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Title: Wild Spain (España agreste) - Records of Sport with Rifle, Rod, and Gun, Natural History Exploration
Author: Buck, Walter J., Chapman, Abel
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[etext transcriber's note: A few typographical errors have been
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[Illustration: image of the book's cover]


[Illustration: "TWO IBEX-HUNTERS."]

[Illustration: Map illustrating
















70 TO 76, LONG ACRE, W.C.


In "WILD SPAIN" we endeavour to describe a little-known land from a
point of view hitherto almost unoccupied--that of the
sportsman-naturalist. Many books have been written on Spain--some very
good ones: but recent volumes chiefly confine themselves to the history,
antiquities, architecture, &c., of the country, with their authors'
impressions of the Spanish people. Such subjects find no place--save
incidentally--in the present work, which systematically avoids the
beaten track and essays to depict some of the unknown and more remote

During more than twenty years the authors have undertaken sporting
expeditions into various parts of Spain--chiefly in Andalucia, but
including, at one time or another, nearly all the western provinces from
the Mediterranean to Biscay. A love of wild sport has been, perhaps, the
leading motive; but the study of natural history has hardly been of
secondary importance. In pursuit of these twin objects we have spared
neither time nor trouble, spending weeks--sometimes months--at a time,
in the sierras and wildernesses of Spain, bivouacing wherever night
overtook us, or the chances of sport might dictate, and camping-out on
the glorious snow-clad cordilleras.

Our subjects are the wild-life and _feræ naturæ_ of the
Peninsula--including in the latter expression, by a slight stretch of
the term, the brigand and the gypsy, with remarks on agriculture as
cognate and supplementary. As far as convenient, the sequence of
chapters follows the change of the seasons, commencing with spring-time.
Hence the earlier part of the book is more concerned with natural
history--though the pursuit of ibex and bustard may be followed in
spring; while the latter half is more exclusively devoted to sport.

Long residence in Spain has afforded opportunities which are not
available to the casual traveller. Especially is this the case with
sport, of which we have, at times, enjoyed some of the best that Spain
affords. But it should be remarked that many of the shooting campaigns
herein described have been on private and preserved grounds; and, while
we naturally select the more fortunate records, we pass over in silence
many a blank day and fruitless effort. Nearly all ground on which
_large_ game is found, is preserved, with the exception of remote parts
of the sierras, where wild pig and roe may be shot, and those higher
mountain-ranges which form the home of ibex and chamois; moreover, while
indicating in general terms the distribution of the various games and
other animals, we have in many instances avoided naming precise

In describing a foreign land, it is impossible entirely to avoid the use
of foreign terms for which, in many cases, no precise equivalents exist
in English: but, to minimize this drawback, we append a glossary of all
Spanish words used herein. Conversely, lest Spanish readers should
misinterpret the title of this book, we have added a translation in the

The illustrations consist of reproductions, either from photographs or
from rough sketches in pen-and-ink and water-colours by the authors,
whose only merit lies in their essaying to represent in their native
haunts some of the least-known birds and beasts of Europe, several of
which, it is probable, have never before been drawn from the life. If
some of these sketches are not as satisfactory as we could have wished,
the difficulties under which they were produced may serve as some
excuse. At the last moment we have had some of them "translated" in
London by Messrs. C. M. Sheldon and A. T. Elwes, and are also indebted
to Miss M. E. Crawhall for several sepia-drawings made by her in Spain.

It had been our intention to append a list of the birds of Spain, with
their Spanish names and short notes on each species; but this we find
would exceed our limits, and moreover the blanks and "missing links"
still remain so numerous that we have abandoned--or at least
deferred--that part of our programme. This may explain a certain want of
continuity or coherence, in an ornithological sense.

We are indebted to Lord Lilford and to Messrs. J. C. Forster and Ralph
W. Bankes for several valuable notes and assistance, also to Admiral Sir
M. Culme-Seymour for photographs taken in "Wild Spain"; while we cannot
sufficiently express our gratitude to Mr. Howard Saunders, who has in
the kindest manner gone through the proof-sheets, and whose long
experience and intimate knowledge of Spain have been most generously
placed within our reach. For any serious mistakes which may remain, the
authors must be solely responsible.

_December 31st, 1892._





i. Introductory                                                        1

ii. Life in the Sierras                                               13

iii. A night at a _Posada_                                            19


A BOAR-HUNT IN THE SIERRA                                             23


THE GREAT BUSTARD                                                     33



i. Jedilla                                                            46

ii. Santo Domingo--an Idyl                                            50




Notes on his history: his breeds and rearing: and his
life up to the _encierro_--_i.e._, the eve of his death               54



Spring-notes of bird-life, natural history and exploration in
the marisma

Part i.--April                                                        70



Part ii.--May                                                         83


WILD CAMELS IN EUROPE                                                 94



Notes on their haunts and habits, and the discovery of their
nesting-places                                                       102




i. Vizco el Borje                                                    116

ii. Agua Dulce                                                       124



Notes on its natural history, haunts, habits and distribution        128



i. Sierra de Gredos (Old Castile)                                    140

ii. Riscos de Valderejo                                              150



iii. Sierra Bermeja (Mediterranean)                                  157

iv. Nevada and the Alpujarras. Ten days in a snow-cave               166



i. Castile, etc.                                                     173

ii. Santandér                                                        179


TROUTING IN THE ASTURIAS AND IN LEON                                 183



i. Forest and plain                                                  188



ii. Chiefly relating to the Sierra                                   205



i. Cereals, green crops, etc.                                        220



ii. The olive                                                        231

iii. Horse-breeding and live stock                                   233

iv. Supplement                                                       236



i. The _pinales_, or pine-region                                     238



ii. The cistus-plains and prairies                                   250



iii. By lake and lagoon                                              266



Notes on the history of the "Gitanos"                                277


THE SPANISH GYPSY OF TO-DAY                                          287



A winter ride in the Sierras                                         293


THE HOME OF THE LÄMMERGEYER                                          307



An incident of Ibex-stalking                                         316


THE IBEX-HUNTER'S BETROTHAL                                          320


ON VITICULTURE IN SPAIN AND PORTUGAL                                 325



His natural history and habits                                       338


THE LITTLE BUSTARD                                                   343


A WINTER CAMPAIGN IN DOÑANA                                          348



i. A wet winter                                                      371



ii. A dry season (flight-shooting)                                   384

iii. An Arctic winter                                                392


THE STANCHION-GUN IN SPAIN                                           395



My first stag                                                        405



i. Snipe-shooting                                                    417

ii. Cranes, storks, and bitterns                                     420

iii. Miscellaneous marsh-birds                                       424



On the Southern plains                                               428




With notes on other Spanish Mammalia                                 437

Red Deer                                                             437

Fallow Deer                                                          438

The Roebuck in Spain                                                 439

The Spanish Ibex                                                     440

The Chamois                                                          441

The Bear                                                             442

Wild Boar                                                            443

Wolf and Fox      444-5

Spanish Lynx                                                         446

Smaller beasts      447 _et seq._



With dates of arrival, etc., in Andalucia                            450


i. Spring-notes in Navarre                                           454

ii. Supplementary notes on birds (Southern Spain)                    457


PLATE NO.                                                           PAGE

i. Map of Spain and Portugal                                _Frontispiece_

An Andaluz                                                             3

A Granadino                                                            4

Basque peasant                                                         5

ii. Relics of the Moors--Ruins of the Watch-tower of
Melgarejo                                                    _To face_ 6

Fair Sevillanas                                                        8

A _choza:_ the home of the Andalucian peasant                         13

iii. Pair of Civil Guards--Jerez                            _To face_ 14

A water-seller                                                        18

iv. Daughters of Andalucia                                  _To face_ 19

Dancers with castanets                                                20

A village _posada_                                                    21

"Furniture"                                                           25

Our quarters in the Sierra                                            26

A straight charge (wild boar)                                         30

v. "That old tusker" (wild boar)                            _To face_ 31

A mule with trappings                                                 32

vi. Bustards on the barrens--winter;--a first shade of
suspicion                                                   _To face_ 33

vii. Watering the cattle--summer-time                       _To face_ 35

Great Bustard--_echando la rueda_                                     39

viii. Bustard-driving--the pack come "well in"              _To face_ 40

Great Bustards--an April dawn                                         43

ix.  "   " --among the spring-corn                          _To face_ 48

The Bustard-shooter--triumph!                                         51

x. Ancient draw-well on the plains                          _To face_ 52

xi. Bulls on the plains                                     _To face_ 57

xii. The morn of the Fight--Bulls in the _toril_ (Miura's
breed)                                                      _To face_ 61

xiii. The _Encierro_                                        _To face_ 65

A Bull-fighter                                                        66

A Matador                                                             68

Fishing-boat on the Guadalquivir                                      78

Flamingoes                                               74, 102 and 115

Avocets                                                    77, 82 and 87

Stilts                                                     70, 86 and 92

xiv. Booted Eagle                                           _To face_ 81

xv. Pintailed Sand-Grouse                                   _To face_ 85

Grey Plovers--summer-plumage                                          89

xvi. The Spanish Wild Camels--our first sight of a couple
in the marisma                                              _To face_ 94

xvii. Wild Camels--seen through the binoculars              _To face_ 98

Flamingoes on feed                                                   104

A right-and-left at Flamingoes                                       106

Spanish Lynx                                                         107

A toilet in the wilderness (Flamingoes)                              109

Flamingoes and nests                                                 111

xviii. Flamingoes on their nests                           _To face_ 112

Civil Guards--a sketch from life                                     121

Draw-well at the Zumajo, near Jerez                                  127

Spanish Ibex, Old Ram--Sierra de Gredos                              131

---- ---- ---- Sierra Nevada                           133, 135, and 170

xix. On the crags of Almanzór (Ibex)                       _To face_ 137

Old olive-trees near Talavera                                        139

xx. Ibex-hunting--a sketch in the Sierra de Gredos         _To face_ 141

Our first old Ram                                                    145

xxi. Ibex-hunting--the two old Rams at the "Cannon-Rock"   _To face_ 148

The peaks of Gredos                                                  149

xxii. Our camp on the Riscos de Valderejo                  _To face_ 152

Ibex-hunters of Gredos--a sketch by the camp-fire                    154

Ibex, female--Riscos de Valderejo                                    155

---- ---- Bermeja                                                    158

xxiii. Ibex-hunting--a sketch in the Sierra Bermeja        _To face_ 161

Forest Ibex, old Ram--Bermeja                                        164

Trout                                                  175, 182, and 186

Chamois                                                      179 and 442

Spanish Imperial Eagle                                 190, 198, and 219

---- ---- (Spotted stage)                                            193

---- ---- The Eagle's swoop                                          262

Tawny Eagle                                                          195

Black Vulture                                                201 and 202

At roost--Serpent-Eagles                                             204

xxiv. A Vulture's banquet                                  _To face_ 206

Griffon Vulture and nest--Puerta de Palomas                          208

Strange neighbours (Vultures and Storks)                             209

xxv. "Where the carcase is"                                _To face_ 213

Bonelli's Eagle (adult)                                      217 and 383

xxvi. Ploughing with oxen                                  _To face_ 221

Wooden ploughshare                                                   224

xxvii. The harvest-field                                   _To face_ 225

xxviii. Threshing corn with mares                          _To face_ 226

xxix. Winnowing                                            _To face_ 228

"Waiting for death" (old olive-trees)                                232

xxx. Kites and Marsh-Harriers                              _To face_ 242

xxxi. Sand-dunes and _Corrales_ of Doñana                  _To face_ 245

Hoopoes                                                              248

A serenade (Red-leg Partridge)                                       251

Azure-winged Magpies                                                 258

Eyed Lizard and Serpent-Eagle                                        260

Black Stork                                                          265

xxxii. Mallards and Ferruginous Ducks--Alamillo            _To face_ 268

xxxiii. White-fronted Ducks--Santolalla                    _To face_ 270

Buff-backed Heron                                             83 and 272

Marsh-Harrier--very old male                                         274

Summer evening--Owls and Moths                                       276

xxxiv. Dancers at Granada--the _Bolero_                    _To face_ 289

Gypsy lad                                                            290

Gypsy dance                                                          292

Lämmergeyer--a first impression                                      295

Dance and guitar                                                     297

Griffon Vulture (a sketch from life)                                 303

"Roses in Spain"                                                     306

xxxv. Lämmergeyer--a sketch from life in the Sierra
Bermeja                                                    _To face_ 309

Our quarters at Guentar del Rio                                      312

Ibex-head--Sierra de Gredos                                          319

xxxvi. Vineyard and gateway                                _To face_ 325

Vines in March (Jerez)                                               326

xxxvii. In a Jerez Bodega                                  _To face_ 328

xxxviii. Irrigation by the _noria_, or water-wheel         _To face_ 334

A vineyard at Jerez                                                  336

Great Bustards                                               337 and 340

Little Bustards--May                                                 345

xxxix. A Spanish jungle--The Angosturas                    _To face_ 348

Fishing-boats                                                        349

xl. Palacio de Doñana                                      _To face_ 350

xli. Breakfast-time--Doñana                                _To face_ 352

A royal head--Doñana                                                 354

Dead Lynx                                                            355

Group of forest-guards                                               357

Pannier-pony and game                                                358

Spanish Red Deer--a mountain-head from Morena                360 and 430

---- a stag of thirteen points                                       363

xlii. Spanish wildfowlers approaching duck with _cabresto_
ponies                                                     _To face_ 365

xliii. A shot in the open (Red Deer)                       _To face_ 367

Wild Boar--an old tusker                                             368

xliv. Salavar--a sketch in a Spanish _Mancha_              _To face_ 369

xlv. Wildfowling with _cabrestos_--

---- ---- No. 1. The approach                              _To face_ 372

xlvi. ---- ---- No. 2. The shot                            _To face_ 374

xlviii. ---- ---- No. 3. The result                        _To face_ 381

"_Anseres son!_"                                                     377

Greylag Geese flighting--daybreak                                    378

xlvii. Grey Geese and Wigeon--midday                       _To face_ 378

Marsh-Harrier (young)                                                380

xlix. "The farewell shot"                                  _To face_ 382

Mallards                                                             387

Grey Geese                                                   390 and 391

l. Redshanks (101 and)                                     _To face_ 393

Stilts                                                       396 and 404

Little Gull and Tern                                                 398

li. "A Hundred at a Shot--now or never!"                   _To face_ 400

"The Biter and the Bit" (Harrier and Teal)                           401

lii. La Marismilla--a shooting morning                     _To face_ 405

Spanish guns                                                         411

"The eleven-pointer" (Red Deer)                                      413

A fifteen-pointer (Red Deer)                                         414

"Dropped in his tracks" (Wild Boar)                                  416

Stork's nest--The Banderas, Seville                                  422

---- ---- on straw-stack                                             459

Spanish Lynx                                                         436

Spanish Ibex--Five-year-old Rams                                     440






Among European countries Spain stands unique in regard to the range of
her natural and physical features. In no other land can there be found,
within a similar area, such extremes of scene and climate as
characterize the 400 by 400 miles of the Iberian Peninsula. Switzerland
has alpine regions loftier and more imposing, Russia vaster steppes, and
Norway more arctic scenery: but nowhere else in Europe do arctic and
tropic so nearly meet as in Spain. Contrast, for example, the stern
grandeur of the Sierra Nevada, wrapped in eternal snow, with the almost
tropical luxuriance of the Mediterranean shores which lie at its feet.

Nor is any European country so largely abandoned to nature: nature in
wildest primeval garb, untouched by man, untamed and glorious in
pristine savagery. The immense extent of rugged sierras which intersect
the Peninsula partly explains this; but a certain sense of insecurity
and a hatred of rural life inherent in the Spanish breast are still more
potent factors. The Spanish people, rich and poor, congregate in town or
village, and vast stretches of the "campo," as they call it, are thus
left uninhabited, _despoblados_--relinquished to natural conditions, to
the wild beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Perhaps in this
respect the semi-savage regions of the far East, the provinces of the
Balkans and of classic Olympus, most nearly approach, though they cannot
rival, the splendid abandonment of rural Spain. And as a nation, the
Spanish people vary _inter se_ in almost the same degree. It is, in
fact, that characteristic of Iberia which is reflected in the
picturesque diversity of the Iberians.

One cause which tends to explain these divergences, racial and physical,
is the exceptionally high mean elevation of the Peninsula above
sea-level. Spain is a highland plateau; a huge table-mountain,
intersected by ranges of still loftier mountains, but devoid of low-land
over a large proportion of its area, save in certain river-valleys and
in the comparatively narrow strips of land, or alluvial belts, that
adjoin the sea-board--chiefly in its southernmost province, Andalucia.

Few nations live at so great an average elevation. The cities of London,
Paris, Berlin, St. Petersburg, all the Scandinavian capitals, and even
Lisbon, stand at, or a little above, sea-level; Vienna, Moscow, and
Dresden have elevations of only a few hundred feet; but Madrid is
perched at 2,384 feet, with the snow-fields of Guadarrama overlooking
the Puerta del Sol, while a large area of Central Spain, comprising the
Castiles, Aragon and Navarre, is of even greater altitude. Thus Burgos
stands at 2,873 feet; Segovia, 2,299; Granada, 2,681; and the Escorial
at 3,686 feet.

These central table-lands, exposed to a tropical sun, become torrid,
tawny deserts in summer; in winter--owing rather to rarefied air than to
very low temperatures--they are subject to a severity of cold unknown in
our more temperate clime, and to biting blasts from the Alpujarras, the
Guadarrama, and other mountain ranges which intersect the uplands, and
on which snow lies throughout the year, contrasting strangely in the
dog-days with the pitiless heat of summer and the intensity of the azure

Of different type is the mountain region of the north--the Cantabrian
Highlands bordering on Biscay, the Basque Provinces, Galicia and the
Asturias, offshoots of the Pyrenean system. There the country is almost
Scandinavian in type, with deeply rifted valleys, rapid salmon-rivers,
and rushing mountain-torrents abounding in trout; and an alpine fauna
including the chamois and bear, ptarmigan, hazel-grouse, and
capercaillie. That is a land of rock, snow, and mist-wreath, of birch
and pine-forest: abrupt and untilled, wind-swept and wet as a West
Highland moor, the very antithesis of the smiling province which most
concerns us now--Andalucia. This, more African than Africa, in spring,
autumn and winter is a paradise, the _huerta_ of Europe, low-lying and
protected by the sierras of Nevada and Morena from the deadly breath of
the central plateau; but in the four summer months an _infierno_, where
every green thing is burnt up by a fiery sun, where shade is not, and
where life is only endurable by discarding European habits and adopting
those of Moorish or Oriental races.

[Illustration: AN ANDALUZ.]

Naturally such contrasts of climate and country re-act upon the
character of the denizens--be they human or _feræ naturæ_--of a land
which includes within its boundaries nearly all the physical conditions
of Europe and Northern Africa. But it is the peculiar mental cast and
temperament of the Spanish race, as much as the physical causes alluded
to, that have developed those clean-cut differences that to-day
distinguish the various Iberian provinces. It is the self-sufficiency,
the "provincialism," and careless unthinking disposition of the
individual, as much as mountain-barriers, that have separated adjacent
provinces as effectually as broad oceans.

[Illustration: A GRANADINO.]

[Illustration: BASQUE PEASANT.]

Though springing from a common root, _i.e._, the blend of Roman and
Phœnician blood with the aboriginal tribes of Iberia, the
vicissitudes of twelve centuries of history, with its successive foreign
invasions and occupations, have materially modified the racial
characteristics of the Spanish people. The Latin element still
predominates, both in type and tongue: but Semitic, Aryan, and even
Turanian strains are all present. The Spanish nation of to-day is
composed rather of a congeries of heterogeneous peoples and provinces,
once separate kingdoms, and still incapable of coherence or of fusion
into a concrete whole, than of sections of a single race. Compare the
sturdy and industrious, albeit somewhat phlegmatic, Galician, the happy
despised bondsman, the hewer of wood and drawer of water of the
Peninsula, with the gay and careless Andaluz who spurns and derides him:
or the fiery temperament of aristocratic Castile and Navarre with the
commercial instincts of Catalonia and the north-east. Probably the most
perfect example of natural nobility is afforded by the peasant
proprietor of pastoral Leon; then there is a pelt-clad, root-grubbing
_homo sylvestris_ peculiar to Estremenian wilds, who awaits attention of
ethnologists. There are the Basques of Biscay--Tartar-sprung or
Turanian, Finnic or surviving aborigines, let philologists decide; at
any rate, a race by themselves, distinct in dress and habit, in laws and
language, from all the rest. Reserved, but courteous and reliable, the
Basques are dangerously ready for their much-prized _fueros_ to plunge
their country in civil war.[1] The differences which to-day distinguish
these allied races are as deep and defined as those which stand between
themselves and the foreigner of alien blood. But we are rambling, and
must remember that in this chapter we only propose to deal with


Often and well as in bygone days this sunny province has been described,
yet the modern life and nineteenth-century conditions of rural Andalucia
are now comparatively unknown--have fallen into oblivion amid the more
ambitious and eventful careers of other countries. And, indeed, there is
needed the genius of a Cervantes or a Ford adequately to depict or
portray the quaint and picturesque _ensemble_ of this old-world corner
of Europe, so distinct from all the rest, and unchanged since the days
of Don Quixote. Spain, the land of anomaly and paradox, is a complex
theme not lightly to be understood or described by aliens, albeit
possessed of that first qualification, the passport to every Spanish
heart--a sympathetic nature. Around the country and its people, around
everything Spanish, there hangs, in our eyes, a grace and an infinite
charm; but it is a subtle charm, hardly to be described or defined in
words of ours.

The very inertia, the mediæval conditions thinly veneered, which
characterize modern Andalucia in an era of insensate haste and
self-assertion, prove to some a solace and a fascination. There are not
wanting minds which, amidst different environments, can enjoy and admire
such primitive simplicity--stagnation, if you will--and find therein a
grateful and refreshing change. In Southern Spain life is dreamed away
in sunshine and in an atmosphere forgetful of the present, but redolent
of the past. The modern Andaluz is content _de s'écouter vivre_, while
the ancient chivalry of his race and his land's romantic history is
evidenced by crumbling castle on each towering height; by the
palace-fortresses and magnificent ecclesiastical fabrics of the middle
ages: while the abandoned aqueducts, disused highways and broken bridges
of the Roman period, attest a bygone energy.


Andalucia is a land of vine-clad slopes and _olivares_; of boundless
prairies and corn lands where rude old-world tillage leaves undisturbed
the giant of European game-birds, the Great Bustard, pushed back by
modern cultivation from northern fields; a land of vast trackless heaths
aromatic of myrtle and mimosa, lentisk and palmetto, alternating with
park-like self-sown woods of cork-oak and chestnut, ilex and wild olive,
carpeted between in spring-time with wondrous wealth of flowers--lonely
scenes, rarely traversed save by the muleteer. For Spain is a land where
the mule and donkey still represent the chief means of transport--not
yet, nor for many a year, to be displaced by steam and rail. Through
every mountain-pass, along every glen of her sierras, across each
scrub-clad plain and torrid _dehesa_, still file long teams of laden
pack animals urged townwards by sullen muleteer: or, when returning to
his _pueblo_ among the hills, himself and beasts in happier mood, and
sitting sideways on the hind-most, he sings his songs of love and wrong,
no tune or words of modern ring, but those in which the history of his
race is told; now sinking to a dirge-like cadence, anon in high-pitched
protests of defiance--songs that ever have been sung since the Arab held
his sway over a proud but conquered people. Truly the _arriero_ is a
type of rural Spain: his monotonous chant, and the gaudy trappings of
his mule-team appearing and disappearing with every winding of the
mountain-track, bespeak the spirit of the sierra. In all these and in a
host of cognate scenes and sounds, in the grandeur of untamed nature,
and in the freedom and inborn grace of a rarely favoured people, there
springs a perennial charm to the traveller, a restful refreshing draught
of _laissez faire_, and a glimpse into a long-past epoch that can hardly
be enjoyed elsewhere in Europe. Here of old fierce fights were fought
for this rich prize in soil and climate; its fabled fertility attracting
hither in turn the legions of Rome, the Goths, and, last, the Moorish
hordes, to conquer and to hold for seven hundred years.

[Illustration: FAIR SEVILLAÑAS.]

The Province of Andalucia with its corn-plains and vineyards, orange
and olive-groves, barren wastes and lonely _marismas_, covers a stretch
of three hundred miles from east to west, and half that extent in depth;
and is bounded--save on the Atlantic front--by an unbroken circle of
sierras. Commencing at Tarifa on the south, the mountain-barrier is
carried past Gibraltar and Malaga to the Sierra Nevada, whose snow-clad
summits reach 12,000 feet; and beyond, on the east, by the Almerian
spurs. Nestling in the lap of this long southern range lies the narrow
belt of "Africa in Europe," above alluded to, where, secured from
northern winds and facing the blue Mediterranean, grow even cotton and
the sugar-cane; while the date-palm, _algarrobo_ or carob-tree, the
banana, quince, citron, lemon, and pomegranate, with other sub-tropical
plants, flourish in this Spanish Riviera. Then, from the easternmost
point of the province, the Sagres Mountains continue the rock-barrier to
the point where the Sierra Morena separates the sunny life of Andalucia
from the barrenness of La Mancha and primitive Estremadura. These grim
and almost unbroken solitudes of the Sierra Morena form the entire
northern boundary, continued by the Sierra de Aroche to the frontier of
Portugal, and thence, by a lesser chain, to the Atlantic once more. The
short coastline between Trafalgar and Huelva thus forms, as it were, the
only opening to this favoured land, secure in a mountain-setting--the
gem for which contending races fought for centuries, and from whose
southernmost rock the British flag floats over the bristling battlements
of Gibraltar.

To see Andalucia, the traveller must ride. In a wide and wild land,
where distances are great and the heat greater, where roads, rail, and
bridges exist not, the saddle is the only means of locomotion. In Spain
nothing can be done on foot: in a land of _caballeros_ even the poorest
bestrides his _borrico_. The traveller becomes an integral part of his
beast, and his resting-place, the village _posada_, is half-inn,
half-stable, where he must provide for the needs of his four-footed
friend before he thinks of his own. A ride through the wilder regions,
and especially among the sierras, involves, however, an amount of
forethought and provision that, to those unacquainted with the _cosas de
España_, would be well nigh incredible. In the open country no one
lives, and nothing can be obtained, or, at least, it is unsafe to rely
on it for anything. Thus one is obliged to carry from the town all the
necessaries of life--an elastic, indefinite expression, it is true. What
serves amply for one man may imply discomfort and misery to another:
still, there remains for all an irreducible minimum, and only those who
have tested their requirements in the field know how numerous and bulky
remains this absolutely indispensable "balance." First there is provend
for the beasts; heavy sacks of grain, straw, &c., necessitating mules to
carry them, and this, in turn, nearly doubling the quantity. Thus an
expedition of a fortnight or so signifies nothing less than the
transport of huge mule-loads of impedimenta, the most bulky of which are
for the use of the beasts themselves: though the indispensables for
their riders are considerable--bread, meat, eggs and oranges, skins of
wine, and, in most cases, tents with all the paraphernalia of
camp-outfit, cooking apparatus, and the rest.

Burdened with all this cargo, and in a rough country where each
traveller makes his own road--since no others exist--progress is slow:
through jungle, broken ground or wood, the wayfarer steers by compass,
landmark, or instinct--sometimes by the lack of the latter, as he finds
too late. Deep bits of bog and frequent lagoons must be circumvented,
and rivers forded where no "fords" exist: an operation which, owing to
the deep mud and treacherous ground bordering the sluggish southern
rivers, often involves off-loading, carrying across in detail, and
restowing on the other bank--a troublesome business, especially after

In this land of surprises, the _pays de l'imprévu_, it is the unexpected
that always occurs. Seldom does a ride through the wilder regions of
Spain pass without incident. Thus once we were carried off as prisoners
by the Civil Guard--not having with us our _cédulas de vecindad_--and
taken forty miles for the purpose of identification: or the way may be
intercepted by that fraternity whose ideas of _meum_ and _tuum_ are
somewhat mixed; or, worse still, as twice happened to us, by a fighting
bull. One _toro bravo_, having escaped in a frenzy of rage from a herd
whose pasturage had been moved fifty miles up the country, was occupying
a narrow cactus-hedged lane near his old haunts, and completely barred
the way, attacking right and left all who appeared on the scene. Warning
of the danger ahead was given us at a wayside shanty where the _ventero_
and his wife had sought refuge on the roof. Nothing remained but to
clear the way and rid the district of a dangerous brute already maddened
by a wound with small shot. Leaving the horses in safety, we proceeded
on foot to the attack, two of us strategically covering the advance
behind the shelter of the cactus; while our _cazador_, José Larrios,
boldly strode up the lane. No sooner had he appeared round a bend in the
fence than the bull was in full charge. A bullet from the "flank gun,"
luckily placed, staggered him, and a second from José, crashing on his
lowered front, at five yards, ended his career. When the authorities
sent out next morning to bring in the meat, nothing was found remaining
except the horns and the hoofs! On another occasion, when driving tandem
into the town of P----, we met, face to face, a _novillo_ or
three-year-old bull which, according to a custom of tauromachian Spain,
was being baited in the public streets. We only escaped by driving
across the shrubberies and flower-beds of the Alameda. In the former
case we received the thanks of the municipality: in the other, were
condemned to pay a fine![2]

Another ride was saddened by finding on the wayside the body of a
murdered man; his mule stood patiently by, and there we left them in the
gloom of gathering night. On all the bye-ways of Spain, and along the
bridle-paths of the sierras, one sees little memorial tablets or rude
wooden crosses, bearing silent witness to such deeds of violence,
according to Spanish custom:--

    "Below there in the dusky pass
       Was wrought a murder dread,
     The murdered fell upon the grass,
       Away the murderer fled."[3]

On more than one occasion our armed hunting-expeditions in the wilds
have been mistaken--not perhaps without reason, so far as external
appearances go--for a gang of _mala gente_; and their sudden appearance
has struck dire dismay in the breasts of peaceful peasants and
_arrieros_, with convoys of corn-laden donkeys, till reassured by the
brazen voice of Blas or Antonio--"_Olé, amigos! Aquí no hay mano negra,
ni blanca tampoco!_"--which we give in Spanish, as it is not readily
translatable at once into English and sense. On two occasions in the
Castiles has our advent to some hamlet of the sierra been hailed with
joy as that of a strolling company of acrobats! "_Mira los
Titeres!_--Here come the mountebanks!" sing out the ragged urchins of
the plaza, as our cavalcade with its tent-poles, camp-gear, and, to
them, foreign-looking baggage, filed up the narrow street.

It is, however, unnecessary here to recapitulate all the curious
incidents of travel, nor to recount the difficulties and troubles by
which the wayfarer in Spanish wilds may find himself beset--many such
incidents will be found related hereinafter. Sport and the natural
beauties of this unknown land are ample reward, and among the other
attractions of Andalucian travel may be numbered that of at least a
spice of the spirit of adventure.

This flavour of danger gives zest to many a distant ramble: of personal
molestation we have luckily had but little experience, although at times
associated in sport with _serranos_ of more than dubious repute, for the
Spaniard is loyal to his friend. At intervals the country has been
seething with agrarian discontent and sometimes with overt rebellion. On
more than one occasion the bullets have been whistling pretty freely
about the streets, and the surrounding _campiña_ was, for the time,
practically in the hands of an armed, lawless peasantry. In addition to
these exceptional but recurrent periods of turmoil and anarchist frenzy,
there exists a permanent element of lawlessness in the _contrabandistas_
from the coast, who permeate the sierras in all directions with their
mule-loads of tobacco, cottons, ribbons, threads, and a thousand odds
and ends, many of which have run the blockade of the "lines" of
Gibraltar. The propinquity--actual or imaginary--of _mala gente_, often
causes real inconvenience while camping in the sierra, such as the
necessity of seeking at times the insectiferous refuge of some village
_posada_ instead of enjoying the freedom of the open hill; or of having
to put out the fire at nightfall, which prevents the cooking of dinner,
preparing specimens, or writing up notes, &c.



As the sinuous, ill-defined mule-track leaves the plain and strikes the
rising ground, the signs of man's presence become rapidly scarcer; for
none, save the very poorest, live outside the boundaries of town or
village. For mile after mile the track traverses the thickets of wild
olive and lentiscus; here a whole hillside glows with the pink bloom of
rhododendron, or acres of asphodel clothe a barren patch; but not so
much as a solitary _choza_, the rude reed-built hut of a goatherd, can
be seen. Now the path merges in the bed of some winter torrent, rugged
and boulder-strewn, but shaded with bay and laurestinus, and a fringe of
magnificent oleanders; anon we flounder through deep deposits of
alluvial mud bordered by waving brakes of giant canes and briar,
presently to strike again the upward track through evergreen forests of
chestnut and cork-oak.

The silence and solitude of hours--that perfect loneliness
characteristic of highland regions--is broken at last by a human
greeting so unexpected and startling, that the rider instinctively
checks his horse, and grasps the gun which hangs in the slings by his
side. But alarm is soon allayed as a pair of Civil Guards on their
well-appointed mounts emerge from some sheltering thicket, and command
the way. The _guardias civiles_ patrol the Spanish hills in pairs by day
and night, for it is through the passes of the sierra that the inland
towns are supplied with contraband from the coast, and all travellers
are subject to the scrutiny of these sharp-eyed cavalry. Yet, despite
the vigilance of this fine corps and their coadjutors the carbineers,
the smuggler manages to live and to drive a thriving trade. Possessing a
beast of marvellous agility and tried endurance, he carries his cargo of
cottons or tobacco--the unexcised output of Málaga or Gibraltar--across
the sierras, by devious paths and break-neck passes which would appear
impracticable, save to a goat; and this, too, generally by night.

Towns are few and far between among the mountains, and the rare villages
often cluster picturesquely on the ridge of some stupendous crag like
eagles' eyries: positions chosen for their strength centuries ago, and
nothing changes in Spain. It is not considered safe for well-to-do
people to live on their possessions of cork-woods and cattle-runs, and
few of that class are ever to be seen in the sierras, while those whom
business or necessity takes from one town to another naturally choose
the route which is, as they term it, "_más acompañado_," _i.e._, most
frequented, even though it be three times as long--in Spanish phrase,
"_no hay atajo sin trabajo_." A wanderer from these _veredas_ is looked
upon with a suspicion which experience has shown is not ill-founded.

[Illustration: Plate III. PAIR OF CIVIL GUARDS--JEREZ. Page 14.]

One evidence of human presence is, however, inevitably in sight--the
blue, curling smoke of the charcoal-burners, the sign of a wasteful
process that is ruthlessly destroying the silent beauties of the sierra.
Every tree, shrub, or bush has to go to provide fuel for the universal
_puchero_. No other firing is used for kitchen purposes; no houses, save
a few of the richest, have fireplaces or cooking-apparatus other than
the charcoal _anafe_--with its triple blow-holes, through which the
smouldering embers are fanned with a grass-woven mat (_see_ cut at p.
22)--and its accompaniments, the _casuela_ and clay _olla_. The mountain
forest is his only resource: yet the careless Andaluz never dreams of
the future, or of planting trees to replace those he burns to-day.

Hence year by year the land becomes ever more treeless, barren, and
naked; whole hill-ranges which only twenty years ago were densely clad
with thickets of varied growth, the lair of boar and roe, are now
denuded and disfigured. The blackened circle, the site of a
charcoal-furnace, attests the destructive handiwork of man. If one
expostulates with the _carboneros_, or laments the destruction wrought,
their reply is always the same:--"The land will now become _tierra de
pan_," or corn-land, of which there is already more than enough for the
labour available.

In some upland valley one comes across a colony of _carboneros_ who have
settled down on some clearing under agreement with the owner to cut and
prepare for market. These woodmen are either paid so much per quintal,
or obtain the use of the land in return for clearing and reducing it
into order for corn-growing. No rent is asked for the first five years,
or if any be paid, a portion of the crop is usually the landlord's
share. During the first few years, these disafforested lands are highly
productive, the virgin soil, enriched by carbonized refuse, yielding as
much as sixty bushels to the acre. The _carboneros_ lead a lonely life,
except when their sequestered colony is enlivened by the arrival of the
_arrieros_ with their donkey-teams, to load up the produce for the
nearest towns.

Fortunately for the Spanish forests, there are two circumstances that
tend to limit their destruction. First there is the value of the
cork-oak; for, besides its bark, which is stripped and sold every seven
years, its crops of acorns fatten droves of shapely black swine during
autumn and winter, and a substance is obtained beneath the bark which is
used in curing leather. Hence the forests of noble _alcornoques_ escape
the ruthless hatchet of the _carbonero_. The other limit is the cost of
transport which restricts his operations to within a certain distance of
the towns which form his market. Beyond this radius the forests retain
their native pristine beauty: under their shade are pastured herds of
cattle, and a rude hut, built of undressed stones and thatched with
reeds, forms the lonely casa of the herdsman. By day and night he guards
his cattle or goats, often having to sleep on the hill, or under the
scant shelter of a lentisco, for which he receives about eightpence a
day, with an allowance of bread, oil, salt, and vinegar. His wife and
children of course share his lonely lot, their only touch with the outer
world being a chance visit, once or twice a year, to their native

Our rough friend, clad in leather or woolly sheepskin, is a sportsman by
nature, and can "hold straight" on his favourite quarry, the rabbit,
whose habits he thoroughly understands. The walls of his hut are seldom
unadorned with an ancient fowling-piece: generally a converted
"flinter," modernized with percussion lock, and having an enormous
exterior spring for its motive power. When the long, honey-combed barrel
has been duly fed with Spanish powder from his cork-stoppered cow's
horn, the quantity settled by eye-measurement in the palm of his hand, a
wisp of palmetto leaf well rammed home, and a similar process gone
through with the shot from a leather pouch, he may be trusted to give a
good account of darting bunny or rattle-winged red-leg. Poor fellow! the
respect and love he bears for his old favourite receive a rude shock
when the power of modern combinations of wood-powder, choke-bore, and
Purdey barrels have been successfully and successively demonstrated. But
it is only after repeated proofs that his lifelong faith in the unique
powers of that old _escopeta_ begins to shake.

Then it is a study to watch that bronzed and swarthy face, after a long
and clean right-and-left, and deep is the concentrated expressiveness of
the single untranslatable word he utters. The first opportunity is taken
to have a quiet examination of the English gun and cartridges, and with
what respect he handles these latest developments of power and
precision! One cannot help fearing that upon his next miss some particle
of mistrust may, with a sportsman's facility of excuse, find the fault
in his old and trusted friend: or that his ever-ready explanation, "_las
polvoras estaban frias_," _i.e._, the powder was _cold_! will be
associated with treasonable doubts of his old Brown Bess. We hope not.
Good, honest fellow, may he ever remain content and satisfied with the
old gun, for it affords almost the only solace of his lonely life!

In this rough herdsman there beats the kindliest heart: there exist the
best feelings of hospitality as he offers you, a brother sportsman, the
shelter of his hut and a share of his humble fare, offered with the
simple unaffected ease of an equal, and the natural grace characteristic
of his class throughout the south of Spain.

Besides these humble and harmless inhabitants, the Spanish sierras have
also ever afforded a refuge for the brigand and outlaw, and many deeds
of murder and violence are associated with these wild regions. Until the
year 1889 the mountain land was dominated by two famous villains known
as Vizco el Borje and Melgarez, his lieutenant, who commanded a band of
desperadoes, the scourge and dread of the whole southern sierra, from
Gibraltar to Almería. Vizco el Borje held human life cheap: he stuck at
no murder, though he sought not bloodshed, for his tactics were to take
alive and hold to ransom. All sorts of tales are told of the courage and
generosity of this Spanish Robin Hood. Vizco el Borje robbed only from
the rich, and was profuse in the distribution of money and plunder among
the peasantry. But whatever redeeming features may have existed in this
robber chief, Melgarez, his lieutenant, is a very fiend of malice and
cruelty, revelling in bloodshed and revolting butcheries.[4]

To those unacquainted with Spain, "la tierra de vice versâ," as they
themselves call it, it must appear a mystery how this robber-band could
remain at large, practical masters of great areas, in defiance of law
and order, and of the civil and military power of Spain. But there is
less difficulty for those who can see to read between the lines, in a
land where, according to one of their own authors, every one has his
price, that protection is afforded to the outlaws by those in place and
power, on condition that they and their properties remain unmolested.[5]

In another chapter we will relate a couple of episodes which have
occurred within our personal knowledge, and which will serve to
illustrate the robbers' methods of procedure, and the condition of
personal security among the sierras of Southern Spain.

[Illustration: A WATER-CARRIER.]

[Illustration: Plate IV.


Page 19.]


The wayfarer has been travelling all day across the scrub-clad wastes,
fragrant with rosemary and wild thyme, without perhaps seeing a human
being beyond a stray shepherd or a band of nomad gypsies encamped amidst
the green palmettos. Towards night he reaches some small village where
he seeks the rude _posada_. He sees his horse provided with a good feed
of barley and as much broken straw as he can eat. He is himself regaled
with one dish--probably the _olla_, or a _guiso_ (stew) of kid, either
of them, as a rule, of a rich red-brick hue from the colour of the red
pepper, or capsicum in the _chorizo_ or sausage, which is an important
(and potent) component of most Spanish dishes. The steaming _olla_ will
presently be set on a low table before the large wood-fire, and, with
the best of crisp white bread and wine, the traveller enjoys his meal in
company with any other guest that may have arrived at the time--be he
muleteer or hidalgo. What a fund of information may be picked up during
that promiscuous supper--there will be the housewife, the barber and the
Padre of the village, perhaps a goatherd come down from the mountains, a
muleteer, and a charcoal-burner or two, each ready to tell his own tale,
or enter into friendly discussion with the _Inglés_. Then, as you light
your _breva_, a note or two struck on the guitar fall on ears
predisposed to be pleased.

