this soup. Put the 
game to the strained stock with a dozen of small 
onions, a couple of heads of celery sliced, half a dozen 
peeled potatoes, and, when it boils, a small white 
cabbage quartered, black pepper, allspice and salt to 
taste. Let the soup simmer till the game is tender 
but not overdone.' The soup may be coloured and 
flavoured with red wine and a couple of spoonfuls of 
mushroom ketchup. 

It is an admirable dish for the gypsies of Dern- 
cleugh or the phenomenal gourmands of the Nodes 
AmbrosiancB) but obviously far too solid for the 
foundation of a refined banquet. So we suspect that 
M. Florence's rendering was a more sublimated ver- 
sion of the original, although he catered for salmon - 
fishers, shooters and coursers. 

We have said that roasting is the worst use to 
which you can put a rabbit, and we repeat it. But 
if you will roast, see that the rabbit is well basted. 
Skin and draw, leaving the ears ; dip them in boiling 
water and scrape off the hairs ; pick out the eyes ; 
cut off the feet ; wash in cold water and dry with a 
cloth, and cut the sinews at the back of the hind 

R 



242 THE RABBIT 



quarters and below the fore-legs. Prepare some 
savoury stuffing and fill the inside ; then draw the 
legs under, set the head between the shoulders and 
stick a skewer through them, passing through the 
neck ; run another skewer through the fore-legs, to 
be gathered up under the haunches ; take string, 
double it, place the middle in the breast, and carry 
both ends over the skewer ; cross the string on both 
sides, and fasten it. Spit and roast for an hour 
before a brisk fire, constantly basting with fresh 
dripping. Five minutes before serving dredge with 
flour and baste with fresh butter. When the rabbit 
has been richly browned, remove the string and 
skewers, dish it, and serve with brown gravy. 

For boiling, rabbits should be trussed neatly and 
boiled slowly. It is far better to overdo than to 
underdo, and they will take a full hour, unless very 
young and tender. They will be none the worse for 
an addition in the boiling of some suet and slices of 
lemon. To fry them, they are first cut up and done 
slowly in butter with sage and dried parsley. The 
liver may be crushed in a parsley sauce, and the 
parsley which the rabbit loved in life should be fried 
and strewed around him when he is sent to table. 
A variation is rabbit aux fines herbes. 

' Carve two plump young rabbits, and fry the 



THE COOKERY OF THE RABBIT 243 

pieces in butter with grated bacon and a handful of 
chopped mushrooms, parsley and eschalot, with salt 
and pepper. Boil a teaspoonful of flour with a little 
consomme, and pour into the stew-pan with the rabbits. 
Stew slowly ; skin and strain the sauce and serve it 
on the rabbits with lemon and cayenne.' A faint 
suspicion of garlic improves all these dishes. There 
is no better way of disposing of rabbits than smother- 
ing. Truss and boil and- smother in creamy onion 
sauce. Mrs. Dodds tells us that in Scotland they 
used to be smothered in an onion sauce made with 
clear gravy instead of melted butter, and that, if 
the dish looked less attractive, it was equally good. 
Whether rabbits are boiled to be smothered or boiled 
to be served au naturel, the essential is that the boil- 
ing should be as slow as possible and finished leisurely 
in front of the fire. 

Rabbit curry is always capital, and, if economy is 
to be considered, the fragments of former dishes may 
be utilised. The great thing is to make sure of good 
stock, and the cook's skill is shown in suiting the 
seasoning to the palates of those who are to partake. 
Tastes vary ; but it is obvious enough that the 
savour of the rabbit should not be swamped in too 
fiery a dressing. The cut meat is fried in butter with 
sliced Portugal onions over a quick fire. The artist 



244 THE RABBIT 



• 



must of course pay attention to the colouring, which 
ought to be soft Vandyke brown or glowing amber. 
When the colouring is achieved, add a pint of the stock, 
let it simmer for a quarter of an hour, throw in the 
curry powder with a spoonful of flour, and stir them 
into the sauce. When the curry is ready add another 
glass of cream, with a strong squeeze of the lemon. A 
clove of mild garlic will not be out of place, and for 
Indians who prefer a curry strongly spiced add a few 
capsicums or a lively chili. 

