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The Moor and the Loch
The Martin


This beautiful connecting link between the fowmarte [The name Fowmarte is a Scottish corruption from the Teutonic Ful, fetid, and Merder, a martin.] and the cat is not a native of this country. It was imported, I believe, from America, and is pretty generally dispersed over the wild and wooded districts of Scotland. It has none of the offensive odour of the fowmarte, and even more alertness and activity than the cat. Running at a little distance, it looks exactly like a giant weasel. In some the breast is nearly white, whilst in others it is a bright orange, which has given occasion to the supposition, that they are varieties of the species; but I have no doubt they are the same. Of the many I have seen trapped or shot, I always remarked that the male was darker in the colour, and his breast almost white; that of the female was orange, and the fur lighter brown. I had a male and female stuffed that were trapped together at the same bait, exactly answering to this description.

When pursued, the martin, although its legs are so short, can run faster than a cat; this it does by a succession of springs, for which its long body gives it a great advantage. As a last resource, it will climb trees, and spring from one to another, like a squirrel. I once, with two or three companions, had a curious hunt of this kind. The martin had been driven by a very swift terrier into a clump of pines, which it so nearly resembled in colour, that we had great difficulty to keep sight of it. At last we thought of cutting off its retreat by climbing all the adjacent trees: the creature showed great coolness when thus driven to extremities, awaiting the approach of its enemy, perched on the pinnacle of the tallest pine; and it was only when one of our party got quite close, that it sprang from the top to the bottom of the tree, rebounding nearly a yard from the hard turf, just where I was standing, and, not a whit disconcerted, darted off at full speed, gained a precipice, and made good its escape.

Unless hard pressed, however, the martin is more apt to go to earth, or take shelter in the clefts of the rocks, than upon trees. When run to ground by a fox-hound, there is no creature more easily smoked out: it will bolt almost immediately, and numbers are killed in this manner, although, from the quickness and uncertainty of its exit, it is anything but an easy shot.

When in quest of prey, it is daring as well as mischievous; not so apt to leave its secure haunts in the day-time, but under cover of darkness will travel many miles, committing great devastation in preserves; and unless trapped or shot, will return night after night to the poultry-yard, killing many more fowls than it devours. One of these marauders had nearly made a clear sweep of my father's poultry: it kept peering over the perch with the greatest impudence, and could scarcely be driven thence by the dairymaid: no sooner was she out of sight than it would return. One of the farm-servants at last procured a trap, and having set it without art or covering, the loud screams of the robber presently made known his capture.

The martin generally selects a magpie's nest in the thickest pine-tree, and there rears its young; hence it has obtained the name of pine-weasel. One, however, was brought me that had its litter in the thatch of an old barn; it was detected by a dog, driven out, and shot; the young were rather smaller than kittens, and quite as sweet and clean.

If seized by the breast, the martin, like the cat, is easily killed by a good dog; but the skull is so hard, that I have seen one, when released from a trap with all its legs broken, roll away upon the ground, after receiving half-a-dozen hard blows on the head from the keeper's cudgel. This animal being easily trapped or run down, is not nearly so numerous now as it was some years ago.


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