How well one knows those first few opening notes! No occasion to ask
that it may go on: it will all come in time, and one knows there is a
merry evening in prospect. One by one the villagers drop in, and an
ever-widening circle is formed around the open hearth; rows of children
collect, even the dogs draw around to look on. The player and the
company gradually warm up till couplet after couplet of pathetic
"_malagueñas_" follow in quick succession. These songs are generally
topical, and almost always extempore: and as most Spaniards can--or
rather are anxious to--one enjoys many verses that are very prettily as
well as wittily conceived.


But the girls must dance, and find no difficulty in getting partners to
join them. The _malagueñas_ cease, and one or perhaps two couples stand
up, and a pretty sight they afford! Seldom does one see girl-faces so
full of fun and so supremely happy, as they adjust the castanets, and
one damsel steps aside to whisper something sly to a sister or friend.
And now the dance commences: observe there is no slurring or attempt to
save themselves in any movement. Each step and figure is carefully
executed, but with easy spontaneous grace and precision, both by the
girl and her partner.

Though two or more pairs may be dancing at once, each is quite
independent of the others, and only dance to themselves: nor do the
partners ever touch each other.[6] The steps are difficult and somewhat
intricate, and there is plenty of scope for individual skill, though
grace of movement and supple pliancy of limb and body are almost
universal and are strong points in dancing both the fandango and minuet.
Presently the climax of the dance approaches. The notes of the guitar
grow faster and faster: the man--a stalwart shepherd lad--leaps and
bounds around his pirouetting partner, and the steps, though still well
ordered and in time, grow so fast one can hardly follow their movements.

[Illustration: THE VILLAGE POSADA.]

Now others rise and take the places of the first dancers, and so the
evening passes: perhaps a few glasses of _aguardiente_ are handed
round--certainly much tobacco is smoked--the older folks keep time to
the music with hand-clapping, and all is good nature and merriment.

What is it that makes the recollection of such evenings so pleasant? Is
it merely the fascinating simplicity of the music and freedom of the
dance; is it the spectacle of those weird, picturesque groups,
bronze-visaged men and dark-eyed maidens, all lit up by the blaze of the
great wood-fire on the hearth and low-burning oil-lamp suspended from
the rafters? Perhaps it is only the remembrance of many happy evenings
spent among these same people since our boyhood. This we can truly say,
that when at last you turn in to sleep you feel happy and secure among a
peasantry with whom politeness and sympathy are the only passports
required to secure to you both friendship and protection if required.
Nor is there a pleasanter means of forming some acquaintance with
Spanish country life and customs than a few evenings spent thus at
farm-house or village-inn in any retired district of laughter-loving




Late one March evening we encamped on the spurs of a great Andalucian
sierra. Away in the west, beyond the rolling prairie across which we had
been riding all day, the sun was slowly sinking from view, and to the
eastward the massive pile of San Christoval reflected his gorgeous hues
in a soft rosy blush, which mantled its snow-streaked summit. Below in
the valley we could discern the little white hermitage of La Aina, once
the prison of a British subject, a Mr. Bonnell, who, captured in 1870[7]
near Gibraltar, was carried thither by _sequestradores_, and concealed
in this remote spot till the stipulated ransom had been lodged by the
Governor of Gibraltar in the consulate at Cadiz: an incident which led
to unpleasant correspondence between the British and Spanish
Governments, and which was luckily closed by the tragic deaths of all
the offenders.

These miscreants had also formed a plan for an attack upon a private
house at Utrera; but their intentions having become known (through
treachery) to the Civil Guards, the latter surrounded the house, and
drove the robbers into the _patio_, where a simultaneous volley
terminated the careers of the whole crew. For advancing the ransom,
£6,000 (which, after various adventures, involving more bloodshed, fell
finally into the hands of a fresh robber-gang), the then Governor of
Gibraltar was freely "hauled over the coals" in the House of Commons at
the time.

Wild tales of similar bearing beguiled the dark hours in the gloom of
the forest where our big fire burned cheerily. Despite a fine, warm,
winter climate, the Andalucian atmosphere is chilly enough after
sundown, and we were glad to draw up close around the blazing logs,
where a savoury _olla_ was cooking: and afterwards, while enjoying our
cigarettes and that delicious "natural" wine of Spain which the British
public, like a spoilt child, first cries for and then abuses.

Towards nine o'clock the moon rose, and we continued our journey along
the dark defiles of the sierra, pushing a way through evergreen thicket,
or silent forest, where the startling cries of the eagle-owl outraged
the stillness of night. As far as one could see by the dim moonlight,
our course alternated for a long distance between a boulder-strewn
ravine and a glacis of smooth sloping rock, steep as a roof, and more
suited to the nocturnal gambols of cats than for horsemen. But the
Andalucian _jaca_ is hardly less sure of foot, and in due course we
emerged into a more level valley, where, after riding some miles beneath
huge cork-oaks and ilex, we heard at length the distant challenge of our
friend Gaspár's big mastiff, and soon the long ride was over, and we
entered the portals of the _rancho_ which for the succeeding week was to
be our home.

Here we were confronted by a nuisance in the non-arrival of the
commissariat. The pack-mules, despatched two days in advance, had not
turned up. It transpired that the men, loitering away the daylight, as
is the custom in Andalucia (and elsewhere), had lost the way in the
darkness, almost immediately after leaving the last vestiges of a track,
and had bivouaced among the scrub awaiting the break of day. Our
resources for the night were thus limited to the scanty contents of the
_alforjas_ (saddle-bags). We had, however, each provided ourselves with
a big sackful of chaff at the last outpost of the corn-lands--chaff, or
rather broken straw, being the staple food of the Spanish horse; and
these now formed our beds, though their softness decreased nightly by
reason of the constant inroads on their substance made by our
Rosinantes. Otherwise the naked stone-paved room was absolutely innocent
of either furniture or food; yet we were happy enough, as, rolled in our
_mantas_, we lay down to sleep on those long pokes.

[Illustration: "FURNITURE."]

Early in the morning the mountaineers began to assemble in the courtyard
of the rancho. Light of build as a rule, sinewy, and bronzed to a copper
hue, looking as if their very blood was parched and dried up by tobacco
and the fierce southern sun, and with _narajas_ stuck in their scarlet
waistbands, these wild men might each have served as a melodramatic
desperado. Three brothers of our host had ridden up from a distant farm;
there was old Christoval, the ready-witted squatter on the adjoining
rancho, a cheery old fellow, carrying fun and laughter wherever he went;
last came the Padre from the nearest hill-village (Paterna), whose
sporting instinct had made light work of the long and early ride across
the sierra to join our _batida_. Alonzo, the herdsman, who added to his
pastoral knowledge an intimate acquaintance with the wild beasts of his
native mountains, was placed in command of the beaters, a motley,
picturesque group with their leathern accoutrements and scarlet _fajas_.
Of dogs, we had four _podencos_, tall, stiff-built, wiry-haired
"terrier-greyhounds," fleet of foot, trained to find and harass the
boar, to force him to break covert, but yet so wary at feint and retreat
as to avoid the sweep of his tusks. Then there was huge "_Moro_," Don
Gaspár's half-mastiff, half-bloodhound, whose staunchness was tested of
old, and others of lesser note.


Around our quarters were cultivated clearings of a few acres, fenced
with the usual aloe and cactus: otherwise the landscape was one panorama
of forest and evergreen brushwood, extending far up the mountain-sides,
and towards the barren stony summits. These sierras of Jerez are of no
great height relatively--perhaps 3,000 to 4,000 feet--and many of them
bear unmistakable evidence of their long struggles with glacial ice in
bygone ages--each tall slope consisting of a regular series of vertical
bastions, or buttresses, alternating with deep glens in singular
uniformity. Their conformation recalled the distant valleys of
Spitsbergen, where we have seen the power of ice in actual operation,
and carving out those grim Arctic hills after a precisely similar
pattern. Here, however, dense jungle had for ages replaced the snow, and
the wild boar now occupied strongholds where, _possibly_, the reindeer
had once ranged in search of scanty lichen. For the season (March) the
greenness of all foliage was remarkable; the oaks alone remained naked,
and even from their leafless boughs hung luxuriant festoons of ivy and
parasitic plants.

The upper end of our valley was shut in by the towering, transverse mass
of the Sierra de las Cabras, which terminates hard by, in a fine abrupt
gorge or chasm called the Boca de la Foz. It was to the deep-jungled
corries which furrow the sides of this chasm that Alonzo had that
morning traced to their _camas_ some six or eight pig, including a
couple of boar of the largest size, and this was to be the scene of our
first day's operations.

A pitiable episode occurred while we were surveying our surroundings,
and preparing for a start. From close behind, suddenly resounded a peal
of strange inhuman laughter, followed by incoherent words; and through
the iron bars of a narrow window we discerned the emaciated figure of a
man, wild and unkempt of aspect, and whose eagle-like claws grasped the
barriers of his cell--a poor lunatic. No connected replies could we
get--nothing but vacuous laughter and gibbering chatter: now he was at
the theatre and quoted magic jargon; now supplicating the mercy of a
judge; then singing a stanza of some old song, to break off as suddenly
into a fierce denunciation of one of _us_ as the cause of all his
troubles. Poor wretch! He had once been a successful lawyer and
advocate, but having developed signs of madness, which increased with
years, the once popular Carlos B---- was now reduced to the wretched
durance of this iron-girt cell; his only share and view of God's earth
just so much of sombre everlasting sierra as the narrow opening
permitted. We were told it was hopeless to make any effort to ameliorate
his lot--his case was too desperate. What hidden wrongs and outrage
exist in a land where no judicial intervention is permitted between the
"rights" of families and their insane relations (or those whom they may
consider such), is only too much open to suspicion.

The day was still young when we mounted and set out for the point where
Alonzo's report had led us to hope for success. The first covert tried
was a strong jungle flanking the main gorge; but this, and a second
_batida_, proved blank, only a few foxes appearing, and a wild cat was
shot. Two roe-deer were reported to have broken back, and several
mongoose, or ichneumon, were also observed during these drives, but were
always permitted to pass. The Spanish ichneumon (_Herpestes
widdringtoni_), being peculiar to the Peninsula, deserves a passing
remark; it is a strange, grizzly-grey beast, shaggy as a badger, but
more slim in build, with the brightest of bright black eyes, and a very
long bushy tail. Owing to his habit of eating snakes and other reptiles
(in preference, it would seem, to rabbits, &c.), the ichneumon stinks
beyond other beasts of prey. A large black ichneumon happened to be the
first game that fell to the writer's rifle in Spain, and was carefully
stowed in the mule-panniers--never to be seen again; for no sooner were
our backs turned, than the men discreetly pitched out the malodorous

As we approached our third beat--the main _manchas_, or thickets of the
Boca de la Foz, the "rootings" and recent sign of pig became frequent,
and we advanced to our allotted positions in silence, leaving the horses
picketed far in the rear.

The line of guns occupied the ridge of a natural amphitheatre, which
dipped sharply away beneath us, the centre choked with strong thorny
jungle. On the left towered a range of limestone crags, the right flank
being hemmed in by huge uptilted rocks, like ruined towers, and white as
marble. One of us occupied the centre, the other guarded a pass among
these pinnacle rocks on the right. While waiting at our posts we could
descry the beaters, mere dots, winding along the glen, 1,500 feet below.
The mountain scenery was superb; but no sound broke the stillness save
the distant tinkle of a goat-bell; nor was there a sign of life except
that feathered recluse, the blue rock-thrush, (in Spanish
"_solitario_,") and far overhead floated great tawny vultures. Ten
minutes of profound silence, and then the distant shouts and cries of
the beaters in the depths beneath told us the fray had begun.

The heart of the jungle--all lentisk, or mimosa and thorn, interlaced
with briar--being impenetrable, the efforts of our men were confined to
directing the dogs, and by incessant noise to drive the game upwards.
First a tall grey fox stole stealthily past, looked me full in the face
and went on without increasing his speed; then a pair of red-legs,
unconscious of a foe, sped by like 100-yard "sprinters"--a marvellous
speed of foot have these birds on the roughest ground, and well are
Spanish by-ways named _caminos de perdices_! Then the crash of
hound-music proclaimed that the nobler quarry was at home. This boar
proved to be one of those grizzly monsters of which we were specially in
search; his lair a chaotic jumble of boulders islanded amid deepest
thicket. Here he held his ground, declining to recognize in his noisy
aggressors a superior force; and, though "Moro" and the boar-hounds
speedily reinforced the skirmishers of the pack, the old tusker showed
no sign of abandoning his stronghold. For minutes, that seemed like
hours, the conflict raged stationary; the sonorous baying of the
boar-hounds, the "yapping" of the smaller dogs, and shouts of the
mountaineers, blended with the howl of an incautious _podenco_ as he
received his death-rip--all these formed a chorus of sounds which
carried sufficient excitement to the sentinel guns above. Such and
kindred moments are worth months of ordinary life.

The actual scene of war lay some half-mile below, hence no immediate
issue was probable or expected; then came a crashing of the brushwood on
my front, and a three-parts-grown boar dashed straight for the narrow
pass where the writer barred the way. The suddenness of the encounter
was disconcerting, and the first shot was a miss, the bullet, all but
grazing his back and splashing on the grey rock beyond, and time barely
remained to jump aside to avoid collision. The left barrel told with
better effect: a stumble as he received it, followed by a frantic grunt
as an ounce of lead penetrated his vitals, and the beast plunged
headlong among the brushwood, his life-blood dyeing the weather-blanched
rocks and dark green palmettos. There for a moment he lay, kicking and
groaning; but ere the cold steel could administer a quietus, he regained
his legs and dashed straight back. Whether that charge was prompted by
revenge, or was merely an effort to regain the thickets he had just
left, matters not; for a third bullet, at two yards' distance, laid him

[Illustration: A STRAIGHT CHARGE.]

[Illustration: Plate V.


Page 31.]

During this interlude, though it had only occupied a few moments, the
main combat below was approaching its climax. The old boar had at length
left his hold, and after sundry sullen stands and promiscuous skirmishes
with the hounds, he took to flight. Showing first on the centre, he was
covered for some seconds by a ·450 express; but not breaking covert,
no shot could be fired, and when he at last appeared in view, he was
trotting up the stony slopes on the extreme left. Here a rifle-shot at
long range broke a fore-leg below the shoulder. This was the turning
point: the wounded boar, no longer able to face the hill, wheeled and
retreated to the thickets below, scattering the dogs and passing through
the beaters at marvellous speed, considering his disabled condition. And
now commenced the hue and cry and the real hard work for those who meant
to see the end and earn the spoils of war. Soon "Moro's" deep voice told
he had the tusker at bay, down in the defile, far below. What followed
in that hurly-burly--that mad scramble through brake and thicket, down
crag and scree--is impossible to tell. Each man only knows what he did
himself--or did not do. We can answer for three; one of these seated
himself on a rock and lit a cigarette; the others, ten minutes later,
arrived on the final scene--one minus his nether garments and sundry
patches of skin, but in time to take part in the death of as grand a
boar as ever roamed the Spanish sierras.

First to arrive was Gaspár himself, familiar with every by-way and
goat-track on the hills, and nervous for the safety of his hound; but
only a few seconds before the denuded _Inglés_. In a pool of the
rock-strewn brook, the beast stood at bay, "Moro's" teeth clenched in
one ear and two _podencos_ attacking in flank and rear. Gaspár elected
to finish the business with the knife, fixed bayonet-wise, but the horn
haft slipped from the muzzle, and a moment later two simultaneous
bullets had closed the affair.

One by one the scattered guns turned up: some, who had taken a
circuitous course, arriving before others whose ardour had led them to
follow direct--so dense was the brushwood and rugged the sierra. A
picturesque group stood assembled around the blood-dyed pool with its
wild environment and bold mountain background; but rejoicings were
tempered by the loss of two of our _podencos_, one having been killed
outright, the other found in a hopelessly wounded condition at the
point of the first conflict.

The boar proved a magnificent brute, one of the true grey-brindled
type--_de los Castellanos_, weighing over 300 lbs. The wild-boars of the
sierras run larger than those of the plains, some being _said_ to reach
400 lbs. Beneath the outer grizzly bristles lies a reddish woolly fur.

We were soon mounted and steering for another _mancha_, where, late in
the afternoon, two sows and a small boar were found and driven forward
through the line of guns. One fell to a fine shot from our host's
brother, the others escaping scathless. Night was already upon us ere
the party re-assembled, and we rode off amidst the shadows of the
forest-glades, to fight the battles of the day again and again round the
cheery blaze in the courtyard of our mountain-home.


[Illustration: Plate VI.

BUSTARDS ON THE BARRENS--WINTER. "A First Shade of Suspicion."

Page 33.]



A characteristic and withal a truly noble and ornamental object is the
Great Bustard, on those vast stretches of silent corn-lands which form
his home. Among the things of sport are few more attractive scenes than
a band of bustards at rest. Bring your field-glass to bear on that
gathering which you see yonder, basking in the sunshine, in full
enjoyment of their siesta. There are four-or five-and-twenty of them,
and how immense they look against the background of sprouting corn that
covers the landscape: well may a stranger mistake them for deer or
goats. Most of the birds are sitting turkey-fashion, their heads sunk
among the feathers: others stand in drowsy yet half-suspicious
attitudes, their broad backs resplendent with those mottled hues of true
game-colour, their lavender necks and well-poised heads contrasting with
the snowy whiteness of their lower plumage. The bustards are dotted in
groups over an acre or two of the gently sloping ground, the highest
part of which is occupied by a single big _barbudo_, a bearded veteran,
the sentinel of the party. From his elevated position he estimates what
degree of danger each living thing that moves on the open region around
may threaten to his companions and himself. Mounted men cause him less
concern than those on foot: a horseman slowly directing a circuitous
course may even approach to within a couple of hundred yards of him
before he takes alarm. It was the head and neck of this sentry that
first appeared to our distant view, and disclosed the whereabouts of the
game. He, too, has seen us, and is even now considering whether there is
sufficient cause for putting his convoy in motion. If we disappear
below the level of his range he will settle the point negatively;
setting us down as only some of those agricultural nuisances which so
often cause him alarm, but which his experience has shown to be
generally harmless--for attempts on his life are few and far between.

Another charming spectacle it is in the summer-time to watch a pack of
bustards about sunset, all busy with their evening feed among the
grasshoppers on a thistle-covered plain. They are working against time,
for it will soon be too dark for them to catch such lively prey. With
quick, darting step they run to and fro, picking up one grasshopper
after another with unerring aim, and so intent on their feed that the
best chance of the day is then offered to their pursuer, when greed, for
the moment, supplants caution, and vigilance is relaxed. But even now a
man on foot stands no chance of coming near them; his approach is
observed from afar, all heads are up above the thistles, all eyes intent
on the intruder: a moment or two of doubt, two quick steps and a spring,
and the strong wings of every bird in the band flap in slowly-rising
motion. The tardiness and apparent difficulty in rising from the ground
which these birds exhibit is well expressed in their Spanish name
_Avetarda_,[8] and is recognized in their scientific cognomen of _Otis
tarda_. Once on the wing, the whole pack is off, with wide swinging
flight, to the highest ground in the neighbourhood.

[Illustration: Plate VII.


Page 35.]

During the greater part of the year the bustards are far too wary to be
obtained by the farm-hands and shepherds who see them every day; and so
accustomed are the peasants to the sight of these noble birds that
little or no notice is taken of them. Their haunts and habits not being
studied, their pursuit is regarded as impracticable. There is, however,
one period of the year when the Great Bustard falls an easy prey to the
clumsiest of gunners. During the long Andalucian summer a torrid sun has
drunk up every brook and stream that crosses the cultivated lands:
the chinky, cracked mud, which in winter formed the bed of shallow lakes
and lagoons, now yields no drop of moisture for bird or beast. The
larger rivers still carry their waters from sierra to sea, but a more
adaptive genius than that of the Spanish people is required to utilize
these for purposes of irrigation. All water required for the cattle is
drawn up from wells: the old-world lever with its bucket at one end and
counterpoise at the other, has to provide for the needs of all. These
wells are distributed all over the plains. As the herdsmen put the
primitive contrivance into operation and swing up bucket after bucketful
of cool water, the cattle crowd around, impatient to receive it as it
rushes along the stone troughing. The thirsty animals drink their fill,
splashing and wasting as much as they consume, so that a puddle is
always formed about these _bebideros_. The moisture only extends a few
yards, gradually diminishing till the trickling streamlet is lost in the
famishing soil.

These moist places are a fatal trap to the bustard. Before dawn one of
the farm-people will conceal himself so as to command at short range all
points of the miniature swamp. A slight hollow is dug for the purpose,
having clods arranged around, between which the gun can be levelled with
murderous accuracy. As day begins to dawn, the bustard will take a
flight in the direction of the well, alighting at a point some few
hundred yards distant. They satisfy themselves that no enemy is about,
and then, with cautious, stately step, make for their morning draught.
One big bird steps on ahead of the rest: as he cautiously draws near, he
stops now and again to assure himself that all is right, and that his
companions are coming too--these are not in a compact body, but
following at intervals of a few yards. The leader has reached the spot
where he drank yesterday; now he finds he must go a little nearer to the
well, as the streamlet has been diverted; another bird follows close;
both lower their heads to drink; the gunner has them in line--at twenty
paces there is no escape: the trigger is pressed, and two magnificent
bustards are done to death. Should the man be provided with a second
barrel (which is not usual), a third victim may be added to his
morning's spoils.

Large numbers of bustards are destroyed thus every summer. It is deadly
work, and certain. Were the haunts of the birds more studied, bustards
might be annihilated on these treacherous lines.

Another primitive mode of capturing the Great Bustard is also practised
in winter. The increased value of game during the colder months induces
the bird-catchers, who supply the markets with myriads of ground-larks,
linnets and buntings, occasionally to direct their skill towards the
capture of the _avetardas_. They employ the same means as for the taking
of the small fry--the _cencerro_, or cattle-bell, and dark lantern. As
most cattle carry the _cencerro_ around their necks, the sound of the
bells at close quarters by night causes no alarm to the ground birds.
The birdcatcher, with his bright candle gleaming before its reflector
and the cattle-bell jingling at his wrist, prowls nightly over the
stubbles and wastes in search of roosting birds. Any number of
bewildered victims can thus be gathered, for larks and such-like birds
fall into a helpless state of panic when once focussed in the bright
rays of the lantern.

When the bustard is the object of pursuit, two men are required, one of
whom carries a gun. The pack of bustard will be carefully watched during
the afternoon, and not lost sight of when night comes until their
sleeping-quarters are ascertained. When quite dark, the tinkling of the
_cencerro_ will be heard, and a ray of light will surround the devoted
bustards, charming or frightening them--whichever it may be--into still
life. As the familiar sound of the cattle-bell becomes louder and
nearer, the ray of light brighter and brighter, and the surrounding
darkness more intense, the bustards are too charmed, or too dazed, to
fly. Then comes the report, and a charge of heavy shot works havoc among
them. As bands of bustards are numerous, this poaching plan might be
carried out night after night: but, luckily, the bustards will not stand
the same experience twice. On a second attempt being made, they are off
as soon as the light is seen approaching. Hence the use of the
_cencerro_ is precarious, at least as regards the bustards.

Except for the two clumsy artifices above described, the bustards are
left practically unmolested; their wildness and the open nature of their
haunts defy all the strategy of native fowlers. Their eggs are deposited
on the ground when it is covered with the green April corn: incubation
and the rearing of the young takes place amid the security of vast
silent stretches of waving corn. The young bustards grow with the wheat,
and ere it is cut are able to take care of themselves. It is just after
harvest that the game is most numerous and conspicuous. The stubbles are
then bare, and even the fallows which during spring bear heavy swathes
of weeds, have now lost all their covert. The summer sun has pulverized
and consumed all vegetation, and, but for a few chance patches of
thistles, charlock or _aramagos_, there is nothing that can screen the
birds from view.

A more legitimate method of outwitting the Great Bustard is practised at
this--the summer--period. After harvest, when the country is being
cleared of crops, or when all are cut and in sheaf, the bustards become
accustomed daily to see the bullock-carts (_carros_) passing with
creaking wheel, on all sides, carrying off the sheaves from the stubbles
to the _era_, or levelled ground where the grain is trodden out,
Spanish-fashion, by teams of mares. The loan of a _carro_, with its pair
of bullocks and a man to guide them, having been obtained from one of
the corn-farms, the cart is rigged up with _esteras_--that is, an
esparto matting is stretched round the poles which, fixed on the sides,
serve to hold the load of sheaves in position. A few sacks of straw
thrown upon the floor of the cart serve to save one, in some small
degree, from the merciless jolting of this primitive conveyance on rough
ground. One, two, or even three guns can find room in the _carro_, the
driver lying forward, near enough to direct the bullocks and urge them
on by means of a goad, which he works through a hole in the _esteras_.

At a distance this moving battery looks a good deal like a load of
straw. The search for bustard now begins, and well do we remember the
terrible suffocating heat we have endured, shut up in this thing for
hours in the blazing days of July and August. Bustards being found, the
bullocks are cleverly directed, gradually circling inwards, the goad
during the final moments freely applied. When the cart is stopped,
instantly the birds rise. Previous to finding game, each man has made
for himself a hole in the _estera_, through which he has been practising
the handling of his gun. So far as practice goes, his arrangements
appear perfect enough; but somehow, when the cart stops, the birds rise,
and the moment for action has arrived, the game seems always to fly in a
direction you cannot command, or where the narrow slit will not allow
you to cover them. Hence we have adopted the plan of sliding off behind
just as the cart was pulling up, thus firing the two barrels with much
greater freedom. We have enjoyed excellent sport by this means, and
succeeded in bringing many bustards to bag during the day. And after a
long summer-day shut up in this rude contrivance, creaking and jolting
across stubble and fallow, a deep cool draught of _gazpacho_ at the farm
is indeed delicious to parched throats and tongues.

Another system by which the Great Bustard can be brought to bag is by
driving, and right royal sport it affords at certain seasons. The most
favourable period is the early spring--especially the month of March.
The male birds are then in their most perfect plumage and condition,
with the gorgeous chestnut ruff fully developed, and in the early
mornings they present an imposing spectacle, as with lowered neck,
trailing wings, and expanded tail, they strut round and round in stately
circles--"_echando la rueda_"--before an admiring harem, somewhat after
the fashion of the blackcock; though whether the bustard is polygamous
is a question we discuss in another chapter. At this season (March) the
corn is sufficiently grown to afford covert for the gunners, but not to
conceal these great birds when feeding, _i.e._, about girth-deep.


The system of the _ojéo_ or bustard-drive is as follows:--The scene of
operations must be reached as soon after daybreak as possible, which
necessitates an early start and a long matutinal ride; for bustards feed
morning and evening, and during the midday hours lie down for a siesta
among the corn or rough herbage, when it is mere chance work finding
them on so vast an area. Hence an early start is necessary. When likely
corn-lands are reached, _one_ man advances to reconnoitre: having
descried a band of bustards and taken a comprehensive view of the
surrounding country, he must at once decide on his line of action. The
bustards are perhaps a mile away: the leader must therefore have a "good
eye for a country"--much, in fact, depends on his rapid intuition of the
lie of the land and local circumstances, his knowledge of the habits and
flights of the birds, and his ability to utilize the _smallest_ natural
advantages of ground or cover--_small_ indeed these are sure to be,
invisible to untrained eye. The first great object is to bring the guns,
unseen, as near the game as possible. If any miscalculation occurs, and
the advancing sportsmen expose themselves for a moment, then, very
literally, "the game is up" and the pack escapes unharmed. When the
birds are found settled on a hillside, it is sometimes not difficult to
place the guns on the reverse slope, and so near the summit that the
sportsman, stretched full length on the earth, has the birds within shot
almost before their danger is exposed. But it must be noted that the
sight of the bustard is extraordinarily keen, and the slightest unusual
object on the monotonous plain is sure to be detected. As a rule, if the
gunner can see the bustards, they too will have seen him and will swerve
from their course before approaching within range.

But, generally speaking (except during the spring-shooting), there is
hardly a vestige of anything like covert for the gunner: sometimes by
lucky chance, a dry watercourse may be available, or a solitary clump of
palmettos--even a few dead thistles may prove invaluable. These two
circumstances explain the numerous disappointments that attend
bustard-driving on the corn-plains.

Time being allowed to place the guns, two or three men start to ride
round the bustards at considerable distance, gradually approaching them
from a direction which will incline their flight towards the hidden
guns. Through long practice these men become very expert; more than once
we have seen a pack of the most stiff-necked undrivable bustards turned
in mid-flight by a judicious gallop--executed at the very nick of
time--and directed right towards the guns; and we have also known birds
so delicately treated that instead of rising before the slowly-advancing
horsemen, they have quietly walked away and startled the sportsman by
striding over a ridge within a few yards of his prostrate form.

[Illustration: Plate VIII.


Page 40.]

In speaking of hills, ridges, &c., the words are used in a relative
sense. Broken ground is the exception in any district much affected by
bustard; and therefore the most must be made of the slight undulations
which these rolling plains afford. When a party of five or six guns are
well placed, it is unusual for the pack to get away without offering a
shot to one or more of the sportsmen. Strange to say, they not
infrequently escape. We know not what the cause may be--whether the
apparently slow flight--really very fast--or the huge bulk of the birds
deceives, or otherwise--yet some of the best shots at ordinary driven
game are often perplexed at their bad records against the _avetardas_.
Long shots, it is true, are the rule: longer far than one dreams of
taking at home--and such ranges require extreme forward allowance: yet
many birds at close quarters are let off.

A memorable sight is a huge _barbon_, or male bustard, when he suddenly
finds himself within range of a pair of choke-bore barrels--so near that
one can see his eye! How he ploughs through the air with redoubled
efforts of those enormous wings, and hopes by putting on the pace to
escape from danger.

It is when only _one_ man and his driver are after bustard that the
cream of this sport is enjoyed. The work then resembles deer-stalking,
for the sportsman must necessarily creep up _very close_ to his game in
order to have any fair chance of a shot. Unless he has wormed his way to
within 150 yards before the birds are raised, the odds are long against
success. Gratifying indeed is the triumph when, after many efforts, and
as many disappointments, one at length outmatches them, and secures a
heavy bag by a single right-and-left.

By way of illustration, we give, in the next chapter, descriptions of
bustard-shooting, (1) driving with a party in the ordinary way, and (2)
Stalking and driving to a single gun.

Such, roughly described, are the two chief recognized systems of
shooting the Great Bustard: _i.e._, _driving_, which can be practised at
any period of autumn, winter, or early spring, but which is most
effective in March, when the growing crops afford sufficient "blind";
and shooting from the cart, which is only available during, or just
after, harvest.

There remains, however, another method by which this game may be brought
to bag--one which we may claim to have ourselves invented and brought to
some degree of perfection--namely:


At one period of the year (about May), just before the corn comes into
ear, and when the male bustards are banded together, they are much more
accessible, the corn being high all around them, and the guns more
easily concealed. But the objections from a farmer's point of view are
obvious, and we have rarely followed them under these conditions, though
it is a favourite period with Spanish sportsmen.

We have frequently been asked by the country people to try our hands at
their ambuscades by the wells (above described), and often caused
surprise by declining to kill bustards in this way. It was, in fact,
because we did not enjoy any of the means in vogue with the natives,
that we resolved to try what could be done single-handed; and by
sticking to it and hard work, have since accounted for many a fine
_barbon_, and enjoyed many an hour's exciting sport with others not
brought to bag, and which probably still roam over the Andalucian
_vegas_ to give fine sport another day.

On foot nothing could be done single-handed, but by the aid and
co-operation of a steady old pony, success was found to be possible. As
soon as the country is cleared of corn (about July or August), bustard
pass the mid-day hours sheltering from the sun in any patch of high
thistles or palmetto that may grow on the bare lands or stubbles. We
have also found them, during mid-summer, under olive-trees, but never in
any cover or spot where they could not command all the space for many
gunshots around. Having been disturbed in their siesta--generally about
a couple of hundred yards before the horseman reaches them--the birds
stand up, shake the dust from their feathers, and are all attention to
see that the intruder has no evil designs upon them. Ride directly
towards them and they are off at once; but if approach be made
cautiously and circuitously, the bustards, though suspicious and uneasy,
do not rise but walk slowly away, for they are reluctant to take wing
at this hot time. It is needless to add that the intense heat is also a
severe test of endurance to the bustard-shooter. By keeping one's own
figure and the pony's head as much averted as possible--advancing
sidelong, crab-fashion, so to speak, and gradually circling inwards, one
may, with patience, at length attain a deadly range,--seldom near, but
still near enough to use the heavy AAA mould-shot with fatal effect, for
the bustard, despite his bulk, is not a very hard or close-feathered
bird, and falls to a blow that the grey goose would laugh at. When the
nearest point is reached--and one learns by experience to judge by the
demeanour of the game when they will permit no nearer approach--the
opportune moment must be seized; the first barrel put in smartly on the
ground, and more deliberate aim taken with the second as they rise.

The hotter the day, the nearer one can get. Much depends on the horse:
if he does not stop _dead_ the chance is lost, as the bustards rise
directly on detecting a change in the movements of horse and man. With
practice my pony became very clever, and came to know as well as his
rider what was going on, so that after a time, we could rely on getting
three or four shots a day and seldom returned without one bustard,
frequently two or three. During one year (his best) the writer bagged
sixty-two bustards to his own gun.

We make it a rule to accept no shot at any very risky distance, finding
that, if not scared, the birds do not fly so far, and are more
accessible on a second approach. Sometimes there occur lucky spots
where, as one is slowly drawing round on them, the bustards walk over
the crest of a ridge, and disappear. This is a chance not to be
lost--slip from the saddle, run straight to the ridge, and surprise
them, as they descend the reverse slope, with a couple of barrels ere
they have time to realize the danger. Dips and hills, as before
remarked, are not frequent on the haunts of bustards, but we have
chanced on such localities more than once. Upon one occasion we bagged a
brace of the largest _barbones_ we ever saw by such a piece of good

A blazing sun is a great assistance, making the birds lazy and
disinclined to exert themselves. As an instance of this we remember
being after bustard one day in September--an intensely hot day even for
Spain, and with a fiery sun beating down on the quivering plains. Though
well protected by a thick felt helmet and wearing the lightest of light
summer clothes, the heat was almost more than one could endure. We had
unsuccessfully ridden over some thousands of acres of stubble and
waste--it was on the historic plains of Guadalete where Roderic and the
Arabs fought--when at length we were gratified by observing three
bustards walk out of a cluster of thistles. After twice circling round
them, we saw that at eighty or ninety yards' distance, they would stand
it no longer: so turning in the saddle, gave them both barrels, but
without effect, as they sailed away about a mile and settled. On a
second approach, as they rose at 200 yards, it looked as though they
were impracticable, but doubting if there were other birds in that
neighbourhood, we kept on, and followed them in this second flight,
which this time was shorter. Again they rose wild--wilder than ever, at
fully 800 yards. They came down upon a patch of the barley-stubbled
plain where we were able to mark their position to a nicety, for they
pitched close to a _sombrajo_, or sun-shade for cattle (a thatch of
palmetto spread on aloe-poles). On approaching the place, and not seeing
the bustards afoot, we concluded they were resting after their repeated
flights; but having reached almost the exact spot, we could still see
nothing of them. This was perplexing. We knew they could not have risen,
for our eyes had never left the spot where they had settled. What could
have become of them?... All at once we saw them, squatting flat within
thirty yards of us, each bird pressed close down with his neck stretched
along the ground. All trouble was now rewarded. It was not a chance to
be risked by shooting from the saddle: and as we slid to the ground, gun
cocked, and facing the birds, we felt it was the best double rise at big
bustards that ever man had. As we touched the ground, they rose: one
fell dead at forty yards, a second, wheeling back, showed too much of
his white breast to be let off; the third flew far beyond view, and the
only regret, for a moment, was that there were no treble-barrelled
breech-loaders. Half an hour later we fell in with a band of young
bustards, which allowed us to approach near enough to drop one; so that
evening the old pony had a good load to carry home.





The two following examples of fortunate days will serve to illustrate
the system of bustard-shooting as practised on the corn-lands of
Southern Spain, and convey some idea of the haunts and habits of this
noble game-bird, in a region where they still remain abundant.

The rendezvous was at the Cortijo de Jedilla, a farm lying some twelve
miles away, and the hour fixed was nine o'clock on an April morning.
This, along a road that resembled the remains of an earthquake,
necessitated an early start. For near three hours we rattled and jolted
along in the roomy brake, that lurched at times like a cross-channel
steamer, to the merry-jingling bells of a four-in-hand mule-team.

At the hour appointed our ponies and people stood around the
broad-arched entrance of the cortijo, all under the direction of old
Blas, the keen-eyed mountaineer, equally at home on rugged sierra, or
bestriding bare-backed his restive colt, and intimately acquainted with
every inch of the wide country around. Blas had left home long before
daybreak on that lovely spring morning, and after covering the four
leagues across the plains at a hand-gallop, had already--like swift
Camilla--scoured all the cultivated lands around the cortijo, in search
of the big birds while yet they were busy seeking their matutinal feed.
He received us with the gratifying intelligence that he had marked _tres
bandadas_--three packs of bustard. In a few minutes we were mounted, the
guns slung in the _fundas_, and away.

Blas led the file of horsemen towards the nearest band. We were a party
of four, with a contingent of six mounted hands under Blas' directions
in the ticklish work of driving. Presently the bustards are descried,
their lavender heads and lighter necks visible, through the glasses,
above the _biznagas_ (visnaya of Linnæus) on a hillside some 1,000 yards

Their position, on a hill of so gentle a slope as to command all the
plain around, was most difficult to surround; however, as a forlorn
hope, and rather with the object of moving them to more favourable
ground, we rode slowly past them on the north, at about 300 yards, the
birds perking their heads and taking the most lively interest in the
string of horsemen. When the nature of the land afforded a cover from
the birds' view, we rode round to the southern side, but always at too
great a distance to promise anything like a fair chance of getting the
birds over us.[9] Our four guns, however, now spread out along the
slope, covering among them some quarter-mile of possible flight. The
men, riding round to the northern side again, opened out in line, and
slowly came in towards the common centre. At first the pack came
straight for the guns; but the leader, flying higher than the rest,
caught sight of a foe--of No. 1 gun lying full length on the
soil--swerved, and took with him the whole pack, out of shot on the
extreme right. The latter fact our inexperienced friend in that quarter
did not comprehend, for he let drive a couple of quick and useless
barrels. Worse than useless! for, as we watched the splendid birds
streaming away into space across the valleys of spring corn, we knew
that our chance at that _bandada_ was gone--at least for the day.

The second band required a good deal of finding: although Blas was
confident he had correctly localized them, we could descry no bustards
anywhere in that neighbourhood. At length one of our scouts brought us
good news; the birds had walked more than a mile from where Blas had
seen them in the early morning. We now waited for him to reconnoitre,
and he soon reported that they were basking in the sun amidst a sea of
shooting barley--a fact we shortly verified with our field-glasses. Not
only were they so favourably placed for a stalk that we would be able to
"horseshoe" the four guns behind them at almost certain distance, but
the drivers (by a long detour) would also get well in at the front of
their position unseen. The two centre guns were placed in the valley at
the foot of the green slope, while the two flanking guns were enabled,
by the favouring ground, to creep well up the hillside--a disposition
which would leave the birds wholly enclosed at their first flight. The
central posts had also the advantage of a rank growth of weeds along the
hollow, which effectually concealed them from view. It was a short
affair. The writer (left flank) soon heard the whirr of heavy wings: the
game passed between him and the opposite flanking gun, out of shot of
either, but "entering" beautifully to the centre. Both guns rose to
watch the tableau. Straight as a line passed forward the huge
_barbones_--some five-and-twenty of them, the resplendent plumage of
rich orange and contrasting black and white set off against the green
background; their great swollen necks appeared almost disproportionately
heavy, even for those broad pinions and (seemingly) leisurely flight.
But bustards, like all heavy game, travel vastly quicker than appears to
be the case, as the sequel proved.

[Illustration: Plate IX.


Page 48.]

Now they are on the very fringe of the darker green of the hollow; our
centre guns have them at their mercy. Don't they see them? Yes; two
figures rise from the rank weeds, and flashing barrels enfilade the
flock. One, two, three, four reports ring out; but ... not a bird comes
down, the frightened monsters spread asunder, winging a quicker flight
in all directions. One huge _barbudo_ behind the rest wheels back and
almost gives us a chance as he takes the hill in reverse; but he sees
the danger and passes to the right, swerving in his course too near our
_vis-à-vis_, and before we hear the report we can see the ponderous mass
of 30lbs. of bustard collapse. He is struck well forward, in head and
neck, and pitches heavily earthwards, splitting his broad chest as it
rebounds from the unyielding soil. We had--and that by sheer chance--a
single head to show for this carefully-planned drive.