Mr. Jawleyford was not far wrong in his praise of 
a good pie, but much of the excellence depends on a 
judicious use of adjuncts. Mushrooms are almost 
indispensable, and even the freshest truffles are not 
wasted. Slices of egg are a decided improvement, 
and some people advocate forcemeat balls, though 
that is more open to question. At any rate, there 
can be no doubt about eschalots, anchovies, or 
Norwegian sprats, with butter or shred suet. But, 
above all, the pie should be paved with slices of fat 
bacon, and bacon should be interpolated through the 
pieces of rabbit. Strain the gravy, which should be 
boiled to a jelly. Crown with a rich puff-paste, and 
bake the pie according to size. Patties follow pie in 
natural sequence, and they make a convenient entree 
for the economical housekeeper. Mince the best 



THE COOKERY OF THE RABBIT 245 

parts of cold rabbits with some fine-shred suet. Get 
some good gravy, thicken with butter and flour, and 
season to taste with the inevitable lemon juice. Add 
a little claret or port — though the strictly economical 
may dispense with that — and a dash of chili or 
tarragon vinegar. Stew the mince and fill the patties, 
which had best be baked empty. 

Boudins de Richelieu probably owe their name 
to the roue lover of the Duchesse de Berri, one of 
the volatile daughters of the Regent Orleans. Riche- 
lieu was as great, though scarcely so scientific, a 
gourmet as the Regent, who was as much at home in 
his kitchens as in his chemical laboratory ; and the 
lady, by the way, is said to have prided herself on 
having devised the delicate filets de lapereau. The 
boudins are made of a forcemeat of rabbit beaten up 
with grated potatoes. Dressed onions or chopped 
mushrooms must be mixed with the stuffing. The 
forcemeat is rolled up in small sausages, then it is 
boiled or baked and served with brown sauce. It is 
the more probable that Richelieu invented these 
boudins, that the dish survives in the French haute 
cuisine^ and is the only form of the rabbit in cookery 
which Dubois condescends to notice in his portly 
volume de luxe. Possibly Dubois may have descended 
from the disreputable Abbe and Cardinal who was 



^ c>> 



246 THE RABBIT 



the Regent's ante damne. Dubois gives the recipe 
with a puree of chestnuts, and prefaces it thus : ' This 
is a forcemeat entree, pleasant, good, and offering 
great resources when the shooting season is over. 
With care it can be rendered distingue and elegant. 

' Forcemeat made of young rabbits must be pre- 
pared in the same proportions as that of the pheasant ; 
it must be worked for a few minutes with a spoon 
and a little melted glaze introduced, with a few table- 
spoonfuls of pickled tongue cut in the shape of very 
small dice. It is divided in pieces of the size of an 
egg, which are to fall on the floured table and be 
rolled with the hand so as to give them an oval form 
of the size of a cutlet.' N.B.— Mrs. Dodds gives the 
counsel of perfection, that the boudins should be 
rolled with a knife. 

' These boudifis are ranged in a sautoir, so as to 
poach them in boiling, salted water ; as soon as they 
are become firm, they are drained and trimmed in an 
oval form and bread-crumbed. Some clarified butter 
is warmed in a sautoir, the boudins ranged on its 
surface and coloured on a sharp fire, turning them 
at the same time. When fried to a nice colour, they 
are drained and dished in a circular order round a 
pyramid of chestnut puree. A sauceboat of reduced 
espagnole is served at the same time.' 



