Paolo Uccello. The Hunt in the Forest. c. 1465-70. Oil on canvas. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK.
(above) 15th century Italian gentlemen hunting the roebuck.
Like the blade of grass pushing through the concrete sidewalk, natural human instincts, well known and understood in the past, continue to assert themselves even in today’s deracinated urban sprawl.
In contemporary Glasgow, for instance, young men are secretly breeding and training dogs (lurcher and greyhound crosses), and going out early in the morning in organized groups, just as their ancestors once did, to hunt the roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), who, long unhunted, have adapted to life in modern suburbs and grown numerous and bold.
Being deprived of the right to own and carry more useful and practical arms, they have nothing beyond airguns, pocket knives, and their boots and hands to use to kill a deer. And being unschooled in venery or sportsmanship, these covert hunters dispatch their quarry crudely when it is brought to bay.
Regrettably as well, they evidently have not learned how to unmake the deer and how to prepare him for the table. Nor, I fear, has anyone taught them to reward the hounds, as William Twiti advised, with “bowellis and fete” (bowels and feet).
As one might expect, the organized do-gooder organizations are howling, and the British Press, e.g., the Telegraph and the BBC, is suitably outraged and alarmed by the discovery of sporting activity by British youths.
All this is ironically occurring at the same time in which an excess population of rural red deer is leading British academics, environmentalists, and journalists to loudly advocate the reintroduction of the wolf (!) to curb their numbers.
Deer poaching, in defiance of authority, has a long and famous tradition in Britain, including not only Robin Hood but even Shakespeare himself.
Long may Glasgow’s Geordies divert themselves by the manly pursuit of the swift and ingenious roebuck, say I. Over time, it is likely that with greater experience there will evolve among the more skillful sportsmen the same sort of better practices and aesthetic code which naturally evolved among their predecessors.
Unfortunately, better sportsmanship is far more likely to evolve in circumstances in which sport is openly and proudly pursued, rather than in those in which sport is inevitably stigmatised and equated by bigots and Puritans with crime.