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The Moor and the Loch
Wild Goats

I HAVE often thought that for those who have a taste for deer-stalking, without the opportunity, it might be no bad substitute to have a flock or two of goats upon a remote range of hills. The idea suggested itself to me from having heard and seen a good deal of the nature and habits of a few kept wild upon an island on Loch Lomond. These goats, originally a breed between the Welsh and Highland, were very large, and the oldest inhabitant does not recollect when they were first introduced. After having been completely left to themselves for a few generations, they became very cunning and suspicious, always haunting the most out-of-the-way craggy places they could find, and one precipice in particular has been called from time immemorial Crap-na-gour, or Hill of the Goats. The breed has now very much deteriorated, from the fine old wild ones having been killed off, and a number of the tame kind lately substituted. The hair of some of the old "Billys" of the wild breed was eighteen inches long ; and I have contrasted a horn of the last fine specimen of the race, shot many years ago, with a good-sized one of the domesticated species. To stalk these half-tame goats afforded no small diversion, and I have seen several sportsmen engaged nearly a whole day before the fatal shot was fired. But in their wilder state, I am told, they showed amazing game, tact, and cunning in eluding an enemy. The hero, whose horn I have represented, managed to escape several of the most experienced hands in the country, some with ball and others with buck-shot, for a couple of days. He was brought down on the evening of the second day, after being hard struck a short time before; and I have been assured that even larger than he have been killed upon the island, with horns proportionably finer.

Another circumstance also made me imagine that goat-stalking might be practicable. One of my father's tenants, who farmed the remote range of Glen-Douglas, had a flock of goats pastured among the precipices. This flock was always under the command of the shepherds and their dogs. A fine old Billy, however, broke away from the rest, and spurned all control. This lasted upwards of a year, when he became so completely wild that it required half a dozen shepherds, with their guns, to range the mountains for some days before he could be shot.

I am aware that many objections might be raised against my suggestion; first, that the goats would never be wild enough to afford sport, and that, if they were, they would be apt to take refuge among inaccessible rocks and precipices, where no man could stalk them. I own that it would be many years before goats could become quite wild, but if a fine breed were turned out on some of the steepest and least frequented of our mountains, and especially if they were never disturbed or brought to bay by dogs, I have no doubt that their progeny would become fit for stalking. And as to sheltering themselves in rocks and precipices, they would be far less apt to do this when they had acquired confidence in other means of escape. I only, however, mention goat-stalking as an untried amusement, and think it might be worth while for the proprietors of Highland mountains to make the experiment. Sheep-farms, where deer never remain, would answer for the purpose. The goats do not interfere with the sheep, and generally choose the roughest ground where the pasture is of least value. It is unnecessary to say that the old Billys would be uneatable, but the mountain-fed kids are reckoned very delicious.

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