The Sporting review, ed. by 'Craven'. Edited by John William Carleton, July 1847 Highland Sports And Sporting Quarters by Linton
Majestic was thy appearance "Meal Four Vournie," for such is the name of the lofty mountain which stands pre-eminent over its more humble neighbours to the north of the Castle of Glenmoriston. Grand, indeed, were thy towering outlines, though half veiled by the moraine's mist, as we walked forth early after a good night's rest, and caressed the noble and beautiful deer-hound, who, stretched on the lawn, enjoyed the first rays of the rising sun. On the wild and magnificent scenery which surrounded us on all sides, however, we must no longer dwell, but proceed to tell a tale of hound and hart.
Once more, however, the sound of the pibroch called the castle inmates together; and having refused the morning's dram, and made a furious attack on the centre of a cold grouse pie, which succumbed to our onslaught, and lighted our cigars, the laird threw his plaid around him, and kindly proposed a visit to the kennel, being well aware of the great admiration in which we held tho noble race of deerhounds some of the purest of whose breed have, from time immemorial, been possessed by the ancestors of Glenmoriston. On our arrival at the kennel, the doors being thrown open, three fine rough deer-hounds, and a very handsome smooth hound, of the same breed, and of equal size and strength, rushed out on the grassy space before us • indeed, had we not moved on one side, we should, unquestionably, have measured our length on the ground. In addition to these— we speak only of deer-hounds—was our friend of tho morning, who joined in their gambols and delight of freedom; he, however, on all occasions being allowed to range at large, the faithful friend and companion of his master, by whom ho is greatly valued, and the pet and favourite of the children; for, notwithstanding their great courage and ferocity when roused to action, the temper of these dogs is most gentle. This gallant animal has been the subduer, as we were then informed, of no less than eighteen stags, which, single-handed, he has either brought to bay or killed and was tho sire of two of those released from tho kennel, as also of onr own dog Bran, mentioned in a former part of these pages; who like his parent, is one of the finest specimens of his race that can possibly be conceived; indeed, without the slightest intention of exalting his character becauso we have tho satisfaction of owning him, but rather in gratitude to tho donor by whom he was presented to us as a puppy Tf'e »h°u^ ^car no* *° produce him against any dog of the same breed now living, as a remarkably fino specimen of his race.
"I am not" said Mr. Grant, "the original founder of the noble breed of animals in this glen; indeed, a long minority on my part caused a serious degeneration in tho sporting superiority which her* maintained its pre-eminence in the time of my predecessors. In fact, there now remain to me but few relics of their prowess, either in the sports of the field or valour in arms." Along gun, however, we had the pleasure of handling, still remains as an heirloom in the family. It is of great antiquity and curiosity, and certainly two hundred years old. It is well known in the locality by the name of the "Alandick," and is of Dutch manufacture. The barrel is a very fine one, at least six feet and a half in length, and curved at the breech. It holds a prominent place in the arm-rack, and is still an excellent ball gun, and many a red-deer has fallen to its unerring truth. There is also in the same rack a sixbarrelled gun, or short rifle, of curious construction and great antiquity, with which its owner has also been known to bring a hart to bay—such are the heirlooms of the Highlands.
But let us return to the dogs. The first which entered the kennels of Glenmoriston, subsequent to his majority or accession to the property, was sent to him by Captain McDonald, of Moray, in the Braes of Lochaber. This gentleman, since dead, was a landholder and farmer of the old Highland class, and a first-rate sportsman. Having heard of a pure and beautiful bitch of the same breed, whose character stood high for her great courage and lasting power in the chase of the deer, then the property of the late Thomas Mackenzie, of Applecross, Glenmoriston suggested that either the one or the other should endeavour to keep up this precious breed of dogs, the puro animal becoming daily more scarco in the Highlands. Mr. Mackenzie, however, having a far greater taste for literature than sporting, declined tho task, and the lady forthwith became domiciled at Invermoriston, from which period, now about thirty years ago, the breed has remained uncontaminated in those parts, at least, of which we had the pleasure of seeing the few remaining specimens. We have since been informed that Glenmoriston has relinquished his dogs, as also the care of their augmentation—in which, at one period, he took great interest—to Mr. B. Ellis, of Glengarrick, at least such is the name of his shooting quarters; and as this gentleman is a first rate sportsman, has the means, and, like ourselves, is an enthusiast with regard to these rough deer-hounds, we may fain hope he will restore them to their original size and splendour. The trouble and difficulty of rearing them and keeping them pure in breed is, however, immense. Cross them but once, and a smooth, piled puppy will be introduced among the litter, as has been the case with Mr. Grant's dogs; and ever afterwards one or two of tho puppies will be smooth haired. We must, however, state