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The scent of the hare lies long in winter owing to the length of the nights, and for a short time in summer for the opposite reason. In the winter, however, there is no scent in the early morning whenever there is a white frost or the earth is frozen hard. For both white and black frost hold heat; since the one draws it out by its own strength, and the other congeals it. [2] The hounds' noses, too, are numbed by the cold, and they cannot smell when the tracks are in such a state until the tracks thaw in the sun or as day advances. Then the dogs can smell and the scent revives. [3] A heavy dew, again, obliterates scent by carrying it downwards; and storms, occurring after a long interval, draw smells from the ground1 and make the earth bad for scent until it dries. South winds spoil scent, because the moisture scatters it, but north winds concentrate and preserve it, if it has not been previously dissolved. [4] Heavy showers drown it, and so does light rain, and the moon deadens it by its warmth,2 especially when at the full. Scent is most irregular at that time, for the hares, enjoying the light, fling themselves high in the air and jump a long way, frolicking with one another; and it becomes confused when foxes have crossed it. [5] Spring with its genial temperature yields a clear scent, except where the ground is studded with flowers and hampers the hounds by mingling the odours of the flowers with it. In summer it is thin and faint, for the ground, being baked, obliterates what warmth it possesses, which is thin; and the hounds' noses are not so good at that season, because their bodies are relaxed. In the autumn it is unimpeded; for the cultivated crops have been harvested and the weeds have withered, so that the odours of the herbage do not cause trouble by mingling with it. [6] In winter and summer and autumn the scent lies straight in the main. In spring it is complicated; for though the animal couples at all times, it does so especially at this season;3 so instinct prompts them to roam about together, and this is the result they produce. [7]

The scent left by the hare in going to her form lasts longer than the scent of a running hare. For on the way to the form the hare keeps stopping, whereas when on the run she goes fast; consequently the ground is packed with it in the one case, but in the other is not filled with it. In coverts it is stronger than in open ground, because she touches many objects while running about and sitting up. [8]

They find a resting-place where there is anything growing or lying on the ground, underneath anything, on the top of the objects, inside, alongside, well away or quite near or fairly near; occasionally even in the sea4 by springing on to anything she5 can reach, or in fresh water, if there is anything sticking out or growing in it, the hare,6 when going to her [9] form generally choosing a sheltered place for it in cold weather and a cool one in hot, but in spring and autumn a place exposed to the sun; but hares on the run do not do that, because they are scared by the hounds. [10] When she sits, she puts the hind-legs under the flanks, and most commonly keeps the fore-legs close together and extended, resting the chin on the ends of the feet, and spreading the ears over the shoulder-blades, so that7 she covers the soft parts. The hair too, being thick and soft, serves as a protection. [11] When awake she blinks her eyelids; but when she is asleep the eyelids are wide open and motionless, and the eyes still. She moves her nostrils continually when sleeping, but less frequently when awake. [12] When the ground is bursting with vegetation they frequent the fields rather than the mountains. Wherever she may be she remains there when tracked, except when she is suddenly alarmed at night; in which case she moves off. [13]

The animal is so prolific that at the same time she is rearing one litter, she produces another and she is pregnant. The scent of the little leverets is stronger than that of the big ones; for while their limbs are still soft they drag the whole body on the ground. [14] Sportsmen, however, leave the very young ones to the goddess.8 Yearlings go very fast in the first run, but then flag, being agile, but weak. [15]

Find the hare's track by beginning with the hounds in the cultivated lands and gradually working downwards.9 To track those that do not come into cultivated land, search10 the meadows, valleys, streams, stones and woody places. If she moves off, don't shout, or the hounds may get wild with excitement and fail to recognise the tracks. [16] Hares when found by hounds and pursued sometimes cross brooks and double back and slip into gullies or holes. The fact is they are terrified not only of the hounds, but of eagles as well; for they are apt to be snatched up while crossing hillocks and bare ground until11 they are yearlings, and the bigger ones are run down and caught by the hounds. [17]

The swiftest are those that frequent mountains; those of the plain are not so speedy; and those of the marshes are the slowest. Those that roam over any sort of country are difficult to chase, since they know the short cuts. They run mostly uphill12 or on the level, less frequently in uneven ground, and very seldom downhill. [18] When being pursued they are most conspicuous across ground that has been broken up, if they have some red in their coats, or across stubble, owing to the shadow they cast. They are also conspicuous in game paths and on roads if these are level, since the bright colour of their coats shows up in the light. But when their line of retreat is amongst stones, in the mountains, over rocky or thickly wooded ground they cannot be seen owing to the similarity of colouring. [19] When they are well ahead of the hounds, they will stop, and sitting up will raise themselves and listen for the baying or the footfall of the hounds anywhere near; and should they hear the sound of them from any quarter, they make off. [20] Occasionally, even when they hear no sound, some fancy or conviction prompts them to jump hither and thither past and through the same objects, mixing the tracks as they retreat. [21] The longest runners are those that are found on bare land, because they are exposed to view; the shortest, those found in thick covers, since the darkness hinders their flight.