THE COOKERY OF THE RABBIT 247 



For cream of rabbit, the meat is pounded to a 
pulp in a mortar, passed through a sieve, then worked 
up with the yolks of several eggs, a gill of rich cream, 
seasoned with pepper, salt and nutmeg. When the 
blend is perfectly smooth, butter a mould, arrange 
thin slices of truffles at the bottom ; then put in the 
mixture, which should barely fill half the mould ; tie 
paper on the top ; place the mould in boiling water 
and steam it for an hour and a half. Serve with truffle 
sauce, or, failing truffles, with tomatoes. 

For Rabbit mould, make a case of paste in a 
mould of flour and water ; line the mould with it, fill 
up with dry flour and put it in the oven to brown ; 
leave it in the shape till cold, then turn it out. 
Remove the dry flour and egg the outside. Cut up 
a young rabbit or two ; stew in gravy with a little 
onion and a few cloves till the gravy is thick ; when 
ready heat the case in the oven ; turn the stew into 
the shape, and dish on a napkin. 

For Cutlets.— Cut out the fillets from the backs of 
two rabbits ; cut each in halves and shape as cutlets, 
season with salt and pepper. Stick a morsel of rib 
into the end of each ; egg and bread-crumb them ; 
fry them to a bright brown and serve with sauce to 
taste. Slices of bacon or ham should be sandwiched 
between the pieces of rabbit, and asparagus tops, 



248 THE RABBIT 



mushrooms, or other vegetables may be served in the 
centre. 

Mrs. Henry Reeve, in her judicious work on 
Cookery, gives an American recipe for barbecuing : — 

' Clean and wash the rabbit, which must be plump 
and young, and having opened it all the way on the 
under side, lay it flat, with a small plate to keep it 
down in salted water for half an hour. Wipe dry and 
broil whole, with the exception of the head, when 
you have gashed across the backbone in eight or ten 
places, that the heat may penetrate this, the thickest 
part. The fire should be hot and clear, the rabbit 
turned often. When browned and tender, lay upon 
a very hot dish, pepper and salt and butter profusely, 
turning the rabbit over and over to soak up the 
melted butter. Cover, and set in the oven for five 
minutes, and heat in a tin cup two tablespoonfuls of 
vinegar seasoned with one of made mustard. Anoint 
the hot rabbit well with this, cover and send to table 
garnished with crisp parsley.' 

Finally, the head is not to be neglected. It 
contains a variety of delicate picking, and gives light, 
desultory occupation to a wayward appetite. 



INDEX 



Accidents, 103, 104 

Acorns, good winter food, 35, 36 

Acre, number of rabbits to the, 

64, 65, 71, 72, 74 
^Elian, on rabbits in Spain, 3 
Age of wild rabbit, 12 
Agreements when void, 194- 

,, in writing, 211 

Agricultural labourers, 177- 178 
Ailments and diseases, 46 
Aiken, Sam, 75 
Amberite, 123 
Anne, Queen, and rabbit pie, 

235 

Antiquity of rabbit in England, 1 

Arboreal habits, 27 

Ardennes, rabbits in the, 232 

Arrest, right to, 165 

Asafcetida, 148 

Ascending trees, 27 

Assault by poacher, 167 

Assheton Smith, G. W., 16 

Australia, rabbits in, 232 

Austrian pine, 33 

Authority in writing, 181, 183 
,, form of, 189 
,, production of, 189 

Badger, 39, yy 
Badminton, Gloucestershire, 33 
Bags, good shooting, 114-115 
,, good hawking, 220 



Banks, Eustace, on rabbit biting, 

23 
Barbecued rabbit, 248 
Barrington, R. M., on rabbit's 

mode of feeding, 6 
Beagles for rabbiting, 109-113 
Beasts and fowls of warren, 1, 