Our young friends in the valley were sad indeed, but over such things
let us draw the veil. The drivers, too, had witnessed their failure. It
may be safer rather to leave their feelings to the sympathetic reader to
imagine than to describe. Old Blas declared they had "llenado el ojo de
carne"--that the huge bulk of the birds had concealed from over-anxious
eyes the rapidity of their flight. After lunch what had appeared a
catastrophe became a jest.

An unsuccessful manœuvre followed, and we had to ride afar to seek
fresh _bandadas_. After traversing leagues of corn-land--at this season
as lonely as an African desert,--we descried a considerable pack, and
again luck favoured us as to site. An _arroyo_, or stream, ran along the
valley below--one of those small rapid currents that, in winter, tear
deep and narrow gulleys, and in the summer become quite dry, save in a
few of the deeper pools or favoured corners which resist the heat and
afford nesting homes for the mallard and drinking resorts for the
bustard. Now, there was water all along, and tall reeds and canes grew
several feet in height. Could we place the guns along this ditch the
drive was secure. The question was, Would the birds allow a mounted
group to pass so near? We tried and succeeded. Witness's luck placed him
in a cane-brake, whence he could watch every movement of the bustards at
leisure. On rising, the pack bore straight to the gun on the left.
Luckily (for us), this "point-gun," in his undue anxiety, showed too
soon--before the birds had come well in. The pack swung in our
direction, right along the line, giving a chance to both centre guns
(only one of which was taken advantage of), and then bore straight for
the writer, well overhead, and not over 60 feet high--an _embarras de

The first and second shots, with the 12-bore, stopped a pair of what
appeared the biggest of the pack, coming in--right and left--and then,
picking up a single 4-bore, there followed the further satisfaction of
pulling down a third old male at very long range. These three superb
birds weighed 93lbs.--a notable shot, probably without parallel in
sporting annals.

Before night we found twice more, and each of the _batidas_ added a bird
to the bag, the result of the day's sport being seven noble _barbones_,
or male bustard, now in the fullest glory of their splendid spring

Thus ended a successful day, on which Fortune had favoured us, on
several occasions, in finding the game in accessible situations. Such
good luck does not always, nor even often, await the bustard-shooter;
and even when it does, there still remains the real _crux_--the quick
intuition of the requisite strategical movements and their successful


The chimes of San Miguel were already ringing out the summons to
even-song. Graceful figures in dark lace and mantillas hurried across
the palm-shaded Plaza, as two Ingléses (_sus servidores de ustedes_)
rode out of the city on an April afternoon.

It was rather for a ride than with any special sporting object in view
that we set out. Yet, as is always the case in Spain, the guns were
slung behind the saddle, and we remembered that, only a few days before,
one of us had encountered a band of thirteen bustards--a dozen of which
should still be basking on the green corn-lands of Santo Domingo, within
a league of the _octroi_ boundary.

The binoculars, however, swept the swelling grounds without disclosing
any occupants more important than a group of grey cranes and a pair of
partridges indulging in vernal flirtations, careless of a kite which
hovered hard by.


Beyond the corn-land lay undulated _manchones_, or fallows, clothed with
a short growth of grass and thistles, and here on the summit of a
flat-crowned knoll, a mile away, we descried a band of eight bustards.
Hardly could a more unfavourable spot be selected. Their sentries
commanded every visible approach, and we advanced in Indian file to
reconnoitre, with the conviction that any operation must be in the
nature of a forlorn hope. But a skill and rapid perception of the least
advantage, worthy of a field-marshal, were at work, directed against the
hapless eight. Riding circuitously around the game, we had approached as
near as prudence allowed--some 300 yards, when an almost imperceptible
depression served for a few moments to screen us from their view. Hardly
had the last head sunk below the sky-line than one of the two guns
rolled out of the saddle, passing the reins to his companion, who, in
ten more yards, had reappeared to the already suspicious bustards. By
the invaluable aid of a tiny furrow, worn by the winter's rains, but
barely a foot in depth, No. 1 managed to worm a serpentine progression
to the shoulder of the hill,--a point some 100 yards up the gentle
slope, and barely twice that distance from the game,--while No. 2,
slowly encircling the birds at 200 yards radius, gradually contracting
and in full view, gained the reverse of the hill. Twice the big sentry
had given the warning to "be ready"; as often the hunter widened his
course till suspicion was allayed. Critical moments these, when success
or failure depend upon a thread: upon instant diagnosis of what is
passing in one's opponent's mind, divining, so to speak, his intentions
before he has actually perfected them, or even decided himself.

So perfect in this encounter was the strategy--so complete the
ascendency of mind over instinct--and the keenest instinct of all, that
of self-preservation--that in due time the intervening space had been
diminished, yard by yard, almost to the fatal range. Presently the still
hesitating birds are little more than one hundred yards away--the great
sentinel some five yards nearer. Now: mark well every movement of
his--there is the signal at last: his stately head is lowered--slowly
lowered some six inches while he still watches intently. Now he takes a
rapid step forward--he is going. But hardly have the huge wings unfolded
than the rider has sprung to his feet, and a couple of charges of
"treble A" crash together into that broad back and lowered neck. The
distance is great--near 100 yards--but mould-shot and cold-drawn steel
barrels have done it before, and will do it again: back to earth, which
he had barely quitted, returns the stricken monarch of the plain, blood
staining his snowy breast, and one great pinion hanging useless by his

[Illustration: Plate X.


Page 52.]

The seven survivors wing away straight towards the point where the other
gun lies hidden in the dry drain-head. Mark! Now the leading _barbon_
checks his flight as he sees the flash of barrels beneath: but it is all
too late, and down he, too, comes with a mighty crash, to earth. A
third, offering only a "stern shot," continues a laboured flight, his
pinion-feathers sticking out at sixes and sevens, and soon pitches on
the verge of a marshy hollow where storks are dotted about in search of
frogs. It was an awkward place, and necessitated moving him again:
indeed, this bird gave no small trouble to secure. The sun had already
set, and night drew on apace, ere the final shot, ringing out amidst
gathering gloom, told that he, too, had been added to the spoils of that
glorious afternoon.






We trust the reader may not fear that he is about to suffer once more
the infliction of the oft-described Spanish bull-fight. We have no
intention so far to abuse his patience. The subject is exhausted: has
been dilated upon by almost every visitor to this country, though nearly
always with inaccuracy and imperfect knowledge.

It is customary for such writers to condemn the bull-fight[10] _in toto_
on account of its cruelty: to denounce it without reservation, as a
barbarous and brutal exhibition and nothing more. The cruelty is
undeniable, and much to be deprecated; the more so as this element
could, to a large extent, be eliminated. But, despite the fate of
sacrificed horses, there are elements in the Spanish bull-fight that the
British race are accustomed to hold in esteem--the qualities of pluck,
nerve, and coolness in face of danger. To attack in single combat, on
foot, and with no weapon but the sword, a powerful and ferocious
animal, means taking one's life in one's hand, and relying for safety
and final triumph on cool intrepid pluck, on a marvellous activity and
truth of hand, eye, and limb, and on a nerve which not the peril even of
the supreme moment can disturb.

There are doubtless balanced minds which, while in no way ignoring or
exculpating its cruelties, can yet recognize in the _toréo_ an
unrivalled exhibition of human skill, nerve, and power, and can
distinguish between the good and the bad among its heterogeneous

The bull-fight, as a spectacle, has often been described: but no English
writers have attempted to trace its origin and history; to explain its
firm-seated hold on the affections of the Spanish people, and to show
how their keen zest for the national sport goes back to the days of
chivalry. Nor has anything been written of the agricultural, or pastoral
side of the question, and of the picturesque scenes amidst which the
earlier stages of the drama are enacted, on broad Iberian plain and
prairie: of the feats of horsemanship and "derring do" at the
_tentaderos_, or trials, and later at the _encierro_ on that hot summer
morning when the gallant _toro bravo_ is lured for ever from his native
pastures, and led by traitor kin within the fatal enclosure of the

The custom of the toréo, if not the art, is so ancient, its origin so
lost in the mists of time, that it is difficult to fix the precise
period at which bull-fighting was first practised. There is written
evidence to show that encounters between men and bulls were not
infrequent at the time of the Arab invasion in the eighth century, and
it may be accepted that it was this eastern race that gave the diversion
its first popularity.[11] It is proved beyond doubt that at the Moorish
_fêtes_ encounters with bulls were one of the chief sports, and when,
centuries later, the Arab was finally driven from Spanish soil, they
left behind them their passion for these conflicts, as they left many of
their industries and many words of their language. Wherever the expelled
Arabs may now be, it is at least certain that the bull-fight has taken
root in no other land outside of Spain.[12] During the interludes of
war, when the opposing forces of Moor and Christian made peace for a
while, the inauguration of a truce was celebrated by a bull-fight,
whereat knights of both sides rivalled each other in the tauromachian
fray. The heroic Cid, el Campeador (_obiit_, A.D. 1098) signalized the
contests of the eleventh century, himself taking the chief part. His
graceful horsemanship in the arena was as favourite a theme for song and
sonnet as even his redoubtable deeds in the field. The ever-popular
ballad of _Don Rodrigo de Bivar_ is still heard in the mountain

So frequent and of such importance had these _fiestas_ become that,
after the termination of Moorish dominion, Queen Isabel I. of Castile
prohibited them by edict in all her kingdoms: but the edict proved waste
paper. Alarmed by witnessing a _corrida_ at which human blood was shed,
her Catholic majesty made strenuous efforts to put down bull-fighting
throughout the land: but the national taste was too deeply implanted in
the breasts of a warlike and powerful nobility, whom she was too prudent
to offend. In a letter to her Father Confessor in 1493, she declares her
intention never again to witness a _corrida_, and adds:--"Y no digo
defenderlos (esto es prohibirlos) porque esto no era para mi á
solas"--which is to say, that her will, which could accomplish the
expulsion of the Moor and the Jew, was powerless to uproot the

[Illustration: Plate XI.


Page 57.]

The power of the papacy was alike invoked in vain. In 1567 a papal bull
issued by Pius V. prohibited all Catholic princes, under pain of
excommunication, from permitting _corridas_ in their dominions; a
similar punishment for all priests who attended them, and Christian
burial was denied to all who fell in the arena. Not even these terrible
measures availed, and succeeding Pontiffs were fain to relax the
severity of the _bulas_ of their predecessors, since each successive
prohibition was met by the magnates of the land arranging new
_corridas_. At length the time arrived when masters of theology at
Salamanca ruled that clerics of a certain rank might licitly attend
these spectacles.

Isabel's grandson, Charles I., killed with his own hand a bull in the
city of Valladolid, during the festivities held to celebrate the birth
of his eldest son, afterwards Philip II.; and, later, during the reigns
of the House of Austria, to face a bull with bravery and skill, and to
use a dexterous lance, was the pride of every Spanish noble.

It was a gay and imposing scene in those days when the _lidia_, or
tournament, took place--held in the largest open square of the town,
around which were erected the graded platforms whence _Damas_ and
_Caballeros_, in all the bravery of mediæval toilet and costume, watched
the performance.

The people were permitted only a servile share in these aristocratic
_fiestas_. The knight, mounted on fiery Arab steed, was armed only with
the _rejon_, or short sharp lance of those days, five feet in length,
and held at its extreme end. At a given signal he sallied forth to meet
the bull, which, infuriated by sight of horse and rider, dashed from his
trammels and went straight to the charge. The first blow of his horns,
if driven home, meant death: and the horseman's art lay in avoiding the
impact by a well-timed move to the left: at the same moment, by an
adroit counter-move, empaling with his lance the lower neck: and so
delivering the thrust as to clear himself and horse from the rebound of
the bull. This manœuvre required dexterity, coolness, and strength of
arm: and when successful was graceful in the highest degree, eliciting,
as the rider curvetted away from his worsted and enraged antagonist,
the loudest applause, and dark-eyed _Damas_, with flashing glances of
pride and sympathy, would throw flowers to the valiant Paladin.

    "The ladies' hearts began to melt,
      Subdued by blows their lovers felt;
    So Spanish heroes with their lances
      At once wound bulls and ladies' fancies."

When the bull fell dead from a single thrust enthusiasm knew no bounds:
to administer this fatal stroke in masterly style was the ambition of
the flower of Spanish youth.

If dismounted, the knight, by established rule, must face the bull on
foot, sword in hand. He was allowed the assistance of his slaves or
servants, who, at the risk of their lives, "played" the brute till an
opportunity was afforded for a death-thrust from their master's sword.
It is in this phase of the fight that we trace the origin of several of
the _suertes_ which are practised in the modern Corrida de Toros.[13]

With the accession of the Bourbons to the Spanish throne came a change.
These rude encounters were little in harmony with the elegance and
effeminacy of the French court. So coldly were they regarded that, by
slow degrees, the Spanish nobility withdrew themselves from the arena.
Then, as Gallic manners and customs prevailed and extended beyond court
circles till adulation of the French monarch became a creed, the Spanish
gentry abandoned their ancient sport.

But the hold of the national pastime on the Moro-hispanic race was too
firm-set to be swept away by alien influence, however strong: and when
thus abandoned by the patricians, by the hidalgos and grandees of Spain,
the sport of bull-fighting was taken up by the Spanish people. It was
at this period (towards the end of the eighteenth century) that the
Corridas de Toros, as now practised (with slight variations), were
established and organized. Bull-rings and paid _matadores_ took the
place of the city square and the knight. Many additions to the original
corridas were inaugurated, and the sport assumed more diversified and
even more dangerous forms.

The first professional matadors were the brothers Juan and Pedro Palomo,
followed by the celebrated names of Martinez Billon (el Africano),
Francisco Romero and his son Juan, José Delgado Candido (better known as
Pepe Hillo), who died in the Plaza of Port St. Mary on the 24th June,
1771, and, later on, Rodriguez Castellares, Geronimo Candido, son of
José (Pepe Hillo), who fell mortally wounded at Madrid, 11th May, 1802,
and many more of high tauromachian fame.[14]

Most of the Plazas de Toros, or bull-rings, of the first class, were
erected at this period--that at Madrid in 1741, at Seville, 1768, at
Aranjuez, 1796, Saragoza, 1764, Puerto Sta. Maria, 1771, Ronda, 1785,
and Jerez de la Frontera, 1798.

The master-hand who directed and perfected this reorganization, on
popular lines, of the national _fiesta_, after the Bourbon influence had
alienated the aristocracy from their ancient diversion, was PEPE HILLO:
who established the rules and etiquette and drew up the tauromachian
code of honour, written and unwritten, which, in the main, prevails at
the present day. None more fully recognize the ability and prowess of
this 'gran maestro' of old than the famous matadors who are to-day the
highest living exponents of tauromachian art--men such as Frascuelo,
Lagartijo and Mazzantini, whose names are household words from the
Bidasoa to the Mediterranean.

Andalucia has always been, and still remains, the province where the
love of the bull and all that pertains to him is most keenly cherished,
and where the modern bull-fight may to-day be seen in its highest
perfection and development. It provides both the best bull-fighters and
most valued strains of the fighting bull. It may be added that the
Andalucian nobility were the last of their order to discontinue their
historic pursuit: and when, during the darker days of this sport, the
Royal order of the Maestranza de Sevilla was created by Philip V., it
was conceded in the statutes that members of the order could hold two
corridas with the long lance annually outside the city walls. Three
gentlemen subsequently received titles of exalted nobility of this order
in respect of brilliant performances with the lance.

Though Andalucia is the stronghold both of the Toro and of the
Toreador--the scene of the popular bull-fighting opera of _Carmen_ is
appropriately laid at Seville--yet the oldest of all the Spanish herds
is pastured in the rough country around Valladolid, in Old Castile. This
caste has been in existence since the fifteenth century: from it the old
nobility selected their bulls, and it furnished the kingly contests of
Philip and Charles III. This herd is known as _El raso del Portillo_,
and, though entitled to pre-eminence in respect of antiquity, yet
several of the more modern breeders command higher prices. The
ever-increasing demand has driven the cost of a "warrantable"
five-year-old bull up to £70 or £80. To succeed in uniting the various
qualities required in an animal of this value, great judgment in
breeding and a considerable outlay are necessary.

[Illustration: Plate XII.


Page 61.]

At the age of one year, the young bulls are separated from the heifers,
each animal branded on the side with the insignia of its herd, and on
the neck with its number therein, and turned out loose on the plains to
graze with its companions of similar age and sex. When the youngsters
have passed another year, their critical time has arrived, and their
first trials for mettle and fighting qualities take place. The brave are
set aside for the Plaza: the--comparatively--docile destroyed, at least
by scrupulous breeders; while from the chosen lot a further selection is
made of the sires for perpetuating the breed. From the moment the
fighting bulls are selected, they are treated with the utmost care, and
for two years more roam at liberty over the richest pasturage of the
wide unfrequented prairies. At four years old they are moved into the
_cerrados_, or enclosures--fields of great extent, surrounded by a
wooden stockade and double ditch. The _cerrado_ they never leave till
bound for the Plaza. Should pasture fail through drought or deluge, they
are fed on tares, vetch, and maize--even with wheat. Their _début_ in
public must be made in the highest possible condition. The bulls should
be, at the time, not less than five nor more than seven years old.

While thus grazing at large on the open plain, the bulls are in charge
of herdsmen over whom is the official known in Castile as _mayoral_, in
Andalucia as _conocedor_, assisted by his _ayudante_. These two spend
their lives in the saddle, each carrying the long "garrocha," or lance,
as a defensive weapon. The herdsmen go on foot, each armed with a sling,
in the use of which they are adepts.

To return to the two-year-old point in the bull's life--that is, as we
have stated, the critical stage in his existence, for then his "trial"
takes place.

It is also an important period for the owner, for upon the proportion of
good-mettled, "warrantable" beasts depends the profit and reputation of
the herd. It is customary for the owner and his friends to be present at
these _tentaderos_ or trials: and a bright and picturesque scene they
afford, thoroughly typical of untrodden Andalucia, and of the buoyant,
careless exuberance and dare-devil spirit of her people.

Nowhere can the exciting scenes of the _tentadero_ be witnessed to
greater advantage than on the wide level pastures which extend from
Seville to the Bay of Cadiz. Here, far out on the spreading "vegas,"
carpeted with rich profusion of wild flowers and pasturage, where the
canicular sun flashes yet more light and fire into the fiery veins of
the Andaluz--here occurs the first scene in the drama of the _Toréo_.
For centuries these flowery plains have been the scene of countless
_tentaderos_, where the "majos,"--young bloods,--generation after
generation, revel in feats of skill, courage, and horsemanship. Both
good riding and staying power are often called into requisition by those
taking an active part in the operations.

The night before the trials take place, the usually quiet and
sequestered Estancia (or rancho) is a scene of unwonted revelry. The
owners of the herd and many friends--all _aficionados_ of the
sport--have come up from the distant town to take part in the selection
of the morrow--as this work commences at early dawn, the night must be
spent on the spot. The rude walls of the rancho resound with boisterous
hilarity, dance and song succeed each other, to the vigorous notes of
the guitar--sleep is not to be thought of, good humour, gaiety, and no
small admixture of practical joking pass away the night, and by the
first of the daylight all are in the saddle. The two-year-old-bulls have
previously been herded upon a part of the estate which affords the best
level ground for smart manœuvre and fast riding, and here the duty of
keeping the impetuous beasts together--no easy task--is allotted to
skilled herdsmen armed with long _garrochas_--lances of some four yards
in length, with short steel tips. As just mentioned, it is no easy work
to keep the young bulls together, for they are anxious to break away and
dart off to join their friends in the distance. When all is ready the
herdsmen allow one bull to escape across the flat open country, pursued
by two horsemen who are awaiting the moment, _garrocha_ in hand. These
men rival each other to place the first lance and to turn the bull over.
This is effected by planting a blunt-tipped _garrocha_, on the bull's
_off-flank_, near the tail, when a powerful thrust, given at full speed,
overthrows him: but obviously the feat requires a good eye, a firm seat,
and a strong arm. Immediately the bull is over, with his four feet in
the air, another horseman, who has ridden close behind, comes up. He is
armed with a more pointed lance, and is called _el tentador_. On rising,
the bull finds this man between him and his companions in the _rodéo_,
to whom he would now fain return. He immediately charges the obstacle,
receiving on his shoulder the _garrocha_ point; thrown back for a
moment, and smarting under this first check to his hitherto unthwarted
will, he returns to the charge with redoubled fury, but only to find the
horse protected as before: the pluckier spirits will make a third or a
fourth attack, but those which freely charge _twice_ are passed as fit
for the ring.

Sometimes the young bull declines to charge the _tentador_, submitting
quietly to his overthrow, and only desiring to escape. He does not get
off without a second fall; but if, after this, he still refuses to
charge, he is at once condemned--doomed to death, or at best a life of
agricultural toil. A note is taken of each selected bull (its colour,
size, and shape of horns, and general appearance); and each is entered
in the herd-book, under a particular name--such as Espartero,
Cardinillo, Linares, Flamenco, and the like. By these names they are
known, and at the end publicly described in the flaming "posters" and
advertisements of the _Corrida_ at which they are to make their final

Nor is there anything modern in this individualizing of the champions of
the arena. In the Moorish ballads ("The Bull-Fight of Gazul"), so
happily translated by Lockhart, we find the "toro bravo" had his name in
those days:--

  "Now stops the drum; close, close they come; thrice meet,
     and thrice give back:
   The white foam of Harpado lies on the charger's breast of black--
   The white foam of the charger on Harpado's front of dun;--
   Once more advance upon his lance--once more, thou fearless one!"

It often happens, when a bull is singled out from the _rodéo_, that he
does not take to his heels as expected, but charges the nearest person,
on foot or mounted, that he may see. Then look out for squalls! The
danger must be averted, when it _is_ averted, by skill and experience;
but it seldom happens that one of these trial-days passes without broken
bones or accidents of some kind or other. The men engaged in these
operations have, of course, no shelter of any kind; but the Spanish
herdsmen, when taken at disadvantage, are adepts in the use of their
jackets, with which they give "passes" to the bull, who always follows
the moving object. A smart fellow, when caught in the open, can thus
keep a bull off him for several moments, giving time for the horsemen to
come up to the rescue. Even then it is no unusual occurrence to see
horsemen, horse and bull all rolling together on the turf in one common
ruin. A bright-coloured scarf or mantle will always draw away the bull
from his prostrate foe; otherwise there would soon be an end of
_tentadores_, bull-branders, and bull-fighters too, for the matter of

Each animal in the herd is put through the tests we have described, the
proportion selected varying according to the excellence and purity of
the strain: and then, for three years longer, the selected bulls
continue to lead a life of ease and abundance upon the smiling
Andalucian _vega_.[15]

Skill in handling the _garrocha_, and the ability to turn over a running
bull, are accomplishments in high esteem amongst Spanish youth. Names
now famous in politics or diplomacy (Don Luis Albereda, for example,
late Spanish Minister at St. James's, the Duke of San Lorenzo, and many
more), are still mentioned in Andalucia as past experts in the records
of this southern diversion--a fame analogous to that of our foremost
steeple-chase riders at home.[16]

The _tentadero_ at the present day affords opportunity for aristocratic
gatherings, that recall the tauromachian tournaments of old. Even the
Infantas of Spain enter into the spirit of the sport, and have been
known themselves to wield the _garrocha_ with good effect, as was, a few
months ago, the case at a brilliant _fête champêtre_ on the Sevillian
_vegas_, when the Condesa de Paris and her daughter, Princess Elena,
each overthrew a sturdy two-year-old; the Infanta Eulalia riding "_á
ancas_," or pillion-fashion, with an Andalucian nobleman, among the
merriest of a merry party.

[Illustration: Plate XIII.


Page 65.]

At length, however, the years spent in luxurious idleness on the silent
plains must come to an end. One summer morning the brave herd find
grazing in their midst some strange animals, which appear to make
themselves extremely agreeable to the lordly champions, now in the
zenith of magnificent strength and beauty. The strangers grazing with
them are the _cabrestos_ (or _cabestros_, in correct Castilian), the
decoy-oxen sent out to fraternize for a few days with the fighting race,
preparatory to the _encierro_, or operation of conveying the latter to
the town where the corrida takes place. Each _cabestro_ has a large
cattle-bell, of the usual Spanish type, suspended round its neck, in
order to accustom the wild herd to follow the lead of these base
betrayers of the brave. Shortly the noble bulls will be lured in their
company away from their native plains, through country paths and
byeways, to the entrance of the fatal _toril_.

An animated spectacle it is on the eve of the _corrida_, when, amidst
clouds of dust and clang of bells, the tame oxen and wild bulls are
driven forward by galloping horsemen and levelled _garrochas_. The
excited populace, already intoxicated with bull-fever and the
anticipation of the coming corridas, lining the way to the Plaza,
careless if in the enthusiasm for the morrow they risk some awkward rips

Once inside the lofty walls of the _toril_, it is easy to withdraw the
treacherous _cabestros_, and one by one to tempt the bulls each into a
small separate cell, the _chiquero_, the door of which will to-morrow
fall before his eyes. Then, rushing upon the arena, he finds himself
confronted and encircled by surging tiers of yelling humanity, while the
crash of trumpets and glare of moving colours madden his brain. Then the
gaudy horsemen, with menacing lances, recall his day of trial on the
distant plain, horsemen now doubly hateful in their brilliant glittering
tinsel. No wonder the noble brute rushes with magnificent fury to the

[Illustration: A BULL-FIGHTER.]

What a spectacle is presented by the Plaza at this moment!--one without
parallel in the modern world. The vast amphitheatre, crowded to the last
seat in every row and tier, is held for some seconds in breathless
suspense: above, the glorious azure canopy of an Andalucian summer sky:
below, on the yellow arena, rushes forth the bull, fresh from his
distant prairie, amazed yet undaunted by the unwonted sight and the
bewildering blaze of colour which surrounds him. For one brief moment
the vast mass of excited humanity sits spell-bound: the clamour of
myriads is stilled. Then the pent-up cry bursts forth in frantic volume,
for the gleaming horns have done their work, and _buen toro! buen toro!_
rings from twice ten thousand throats.

The bull-rings are mostly the property of private persons, though some
are owned by corporations, others by charitable institutions, and the
like. The bull-fights themselves, however, are always in the hands of an
_empresario_, who hires the building at a rent, supplies the bulls and
_troupe_, and takes the whole arrangements in his own hands and for his
own account.

The cost of a modern bull-fight in Andalucia ranges from £1,100 to
£1,200. Six bulls are usually killed, their value averaging £70. The
_Espada_, or Matador, receives on the day from £120 to £200, including
the services of his cuadrilla or troupe, which consists of two picadors,
three banderilleros, and a cachetero. As there are always two matadors
with their respective cuadrillas engaged, this makes in all fourteen
bull-fighters. The cost of the horses is about £120 to £200, a variable
quantity, depending so much on the temper and quality of the bulls.
Against this, there are from ten to twenty thousand seats to be let in
the ring, the prices of which vary from a peseta or two in the _Sol_ or
sunny side, up to a couple of dollars or more in the _Sombra_.[17]

The president of the corrida is usually the alcalde or mayor of the
town--sometimes the civil governor of the province, always some person
of weight and authority, though the alcalde is responsible for the
orderly conduct of the corrida, even should he delegate the
presidential chair to some one of higher authority. He is required to
examine the bulls before the fight: that is, to see that they bear the
brand of the herd advertised, and have no visible defect; then he must
inspect the horses; even the banderillas and the garrochas, the points
of which latter must be shortened as autumn approaches. Till the alcalde
appears in his tribune, the fight may not commence, and during the
spectacle he orders the incoming of each bull, the time which the
picadors shall occupy with their lances: he directs the trumpets of his
attendant heralds to sound the changes in the fight, when banderilleros
succeed picadors, and for the final scene, when the matador steps alone
upon the arena, with scarlet cloak and gleaming sword.

[Illustration: AN _ESPADA_, OR MATADOR.]

It will thus be seen that the presidential function involves a fairly
deep knowledge of all the arts and etiquette of tauromachian science.
Under intelligent direction, accidents in the ring and tumults amongst
dissatisfied multitudes are avoided--without it, the reverse.

We have now traced in brief outline the life-history of our gallant
bull; we have brought him face to face with Frascuelo and his Toledan
blade; there we must leave him. But, in concluding this chapter, may we
beg the generous reader, should he ever enter the historic circle of the
plaza, to go there with an open mind--without prejudice, and unbiassed
by the floods of invective which have ever been let loose upon the
Spanish bull-fight.

Let critics remember, if only in extenuation, what the spectacle
represents to Spain--a national festival, the love of which we have
shown to be ineradicable, ingrained in Spanish nature by centuries of
custom and tradition. Let them reflect, too, that those brutal domestic
scenes which disgrace so many a home among the poor of other lands are,
in the land of the bull-fighter, unknown. Lastly, let them remember that
upon untrained eyes there must fall flat many of the finer passes, much
of the elaborate technique and science of tauromachian art: points which
are instantly seized and appreciated by Spanish experts--and in Spain
_all_ are experts. This is lost to the casual spectator, who perceives
less difficulty in the perilous _vol-á-pié_ than in the simpler, though
more attractive, _suerte de recibir_, and a thousand other technical





Andalucia may roughly be subdivided into four main regions, unequal in
extent, but of well-marked physical characters and conformation. These
are the sierras, and the rolling corn-lands, at both of which we have
already glanced. Then there are the _dehesas_--wild, uncultivated wastes
or prairies, of which more anon. Lastly, there are the _marismas_.


We have in English no equivalent to the Spanish "marisma," and these
regions are so peculiar, both physically and ornithologically, as to
require a short description. Geologically, the marismas are the deltas
of great rivers, the alluvial accumulations of ages, deposited, layer
upon layer, on the sea-bottom till the myriad particles thrust back the
sea, and form level plains of dry land. The struggle between rival
elements does not terminate, but the attacks of the liquid combatant
only seem to result in still further assuring the victory of _terra
firma_, by banking up between the opposing forces an impregnable
rampart of sand. The latter, overlying the margin of the rich alluvial
mud, is thus capable, in its hollows and deeper dells, of sustaining a
luxuriant plant-life, which in turn serves to fortify and consolidate
its otherwise unstable consistency.[18]

The largest of the Spanish marismas, and those best known to the
authors, are those of the Guadalquivir. If the reader will look at a map
of Spain, there will be noticed on the Lower Guadalquivir a large tract
totally devoid of the names of villages, &c. From Lebrija on the east to
Almonte on the west, and from the Atlantic almost up to Seville itself,
the map is vacant. This huge area is, in fact, a wilderness, and in
winter the greater part a dismal waste of waters. For league after
league as one advances into that forbidding desolation, the eye rests on
nothing but water--tawny waters meeting the sky all round the horizon.
The Guadalquivir intersects the marisma, its triple channel divided from
the adjacent shallows and savannahs by low mud-banks. The water of the
marisma is fresh, or nearly so--quite drinkable--and has a uniform depth
over vast areas of one or two feet, according to the season. Here and
there slight elevations of its muddy bed form low islands, varying from
a few yards to thousands of acres in extent, covered with coarse
herbage, thistles and bog-plants, the home of countless wild-fowl and
aquatic birds. In spring the water recedes; as the hot weather sets in
it rapidly evaporates, leaving the marisma a dead level of dry mud,
scorched and cracked by the fierce summer sun. A rank herbage springs
up, and around the remaining water-holes wave beds of tall reeds and

In winter the marshy plains abound with wild-fowl, ducks, geese, and
water-birds of varied kinds; but of the winter season in the marisma,
its fowl and fowlers, we treat fully hereafter.

The spring-months abound in interest to the naturalist. Imagination can
hardly picture, nor Nature provide, a region more congenial to the
tastes of wild aquatic birds than these huge marismas, with their silent
stretches of marsh-land and savannahs, cane-brake and stagnant waters,
and their profusion of plant and insect life. Here, in spring, in an
ornithological Eden, one sees almost daily new bird-forms. During the
vernal migration the still air resounds with unknown notes, and many of
those species which at home are the rarest--hardly known save in books
or museums--are here the most conspicuous, filling the desolate
landscape with life and animation. The months of February and March
witness the withdrawal of most of the winter wild-fowl. Day after day
the clouds of Pintails and Wigeon, of Shovellers, Pochards, and Teal,
and fresh files of grey geese wing their way northwards; while their
places are simultaneously being filled by arrivals from the south. April
brings an influx of graceful forms and many sub-tropical species, for
which Andalucia forms, roughly speaking, the northern limit; while in
May is superadded a "through transit," which renders the bird-life of
that period at times almost bewildering.

But before attempting to fill in the details, it is necessary to explain
the mode of travel and the methods by which these wildernesses can be
investigated. Uninhabited and abandoned to wild-fowl and flamingoes, and
lying remote from any "base of operations," the exploration of the
marismas is an undertaking of some difficulty. They cannot, owing to
their extent, be worked from any single base; hence, thoroughly to
explore them and penetrate their lonely expanses, necessitates a
well-equipped expedition, independent of external aid, and prepared to
encamp night after night among the tamarisks or samphire on bleak islet
or barren _arenal_. Some of our earlier efforts, twenty years ago,
resulted in total failure. Setting out by way of the river, the light
launches suitable for the shallow marisma proved unequal to the voyage
up the broad Guadalquivir; while, on the other hand, the larger craft in
which that exposed estuary could be safely navigated were useless in the
shallows. One attempt was frustrated by sunstroke; on another our
Spanish crew "struck" through stress of weather, leaving us at a lonely
spot some thirty miles beyond Bonanza with no alternative but to submit,
or go on alone. We had, however, some reward for this enforced tramp in
discovering the Dunlin (_Tringa alpina_) nesting at a point over a
thousand miles south of any previous record of its breeding-range.
Finally, we chartered at San Lucar a large fishing-yawl, bound up-river,
and after a long day in that malodorous craft, beating up against wind
and stream, and with our three punts in tow, we at length succeeded in
launching them on the waters of the middle marismas.


The geese and wigeon had entirely disappeared--this was early in
April--but passage-ducks still skimmed in large flights over the open
waters. These were chiefly Mallards, with Pintails and Pochards (both
species), a few Teal, Garganey, and probably other species. We also shot
Shovellers out of small "bunches," and among the deep sluices of some
abandoned salt-pans (_salinas_), where we spent the first night, three
or four Tufted Ducks, and a pair of Pochards. I killed a single Scoter
drake as late as April 13th, and was shown as a curiosity a Cormorant
which had been killed by some fishermen on the river a day or two


One cannot go far into the marisma without seeing that extraordinary
fowl, the Flamingo, certainly the most characteristic denizen of the
wilderness. In herds of 300 to 500, several of which are often in sight
at once, they stand like regiments, feeding in the open water, all heads
under, greedily tearing up the grasses and water-plants that grow
beneath the surface. On approaching them, which can only be done by
extreme caution, their silence is first broken by the sentries, which
commence walking away with low croaks: then the whole five hundred necks
rise at once to full stretch, every bird gaggling his loudest as they
walk obliquely away, looking back over their shoulders as though to take
stock of the extent of the danger. Shoving the punt a few yards forward,
up they all rise, and a more beautiful sight cannot be imagined than the
simultaneous spreading of their thousand crimson wings, flashing
against the sky like a gleam of rosy light. Then one descends to the
practical, and a volley of slugs cuts a lane through their phalanx.

In many respects these birds bear a strong resemblance to geese. Like
the latter, Flamingoes feed by day: and quantities of grass, etc., are
always floating about the muddy water at the spot where a herd has been
feeding. Their cry is almost indistinguishable from the gaggling of
geese, and they fly in the same chain-like formations. The irides of the
oldest individuals are very pale lemon-yellow: the bare skin between the
bill and the eye is also yellow, and the whole plumage beautifully
suffused with warm pink. In the young birds of one year (which do not
breed) this pink shade is entirely absent, and even their wings bear but
slight traces of it. The secondaries and tertiaries of these immature
birds are barred irregularly with black spots, and their legs, bills and
eyes are of a dull lead colour. In size flamingoes vary greatly: the
largest we have measured was fully six feet five inches--there are some
quite seven feet--while others (old red birds) barely reached five feet.

The further we advanced into the marisma the more abundant became the
bird-life. Besides ducks and flamingoes, troops of long-legged Stilts in
places whitened the waters, and chattering bands of Avocets swept over
the marshy islets: around these also gyrated clouds of Dunlins in full
breeding-plumage: smaller flights, composed of Kentish plovers and
Lesser Ring-dotterel mixed, with Redshanks and Peewits: the two latter
paired. One morning at daybreak, a pack of two hundred Black-tailed
Godwits pitched on an islet hard by our camp, probably tired with a long
migratory journey, for these wary birds allowed two punts to run almost
"aboard them," and received a raking broadside at thirty yards.[19] On
April 11th we obtained a single Grey Phalarope (_Phalaropus
fulicarius_), swimming like a little duck on an open _arroyo_, and the
Sanderling, Green and Common Sandpipers, were all abundant, together
with Ruffs and Reeves, though in mid-April the former still lacked the
full nuptial dress. Greenshanks and Knots we did not meet with then;
though a month later (in May) swarms of both these species, together
with Whimbrels, Grey Plovers, and Curlew-Sandpipers, all in perfect
summer plumage, poured into the marisma, to rest and recruit on their
direct transit from Africa to the Arctic.

On April 8th the Pratincoles arrived, and thenceforward their zigzag
flight and harsh croak were constantly in evidence all over the dry mud
and sand, where they feed on beetles. In 1891 we observed a "rush" of
these birds, some arriving, and others passing over high, almost out of
sight, on the 11th of April. Sometimes a score of these curious birds
would cast themselves down on the bare ground all around one, some with
expanded wings, and all lying head to wind, much as a nightjar squats on
the sand. Pratincoles resemble terns when standing, but run like
plovers, and on summer evenings, with the terns, they hawk after insects
like swallows. Their beaks have a very wide gape which is bordered with


Another conspicuous bird-group in the marisma are the herons, of which
seven or eight species are here, more or less numerous. Besides the
Common and Purple Herons, the Buff-backed, Squacco, and Night Herons,
Egrets, Spoon-bills, and Glossy Ibis are also found, and several of one
kind or the other can generally be descried on the open marsh--the
first-named often perched on the backs of the cattle or wild-bred ponies
of the marisma, ridding them of the ticks and "warbles," or embryo
gadflies which burrow in the poor brutes' hides. The rush-girt
_arroyos_, or stagnant channels, were dotted with these most elegant
birds, some actively feeding, plunging their heads under to catch the
darting water-beetles as they dive, others resting quiescent in every
graceful pose. Here is a description of such a spot:--_April 29th._
Lying this morning in the punt, well hidden among thick tamarisks, in
the _arroyo_ del Junco Real, we had no less than twelve interesting
species within 200 yards: ducks of four kinds dipped and splashed on the
open water, viz.:--Mallards, Garganey, Marbled Duck, and one pair of
handsome, heavy-headed "Porrones" (_Erismatura leucocephala_). Sundry
Stilts, Egrets, and four Squacco Herons stalked sedately in the
shallows--one of the latter presently perching on a broken bulrush
within ten yards of the boat. A group of Avocets slept standing, each on
one leg, on a dry point; and further away, two Spoonbills were busy
sifting the soft mud with curious revolving gait. Coots and Grebes
(_Podicipes nigricollis_) kept dodging in and out among the flags and
aquatic plants, and a Marsh-Harrier, whose mate was sitting in an
adjoining cane-brake, soared in the background. This is not counting the
commoner kinds, nor several others which we afterwards observed close
by: the above were all in sight, mostly in shot, at one spot.

The Coots and Mallards have eggs in March, the Purple Heron early in
April: on the 9th we found the first nest, merely an armful of the long
green reeds bent down, and containing one blue egg. The other herons
nest very late--in June.

One other bird-group remains to be briefly mentioned--the _Larinæ_. In
so congenial a resort they are, of course, in force: but in early April
few gulls, beyond the British species, are noticeable[20]--of others,
anon. The Whiskered Tern (_Hydrochelidon hybrida_) came in swarms during
the first days of April, followed on the 13th by the Lesser Tern, and at
the end of the month by _H. nigra_, the Black Tern, all of which abound,
gracefully hovering over every pool or reed-choked marsh. The larger
Gull-billed Tern (_Sterna anglica_) is also common in summer in the
marisma, where we have taken the eggs of all four species.

The utter loneliness and desolation of the middle marismas are a
sensation to be remembered. Hour after hour one pushes forward across
the flooded plain, only to bring within view more and yet more vistas of
watery waste and endless horizons of tawny water. On a low islet in the
far distance stand a herd of cattle--mere points in space: but they,
too, partake of the general wildness, and splash off at a galop while
yet a mile away. Even the horses or ponies of the marisma seem to have
reverted to their original man-fearing state, and are as shy and timid
as any of the _feræ naturæ_. After long days on the monotonous marisma,
one's wearied eyes at length rejoice at a vision of trees--a dark green
pine-grove casting grateful shade on the scorching sands beneath. To
that oasis we direct our coarse: but it is a fraud, one of Nature's
cruel mockeries--a mirage. Not a tree grows on that spot, or within
leagues of it, nor has done for ages--perhaps since time began.

