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Hound and Horn in Jedforrest
Chapter VIII. A Terrier talk


“They may wind him and find him and hustle him round.
They may race him and chase him and put him to ground,
But here in the heart of the hill countree
How seldom they'd eat him without help from me!'*
—“Scamp.”

“IF you wish to find Bill you had better look in the stables" had often been said to me by the Lady President of the establishment; and the same reliable person now stated that she had that morning instructed the servant to say to a Lady Collector who had called at the door, that if she wished to find the Master she had better look the kennels. "Be sure you say the fox-hound kennels, Parker!” was added as an afterthought, to be more impressive, and possibly in hope of inspiring terror.

The Lady Collector, who was described as of a patient and persistent type, did not try for me in the kennels; at least her advent was not reported, although she had been seen in the vicinity.

I did not draw the stables blank for Bill, whom I found standing behind the grey mare’s stall talking so earnestly and confidentially to Batters that my approach on the straw was not heard, and I caught the latter muttering: “Weel, sir, ye'll mebbe tak the rue if ye dinna folia ma advice an’ get quitten remainder was merged in a prolonged "Hiss-s-s-ss!”

“I wonder if you would ever tire of talking horse, Bill?”

“Don't know. Perhaps not until you tired of talking hounds and hunting, or got bored with listening to my drivel, eh?”

As this was the third day of a frost, and as it looked like lasting, we agreed that the latter question might be put to the test, and that in the evening we would try it.

It may have been the enforced idleness that put mischief into my companion's head, and he took advantage of a rare opportunity of playing a practical joke upon his hostess. He had seen or heard of the Lady Collector, and had obtained a minute description of her attire, which was something between that of the Salvation Army and a hospital nurse. He was at great pains to collect sundry articles, which he deposited in a scattered heap by the side of the path leading to the garden. They included half of a well-chewed golosh, pieces of an old straw poke bonnet, shreds of blue serge, red ribbon, whalebone stays, &c. After some hesitation he added a rib or two and the thigh-bone of an old horse; but mercifully these had been removed by old Lapwing, who at that time was allowed her liberty for the benefit of her health. He enticed his “Grandma,” as he often called her, out for a walk, and suddenly remarked in a very solemn tone of voice as they neared the heap, “O Granny, look what I found on the floor of the kennels a little while ago!”

For two seconds, but two seconds only, did the terrified lady blanch and tremble; and had not Billy himself exhibited a sudden change from a triumphant attitude to one of dismay at the effect of his ruse, the results might have been more decided.

Then, “Oh! you horror!" screamed Joanna, “you don't for a moment imagine I am taken in by your horrid trick? You don't suppose I thought there had been an accident? I confess that I thought at first they might have torn her cloak perhaps."

“I believe you thought they had eaten her, Granny.”

“Poof! not a bit!” Then, as her colour returned, “Tell me exactly what did happen, and don't ever try such a trick again.”

“Well now, Gran'ma,” said the penitent Bill, “I'll tell you what I’ll do. If the lady comes round here again to-morrow, as she said she’d do, I'll give my subscription vice the Master."

And he was as good as his word, and was mulcted of ten shillings for the S.P.C.A.

Billy was a good talker, and he was also, what made him so chummable, a good listener; and he was now in his best listening mood. He began the evening by singing the praises of the Border terriers, a comparatively modern breed, very sharp and game, but one of which I had little actual experience.

“Then what sort do you like best?" said he.