53> 54 

Belgian hare, or leporine, 17, 
18, 19, 232 

Belgium, rabbit breeding in, 232 

Bells for ferrets, 93 

Berri, Duchesse de, 245 

Biting when wounded, 22, 23 

Black wild rabbits, 16 

Boiling rabbits, 242 

Bolting rabbits, 89, 147-149, 152 
,, in sandhills, 37 

Borrow, on rabbits in Spain, 228 

Bosworth Park, Leicester, 16 

Boundary walls, 66 

Boyle's Court, Essex, 16 

Boynton, Sir Henry, rabbit 
hawking, 220 

Bradgate Park, rabbit-shooting 
in, 114 

Brander, J. Dunbar, trap, 134 

Breeding, 8, 10 

,, aboveground, 9 
,, in a scarecrow, 10 

,, in-and-in, 46 

Brooke, Sir Victor, rabbit-shoot- 
ing, 114 



250 



THE RABBIT 



Bullets for rabbit rifle, 124 
Burrows, artificial, 61 

,, distribution of, in 
warren, 63 
Bushing, 1 53-154 
Butler, Lieut. -Col. , trap, 1 34- 1 35 
Buzzards partial to rabbits, 44 
Byles, Mr. Justice, on search 
and seizure, 169 

Carrying young in mouth, 10, 

20, 21 
Cases cited 

Allen v. Thompson, 209 
Allhusen v. Brooking, 202 
Barrington's case, 53 
Beauchamp v. Winn, 55 
Bevan v. Hopkinson, 58, 

167 
Boraston v. Green, 183 
Cameron v. Drummond, 

177 
Campbell v. Hadley, 202 
Carnarvon v. Clarkson, 56, 

178, 203 
Carter Wood v. Rule, 184 
Clarke v. Crowder, 170 
Cooper v. Marshall, 190 
Devonshire v. Lodge, 54 
Gibbs's case, 187 
Gosling v. Brown, 201 
Greenslade v. Tapscott, 183 
Griffiths v. Puleston, 183 
Hassard v. Clark, 202 
Hicks v. Smith, 195 
Hobbs v. Symons, 153 
Horn v. Raine, 168 
Inglis v. Moir's Tutors, 177 
Lunt v. Hill, 184 
McMahon v. Hannon, 206 
Morden v. Porter, 165 
Morgan v. Jackson, 196 
Pad wick v. King, 164 
Protheroe v. Matthews, 161 



Pryce v. Davies, 165 
Rashleigh v. Veale, 178 
Reade v. Whitmore, 210 
Regina v. Garratt, 58 
Regina z/. North Curry, 186 
Regina v. Pratt, 163 
Regina v. Townley, 168 
Saunders v. Pitfield, 207 
Smith v. Brand, 177 
Smith v. Hunt, 130, 183, 

203, 206 
Spicer v. Barnard, 164 
Stuart v. Murray, 186 
Taylor v. Bradley, 188 
Vere v. Lord Cawdor, 161 
Watkin v. Major, 160, 190 
Catapult, not a gun, 201 
Cats poaching, 41, 42, 77, 81 
,, suckling young rabbits, 43 
,, in burrows, 42 
Celery with boiled rabbit, 238 
Chamberlain, G. M., on weight 

of wild rabbit, 14 
Charges, light, for covert shoot- 
ing, 109 
Christmas Day, shooting illegal 

on, 208 
Claim of right, 160 
Climbing trees, 27 
Close-time for rabbits advocated, 
10, 11, 95 
,, for hares in Ireland, 

208 
Ccenurus pisiformis, 49 
Coke on beasts and fowls 01 

warren, 53 
Commoner not an occupier, 190 
Common-rights, 160-161, 189 
Compensation for damage by 

ground game, 176 
Condition of young at birth, 8 
Coney, 4 

,, of the rock, 2 
rost, 236, 241 



INDEX 



251 



Coney-close, 51 
Coney-garth, 51 
Coneys, so styled in game laws, 

159 

Cookery of the rabbit, 222 
Coping ferrets, 87 
Cordeaux, John, on young above- 
ground, 9 
Corsican pine, 33 
Couch's ' Illustrations of In- 
stinct,' 21 
Covert for warren, 66 
Covert-shooting, 107-109 
Crab dislodging rabbit, 37 
Craigincat, Perthshire, 22 
Crow 7 s and ravens, 45, 46 
Curry of rabbit, 243 
Cutlets of rabbit, 247 

