Roe-Deer. The horns, which it sheds annually, are eight inches long, upright, round, and divided only into three branches: the body is covered with very long hair, suited to the rigour of its mountainous abode; the lower part of each hair is ash-coloured; near the ends is a narrow bar of black, and the points are yellow; the hairs on the face black, tipped with ash-colour; the ears long ; inside, of a pale yellow, covered with long hair ; the spaces bordering on the eyes and mouth, black; the chest, belly, legs, and inside of the thighs, of a yellowish white ; the rump of a pure white ; and the tail very short: his eyes are more brilliant and animated than those of the stag; his limbs are more nimble, his movements quicker; and he bounds seemingly without effort with equal vigour and agility : his coat or hair is always clean, smooth, and glossy : he never wallows in the mire like the stag, but delights in dry and elevated situations, where the air is purest. He is likewise more crafty, conceals himself with greater address, and derives superior resources from instinct ; for though he leaves a stronger scent than the stag, which redoubles the ardour of the dogs, he knows how to withdraw himself from their pursuit by the rapidity with which he begins his night, and by his numerous doublings. As soon as he finds that the first efforts of a rapid flight have been unsuccessful, he repeatedly returns on his former steps, and, after confounding by these opposite movements, he rises from the earth by one long bound, and retiring to one side, lies down flat on his belly; and in this situation he allows his deceived enemies to pass very near him. The roe-deer differs from the stag and fallow-deer in disposition, temperament, habits, and manners. Instead of associating in herds, they live in separate families. The flesh of this elegant little creature is one of the greatest dainties, being much superior to the venison of the larger deer. They rut but once a year, and only for fifteen days, commencing at the end of October; they are constant in their amours, and never unfaithful like the stag. During this period they do not suffer their fawns to remain with them. When the rutting season is passed, however, they return to their mother, and remain with her some time; after which they separate entirely, and remove to a distance from the place which gave them birth.
The female goes about five months and a half: she generally produces two at a time, usually a male and female, which she conceals in some close thicket, being not less apprehensive of the buck than of the fox and other beasts of prey : in ten or twelve days, however, they acquire strength sufficient to follow her. The roebuck's life does not extend beyond twelve or fifteen years, and, if deprived of liberty, seldom exceeds six or seven.
Formerly roe-deer were very common in Wales, in the nnrffcot" England, and in Scotland, where they were coursed with greyhounds, a practice which seems to have been much in fashion about a century ago in that country. Sir Walter Scott gives a description of coursing the roebuck in his celebrated novel of Waverly where he represents the Baron of Bradwardine riding after the dogs, and performing the usual ceremonies at the death.
In March, 1831, Captain Chalmers, of Auldbar, in Scotland, gave a grand chasse in his woods, which abound with these beautiful little animals. Ten couple of highly-bred harriers were selected for the purpose of rousing the roes, and the shooters were placed in certain parts of the openings where the deer were expected to cross. Six double guns obtained chances; and the result was fifteen head of deer were killed and two wounded.
In the south, roe-deer are principally, if not solely, to be met with in the extensive coverts of the late Lord Dorchester, at Abbey Milton, near Blandford in Dorsetshire, or in the large coverts adjoining, belonging to that old and distinguished sportsman, E. M. Pleydell, Esq., of Whatcombe House, who, during the season of 1828-29, in nineteen days hunting, killed eighteen roe-deer. Roe-deer are also found in France, Italy, Sweden, Norway, and in Siberia.
When the roebuck drinks, he plunges his nose deep in the water for a considerable length of time; but sustains no inconvenience whatever from such an immersion, as the animal is furnished with two spiracles, or vents, one at the corner of each eye, which communicate with the nostrils, and which it can open and shut at pleasure. These seem to be highly serviceable to him when pursued, by affording him the means of free respiration, for without doubt these additional nostrils are thrown open when he is hard run. There is reason to believe that these vents are used also in smelling. This singular provision of nature is not peculiar to the roebuck, but will be found to obtain in all the deer tribe, from the enormous Wapite deer, found in the wilds of North America, to the small Daman antelope, which abounds in some parts of the interior of Africa: indeed the Wapite deer not only use these vents as nostrils, but also produce a sort of whistle through them. As the deer tribe are thus distinguished from all other animals in the peculiarity just mentioned, so they are equally remarkable for the formation of the eye, which however is to be ascertained rather from actual observation than any description on paper. But thus much may be observed, that their visual organs are superior to those of most other animals; and that the eye of the antelope or the gazelle has long been the standard of eastern beauty.
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835.
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