Upon a dreary islet we land to form a camp for the night: that is, to
arrange our upturned punts around such scanty fire as can be raised from
a few armfuls of tamarisks and dead thistles--all that our little domain
produces--assisted by a few pine-cones, brought for the purpose in the
boats. Dinner is cooked in the little block-tin camp-stove, or _sarten
prusiano_, as the Spaniards call it, which only demands a modicum of
lard and a sharp fire to reduce a rabbit or a duck to eatable state
within a few minutes. The fare which can be obtained by the gun at this
season is meagre enough: ducks or plovers are sorry food for hungry men,
though a hare, shot on a grassy savanna, is acceptable enough; nor are
the eggs of coot or peewit to be despised. Later, we experimented on
many oological varieties, especially Stilt's and Avocet's eggs. The
latter are excellent, boiling pale yellow and half opaque, like those of
plover: but the Stilt's eggs are too red in the yolk to be tempting. Our
men were not so squeamish: but then they did not even stick at the eggs
of Kites or Vultures. After all, it is safer to rely in the main on
Australian mutton, tinned ox-tongues from the Plate, or indigenous
"jamon dulce;" but the difficulties of transport in tiny _lanchas_
forbid one's being entirely independent of local fare.

The memories of our earliest experiences in the Spanish marismas, in
April, 1872, do not fade. The glorious wild-life fascinated and
exhilarated, while youthful enthusiasm ignored all drawbacks. But in
later years it is perhaps excusable if a slight doubt of the bliss of
campaigning in winter may temporarily arise when one is awakened in the
middle watches of the night by sheer penetrating cold, finds the fire
burnt out, the trusted _Españoles_ all asleep, and the tail of a big
black snake sticking out from under one's bed, or the poke of straw
which is serving the purpose.

The night of April 10th we spent at Rocío, a squalid hamlet clustered
around the chapel of Nuestra Señora del Rocío, an ancient shrine visited
yearly at the vernal festival by faithful pilgrims. We were tired of the
cold and comfortless nights _sub Jove_ in the marisma, where upturned
punts afforded scant shelter from the piercing winds of the small hours,
and where the chill exhalations of night kept one awake listening to the
chorus of frogs and flamingoes and the melancholy boom of the bittern.
It was hardly a change for the better, for a more wretched ague-stricken
spot we have seldom beheld, and in the dirty little _posada_ man and
beast were reckoned exactly equal in relation to the "accommodation"
they require. The bed provided was a dirty mat of esparto grass, six
feet by two, unrolled and laid on the bare ground: but the mosquitoes
and other insect plagues made sleep impossible, and the night was spent
in skinning the day's captures. The four-league tramp, however, through
sandy, scrub-covered plains, was a relief from the monotonous marisma,
and there were fresh birds for a change. The low, soft, double note of
the Hoopoe was ubiquitous; brilliant Bee-eaters, Rollers, and Golden
Orioles flashed like jewels in the sunshine, amidst the groves of wild
olive and alcornoque: Southern Grey Shrikes (_Lanius meridionalis_)
mumbled their harsh "wee hāte" from some tree-top or tall shoot of
cistus, and Turtle-doves actually swarmed--all these birds (except the
shrikes) newly returned from African scenes. We also observed a pair of
Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, and a single Azure-winged Magpie--the only
occurrence of the latter we had then met with in this district, though
further inland it is common near Coria del Rio, and towards Córdova it
becomes plentiful. Near Rocio, also, we obtained the Red-backed Shrike,
a species not previously recorded from Southern Spain.

Another interesting bird seen and shot this day for the first time was
the Great Spotted Cuckoo (_Coccystes glandarius_), and shortly
afterwards, while sitting at lunch during the mid-day heat, a female
Hen-Harrier, which slowly passed within very long shot, and caused me to
upset my last bottle of Bass. This was the latest date on which we
saw this strictly winter-visitant to Andalucia, none remaining to breed,
though it is plentiful enough in winter, and frequently observed while

[Illustration: Plate XIV.

BOOTED EAGLE--Female, shot 11th April, 1872.

Page 81.]

Early next morning (April 11th) we started to explore the wooded swamps
called La Rocina de la Madre--a nasty place to work: consisting of
thousands of grassy tussocks, each surrounded by bog, in some places
moderately firm and safe, in others, apparently similar, deep and
dangerous, and everywhere swarming with leeches. In the centre of the
open marsh, surrounded by quaking-bog and a dense growth of aquatic
vegetation, rose a thick clump of low trees, whose snake-like roots were
growing out of the black and stagnant water. These trees were occupied,
some laden, with hundreds of stick-built nests, the abodes of the
southern herons some of which we have already mentioned--Egrets,
Squaccos, Buff-backs, Night-Herons, and the like: but nearly all this
group nest very late (in June), and the colony was at this season
tenantless. In subsequent years we have obtained in these wooded swamps
the eggs of all the European herons: though it is not _every_ summer
that they repair thither to breed. In very dry seasons none are to be
seen, but after a rainy spring, these heron-colonies of the marisma are
indeed a wondrous sight--an almost sufficing reward for enduring the
heat, the languor-laden miasmas, and the fury of the myriad mosquitos
and leeches which in summer infest these remote marshy regions.

Climbing across the gnarled tree-roots to the other end of the thicket,
we found a larger nest, and just as we emerged on the open, its owner, a
female Booted Eagle, passed within reach as she slowly quartered the
marsh, and fell to a charge of No. 2. This small, but compact and
handsome species, has been confounded with the Rough-legged Buzzard; but
no one who has seen _Aquila pennata_ on the wing could mistake it for
anything but an eagle. The nest proved empty, after a difficult climb up
a briar-entwined trunk: but on the following day we found another, in
the first fork of a big cork-tree, containing one white egg. Three is
the full number laid by the Booted Eagle.

In another part of the wood was a nesting colony of the Black Kite
(_Milvus migrans_), several of which soared high overhead. These birds
hardly commence domestic duties in earnest before May, but after some
trouble I succeeded in shooting a fine adult: also a pair of Purple
Herons, of which we found three nests, and a single Roller (_Coracias
garrulus_) from her nest in a broken stump, which contained one egg.
After this we were obliged to beat a retreat, for the swarming hordes of
leeches had developed so strong a taste for the bare legs of our two men
that a return to _terra firma_ became necessary.

The whole region for many a league around Rocío is one dead-flat
plain--dry scrubby brushwood or stagnant marsh and marisma. To the
northward, in the farthest distance are discernible the dim blue
outspurs of the Sierra de Aracena; but beyond its charms to naturalist
or sportsman, the district has few other attractions. After spending ten
days in the wilderness, we set our faces homewards, and were not sorry
on the third evening, after re-traversing the waste, to sight once more
the white towers and lustred domes of San Lucar de Barameda.







On a bright May morning we set out for a fortnight's sojourn in the
western marismas. For the last few miles the route lies through broken
woodlands, all wrapt in the glory of the southern spring-time. There is
no lack of verdure here at mid-winter--not even the deciduous trees are
ever really bare: but in May the whole plant-world is fresh-clad in
brightest garb and beauty--it is worth staying a moment to examine such
prodigal luxuriance. Before us, for example, is a grove of stone-pines,
embedded to their centres amidst dark green thicket; through the massed
foliage of lentiscus and briar shoots up a forest of waving bamboos,
tall almost and straight as the pines themselves; the foreground filled
with the delicate mauve of rosemary, with giant heather and heaths of a
dozen hues, all wrestling for space, with clumps of pampas-grass and
palmetto, genista, butcher's-broom, and wild fennel. Here a mass of
_abolága_, or Spanish gorse, ablaze with golden bloom; an arbutus
blanched with waxen blossoms, or the glossy foliage of mimosa; there the
sombre tones of the ilex are relieved by the pale emerald of a wild vine
entwined upon the trunk. Even the stretches of grey gum-cistus have
become almost gaudy with their pink, white, and pale yellow flowers. The
air breathes of vernal perfumes, and the infinite chorus of spring
bird-notes--the soft refrain of Goldfinch and Serin, Nightingale,
_Hypolais polyglotta_, Orphean and other warblers, the dual note of
Hoopoe, and flute-like carol of Golden Orioles, mingled with the harsher
cries of Woodchat and Bee-eater, and on all sides the 'voice of the
Turtle was heard in the land.'

The sun was high in the heavens ere we cleared the fragrant _pinales_;
yet in the last rushy glade we rode suddenly into a herd of wild pig;
females with their half-grown young--probably the exigencies of the
season explained their being astir at so unusual an hour. Shortly
afterwards the writer almost trod on two boars, deeply slumbering in an
isolated thicket--one an old tusker, grizzly with age, and looking
almost white as he trotted away across the dunes.

Presently, through a vista of the forest, we sighted the marisma, its
muddy expanse to-day blue as the Mediterranean. An animated scene lay
before us; the wastes were thronged with bird-life. The horizon
glistened with the sheen of Flamingoes in thousands, and the intervening
space lay streaked and dotted with flights and flotillas of aquatic
fowl. The nearer foreshores, fringed with rush and sedge and dark
stretches of tamarisk, were peopled with Storks and Herons, Egrets,
Spoonbills, Stilts, Avocets, and other waders. While breakfasting under
a spreading pine, we observed commotion among our feathered
neighbours--the whole multitude had risen on wing as a single Booted
Eagle swept over the scene.

[Illustration: Plate XV.

PINTAILED SAND-GROUSE: FEMALE. (_Pterocles alchata_.)

Page 85.]

Rambling along the shore, we obtained many beautiful specimens by
stalking, including most of those above named, as well as a pair of
Marbled Ducks, a wild-cat, and other "sundries." Presently we observed
with the glass a score or so of Knots, in full red summer-plumage,
busily feeding rather far out. While creeping to them, a Marsh-Harrier
rose from some rushes close at hand; I knocked him down and found he was
lunching on a Knot. The latter we could not see again--though later in
the month they were in thousands--but made out a "bunch" of Greenshanks
feeding a little further on, one of which fell to a long shot--an
immature bird. Curiously, we found no adults here, though in March they
were numerous in some disused _salinas_ beyond Tangier, but no young
ones. The adults are distinguishable by their whiter appearance at a

Our course lay across a wide bight of the marisma, which projects into
the land. Crossing this, nearly knee-deep in mud and water in many
parts, we fell in with three packs of Sand-Grouse (_Pterocles alchata_).
They were excessively wild, flying fast and high, something like teal,
anon like plover, and uttering a chorus of harsh croaks. On the open
marsh we almost despaired of outmanœuvring them. We stuck to them,
however, and, after many failures, obtained some beautiful specimens of
both sexes, and well worth the trouble they were; for no bird we have
ever seen rivals the Pin-tailed Sand-Grouse for delicacy of pencilling
and the harmonious contrasts of infinite colours in its plumage. In the
females especially, the spring-plumage is so variegated as to defy
description, the patterns, so to speak, being as elaborate as the tints.
Briefly, her back is finely reticulated with yellows and browns, blacks
and maroons of various shades, all relieved by clean-cut bars of pale
blue. Her head is speckled above the black line which passes through the
eye; below that, the cheeks and throat are plain buff, and the chest
clear bright chestnut, doubly margined with black and with a pale blue
band above. In the male the features of the spring-plumage are a black
throat, and a line of that colour through the eye. The pale sage-green
back is covered with large lemon spots, some of which extend to the
scapulars and tertiaries. The eye-circlets and eyelids are bright blue
in both sexes, and at all seasons: of their winter-dress and habits we
write elsewhere; but no description or sketch of ours can do adequate
justice to this gem among birds.

The name of sand-grouse is not appropriate, for they are in no sense
grouse, and are never found on sand--always on mud, and when shot their
feet and bills are generally covered therewith. There is another and
larger species, the Black-bellied Sand-Grouse (_Pterocles arenarius_),
which is not found _here_, but is very abundant in parts of the upper
marisma, towards Seville, and especially in the so-called Isla Menor,
where we have shot several when bustard-driving, and found a nest with
three long elliptic eggs on May 28th, besides seeing several others
found by our men. These birds--in Spanish _Corteza_--nest on the bare
pasturages of the upper marisma, and also on the high central plateaux
of Spain, in Castile, La Mancha, &c., a very different region. The
Pin-tailed species is known as _Ganga_, signifying a bargain, in
reference to its edible qualities.


After heavy rains in April, the mud and water in the marisma were
unpleasantly deep for either riding or walking--we had now abandoned the
punts; and on the low islands many thousands of eggs had been destroyed
by the rising of the water. A great variety of birds were now nesting,
Stilts and Avocets being, perhaps, the most conspicuous. We found a few
eggs of both on the mud-flats to-day (May 5th), but a few days later
they were in thousands. The Stilts make a fairly solid nest of dead
black stalks of tamarisk, &c., and lay four richly-marked eggs, all
arranged points inwards; the Avocet's eggs are larger and lighter in
colour, and these birds seldom have any nest at all, the three eggs
merely laid at random on the bare cracked mud, often an inch or two
apart. Three is the usual complement.

[Illustration: AVOCETS.]

A most curious picture do these singular birds present, either while
flying past or hovering overhead on quick-beating pinions, with their
absurdly long legs extending far behind like dead straws. The Avocet is
much the more sprightly and game-like of the two, with his shrill pipe
and elegant flight, now rapid and "jerky," now skimming low on the
water. But we never tire of watching the quaint actions and postures of
the Stilts, troops of which stalk sedately in the shallows close at
hand. So extremely long are the legs of this bird that, with their short
necks, they cannot reach down to the ground, nor pick anything up
therefrom. They are consequently only to be seen feeding in water about
knee-deep, for which purpose their peculiar build specially adapts
them, picking up seeds, insects and aquatic plants from the surface.[21]

We found many nests of Peewit and Redshank, those of the latter by far
the best concealed, always in some thick clump of grass or samphire.
Such familiar notes sound strangely incongruous amid the exotic
bird-medley around, and the fact of their remaining to nest so far south
is an ornithological curiosity. Birds which are at once inhabitants of
the extreme north of Europe, and yet capable of enduring the
summer-heats of the Andalucian plains, set at nought one's ideas of
geographical distribution. As already mentioned, we also found in April
the Dunlin nesting on the lower Guadalquivir, and our friend Mr. W. C.
Tait has detected the Common Sandpiper remaining to breed on the Lima
and Minho in Portugal.

There also lay scattered on the dry mud many clutches of smaller eggs
belonging to two other species, the Kentish Plover and Lesser
Ring-dotterel. The latter, less common, were only beginning to lay,
choosing the drier, gravelly ridges of the islets. The eggs of the
Kentish plover we had found as early as April 14th, and in May many were
already much incubated. Neither of these make any nest--nothing but a
few broken shells--and some eggs were deposited in a hollow scratched in
dried cattle-droppings. On these islands were also many nests of the
Spanish Short-toed lark (_Calandrella bætica_, Dresser--a species
peculiar to this region), artlessly built of dry grass, and placed in
small hollows like a dunlin's, sometimes among thistles, as often on
bare ground without covert. We found the first eggs on May 9th. On the
larger grassy islands there also breed the Calandra, Crested and
Short-toed Larks, with Ortolan, Common and Reed-buntings.

_May 8th, 1872._--A remarkable passage of waders occurred to-day: the
banks of the Guadalete swarmed with bird-life, some of the oozes crowded
with plovers, &c., as thick as they could stand. A mixed bag included
whimbrels, grey plovers, ring-dotterel, curlew-sandpiper, sand-grouse,
&c. Many of the Grey Plovers were superb specimens in perfect
black-and-white plumage, and the Curlew-Sandpipers in richest rufous
summer-dress. Unfortunately, the attractions of the Great Bustard,
several of which were also in sight, proved irresistible: but I had the
satisfaction of riding home that evening with my first bustard slung to
the _alforjas_. The next day, as is often the case, hardly a
passage-bird was to be seen, and my bag only contained a pair of Grey
Phalaropes, and a female Montagu's Harrier.


_May 9th, 1883._--The effects of dawn over the vast desolations of the
marisma were specially beautiful this morning. Before sunrise the
distant peaks of the Serrania de Ronda (seventy miles away) lay flooded
in a blood-red light, and looking quite twice their usual height. Half
an hour later the mountains sank back in a golden glow, and long before
mid-day were invisible through the quivering heat-haze and the
atmospheric fantasies of infinite space. Amid a chaotic confusion of
mirage-effects, we rode out across the level plain--at first across dry
mud-flats, partly carpeted with a dwarf scrub of marsh-plants, in places
bare and naked, the sun-scorched surface cracked into rhomboids and
parallelograms, and honeycombed with deep cattle-tracks made long ago
when the mud was moist and plastic. Then through shallow marsh and
stagnant waters, gradually deepening. Here from a rushy patch sprang
three yeld hinds from almost underfoot, and splashed off through the
shallows, their russet coats gleaming in the morning sunlight. Gradually
the water deepened: _mucha agua, mucho fango!_ groaned Felipe; but this
morning we intended to reach the very heart of the marisma: and before
ten o'clock were cooking our breakfast on a far-away islet whereon never
British foot had trod before, and which was literally covered with
Avocets' eggs, and many more.

Here, while I was busy selecting, numbering, and preparing some of the
most typical clutches, Felipe, whom I had sent to explore another islet
close by, came up with five eggs, which he said he thought must be
gull's. I saw at a glance he was right, and jumping up, espied among the
clamorous crowd of marsh-terns, avocets, stilts, pratincoles, and other
birds overhead, a single pair of strangers--small, very long-necked
gulls. These I promptly knocked down, and at once recognized as _Larus
gelastes_, one of the rarest of the South European gulls, and of whose
breeding-places and habits comparatively little was known. Only a few
days before I had received a letter from Mr. Howard Saunders especially
enjoining me to keep a strict look-out for "the beautiful pink-breasted,
Slender-billed Gull"; we therefore at once commenced a careful
investigation of all the islands in sight, never dreaming but that our
two gulls and the five eggs were duly related to each other. It was
therefore with no small surprise that shortly afterwards I found another
gull's nest containing two very different eggs (white ground, spotted
with black and brown like those of _Sterna cantiaca_), from which I
also shot a female _L. gelastes_.[22] This time, however, there was no
room for doubt: for the bird while in its death-throes actually laid a
third egg in the water--a perfectly coloured and developed specimen, the
exact counterpart of the two in the nest. Then, to make assurance doubly
sure, I found on skinning the first pair of gulls that the female
contained a fourth perfectly developed specimen of this very distinct
egg. This of course placed the identity of the eggs of _L. gelastes_
beyond doubt: it was, however, equally certain that the first five eggs
(which were dull greenish or stone-colour, faintly spotted with brown)
belonged to some other species. Accordingly I returned to the
first-named islands, and at once perceived two or three pairs of small
black-hooded gulls: these had doubtless been overlooked in the morning,
mixed up as they were among numbers of gull-billed terns and other
birds. They would not allow approach within shot, so I was obliged to
risk a long chance with wire-cartridge. The bird was "feathered," but
escaped at the moment. Two days afterwards, however, on a second visit,
I found it lying dead, and recognized it by the jet-black hood and
strong bill as _Larus melanocephalus_, another of the rarer gulls, and
presumably the owner of one of the first two nests. Those of the
slender-billed gull, it should be added, were composed of yellow flags,
the nests of _L. melanocephalus_ of black tamarisk-stalks and other dark
materials. To obtain in a single morning the nests of two of the rarest
of European breeding birds was a measure of luck that rarely falls to
the lot of an ornithologist: though the discovery, made a few hours
later, of the breeding quarters of the flamingoes, appears to carry more
ornithological kudos--_quantum valeat_.

_May 11th._--The Pratincoles are now beginning to lay--one or two eggs
in each nest: but subsequently we got them in baskets-full. Some of
these eggs when freshly-laid have a beautiful purplish gloss. Three is
their complement, and they make hardly any nest, merely a few broken
chips of shells. We also found to-day, on the marismas of Guadalete, two
nests of the Montagu's Harrier, each with five or six eggs, mere
outlines of broken twigs arranged on the bare soil, one among low scrub,
the other in the corn. The Marsh-Harrier breeds much earlier. We found
this year three nests at the end of March--much more solid structures,
built of dead flags, &c.: one was in standing corn, another on the
ground in a cane-brake, the third on the top of a dense bramble-thicket,
fifteen feet high--a very awkward place to get at. Occasionally, where
there was much water, we have found the Montagu's Harrier also nesting
in brushwood, three or four feet above the ground. In the water beneath
are strewn skulls of rabbits, vertebræ of lizards, &c.

[Illustration: IN THE MARISMA--STILTS.]

Later, again, are the Terns: the Whiskered and Black species
(_Hydrochelidon hybrida_ and _H. nigra_) breed in colonies both in the
open marisma and on the lagoons of the Coto Doñana, building their nests
far out on the lilies and floating water-weeds. All these lay three
eggs, those of the Whiskered Tern mostly greenish with black spots, a
few olive-brown. The eggs of the Black Tern are much smaller, and of a
rich liver-brown, heavily blotched with black. The larger Gull-billed
Tern (_Sterna anglica_) breeds only on the islets of the marisma. I
obtained their eggs, and those of the Lesser Tern (_S. minuta_) on my
first visit on the 23rd of May.

These islands which we have just described lay some six or eight miles
from the low shores of the marisma, and at that distance no land
whatever was in sight. The _coup d'œil_ therefrom presented an
extraordinary scene of desolation. The only relief from the monotony of
endless wastes of water were the birds. A shrieking, clamouring crowd
hung overhead, while only a few yards away the surface was dotted with
troops of stilts sedately stalking about, knee-deep--in no other
situation do their long legs permit them to feed. Further away large
flights of smaller waders flashed--now white, now dark,--in the
sunlight. Most of these were ring-dotterels, dunlins, and
curlew-sandpiper, the two latter in full summer-plumage. A
marsh-harrier, oologically inclined, was being bullied and chased by a
score of peewits: and now and then a little string of ducks high
overhead would still remind one of winter. Beyond all these, the strange
forms of hundreds of flamingoes met one's eye in every direction--some
in groups or in dense masses, others with rigidly outstretched necks and
legs flying in short strings, or larger flights "glinting" in the
sunshine like a pink cloud. Many pairs of old red birds were observed to
be accompanied by a single white (immature) one. But the most
extraordinary effect was produced by the more distant herds, the immense
numbers of which formed an almost unbroken white horizon--a thin white
line separating sea and sky round a great part of the circle.

But this chapter is long enough, and we must reserve for another the
rest of our experiences among the flamingoes.



An incident occurred during our exploration of the marismas in the
spring of 1883 which illustrates the desolate and unknown character of
these wildernesses, and also brought to light a curious fact in natural
history. Far away on the level plain I noticed two large animals
evidently watching me. They were certainly not deer, which in spring
often wander out into the marisma, but never so far as to where I then
was. They stood too high on their legs for deer, and had a much greater
lateral width as they stood facing me--their contour, in fact, somewhat
resembled a couple of the long-stemmed, conical-topped, stone-pines,
which are so characteristic of the adjoining woodlands. But there was
something in their appearance even at the distance that prompted an
attempt to reach closer quarters--there was a distinct _game-look_ about
them. I changed my cartridge for ball, and attempted an approach with
all available caution, lying flat in the saddle and advancing obliquely
by long "tacks," besides using the _patero's_, or native duck-shooter's,
device of stopping at intervals to give the horse an appearance of
grazing. But it was no use: while still a quarter of a mile away, the
strangers simultaneously wheeled about and made off with shambling gait.
Then for the first time, when their broad-sides were exposed to view, I
saw that they were two camels, one much larger than the other.[23]
Probably no one who reads this will be more surprised than was the
writer at the apparition of the long-legged, long-necked, hump-backed
pair; but there was no room for mistake, for a camel is like nothing
else in creation.

[Illustration: Plate XVI.


Page 94.]

The camels appeared to have no great pace, and for some distance I
pursued them, but it was hopeless. Between us lay an _arroyo_, one of
those wide stagnant channels that in spring intersect the dry parts of
the marisma in all directions; and before getting clear of this,
splashing through some hundred yards of mud and water, the bactrians
were far away, scudding across a dead-level plain that extended to the

I had heard on my first visit to this wilderness (in 1872) of the
existence of camels therein, and that they had lived there wild for
forty years or more, but was as incredulous as perhaps some of our
present readers may be, and as some certainly were when I first
mentioned the fact in the _Ibis_, in January, 1884, though then
corroborated by Mr. Howard Saunders, one of the joint-editors, in the
following foot-note:--"I saw a small herd of these feral camels in the
Coto de Doñana, on the 3rd of May, 1868; but, finding that my statement
as to the breeding of the crane in that neighbourhood was received with
much incredulity, I kept the apparition of the camels to myself. I
possessed the eggs of the crane to convince the sceptics, but I could
not have produced a camel." Shortly afterwards the statement was
somewhat contemptuously criticized by an anonymous writer in _The
Field_, who claimed to be himself acquainted with the marismas, and
ridiculed the idea of camels existing there in a wild state. "The
startling statement," wrote _Inhlwati_, "as to the existence of wild
camels in the neighbourhood of Seville or Lebrija has taken me and my
friends who know that country well by utter surprise; and that camels
should have been roaming about there and breeding, so to speak, as
perfectly wild animals in a state of nature, seems to us utterly

"The marismas in the summer time are covered with cattle, and of course
they are accompanied everywhere by their herdsmen; and, so to speak,
every foot of open ground is more or less under daily inspection. And,
as the camel is a grazing animal, it would naturally be found in the
more open parts of these marismas or marshes, where they could hardly
have avoided detection and, as a certain consequence, capture or death
for so long a period as you mention.

"So valuable an animal would be such a prize to the poor Spanish
peasants, that they would turn out to a man to obtain it; and there are,
besides, too many English sportsmen at Seville and Jerez to allow the
chance of so novel a chase to slip through their hands unnoticed.

"I may mention that a company is in existence for the drainage and
better utilization of these marismas of Lebrija, and I can hardly
imagine that such animals as camels could have escaped the notice of
their surveyors and staff during their detailed surveys of the district.

"I may add, that my friend, the Belgian Consul at Seville, happens to be
with me now, and quite agrees with what I have said. It would be very
interesting if you could obtain any further news about these strange

To this the following foot-note was appended by the Editor of _The
Field_:--"It is somewhat strange that our correspondent should ask for
further information respecting animals whose existence he regards as
'utterly incredible.' But the statement has not been made that there are
wild camels anywhere near Seville. The districts explored by Mr. Abel
Chapman are far removed from human habitation, and are not those in
which herds of domestic cattle are ever seen. The fact that Mr. Chapman
described for the first time the singular nests of the flamingo, which
exists there in colonies, that have never before been figured [see next
chapter], proves that neither _Inhlwati_ nor his friend can know the
country well, and that 'every foot of ground' cannot possibly, as he
states, 'be open to daily inspection.' The fact that the camels have
been observed on different occasions by two well-known naturalists--men
trained to the close and accurate observation of animals, who both give
their names--should have entitled their remarks to a different

We have inserted the above extracts in full partly because they are a
good example of the reckless way some people are prone to rush into
print, and who, because they may have some acquaintance with a subject,
think they are thereby entitled to speak as with complete knowledge. The
marismas of Lebrija are, as a matter of fact, many miles away on the
other side of the Guadalquivir.

No doubt it is a "startling statement" that wild camels are roaming at
large in Europe, or anywhere else--it would hardly seem more incredible
if a herd of hippopotami were reported in the Upper Thames. The camel
has never within historic times been known to exist in a wild state: it
has always been the servant of man, a beast of burden and
domesticity.[24] More than this, a certain physical disability or cause
has been alleged to exist, which, if correct, would render their
permanent continuance, in a natural state, an impossibility. Nor could
any region be well conceived so ill-adapted--indeed repulsive--to the
known habits and requirements of an animal always associated with arid
sandy deserts, as the Spanish marismas, which, always marshy, are
subject to actual inundation during six months out of the twelve.

The discussion had, at any rate, the merit of evoking the following
additional information respecting the Spanish camels, their introduction
and habits. First I will quote a letter from my co-author, dated from
the Coto Doñana, March 1st. "Dear Chapman,--Your letter has reached me
here, where we are shooting deer for the last time this season. I am
glad I happened to be on the spot, having an opportunity of asking the
_guardas_ and others for the facts respecting the camels, which I hope
will be sufficient to convince the sceptics of their existence here and
of the truth of your observation, which I am surprised to hear has been
called in question.

"The camels were brought here first from the Canary Isles by Domingo
Castellanos, _Administrador_ to the Marques de Villa Franca, in 1829,
he intending to make use of them in the Coto for transporting timber,
charcoal, &c. The descendants of this Domingo, the two brothers Barrera
of Almonte, now own the fifty or sixty animals which make the marisma
lying between the Coto proper and the Guadalquivir their feeding-ground.
They seldom appear on the wooded parts, remaining winter and summer in
the marisma, moving with the greatest ease in winter through the mud and
water, from one island to another, occasionally coming to the woods to
pasture on the tops of the young pines.

"You know, from your flamingo experiences, how vast a waste is comprised
between the borders of the Coto and the river (Guadalquivir) which
accounts for the camels being seldom seen except by herdsmen and others
(Mr. Abel Chapman, to wit) whose business may take them out into the
watery wilderness. Manuel Ruiz, _conocedor_ of the Villa-Vilviestre
herd,[25] now tells me that at about three-quarters of a league from the
Cerro-Trigo he saw yesterday three females with their young, which he
judged to be about twenty days old.

"I can send you any further particulars required, and if the unbelievers
will not swallow your camel, we must do what Mr. Saunders did with the
doubted specimen [of the crane's egg], and bring before them a
Spanish-born camel, hump and all. Nothing is easier. Sport pretty good
so far--five stags, four pigs, two lynxes."

We are also kindly privileged to quote the following statement of Lord
Lilford's personal observation of the wild camels:--"I was not aware
till I saw Saunders' note at the end of your paper and read the
subsequent correspondence in _The Field_, that any one doubted the
existence of camels in a virtually wild state in the marisma. I once saw
four or five of them together at a vast distance, and, in 1872, came
across their 'spoor' several times when exploring the marismas of the
Coto. Their existence is perfectly well known to many people at San
Lucar, and, no doubt, also at Jerez. I heard of them first in
1856.... What Mr. Buck says of the habits of the camel is, as far as I
can remember, pretty much what I heard from several of the _guardas_ of
the Coto in 1872.... My son reminds me of what I had quite forgotten,
viz., that he and our doctor saw some camels in the marisma somewhere on
the proper right of the western branch of the Guadalquivir last May
(1888), when I was confined to my ship by an attack of gout in the right

[Illustration: Plate XVII.


Page 98.]

Lastly, we quote the following from a "Catalogue of the Mammalia of
Andalucia," by Don Antonio Machado y Nuñez, published at Seville in
1869:--"The first camels, which were introduced with the object of
breeding them, came from the Canary Islands, and in a few years became a
herd of about eighty. In 1833, a few years after introduction, they were
used as beasts of burden and transport in the province of Cadiz,
employed in the carriage of materials used in making the high road from
Port St. Mary to San Lucar de Barrameda (more than thirty years ago),
and also in conveyances to Arcos, Jerez, Chichlana, and other towns. But
some untoward accidents on the roads through horses being frightened at
the sight of such strange animals,[26] and the necessity of separating
them from horses in the yards, combined with other matters easy to
remedy, caused them to fall into disuse as beasts of burden and
carriage, and thus the economy and advantages obtained by their
introduction were lost. They were then used for agricultural purposes,
and some lands which Don Rafael de Barrera holds are at this time (1869)
cultivated by the aid of camels, which are used for ploughing and other
agricultural work."

At the present time the descendants of these camels live and nourish in
the marismas in a wholly wild state, and since the sequestration of the
Messrs. Barrera are practically ownerless.

We have fallen in with them on several subsequent occasions. On January
6th, 1888, we descried a herd of nineteen, of various sizes, all
dreamily ruminating, knee-deep in the marisma, each form reflected in
the still water beneath. Our whole shooting-party (including seven or
eight Englishmen) enjoyed the sight, the herd remaining in view during
the half-hour we spent at lunch on the edge of the marisma. With
powerful field-glasses we brought the camels close up, and watched them
putting their heads down as though grazing on the grasses beneath the
surface. Presently they moved on to a rushy islet some three miles from
the shore: hard by stood a rosy troop of flamingoes, and the intervening
waters were dotted with numberless fleets of ducks and geese. It was a
unique spectacle, one that could hardly be matched outside this
out-of-the-world corner of Europe.

In 1890, and again several times in the spring of 1891, we fell in with
camels. On March 5th we rode within 500 yards of eight, two of which
were about the size of sheep. In appearance they are very shaggy beasts,
and vary much in colour, some being of a light tawny hue, while others
are very dark brown, but all seem _grey_ about the neck.

On one of these occasions a curious incident occurred. It was in
December, 1890--an intensely cold and dry season, almost unprecedented
in Spain for the severity of the frost--when, in mid-marisma, leagues
from water or covert, and specially on the look-out for camels, a keen
eye detected in the far distance a roving fox. All dismounted, and
letting the horses graze, hid behind them and awaited his approach.
Then, with only a single _podenco_, or hunting-dog, _Frascuelo_ by name,
and after a straight-away chase of five or six miles at top-speed over a
sun-dried plain, bare and level as a billiard-table, we fairly rode bold
Reynard down, and killed him.

As evidence of the "staying powers" of the camel, our friend Antonio
Trujillo tells us that some years ago he came on one stuck in a bog. For
six days he was unable to reach the spot, and daily watched the poor
beast helplessly floundering. On the seventh day he found it possible to
assist the camel to escape. All around within reach of the poor
creature's mouth, he found that the very earth was eaten away. Yet when
helped to regain firm ground, the camel walked quietly away, apparently
but little the worse, and was soon browsing heartily on the tops of some
young pine-trees.

It is, perhaps, worth adding, in reference to the antipathy shown by
horses towards camels, that when during the night bands of the latter
have occasionally strayed from the marismas to the vicinity of our
shooting-lodge of Doñana, at once a commotion has broken out in the
stables, though placed in an enclosed square. All at once the horses
have begun shrieking, kicking, and displaying every sign of fear, which
could only be explained by their detecting the effluvia of some passing






Though Flamingoes are found in many of the countries bordering on the
Mediterranean, and their rosy battalions are familiar to Eastern
travellers through Egypt and the Suez Canal, yet their mode of nesting,
and especially the manner in which birds of so singular a form could
dispose of their extremely long legs while incubating, has remained an
unsettled question. Till within the last decade, in default of more
recent observations, sundry ancient fables have passed current. Dampier
described the nests of flamingoes seen by him two hundred years ago--in
September, 1683--on one of the Cape de Verde Islands, as being high
conical mounds of mud upon which the female sat astride ("Voyages," i.,
pp. 70, 71); and for two centuries this cavalier position has been
accepted as history, no further observations having been made, though
flamingoes have nested irregularly in various parts of Europe--even in
France (in the marshy Camargue, the delta of the Rhone), and in Southern

In the latter country several efforts have been made by naturalists to
obtain more precise knowledge of the breeding habits of the flamingo,
especially by Lord Lilford and Mr. Howard Saunders, but, from various
causes, without definite results. "The heat on those plains in June,
when the flamingoes are said to nest," wrote the latter, "is something
tropical, and it is no joke to wander for days over a district as large
as our 'Eastern Counties,' on the _chance_ of stumbling upon a colony of
flamingoes somewhere or other." The element of chance, however, is a
potent factor, and it eventually fell to the writer's lot to discover
that for which other and better naturalists had sought in vain. The
following is a narrative of our explorations in the marisma in the
spring of 1883:--

The first encounter with flamingoes that year had a somewhat ludicrous
result: after riding all day across the wastes, we had arrived towards
sunset within sight of our quarters for the night, when a herd of these
birds was observed feeding in a reed-girt creek. They seemed unusually
favourably placed for a stalk--for these wary fowl seldom approach
within shot of the slightest covert; but on reaching the outermost
rushes, the pack was seen to be at a hopeless range, and rose
immediately on my appearance. To my surprise, a "treble A"
wire-cartridge nevertheless dropped four--three falling direct to the
shot, and a fourth "towering" and falling dead a little further out. One
tall fellow was only winged, and seeing that he was walking right away
from me, and getting into deeper water, Felipe took my horse and rode
round to cut him out. Meanwhile the short twilight was over, and
darkness overtook us some distance out in the dreary marisma. In the
gloom I mistook the bearings, and only, after splashing about for a time
that seemed eternal, managed to reach the shore, laden with three huge
birds, wet through, hungry, and hopelessly lost. For a mile or two I
struggled on through thorn and tangled brushwood, till at last, coming
suddenly upon a herd of sleeping beasts--bulls, for all I could tell--I
gave it up, and decided to weather out the night in the jungle, with the
sand for a couch, and a flamingo for a pillow. Great was the relief,
about midnight, to hear a distant shot; I responded with a fusillade,
and shortly afterwards B----, with Felipe, and Trujillo's mighty frame
loomed through the darkness, and the duress was at an end.

[Illustration: FLAMINGOES ON FEED.]

During the month of April we searched the marisma systematically for the
breeding-places of the flamingoes: but though we explored a large area,
riding many leagues in all directions from our base through mud and
water, varying from a few inches to three or even four feet in depth,
yet we could see, at this season, no sign of nests. Flamingoes there
were in plenty, together with ducks, divers, waders, and many kinds of
aquatic birds already described: but the water was still too deep--the
mud-flats and new-born islets not sufficiently dried for purposes of
nidification, and as far as we could see the only species which had
actually commenced to lay were the purple herons, coots, Kentish
plovers, peewits, and some others.

Of the flamingoes themselves we secured several more lovely specimens;
during two mornings devoted to shooting them, we bagged eight, six
adults in rich rosy plumage, and two immature. Flamingoes are always shy
and watchful birds, and their great height gives them a commanding view
of threatening dangers: but there are degrees in intensity of wildness,
and despite the unquestionable difficulty of flamingo-shooting, we would
certainly not place these long-necked birds in the first rank among
impracticable wild-fowl. Wild geese, for example, many of the
duck-tribe, and nearly all the larger raptores far exceed them in
incessant vigilance and downright astuteness. Flamingoes, however, will
not, as a rule, permit of approach by the ordinary Spanish method of the
stalking-horse, or _cabresto_: while the treacherous pony is still two
gunshots away, the warning croak of the sentries is given, and at once
the whole herd start to walk away, opening out their ranks as they move
off. The method we found most effective to secure them was by partially
surrounding a herd with a line of mounted men, who rode far out beyond
them and then drove them over our two guns, each concealed behind his
horse and crouching knee-deep in water. Of all the dirty work that
wild-fowling in its many forms necessitates, this flamingo-driving takes
the palm. It is mud-larking pure and simple, man, horse, and gun alike
encased in a clinging argillaceous covering like the street-Arab
amphibians below London Bridge.

It is a fine sight to see a big flight of flamingoes, say five hundred,
coming well in to the gun--_entrando bien á la escopeta!_ The whole sky
is streaked with columns of strange forms, and the still air resounds
with the babel of discordant croaks and cries. How wondrously they
marshal those long uniform files, bird behind bird without break or
confusion, and how precisely do those thousand black wing-points beat in
rapid regular unison! Flamingoes are not "hard" birds: their feathers
being loose and open, and the extremely long necks a specially
vulnerable part, they may be brought down from a considerable height
even with small shot. One evening, while collecting specimens of small
birds on the open marsh, the writer killed a pretty right-and-left at
flamingoes with No 6. Happening to see them on the wing a long way off,
I lay down flat among the low samphire-scrub and presently had them
(five) right overhead. Both these birds fell stone-dead. On another
occasion, many years before, at the Veta Lengua, our four barrels, each
loaded with nine treble-nesting slugs, brought down three fine
flamingoes from a herd rising at upwards of 180 measured paces. But
having obtained specimens, we did not further molest these singular


Flamingoes were not the sole attraction: the desolate region around
abounded with wild life, furred and feathered, and many a pleasant
bye-day was put in among the "vermin." One morning we rode out to some
distant thickets where a neighbouring herdsman--half peasant, half
poacher--complained that a family of lynxes were working havoc among his
kids. Our friend, a man of square iron-knit frame, with the eyes and
claws of an eagle, rode before us, no less than eleven wire-haired
_podencos_ (hunting-dogs) made fast to his saddle-bow by cords of
twisted esparto. The first thicket tried held a lynx, which, disturbed
by the _podencos_, bolted at speed right between us and rolled over
with a dose of "treble A" about her lugs. From this one small _mancha_
the dogs put out, besides the lynx, several partridge and rabbits, a
Montagu's harrier, and a pair of mallards! This lynx was a female, a
full-grown and handsome example of _Felis pardina_, much infested (as
are most of the scrub-haunting animals) with ticks, especially about the
head: but it was not much more than half the size of an enormous male
which we subsequently found. Unluckily, half our pack were then wasting
their energies on a big boar, which, after trotting close up to where
the writer stood, turned back with a valedictory grunt and disappeared.
The rest of the pack had meanwhile driven the lynx to the outside of the
thicket, where we had already viewed him and regarded his fate as
sealed; when, with sudden fury, the big cat turned on his foes, and
scattering the _podencos_ with some tremendous fore-arm blows, made good
his escape to the fastnesses of the Algaida de la Pez.

[Illustration: SPANISH LYNX.]

Some years afterwards the writer killed a magnificent male lynx, one of
the largest and most beautifully marked we have ever seen, at this
_mancha_--probably the same beast.

These scrub-clad plains abounded with tall grey foxes (_Vulpes
melanogaster_) and mongoose (_Herpestes widdringtoni_), with genets,
badgers, and wild-cats, of all of which we shot specimens. Three
wild-cats we bagged by moonlight, from screens placed to command an open
glade where rabbits are wont to pursue nocturnal gambols. Waiting in
ambush beneath the star-strewn heavens, in the silent brilliance of the
southern night, no sound save the churring of nightjars, or the whistle
of stone-curlew, broke the stillness: bats and small owls flicker in
uncertain flight against the dark sky, and across the glade rabbits
glide like phantoms: presently a larger shadow announces their deadly
enemy, the _Gato montés_. Two of these wild-cats were males, large and
powerful brutes, weighing 9½ and 10¼ lbs. respectively, and tinged with
warm chestnut colours beneath. The big lynx we could not weigh, being
beyond the limit of the spring-balance. He probably reached near half a
hundredweight. But we must return to our flamingoes.