that the fact of their smoothness does not always detract from their fleetness or courage. The puppies are extremely delicate, and require constant care and attention; but the casualties of youth and distemper once over, they become extremely hardy; as an instance, we will merely observe that tho splendid dog which had welcomed us in the cariy morning, on our first proceeding from the castle, has been known to lie out night after night on the lawn, when the ground has been knee-deep with snow, and this with shelter at hand, had he desired to take advantage of it. If properly trained, their courage and endurance of fatigue can be surpassed by no domesticated animal; but, on the contrary, if mismanaged, and led to a task beyond their strength ere they are full grown and well broken, should they fail or get severely wounded, they will never recover their courage. Glengarry—a name familiar as birch-trees in the Highlands, to history and to most sportsmen who, at one period, possessed many of these dogs, was in the habit of crossing them, aa are other owners who continue to do so in the present day. There is no question, however, but that they act erroneously: that is to say, if they require a race of animals to hunt, chase, kill, or bring to bay a red-deer. The deer-hound is either a deer-hound, or it is a mongrel—there can he no intermediate race. Neither can there be a question hut that the animal intended by a higher Power for a particular object, is the fit, proper, and superior one over all others. For instance, cross a greyhound with a Newfoundland dog; then he may kill a hare, but how? why, by chance; but he will never win a cup at the Altcar. For the same reason, cross a noble deer-hound with a mastiff or a bulldog, as many have done, he may, in some trifling degree, increase some particular quality of the latter, but he will lose many of the fine qualities and sagacities of the former, which are alone to be found in the pure-bred deer-hound. For instance, Glengarrvs had large feet and great ugly heads, and other defects of proportion, which made them unable to run on rocky or hard ground, without soon becoming lame and useless. But were we to write volumes on the interesting subject of this breed of dogs, we should only add, get the pure race, and you will have the true one. Treat them and train them properly, and they will prove the best and only dogs which ought to be used in the noble sport of deer stalking, whether in the open chase or as the means of running a wounded deer and bringing him to bay. They are a great acquisition to any sporting kennel, and even when far away from the Highlands, we know of few more magnificent and faithful companions during a morning's ramble or by a winter's fire side. A few years since, Glenmoriston most kindly sent us two puppies, of the purest breed; and we were fortunate enough to obtain another, equally pure and as handsome, from the same part of Scotland. Of the dog we have already spoken, he lives as fine a specimen as can be, of his race. The bitch was as beautiful and graceful an animal as could he imagined; but with the peculiarity which is particularly prominent in these animals, she was not much more than half the size of the dog, but so fleet that we constantly and most unwisely used her to chase the mountain hares, and after a hard day on the hills of Meggernic, when the weather was unusually hot for October, and probably from her youth, she was seized with convulsions, and, much to our regret, her bones lay beneath the sod of her native hills. The third is now in Ireland. She produced nine beautiful puppies by the dog; but, notwithstanding every care, they all died. These dogs were never kept in kennel, save at night; during the day they had, as they do now, their entire freedom, and were our constant companions whether riding or walking; indeed, they had the entrie of every room in the house. Their food was a matter of perfect indifference as to the choice—anything which was to be had from the kitchen, and under this treatment no dogs coidd possibly thrive better; indeed, when Glenmoriston saw the dog he had kindly sent as a puppy at two years old, he admitted that he was one of the finest animals he ever beheld. Did space permit of it, wc could tell endless tales of their sagacity; we will, however, only name one with regard to their being excellent water dogs, aud then close the subject. For a season we resided at a house, the garden or lawn of which extended to the banks of a tolerably wide river; on this river we had a small skiff, in which, both summer and winter, we constantly crossed to the opposite bank. On all occasions, whatever the weather, even with snow ou the ground, the moment the boat was pushed from the shore, in plunged, not only the deer-hounds, but two smooth greyhounds; and had we rowed backwards and forwards a dozen times, these animals would follow. On one occasion, we scarcely recollect why, the deer-hound bitch, then not eighteen months old, was sent to a friend who resided at least a mile on the opposite side of the river. On the first night after her departure, we heard a howling under the bed-room window, and on looking out, not only discovered her ladyship, but also from the wetness of her dripping shaggy coat, that she had swam the river at midnight to return home, and this she repeated in the depth of winter, on two successive nights. And in reference to their gentleness, we will simply add, that these fine animals have often been seen stretched before a blazing fire, with an Angola cat literally resting his head between their fore legs.