“You want for this country a terrier that can run with hounds, or, better still, that can follow up and run behind hounds—the sort that hunts a cover or darts away on a fox’s line is useless. If he can be taught and trained to keep back with the second horseman so much the better. You want one that won’t tire, but is forward to come up handy when he’s wanted, and will I go in right up to the fox below ground and will speak to him before he tries to tackle him. Jock here is great at this; he goes in like a bolt from a bow, and squeezes right up to the beggar without loss of time, and gives him notice to quit. If he can’t get right up to him he will lie up and bark till he is hoarse, and this always lets one know where he is, and saves time if digging is required. He has the valuable habit of coming out then, and waiting and watching to see if his orders are going to be obeyed, for nothing makes a fox more likely and more anxious to bolt, if he has anything left in him at all, than, after having been well sworn at, to find his attacking enemy retire in silence. Then, if his orders are not obeyed, Jock goes in again with even more determination. How he manages I don’t know. I think he only says and looks, 'Cut along out of this or I’ll murder you!’ Anyhow, his threats are nearly always promptly acted on, and the fox, feeling far safer above ground though pursued by the pack, than being niggled at and tormented by a little demon in the darkness below ground, once more faces the daylight and often gives a good chase, thanks to dauntless little Jock.”

“Yes,” said Bill, “I think it's the most tremendous piece of pluck ever exhibited or possible to dream of. Think of it. To crawl up a long pitch dark tight hole leading into the earth’s bowels, and often filled with ice-cold water, and to boldly attack his unseen foe; a foe his equal in weight, possibly superior in power of punishment, equally savage, and most probably occupying a better position for repelling attack than he does. Ton my word, it’s equal to a man stalking a wounded tiger on foot! How's he bred? And which do you consider the best kind of breed?”

“Jock came from a Yorkshire Hunt kennel, and is three parts smooth fox and one part bull terrier. I don't think the breed matters much, so long as the game is there. I like the first cross between the rough and smooth fox, and a medium size and weight. Coat is all-important; the smooth coats are too thin, and the all rough when thoroughly wetted through don’t dry. This cross often produces a thick close coat like a doormat, which is the best of all. And you must have them a little on the leg, not only for running, but to keep them off the slush and wet; length of leg don't matter so long as they are not too thick round the heart."

“How long has he been below ground at a stretch?"

“Once, at Timpendean Castle breeding earth, he got in on Saturday afternoon, and we dug him out on Monday, forty-five hours later. He was fairly wedged in like a wad in a cartridge case, and, though a bit hoarse and feeble in his bark, quite comfortable and unpunished. He was lying on his side, his fore-legs pushed back like a seal's flappers, trying to push himself on with his hind-legs.”

“My word!” was the commentary: “any more?”

“Well, most of them have been in for about twenty-four hours, and Mack there was forty-two hours below and very nearly died of suffocation. He went in with a hunted fox at the large earth at Howden Burn, opposite Wild-Cat Gate, and though we waited till after dark hearing the fighting and struggling shifting from one end to the other, the fox would not bolt, so we left them. On Sunday the keeper reported he could occasionally hear some deep growling; and though some digging was done, the only effect was to drive them deeper in. Mack is too silent and very savage; and all Monday morning we dug. It was one of those dangerous earths in a stratum of fine dry yellow sand, where sides and roof are apt to tumble in and block up the whole passage. About one o’clock we located a faint thumping and drove a shaft down to it, and came right upon the fox. He was only recently dead, not stiff, and still quite warm, and deeply bitten all round the neck. The terrier was lying facing him, completely exhausted and badly punished. He got dreadfully cold when taken out, and shivered so that he could not lap the warm milk we had brought, and we had to feed him. After this, and a shake, and a roll, he so far recovered as to walk home. I remember the fox, a fine old dog, weighed 19 lbs., and the terrier only 17 lbs.”

“I suppose they are nearly always ‘in grips’ when you get at them?”

“Not always. For sometimes the fox gets so far back, or into some side tunnel, where the terrier can’t get at him, that he is apt to come away if he thinks he is being left alone.”

“What is the best grip when the jaws are locked?”

“Well, it is not easy to say. The terrier in most cases has the fox by the nose, but this of course leaves the fox's under jaw free to bite. This, I fancy, is what every inexperienced terrier does, and why he gets so punished himself in the lower jaw. Of course, the most killing grip is when the terrier gets nose and lower jaw together, and this is what an old experienced dog will fight for. But once pinned, I don't think a fox can punish much; when he does the mischief is when he is free and can give those long slashing cuts at his attacker."