During the month of April, as already mentioned, all efforts to discover
their breeding-places proved futile. It was clearly too early in the
season, and the writer now lost nearly a week through a smart attack of
ague, brought on by constant splashing about in comparatively cold water
with a fierce sun always beating down on one's head. In May, however, we
had better luck. Further to the eastward flamingoes had always been most
numerous, and once or twice we observed signs, early in May, that looked
like the first rude beginnings of architecture. We have already
described the archipelago of islets that lay far towards the eastern
shore, and on which we had found the rare gulls, and such a variety of
waders and other aquatic birds breeding (p. 93), together with the
immense numbers of flamingoes that lined the horizon. We must now return
to those bird-islets, to the scene where we broke off at the end of
Chapter VII on the afternoon of the 9th of May.


As there stated, the immense aggregations of flamingoes in those middle
marismas, surrounded the horizon in an almost unbroken line. But, on
examining the different herds narrowly with the binocular, there was an
obvious dissimilarity in the appearance of certain groups. One or two in
particular seemed so much denser than the others: the narrow white line
appeared at least three times as thick, and in the centre looked as if
the birds were literally piled upon each other. Felipe suggested that
these birds must be at their _pajeréra_, or breeding-place, and after a
long wet ride we found this was so. The water was very deep, the bottom
clinging mud: at intervals, for a hundred yards or so, the laboured
plunging of the mule was exchanged for an easier, gliding motion--he was
swimming. The change was a welcome relief to man and beast: the
sensation of sitting a swimming animal is not unpleasant, but it will
give some idea of the labours undergone in these aquatic rides in the
marismas in May, 1883, if we add that a fine mule, a powerful beast
worth £60, succumbed to the effects of the fortnight's work.

On a nearer approach, the cause of the peculiar appearance of the herd
from a distance became clearly discernible. Many of the birds were
sitting down on a low mud-island. Some were standing upon it: and others
again were standing in the water. Thus the different elevations of their
bodies formed what had appeared a triple or quadruple line.

On reaching the spot we found a perfect mass of nests. The low, flat,
mud plateau was crowded with them as thickly as its space permitted.
These nests had little or no height above the flat surface of mud--some
were raised an inch or two, a few might be five or six inches in height;
but the majority were merely circular bulwarks of mud barely raised
above the general level, and having the impression of the bird's legs
distinctly marked upon them. The general aspect of the plateau was not
unlike a large table covered with plates. In the centre was a deep hole
full of muddy water, which, from the gouged appearance of its sides,
appeared to be used as a reservoir for nest-making materials.

Scattered all round this main colony were numerous single nests, rising
out of the water and evidently built up from the bottom. Here and there
two or three of these were joined together--"semi-detached," so to
speak: these separate nests stood six or eight inches above water-level,
and as the depth was rather over a foot, the total height of the nests
would be some two feet or thereabouts, and their width across the hollow
top some fifteen inches. None of these nests as yet contained any eggs,
and though I returned to the _pajaréra_ on the latest day I was in its
neighbourhood (May 11th) they still remained empty. On both occasions
many hundreds of flamingoes were sitting on the nests, and on the 11th
we had a good view of them at close quarters. Linked arm-in-arm with
Felipe, and crouching low on the water to look as little human as
possible, we approached within some seventy yards before their sentries
showed signs of alarm: and at that distance, with the glass, observed
the sitting birds as distinctly as one need wish. The long red legs
doubled under their bodies, the knees projecting as far as, or beyond
the tail, and their graceful necks neatly curled away among their
back-feathers like a sitting swan, with the heads resting on their
breasts--all these points were unmistakable. Indeed, as regards the
disposition of their legs, it is hardly necessary to point out that in
the great majority of cases (the nests being hardly raised above the
level of the mud) no other position was possible--to sit _astride_ on a
_flat_ surface is out of the question.


Still none of the crowded nests contained a single egg. How strange it
is that the flamingo, a bird which never seems happy unless half-way up
to his knees in water, should so long delay the period of incubation:
for, long before eggs could be laid and hatched in these nests and the
young reared, the full summer-heats of June and July would have set in,
the water would have entirely disappeared, and the flamingoes would be
left stranded in the midst of a scorching desert of dry, sun-baked mud.

Being unable myself to return to the marisma, I sent Felipe back there
on the 26th of May, when he obtained eggs--long, white and chalky, some
specimens extremely rough. Two is the number laid in each nest. In 1872
the writer obtained eggs taken on May 24th, which is therefore,
probably, about the average date of laying. Owing to the late period at
which incubation takes place, we have not had an opportunity of
examining the young flamingoes when newly-hatched, or of endeavouring to
solve the biological problems which appear to cluster round their
adolescent anatomy. In June and July, 1872, the writer spent some time
in the marisma, but unfortunately was not aware, at that time, of the
interest attaching to these points.

According to native accounts, very few young flamingoes are ever reared
in Spain. Though in wet seasons eggs are laid in thousands (they are
sold by boatloads in the neighbouring villages), yet few, if any, of the
young Spanish flamingoes reach maturity--possibly by reason of their
lateness in nesting, and the rapid changes in the state of the water in
the marisma.

In the spring of 1891, after an exceptionally severe winter in Spain,
and with comparatively little water in the marisma, flamingoes were
remarkably scarce, and we believe that none bred in Andalucia that year.

Since the author's description of the nesting habits of the flamingo
first appeared in the _Ibis_ (January, 1884), its accuracy has been
corroborated by independent observations made on the West Indian island
of Abaco by His Excellency (now Sir) H. H. Blake, when Governor of the
Bahamas. The value of the corroboration is enhanced by the fact that the
above-named gentleman was unaware at the time he wrote that the
long-vexed question had already, three years previously, been solved:
and his graphic description in the _Nineteenth Century_ for December,
1887, is, as regards facts, almost identical with the present writer's
account of a similar scene narrated in the _Ibis_ for January, 1884.

[Illustration: Plate XVIII.


Page 112.]

One other point before we leave the flamingo and its haunts. We have
seen it stated that the brilliant colours of the flamingo do but reflect
the brilliancy of its environment--that these bright colours have been
acquired through the æsthetic tastes of the bird and by "selective
preference"; then, proceeding to enlarge on a "fascinating theory," its
expounder goes on from particular to general, and to demonstrate that
this Darwinian principle is generally operative in ornithic coloration.
Whether birds in general have or have not æsthetic tastes in the matter
of coloration or ornament, we are not prepared to say: but to our less
imaginative minds it is a question whether there exists in nature a
shred of real evidence in support of such a hypothesis. The flamingo
truly has a brilliant plumage, but _never_ a brilliant environment. No
one who has been intimately acquainted with these birds in their haunts
could have conceived such a sentiment; for anything less brilliant than
the bleak and tawny monotony which characterizes the chosen homes of the
flamingo it would be impossible to imagine. The flamingo itself, indeed,
is the one solitary speck of pure bright colour amidst the broad leagues
of mud and muddy water which it so conspicuously ornaments. Other birds
are there, it is true, but to them the same remark applies. They, also,
are as bright, pure and conspicuously different from their environment
as are the flamingoes. What more exquisite examples of bright, spotless
beauty amidst strongly contrasted surroundings than the stilts and
avocets, the lovely southern herons, egrets and spoonbills, the gulls
and marsh-terns? These are but a handful of examples fatal to such a
theory, and they could easily be multiplied indefinitely.

That many brilliant bird-forms affect brilliant surroundings, that the
fauna of the cold and colourless north in general lacks the gorgeous
hues of certain denizens of the tropics, or, again, that many creatures
possess hues assimilated to the general tone of their destined
haunts--all these are _facts_ which we readily recognize. But are such
facts much more than coincidences? Or is it wise to deduce any binding
rules or axiom therefrom? As regards protective assimilation in colour,
that is quite a different thing: its advantages are self-evident, and
its application more or less universal throughout the animal-world, but
it is hardly to the point. Protective coloration we recognize and
understand--it is an every-day phenomenon--but æsthetic tastes in colour
we utterly reject.

The composition of the human mind is undoubtedly speculative: and to
those of deep thought, as distinguished from others the bent of whose
energies tends rather towards action, the temptation to theorize--to
venture on the dangerous regions of inference and deduction--appears
irresistible. The contemplative thinker formulates theories the apparent
beauty of which fascinate his imagination. Collateral evidence which
seems to substantiate, is, in general, not difficult to find--that of a
negative or prejudicial character is not sought. Then with a mind
unconsciously biassed in favour of a preconceived idea, it may happen
that probabilities are mistaken for facts, evidence for proof: and thus
a new hypothesis is duly launched, based on ten, fifty, or a hundred
adduced circumstances, the whole of which may be merely coincidences,
and exceptions to the rule if applied to the millions of unadduced
cases, and perhaps, even in relation to the particular examples cited,
of no direct bearing in the sense in which it is sought to apply them.

As an example of the class of theories alluded to, we have read that the
colours of the sea-gull tribe are dark above and light below in order,
on the one hand, that they may escape the searching scrutiny of the
eagle soaring above, and, on the other, avoid alarming their finny prey
beneath. If there was anything in this idea, it would, at least, be a
hard case for those sea-birds not so coloured, and it should be added
that of the birds which are so coloured several species take three or
four years to attain adult dress. How do they survive those earlier
years? But a very slight acquaintance with the subjects in life shows
that there is actually nothing in it. Lying in one's gunning-punt, the
whitest-breasted gulls, as viewed from below against the lightest of
cloud backgrounds, are seen as clearly as if the bird's colour was
actually black. Every detail of form and movement is clearly
distinguishable--the clean-cut wings and tail, legs pressed close up
under the latter, the pointed head turning from side to side as it
searches the waters. Its colour makes no difference, and is no factor at
all. Then from high above, from the heights of a sea-cliff, what man of
even moderate vision cannot distinguish with equal ease the movements of
the black-backed gull from those of the pale herring-gull and paler
tern? And both eagles and surface-swimming fish are infinitely keener of
vision than the sharpest-eyed of our kind.

These remarks are penned from no love of argument, nor inspired by
invidious motive, but simply with a view to get at _facts_ and thereby
advance the interests of science: that is, of true knowledge.






The existence of the brigand, it would appear, is desirable in order to
cast a glamour of heroism over the adventures of travellers in foreign
lands. Many Peninsular tourists mention encounters with "brigands," and
according to some books on Spanish travel, their authors were frequently
experiencing hair-breadth escapes from these gentry, who were, of
course, bristling as to their persons with deadly weapons--as is, in
fact, nearly every harmless peasant or goatherd one may meet in the
wilds. The tendency to overcolour is, perhaps, natural to imaginative
writers; but it is a mistake to rush to the other extreme, and to deny
_in toto_ the survival of this fraternity in modern Spain.

In his "Gatherings from Spain"--one of the best books ever written--Ford
draws a picture of Spanish brigandage, actual and imaginary, and
diagnoses the whole status of these "men of the road," as it existed in
his day, with a knowledge and terseness that cannot be excelled. And
although Ford wrote fifty years ago, yet his remarks stand substantially
correct at the present day; the only change of importance being that
measure of reclamation which half a century of equal laws has succeeded
in effecting in the prowling _gitano_ or gypsy, in Ford's day a lawless
pariah, the curse of rural Spain.

Though nowadays the traveller may, and probably would, traverse Iberia
in every direction without personal molestation, yet the race of José
Maria, the Jack Sheppard of the Peninsula, whose safe-conduct was more
effective than that of his king, is not extinct, though, like other
rapacious animals, his home is now confined to mountain-fastnesses,
whence he only emerges to seize by a sudden coup some opportunity for
plunder, of which his satellites have sent him notice--for, by profuse
generosity and terrorism, the _ladron en grande_ holds the sparse
hill-peasantry in a bond of allegiance.

Putting on one side the conventional and highly-coloured notions that
pass current, the condition of _bandolerismo_, or brigandage, at the
present day may be thus defined:--There is first the noble outlaw, or
"professional" robber-king, a rare and meteoric personage, of whom anon;
and there are the sneaking petty pilferers who rob as opportunity
serves, or as their wild environment almost suggests. These voltigeurs
of the road are normally peasants, goatherds, or mere good-for-nothings;
content to confine their energies to minor larcenies, and whose poor
ambitions soar no higher than relieving solitary wayfarers of their
watches, loose cash, &c., as happened to a friend of ours while
traversing the sierras between Paterna and Alcalá. Though a fight is no
part of these footpads' tactics, yet in favourable situations a single
hidden scoundrel may command the way, and dominate a dozen travellers
who know not whether that sudden summons to halt and lay down their
loose goods and chattels proceeds from one or from a score of
assailants, concealed amid the tumbled rocks and dense underwood of a
narrow pass. And, after all, it is probably wiser, if caught in such a
trap, to lose a few dollars than to risk life.

Very different is the character of the noble robber-chief, or _ladron en
grande_. In this man who leads the lawless, and, by force of predominant
will, controls and commands a cut-throat gang, but ill-disposed either
to subjection or discipline, there are qualities that, rightly directed,
might attain any object sought--qualities of moral force, courage, and
an iron will, that one cannot but admire. Men of this calibre appear but
at intervals; for "nature is chary in the production of such specimens
of dangerous grandeur." Such a man was José Maria; and of late years a
fine example has been afforded by the notorious outlaw, Vizco el Borje,
of whose methods of procedure the following incident, as narrated to us
almost in the words of its principal victim, will serve to give a good

At the little mountain-village of Zahrita it is the custom to celebrate
the annual festival of its patron saint, San Antonio, by an amateur
bull-fight, a performance at which the smartest of the young bloods of
the village take the principal parts. For many years it had been the
habit of the owner of the neighbouring pasturages to provide the bulls
for this annual function free of charge; and on the eve of the festival
the son of the well-to-do proprietor, Don Pedro de M----, was, with his
steward Diego, and a herdsman, engaged in selecting some of the most
fiery and active young bulls. Both were dismounted, and, rein in hand,
were walking round the herd, when they were suddenly arrested by a sharp
summons to halt and surrender. Then, turning round, they found
themselves face to face with the muzzles of three levelled guns bearing
upon them--the three mounted men having stolen up behind and taken them
unawares. Resistance under such circumstances was out of the question.
The guns of both Pedro and his servant hung in their saddle-slings, but
any movement in that direction would have brought instant fire upon
them. Before they had well recovered from their surprise, one of the
brigands coolly dismounted and took possession of both their guns, the
other pair meanwhile each keeping his man well "covered." The unlucky
Pedro was now completely at the mercy of his aggressors. At the order of
one of these, evidently the chief, the prisoners remounted and followed
his lead, the others closing in behind, and precluding all chance of
escape, except at the risk--or certainty--of being shot down. The guide
took a line leading towards the higher sierra, and avoiding the
frequented track. Arrived in a densely close thicket, the cavalcade
halted, and one man was sent forward to reconnoitre. A shrill whistle
was heard in that direction, and presently nine other horsemen rode in.
The captives were now ordered to dismount, their eyes were closely
bandaged, and they were informed that their lives depended on implicit
obedience to orders, and that it was better for them to see nothing and
to hear less--the latter an almost unnecessary injunction, since hardly
a word had been spoken. For hours the captives were led forward, their
horses stumbling along a rocky ascent, and they presently knew, by the
absence of brushwood, that they had reached the higher regions of the
sierra; then a halt was ordered, they were assisted to dismount, and led
on foot along a passage whose echoing sounds told them it was
subterranean. Here, in an extensive cavern, probably the long-abandoned
workings of a Roman mine, his eyes were unbandaged, and Pedro found
himself in the presence of his three original assailants. The only
furniture in the cave consisted of a few empty boxes; on one of these
glimmered a flickering wick in a saucerful of oil. The robber-leader
drew up another box for a seat, and producing writing materials, ordered
Pedro to write to his dictation as follows:--"My dear father, I am in
the power of sequestradores, who make good plans and bind fast. It is
madness to put Government on their track--they will escape and you will
lose your son. Your secrecy and money at once free me. You can send the
silver by Diego, our steward, who bears you this. Let him appear on the
mountain-road between Grazalema and El Bosque, riding a white donkey,
and bringing ten thousand dollars." ... At this point the prisoner, who
had so far written as directed, stopped short, and point-blank refused
to demand such a sum--declaring he would not take from his brothers any
part of their patrimony, and that the only sum he would accept of his
father was such as might fall to him as one of a numerous family. The
fairness of this, and the undaunted attitude of Pedro, seemed to please
the brigand, who declared, with a shake of his hand, that whatever
bargain was struck should be honourably adhered to. The sum of 6,000
dollars was then inserted, the missive signed and sealed, and Diego, who
had remained blindfold, was led to a point in the sierra which was
familiar to him, his eyes unbandaged, and told to make the best of his
way with the note to Jerez. This, as the dawn was just breaking, he had
no difficulty in doing before night.

After Diego's departure, the chief invited his captive to sup with him
and join in a _borracha_ (skin) of wine, under whose influence the
bandit became more genial, and related certain facts concerning his
personal history. He had formerly been an officer of _carabineros_, but
being dismissed for some, as he held, trifling fault, all means of
subsistence were denied to him, and losing caste step by step, there had
gradually developed in his breast an intense hatred of all social
arrangements, which had finally led to his present state of outlawry.
First he had been a smuggler, but, as the Spanish proverb runs,--

    "De contrabandista á ladron
     No hay mas que un escalon."
     (From a smuggler to a thief
     The step is short, the time is brief!)

Little by little his revolt against law and order led him into further
excesses and more outrageous acts of crime. The daring courage and
character of the man had attracted rogues of lesser calibre to his side,
and now Vizco el Borje was the acknowledged chief of the party of
plunder and anarchy.

The following night another party of robbers arrived: the captive was
again blindfolded, and the dark journey resumed. For three days and
nights the same course was pursued--the brigands each morning at dawn
going to ground in a fresh earth. An amusing incident occurred during
one of these nocturnal marches. The cavalcade was suddenly brought to a
stop, and the words passed down the line--_Civiles, civiles!_ The
prisoner now hoped that his deliverance was at hand; the chief ordered
his band to close up their ranks--the prisoner being removed some yards
to the rear--and to prepare to fire. During the panic, and amidst the
clicking of locks, Pedro took the opportunity of slightly raising his
bandage. The robbers were halted on a narrow ledge of the
mountain-side--a sheer rock-wall behind and a precipitous slope below
making any lateral movement impossible. A direct retreat was of course
available, but this did not commend itself to the chief, who, under the
shadow of the cliff, had the approaching horsemen at a disadvantage. The
clatter of hoofs sounded nearer and nearer, and as the first beast
appeared on the ledge it was evident there had been a false alarm. The
heavily-laden transport of a gang of smugglers advanced along the narrow
track, and as they slowly filed past the robber-troop, the only words
that passed were _Buenas noches!_ and the reply _Vayan ustedes con
Dios!_ Good night, and God go with you!

[Illustration: CIVIL GUARDS.]

On the second night Vizco had left his captive, saying he had other
work in hand: but, a day or two afterwards, Pedro received a message
from him, stating that, owing to the vigilance of the authorities, no
opportunity had offered itself of meeting Diego and the white donkey at
the appointed tryst: and instructing him again to write to his father,
with fresh directions to forward half the stipulated ransom to
Grazalema, where means would be found of receiving it--the other half to
be borne by the white donkey to a freshly-appointed spot among the
hills. Overjoyed at receiving this second assurance that his son still
lived, the father, though an old man, set off at once, with six hundred
pounds in cash, on the long ride to Grazalema. Then for two days he hung
about its precipitous streets in an agony of suspense almost
unendurable. No one spoke to him till the third morning, when a man
leading a pony laden with the rough woollen cloth which is made in
Grazalema and forms the staple industry of the little town, accosted him
as he passed with the words--"Follow me." The pony was stopped before a
small shop wherein some of the same woollen cloths were exposed for
sale: and passing through into the small back-room, the old father found
a man seated whose appearance was that of a cloth-pedlar--men who with
their sturdy ponies carry on a trade or barter of these coarse woollens
throughout the sierras.

After the customary Andalucian exchange of civilities, the pedlar,
looking the old man straight in the face, said, "Have you the three
thousand dollars? You know this?" and he produced Pedro's pencil-case.
The money was at the posada, and soon the old man, ripping up the
stuffing of his saddle, returned to the pedlar's shop with that sum. The
money was counted out, and Vizco el Borje, springing on top of that
honest-looking freight of coarse cloth, was soon clear of the streets of
Grazalema and steering his pony to some well-known mountain-lair.

While these events were occurring in Grazalema poor Diego was wearying
of his long-delayed assignation. For three days he and his white donkey
hung about the remote spot which had been indicated: and at last, on the
third evening, as he was entering the village of Benocaz, a goatherd
said, "At the well beyond the village you will find a woman in black who
will direct you to those you seek." He passed along the line of white
_casitas_ which form the only street of Benocaz, and by the old Moorish
draw-well beyond sat a woman in black. As directed by the goatherd, he
addressed her, "_Que hora es?_" and the reply, "_Las doce_," was what he
had been told to expect. The woman at once struck over into the hills
till she reached a well-worn track and directed Diego to follow this
till accosted by a shepherd. He did as he was bidden and after two
hours' rough riding over the dark hill, heard the same words, "_Que hora
es?_" "_Las doce_," he replied, and was piloted by this new guide to a
cavern, in which, to his intense joy, he found his young master, alive
and well. The money was at once paid over, and though at first the
brigands refused to release their captive on the ground that only half
the stipulated sum had been brought, yet suspense did not last long, for
during the night a messenger from Vizco arrived, announcing the due
payment of the other half, and instructing the robbers at once to set
free their prisoners, and to place them on a road which they would know.
And on the following evening, after a captivity of fifteen days, Pedro
rode once more into the city of Jerez.

Since the above was written Vizco el Borje has died--died as a
robber-chieftain should die, by the rifle-ball. Several times, towards
the end, his life was only saved by his magnificent pluck and resource.
But at last, while campaigning in the Sierra Morena, not far from
Córdova, his whereabouts became known to the authorities--presumably
through treachery--and after a series of desperate deeds of bravery, the
bold brigand was finally surrounded, all retreat cut off, and Vizco el
Borje fell with five bullets in his body.

We now give a brief history of a robber of the other type--and,
incidentally, of the vagaries of judicial justice in Spain.


Agua-Dulce lacked the character of the noble brigand; but was so
successful in a long course of perpetual petty robberies, and in
invariably escaping justice when caught, that he had become a terror to
the neighbourhood of Jerez. To the simple folk whose duties took them to
the sequestered farmsteads or along the lonely _veredas_, or
bridle-tracks, leading towards the sierras, there appeared to be
something "uncanny" about this _raterillo_. Agua-Dulce was one of those
men who acquire much fame without having done anything to justify it. As
a robber, he was of the meaner sort, fertile in resource in planning his
small crimes, and relying more on effrontery than bravery to avoid
capture. His victims were almost exclusively poor charcoal-burners, or
_arrieros_ returning from the town with their hard-earned gains--three
or four to twenty dollars, received for weeks of toilsome labour--the
very class whom Vizco el Borje subsidized, and by judicious generosity
made subservient to his more exalted schemes. Thus the very men who,
_nolens volens_, became allies and satellites of Vizco, were
Agua-Dulce's habitual victims and bitterest enemies.

It is from the lips of Antonio Sanchez, formerly of the Municipal Guard
of Jerez de la Frontera, and now retired on pension, that we have the
following account of the career and death of the miscreant known as
Agua-Dulce. Sanchez was, moreover, the man who slew him.

Agua-Dulce was suspected of having various accomplices: his favourite
defence was to prove an _alibi_, and his success in throwing the
authorities off the scent by this means pointed to combinations which
were not visible on the surface. At the hour when the particular robbery
with which he was charged had been committed, Agua-Dulce showed that he
was in the town and had saluted this or that functionary. And these
latter were always ready to support his defence as witnesses. Among
other unacknowledged alliances, Agua-Dulce was reputed to enjoy the
protection of a certain magistrate of influential position in Seville,
who was stated to be on terms of intimacy with his sister, a woman of
remarkable beauty.

The following occurrence, which refers to, perhaps, the only robbery of
magnitude carried out by Agua-Dulce, was cited by Sanchez in proof of
the above report. A sum representing nearly six hundred pounds, all,
curiously enough, in the smallest gold coin, had been taken from Don
Juan Malvido of Jerez. A few days later, Agua-Dulce was discovered in a
wine-shop of the Calle Cruz Vieja, dividing with two other men a large
quantity of these same small gold coins. He was arrested and imprisoned.
The judge at that time was one Alvarez, who was, however, absent from
his post on account of illness; the interim authority being Don Juan
Cerron, a man of upright and intrepid principle, who believed that now
sufficient evidence was forthcoming to bring home to the villain his
crime, and secure at length the condign punishment he had so often
deserved. When the prisoner was asked to explain how he became possessed
of so much small gold, he replied it was the proceeds of a certain
business he had just effected in Seville. For the purpose of
ascertaining the truth of this, the judge commissioned an inquiry (_puso
un exhorto_) to be made at Seville. The reply was a demand for the
prisoner's presence in that city--doubtless to learn from Agua-Dulce's
lips how the _exhorto_ could be answered favourably to his cause!

The Jerez deputy-judge roundly refused to allow this. Then it was that
the invalid judge was ordered--no matter what the state of his
health--to return at once to his post. Though seriously ill, he complied
with the request, and next morning from the Magisterial chair ruled that
Agua-Dulce should be sent to Seville. A few days later the reply to the
_exhorto_ arrived--in terms entirely favourable to the prisoner, and no
doubt inspired by him. No charge could now be sustained. The papers were
sealed up, and Agua-Dulce once more set at liberty, the small gold
coins, which every one was morally certain had proceeded from the
Malvido robbery, being returned to him.

For some years after this Agua-Dulce continued his course of petty
robbery and outrage without especial incident, but with increasing
audacity and immunity. Of a lady named Varela he had demanded three
thousand dollars under threat of destroying the valuable stock of mares
upon her farm of Vicos. Of Don Antonio Diaz, of Paterna, he had
requisitioned a thousand dollars under similar terms: and a large number
of donkeys belonging to Don José Calero, also of Paterna, who had
refused his extortions, were found with their throats cut. Lastly, from
a farm-steward at Romanina he had taken a small sum of money, his gun,
and cartridge-belt. The authorities in this last (minor) case had clear
evidence against Agua-Dulce and were keenly on his track.

The crimes of the miscreant (all these having occurred within a few
days) were thus assuming alarming proportions, and two amongst the
Municipal Guard of Jerez swore they would put an end to him. On the 23rd
of May these two, Antonio Sanchez and José Salado, were returning
towards Jerez after several days of fruitless search, when, passing the
ford of the Alamillo (a preserve belonging to the Duke of San Lorenzo),
a woman informed them that Agua-Dulce had been at work only an hour or
two before, and had taken all he possessed from a poor _carbonero_. This
decided them to remain in the neighbourhood, and shortly afterwards,
while riding through the coverts of El Espinar, they observed two men,
armed with guns, running between the trees.

The mounted guards gave chase, overhauled the men, and demanded their
surrender. The reply was prompt--a couple of shots: meeting the
simultaneous fire of the guards. No sooner, however, had the latter
fired than Salado fell dead from his horse, for Agua-Dulce's bullet had
gone true. Sanchez leaped from his saddle and, seeing that one robber
was done for, went for the other, whom he now recognized as Agua-Dulce.
A hand-to-hand struggle was imminent, but the bandit availed himself of
the thick lentisk-covert, and contrived to put some distance between
himself and his assailant. Both knew it was a duel to the death. Second
shots were exchanged, and this time Agua-Dulce was wounded. Sanchez
again called on him to surrender, but again the reply was a bullet,
which narrowly missed a vital spot. A second ball now struck the robber
in the side, bringing him to the ground. While Sanchez reloaded, the
wounded desperado managed again to rise to his feet and drew a pistol
from his belt: but he was just not quick enough, and ere he could aim, a
bullet from Sanchez's barrel had perforated him from chest to shoulder.





The ibex, or wild goat, has a wide range throughout the Alpine regions
of the old world: and wherever it is found, from Spain to the Himalayas,
takes a chief place amongst the beasts of chase. Few pictures, indeed,
does the animal-world present more perfect than an old ibex-ram,[27]
with his thick-set, game-like form, his hoary coat and flowing beard,
and those massive, widely-curving horns--no trophy more dear to the
big-game sportsman, and few so hard to secure.

The Spanish Peninsula can boast an ibex peculiar to itself, a noble
beast not to be found elsewhere than on Iberian soil. Till recently, we
shared the opinion that two forms of ibex existed in Spain--the Pyrenean
type, and the slightly divergent _Capra hispanica_ of the southern
sierras: but further experience and a comparison of heads from various
points, have convinced us that (except in the matter of size) there is
no material difference between the Spanish races of wild goats. No
difference, that is, greater than might naturally be looked for as
between isolated colonies, separated one from another during
centuries--for the ibex of Nevada or of Gredos is as effectually divided
from his kind in the Pyrenees as though wide oceans rolled between.

Differences in habits, haunts, and food are well known to produce,
during extended periods, corresponding differences in form: but so far
as we are able to judge, the only material variation between the
so-called _Capra pyrenaica_, of the north, and the _C. hispanica_, of
Southern and Central Spain, is that of size. The Pyrenean ibex is a
larger animal: but the horns are almost, though not quite, identical in
form with those from the Sierra Nevada[28]: while both differ most
materially from the well-known horns of the typical ibex, the _Capra
ibex_ of the Alps and of Central Europe.

These differences will be seen at a glance in the photographs and rough
sketches we annex. Briefly, the horns of the true ibex bend regularly
backwards and downwards in a more or less uniform, scimitar-like curve:
while those of _all_ Spanish goats, after first diverging laterally,
become re-curved both inwards and finally upwards. That is, while in the
one case the horns present a simple circular bend, in the Spanish ibex
they form almost a spiral.[29]

A minor point of difference consists in the form of the annular notches,
or rings. These in the Alpine ibex run more or less straight around,
encircling the horn in front roughly like steps in a ladder: while in
_Capra hispanica_ they run obliquely in a spiral ascent. These
annulations indicate the age of the animal--one notch to each year: but
the count must stop where the spiral ends. Beyond that, there is always
the lightly-grooved tip which does not alter.

The horns of the female ibex are weak and comparatively short--only some
six or seven inches in length, not unlike those of the chamois, but not
so sharply hooked. These do _not_ grow annually: hence there is not the
ready index of age afforded by the horns of the rams. It is, perhaps,
unnecessary to add that the horns of goats are _permanent_, and not cast
yearly as is the case with deer.

The following are the maximum dimensions of the heads of male ibex,
measured by the authors--all from the central and south-Spanish sierras.

          Age.            Length.         Sweep.        Circumference.
    1. Five years       18-1/2 in.      11-1/2 in.         9-3/8 in.
    2. Eight  "         27-1/2  "       23      "          9      "
    3.   "    "         28-1/4  "       19      "          8-3/4  "
    4.   "    "         29      "       18-3/4  "          9      "
    5. Aged             29      "       22-1/2  "          9-1/4  "
    6.   "              29-1/4  "       23-1/4  "          9-1/2  "

Through the kindness of the late Sir Victor Brooke, we are also enabled
to give the following measurements of his three best Pyrenean ibex

              Length.         Sweep.      Circumference.
    A.        26 in.        21    in.       10    in.
    B.        29  "         23     "        10     "
    C.        31  "         26-1/2 "         8-3/4 "

Sir Victor Brooke wrote:--"A. This was a very grand _old_ ibex: but the
points were broken and his horns rubbed smooth with age. The Pyrenean
ibex are much larger beasts than those from the southern sierras."

The natural home of the ibex may be defined as exclusively amidst the
summits of the wildest rock-mountains and most alpine spots upon
earth--subject, however, to such, apparently accidental, variations of
this general rule, as will be found hereinafter mentioned. Here their
hollowed hoofs and marvellous agility enable them to traverse, at full
speed, ice, crag, and precipice that seem absolutely impassable, and to
mount rock-walls where no visible foothold exists, throwing into
heart-breaking insignificance our puny efforts to encompass them. If a
man's heart swells with the pride of strength--if he flatters himself
that he is master of all the beasts of the field and of the arts of
field-craft, let him try a campaign with the wild-goats--verily there is
no sublunar undertaking better calculated to take the conceit out of
him. Mere figures give but a poor idea: to say that the favourite haunts
of ibex lie at altitudes of 8,000 to 10,000 feet, is hardly any real
criterion of the difficulties and hardships of their pursuit. Suffice
it here to say that the mere ascent to such heights occupies well-nigh a
whole day: even when encamped among the fringe of the snow, the
climb-out to the summits may still require two or three hours of the
hardest work.


Ibex are found throughout the highlands of the Peninsula, from Pyrenees
to Mediterranean, but not continuously--their haunts being distinct and
separated by intervening plains. They inhabit all the Pyrenees[30] and
are comparatively numerous on the hills round Andorra (Pyrénées
orientales). In the south their great strongholds are the Sierras Nevada
and Morena, where herds of twenty, thirty, or even fifty, may sometimes
be seen together. Besides these main southern haunts, the ibex have
several detached colonies in the hill-ranges of Andalucia and
Estremadura. Along all the elevated cordillera of Central Spain, the
ibex find a congenial home: but their chosen stronghold is in the
extensive Sierra de Gredos. This elevated point is the apex of the long
Carpeto-Vetonico range which extends from Moncayo through the Castiles
and Estremadura, forming the watershed of the Tagus and Douro; it
separates the two Castiles, and passing the frontier of Portugal, is
there known as the Serra da Estrella, which (with the Cintra hills)
extends to the Atlantic seaboard. Along all this extensive cordillera
there is no more favourite ground for the ibex than its highest peak,
the Plaza de Almanzor, 10,000 feet above sea-level. During the winter
and early spring the wild goats have a predilection for the southern
slopes towards Estremadura: but in summer and autumn large herds, often
numbering dozens, and especially the noble rams, make their home in the
environs of Almanzor and the lonely alpine lakes of Gredos.

Our personal experiences of the Spanish ibex are limited to four
points--two in the southern sierras, and two on the central cordillera:
in three of which the habits of the goats exhibited some very remarkable
variations. These, however, we describe more particularly when treating
of ibex-shooting in other chapters.

[Illustration: SPANISH IBEX, OLD RAM, SIERRA NEVADA. (Front view)]

The ibex is strictly nocturnal in its habits, passing the day at rest,
either on the snow-fields or amidst the most rugged and inaccessible
ground within its reach, and only descending to lower levels to feed
after sun-down. This habit never varies. In the more elevated
cordilleras, where, even in summer, there remain great expanses of snow
and glacier-ice, the wild goats retire at dawn to the heights, spending
the day on some bare rock or among the crevices of crags islanded in the
snow-field, and always guarded from danger of surprise by sentries, who
hold watch and ward from some commanding point. Here, except sometimes
during the hottest days of July and August, they are all but
inaccessible--it is impossible to "turn their flank," for they have,
behind them, vast breadths of snow impassable to man: while the
vigilance of their sentries simply mocks the stalker--even if their
position is not physically inexpugnable. The only systematic method
employed by native hunters, at such times, is the unsatisfactory one of
waiting, at dusk, to "cut them out" in the passes by which they are
accustomed to descend to their feeding-grounds--a bitterly cold and most
uncertain undertaking, to say nothing of its danger, for after sun-down
the soft snow freezes into a solid ice-sheet, cutting off the hunter's
retreat along the steep slope of the sierra.

The ibex of these higher sierras never descend to the level where pines,
high brushwood, or indeed any covert can grow. Their home is on the snow
and rock, and they only descend as far as that zone of moss, heath, and
stunted alpine vegetation which intervenes between the snow-line and the
highest levels of conifer or tree-growth. Their food consists of the
bloom and shoots of various alpine shrubs, grasses and flowers--the
Spanish gorse, broom, rosemary, and _piorno_, as well as certain
narcissi, mountain-berries, and the peasants' scant crops of rye-grass.
For this latter luxury they are tempted to come down rather lower: but
under no circumstances, not even in winter, are the ibex of Gredos or
Nevada found in the forests or amongst covert of any kind.

Such, in outline, are the habits of the ibex of the higher sierras. But
ibex also exist on mountain-ranges of much lesser elevations, and
_there_ their habits differ widely. Some of these lower hills are
covered with brushwood to their very crests--one has pines on its
summit, at 4,800 feet. Here the ibex cannot, of course, disdain the
shelter of the scrub, and even frequent the forests at much lower
elevations. We have hunted them in ground that looked far more suitable
for roe-deer, and have even seen the "rootings" of pig overlapping the
feeding-grounds of the goats.

[Illustration: SPANISH IBEX. OLD RAM. (Side view.)]

In such situations, the ibex form regular "lairs" amidst the fastnesses
of broom, gorse and thorny _abolága_, on the bloom of which they browse
by night, without having to descend or to shift their quarters at all.
On these lower hills the ibex owe their safety--and survival--exclusively
to the rough and intercepted nature of the ground, over-grown for miles
with forest and matted brushwood; and, in some degree, to their own
comparatively small numbers.[31]

A third very distinct habitat we have described in detail elsewhere.
Here, on an isolated mountain, detached from the adjoining sierras, and
affording neither the refuge of snow-fields nor jungle, the mother-wit
of a segregated band of ibex managed to discover a sanctuary scarcely
less secure. As elsewhere described, they simply shut the door on
pursuit by betaking themselves into the clefts and crannies of a hanging
rock-wall some three miles long and 2,000 feet high. To these eagle's
eyries no other terrestrial being could follow, nor human power dislodge
the astute _montéses_, whose beards, for all we know, were shaking with
laughter as they gazed down upon their discomfited enemies.

In this case, the ibex may almost be said to have "gone to ground"; for
they actually sought shelter, when hard pressed, in the caves and
ravines with which the face of these precipices were serried. This seems
opposed to all one's ideas of what _ought_ to be the habits of a wild
goat; but it well illustrates the pre-eminently astute nature of the

[Illustration: Plate XIX.


Page 137.]

Were it otherwise--were it not for this reasoning sagacity in utilizing
the natural resources of each locality--in short, adapting their habits
to the necessities of the case, the existence of these isolated colonies
of ibex, on limited terrain, would be impossible. Even as it is, their
survival is, we fear, in some cases, only a question of years, for the
_tiradores_ of the sierra hunt them in season and out. The _serrano_
hunts rather for the pot than for sport, and spares neither sex nor age.
With all his sportsman-like qualities and skill in his craft, our friend
is not truly a sportsman. He is, we fear, but a butcher at heart; _meat_
is what he seeks; to him a female is only a less desirable quarry than
her lord in the ratio of her smaller weight--about one-fourth less. It
is the same with everything; with partridge, a covey at a shot, as they
run up in file to the traitor _reclamo_; with bustard, to massacre a
pair as they stoop to drink at a water-hole in the thirsty summer days;
with trout, to decimate a river by poisoning the streams, tipping in a
cart-load of quicklime, or blowing up a pool by dynamite--such are the
cherished objects of our friend, the Spanish _cazador_; and yet, despite
it all, we like him, and are never happier than during the hours we
spend in his company around the camp-fire.

In form and build, the ibex represents the very perfection of combined
power and action--if physical adaptation counts in the struggle for the
"survival of the fittest," the wild goat need hardly fear extinction.
His thickset frame, broad front, and prominent eyes, with well-poised
neck, clean quarters, and the light muscular legs set well within his
short round barrel, all bespeak qualities which admirably adapt him to
the hard, strange life assigned by nature to the wild-goat.

During the summer months, the ibex feast luxuriously on the abundant
crop of mountain-grasses, flowering shrubs and rush, which at that
season clothe the Alpine solitudes; and, later, on the various berries
and wild fruits of the hills. By autumn they are in their highest
condition--the long black beards of the old rams fully developed, and
their brown coats long, glossy, and almost uniform in colour. At this
period the rutting season takes place--in October; and the _machos_
fight furiously for the assembled harems--rearing on hind legs for a
charge, the crash of opposing horns resounds afar across the glens and
corries of the sierra. Even in spring their combative instinct survives;
we have watched, in April, a pair of veterans sparring at each other for
an hour together.

The young ibex are born in April, and soon learn to follow their
dams--graceful little creatures, like brown lambs, easily captured if
the mother is shot, but not otherwise. One is the usual number, but two
is not infrequent. It is a curious fact that the kid remains with its
dam upwards of a year--that is, till after a second family has been
born. Consequently it is usual, in spring, to see the females in
trios--the mother, her yearling daughter, called the _chivata_, and the
new-born kid, or _chivo_. Though, as just stated, there are often two
young, yet we have never seen more than one _chivata_ with each female
ibex--possibly it is only the female kids that remain so long with their
dams. In May the _chivatas_ are conspicuously smaller than the adult
females, but their horns are nearly as large.

At this season (April-May) the ibex are changing their coats; the males
have almost entirely lost their flowing beards, and in colour assume a
hoary, piebald appearance, especially on cheeks and forequarters,
contrasting with the darker portions above and behind. The muzzle is
warm cream-colour, and the lower part of the leg (below the knee)
prettily marked with black and white; on the knee, a callosity, or round
patch of bare hard skin. The horns of yearling males are larger and
heavier than those of adult females.

