Medieval Hunting

Gaston Phobus, Medieval Hunting Scenes (1387)

(A) When autumn comes, the hunter sets out in quest of the deer's tasty flesh... The deer is a difficult animal to flush out, forever moving in circles rather than taking flight. How many hours do the hunter and hounds spend on the trail of an animal which is expert in the art of escape?

(B) Fawn-coloured with a white rear... the roe buck is the most common game in our forests... He is hunted with hounds all year long for his delicate meat.

(C) In winter the hare sits in fallow land or by hedgerows, in summer in wheatfields or under a bramble bush... When the hounds are on the trail, the chase runs through forests and along paths where their barking... sends the frightened prey towards the nets.

(D) When night comes the wild boar leaves his family to... dig up vegetables and seeds... When the wild boar is found it is a long hard fight... The long lower teeth of the wild boar are deadly... The hounds teeth have little effect on the wild boar's leathery skin and only pikes and arrows will finally get the better of him.

(E) The wolf is the beast of terror... driven by hunger in the winter he even goes as far as attacking man himself... The wolf is hunted for his fur to make coats.

(F) The fox is the countryside's greatest thief... At night he goes in search of food... he approaches villages, crouching for hours at the bottom of a ditch before making a cunning attack on the hen run or rabbit hutch where the killing goes on until dawn.

(G) The night before the day of the hunt, grooms and villagers, who have been watching from observation points for several days, go to the nest where the vixen weans her young, and in the moonlight, block the holes with lumps of clay mixed with heather and leaves... to prevent the fox returning to his family. At dawn, the nobleman and his servants set out after the night prowler.

(H) At dusk the wild rabbit goes in search of his favourite herbs or in pursuit of a lady rabbit... The rabbit is hunted with spaniels; and in his burrows with the ferret... it does not take long for him to be ensnared in the hunter's net and on his way to make a tasty stew.

(I) The bear only leaves his cave. in search of a varied diet... It is only when he is driven by the hunger of a long winter fast that he will attack another animal... because of the strength of his teeth and broad paws he has no fear... Hunters, armed with bows and pikes go in groups when on his trail with hounds and greyhounds.

(J) The wildcat, tawny and striped, is a cruel beast, always looking for innocent prey. Stretched out on a branch, eyes staring... waiting for the moment when with a lightning jump, his terrible paws dig into the back of a young hare... The hounds are mightily afraid of his claws.. The wildcat will climb a tree and will defy the hounds until a well-aimed arrow brings him down.