Damage by ground game, 176 

Day defined, 159 

Defence of young, 20, 21, 23, 39 

De Grey, Lord, rabbit shooting, 
114 

Demesne lands, 55 

Dentition, 5 

Detention in custody, 165 

Deterioration of warrens, 74 

Difference between rabbit and 
hare, 5 

Diseases of rabbits, 46, 63 

Distemper in ferrets, 91 

Dog chasing game, 161 
,, hunting in warren, 161 
,, liability for shooting, 161 
,, spreading disease, 48 

Domesticated wild rabbits, 12 

Downland, under Ground Game 
Act, 1 92- 1 93 

Eagles preying on rabbits, 44 
Egg-stealing, 157 
Eley, Charles, rabbit-shooting, 
114 



Elwes, H. J., on warrens, 73 
Enteric fever, 46 

Faggot-heaps for shelter, 63 

Feathered foes, 44 

Fecundity of wild rabbit, 8, 

38 

Feeding, mode of, 6 
Fencing, 34, 35, 66-68 
Ferret, introduced by Romans, 

i 5 3 

,, origin of name, 82 ; 
management of, 84 ; 
transport of, 88 ; 
weight, 84 ; breed- 
ing of, 86 ; muzzling, 
87 ; homing instinct, 
89; feeding, 85, 91 ; 
handling, 92 ; work- 
ing, 92 
Ferreting, 82-94 

,, by owner and oc- 

cupier, 209 
,, by poachers, 152 
,, hints on, 92, 93 
Field mice, 79 
Filaria pulmoualis, 47 
Florence, chef to the Duke of 

Buccleuch, 241 
Fold-nets, 75 
Food, choice of, 28 
,, in winter, 35 
Foot-rot in ferrets, 84, 92 
Fox, 39, 67, 77 ^ 80, in 
Franchises and Charters override 

Ground Game Act, 202 
Frederick II. of Germany em- 
ploying ferrets in 124 5, 83 
Free- warren, right of, explained, 

52-58, 161, 167 
French novelists on the rabbit, 

231 
Freres Provencaux, 222 
Pauses for bolting rabbits, 149 



252 



THE RABBIT 



Game-laws, 1 58-1 71 

Game-licences Act, i860, 199 

Gas-lime, 47, 64, 73 

Genghis Khan, employing fer- 
rets in 1 22 1, 82 

Gestation, in rabbit, 8 
,, in ferret, 8 

Gin, origin of name, 127 
,, various patterns of, 128-129 
,, use of, controlled by statute, 
130 

Gonzales Zarco, the rabbits of, 1 5 

Goshawk a good rabbit-catcher, 

45 
, , trained to take rabbits, 

213-221 
,, how caught, 215 

,, how trained, 215-216 
,, good bags, 219, 220 
Grazing under Ground Game 
Act, 190-191 
,, outside warren, 67-68 
Grey, Lord de, rabbit-shooting, 

114 
Ground game defined, 206 
Ground Game Act, 172-209 

,, its object ex- 

plained, 181 
,, its sections 

examined, 
181-209 
Gun, definition of, 201 
Gun -Licence Act, 1870, 171, 
200-202 

Habits of hares and rabbits, 7 
,, in covert, 107, 108 
,, of pheasants contrasted, 
107 
Handa, Isle of, rabbits on, 16 
Harcourt, Sir W., views on 
Ground Game Act, 195- 196, 
204-205 
Hare and Rabbit compared, 5 



Hares Act, 1848, 207 

,, Preservation Act, 1892, 

208 
,, close time for in Ireland, 

208 
,, killed by owners and oc- 
cupiers without licence, 
199 
Hartshorn, Salopia antiqua, 52 
Hawker, Col., 27 
Hawking rabbits with goshawk, 
213-221 
,, does not drive away 
game, 218 
Hedgehog, trap for, 135 
Hedges, ownership of, 161-162 
,, crossing to ferret rab- 
bits, 163 
Higglers and general dealers, 