Though it is the custom of the hill-shepherds during summer to drive out
their herds of goats to pasture on the higher ranges of the sierra,
where they must sometimes come in contact with their wild congeners, yet
no inter-breeding takes place; nor can the race of wild ibex be reduced
to domesticity. The hunters frequently capture the young ibex--it is
sometimes given as an excuse for killing the dam--yet they rarely
survive long in captivity, and never mate with the domestic goat. In May
we could not hear of a single wild kid of the previous year's capture
that had survived the twelvemonth in any of the hill-villages of Gredos.
The form of the horns in the domestic goat is essentially different;
they are much flatter, thinner, and not a quarter as large as those of
the wild ibex. The latter can hardly have been the progenitor of the
race of goats now domesticated in Spain.

The smell of a dead ibex is specially strong and unpleasant--an old male
stinks far worse than a vulture; yet little or no trace of this remains
after cooking. Their flesh is firm and brown, fairly good eating, but
without any special flavour or individuality--that is, when subjected to
the rude cookery of the camp.





Twenty-six hours on the railway--at first with the comparative luxury of
a Pullman-car: the last seven crawling across the Castilian plain,
towards the frowning ridges that look down on Talavera, whereon our Iron
Duke repulsed nearly twice his numbers of French, and turned the tide of
war: then thirty odd miles in a diligence, and finally a five-league
mountain-scramble on mules--this it costs us to reach the home of the
Castilian ibex.

Night was closing in and sleet descending in driving sheets, when at
length, round a projecting spur, we sighted our destination. The hamlet
hung on the steep slope of the sierra, whose snow-clad heights and
jagged peaks, towering away into cloud-land, gave us a fair forecast of
the labours in store. As for the village--a more picturesque,
rumble-tumble maze of quaint, shapeless hovels, all pitched down
apparently at random, with their odd chimneys, odd balconies and
projecting gables, all wood-built, it would be hard for fancy to depict,
or for artist to discover. And the natives--the light-framed, lithe
mountaineers, clad in the short _majo_ jackets, tight knee-breeches and
cloth gaiters, with smart sky-blue waist-coats, brass-buttoned, and
crimson _fajas_: the women enveloped in brilliant _mantas_ of
grass-green or scarlet, and with short petticoats that displayed rounded
limbs, bare to the knee--verily we seemed to have fallen upon some
surviving vestige of Goth or Moor, all unknown to the world, hidden away
in these recesses of the sierra.

[Illustration: Plate XX.

Page 141.


Such things, however, had but a platonic interest for men weary,
drenched and travel-worn: and a terrible shock remained in store, when,
upon a low paneless barn, we deciphered, in hieroglyphic symbols, the
word _posada_. At the moment of our observing the ill-boding sign, a pig
was in the act of entering the portals.

Nothing, however, remained but to make the best of it. The cold was
intense, and in the deluge of rain and sleet outside, it was impossible
to erect our tent, even had a level site existed. We had with us,
however, on this campaign, a genius, and with magic skill Vicente
transformed the uncouth den: order replaced chaos: our bedsteads were
erected, basins, towels, soap, even chairs and a table appeared as by
legerdemain: while a savoury _olla_ with two brace of quarter-pound
trout from the burn below, and a stoup of good red wine, stood before

We soon had the local hunters collected around us, all old
friends--Magdaléno, the crack shot of the sierra, Claudio, Juanito, and
little Ramon: but their reports were not encouraging.[32] The snow on
the heights was still impassable: Almanzor and the Lagunas de Gredos
were inaccessible, and these regions formed, we knew, the _madre_--the
true home of the ibex. The system of the _ojéo_, or mountain-drive, was
only practicable as yet (May) on three or four limited areas of the
sierra: but there also remained open to us the resource of stalking the
ibex. Of this sport we will speak later; but we decided at first to
adopt the plan of _montería_, or big beats.

The first day's _batida_ embraced a huge natural amphitheatre of rock,
seven or eight miles in circuit, as roughly depicted opposite. Our men
had left before dawn to gain the furthest flank, and we followed soon
after, to climb out to the peaks directly above. At first we ascended on
little shaggy mules, without saddle, stirrups, or bridle--only a single
cord to the nose-halter and a padded roller to sit on. The upward route
was as follows: one day will serve to describe all. On the lower slopes
(8,000 to 4,000 feet), rough pine forest, gradually opening out, and
giving place to a zone of brushwood and coarse vegetation: above,
another zone, of esparto and wiry grass interspersed with patches of a
peculiar gorse and rosemary scrub, and the _piorno_, a tough green
shrub, whose bleached limbs closely resemble human skeletons. Here and
there one could imagine that the rugged slope had been, at no remote
period, the scene of a bloody battle.[33] Above this level, plant-life
rapidly grows scarcer and more alpine--the bleaberry and gentian,
stunted heaths and _piornos_, with beds of purple saxifrage, white and
violet crocuses, and a yellow narcissus, the two last right up to the

The riding here grew worse and worse: the little mules scrambled like
cats over the naked rocks, but at last even they could no further go,
and were left, picketed in rock-stalls, on some hanging shelf. Now came
a terrible scramble on foot--hardly a step but needed to be made good by
hand-hold also, and then we reached the lower snows. Treacherous ground
this, here frozen into miniature glaciers, there soft and "rotten," or,
worst of all, hollowed beneath, precipitating one in a moment upon cruel
rocks below. Here several minor accidents, and one of a more serious
nature occurred: but after all we prefer the snow to the penultimate
zone above--the region of naked rock-matrix (in Spanish _canchos
corridos_), where smooth slippery faces of granite left no hold either
for the snow, or for feet, though clad in hempen-soled _alparagatas_;
and every crevice filled level with frozen striæ of snow. Mass above
mass towered these monoliths of living granite, veined and streaked with
the narrow snow-lines: and beyond them, stretching away for leagues,
came the snow-fields of Gredos, imposing in the majesty of a
contemporary glacial epoch, and the silence of everlasting ice.

We had high hopes of success in this first _batida_, for the ground
covered was of great extent, traversed by many ravines and corries, and
had not been disturbed since the preceding autumn. Yet it proved blank:
only a single ibex (male) was enclosed, and it escaped on the right, to
snow-fields beyond our reach.

This operation had lasted four hours, during which the cold had been
intense, a bitter blast blowing with hurricane-force through the
rock-passes where we held guard, as through a funnel. At intervals the
wind came laden with fine snow or jagged crystalline icicles which
ricochetted from the rocks like things of life. At one period--the
climax of the storm--if a hundred ibex or wolves had filed past the
writer's post, his fingers were too benumbed by exposure to have handled
the rifle. The ascent had also occupied four hours--the apparent
altitude (by aneroid) being nearly 8,000 feet--and the return to the
spot fixed for our camp would require two more. Hence no time remained
for further operations that day, and we returned, sad and empty-handed,
to camp.

Two blank days followed, and on the third a hurricane of wind, rain, and
driving mist forbade all hope of sport. The first beat next morning was
again blank, no ibex being seen; but a second, though covering a much
smaller area, enclosed a band of eleven. These, when first viewed, were
coming in directly towards the guns, and held this course till lost to
sight in an intervening ravine. Shortly afterwards the upper flank of
the beaters crested the further ridge, and at once, we saw, they opened
out their line, extending upwards towards the snow. These men had
already seen that the goats, true to their natural instincts, were
seeking to gain the higher ground: and a marvellous sight ensued--to
watch, through the binoculars, these hardy mountaineers fairly racing
with the fleet-footed ibex, and striving, by sheer speed and strength of
limb and lung, to head their flight, and cut off their retreat to the
snow-sanctuaries above.

At first one could not believe that biped, however specially organized,
could possibly cope, in simple activity, with the wild-goats on their
native rocks. Yet, when the game emerged from the gorge, it became
evident that the flank-movement had, at least to some extent, succeeded:
for the now-alarmed animals, though still tending upwards, had abandoned
the idea of direct escape in that direction, and were now ascending the
rocks in a slanting course which pointed very little beyond our own
positions. The writer, who occupied the upper post, at the foot of some
terrific _canchos_, which, in cold blood, had seemed insuperable, now,
in the excitement of the chase, found means--_nescio quos_--to surmount
the obstacle and gain a "pass" beyond, by which, it seemed likely, the
game might seek escape. More nimble still, our friend Magdaléno had ere
this, with winged feet, reached a yet greater height: and here, as the
ibex, scudding upwards with surprising speed, passed in straggling file,
his single ball struck fair a lordly ram, and threw back the rest in
dismay. Quickly followed from below the double crack of an "express":
but these bullets, fired at 200 yards, produced no perceptible effect.

Turned from their first point, the ibex, now separate and scattered,
when next they appeared, were heading, some for the snow-fields direct,
others for the lower passes: in one of which a five-year-old male
offered a chance, at eighty yards, to the ambushed "Paradox"--a chance
that was not declined, though only attained at the end of a severe
scramble of 200 yards across the rocks. The hollow-fronted ball struck
on the ribs, and traversing the vitals, "mushroomed" itself against the
shoulder-blade. Presently, from the heights above, rang out three or
four reports in quick succession--the upward-bound contingent of ibex
were running the gauntlet of our driving-line. A male and two females
offered long or random shots to the mountaineers. One of the latter was
reported hit--though the pair were followed by a _chivo_, or kid, only
ten days old!--but no tangible result was secured by this fusillade.


Meanwhile the stricken _macho_ had descended to the depths of the glen,
where he was presently descried by our scouts stretched on the shelf of
a jutting crag, a mile below. How human eye managed to detect so small
an object amidst so vast a chaos of broken ground, rocks, screes, and
scrub-clad patches, passes understanding: but soon a long "wing" thrown
out, turned the flank of his position, and the noble beast, aroused once
more by the rattle of a rifle-ball on the rocks, made a final effort to
escape, which was terminated by a "Paradox" bullet at twenty yards'
distance. This, our first old ibex-ram, carried a handsome, massive
head; but its symmetry was marred by one of the points being broken.
The undamaged horn measured rather over twenty-eight inches.

So passed the days with varying incident, which it boots not to recount
in detail; sometimes we saw game, more often the reverse. One element
alone remained permanent and changeless--the daily labour was extreme.
Strength and physical powers were taxed--aye, strained, almost to the
breaking point, and in these contests of lung and limb the wild-goat
necessarily held the advantage.

One morning, wind and weather being favourable, it was proposed to
double-bank our beaters--that is, to drive two separate valleys at once
towards a single dividing spur.[34] The ascent to-day followed the ridge
of a deep _garganta_, or rock-abyss, embedded among pines, on one of
which was superimposed a pile of branches and sticks--the home of a pair
of Black Vultures (_Vultur monachus_). It was almost a solitary
tree--one of the few that survived above the pine-zone, finding
root-hold in a crevice of the hanging rock: a flat-topped,
wind-tormented tree, its spreading branches distorted by the weight of
winter's snows. Hard by the nest sat one of these colossal birds, not
200 yards away, though to have reached the spot, across the gorge, might
have occupied an hour. An "express" bullet was sent whistling past his
monkish cranium; slowly the great wings unfolded, and the vulture
flapped heavily down the ravine.

Vultures are comparatively scarce in this part of Spain--far more so
than in Andalucia. We only noticed one small colony in the Sierra de
Gredos; and of its six or eight pairs, our beaters, who passed close
below their eyries, declared that two were of the black species. The
Black Vulture is not known to nest either gregariously or on rocks: yet
we have twice in Andalucia noticed them _apparently_ doing both these
things--associated with Griffons--but without, on either occasion,
reducing the observation to proof. The above statement, however, tends
to confirm the fact. Bird-life, as in most mountain-regions, was not
abundant here. Buzzards soared over the pines, and the song of our
common thrushes and blackbirds rang through the woods as at home. Higher
up were ring-ousels and redstarts, wheatears (_Saricola aurita_ and _S.
stapazina_), black chats (_Dromolœa leucura_), skylarks and
titlarks--all these breeding. Besides these, we also observed the
Egyptian Vulture, the Alpine pipit (_Anthus spipoletta_), and Alpine
accentor (_Accentor collaris_), both common, the blue thrush,
rock-thrush, nuthatch, and Dartford warbler: and on May 10th, at 5,500
feet, after a stormy night, picked up, in a disabled state, a pretty
little bluethroat (_Cyanecula wolfi_, Brehm) of the _unspotted_ variety,
with entirely blue gorget. This little wanderer had doubtless perished
by the severities of weather encountered in crossing this lofty range on
his passage to the north. During an afternoon's trouting in a hill-burn
on May 13th, the following additional species were observed (altitude
5,000 feet)--ortolans, cirl-and corn-buntings, stonechats, wagtails,
crag-martins, and sandpiper.

Ravens and choughs tenanted the crags, and the red-legs were met with
very high up. Both in this sierra, in Nevada, and other alpine ranges,
we have kept a strict look-out for ptarmigan, but not a sign of them
have we met with. They are unknown to the _cazadores_ of the sierras,
and it appears certain that none exist in Spain, save in the Pyrenees.

On some precipitous rocks adjoining one of our posts to-day was an eyry
of some large bird of prey--either a lammergeyer or some eagle, whose
young brood kept up a plaintive, chattering wail while we were there.
The spot, however, was inaccessible owing to deep snow and tremendous
_canchos_ which intervened. One day, close to the snow-line, we came
across a fat, blue-grey little beastie, apparently of the dormouse tribe
(_Liron_, in Spanish), but he got to earth, or rather rock, ere we
could capture him.[35] But we must return to our ibex.

Though, as regards venison, this day's operations proved fruitless, yet
it remains memorable for the magnificent spectacle afforded of the wild
ibex on his native heights. As the beaters, looking at the distance like
mites or fleas, gradually drew in towards the peaks of "El Cumbrasco," a
herd of eight ibex were observed slowly picking an upward course towards
the _picachos del cañon_. Disturbed, apparently, by some goatherd below,
these ibex never offered any promise of a shot; yet the spectacle they
presented, while still wholly careless of danger, the easy grace of
every movement and spring-like step as they bounded from rock to rock,
was one of those rare views of wild life one seldom enjoys and never

The ibex took the snow about midway between our two lines, and on the
glacier-foot, below the "Cannon Rock," they halted as though to court
admiration--the grand wide sweep and graceful curve of the horns carried
by two old rams set off in sharply defined outline against the snowy

[Illustration: Plate XXI.

Page 143.


[Illustration: THE PEAKS OF GREDOS.]

Other days were devoted to stalking the ibex--each, with his _cazador_
and a single gun-carrier, on a separate hill; and this was perhaps the
hardest work of all, involving almost incessant climbing, scrambling,
and walking on the worst of ground from morning till long after dark.
But in this sport we have hitherto met with no success, either on this
or other occasions. The Spanish ibex is so scarce, so rarely seen on the
move by daylight, and so wedded to snow-fields beyond human reach, that
it is by mere chance they are found in situations where a stalk is
possible--very different to the descriptions we have by such men as
Kinloch and Macintyre, of the sport that ibex afford in the Himalayas.
There it would seem that _Capra sibirica_ is not infrequently to be
found resting, feeding, or moving about by day on mountain-sides
considerably below the snow, and in situations where it is possible for
the stalker to approach them _from above_. In Spain, where the
wild-goats are much harassed, we have never had the luck to fall in with
such opportunities: though that such _do_ occur is demonstrated in a
subsequent chapter ("Ramon and the two big Rams"). Here, in Gredos, and
also in the Andalucian sierras, it has not hitherto been our good
fortune to fall in with ibex where a stalk was even remotely possible.
Though ibex might be in sight daily, they have been found either on open
ground or snow, or in crags surrounded by snow--either position equally
inaccessible to human beings--save on two occasions, both towards
evening, when goats have been descried on somewhat lower ground than
usual; but, alas! on the opposite mountain-side, far away, and separated
from us by an intervening gorge, to cross which and re-ascend the
further slope would have occupied well nigh half a day. Had such
opportunities but occurred _in the morning_, instead of the evening, it
is just possible that this record of our ibex-stalking days might not
have resulted in a blank.

It is, however, fair to add that we have never tried ibex-stalking in
_summer_, when the obstruction of the snow would naturally be much less;
the goats, on the other hand, have then a vastly extended field to roam


Far away to the eastward, a triple-peaked mountain filled the whole
horizon. From the distance it appeared to be composed solely of barren
grey granite, and only sparse patches and striæ of snow adorned its
crests. This was the Riscos de Valderejo, and on its heights there
roamed, we were told, a good band of ibex, including some _machos_ of
the first rank.

To this sierra we projected a spring campaign. The distance (by road)
from the nearest available base was some thirty miles, along smiling
valleys redolent of historic interest; past castellated monasteries and
fortresses, relics of feudal times, now abandoned to farmers, and to
storks, whose nests lined the battlements; for the plough had long
superseded the sword, and now the deep glens glory in husbandry and
viticulture. Here corn and vine grow beneath olive, fig, and chestnut:
verily fruit and grain seem to jostle each other--it is hard to conceive
a more fertile scene; the air vocal with the melody of nightingales and
orphean warblers, and the ringing note of golden orioles. The peasantry
live in crazy, ramshackle hamlets, whose quaint picturesqueness is
beyond our power to describe, but spend their _al fresco_ lives in the
field or the vineyard, doing a modicum of work, and a maximum of rest,
eating, sleeping, or chatting, in happy, contented groups beneath the
grateful shade of the chestnuts.[36]

Our road was a marvel of extravagant engineering, executed and
maintained regardless of expense. It is only another of the many
anomalies of Spain that in rich provinces, such as Andalucia, where
there are carriages and traffic, there should be no roads; here, in the
wilds of Castile, where there are neither traffic nor wheeled carriages,
the road-system is magnificent. The explanation appears to be: in the
one case, the Government says "you have money, and can make your own
roads,"--in the other, "there is no money, so we will provide roads,"
even though they are not required.

The Riscos de Valderejo is an isolated mountain, cut off from
neighbouring heights by deep gorges on all sides, save where a high, but
narrow "neck" connects it on the west with the main range. Across this
neck (5,000 feet) is carried the northern highway--the _carretera de
Avila_, along which is carried on at intervals a frequent transit of
mule-teams, droves of cattle, sheep, and the like. At the time of our
first visit this traffic was almost continuous, for the ancient "Fair"
of Talavera (40 miles away) was drawing supplies from all the provinces
of Spain: fine young mules from far Galicia, horses even from the
Asturias, cattle, goats and sheep, including a few merinos, from
pastoral Leon. By day or night the monotonous tinkle of the _cencerros_
(cattle-bells) ceased not on this and many another highway and byeway
for many a weary league around Talavera.

Such is still, in Spain, the far-reaching power of the "Feria," or Fair:
an institution antiquated and out of date in modern lands. Yet the
business and bustle, the display of national types and characteristics
at the great provincial "fairs"--such as that at Talavera--offer
pictures of Spanish rural life abounding in interest, and well worthy of
study and observant description. But the pen must be directed by
sympathy and understanding, or the result will merely be so much more of
that silly writing and grotesque "wit," with which we are already only
too well acquainted. _Pero!... vámonos!_ To our ibex.

Well, the narrow _col_ or neck, connecting the Riscos with the
neighbouring heights, being thus contaminated--for the wild goat will
never cross a path or suffer the propinquity of man--the ibex of that
sierra form an isolated colony, absolutely cut off from all contact with
their fellows. That such should be able to survive on so limited a
space--their territory is but eight miles by four--amidst a nation of
_tiradores_, is partly due to a curious local circumstance. A pair of
guardias civiles, the military police of Spain, is stationed close below
the col. Here is the explanation. None of the _serranos_ pay the
gun-license,--twenty shillings,--and capture, red-handed, means
disarmament. Hence the presence of this pair of civil guards signifies
nothing less than security to the isolated ibex of the Riscos; their
withdrawal would be the signal for extermination within a few years.

We had already pitched our tent on a slope above the col (5,600 feet),
just within the lower fringe of snow, and were wondering at the
non-arrival of our hunters. They had taken a short cut across the
mountains, and should have been the first to reach the spot. But after
enjoying a delicious bathe in an adjoining burn, and setting on the
_olla_ to stew on an improvised _anafe_ (a hollowed trench, in the deep
centre of which was kindled a fire), we suddenly saw them all appear,
leaping down the opposite slope with the agile bounds of wild animals.
They had simply lain hidden for hours, reconnoitring the movements of
the civil guards! Their first act on arrival was to hide their guns
among the green _piornales_. Again, when one evening the dreaded pair
was reported to be ascending towards our eyry, the stampede was
electric--each man seized his gun and all disappeared like rabbits among
the rocks. The incident serves to show the effective power wielded by
this fine corps in rural Spain.

[Illustration: Plate XXII.


Page 152.]

The conformation of this sierra was simple--on the north side the slope
was gradual, though abrupt: on the south almost perpendicular: that is,
it formed a sheer rock-wall some three miles long and perhaps 2,000 feet
high, measuring from the head of the talus.[37] We found here a herd of
nearly a score of ibex, ensconced in well-frequented lairs among the
loose rocks and _piornales_ along the highest ridge (they had not been
disturbed for months), and on so limited an area felt sure of more
certain success than on the boundless sierras of Gredos, with their
snow-sanctuaries always open to the ibex. But matters were not so
simple, nor were the goats. Here, too, they had their sanctuaries. We
will not weary the reader with merely sporting detail, but go at once to
the point. After being "hustled" for two or three days (during which the
big males always managed to keep out of shot), the ibex-leaders
evidently realized the gravity of the situation: a vote of urgency was
carried, and the Riscos declared in a state of siege. The space at their
command was limited: there were no snow-fields available: and they
resolved to seek safety in those impenetrable rock-walls and _canchos_
which flanked their stronghold on the south. Into these they retreated:
and from them, no power of ours could dislodge the ibex, though among
the slanting _canchos_ on the western flank our intrepid rock-climbers
despatched a couple of slouching wolves. By sheer force of reasoning
power and sagacity, the ibex had found a retreat as secure as the _mer
de glace_ of Almanzor. Long may they live to enjoy it!


The retreat, however, was not gained, on one occasion, without loss--we,
too, had learned by past experience. Already the driving line had
appeared on the eastern heights, suggesting that another beat was to
prove blank: not a sign of game had appeared--nothing save the Alpine
choughs[38] and crag-martins, Alpine swifts, and a pair of peregrines
gyrating in the upper air: at intervals also a pair of golden eagles,
whose huge eyrie projected from a rocky pinnacle, passed over in stately
flight, their broad square tails deflected very conspicuously sidelong,
to guide their aërial evolutions. Here purple tufts of saxifrage lent
colour to the barren greys: and amidst the fringe of snow grew delicate
mauve and white crocuses: on a granite rock, hard by, warbled lustily a
little songster, not unlike our hedge-sparrow, but whose scientific name
is _Anthus spipoletta_, its tender blue-grey throat swelled with song.
Suddenly a new sound diverted instant attention from all such things--it
was a loud "sneeze," twice repeated: and I knew that some wild animal
stood close behind the big rock which concealed me. Then followed the
clatter of horny hoofs rattling on rock: and a few moments later, upon
the very ridge where I lay, not ten yards from the muzzle, appeared a
pair of ibex. Hardly a whole instant did they pause--pictures of
high-strung wild nature, and quivering in every nerve--a lovely
spectacle. At ten yards' range (_á boca de jarro_ in Spanish phrase), my
right barrel missed fire: and simultaneously the ibex were gone--had
leaped off the ridge and down among the rocks a dozen yards below. They
were, however, still near enough; and the second bullet sent the largest
pitching forward on its knees, all but dividing the spine. It instantly
recovered its feet, and the pair went on: but on a rock-ledge a
quarter-mile away they stopped, and one lay down: a long range, random
shot from the express, and the other went on alone: but the stricken
beast was already dead. And then, on the rocks close by, I perceived a
little wild kid, long of limb and somewhat ungainly in form, but of
infinite grace in movement. Tame and confiding seemed the little mite;
yet on approach, it bounded off down those broken rocks, with a speed
and agility that defied pursuit. These two ibex were, in Spanish words,
a _cabra_ and a _chivata_.

Five other ibex (two males) sought to reach the refuge of the main
rock-wall by a lower pass, where two guns were posted. Here, as they
scrambled slantingly up the perpendicular face, one bullet sped true,
and the best _macho_ fell back, struggling to maintain a foot-hold. This
his paralyzed quarters forbade, and soon what little life remained was
extinguished as the stricken animal fell bouncing from rock to rock till
it finally lodged in a cleft of a projecting spur. He proved an
eight-year-old ram, with horns measuring nearly twenty-eight inches in
length, with a circumference of over nine inches and a "sweep" of nearly

At length the time arrived to bid farewell to these rock-ramparts of Old
Castile, and their primitive simple folk, kindly and honest as the day;
Dionysio actually returned to our camp before daylight next morning--a
two-league walk--to return a pair of boots left by one of us at his
cottage! Each man already seemed an old friend. "Hasta la otra," said
Juan Guarro y Guarro as he offered his hand, "y si no, que lo pasen
ustedes bien!"--"Till the next time, and, if for ever, fare ye well!"
The conclusions we came to were that both our visits were rather too
early (May), and that the most favourable season for ibex-shooting is in
July and August: but even then, whether by stalking or driving, the work
is hard in the extreme.





In the last chapter are described some experiences with ibex in the
distant cordilleras of Castile: but we have the wild _cabra montés_ much
nearer--indeed within sight of our Andalucian home. The Sierra Nevada is
one of their chief abodes, and herds of goats roam the still nearer
heights of Ubrique, Bermeja, and the Palmitera. As the circumstances of
the ibex here vary from those already described, we now add some details
of campaigns on these Mediterranean ranges.

We pitched our tents one March evening on a narrow flat plateau, barely
over 2,000 feet, at a point in the Bermeja range, where our pioneer--we
had employed a native _cazador_ to "prospect" for five or six weeks--had
localized two or three small herds of ibex. The steep mountain-sides
around were clad to their utmost summits with strong brushwood and with
scattered patches of pine and a species of fir
(_pinsapo_)--admirable-looking ground for pig, but not at all so,
according to preconceived ideas, for the wild-goat. It was, therefore,
an agreeable surprise when, early next morning, there were descried
three ibex, quietly grazing on the bloom of the _abolága_ brush beyond a
deep ravine, and only about 1,000 feet above the camp. These three,
while we watched, were joined by another two, when some make-believe
"sparring" ensued between a pair of rams: but at this season (March)
there was obviously no great development of the combative instinct.

The next spectacle was less welcome. On the height of the ridge, high
above us, we descried against the sky-line the crouching figure of a
man, stealthily advancing as though in touch of game. This ill-omened
apparition, as the sequel proved, was the key-note of this campaign: the
_semana santa_ of Easter-tide had commenced, we were forestalled by
native _cazadoras_, and a carefully-planned and well-organized
exhibition resulted in comparative failure. Nor had the danger of this
been entirely unforeseen, but adverse circumstances had delayed our

[Illustration: IBEX (FEMALE)--BERMEJA.]

Despite our local competitors, luck at first seemed inclined to be
propitious. While going to our positions, along the knife-edged spur
that enclosed our glen, an ibex fell to the rifle of one of our party,
who had come suddenly on five (four good males) quietly feeding in a
pine-clad corrie, and a standing shot, at 70 yards, secured
one--unfortunately the only _cabra_; for, their heads being concealed
among the scrub, the sex was not distinguished. This female (shot March
26th) was found, on being gralloched, to contain a pair of kids, which
would not have seen the light under three weeks. Another female,
followed by her _chivata_, was shot on this beat, though eventually
lost, by one of our Spanish _cazadores_, Juan Marquéz.

The field of our operations was _all_ scrub--strong thorny bushes
clothing the steep and rock-strewn slopes, amidst which we subsequently
found many "lairs" of the ibex--regular seats, like those of a hare or
fox. Hidden in these strongholds, the ibex, our men asserted, would
deliberately allow the beaters to pass them by: but we have strong
grounds for the opinion that this only applied to the _females_--all
ages or sexes, be it repeated, are alike to a _cazador_--and never to
the males, which, always wild and crafty, rely for safety on far bolder
tactics and modes of escape.

Pines and fir interspersed the scrub to the very _reales_ or utmost
heights of Bermeja--4,800 feet by aneroid: and Palmitera, though the
snow lies longer there, is of a trifle less altitude. Though, on this
occasion, our sport was marred and exuberance of spirit tempered by the
constant competition of local hunters--by those visions of the hated
"gente de Enalguacil" scampering like the goats themselves up the rocks
before us--yet, at least, we enjoyed, from the crest of Bermeja, a
spectacle which is probably without rival in Europe, and the like of
which we have not gazed upon in our lives. Looking down from near 5,000
feet altitude, we had portions of two continents spread out as a map at
out feet. The vast expanse of deep blue Mediterranean visible from such
elevations is hard to picture--the level sea appears to tower up,
regardless of physical laws, among the clouds themselves: yet, far
beyond its southern shores, we could look right into the dark continent,
across range beyond range of African mountains, terminating only in the
glittering snow-peaks of the Atlas, on the verge of Saharan deserts.
Gibraltar looked like a tiny islet in the Straits, midway between Jebel
Moosa's cloud-wreathed mass, and the loftier Spanish sierras beyond
Algesiraz. Tangier, Ceuta, and Melilla, on the African shore, were
faintly discernible; and, on the Spanish side, the unbroken snows of
Nevada, fifty miles away, glistened in the sunshine as though within
rifle-shot, with all the swelling _vegas_ of Western Andalucia; while,
right beneath us, lay the rich _Ensenada de Marbella_, the fertile
fringe that borders the Mediterranean, white with waving fields of
sugar-cane, cotton, and carob, prolific of date-palm and fig-tree, of
corn, oil, and wine--one of earth's most fruitful gardens.

From our posts, at the head of a dizzy tumble of rocks and screes, no
fewer than five distinct mountain-ranges were in sight, one-rising
beyond the other, the last and loftiest clad in snow. To and fro in
mid-air, far beneath, sailed a superb pair of lammergeyers, their
expanded pinions gleaming almost white in the sunlight. These giant
birds had their eyry in a series of granite _canchos_ near the apex of
the gorge; but, at intervals, also entered a cave in another crag which,
we subsequently ascertained, had formed their home in a previous year.

Amongst the birds observed here, which may be mentioned as typical of
the Mediterranean sierras, were golden, booted, and Bonelli's eagles, a
single griffon-vulture, peregrine and goshawk, a pair of sparrow-hawks,
busy carrying sticks, ravens, jays, great spotted woodpecker, wrens,
crag-martins (_Cotile rupestris_), the usual chats, and a few cushats.
Hawfinches and great tits were abundant among the pines, and in the
early dawn the melodious song of the blue-thrush reminded one of
Scandinavian springs and the redwing's note. Another small bird causes
recurrent annoyance to the ibex-shooter. With a loud "rat-tat-tat,"
closely resembling the patter of horny hoofs on rock, its song
commences; then follows a curious hissing note, not unlike the passing
of a heavy body through brushwood--for a moment one hopes that the
coveted and long-awaited game at length is coming. No! confound that
bird; it's only a redstart!

[Illustration: Plate XXIII.

Page 161.


No ibex, however, appeared here to us expectant. The natives,
_tiradores_ of Enalguacil, of Cöin and other hamlets of the sierra,
sleeping on the open hill, and possessing twice our speed of foot on
their native rocks, were always on our front; and in order to get clear
of competition, we moved our camp across the ridge to the north. This
operation involved sending forward at daybreak a dozen men with hatchets
to clear a way for the laden mules, some fifty or sixty well-grown
pines, with hundreds of lesser growth, perishing before a passage was
practicable. We encamped on a forest-opening at a spot called the Majáda
del Alcornoque, altitude 3,400 feet, the same evening--first having to
remove several hundred stones from the camping-ground, for almost each
afforded shelter to a scorpion or gigantic centipede.

Here, during the next few days, we had the (to us) singular experience
of ibex-driving in thick pine-forest and deep wooded ravines, with
generally a strong undergrowth of bushes and scrub--the _beau idéal_ of
a roe-deer country, but the last place in the world in which we should
have expected wild-goat. The goats were there, nevertheless, for females
and young males were seen on different occasions by guns or beaters. In
one tremendous clam-shaped gorge, an ibex and a wild pig were both on
foot at once! The only ibex the present writer had the luck to see in
this part of the sierra--which seemed to be composed almost entirely of
ironstone and other mineral ores--was by a purely fortuitous encounter.
On the sudden lifting of a dense cloud-bank which rested on the
mountain-side, I descried, right above me, four ibex--including two
fair-sized rams--all standing on a projecting rock, in bold relief
against the sky, and not above 400 yards away. The intervening ground
was rugged--rocks and brushwood with scattered pines--and, except for
the first fifty yards, the stalk seemed to offer no great difficulty.
Already I had passed the dangerous bit, and had crawled near 200 yards,
when, alas! in a moment the wet mist settled down again, and I saw no
more of the game.

Curiously, on the fog first lifting, a large eagle sat, all bedraggled
and woe-begone, on a rock-point not forty yards from my shelter, his
feathers all fluffed out, and a great yellow talon protruding, as it
seemed, from the very centre of his chest. Then a faint sun-ray played
on his tawny plumage; he shook himself together, and launched out in air
to renew his hunt, sweeping downwards close past me--luckily without
disturbing the ibex, though I saw them take note of the circumstance.

To our other misfortunes was now superadded the discomfort of bad
weather. Here is an extract from diary:--March 31st.--Glass fell last
night four-tenths to 25' 85", and the morning broke with a whole gale
from W., bitterly cold, with driving masses of cloud, gradually changing
to rain and sleet--a bad prospect.

[Illustration: SOARING VULTURE.]

The rain, fog, and gale continuing, sporting operations were
interrupted, and a fine male ibex, shot the night before, was lost, it
being no longer possible to follow the trail. We endured a pretty bad
time of it, under canvas, in our mountain-perch; but for our poor
beaters it was ten-fold worse--sleeping on the bare ground beneath
torrential rains, or under such scant shelter of pine-branches as they
could rig up.

We had about a score of these mountaineers in our employ--a
wild-looking lot, who, when not otherwise engaged, were chiefly
_contrabandistas_. Many of these _serranos_ had joined our party purely
for the love of sport, and for no pay beyond such frugal fare as our
camp might afford--scanty enough some days, though good red wine and
cigarettes were never wanting. The previous week a somewhat serious
affray, we now heard, had taken place close by. A gang of 100 smugglers
convoying thirty horse-loads of tobacco, &c., were attacked at the
passage of the Guadiarro by a force of fifty carabineers. Many shots
were exchanged, the smugglers being armed with Remingtons, with the
result that seven men were killed and many others wounded. The whole of
the thirty cargoes were eventually captured, but the horses escaped, the
smugglers cutting the girth-ropes; nor were any prisoners made. This
information was given us by the Colonel of carabineers commanding the
district, whom we met a few days later in Estepona.

Here is another reflex of local character--a cutting from a Malaga paper
of April 1st, 1891, among the ordinary items of local news:--

"BANDIDO.--The Civil Guard of Malaga encountered on Wednesday, near
Cöin, the celebrated bandit Mena, who has long held the whole of that
district in terror. The individuals of the Civil Guard demanded his
surrender, to which summons he replied with the discharge of his weapon.
This brought on a ferocious struggle, resulting in the death of the
freebooter, who received two bullet-wounds from his aggressors."

Such tendencies become infectious, and, as a relief to the tedium of
forced inactivity, and wet days under canvas--for the flooded
_gargantas_ made sport impossible--it occurred to one restless spirit
that we might ourselves embark in this popular business of
_bandolerismo_. Had we not a score of bold brigands ready at our hand?
And, besides, there was not wanting eminently suitable material for
"sequestration"--what a subject for a chapter! But ... well, the
opportunity was thrown away, and, the deluge still continuing, in the
morning our smuggler-chief, old Marquéz, came in to say that the
people, like the Israelites of old, wished to depart, each man to his
own house--"cada uno a su casa."

[Illustration: FOREST-IBEX--BERMEJA. (Showing narrower sweep of horn.)]

Though we did not succeed in obtaining a really first-rate ibex-head
during this campaign in the southern sierras, yet, judging from two
_machos_ subsequently secured on an adjacent range (three and
five-year-old males respectively), the difference in the form of horn in
these forest-haunting goats from those of the Alpine sierras is only
trifling. Compared with circumference, the horns are of lesser length,
and hardly, perhaps, branch out so widely; but that may, after all, be
only a question of age.

IBEX-STALKING.--It may occur to the sportsman-reader to observe that we
have said very little of ibex-_stalking_. The reason is that, as before
mentioned, we have little but negative experiences to relate, having met
with no success ourselves in that sport. Both in Andalucia and the
Castiles we have followed some of the longest and most severe days' work
in search of ibex, but without success. The ibex are relatively _very
scarce_, scattered sparsely over vast areas, and rarely to be seen on
the move during daylight. It is, of course, in all stalking a first
essential that a great extent of country be brought under survey. This
implies covering long distances; and the extreme difficulties of
locomotion on the Spanish cordilleras forbid this. We do not speak
without a basis of comparative experience, having seen something of
mountain-game in various lands. It may be that we lack speed of foot in
traversing those rugged rock-peaks--we are far from denying this, let
those smile who may. Few will do so who have once attempted to seek out
and stalk the wild ibex--or it may be only bad luck. At any rate, our
hardest days on Nevada or Gredos have not, so far, been rewarded by a
single shot, or even by the sight of an ibex in a position where a stalk
might be dreamt of.


The grandeur of the Sierra Nevada, with its lofty sky-lines, all white
and clean-cut against an azure background, majestic Mulahacen and the
Picachos de la Veleta, are familiar objects to most visitors to Southern
Spain. The majority, however, are content with the distant view from the
palace-fortresses of the Alhambra or the turrets of the Generalife. Few
dream of penetrating those alpine solitudes or scaling their peaks,
which look so near, yet cost such toil and labour to gain. Yet the
labour is repaid, if the traveller has an eye for what is wildest and
grandest in nature.

For ourselves, we are not ashamed to admit that these snow-clad sierras
possess attractions that transcend in interest even the accumulated
art-treasures and wealth of historic and legendary lore that surround
the shattered relics of Moslem rule--of an empire-city where for seven
centuries the power and faith of the crescent dominated the south-west
of Europe, and which formed the home and the centre of mediæval chivalry
and culture. These subjects and sentiments, moreover, stand in no need
of a historian: they have engaged the sympathy of legion pens, many
directed by a grace, a power and a knowledge to which we dream not of
aspiring. To us Granada has rather been merely a "base of operations"
whence the ibex and lammergeyer might conveniently be studied or

Of our own experiences amidst the twin heights of Nevada and the
Alpujarras we might write: but, in this case, we have preferred to avail
ourselves of certain notes for which we are indebted to two good friends
and thorough sportsmen, in the hope that the change may be to the reader
a pleasing contrast from the _semper ego_ otherwise inevitable.

       *       *       *       *       *

On a bitterly cold March morning we found ourself, as day slowly broke,
traversing the outspurs of the sierra--on the scene of the great
earthquake of 1884, evidences of which were plentiful enough among the
scattered hill-villages. Already many mule-teams, heavily laden with
merchandise from the coast-town of Motril, were wending their laborious
way inland. It is worth noting that in front of five or six laden mules
it is customary to harness a single donkey. This animal does little
work: but always passes approaching teams on the proper side, and,
moreover, picks out the best parts of the road. This enables the driver
to go to sleep, and the plan, we were told, is a good one.

At Lanjaron we breakfasted at the ancient _fonda_ of San Rafael, where
the bright and beautifully polished brass and copper cooking utensils
hanging on the walls were a sight to make a careful housewife envious.
We watched our breakfast cooked over the charcoal-fire, and learned a
good deal thereby. We were delayed here a whole day by snow-storms.
There is stabling under the _fonda_ for 500 pack-animals, for Lanjaron
in its "season" is an important place, frequented by invalids from far
and near. Its mineral-springs are reputed efficacious: but the drainage
arrangements are villainous in the extreme, and altogether it seemed a
village to be avoided. Sad traces of the cholera were everywhere
visible, many doors and lintels bearing the ominous sign: it was curious
that in so few cases had it been erased.

We left before daybreak, and a few leagues further on the ascent became
very steep and abrupt, the hill-crests whither we were bound within
view, but wreathed in mist. Only one traveller did we meet in the long
climb from Orjiva to Capileira, and he bringing two mule-loads of dead
and dying sheep, worried by wolves just outside Capileira the night
before. Expecting that the wolves would certainly return, we prepared to
wait up that night for them: but were dissuaded, the argument being
"that is exactly what they will expect! No, those wolves will probably
not come back this winter." But return they did, both that night and
several following. The night before we left Capileira on the return
journey (a fortnight later), they came in greater numbers than ever and
killed over twenty sheep.

Capileira is the highest hamlet in the sierra, and is celebrated for its
hams, which are cured in the snow. Here we put up for the night,
sleeping as best we could amidst fowls and fleas, after an amusing
evening spent around the fire, where one pot cooked for forty people
besides ourselves. The cold was intense, streams of fine snow whirling
in at pleasure through the crazy shutters: so we were glad to go to
bed--indeed I was chased thither by a hungry sow on the prowl, seeking
something to eat, apparently in my portmanteau.

