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HARE

HARE




      

HARE


HARE. In general, the hare wants neither instinct sufficient for his own preservation, nor sagacity for escaping from his foes: he forms a seat, which he rarely leaves in the day, but in the night takes a circuit in search of food, choosing the most tender blades of grass, and quenching his thirst with the dew. This timid creature, also, lives upon fruit, grain, herbs, leaves, roots, preferring those plants which yield milky juices; and in winter will gnaw the bark indiscriminately from all trees, except that of the alder and lime. In plantations and nurseries of young trees, hares commit dreadful havock. The colour of the hare approaches nearly to that of the ground, which secures it more effectually from the sight, White hares are occasionally met with in this country. The hare never pairs, but in the rutting season, which begins in February; the male pursues and discovers the female through the means of its olfactory organs. From the first year of their existence, they are always in a condition for propagating; the female goes with young only thirty or thirty-one days; usually brings forth two, sometimes three, and very rarely four at a litter, and immediately after receives the male. The young are produced with their eyes open, the dam suckles them about twenty days, after which they leave her and provide for themselves; never removing, however, far from each other, nor from the place where they are littered. The hare lives about ten years.

In northern countries, where the ground for the greater part of the year is covered with snow, the fur of the hare becomes white at the same period, which, of course, prevents it from being easily distinguished. The Alpine hare, in order, it would seem, to assimilate it to its abode, is gray in summer, while in winter the whole body changes to a snowy whiteness. This animal lives on the highest hills in Scotland, Norway, Lapland, Russia, and Siberia; nor does it appear ever to descend from the mountains and mix with the common hare, although they abound in the valleys below: in fact, they seem to form a distinct variety, admirably calculated for their residence in the higher regions. Its hair is soft, its ears are "shorter, and its legs more slender than the common hare, while its feet are more thickly clad with fur. It cannot run so fast, and therefore, when pursued, takes shelter in the clefts of the rocks. It is easily tamed, is very frolicksome, and fond of honey and other sweets. It changes its colour in September, and resumes its gray livery in April; and it is extraordinary, that although this animal be brought into a house, and even kept in warm apartments, yet still the colour changes at the same periods that it does among its native mountains. In some parts of Siberia, herds of five or six hundred may be seen migrating in spring and returning in autumn. The Alpine hare at Hudson's Bay has one peculiarity, that, after coupling in the spring, many have been killed with the male part of generation hanging out and shrivelled up like the navel-string of young animals; but yet, upon examination, there was always found a passage for the urine. These hares delight most in rocky and stony places, near the borders of woods, though many of them brave the coldest winters in the most unsheltered situations. They are, when fall grown and in good condition, very large, many of them weighing fourteen or fifteen pounds, and are said to be good eating. In winter they feed on long rye-grass and the tops of dwarfwillows ; but in summer on berries and different sorts of small herbage.

In the mountains of Tartary, which extend as far as the Lake Baikal, a variety of the Alpine hare is to he met with. These inhabit the middle region of the hills, among thick woods, andin moist placesabounding with grass and herbage. They sometimes burrow between the rocks, but more frequently lodge in the crevices. They are generally found in pairs, but congregate in bad weather. In the autumn, by that wonderful instinct which Providence has bestowed upon many classes of his creatures, great numbers of them assemble, and collect vast quantities of the finest herbs, which, when dried, they form into pointed ricks of various sizes, some of them four or five feet in height and of proportionable bulk. These they place under the shelter of an overhanging rock, or pile round the trunks of trees. By this means, these industrious animals lay up a store of winter food, and wisely provide against the rigour of those stormy regions; otherwise, being prevented by the snow from quitting their retreats, in quest of food, they must all inevitably perish.

Hunting The Hare. As of all chases the hare makes the greatest pastime, so it gives no little pleasure to see the craft of this small animal for her self-preservation. If it be rainy, the hare usually takes to the highways; and if she comes to the side of a young grove, or spring, she seldom enters, but squats down till the hounds have overshot her; and then she will return the way she came, for fear of the wet and dew that hangs on the boughs. In this case the huntsman ought to stay one hundred paces before he comes to the wood side, by which means he will perceive whether she return; if she do, he must halloo in his hounds, and call them back. The next thing to be observed is the place where the hare sits, and upon what wind she makes her form, either upon the north or south wind: she will not willingly run into the wind, but upon a side, or down the wind; but if she form in the water, have a special regard to the brook sides; for there and near plashes, she will make all her crossings, doublings, icc. Some hares are so crafty that as soon as they hear the sound of a horn they instantly start out of their form, though it were at the distance of a quarter of a mile, make for some pool through which they swim and rest upon a rush bed in the midst of it. Such will not stir thence till they hear the sound of the horn, and then they start out again, swim to land, and stand up before the hounds for hours before they can kill them, swimming and using all subtleties and crossings in the water. Nay, such is the subtlety of a hare, that sometimes, after she has been hunted three hours, she will start a fresh hare, and squat in the same form. Others, after being hunted a considerable time, will creep under the door of a sheep-cot and hide themselves among the sheep; or, when they have been hard hunted, will run in among a flock of sheep, and will by no means be gotten out till the hounds are coupled up, and the sheep driven into their pens. Some will go up one side of the hedge and come down the other, the thickness of the hedge being the only distance between the coursers.

A hare that has been hard pressed, has got upon a quickset hedge, and ran a good way upon the top, and then leaped oft' upon the ground ; and they frequently betake themselves to furze bushes, and leap from one to the other, whereby the hounds are frequently in default. In winter, they seat in tufts of thorns and brambles, especially when the wind is northerly or southerly. According to the season and nature of the place where the hare is accustomed to seat, there beat with your hounds, and start her ; which is better sport than trailing her from her relief to her form. After the hare has been started, and is on foot, step in where you saw her pass, and halloo in your hounds, until they have all undertaken it and go on with it in full cry, then recheat to them with your horn, following fair and softly at first, not making too much noise either with horn or voice, for at the first hounds are apt to overshoot the chase through too much heat. But when they have run an hour, and you see the hounds are well in, and stick well, then you may come in nearer with them because their heat will then be cooled, and they will hunt more soberly. But above all things mark the first doubling, which must be your direction for the whole day ; for all the doublings that she will make afterwards will be like the former; and according to the policies that you shall see her use, and the place where you hunt, you must make your compasses great or small, long or short, to help the defaults, always seeking a moist and commodious place for the hounds to scent in.

Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835._

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