,, notable conviction ot, 

157 
Highroad, shooting on, 162 
Hits and misses, 109 
' Hob' and ' jill,' 92 
Holding over by tenant, 182 
Holland's '250 rifle for rabbits, 

123 
Homing instinct in ferrets, 89 
Howard, Lord W., ferreting in 

Cumberland in 1621, 83 
Humane traps, 131, 133, 134 
Hutches for ferrets, 91 
Hydatids, 48, 49 

i Information, laying an, 159 
Inhumanity of traps, 131 
Inishtrahull, rabbits on Isle of, I 
Interbreeding, 17 
Introduction of rabbit by 

Romans, I, 82 
Ireland, close time for hares in, 

208 
Islands, rabbits' on, 14, 15 



INDEX 



253 



Jefferies, Richard, on poach- 
ing, 150-151 ; 234 

Jesses, 216 

' Jill' and 'hob,' 92 

Joint tenants under Ground 
Game Act, 183 

Larceny Act, 52, 57, 158, 167 
Laver, H., on 'silver-greys,' 16 
Leases prior to Ground Game 

Act, 201 
Leche, J. H. , on small warrens, 

69-71 
Lee, R. B. , on cats in burrows, 42 
Legal proceedings, who may 

institute, 207, 211 
Leporine, or Belgian hare, 17, 

18, 19 
Lescher, Joseph, 16 
Letting shooting, conditions to 

be observed, 208-209 
Licence to deal in game, 157 
,, to shoot rabbits, 1 97- 1 99 
,, when forfeited, 164 
Limbs, relative length of, 7 
Lime dressing, 47, 64 
Litters, number of, in year, 8 
Lloyd Price, J. R. , on warrens, 
63, 64, 68, 74, 

113 

,, on wire snare, 134 

Lucas, J. B., on rabbit-shooting 

at Bradgate Park, 115 
Lyme Park, Cheshire, 16 

Madeira, rabbits of, 15 
Maladies, 46 

Malformed teeth, 6 
Mange in ferrets, 91 
Man wood, 'Lawesofthe Forest,' 

53, 55 
,, on beasts and fowls 
of warren, 53 
Market price of rabbits, 71 



Martial, on rabbit-burrows, 4 
Maternal instinct, 20, 45 
Maxwell, Sir H., on rabbit-proof 

shrubs, 30 
Megnin, P., on parasitic worms, 

48 

Metises, 154 

Alice, kept down by weasels, 79 

Millais, J. G. , on rabbit swim- 
ming, 26 

Misses and hits, 109 

Moony, E. S., on rabbit biting, 22 

Moorlands, under Ground Game 
Act, 191-193 

Morant, on profitable rabbit 
farming, 72, 73, 74 

Mortality, causes of, 46 

Mouchers, 155 

Mushroom sauce for rabbits, 

237. 
Muzzling and coping ferrets, 87 

NADIN, H. D., on cat suckling 

rabbits, 43 
Naples, rabbits rare in, 229 
Natural enemies, ^8, 44, JJ 
Nets, 137-146 

fold-nets, 75 
with ferrets, 138 
long-nets, 138-141, 153, 

168 
gate-nets, 142, 155 
purse-nets, 142, 154 
sheet-nets, 142 
spring-nets, 76 
drop-down-nets, 143 
Warren's patent, 143 
Denman's wire net, 146 
Netting rides, 107 
Neville, Archbishop of York, 235 
I New Zealand, rabbits in, 232 
I Night defined, 159, 166 