Heavy snow-falls that night and all next day prevented our advance: but
at an early hour on the following morning we were under way--six of
us--on mules, though I would have preferred to walk, the snow being so
deep one could not see where the edges of the precipices were. No sooner
had I mounted than the mule fell down, while crossing a hill-torrent,
and I was glad to find the water no deeper. After climbing steadily
upwards all the morning, the last two hours on foot, the snow knee-deep,
we at length sighted the cairn on the height to which we were bound.
Before nightfall we had reached the point, but few of the mules
accomplished the last few hundred yards. After bravely trying again and
again, the poor beasts sank exhausted in the snow, and we had to carry
up the impedimenta ourselves in repeated journeys. The deep snow, the
tremendous ascent, and impossibility of seeing a foothold made this
porterage most laborious: but we had all safely stowed in our cave
before sundown.

The overhanging rock, which for the next ten or twelve days was to serve
as our abode, we found a mass of icicles. These we proceeded to clear
away, and then by a good fire to melt our ice-enamelled rock-ceiling,
fancying that the constant drip on our noses all night might be
unpleasant. The altitude of our ledge above sea-level was about 8,500
feet, and our plateau of rest--our home, so to speak--measured just
seven yards by two.

Early next morning we proceeded to erect snow-screens at favourable
passes, wherein to await the wild-goats as they moved up or down the
mountain-side at dawn and dusk respectively, their favourite food being
the rye-grass which the peasants from the villages below contrive to
grow in tiny patches--two or three square yards scattered here and there
amidst the crags. It is only by rare industry that even so paltry a crop
can be snatched at such altitudes, and during the short period when the
snow is absent from the southern aspects. At present it enveloped
everything--not a blade of vegetation, nor a mouthful for a wild-goat
could be seen.

Although in going to our _puestos_ during the day the snow was generally
soft--the sun being very hot--yet in returning after dark we found the
way most dangerous, traversing a sloping, slippery ice-surface like a
huge glacier, where a slip or false step would send one down half a mile
with nothing to clutch at or to save oneself. Such a slide meant death,
for it could only terminate in an awful precipice or in one of those
horrible holes with a raging torrent to receive one in its dark abyss,
and convey the fragments beneath the snow--where to appear next? Each
step had to be cut with a hatchet, or hollowed--the butt of a rifle is
not intended for such work, but has had to perform it.

Every day here we saw goats on or about the snow-fields and towering
rocks above our cave. They were of a light fawn colour, very shaggy in
appearance, some males carrying magnificent long horns. One old ram
seemed to be always on the watch, kneeling down on the very verge of a
crag 500 or 600 yards above us, and which commanded a view for
miles--_miles_, did we say? paltry words! From where that goat was, he
could survey half-a-dozen provinces.

These ibex were quite inaccessible, and though daily seen, nearly a week
had passed away ere a wild-goat gave us a chance. One night shortly
after quitting my post, little better than a human icicle, and not
without fear of the dangers of scrambling cave-wards, in absolute
darkness along the ice-slope, a little herd of goats passed--mere
shadows--within easy shot of where, five minutes before, I had been
lying in wait. On another morning at dawn the tracks of a big male
showed that he, too, must have passed at some hour of the night within
five-and-twenty yards of the snow-screen.


But it was not till a whole week had elapsed that we had the ibex really
in our power. Just as day broke a herd of eight--two males and six
females--stood not forty yards from our cave-dwelling. The fact was
ascertained by one Esteban, a Spanish sportsman whom we had taken with
us. Silently he stole back into the cave, and without a word, or
disturbing the dreams of his still sleeping employers, picked up an
"express" and went forth. Then the loud double report at our very
doors--that is, had there been a door--aroused us, only to find ... the
spoor of that enormous ram, the spot where he had halted, listening,
close above the cave, and the splash of the lead on the rock
beyond--_eighteen inches_ too low! an impossible miss for any one used
to the "express." Oh, Esteban, Esteban! what were our feelings towards
you on that fateful morn!

Life in a mountain-cave high above the level of perpetual snow--six men
huddled together in the narrow space, two English and four
Spaniards--has its weird and picturesque, but it has also its harder
side. Yet those days and nights, passed amidst majestic scenes and
strange wild beasts, have left nothing but pleasant memories, nor have
their hardships deterred one of us from repeating the experiment.
Probably both these campaigns were too early in the season (March and

The only birds seen in the high sierra were choughs and ravens:
ring-ouzels a little lower down. There were plenty of trout, though
small, in the hill-burns. On one occasion we witnessed an extraordinary
circular rainbow across a deep gorge, with our own figures perfectly
reflected in the centre on passing a given point.

The ice-going abilities of the mountaineers were something
marvellous--incredible save to an eye-witness. Across even a north
drift, hard and "slape" as steel, and hundreds of yards in extent, these
men would steer a sliding, slithering course at top speed, directed
towards some single projecting rock. To miss that refuge might mean
death: but they did not miss it, ever, in their perilous course, making
good a certain amount of forward movement. At that rock they would
settle in their minds the next point to be reached, quietly smoking a
cigarette meanwhile before making a fresh start. How such performances
diminish one's own self-esteem! How weak are our efforts! Even on the
softer southern drifts, what balancing, what scrambling and crawling on
hands and knees one finds necessary, and what a "cropper" one would have
come but for the friendly arm of Enrique, who, as he arrests one's
perilous slide, merely mutters "Ave Maria purissima!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Now we have left the ice and snow and the ibex to wander in peace over
their lonely domains. To-night we have dined at a _table_: there is a
cheery fire in the rude little _posada_ and merry voices, contrasting
with the silence of our cave, where no one spoke above a whisper, and
where no fire was permissible save once a day to heat the _olla_. Now
all we need is a song from the Murillo-faced little girl who is fanning
the charcoal-embers. "Sing us a couplet, Dolores, to welcome us back
from the snows of Alpujarras!"

_Dolores_: With the greatest pleasure, _Caballero_, if José will play
the guitar. No one plays like José, but he is tired, having travelled
all day with his mules from Lanjaron.

_José_: No, señor, not tired, but I have no soul to-night to play. This
morning they asked me to bring medicine from the town for Carmen: but
when I reached the house she was dead. I find myself very sad.

_Dolores_: "Pero, si ya tiene su palma y su corona?" ...but as she
already has her palm and her crown?

_José_: That is true! Bring the guitar and I will see if it will quit me
of this _tristeza_!

Next morning the snow prevented our leaving: and the day after, while
riding away, we met some of the villagers carrying poor Carmen to the
burial-ground on the mountain-side. The body, plainly robed in white,
was borne on an open bier, the hands crossed and head supported on
pillows, thus allowing the long unfettered hair to hang down loose
below. It was an impressive and a picturesque scene; and as I rode on,
the rejoinder of Dolores came to my mind--"Ya tiene su palma y su



A land without Trout labours, in our eyes, under grave physical
disadvantages; its currency is, metaphorically, below par, its stocks at
a discount. The absence of many modern luxuries in Spain--say, manhood
suffrage, school-boards, and the like--we can survive; the absence of
trout, never. Not even the presence on mountain, moor, or marsh, of such
noble denizens as Spain can boast--the ibex, bustard, and boar, the lynx
and lammergeyer--can wholly, from an angler's point of view, fill the
void, or atone for the absence of sparkling streams and that gamest of
fresh-water game, the trout. The reproach, however, does not apply; for,
to her many sporting treasures, Spain can claim, in addition, this gem
of the subaqueous world. No one, however, it should be added, who has
other lands open to him, should ever go to Spain expressly for

Subject to the provisoes that follow (fairly extensive ones, too), trout
may be said to exist sporadically all over the Iberian Peninsula; but,
in the south, they are limited to the alpine streams of the sierras, and
seldom descend below the 2,000 feet level. Troutlets abound in the
mountain-torrents of the loftiest southern sierras (Nevada, Morena,
Ronda, and all their infinite ramifications), the larger fish seeking
rather lower levels and deeper pools. Three-pounders grace the classic
streams of Genil and Darro, and deserve attention from angling visitors
to the famed Moorish fortress of Boabdil and his dark-eyed houris. The
Guadiarro, also, and some others of the Mediterranean rivers, afford
shelter, in their middle and upper waters, to _Salmo fario_.

In the sluggish, mud-charged rivers of the corn-plains, and of the
upland plateaux, the trout, of course, finds no place. The finned
inhabitants of these regions, so far as our limited knowledge goes, are
the shad (_sábalo_) and coarse fish, such as dace (_lisa_) and his
congeners, with monster eels, crayfish, and the like. But as the
rock-ramparts of the Castiles and Northern Estremadura are approached,
our speckled friend again appears. Beneath the towering sierras of
Gredos and Avila we have landed him while resting from the severer
labours of ibex-hunting on the heights above.

These upland streams of Castile run crystal-clear, with alternate pools
and rapids in charming sequence. Many closely resemble our moorland
burns of Northumbria--even the familiar sandpiper, the white-chested
dipper, and the carol of the sky-lark (a note unheard in Southern
Spain), are there to heighten the similitude; but here, heather and
bracken are replaced by _bresos_ and _piornales_--shrubs whose English
names (if they have any) we know not. The trout run smaller in inverse
ratio of the altitude; in a stream at 8,000 feet the best averaged four
to the pound; in another, barely below snow-level, six or eight would be
required to complete that weight--small enough, but welcome as a change,
both of sport and fare. Who, but an angler, though, can appreciate the
heaven-sent joys of casting one's lines on "fresh streams and waters

This watershed marks the southern limit at which (within our
observation) the art of fly-fishing is practised by Spanish anglers--of
their more usual modes of taking the trout, we treat anon. Fly-fishing,
did we say? Fishing with fly would be a more accurate definition; the
moment a trout seizes the rudely-tied feathers, he is jerked out,
regardless of size or sport--the tackle used, it goes without saying, is
of the strongest and coarsest. To play and land a trout _secundum artem_
was, we were assured, impossible, by reason of the _malésas_--weeds,
snags, and rocks, which stud the arcana of the depths. But it fell to
our lot to demonstrate to our worthy friends that this theory was
untenable. With a light twelve-foot bamboo, and on gut finer far than
ever entered a Spanish angler's dream (though it all comes from
Catalonia), we had the satisfaction of raising, playing, and landing
sundry creels-full of shapely fish that exceeded, both as to numbers and
weight, the best local performances in manifold proportion. Do not, kind
reader, attribute egotistic motives for this statement. No great measure
of skill was required to treble or quadruple the natives' takes; and any
angler will say at once that such was just the result that might have
been expected. While we write, comes a letter from that out-of-the-world
spot, asking for a supply of our English gut and flies.


In Portugal also--save on the monotonous levels of the Alemtejo and
Algarve--the trout exists in nearly all suitable localities--that is,
they are confined to the streams of the hill-country of the north. Years
ago, on the virgin rivers of the Entre-Douro-e-Minho, our friend Mr. J.
L. Teage enjoyed good sport with trout and gillaroo. It was indeed, to
some extent, the success of his _mosca encantada_ that helped to arouse
the slumbering utilitarian greed of the simple Lusitanian peasant, who,
seeing, or thinking that he saw, an undreamed source of wealth in his
rivers, borrowed of his Basque and Galician neighbours their deadly
systems of poison and dynamite, and proceeded forthwith to kill the
goose that laid this golden egg. As a natural result, at the present day
many of the waters of Northern Portugal are all but depopulated--hardly
a sizeable fish can now be taken where four or five-pounders swam of

It is, however, the northern provinces of Spain, the Asturias and
Cantabrian highlands, and the rivers that run into Biscay, that form the
true home of Iberian _Salmonidæ_. Here, in a land of towering mountains,
pine-clad and mist-enshrouded, and of rushing, rapid streams, are found
both the salmon, the sea-trout, and the yellow trout.[39]

Of the Salmon (_Salmo salar_) in Spain, we have had no experience, and
will say nothing more than that the southernmost limit of its range
appears to be the river Minho, on the frontier of Portugal, and that the
resistless energy of British sportsmen has succeeded (despite the local
difficulties referred to later) in acquiring fishing rights of no small
excellence. Nor have we fished specially for the sea-trout, which are
killed with fly and other sporting lures, both in the upper streams and
in the brackish waters of the tideways, all along the Biscayan coast,
commencing to "run" in February. Some of their habits appear here to
differ from what we observe at home; but, without more precise
knowledge, we prefer to pass them by for the present.

No more lovely trouting waters can angling introspect conceive than some
of those in Northern Spain. Now surging through some tortuous gorge in
successive pools, dark, and foam-flecked, each of which look like
"holds" for monsters; now opening out on a hill-girt plateau, where the
current broadens into rippled shallows, with long-tailed runs and
hollowed banks, the Cantabrian rivers offer promises all too fair. For
the unfortunate trout has no fair play meted out to him in this hungry
land. No count is taken of his noble qualities, nor of his economic
necessities. Poor _Salmo fario_ is here simply a comestible, and nothing
more. In season and out, throughout the twelvemonth, he is
persecuted--done to death with nets, poison, and dynamite. We have
elsewhere remarked on the paradoxical character of the Spanish
_cazador_, and that of the _pescador_ is the same. Though observant of
his quarry, apt, intelligent, and highly skilled in the arts of sport,
yet he is not a sportsman in the truer sense of the term. His object is
utilitarian, not sentimental--he cultivates knowledge and the practices
of field-craft simply that he may fill the _puchero_.

A large proportion of the adult male population of each riverside hamlet
in Northern Spain are _pescadores_--professional fishermen: and all day
long one sees them grovelling among the stones of the river-bed fixing
those hateful funnel-nets that, at night, entrap the luckless trout as
they wander over the shallows. But if they confined their operations to
these, and to the infinite variety of nets of other shapes and forms
that festoon the village street, things might not be so bad, nor the
case of the trout so hopeless and desperate. They have far more deadly
devices for massacre by wholesale. Into the throat of some lovely stream
is tipped a barrow-load of quicklime: down goes the poisonous dose,
dealing out death and destruction to every fish, great or small, in that
stream: and, if that is not enough, or if the pool is long and sullen,
he proceeds to blow up its uttermost depths with dynamite. And in the
hot summer months, when the streams, at lowest summer-level, run almost
dry, the heaviest trout are decimated by "tickling."

These methods prevail in every part of Spain and Portugal where trout or
other edible fish exist. What chance have they to live?

There are, moreover, difficulties, either of law or of custom, that, in
some parts of Spain, render the preservation of rivers troublesome, if
not impossible. Hence the poor Spanish Salmonidæ can hardly hope to
receive that ægis of kindly protection that has been so advantageously
(for them, and others) extended to their British and Scandinavian

Another drawback--which, though common to most lands, is specially
pronounced in metalliferous Spain--lies in the noxious effusions from
mines, which are freely discharged, for private profit, into public
waters. This evil was forcibly brought home by our first day's
experience in Cantabria. Hour after hour we had plied most lovely water
without success--fly, worm, and phantom alike failed to elicit a single
response. On returning with empty creel to the _posada_, to us our host,
"_Hombre_, have you been fishing the Tesarco? _Que disparate!_ there is
a copper-mine two leagues further up: there have been no fish in that
river for years." Considering that we had employed a local guide,
furnished by the said host, the occasion appeared to justify a protest
of not unmeasured wrath. But there is no use losing one's temper in
Spain: no quality there so valuable as patience: and the reward of a
modicum of reasoned restraint was that the rough, but kind-hearted
Asturian insisted next morning on accompanying us himself to another
river, seven miles away, where we enjoyed, for Spain, excellent sport.

Under the adverse conditions above outlined, it would be irrational to
look for any very great measure of success in Spanish trouting--though,
were it possible (which it is not) to secure fair play for the
Salmonidæ, there is no physical or other reason why the Basque and
Biscayan provinces might not rival either Scotch or Scandinavian waters.
The following brief records of a few experiences in Northern Spain will
serve to illustrate what may be expected, in a sporting sense, of the
Cantabrian trout.


The Province of Santandér, hardly less wild and mountainous than the
Asturias, presents somewhat similar conditions of water, fish, and
sport. The Cantabrian range, extending from Pyrenees to Atlantic, the
common southern boundary of all the Biscayan provinces, attains in
Santandér some of its greatest elevations, including the celebrated
Picos de Europa (9,000 feet), the home of the Spanish bear and chamois.
The trend of the land dips gradually from these inland heights towards
the sea: yet even on the coast the scenery is savage and grand, some of
the altitudes being very great. The view looking across the magnificent
harbour of Santandér recalls in the "Sunny South" the scenery of Arctic
Norway, with all the fantastic tracery of snow-mountains and jagged
peaks vividly reflected in the unruffled breadths of the fjord.

The rivers, of course, reflect the characteristics of the land. Born of
the mountain and the snow-field, they come leaping and surging seawards,
dancing to their own wild music, as they crush through narrow gorges, by
crag and hanging wood, hurrying ever northward towards the Biscayan sea.
The angler's path along their banks is no made road: often for miles,
ay, leagues, he may be constrained to follow the goatherds' upland
path--a _camino de perdices_ in native phrase--and only able to gaze
down, like Tantalus, on tempting streams, perhaps close beneath, yet far
beyond his reach.

Here, as elsewhere, success, we found, was not to be had for the wooing,
nor at the first time of asking. Rivers that offered fair
promise--beautiful waters, such as Besaya and Saja, embedded amidst ilex
and chestnut, where moss-grown rocks impended darkly pools, whereon
foam-flakes slowly revolved, or the more rapid streams of Reinosa, full
of cataracts and tearing "races" that eat away their steep
gravel-banks--all these _may_ prove blank, or a long day's work be only
rewarded by a few insignificant troutlets or par.

While fishing in the Reinosa district, we were told by our host that
there lived some few leagues away _un Inglés muy aficionado_--a fishing
enthusiast. Thither we moved our quarters: our new-made friend was one
of those Anglo-Saxon Crusoes whom one meets with, self-buried, for one
reason or another, in the recesses of wild lands, where sport or
solitude may be enjoyed in degrees not possible at home. Retired from a
public service through an infirmity begotten by the incidence of his
duties, he was spending the prime of life in this remote spot, satisfied
with an environment of Nature's purest scenes and with a modicum of
sport to reconcile him to exile. A type of the British sportsman abroad
was X., keen almost to a fault, little apt to measure success solely by
results, a hard day's work was not deemed ill-rewarded by a brace or two
of red-legs, or half a dozen quail, while for the chance of a boar he
would walk well-nigh half the night, to reach by dawn the point where
the retreat of some old tusker, which was ravaging the peasants' crops,
might perchance be cut off.

There were six or eight miles to walk on the morrow ere a line was
wetted--at first along a highway, whence X. plunged _in medias res_,
that is into a rough strath, horrid with shifting shingle and thorny
scrub, where progress was painful enough: but our companion never
slacked speed, and when he continued his wild career, unchecked, through
a brawling torrent full of boulders and well-nigh waist-deep, with a
current like a mill-race, doubts of his sanity began to arise: or was he
only testing us? Soon afterwards, providentially, we reached the main
stream: fair trouting water, with rather too much current, the runs
being almost continuous, and leaving scant space of "slack." Here we set
up our rods: the first seething pool yielded a brace, besides false
rises, and in half an hoar we had "creeled" several and began to hope
for better things. But it was not to be.

The trout here were white, or silvery in colour, more like
salmon-smolts--none of the deep greens, violets and gold of our home
fish--and rose extremely shy, coming so short that hardly one in three
gave a chance of getting fast. It was not that they rolled over the
flies, or merely "flicked" at them--they simply came so short that,
unless self-hooked, they were gone almost ere they had come. A dozen
trout was the result of this day, yet our companion told us he had not,
during two years, made a better basket. Oh, tantalizing streams and
provoking troutlets of Biscaya!

Pleasant days, nevertheless, were those spent by this wild riverside.
The love of sport is strong in our breasts, but it is not the sole, or
an all-potent factor therein. Other things are strong to charm, and here
the scenery and accompaniments lacked nothing of beauty and
interest--the grand hills, not high but severe in jagged skylines and
escarpments that shone like marble in the sun. The air resounded with
the music of leaping waters, with the merry carol of Sandpiper and
gentler warble of Whinchat: and further off the soaring flight of
Buzzard and Raven lent life to the silent hills.[40] From rock-crannies,
splashed with the spray of trickling rivulets from above, peeped
bouquets of gentian and maiden-hair: the stony "haughs" glowed with
bloom of purple iris and asphodel, anemones and wild geraniums, orchids,
heaths, ferns, and wild-flowers of a hundred kinds unknown to us.

The weather of the Cantabrian spring-time is strangely variable: every
day we had spells of sunshine and shower, wind and calm, fog and fair
alternately, often culminating in a sudden clap of thunder that rolled
majestically along the deep ravines. Then, for an hour, came down the
rain in torrents, and we sought the shelter of some village _venta_
where, for a _peseta_, we fared sumptuously on good white bread and the
delicious cream-like cheese known as _queso de Burgos_, washed down with
the rough red wine of Rioja, cheaper than "smallest beer," and most

In every hamlet hung fishing-nets: every day we saw the "fishermen"
fixing them, and heard of two-pounders. Yet to us, striving with all the
skill we possess, appeared none of these leviathans. Nothing we could do
availed to cajole them--that is, assuming their existence. A basket of
one to two dozen trout daily, including sundry half-pounders, appeared
to be the measure of the river's capacity, or of our skill.

Our best basket in this Province of Santandér was twenty-eight trout,
weighing eight and a half pounds, and the best fish a fine trout of just
over the pound. Him we killed in a deep pool so embedded amidst crags
and so difficult of access, that it may be doubted whether feathered fly
had ever before flown over its virgin depths. Our friend rose boldly to
a small "red palmer": and within a few minutes two more, of hardly
inferior weight, had joined him in the basket.




The wide pastoral province of Leon, with its unexplored wilds of the
Vierzo and the Maragateria, and many another savage region bordering on
the southern slopes of the Galician and Cantabrian highlands, is
practically a _terra incognita_ to British sportsman and naturalist.
Well would Leon repay either of these for the enterprise expended on its
exploration. Mountain and plain afford shelter for game--large and
small--of all the kinds native to Spain; while the rivers flowing
southwards from the Asturian ranges probably afford as good
trout-fishing as any in the Peninsula.

Our own experiences in Leon were limited, as regards its trouting
capacities, to a mere flying visit, when we alighted one morning in
mid-May, at a wayside station in North Leon, tempted to break a
monotonous journey by the trout-like appearance of a stream that, for
some distance, had run more or less parallel with the railway.

The country immediately adjacent was not attractive; flat, tawny, and
arid, with few trees and very partial cultivation. On either bank, at a
mile or two's distance, rose ranges of low broken hills, gradually
increasing in height as they closed in upon the river. Here and there
stood scattered hamlets, all built of the yellowish sun-baked brick
characteristic of Leon; the houses huddled together, and usually
enclosed by the remnants of a former wall or fortification.

It was nearly noon ere we reached the waterside, at the head of a long
stretch of deep, still water, fringed on the opposite shore with canes
and bulrushes, and well rippled by a strong breeze. The sun-glare was
intense; and, though the wind enabled us to command the whole water, an
hour's fishing (with fly) only resulted in the capture of sundry large
silvery coarse fish, resembling dace, and weighing from half a pound to
a pound and a quarter, and a few small fry--we imagine, bleak. We
therefore decided to walk up-stream three or four miles, to the point
where its course joined one of the hill-ranges just mentioned. Here, in
many places, abrupt limestone crags formed the farther shore; beneath,
the stream ran deep, bright, and sparkling, shallowing away to the
shelving gravel on our shore, and at each bend forming a pretty pool.

For a long time this likely water produced actually nothing, and we
began to fear that our venture in stopping at this outlandish spot was a
failure. But as the shadows lengthened and the sun left the water, there
came a change. The long-expected and welcome sensation of a determined
"rise" was followed by another and another in quick succession; and in
the last hour of the day we landed nineteen trout, weighing between
seven and eight pounds, of which aggregate the three largest accounted
for one-third.

Fully half the trout killed on this and succeeding days rose to a small
orange hackle; a bracken-clock, or "coch-y-bondu," as we believe is the
proper name, being the next favourite. Winged flies should be small, and
of bright colours, and, in the clear waters of Spain, only the finest
gut should be used.

Further west, in the Astorga and Ponferrada districts, are probably the
best streams of Leon; but these we have not had time to visit.

THE ASTURIAS.--This province is to Spain what the Scotch Highlands are
to England--a

    Land of brown heath and shaggy wood,
    Land of the mountain and the flood.

From the north, the Asturias may be reached by sea; but on the south the
only pass through the continuous mountain-ranges which cut off this
rugged province from Leon and transmontane Spain, is by the _puertos_
of Vegarada and Piedrafita, which lead into the upland valleys of the
Pajáres mountains, one of the chief strongholds of the Spanish bear, and
where boar, chamois, and other game are also found.

The extremely abrupt and rugged nature of the river-valleys is, in some
sense, a serious drawback to the angler. Many a lovely pool or stretch
of perfect trouting-water are absolutely inaccessible--cut off for ever
in the depths of some precipitous defile. Broken boulders often impend
the river's course for miles, and hopelessly obstruct descent. In other
places the water-side can at length be reached after perilous scrambles
along rock-ledges, threading the rod through a maze of birch and alder
branches. And one picks a precarious path downwards with the knowledge
that, even when reached, the range of fishable water will be limited,
and the return journey almost worse than the descent.

These hardly-gained pools are, however, worth the trouble of trying.
For, in proportion to their difficulty of access, so are they neglected
by the native _pescador_, with all his poaching paraphernalia and
hateful engines of destruction.

Our first essay proved blank; the season (May) was, perhaps, too early,
and only a few silvery troutlets rewarded a long day's work. This was a
small stream, overhung with magnificent chestnuts; but a neighbouring
and larger river afforded, for Spain, fair sport. The first series of
pools yielded a dozen trout, averaging half a pound. Then came the usual
scramble to reach the next fishable bit. While climbing out, over a
chaos of tumbled boulders, we almost stepped on a big Marten (_Mustela
martes_, Linn.), which bounded from under foot, up the rocks; then
turned, and stood chattering savagely at the intruder, her yellow chest
not twenty yards away. Probably she had her brood hidden in some
crevice, but we could see nothing of them.

Thus, half fishing, half struggling with geological obstructions, we had
accumulated a basket of thirty odd trout, when we observed in the glen
below a stretch of lovely water. There were four pools, each debouching
into the next in a strong stream that ruffled half the pool below. But
the river ran in a deep ravine, the descent was worse than ever, and for
some time it was doubtful if we should ever stand on that virgin shore.
We succeeded, however; and presently, across the throat of the upper
"run," extended the cast of stone-fly, black gnat, and orange-red
spider--possibly the first that ever swept the stream. In a moment we
were fast in a trout of the first rank, which had seized the upper fly.
His defence was sullen and strong, slowly moving round the pool; then he
twice threw himself a clear yard out of water--a grand silver-clad
trout. The end came in due course, but unhastened, and having no net, no
risks were run till he rolled over on his glittering side, and could
safely be towed in shore, and "docked" in a shallow creek. This trout
(one of our best in Spain) was a thick and shapely fish of rather under
three pounds, pale in colour, almost silvery, with delicate orange
blush, which hardly extended to the fins. He was fairly crammed with
creeper, or larvæ of stone-fly (in Spanish, _coco_), yet had fallen a
victim to the similitude of the perfect insect--the only large fish, by
the way, killed on this fly, the majority preferring the small

[Illustration: "VANQUISHED."]

In the same pool we killed two more--a half-pounder, with a smaller fish
on the same cast; while the three lower pools yielded nine trout, three
averaging a pound apiece, two of three-quarters, and four of minor
dimensions--making a total for the day of forty-four trout.

This last short hour's work had realized some ten pounds' weight of
fish--the best sport with the trout-rod the writer ever enjoyed in

THE GAME-BIRDS OF THE ASTURIAS.--It may be appropriate, before leaving
this northern province, to add a few lines on its game-birds, which
differ greatly from those of the south of Spain.

First comes the Capercaillie, which is spread along the whole Cantabrian
range, though in no great numbers, and rarely seen in spring, when they
lie extremely close in the densest thickets of the forests. We only
raised three or four during many long rambles through the Asturian
forests in search of Bruin. The Asturian name is "el Faisan."

Ptarmigan are found in the Pyrenees, but do not seem to extend further
west than the province of Navarre. Manuel de la Torre assured us that
there was, in the Asturias, a _Perdiz grisa_ which lived exclusively in
the woods, a tame bird, lying very close, and in autumn flying in bands.
Could this be the Hazel-grouse? According to Arévalo, that species is
only found in the Pyrenees.

Our familiar Grey Partridge (a bird entirely unknown in the south) we
also met with both in the Pyrenees and the Asturias, where it is not
uncommon; but is said not to pass southward of the great cordillera of
Leon. In this country, the Grey Partridge is confined to the higher
regions of the sierras, only coming down with the snow to the _faldas_,
or foothills, in winter, and is _never_ found on the plains as at home.

One other bird peculiar to this region, though not game, deserves a
remark: the Great Black Woodpecker (_Picus martius_), which is found
distributed along all the northern forests. It is, however, very
scarce--though least so in the Peñas de Europa.




With her vast expanses of sierra and lonely scrub-clad wastes, scarcely
inhabited save by ill-tended herds of cattle or goats, but abounding in
wild-life--furred, feathered, and scaled--Spain affords conditions
peculiarly favourable to raptorial animals. Of the eagle-tribe some
eight or nine species are recognized as belonging to the Spanish
avi-fauna--some peculiar to the mountain-region, others to the steppe
and prairie, as we now proceed to explain. We have ourselves shot all
the different kinds of eagle, save two, which are comparatively scarce
and irregular stragglers to the Peninsula--namely, _Haliæetus albicilla_
and _Aq. nævia_.

The first of the tribe to attract our attention was the Spanish Imperial
Eagle (_Aquila adalberti_ of R. Brehm), one of the handsomest of
European species, a few pairs of which still inhabit most of the wilder
provinces of Central and Southern Spain, though their numbers in
Andalucia have been grievously reduced since we first met with them in
1872. To shoot this bird was long an ambition of the writer, the
attainment of which cost many a long week of hard work, hard fare, and
more than one bitter disappointment. All attempts in those earlier days
to approach the Imperial Eagle on the open plains which form its
favourite home proved futile; though on many occasions we fell in with
the bird conspicuously perched, according to its habit during the
mid-day heats, on some dead tree or the top of a pine. In later years we
have succeeded in this feat, but at that time the most carefully
executed "stalk" invariably failed for one reason or another; nor could
the eagle be beguiled to come to a bait. Nothing remained but to take
what is perhaps an unfair advantage. On April 16th we found a nest, a
broad platform of branches built on the very summit of a towering
_alcornoque_. Beneath this, in a hut of cistus-twigs, a prey to myriad
mosquitoes, I awaited the eagle's return. Slowly passed some hours of
torture before she re-appeared, took one wide circuit around, and
descended with a rush like a whirlwind upon her eyry, completely
disappearing from view within its ample circumference. This event I had
not foreseen, and hoped to kill the eagle in the act of alighting. Now
it only remained to put her off. Gently I removed my boots, crept from
the hut, and walked round the tree--a mountain of green foliage. From no
other point was the great nest visible; so I braced up my nerves and
shouted. There followed a slight rustling; then the huge wings extended,
and for a single instant I saw, through intervening foliage, the whole
of the coveted symmetrical form, ere she wheeled back across the tree. A
No. 1 cartridge crashed through the branches; a shower of leaves and
black feathers floated in the air--instinctively I felt the blow must be
mortal, though no vital spot had been presented. Intense was my joy when
next she appeared, to see the eagle slanting downwards towards the
earth. There she recovered an even keel; the second barrel, too careless
perhaps, had no effect, and the great bird slowly flap--flapped away.
Each moment I watched for her collapse, but she still held on, on,
across the open, and behind some distant trees was lost to view. Then
the iron entered my soul, nor was it any solace to hear, some time
afterwards, that that very afternoon my eagle had been found by a couple
of _carabineros_; not till a fortnight later was the useless corpse


It was the 6th of May before we found another nest in a distant
_dehesa_--again built on an _alcornoque_ (cork-oak), the highest of a
clump bordering a small swamp. This eagle sat close, not moving till I
stood ready beneath. Then she rose to her feet and I shot as she stood
on the nest. She sprang buoyantly upwards, ignoring a second charge
placed under the wing as she wheeled back: then soared blindly over
Felipe, receiving two more cartridges, and after flying some half a mile
slowly settled down to earth in a series of descending circles. Sending
Felipe to recover her, I awaited the return of the male; but the sun was
low on the horizon ere my eyes were gladdened by the sight of his
majestic flight, directly approaching, and with a rabbit hanging from
his claws. With quick "yapping" bark, he perched on an outer branch, and
next moment fell, wing-broken, to the ground.

A magnificent pair they were: their sable-black plumage glossy with
purplish iridescent sheen and with snow-white shoulders. On the occiput
a patch of pale gold, the crown being black. The feet and cere of this
species are pale lemon-yellow; the irides golden, finely reticulated
with hazel.

This eyry contained two eaglets, clad in white down. We have since had
many opportunities of observing the breeding habits of this species on
the wooded plains of Andalucia and Estremadura. The eggs, usually three
in number, are mostly white, more or less splashed or spotted with faint
evanescent reddish or brown shades, and are laid about the middle of
March. The nests of the Imperial Eagle are about four feet across, and
invariably placed on the extreme summit of a tall tree--cork-oak or
pine--all projecting twigs being broken off so as to offer no
obstruction to the sitting bird's view. The nests are flat, lined with
fresh twigs and green pine-needles, and all around and beneath lie
strewn the skulls of hares and rabbits--a perfect Golgotha. We have also
seen the remains of Partridge, Stone-Curlew, Mallard, and wildfowl, but
never those of reptiles. These large nests are most difficult to get
into; their position affording no hand-hold above, and from the extent
to which they overhang, access can only be obtained by a manœuvre
analogous to scaling the futtock-shrouds of an old line-of-battle ship.

The Imperial Eagle is exclusively confined to the _plains_--we have
never seen it in the mountains: its prey consists almost entirely of
rabbits and partridge: it is also said to kill bustards, but this we
think improbable, though the bird, no doubt, is powerful enough. Its
hunting-grounds are the arid, barren _dehesas_ and cistus-wastes--it is
not seen on the cornlands frequented by bustard. The adults are
recognizable at a long distance by their black plumage and snow-white
epaulets--majestic birds of massive, powerful appearance. One also sees
on the plains other large and powerful eagles of a rich tawny-chestnut
colour--very handsome objects as they sit in the sunshine on some lofty

What all these large tawny eagles are is not quite clear; or rather,
their precise specific status is not yet settled. Several experienced
ornithologists scattered throughout the world--Hume, Brooks and Anderson
in India, Cullen in Turkey, Saunders, Irby and Lord Lilford in
Spain--have studied these birds, but hitherto the investigations of
these accomplished naturalists have resulted in qualified, and sometimes
clashing opinions. Extreme difficulties beset the study of the
eagle-tribe, for the living subjects refuse to be studied, and resent
one's most remote propinquity. To go out eagle-shooting is to court
failure. Then, owing to their prolonged adolescence and slow changes of
plumage, a single eagle may pass through several distinct phases, each
more pronounced than those which divide species from species: added to
which is the further fact that while the genus contains several
well-defined types, yet its minor forms intergrade with perplexing
persistency. Without venturing on any dogmatic opinions, we will relate,
as a small contribution towards their natural history, such facts as
have come under our notice during many years' observation of the Spanish

To clear the ground, we must first explain that the young of the
Imperial Eagle are, in their first plumage, of a uniform, rich tawny
chestnut, or _café-au-lait_ colour. We have shot beautiful examples in
this stage in June and July, when, during the intense mid-day heat, the
young eagles are wont to seek the shade of the tree whereon they were
hatched. This plumage continues during two or three years--or more: but
the original brightness and depth of hue is rapidly lost with age and
exposure to the southern sun. In a few months, these young eagles have
faded to an almost colourless, "washed-out" shade that appears almost
white at a distance.[41]

Their next stage is to acquire the dark plumage of maturity--a
metamorphosis which probably extends over several years. The black
feathers growing gradually and irregularly among the light ones, give
the bird, during this period, a peculiar piebald or spotted
appearance--(_see_ photo below). It is also worth adding, as a curious
fact, that many of the feathers of the wing-coverts, scapulars, &c.,
show _light on one side_ of the shaft, and _dark on the other_. During
all this protracted adolescence, it has usually been considered that
these eagles did not breed.


During the winter months in Andalucia one sees many of these
tawny-coloured eagles, the majority pale in hue--"washed-out" as Griffon
Vultures--(undoubtedly young Imperials)--but there are others, less
numerous, of a rich bright chestnut, and some of these, we think, may
belong to a different species.

In April, 1883, the writer found a nest of one of these large tawny
eagles in the distant Corral de la Cita. It was placed on the summit of
a stone-pine, almost covering the broad, bushy top, and we had an
excellent view of the old bird, as she rose from the nest about 100
yards away:--_de las coloradas_, == "one of the tawny kind!" as my
companion remarked. The place was remote, and night too near to allow of
our then awaiting her return (though we _should_ have done so at any
cost), so, after taking the two eggs (large dusky white, quite
spotless), substituting for them a couple of hard-boiled hen's eggs, and
setting a circular steel-trap in the nest, we left it. On returning next
morning there was no sign of the eagle at the nest. After walking all
round, shouting out, and going up an adjacent sand-ridge which all but
overlooked it, we were satisfied she was not there, especially as the
night before she had risen rather wild. Accordingly we prepared to
ascend; but whilst throwing the rope over the lowest branches, a great
shadow suddenly glided across the sand beside me, and on looking up,
there was the great chestnut-coloured eagle slowly flapping from her
nest within fifteen or twenty yards overhead. Before I could drop the
rope and run to my gun, the chance was gone; unluckily, however, the
shot took some effect, and though it failed to stop the eagle, she went
away badly struck, with one leg hanging down, and never returned. Thus,
by bad luck, an opportunity of settling a doubtful point was thrown

[Illustration: TAWNY EAGLE.]

In June of the same year (1883), we obtained a tawny eagle, which we
then imagined would be a young Imperial of the year, and being only
winged, the bird was placed in the garden at Jerez, where it lived till
the autumn of 1885. It was then (at any rate) two and a half years old,
and possibly much older, yet it had never changed colour at all. The
whole plumage was rich tawny chestnut, rather lighter beneath, and the
new autumn feathers, which were growing at the time of the bird's death,
were also coming bright chestnut, and without a sign of black. This
eagle, which we now have set-up, has also, to our eye, quite a different
physical type to _A. adalberti_, old or young, being heavier and more
massive in build, beak, and claws--indeed, almost vulturine (_see_ photo
above). The middle toe appears to have four scutellæ, against six (one
rudimentary) in _A. adalberti_; tail above uniform dark brown. In
captivity it was much noisier, and more _nonchalant_, than the Imperial.

As already mentioned, we have observed these rich-coloured tawny eagles
on many occasions during the winter months. The forest-guards
distinguish them from the young Imperial Eagles, saying they were most
numerous in winter. Casual observation is not, of course, of much value
on fine points, and we give their opinion for what it may be worth. The
late Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria also appears to have found a tawny
eagle nesting in Andalucia ("Sport and Ornithology," p. 491), but did
not secure the birds.

It seems probable that a large tawny-coloured eagle--whether the African
_A. rapax_, or otherwise--_does_ breed in Southern Spain, though
sporadically both as to time and place, the wooded districts around
Córdova being the most likely locality.

       *       *       *       *       *

So far, with slight modifications, we have left this chapter as written
some little time ago; but, since then, we have had further
eagle-experiences (in the spring of 1891), which throw some new light on
the vexed questions referred to. For we have now placed beyond doubt the
fact that the Spanish Imperial Eagle _does_ breed in--what is considered
to be--its "immature" dress; but which would probably be more correctly
expressed by saying that individuals of this species never develope that
black-and-white plumage which has hitherto been regarded as the
invariable adult state.

On February 26th we heard of an eagle's nest at a spot called the
Algaida del Gato, and were assured that, while the female-owner was
black--_de las negras_--her male partner was _pardo_, _i.e._, tawny. The
date, it may be noted, is just a month earlier than we had imagined
these birds usually breed; but on the 28th February this nest certainly
contained two white eggs; and, as certainly, the male eagle was _tawny_:
his partner an ordinary black-plumaged adult. The latter we could have
killed half a dozen times; but the male, realizing, it may be, the
interesting problem which centred itself on his person, gave us no small
trouble ere at last he fell to a long and lucky shot on the wing. His
skin now lies before us--pale tawny chestnut in ground colour, sprinkled
with darker feathers all over, and with _white shoulders_.

A few days afterwards (March 4th), a second pair were discovered
breeding on a big stone-pine in a different district. In this case the
_female_ was tawny, the male black. We watched the pair, with the glass,
at moderate range, for half an hour, and Manuel de la Torre afterwards
told us they had passed over his head within twenty yards, leaving no
doubt as to their respective colours. There was thus no necessity to
shoot them. As it is we fear we may be blamed, for to exterminate a
species in order to clear up some obscure fact in its biology is to
commit a crime under the guise of science; but we have not been guilty
in this or any other instance of needless slaughter; and, in Spain, be
it added, eagles are "vermin" upon whose heads a price is set. The few
shot by us are now valuable and cherished specimens; otherwise they
might, and probably would have, been uselessly destroyed, the beautiful
birds left to rot where they fell.

