Thursday, 15 December 2011


Right. We've done rabbits and pigeons, now it's the deer's turn. This pair were helping themselves to the rabbit's grass the other day as I snapped them with my phone camera.

The dog (a collie who has killed one or two in his time here) just stood at the edge of the field barking at them as they took no notice. I thought I had better scare them off in case the dog decided to get involved, but they took no notice of me either as I walked toward them, waving my arms around. Why, I wondered, does the average hunter think that you need to silently creep up to them on all fours before taking aim with a rifle from about a quarter of a mile? I could have walked right up to this pair and whacked them with a hammer - maybe they know we are a soft touch out here?

I used to look after a big (very big) grizzled, grey deerhound lurcher called Bill when I lived in the country. Bill was a fearless killer, and had been responsible for the deaths of many deer, foxes, squirrels and cats in his longish life. To be fair, the foxes were an unfortunate accident - all he wanted to do was play with them, but the foxes did not seem to understand the concept so paid the ultimate price. It all happens so quickly with dogs, that you are never quite sure who started it.

His technique with squirrels was to simply launch himself at them from a great distance, usually in a public park. My God, how that dog could run. He was like a guided missile. More often than not, the squirrel would be within a quick sprint of a tree, so Bill would collide with the trunk at about 60 miles an hour, knocking himself out cold. Cats were as simple as rabbits, and if discovered in open country, it only took one bite to finish them off.

I once saw him pursuing a hare in a field of tall corn. Because the corn was taller than him, he was forced to run a bit, then leap up every few yards to take a look at where he was going, then dive down back into it again to run through for a few yards, flattening the standing crop on the way. He never caught the wily hare.

I took him out at twilight once, and he spotted a group of rabbits at the far end of a field. Off he went and the rabbits dived for cover, closely followed by Bill. He was gone for ages, and as it began to get dark, I saw him stumbling around in the field trying to make his way back to me. At first I thought he was injured, but when he eventually came up to me, I saw that his eyes had been completely closed by a lot of burr seeds which had clogged in the long fur around them. It took quite a while to pull them all out, and by that time it was completely dark. I had to let Bill guide me back through the wood then, which he did very diligently. One good turn deserves another.

At the time, I was living next door to Chris Patten (the last Governor of Hong Kong, and our MP then), and he had a small, very old and very blind dog which stumbled about, swearing under it's breath and bumping in to things. One sunday, it stumbled into Bill, and I wondered what all the commotion was about. I went out to find Chris's dog underneath Bill, who had it by the neck and was just about to kill it before I pulled him off. It could have been an international incident.

Another time, we were mushrooming together in a dense wood near my cottage (or at least I was - Bill was just looking bored) when I heard a twig snap and looked up to see a large deer stag which had somehow stumbled upon us and stood staring at us from a distance of 10 feet. I thought the deer had had it, and prepared my knife to finish it off after Bill had given it a mauling.

The deer looked at Bill, Bill looked at the deer, then we all looked at each other for a while before the deer turned it's back on us and casually sauntered away through the bushes. We went back to mushrooming and Bill looked a bit embarrassed at his lack of action. He had been taken by surprise and simply couldn't be bothered. The stag knew this, obviously. Bill was great dog.


  1. Haddock's is now securely surrounded by fence. The deer bistro is CLOSED,

  2. Lovely tales. The last one reminded me of 'Bitch of the Week'. I still laugh whenever I see it.

  3. Good ole Bill didn't kill the deer. I'm glad to hear that! My dachshund Teddy used to chase rabbits and squirrels. Never caught a-one. But it was fun watching him run around. His face always looked so strained. He'd come back empty-pawed and down in the dumps.

  4. Sounds like the deer had the common sense not to run - that alone sets off a lurcher`s instinct to chase and then to kill !

  5. What a great story. It's strange how animals can sense what each other is about. In the past, I have had my blind little dog, a stray cat who would not let you touch her and two wild racoons within two feet of each other (all at the same time) without any incident. The racoons and the cat would patiently sit there, waiting for food and parting quietly like the red sea to let the blind dog pass between them.

  6. Intriguing story. I knew a boxer when I grew up. Killed neighborhood cats and stashed them in our garage. I saw him bearing down on a cat who just stood his ground and stared. Until he disappeared. The cat lept straight up, landed on the boxer's back, apparently sunk all claws for stability and took the boxer for a ride. Never saw the cat again, but he was not numbered among those in our garage.

  7. Either that Tom or discretion was the better part of valour.

  8. Deer LOVE roses, Cro.

    Bitch of the week, Sarah? Which one?

    Me too, Grouch.

    Daschunds don't have the legs for it, do they, Amy?

    True, Janet.

    I wouldn't mind having a racoon - so long as it didn't live in my attic, Iris.

    Clever cat,Joanne. I have seen (films of) hares leap-frogging off lurcher's backs during hare-coursing. The only way is up, sometimes.

    Whatever works has always worked for me in the past, Weaver.

  9. We've always had small dogs. Once our Yorkie was mauled by our friends Airedale. I was shocked when he stuck his head in our car and pulled our little guy out of the window and began shaking him. I stuck my hand in his mouth and pulled him out. Looking back I guess that wasn't too smart but it worked. It happened so fast and our dog was badly hurt with crushed ribs but eventually recovered.
    Your Bill sounds like quite a hunter. I'm sure you miss him. Great stories!

  10. Thanks Donna. I discovered the trick of what to do when being attacked by a savage dog - try and stuff your hand down it's throat. It works. All the dog can think of is 'get the hand out', so does not close it's jaws. You have to be brave.