Chapter 8: Of The Great Plentie Of Hares, Red Deer, And Other Wilde Beasts In Scotland, Of The Strange Properties Of Sundrie Scotish Dogs, And Of The Nature Of Samon.
HAUING made this speciall description of the realme of Scotland, now will I touch such
things as concearne the same in generall. First of all therfore in the fields and wild places
of the country there is great plentie of hares, red déere, fallow déere, roes, wild horsses,
woolues and foxes. These horsses are not gotten but by great slight and policie: for in the
winter season the inhabitants turne certeine tame horsses & mares among them, wherewith
they grow in the end to be so familiar, that afterward they go with them to and fro, and
finallie home into their maisters yards, where they be taken and soone broken to their hands.
The woolues are most fierce and noisome to the heards and flocks in all parts of Scotland,
sauing in one parcell of Angus, called Glennors dale, where these beasts doo no manner of
hurt vnto the domesticall cattell, but preie onlie vpon the wild.
Foxes doo much mischéefe generallie in all steads, but chéeflie in the mounteines,
where they be verie hardlie hunted, howbeit art hath deuised a meane to preuent their malice,
and to preserue their pultrie. Certes there is almost no house that dooth not for certeine
daies cherish vp a yong fox, which the Scots doo call a Todde, and then killing the same,
they mince the flesh thereof amongst such meat, as they giue vnto their foules and other
little bestials, and by this meanes so many foules and cattell as eate héerof are preserued from
danger of the fox, almost by two moneths after, so that they may wander whither they will,
for the foxes as it were winding or smelling the flesh of their fellowes yet in their crops will
in no wise meddle with them, but eschew, and know such a one, although it were among an
hundreth of other.
In Scotland also are dogs of maruelous condition; for beside the common nature and vniuersall properties of dogs of all other countries, there are thrée sorts with vs, which are not
séene else-where in anie quarter of the world. The first is an hound of great swiftnesse,
hardinesse, and strength, fierce and cruell vpon all wilde beasts, and eger against théeues
that offer their maisters any violence. The second is a rach or hound verie exquisite in following the foot, (which we call drawing) whether it be of man or beast, yea he will pursue
any maner of foule, and find out whatsoeuer fish is cast vp, or lurketh among the rocks, by
that excellent sense of smelling wherewith he is indued. The third sort is no greater than that of
raches, in colour for the most part red, with blacke spots, or else blacke and full of red marks.
These are so skilfull that they will pursue a théefe, or théefe stolen goods in most precise maner, and finding the trespasser, with great assurance they will make a raise vpon him. Or if
it be so that he haue taken the water for his safegard, he shrinketh not to follow him, and
entring and issuing at the same places where the partie went in and out, he neuer ceasseth to
range till he haue nosed his footing, & be come to the place wherein the théefe is shrowded.
The dogs of this kind are called sleuthhounds. Certes this report would séeme méere incredible, except it were dailie had in experience vpon the borders of England and Scotland,
where pillage is good purchase indifferentlie on both sides. There is a law also among the
borderers in time of peace, that whoso denieth entrance or sute of a sleuthhound in pursuit
made after fellons and stolen goods, shall be holden as accessarie vnto the theft, or taken for
the selfe theefe.
Of foules, such (I meane) as liue by preie, there are sundrie sorts in Scotland, as eagles, falcons, goshaukes, sparrowhaukes, marlions, and such like: but of water foules there is so
great store, that the report thereof may seeme to excéed all credit. There are other kinds of
birds also in this countrie, the like of which is no where else to be séene, as the capercailze
or wild horsse greater in bodie than the rauen, and liuing onelie by the rinds and barks of the
pine trees. We haue in like maner manie moore cocks and hens, the which absteining from
corne, doo feed vpon nought else, but the leaues of Cytisus, which the Scots doo commonlie
call Hadder. These two are verie delicate in eating. The third sort is reddish blacke of
colour, in quantitie comparable to the phesant, and no lesse delicious in taste and sauor at the
table, our countrie men call them wild cocks, and their chiefe sustenance is by wheat.
Beside these, we haue also another foule in Mers more strange and vncouth than all these
afore mentioned, called a gustard, fullie so great as a swan, but in colour of feathers and tast
of flesh, little differing from a partridge, howbeit these birds are not verie common, neither to
be séene in all places, such also is their qualitie, that if they perceiue their egs to haue béene
touched in their absence by mans hand (which lie commonlie on the bare earth) they forsake
those nests, and laie in other places. All other our foules are common to vs and other nations. Samon is more plentifull in Scotland than in anie other region of the world, and bicause the nature of this fish is strange, I will set downe so much as I doo know hereof at this
present time as followeth.
The samon in haruest time commeth vp into the small riuers, where the water is most shallow, and there the male and female rubbing their wombe one against another, they shed their
spawne, which foorthwith they couer with sand and grauell and so depart away. From hencefoorth they are gant and slender, and in appearance so leane that they appeare nought else
but skin and bone, and therefore worthilie said to be growne out of vse and season. It is
said also that if they touch anie of their full fellowes, during the time of this their leannesse,
the same side which they touched will likewise become leane, whereby it commeth to passe,
that a samon is oft seene to be fat on the one side of the chine, and leane on the other. But
to procéed, the aforesaid spawne and milt being hidden in the sand (as you haue heard) in the
next spring dooth yéeld great number of little frie, but so nesh and tender for a long time, that
till they come to be so great as a mans finger (if you catch anie of them) you shall perceiue
them to melt, and their substance to dissolue and fade euen as it were gellie, or as yse laid
foorth against the sun. From henceforth they go to the sea, where within the space of 20
daies they grow to a maruellous greatnesse, and then returning againe toward the place of
their generation, they shew a notable spectacle not vnworthie to be considered.
Certes in Scotland there are manie linnes or pooles, which being in some places among
the rocks verie shallow aboue, are yet déepe beneath, with the fall of the water, and thereto
the samon not able to pearse through the chanell, either for swiftnesse of the course, or
depth of the descent of such water as commeth against him, he goeth so neere vnto the side
of the rocke or dam, if I may so call it, as he may, and there aduentureth to leape ouer and
vp into the lin, if he leape well at the first he obteineth his desire, if not, he assaieth the second
or third time, till he returne now vnto his countrie: a great fish able to swim against the
streame, that before was a litle hod, and maugre his resistance, caried with the violent course of
the water into the maine ocean. Such as assay often to leape, and cannot get ouer, doo
broose themselues and become measelled: others that happen to fall vpon drie land, a thing
often seene, are taken by the people (that watch their times) in caldrons of hot water, which
they set vpon the shallow & drie plots with fire vnder them, in hope to catch the fattest, &
such as by reason of their weight do oftnest leape short. Certes the tast of these is reputed
to be most delicate, and therfore their price is commonlie greater than of the rest. It is inhibited in Scotland to take any samon from the 8 of September, vntill the 15 of Nouember.
Finallie there is no man that knoweth readilie whereon this fish liueth, for neuer was anie thing
yet found in their bellies, other than a thicke slimie humor.