There are two species of hare.13 [22] The large are dark brown, and the white patch on the forehead is large; the smaller are chestnut, with a small white patch. [23] The larger have spots round the scut, the smaller at the side of it. The eyes in the large species are blue, in the small grey. The black at the tip of the ear is broad in the one species, narrow in the other. [24] The smaller are found in most of the islands, both desert and inhabited. They are more plentiful in the islands than on the mainland, for in the majority of these there are no foxes to attack and carry off the hares and their young; nor eagles, for they haunt big mountains rather than small, and the mountains in the islands, generally speaking, are rather small. [25] Hunters seldom visit the desert islands, and there are few people in the inhabited ones, and most of them are not sportsmen; and if an island is consecrated, one may not even take dogs into it. Since, then, but few of the old hares and the leverets that they produce are exterminated by hunting, they are bound to be abundant. [26]

The sight of the hare is not keen for several reasons. The eyes are prominent; the lids are too small and do not give protection to the pupils; consequently the vision is weak and blurred. [27] Added to this, though the animal spends much time asleep, it gets no benefit from that, so far as seeing goes. Its speed, too, accounts in no small degree for its dim sight. For it glances at an object and is past it in a flash, before realising its nature. [28] And those terrors, the hounds, close behind them when they are pursued combine with these causes to rob them of their wits. The consequence is that the hare bumps against many obstacles unawares and plunges into the net. [29] If she ran straight, she would seldom meet with this mishap. But instead of that she comes round and hugs the place where she was born and bred, and so is caught. In a fair run she is seldom beaten by the hounds owing to her speed. Those that are caught are beaten in spite of their natural characteristics through meeting with an accident. Indeed, there is nothing in the world of equal size to match the hare as a piece of mechanism. For the various parts that make up her body are formed as follows. [30]

The head is light, small, drooping, narrow at the front; the ears are upright;14 the neck is thin, round, not stiff, and fairly long; the shoulder-blades are straight and free at the top; the fore-legs are agile and close together; the chest is not broad; the ribs are light and symmetrical; the loins are circular; the rump is fleshy; the flanks are soft and fairly spongy; the hips are round, well filled out, and the right distance apart at the top; the thighs are small and firm, muscular on the outside and not puffy on the inside; the shanks are long and firm; the fore-feet are extremely pliant and narrow and straight and the hind-feet hard and broad; and all four are indifferent to rough ground; the hind-legs are much longer than the fore-legs, and slightly bent outwards; the coat is short and light. [31] With such a frame she cannot fail to be strong, pliant and very agile.

Here is a proof of her agility. When going quietly, she springs—no one ever saw or ever will see a hare walking—bringing the hind-feet forward in advance of the fore-feet and outside them; and that is how she runs. [32] This is obvious when snow is on the ground. The scut is of no assistance in running, for it is not able to steer the body owing to its shortness. The hare does this by means of one of her ears; and when she is roused by the hounds she drops one ear on the side on which she is being pressed and throws it aslant, and then bearing on this she wheels round sharply and in a moment leaves the assailant far behind. [33] So charming is the sight that to see a hare tracked, found, pursued and caught is enough to make any man forget his heart's desire. [34]

When hunting on cultivated land avoid growing crops and let pools and streams alone. It is unseemly and wrong to interfere with them, and there is a risk of encouraging those who see to set themselves against the law.15 On days on which there is no hunting,16 all hunting tackle should be removed.

1 ἄγειν τῆς γῆς has no parallel in Greek prose: perhaps ἐκ has fallen out or τὴν γῆν should be read.

2 Or “deadens the heat” if we read τὸ θερμόν with Gesner. But the Greeks did attribute heat to the moon.

3 The “March hare.”

4 See “The Hare,” Fur and Feather Series, p. 38 f.

5 The fluctuation between plural and singular is in the Greek.

6 The distinction is not, as often supposed, between hares with different habits (“squatters,” εὑναῖοι, and “roamers,” δρομαῖοι—a non-existent distinction), but merely between the behaviour of all hares in different circumstances. The unusual, but not unexampled, position of the article— and οἱ—has misled interpreters. Blane saw the true meaning.

7 I do not think that εἷτα δὲ can mean this, and suspect that εἷτα is wrong.

8 Artemis.

9 The cultivated land is on the lower slopes of the mountains.

10 There is evidently a gap in the Greek before τοὺς λειμῶνας, which has nothing to govern it.

11 Not “so long as”; cf. 14.

12 i.e. when pursued.

13 The common hare and a smaller variety of the same; which is said to be “more brindled in colour” than the larger kind. See “The Hare” in Fur and Feather Series, p.5.

14 “The ears are upright” is not in the MSS., and is inserted from Pollux. As our author is enumerating those characteristics of the hare that make for speed, it is not quite certain that the words are his, but see 33.

15 Both text and meaning are doubtful here. By “the law” is probably meant the law (or custom?) that allowed hunters to hunt over growing crops. See 12.5.

16 i.e., during festivals.

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