,, poaching, 1 66-167, l 7° 
I ' Norfolk hare,' 224 



254 



THE RABBIT 



Oats, crushed, as winter food 

for rabbits, 37 
' Occupiers ' under Ground 
Game Act, 174- 
175, 182, 193 
,, of more than one 

farm, 187 
, , letting sporting rights, 
196-197 
Odd shots, 1 1 7 
Old hay best winter food, 35 
Old rabbits distinguished from 

young, 11, 12 
Onions with rabbit, 237 
Ostend rabbits, 232 
Overstocking, 46, 65 
Owls and young rabbits, 45 
4 Owners ' under Ground Game 

Act, 173, 183 
Owners in occupation, 183, 202- 
203, 207 

Palmer, Dr. T. S., on rabbits 

of United States, 50 
Paraffin, 147 
Parasitic worms, 47 
Paston Letters, 51 
Pasture, effect of rabbits on, 72 
Payne-Gallwey, Sir R., on 

rabbit nets, 1 39 
Pheasants versus fowls, 223 
Pickering, W. C., three rabbits 

with one bullet, 125 
Pie, rabbit, 244 

Pines attacked by rabbits, 32, 33 
Pistol, licence required for, 201 
Pitfalls, 76, 134 
Pliny's notice of rabbit, I, 3 
Poachers' ferrets, 152 
Poaching, 150-172 
Poaching Prevention Act, 158, 

1 69-17 1 
Poison illegal, 188, 202 
Polecat, 77, 83, 86 



Potage, 222 

Prices at market, 71, 77 

Professional rabbit-killer, 18;- 

1.87 

,, appointment of, 187 

,, form of appoint- 

ment, 188 
, , pre duction of autho- 

ruy, 189 
Profit and loss in a warren, 65, 

7i, 73 . 
Promptorium parvulorum^ 4, 51 
Pulmonary tuberculosis, 47 
Purchaser of standing crop, not 
an occupier, 183 

Questions not judicially de- 
termined, 184, 189, 192 

Rabbits not vermin, 200 
Rabette, original signification 

of, 4 
Rabettes, rost, 236 
Rache, a hound hunting by 

scent, 4 
Rats, 39, 40, 77, 81, 135 
Raven, attacking rabbit, 46 
Reservation of game and rab- 
bits, 164 
Resident on land defined, 185 
Responsibilities of a shooting- 
host, 104 
Retrievers, 105-106 
Reynard the fox, 83 
Richard II. , legislation as to 

ferrets, 83 
Richelieu, boudins de, 245, 246 
Rifles for rabbit-shooting, 121- 

123 
Right to kill rabbits, 164 
Riley, John, rabbit hawking, 

with goshawk, 220 
Ringed plover, 121 
Riote, meaning of the word, 4 



INDEX 



255 



Rolleston on skulls of hare and 
rabbit, 5 

Roman markets, rabbits in, 225, 
229-230 

Roman-Spanish hunt, 82 

Romanes, G. J., on animal in- 
stinct, 89 

Russell's ' Book of Nurture, ' 4 

Salt and lime dressing, 47, 64, 

73 
Saltee and Keragh Islands, 

rabbits on, 16 
Schoolboys rabbiting at Christ- 
mas, 96 
Scouring, 46 
Search, right to, 165 
Seizure of game, 166, 170 
Selby, H., on rabbit biting, 22 
Shepherds poaching, 156 
Shirley's Deer Parks, 33 
Shooting, 95-125 

,, in covert, 95, 97 

,, on commons, 95, 98 

,, in hedgerows, 97 

, , in standing corn, 97-98 

,, with spaniels, 98, 102, 

105 
, , with beagles, 1 09- 113 
,, on sand hills, 120 
,, in cliffs, 120 
,, with rifle, 121, 125 
,, on highroad, 162 
,, without licence, 163 
,, ground game by night, 
203 
Shooting-tenants under Ground 

Game Act, 173, 176 
Shots, curious, 117-118, 125 
,, rabbit and hare, 118 
,, rabbit and grouse, 118 
,, rabbit and snipe, 118 
Shrubs, destruction of, 28 
,, rabbit proof, 29, 30 



