« ForrigeFortsett »
burrows the foxes, polecats, and numerous vermin which infested the wilds of the Argyllshire highlands.
“ Mr. Clark states that such was the condition of the districts with which he was associated, that even within his own knowledge sheep could not be kept at large on the hills, until the landlords and farmers clubbed together in each district and appointed a man as foxhunter, who was paid a sum by each farmer according to the number of sheep kept. This functionary kept a pack of small terriers of from 12lb. to 161b. weight, and a couple of luathchoin (swift dogs), either staghounds or foxhounds.
“The foxhunter and his terriers were constantly on the move over his district, and when a shepherd found a dead lamb, supposed to have been destroyed by a fox, he at once set out for this nomadic individual, and by daylight next morning the foxhunter and shepherds were on the ground with the dogs. On the hounds finding the scent they were uncoupled, and on starting" the fox went off in full cry. The fox generally sought refuge in a burrow or cairn. The services of the terriers were then brought into requisition, and when let loose they rushed in to do battle, cheered on by the hunter's " Staigh sin !” Many a good terrier has met his coup de grâce while engaged in these subterranean
fights, and many more have come forth to carry for the remainder of their restless days the scars of battle. If reynard did not sell his life dearly under cover, his fate was sealed on making from his stronghold.
“This was the description of work for which the old Skye terrier was kept in the Duke of Argyll's kennels at Inverary and Roseneath, and from our personal knowledge of their build and temperament, we can corroborate what Mr. Clark has said of their qualifications as working terriers.
About forty-five years ago Her Majesty was presented with a couple of them by the county gentlemen of Argyllshire, one of these being from the Duke's kennels, and the other from that of Dugald Ferguson, the foxhunter."
Now, it was no doubt from strains such as the above that our modern Skye terrier sprung; such dogs as Mr. James Pratt (of London) showed a quarter of a century ago, and still shows, and others which might be mentioned.
I formerly owned a Skye terrier called Cloudy, a dark coloured almost black dog, which obtained considerable notoriety as a prize winner. He had a profuse and soft coat, and as much hair on his head
as any Yorkshire terrier I Beneath that hair, however, was hidden the
head of a perfect terrier, beautiful dark eyes beaming with
intelligence, and, barring his soft coat, he was a dog of extraordinary excellence. Although he could barely see through the hair which hung down over his eyes he was a keen hunter, a splendid water dog, and in a fight or general turn-up the gamest of the game. As a fact, it was said that the dog had belonged to an old lady, who, becoming tired of what once had been a favourite, gave it to her servant, who transferred it, where her heart had already gone, to a barman dog fancier. He kept it for a bit; a time came when his master wished to try a fighting bull terrier, so he bought Cloudy for ten shillings to be practised upon. However, the tables were turned, for the Skye was a “glutton " at the work, and speedily chawed up the fighting dog, rendering it hors de combat in less than a quarter of an hour. Then Cloudy fell into better hands, was shown successfully, and ultimately purchased by the writer, who found the dog to have an extraordinary nose, and if not kept chained up he would hunt my footsteps through crowded streets, though I had
gone on two hours before. This faculty of scent, Mr. Pratt tells me, was very marked in his strain, of which the following story may be interesting.
Mr. Pratt kept a number of Skye terriers, which it was his custom to take out for walking exercise in
Hyde Park. During 1875 he had noticed that on many occasions some of his dogs picked up a strong hunt, which they usually carried to a brick drain which ran from the park into Kensington Gardens, but, being in the enclosed portion, he called them off. However, in the spring of the following year the dogs re-commenced hunting keenly in the same locality, so one evening Mr. Pratt examined the place where they marked, and at once came to the conclusion that it was no cat or rabbit his little favourites were having their fun with. Further inquiries elicited the intelligence that a constable and one of the park keepers had seen a curious creature creep into the drain, which Mr. Pratt knew from their description must be a badger.
For a time nothing was done, and Mr. Pratt was in hopes that the strange and solitary animal would be allowed to remain in peace, but the park keeper at that time was of a different opinion, and by the aid of a sack and a bulldog the badger was caught. Then it was baited, and sold to some young “swells,' which facts coming to the ears of Mr. Pratt, he wrote to the Times. The park keeping delinquent who had caught the animal was severely reprimanded, and after some trouble it was found that the poor creature had wantonly been killed, and afterwards " set up the most approved fashion by Mr. Rowland Ward.
That a badger could have lived for several months in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens was a matter of interest to naturalists, and in due course our old friend Frank Buckland appeared upon the scene, at once settling any difficulty as to where the badger came from.
In his letter dated April 28, 1876, he says that no doubt the badger belonged to him. On June 5 the preceding year he obtained three from a friend near Pontefract, father, mother, and cub. They were eventually transferred to the Fish Museum at South Kensington, where Mr. Eden, the curator, turned an old ashpit into a cage for their reception.
Although it was believed sufficient precaution had been taken to prevent their escape, the male badger got out of his cage the very first night, and was traced to a hole under the passage of the entrance to the Horticultural Gardens, on the Queen's Gate side. Here food was placed for him nightly, but, becoming tired of his residence, he sought fresh apartments, which he no doubt found where Mr. Pratt's excellent terriers first discovered him. Such is the true story of the Hyde Park badger, who was quite a newspaper topic for a time, even Punch giving him attention.
Shortly after this little episode Mr. Pratt was sent for by the Prince and Princess of Wales to