“Do you like one, or two, out?”

“Only one, unless they are coupled together; for, if loose, they are very apt to get into the same earth or drain. No. I is looking in or sniffing at the entrance ; No. 2 comes up, and rather than let him in, No. i proceeds to explore, though he has already determined there is no fox there. No. 2 follows up till his progress is arrested by No. I, and out of pure devilment he bites him if they are not good friends, and a battle starts. If they are good friends, No. 2 will start to scrape and dig, and is apt to throw the earth back and so stop egress. I had two gallant little two-season terriers suffocated in this way."

“Jock seems more scarred than before. Have you been taking him out oftener than usual lately?"

“Jocky comes out when, and as often as, he pleases. Often do we want to leave him in when his old face is barely healed from wounds of the previous week, and have shut him up, but it is useless; he will eat, climb, or burst his way out of any enclosure. Once he climbed over a nine foot wire netting yard turned over at the top. Another time he ate through the thick door of a stable and burst through a pane of glass; and once he climbed up through the chimney of the boiling-house, and joined hounds."

“Well done, Jock. The only thing that would hold him would be a fire and burglar proof safe! Which is the gamest terrier you've ever known, Master? ”

“Well! Jock, Mack, Scamp, and Scurry, I put in that order; but with very little difference between them. Scurry once bolted a fox from a three hundred yard long stone conduit only to drive him into another one running underneath the main Hawick road. This was in a hollow, but the road had been mounded up four or five feet, and the tackling took place right under the centre of the road, and we had to leave them. Next morning the roadman found the dead fox at the mouth of the conduit, and Scurry lying curled up beside him growling savagely. Poor Scurry was badly bitten about the throat, and died from loss of blood a week later; the only terrier I have lost so; though, as I told you, Pompey and Tuppence died together of suffocation. I’ve had them mauled rather badly at times by badgers, which punish terribly. Jock has frequently drawn a badger after bolting or drawing the hunted fox from the same earth. Scamp once bolted the fox from the Cleithaugh ^undy’ into the jaws of the pack, then dived in again and bolted a badger.”

“Good little Scamp; he knows we are talking of his exploits.”

“Of course he does, and he loves to hear us. He’s the most intelligent, next to Jock. Jock is getting old now, and only comes out on 'near-hand’ days, and often takes half a day only. Tom the feeder told me that last month, at Wolfelee, he had a fast run that blew and distressed him greatly, followed by a subterranean battle of ten minutes. When hounds were moving off for the afternoon draw, Jock repaired to the hilltop, sat down and watched the direction in which they were going, and seeing them pointing away from home, he turned tail and trotted away off to kennel. Intelligent! Why, they are wiser than most men. Jock knows every earth, drain, and hole in the country-side, and the shortest way to them, and often in a chase guesses where it is to lead to and is waiting there to receive us. It is a fact that on one occasion the hunted fox went into a drain just in front of hounds and was immediately ejected by -Jock, who had got there before him; and more than once, on our arrival at an earth, we have heard the muffled yap-yapping coming from it that told us he was at work. He does not seem to feel punishment, and the more he is mauled the prouder he seems when taken notice of. Scamp has a custom of going home with hounds after hunting unless he has been punished. If this is so, he comes down to the house of his own accord to have his face bathed and sponged. This is done by one of the maids who is very fond of him, and Scamp remains for one, two, or three days till his wounds are healed, then returns to the kennels. He has been known to do a cute thing more than once. If he wishes to find me or a particular member of the family, or a special horse, he soon gets tired of running from one to the other, sniffing at each, so he watches his opportunity till the field is filing through a hunting gate or a narrow lane, when he stations himself at the head and looks at and smells each one as he passes.”

“Now, old man, if we sit up later and have any more of this terrier talk, I'll be hearing from you that you have been holding conversation with the little beggars. Come away and roost.”

"But I have had frequent talks with them!”


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