Shrubs, to stand drip of trees, 

31 

Silver-greys, 17 

Simpson J. (of Wortley) on 
rabbit biting, 23 
, , on acorns for winter 

feeding, 35 
, , on rabbit trap-fence, 

68,77 
,, on warrens, 60, 65, 

73 
Size and weight, 13, 14, 15, 36 
Smearing, 33, 34 
Snares, 136-137, 152 

,, set on Sunday, 209 
Soil for warren, 60 
Soup of rabbit, 239 
,, mulligatawny, 239 
,, poacher's, 240 
Southam, W. , on young above- 
ground, 9 
Spain, rabbits in, 225, 226 

, , cooking in, 228 
Spaniels for rabbit-shooting, 105 
Speed of rabbit and hare, com- 
pared, 23, 24 
Spencer Cobbold, T., on tape- 
worms and entozoa, 48, 49 
Spirits of tar, 148 
Spring-nets, 75, 76 
Spring-traps, 202-206 
Stamford, Lord, rabbit shoot- 
ing 11 4-1 15 
Standing crop, purchaser of, 

not an occupier, 183 
Stiles, Dr. C. W., on tape- 
worms in rabbits, 50 
Stoat, 20, 38, 41, 77, 79 
Stonechat, 98 
Stopping out, 1 46-147 
Stops, 107 

Stormonth-Darling, Lord, deci- 
sion re vermin, 200 . 
Strabo, on rabbit in Spain, 2 



256 



THE RABBIT 



Strabo, on rabbit in Balearic 

Isles, 2 
Stronglyus commutdtus, 47 
Sub-letting by tenant, 182, 195- 

196 
Sulphur not recommended, 148 
Summonses, 160 
Sunday, shooting illegal on, 

208 
Sweat in ferrets, 84, 91 
Swimming, 25-26 

Tmnia serrata, 49, 50 
Tail, use of white, 7 
Tainted ground, 46, 63, 64 
Tape-worms, 48, 49, 50 
Teeth, malformation of, 6 
Tenterden, Lord, on free-warren, 

Terriers, 102, 137 
Tipes, or tip-traps, 75, 76 
Transport of ferrets, 88 
Trap for stoat, 78 
Trap-fence, 68, 77 
Trapping, 126-131 
Trespass, by day, 159 

,, by night, 166 

,, in pursuit of game, 163 
Tuberculosis, pulmonary, 46, 47 
Tuberculous liver, 46 
Tumours, 48, 49 
Turning down tame rabbits, ob- 
jection to, 14, 15 
Typhoid fever, 46 

Varieties, 16 
Varro on the rabbit, 4 
Vaynol, North Wales, 16 
Vermin trapping, 79 



Vermin, rabbits not, 200 
Void agreements, 194- 195 
Voles killed by weasels, 80 

Warren, 51-81 

,, free, 52 

,, formation of, 59 

,, soil for, 60 

,, artificial burrows, 61 

,, draining, 62 

,, fencing, 66 

,, deterioration of, 74 
Warrender, G. H., on rabbit 

swimming, 26 
Warrener, duties of a, 75 
Warry, on the Game Laws, 171 
Weasel, 3, 39, 77, 79 
,, a tame one, 90 
,, hunting rabbit, 19 
Weight of wild rabbit, 13, 14, 
36 

,, of polecat and ferret, 84 
Wheatear, 121 
White wild rabbits, 16 
Wild rabbits in captivity, 12 
Winter feeding, 35 
Wire fencing, 34, 35 
Wiring, 1 31-133, 153 
Woodcuttings for bark, 37 
Woolrych, Game Laws, 52, 57 
Worms, parasitic, 47 
Wounded rabbit biting, 22 

Yew, poisonous properties of, 32 
,, not recommended for co- 
verts, 32, 33 
Young, condition of at birth, 8 
,, distinguished from old, 
11, 12 



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