Deer-Stalking Extraordinary

[Note: a good example of cruelty to animals in this Victorian article published in 1859] —

In these days, and at this particular season, when the above manly and bracing exercise is carried on with such unflinching energy, in the wild woods and mountains of Scotland, it may not be out of place to give the general reader an idea of the way in which it is sometimes managed in the far West.

In Central America, that is, the isthmus which connects North and South America, somewhere on the borders of Nicaragua, and some miles from Leon, its capital, they have a custom of sending the ox a deer-stalking, and they actually force the brute to undergo a preliminary education to make him up to his work.

He is tied to a tree by the horns; and is frequently beaten on the head near the roots of his horns, till the latter are loosened, and, of course, rendered extremely sensitive. A cord is then fastened to each “tip,” and he is then guided as easily as a well-bridled and well-broken horse.

After some time the horns get well, not however until he has acquired the habit of being guided by them.

When this system of ox-breaking” has been sufficiently tested, and when the animal is well “in hand,” he is brought out “to stalk; ” and, what is strangest of all, in a very short time he pursues the sport with all the keenness and gusto of the most expert and inveterate stalkers.

Mr. Byam, who gives the account, says: ”It is really curious to watch the scientific mode in which an experienced ox conducts the operation on an open plain; he must take a pleasure in it, or else acts the part to perfection.

“No sooner does he perceive a deer on the open plain, than down goes his head, and he nibbles, or pretends to nibble the grass, walking in a circular direction, as if he were going round and round the deer; but the cunning file always takes a step sideways, for every one he takes in front, so as to be constantly approaching his victim, but in such a manner as to excite no alarm.

“In a large open plain the ox will take two entire circles, or more, round the game, before he has narrowed the inner one sufficiently to enable the hunter to take aim within proper distance; and the first notice the unsuspecting stag receives is, an arrow, generally behind the shoulders — a gunshot is best directed at the neck, but an arrow, as above, for it impedes the movement of the deer. An experienced hunting ox is best left alone, as he is far more cunning than any hunter, and always keeps his master well hidden; he is only checked by a smart pull when within shooting distance.”




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