In April we saw a third example in the hands of a naturalist at
Malaga--a tawny female (without sign of white on shoulders), which we
were told (and do not doubt) was shot from her nest in that province the
preceding week.

The veteran Manuel de la Torre, a classic name in Spanish ornithology,
and one of the keenest and most observant men we ever met, who has spent
the greater part of his seventy years in the destruction of eagles,
foxes, wolves, and other _animales dañinos_--noxious beasts--laughed at
our enthusiasm over this "discovery," saying that he had known of the
fact all his life, and had shot "tawny" Imperials from their nests
before we were born! He asserted that these eagles do not ever,
necessarily, attain the black state; they may live 100 years and yet
not advance beyond the tawny, or "piebald" stages. Good luck and long
life to this dear old man, whose cheery face and voice and ready guitar
have been the life and soul of our camp on some wild nights in the

[Illustration: SPANISH IMPERIAL EAGLE. (Adult Male, shot May 6th,

This discovery leaves the position thus:--The Spanish Imperial Eagle
_does_ breed indiscriminately, whether in the typical adult livery of
black and white, or in any of the various stages of mottled and piebald.
But we are still entitled to the opinion, hereinbefore expressed, that
there _also_ breeds--though rarely--in Spain a true _tawny_ eagle--_Aq.
rapax_, or otherwise. The grounds for this opinion are that the bird we
consider to be the Tawny Eagle is of different type and build, besides
being of a darker and richer colour--always uniform, whereas the
Imperial Eagles breeding in the pale plumage are invariably spotted, or

In leaving the Imperial Eagle we annex weights and dimensions of five
examples killed by us:--

                            Weight.       Expanse.     Length.
    Male, adult (tawny)    8-3/4 lbs.   75-1/2 in.    30    in.
      "     "   (black)    8-1/2  "     74-3/4  "     29-1/2 "
    Female  "      "       9-3/4  "     80-1/2  "     34-3/4 "
      "     "      "      10-1/4  "     82      "     36     "
      "     "      "      10-1/4  "     82-1/4  "     36     "

Of the Booted Eagle (_Aquila pennata_) and the Serpent-Eagle (_Circäetus
gallicus_), both of which are more or less numerous spring-migrants to
Spain, we have treated elsewhere, and need only add that all our
specimens of the Booted Eagle (both sexes) are of the _pale_ variety
with shaded brown back, a broad light bar across either wing, and white,
streaked breast.

The Spotted Eagle (_Aquila nævia_) we have never personally met with:
though Arévalo (_Aves de España_, p. 58) describes it as not uncommon,
nesting in crevices of rocks among the wooded mountains, and frequenting
the rice-swamps of Valencia.

The White-tailed Sea-Eagle (_Haliæetus albicilla_) according to Spanish
authorities, is also found on passage and in winter. Manuel de la Torre
gave us its name as "_Aguila leona_," but we have never seen it in Spain
at any season.

On January 4th, 1888, we made the acquaintance of another fine species,
one of the largest of the feathered race, under the following
circumstances:--We were partridge-shooting, and before our advancing
line observed soaring over the plain a pair of enormous birds, which we
took for the largest Imperial Eagles we had ever seen. B. had always
held that those I had previously shot here (as just related) were of
small size, and that there existed, on the Andalucian _rega_, eagles of
twice their dimensions. Here at last we were in presence of a pair of
these stupendous eagles, and my anxiety to take the offensive--however
remote or impossible its chance of success--knew no bounds. The pursuit
of partridge, quail and hare--even the approaching _avero_--faded into
insignificance, and these huge birds monopolized all attention.
Presently one--the larger--passed outside the line, and after almost
interminable aërial sweeps settled slowly down to the summit of a small
wild-olive. At once we called up one of our wild-fowlers, who, with his
trained _cabresto_ pony, was close at hand. The pony was divested of
saddle and bridle, and with only a halter and a cord to his near
fore-knee--preparations which told him distinctly enough the nature of
the business in hand--was ready for action. Away we went, Vasquez
crouching behind the shoulder, myself behind the quarter, and holding
with my right hand by his tail. By this device we arrived, unnoticed, to
a range of forty yards--nearer we could not get by reason of a marshy
creek with steep, slimy banks. I therefore at once despatched the charge
of treble A, right for the monster's head. The effect was
unmistakable--he rolled over to the shot, and fell to earth. But those
huge wings never ceased to work, and a second dose of slugs (on the
ground) had no visible effect. From mere spasmodic flapping the great
bird gradually recovered control, and a few seconds later was distinctly
flying--very low, but still clearly on the wing and departing. For
nearly a mile he flapped along, never a yard above the scrub--then
settled, on the very edge of the water. We followed, and when I next
raised my eyes over the pony's quarter, there, within six yards,
stretched out flat on the bare mud, lay our victim. His head lay
prostrate, but his eye still brightly watched us. Hard and impervious to
shot as I well knew these great raptores to be, I was hardly prepared to
see him rise again, and could not have believed what followed. Not only
did he rise on wing, but received two more charges of treble
A--mould-shot as big as peas--at a range of under twenty yards, without
wincing, and after that, flew full 200 yards before finally collapsing:
then at last he fell, stone-dead.

[Illustration: BLACK VULTURE. (Adult Male, shot January 4th, 1888.)]

Our trophy was not an eagle after all! but one of those giant birds, the
Black Vulture (_Vultur monachus_), measuring a trifle under ten feet in
expanse of wing, and scaling roughly between two and three stones. I
need hardly add that I had at once recognized the species on rising to
fire the first time; and though it was somewhat of a disappointment, it
at least settled the question respecting these fabulously large eagles.
This bird proved a magnificent specimen, a male, 9 feet 9 inches across
the wings: the irides were dark, legs and feet whitish, claws black: the
cere and bare skin in front of neck bluish colour, tail pointed.[42] The
whole plumage was deep black-brown, the head covered with short downy
feathers, and the bird had no offensive smell like the common vultures.
This species is, indeed, of far nobler aspect than the Griffon, showing
in life none of the repulsive bare neck of that bird, the neck being
entirely hidden in the ruff of long lanceolate plumes which surround it,
and on the wing it has a majestic appearance.


A few days afterwards we had a similar experience with another, which we
stalked, sitting amongst some rough hummocky ridges: it seems all but
impossible to kill these huge raptores outright. Their hard muscular
frames and sinews, tough as steel-wire, appear impervious to shot, and
unless a pellet chances to take the wing-bone, they will go on, though
struck in a dozen places. One realizes this on attempting to skin one of
the larger eagles--an operation not unlike trying to dissect a piano.

The Black Vulture we have never found actually breeding in Andalucia,
though it does do so: and we have observed single pairs, associated with
Griffons, in the sierras in May and July. Its chief nesting stronghold
is in the Castiles, where, in the Sierra de Gredos, we found an eyry
with young in May. This nest was on a pine. In the south the Black
Vulture is chiefly a winter bird.

The curious diversity of character displayed by the various raptores
when captured, deserves a word of notice. At the end of May, after six
or eight weeks' eagle-hunting, we had about a dozen large birds of prey
which were kept in a disused room. There was a mighty commotion when any
one entered--a couple of Serpent-Eagles ceaselessly flapped and
scuffled, while Booted Eagles showed fight, and Marsh-Harriers, backing
into convenient corners, stood facing one with outstretched wings, like
snarling cats all teeth and claws, and shrieking defiance in wailing
tones. The Kites, on the contrary, might all have been dead, so limp and
lifeless they lay, flat on the floor, with gaping beak and protruding
tongue. One winged Kite we kept alive in the grounds at Jerez for years,
but though practically at liberty, he invariably feigned death or deadly
sickness when approached. Five minutes afterwards, nevertheless, he was
quite game to tackle one of our chickens! In the midst of the din and
flutter sat the Imperial Eagle, silent, motionless, and unconcerned;
perched on the carcase of a Flamingo, his flat shapely head turned
slowly as the keen eye followed every movement of the intruder, whose
presence he otherwise disdained. The Tawny Eagle (above mentioned)
displayed in captivity even greater _insouciance_ and a nobler demeanour
than the Imperial, while both birds, heavy and massive as they looked,
exhibited marvellous agility in pouncing upon the luckless rat who might
presume to trespass upon their domain and attempt to steal their food.

Such are some of our experiences of the eagles of the Spanish lowlands.
The Imperial Eagle is, _par excellence_, the monarch of the
plain--resident throughout the year (though the young are known,
occasionally, to cross the Pyrenees into France), and in his varied
phases comparatively common. Next in importance comes a large tawny
eagle of, as yet, undefined specific rank, which, for the reasons above
set forth, we consider entitled to a place in the list. Then, in spring,
come the Booted and Serpent-Eagles from Africa to nest on Spanish soil
and prey on its abundant reptile-life. But in winter two other species
descend from their mountain-homes to prey on the game and wildfowl of
the lowlands. These are the Golden Eagle and Bonelli's Eagle--both
described more particularly in the next chapter--of which we have shot
specimens on the plains during the winter months. The two Golden Eagles
now in the Zoological Gardens were both shot by us in the flat country,
or _campiña_, in the neighbourhood of Jerez de la Frontera--one winged
as it flew to roost in the _pinales_ of Los Inglesillos, the other by a
chance shot in the rough, broken country beyond Garciagos.





On a hot May morning we lay beneath the shade of palms and eucalypti in
the garden at Jerez, watching the gyrations of Kestrels, Swifts, and
Bee-eaters, and lazily listening to the soft bird-chorus--an infinite,
space-filling refrain from myriad Nightingales, Serins, and
Gold-finches--to the spondee of Hoopoe and dactyl of Quail. Presently
there appeared, far overhead, some half-dozen Griffon Vultures wheeling
in immense circles, the huge birds dwarfed by the altitude to mere
specks. Then another stratum, still higher, was detected, and afterwards
a keen eye distinguished a third, and then a fourth, beyond the average
range of human vision. How many more tiers of soaring vultures might yet
occupy the regions of unseen space beyond, cannot be told: but the
incident serves to illustrate the system on which Nature's great
scavengers patrol the land. The lower strata we estimated at 800 to
1,000 yards altitude, and these only, it is probable, are on active
service, the upper tiers merely standing by, ready to profit by the
discoveries of all the working parties that may be in sight beneath
them: for at the enormous elevations of the uppermost birds, it is
impossible to suppose that even a vulture's eye could detect so small an
object as, say, a dead goat on the earth.

There is something peculiarly impressive in the appearance of these
colossal birds and in the automaton-like ease of their flight. Ponderous
bodies appear suspended in mid-air without visible effort or
exertion--the great square wings extended, rigid and motionless, filled
with air like the wands of a wind-mill, enable them to rest on space, to
soar for hours, as it were, by mere volition. How all the vultures
manage to find subsistence is a problem, for even in Spain the earth is
not strewn with carcases, as on a battle-field.

Towards a certain point of the evergreen plain of palmetto, there is a
visible concentration of soaring forms: thither a string of creaking
_carros_ has conveyed to their last resting-place some dead horses, the
victims of Sunday's bull-fight. Thither flock the vultures to hold high
carnival: and a striking sight it is to watch perhaps forty or fifty, as
they soar and wheel in as many opposing, concentric circles, gradually
focussing themselves over the point of attraction. But as they fold
their wings and gather in a seething mass around the carrion, all that
was majestic and imposing disappears--as they tear open the flanks and,
with spluttering growls and gurgles, and flapping of huge wings, dive
their great bare necks into the innermost penetralia, the spectacle
changes to the repulsive. Yet, as the only existing system of
scavengers, they are performing a useful office. Quickly swells the
crowd: from every quarter come more and more--the heavens seem alive
with hurrying forms sweeping down to the banquet. As the earlier
arrivals become satiated, they withdraw a few yards from the revels to
enjoy the state of rare repletion, perched on a neighbouring tree or
hillock, where they sit with distended crop, fluffed-out feathers and
half-closed wings, gorged to the last mouthful, but making room for
fresh comers, hungry as they had been before. Thus within a few hours
the luckless horses have found a tomb, and when the Griffons have left
nothing but bare bones, then another feathered scavenger appears, the
Neophron, or in Spanish _Quebranta-huesos_, _i.e._, the bone-smasher,
who sets diligently to work to loosen the ligaments and tear the
skeleton asunder. Then, one by one, the bones are carried off and broken
by being dropped from a height upon the rocks, when the fragments are
devoured: thus the earth is cleansed of corrupting matter.

[Illustration: Plate XXIV.


Page 200.]

Vultures, though found all over Spain--whether in mountain, marsh, or
plain--breed only in the sierras. We have observed them in every
province from Guipúzcoa to Galicia, and from Asturias to Mediterranean;
but nowhere do they so greatly abound as in Andalucia, and especially in
that wild mountain-region which forms the southernmost apex of Europe.
Here they may fairly be said to swarm, and in our many campaigns in
these sierras we have had abundant opportunities of observing them "at
home." Here the Griffon Vultures build their broad flat nests on shelves
and ledges of the crags, or in caves in the face of sheer walls of rock,
many of which exceed 2,000 feet in vertical altitude. The little town of
Grazalema is perched on the verge of one of these stupendous _tajos_;
from the window of the _posada_ one can drop a pebble to invisible
depths, midway down which a colony of _Buitres_ have had their eyries
from time immemorial. The hill-villages of Arcos, El Bosque, Villa
Martin, and Bornos, all present similar instances--man seeking the
highest apex, the vultures its middle heights, beyond reach of bullet
from above or below. Ronda, too, has its _tajo_, but we do not recollect
seeing any vultures breeding actually beneath the town.

The Griffons commence repairing their nests as early as January--we have
watched them carrying claw-fulls of grass and cut branches from places
where charcoal-burners had been lopping the trees, on January 21st; a
single large white egg is laid in February, incubation lasts forty days,
and a naked, blue-skinned chick is hatched early in April. The young
vultures are of extremely slow growth, spending full three months in the
nest. By mid-May they are as big as Guinea-fowls: ungainly-looking
creatures, all crop and maw, with feathers beginning to show through the
thick white down.

[Illustration: GRIFFON VULTURE AND NEST. (Puerta de Palomas.)]


Palomas, whose crags were tenanted by numerous Griffons, and the strange
growls made by them on returning to their eyries was often the first
sound heard on awakening. Once at that period (May) we were imprisoned
in the Sierra de Ubrique, both our animals having fallen lame through
loss of shoes, and it was with no small difficulty we eventually
extricated ourselves from the heart of those rugged, pathless mountains.
During four days and nights we were encamped in the wild pass of the
Puerta de at daybreak, in our roofless bedroom among the boulders,
mingled with the awakening notes of the Blue-thrush and Alpine chough.
These nests proved to be quite the easiest of access we ever saw--the
cliffs being rather a chaotic jumble of big rocks and monoliths than
crags proper; and by clambering over these we reached sixteen
nests--many very slight affairs, with bare rock projecting through the
scanty structure--of which only two held more than a single poult. The
nests of the Griffon--albeit malodorous--are always cleanly. These
vultures feed their young exclusively on half-digested food which they
disgorge from their own crops--hence there is no carrion or putrefying
matter lying about, as is the case at the nests of the Neophron and
Lammergeyer. It is the male vulture only that, at this season,
undertakes lengthened journeys into the plains and low-lands, remaining
absent for days together in search of supplies, and returning crop-full
of unsavoury store. The vultures seen on the distant plains in spring
are all males, the females remaining at or near their nests. The sketch
on page 209 represents a curious scene. On the treeless plains of the
Isla Mayor many vultures roost (in April) on a solitary clump of dead
_encinas_, the lower branches and forks of which are also occupied by
the nests of five or six pairs of White Storks.

Three of these eyries were situate on abrupt, detached stacks of rock,
so easily accessible that we almost "walked" into them. Some years
afterwards, passing through this sierra on March 1st, we found the three
stacks occupied as before, each nest containing a single egg.

During this scramble we came suddenly upon a pair of Eagle-Owls,
solemnly dreaming away the hours in a deep cavern; but, being in an
awkward position on the crag-face, could not spare a hand to secure
them. These caverns were also occupied by Choughs and Rock-Martins
(_Cotyle rupestris_), the latter sharing a cave with hundreds of

Eventually, after dragging the lame beasts some twenty miles, we got
clear of the sierra, but found that our absence had caused much anxiety
at Jerez. On the outward ride, it had so chanced, we were present at a
sad accident by which two men and their nine mules lost their lives,
while attempting to cross the swollen Guadalete at the Barca Florida.
Consequently we did not attempt the ford, and only reached the sierra
after a long detour: but news of the accident having reached Jerez, and
our disappearance being unluckily attributed thereto, the curious result
was that the first person we met on the _vega_ of Guadalete was honest
old Blas, all solemn and dejected, as he endeavoured, by watching the
flight of the vultures, to discover our remains!

The beautiful crags of Zurita and the Agredera impending our historic
Guadalete, and lying about a dozen miles from Jerez, are a favourite
spring ride. In April their lower slopes are resplendent with acres of
rhododendrons just bursting into bloom, crimson peonies peep from arid
nooks, and the riverside is fringed with laurestinus and myrtle,
oleanders, sallows and palmetto, all resonant with the melody of
nightingales. To these crags the Neophron, or Egyptian Vulture, yearly
resorts, and six or eight nests may be found in a day's ramble, all
placed in holes or fissures of the cliff, which, from its rottenness and
overhung form, is far from easy to scale. Nor is a Neophron's eyry a
very delectable spot when reached; for, handsome as he looks on wing,
this vulture is one of the foulest of feeders. The stench at his abode
is overpowering; all around lies carrion in every stage of corruption,
while swarms of loathsome flies rise and buzz heavily around the
intruder. The nest itself is made of rags and wool--no sticks--and the
two eggs, often as richly coloured as a Peregrine's, are laid early in
April. Though the food of the Neophron is mostly bones, _ordure_, and
garbage, yet it will, exceptionally, take living creatures; a male, shot
on April 19th, when returning to his nest, carried in his beak the yet
writhing remains of a small snake. In a rather low part of this range of
crags (its highest point, the Agredera peak, is 1,000 feet plumb) a
pair of Golden Eagles had their nest, or rather two nests, which they
used alternately. The birds did not appear, but we saw the nests,
immense masses of sticks conspicuously protruding from crevices in the
crag, about forty yards apart. These cliffs are also tenanted by a
colony of Genets.

In Andalucia, as in Eastern Europe, the Neophron occasionally nests upon
trees. In the lovely, park-like country half a day's ride eastward of
Jerez, several pairs breed yearly on high _encinas_, or ilex. Here, in
spring, we have seen the old vultures on the nest, and in July have
observed big young--dark brown fellows--perched on adjoining branches.
For instance:--

_April 10th, 1891._--Examined to-day three Neophrons' nests on
ilex-trees at the Encinar del Visco--broad, solid structures, twice as
large as those of the Kites, and warmly lined with cows'-hair, wool, &c.
Owing to the backward season, there were no eggs, though in 1883 we took
two clutches (each two eggs) on same date.[44]

[Illustration: Plate XXV.


Page 213.]

One afternoon in the early part of July, 1872--a period when Andalucia
was seething with revolution and communistic ideas--a young Golden Eagle
was brought in by José Larrios, a man we often employed in sport and
country campaigns--the same José whose dare-devil escapade with a bull
we have already related (see p. 10). This eaglet he had brought from the
Sierra de Alcalá de los Gazules, nearly forty miles distant, where his
brothers held a small mountain-farm; and there remained, he said,
another fledgeling in the eyrie. The writer, in those early days, had
not succeeded in shooting the Royal Eagle, and the ambition to do so was
intense, despite the difficulty of the communists. Two days before we
had returned from a fortnight's expedition to the westward, and when
riding towards Jerez were stopped by a military cordon who invested the
town and demanded our credentials. These being satisfactory, the officer
in command informed us that street-fighting was taking place, and
detained us till evening, when he kindly furnished us with an escort. We
found that two days previously the city had been seized by an armed mob,
thousands strong, who by a sudden _coup_ had gained possession of the
public buildings and barricaded the streets. On the arrival of a troop
of cavalry from Seville the mutineers incontinently fled, save a mere
handful of the bolder spirits, who stood to their improvised defences to
the last, and were finally shot down within the church of San Juan,
wherein they had sought refuge. This revolution thus crumbled to
nothing, though at one time it threatened to exceed in violence that of
three years before (1869), when the barricades were taken at the point
of the bayonet, and hundreds of insurgents were shot down in the streets
of Jerez.

For the moment danger was past, and the city, within the armed cordon,
restored to normal condition, though outside the state of the adjacent
country was not certain. Keenness to kill the Royal Eagle of the sierras
was paramount, and at midnight José and I set out from La Compañia, the
old Jesuit convent which was then our home, and traversing the dark
streets and narrow, sandy lanes beyond, we were soon clear of the town,
and by daylight had reached the ford of the Alamillo, where we crossed
the Guadalete, and were breakfasting at 6.30 in the hill-village of
Paterna--five leagues. Early in the afternoon we completed the twelve
leagues and reached the little _cortijo_ of Jautor, the abode of José's
two brothers, who agreed to take us to the eagle's nest that evening.
Jautor is surrounded by towering sierras, and we proceeded on foot up a
rough goat-track, choked with strong brushwood, and leading up the steep
southern acclivity. After climbing and walking about two hours, we
reached the nest, a huge pile of sticks surmounting an oak-tree which
hung over a deep _garganta_ or mountain-ravine. What was my vexation to
find, after eighteen hours' labour, that it was empty! On one side lay
part of the leg of a kid, and about half a hare, both quite fresh, but
the eaglet was gone; and though we waited till dusk on the chance of the
old bird returning, we saw nothing, and had to retrace our weary steps,
sticking and stumbling in the dark, to the shepherds' hut, deadbeat and

The _choza_ was a mere hut built of long _cañas_ or reeds, in the form
of an extinguisher, the interior being circular, some 15ft. in diameter,
occupied by many goats, poultry, and cats--not to mention minor
inhabitants, and with a wood fire smouldering in the centre. I had
hardly coiled myself in my rug and laid down to sleep on the low mud
settee which ran round the back of the den, when a furious outburst of
barking took place among the numerous dogs which lay sleeping round the
fire. The goatherd opened the door, and there entered an old man,
bronze-visaged and wiry, leading behind him a donkey. He was a smuggler,
and his packs, crammed with contraband of infinite variety, were soon
deposited on the floor, and the donkey hobbled and turned out to find
bed and breakfast where it might. Then the _cerrones_ were unpacked, and
their multifarious contents displayed on the mud floor--pins, needles
and scissors, buttons, and bobbins of thread, tobacco, tape, and sundry
kinds of coloured cloth and bright ribbons. The latter at once "fetched"
the feminine portion of the community--alas! for the chances of sleep
for the weary--female nature is everywhere the same, even in the _choza_
of a goatherd buried amidst these lonely sierras, and bargaining and
chatter continued well-nigh throughout the livelong night.

The simple peasants, though unable to comprehend my object, were
sincerely distressed at our failure; and next morning, while we were
busy cooking our breakfast under the shade of a spreading laurestinus,
came to say there was another eagle's nest on the opposite side of the
valley. They had kindly sent a lad at daybreak to make inquiries at a
neighbouring farm, four miles distant. Thither accordingly we set out,
riding for several miles till the ascent became so abrupt, and
intercepted with brushwood, that it was necessary to picket the horses,
leaving them in charge of a lad, and to proceed on foot. We crossed the
ridge of the sierra and entered an upland valley beyond, where, in a
tall poplar, standing slightly apart, was a rather small nest containing
a single eaglet. I must have fallen asleep at my post, for presently
José, who had left me in ambush, aroused me to say that the eagle had
returned, fed her young, and departed! While we were talking the female
flew overhead, and instantly catching sight of us, with a scream dropped
a rabbit she was carrying, and soared heavenwards. My shot dropped her
stone-dead, and she fell within a few yards of her victim--a female of
the Serpent-Eagle, a species well known on the wooded plains, but which
we had hardly expected to find in the mountains. We have related this
incident because there followed one of the most singular occurrences
that have happened within our ornithological experiences. On being
skinned, this eagle was found to contain the almost entire remains of a
young eagle, which, from its feathered tarsi and general appearance, was
certainly a nestling Golden Eagle--the counterpart, perhaps the brother,
of the one José had already brought alive to Jerez! We can only state
the bare fact, as above, and surmise that the youngster was yesterday
the occupant of the eyrie we had travelled so far to despoil, and that
the actual and would-be destroyers had thus accidentally come in

About a league further the valley terminated in a fine amphitheatre of
crags, showing remarkably bold and abrupt escarpments. The highest part
was occupied by a colony of Griffons, and while resting for an hour or
so in a niche of this mountain rampart, I shot four of the great birds.
Collectively they measured across the expanded wings some thirty-eight
feet, and though we had no means of weighing them, estimated them at
about forty pounds apiece. One of the vultures shot here, a fine bird
with bushy white frill, the peasants asserted to be between 300 and 400
years old, though how they could tell is a mystery. This bird was killed
with ball on the wing. The smell of Griffon Vultures when shot is strong
and most offensive: their claws and long feathers are always much
abraded by attrition on the rocks, and their whole plumage has a worn
and faded appearance, in harmony with the decay and death in which they

The young vultures were at last (July 8th) on the wing, having spent
some three months in the nests:[45] they are now of a clear, bright
cinnamon colour, much handsomer than the adults, each feather being
shaded; and one shot to-day measured between eight and nine feet in
expanse of wing.

Our lofty perch commanded a grand mountain landscape--sierras extending
range beyond range in swelling stony masses or jagged sky-lines. Alpine
Swifts dashed overhead; Blackchats and Blue Rock-Thrushes flitted among
the crags, and, with the great vultures soaring above and below,
afforded some interesting scenes. The mid-day heat was intense, and we
had a rough tramp down to the horses through broken ground and thick
young wood, where we disturbed a Roe and saw many traces of others. It
was after dark when we reached a miserable wayside venta, where,
alongside half a dozen snoring peasants and tormented by a million
fleas, we passed the night on the ground.

[Illustration: BONELLI'S EAGLE. (Adult Female, shot July 10th, 1872.)]

Returning homewards next morning, while we were passing through the
outlying spurs or foothills of the sierra, a pair of large dark eagles
were observed hunting a scrub-covered ridge. The larger of the two
presently swept down upon an unlucky rabbit and forthwith commenced to
devour it, the male perching on a stump hard by. They were favourably
situate for a stalk, and by riding round in a wide circuit I gained the
reverse of the ridge. On creeping forward to my marks, however, I could
at first see nothing--only a few palmetto bushes some distance down the
slope. Having crawled to these, I perceived the eagle busily tearing up
her prey in a slight hollow of the ground. She was only forty yards
away, yet the sitting shot (broadside on) produced no effect. A "green
wire-cartridge, No. 1" from the left, broke a wing as she rose, and,
after some little trouble, she was secured. She proved to be a Bonelli's
Eagle (_Aquila bonellii_), a perfect adult specimen, dark brown above,
with white breast boldly streaked and splashed with black: the bushy
"stockings" and warm reddish-brown _tarsi_ contrasting with the long
white "apron" which overlapped them. (_See photo._)

Thus occurred--over twenty years ago--our first introduction to
Bonelli's Eagle: since then we have met with them frequently in the
southern sierras, in the Castiles, and once in the Biscayan Provinces.
It is, in fact, the commonest mountain-breeding eagle in Spain, and is
easily recognizable by its short, dappled wings, and by the peculiar
feature that the _middle_ of the back is white--thus, if seen from
above, the bird appears to have a large white spot between the wings.

In former days, the hill-peasants assert that it bred in quite low
rocks, and several such abandoned eyries have been pointed out to us:
but we have only seen its nest in the most stupendous rock-walls--places
that make one's flesh creep to survey. The two eggs, usually white, but
occasionally splashed or spotted, are laid in the early days of
February--we have watched these eagles repairing their nest at
Christmas. The young in first plumage, like those of the Imperial Eagle,
are of a chestnut-tawny hue. The claws of Bonelli's Eagle are remarkably
long and powerful, and its chief prey consists of hares, rabbits, and
other game. Hares it appears unable to carry up _whole_ to its eyry on
the heights, tearing them into halves, and birds found in its nest are
usually headless.

The Golden Eagle also breeds in all the mountain-regions of Spain, both
in high rocks and occasionally (as above mentioned) on trees. Its nest
is often an enormous structure--quite a cartload of sticks.

The Golden and Bonelli's Eagles are strictly denizens of the mountains:
but in autumn both species descend to the plains and marismas in search
of prey. On more than one occasion, while shooting on the lowlands in
winter, we have secured a Golden Eagle as he flew to roost in the
pine-woods: and on Nov. 29th, some years ago, while flight-shooting, a
Bonelli's Eagle was so intent on the capture of a winged Ruddy Sheldrake
(_Tadorna rutila_) which had fallen to a neighbouring gun, as almost to
fly into the writer's _puesto_. This eagle was in the act of lifting
the heavy duck off the water when a charge of big shot cut him down.

Our old _cazador_, Felipe, who has since become keeper on a rabbit and
partridge preserve fully twenty miles from the nearest point of the
sierra, told us that so many eagles come down to prey on his rabbits
during the months of November and December that during the preceding
season he had killed over thirty. Felipe added that they were mostly
Golden and Bonelli's Eagles (_Aguila perdicera_ he called the latter),
with a few Serpent-Eagles earlier in the autumn. At the time of our
visit (January) most of the eagles had retired to the sierras to breed:
but a few days afterwards Felipe rode in with a cargo which sorely
puzzled the officials of the _consumos_ (octroi), for under either arm
he bore an eagle, and in a sack on his back were two immense wild-cats!
The eagles were _A. chrysäetus_, and an immature, tawny-breasted





Around Spanish agriculture, as around other Iberian industries, hangs a
cloud of almost Oriental apathy. A land which might be one of the
granaries of Europe is so neglected that, even with an import duty on
corn, it is barely self-supporting--indeed, during 1889, Spain had to
pay upwards of one million sterling for imported wheat.

Since the fall of Moorish dominion, the population of Andalucia has
fallen to less than half; large areas which in Moorish days were smiling
corn-lands, to-day lie barren and unproductive, choked with
brushwood--the great southern _despoblados_, or deserts.

Nearly one-half the entire land of Spain (to be exact, 45·8 per cent.)
is without cultivation of any kind; and of the rest, the productive
powers are but half utilized. The yield of the best land in a favourable
season rarely reaches forty bushels per acre, and the average, taking
one year with another, may be placed at twenty; while in Northumberland
thirty bushels is an average, and fifty a not infrequent yield.

The three chief agricultural products of Spain are corn, oil, and
wine--of the latter, we treat more particularly in another chapter. The
corn-farms--each usually including a certain proportion of
olive-wood--extend from four or five hundred acres up to large holdings
of as many thousand; and, as a rule, are cultivated by their
non-resident owners, through a steward.[46]

[Illustration: Plate XXVI.


Page 221.]

Even in the case of rented land, the farmer seldom himself lives on his
holding, but entrusts the management to an agent, while he resides in
his town house. Neither landowner nor farmer live in the country.

This deep-rooted antipathy to a country-life is one of the many causes
of the decrepitude of Spanish agriculture, among which may be specified
the following:--

1.--The custom of absenteeism.

2.--The antiquated system of tillage.

3.--The absence of woods and plantations, the beneficial effects of
which on climate and atmosphere are specially necessary in this hot, dry
country. The comparatively small forest-areas are, in many parts, as
previously stated, being rapidly reduced by the hatchet of the

4.--The neglect of irrigation. In wet winters, the low-lying lands are
flooded, and the whole country is water-logged; in summer the reverse is
the case--moisture is non-existent, every green thing is burnt up, yet
no attempt is made to direct and conserve the rain-supplies, albeit the
remains of the aqueducts and irrigation-works of Roman and Moor are ever
present to suggest the silent lesson of former foresight and prosperity.

Of a total area of some forty-four and a half million acres under
cultivation, _less than two_ millions are irrigated (_regadio_), leaving
forty-two and a half million acres of "dry lands" (_secano_).

The following table forms an interesting commentary--to those who can
endure statistics--on the state of agriculture in Spain. It shows the
exact proportion of irrigated and non-irrigated land under each crop,
&c. The figures represent "_fanegas_" which are, roughly, equivalent to

                   Crop or Condition.          Irrigated.       Dry Lands.
                                              (_Regadio._)     (_Secano._)

  Garden produce, vegetables, &c.                  245,798          --
  Fruit-trees                                       58,095       384,642
  Corn and seeds                                 1,139,964    18,983,410
  Vines                                             66,859     2,121,070
  Olive-woods                                       76,538     1,181,386
  Meadow                                           291,240       842,319
  Salt-pans                                         29,174         --
  Pasturage                                          --        3,963,538
  Groves and marshy dells (_alamedas y sotos_)       --          130,570
  Brushwood (_monte, alto y bajo_)                   --        7,279,346
  Winter grazings (_eriales con pastos_)             --        5,193,331
  Threshing-grounds, &c. (_eras y canteras_)         --           48,277
  Non-productive                                     --        2,452,239
                                                __________    __________
                                          Total  1,907,168    42,580,148

Oriental customs survive in the hiring of labour, both for field and
vineyard. Men are not employed permanently--only "taken on" as occasion
requires. A hiring-place is the feature of Spanish rural towns--the
Plaza, or public square, usually serving the purpose. Here, at all
hours, but notably at early morn and sunset, stand groups of swarthy
labourers, waiting for hire, and contentedly smoking their cigarettes
till some _capataz_, or foreman, comes to terms with them.

Corn and wine are cultivated by distinct classes of labourers--those for
the vineyard, superior workmen, gaining thrice the pay of the others. In
the vineyards the men receive the equivalent of three francs a day, with
oil and vinegar--important items in a hot country--while the corn-farmer
only pays one franc, with bread and oil.

The only permanent hands at a vineyard are the capataz and his
assistant, the duties of the latter being to bring bread from the town
on his pannier-mule, and water from the best or nearest well in those
cool earthen pitchers called _cántaros_. Water is almost as important as
food. Among the poor it is the national drink--the quality produced by
each well is known and often discussed. Andalucians are critical judges
of water, classing it as _mala_, bad, unwholesome; _gorda_, turbid or
flavoured; _regulár_, pretty good, and _agua rica_, the best of bright
sparkling water. In praising his native hamlet, the first point with a
Spanish peasant will be "_the water there is good_." Water, however, be
it _gorda_ or _rica_, they must have; and wherever on glowing plain or
calcined hill-side one sees a gang of labourers gently scratching the
earth with tiny hoe, there also are sure to be lying those porous,
amphora-shaped _cántaros_ full of water, ice-cold, albeit a tropical sun
has for hours impinged vertically on their porous sides. Oh, how
delicious a draught can be enjoyed from those rude, old-world vessels
surely none but thirst-stricken labourer under Spanish summer sun--be he
peasant or bustard-shooter--can ever fully realize!

At the cortijo, or corn-farm, are four or five permanent employés--the
steward, the bread-maker, and the tenders of the working oxen. All the
rest of the labourers--men or women--are hired temporarily as required.
Herdsmen and shepherds we do not include, as these do not live at the
farm, but in some reed-built _choza_, or other rough shelter hard by
their flocks. Hence it will be seen that the class of labour employed on
arable land is of the lowest--there is none of the inducement to steady
industry begotten of permanent place. At the vineyards, in addition to
the higher rate of wage, the food supplied is also much superior. This
industry, in short, absorbs the pick of the labour-market. No women are
employed in the vineyards, nor allowed to touch a vine, though on the
farms many are engaged for such work as hoeing and weeding.

To become the capataz of a vineyard is the highest ambition of the
labourer. To go into the market-place and hire, instead of standing
there to be hired, are obviously very different things. It implies,
besides, permanent wages at increased rate, without manual work to do,
for the capataz only orders.

He hires the labourers required, often with an eye to his own advantage.
The master never sees the men engaged: there is no check on the honesty
of the agent, but considerable variation in the quality of the hired.
The old, the halt and lame, if friends of the capataz, receive the same
pay as the young and strong. Although all may go forth into the vineyard
at the seventh hour, there is yet ground for doubting the substantial
justice of the nineteenth-century capataz as there was in olden days of
Bible history.


These and other minor abuses will not be remedied till landowner and
farmer live on their properties--a thing unknown in Spain. The farmer,
or _labrador_--as with grotesque incongruity he styles himself--lives in
his cool and luxurious mansion in the town, receiving visits every few
days from his steward; but months go by, even years, between his rare
visits to the farm. The land is, as a rule, his own, and being a man of
means, so long as things go on fairly, and his sacks of corn or casks of
wine arrive in town in due season, and without excessive pillage, he is

Most of the farms being held by capitalists, the farmer can withstand
the loss of a few bad years: and when a good one comes--they calculate
one fat year to four lean--all losses are recouped and a large balance
to the good rewards his patience.

[Illustration: Plate XXVII.


Page 225.]

Ploughing, or what passes muster as such--a tickling of the surface by
tiny wooden ploughshare identical with those of Roman days, drawn by
yokes of tardy-plodding oxen--takes place in autumn. Wheat is sown in
December, the seed scattered broadcast, and one-third of the land laid
fallow each year. The fallows (_manchones_) in spring produce
wildernesses of weeds, as tall and rank as the corn itself, and gorgeous
with wild-flowers--Elysian fields for the bustards, which revel amidst
the ripening seeds and legions of locusts and grasshoppers. Here whole
acres glow with crimson trefoil, contrasting with the blue borage and
millions of convolvuli: there are lilies and balsams, asphodel, iris,
and narcissi of every hue--but it is idle to attempt to describe the
unspeakable floral beauties of the Spanish _manchon_.

The fallows are not, however, left to waste their substance entirely on
weeds and wild-flowers, for they form the best spring-grazing grounds
for cattle, and thus, too, receive a certain allowance of manure.

One's patience is exercised to watch the tardy oxen creeping along those
league-long furrows! Even in our English corn-lands, in the fifty-acre
fields of Norfolk or Northumberland, there appears to our non-technical
eyes a grievous disproportion between the work to be done and the means
employed, albeit a dozen stout draughts may be at work in a single
field. Here, where the "field" stretches away unbroken by fence or hedge
to the horizon, a day's journey in either direction for those plodding
oxen, the task truly appears more hopeless than the labours of Sisyphus.
Not even on the prairies of Western America can they boast a longer
furrow than can be traced on these plains of tawny, treeless Spain. Well
may the ploughman seek, by chanting old-time ditties, to avoid utter
vacuity of mind.

In June and July the harvest is gathered in--no musical rattle of
reaper, for the sickle still holds its place: and over the breadth of
fallen swathe soar hawks of every sort and size, preying on the locusts
and other large insects and reptiles now deprived of their accustomed

Then follows the threshing of the corn, an operation which is carried on
with the primitive simplicity of the patriarchs of old--perhaps on
precisely the same lines. The sheaves are brought from the stubble on
creaking bullock-carts, and thrown on the _era_, or threshing-ground, a
hardened level space adjoining the farm. Here it is threshed--or rather,
trodden out under foot by the _yeguas_--brood-mares, a team of which are
kept briskly trotting over the circle of outstrewn sheaves, driven on by
a man who stands in the centre. With a long whip and the skill of a
circus manager, he drives the mares in circles, round and round--this is
the only duty asked of the _yeguas_ all the year, except that of
maternity. Amidst clouds of dust and heat the sweating animals are urged
on till the corn and brittle straw is trodden into finest chaff. Then
the mares are rested, the grain and chaff pushed aside to make room for
fresh sheaves, and the operation is repeated till all the produce has
been trodden out.

The next process is to throw the broken corn high in air with broad
wooden shovels. The wind serves to separate the grain from the chaff,
the former falling in heaps on the earth, while the lighter material
drifts away to leeward. The grain is gathered into sacks, loaded upon
donkeys, and away goes the team to the owner's granary in the town: as
many as three score, and more, of patient _borricos_ may often at this
season be seen plodding along the dusty byeway. Similarly one sees, at
the same season, the casks of newly-pressed wine being jolted along on
bullock-carts towards the town, along rough roads or tracks that will
not be required again till the same traffic occurs after the next year's

The broken straw and chaff is stored in large stacks, to form the staple
food for horses and cattle during the winter: and is indeed of good
quality, affording as much nutriment as the best hay, of which none is
grown in this southern land.[47]

[Illustration: Plate XXVIII.


Page 226.]

The corn goes to the owner's granary, the wine to his bodega, and all is
soon safely housed within the city walls. Nothing, beyond actual
necessaries, is left in the country.

The antipathy evinced by Spaniards towards the country is a curious
feature of this southern life. No Spaniard, rich or poor, will remain in
the country for a single night, even in the green and glorious
spring-time when the Andalucian _vegas_ revel in richest charm to eye
and ear. The labourers whose work takes them into the _campo_ do their
best to get back by night: even the poorest prefer a walk of several
miles, morning and evening, rather than remain overnight amidst rustic
scenes. Centuries of former insecurity may explain this: but now no
present cause can be assigned beyond the force of habit, and perhaps the
fear of being overtaken by sudden illness or death beyond the reach of
priest--in which case the last rites of religion might not be available.

Whatever be the cause, the country gentleman, the country parson and
doctor, Hodge and rural population generally, are unknown in Spain. The
landowner hies him townwards at night to his gossip, his _paséo_ and his
favourite game of _tresillo_ at the casino--the workman to his village,
his wife and bairns in the humble tenement he proudly calls his _casa_.
Spain is a land of customs and accepted traditions--be they good or bad.
For centuries no one has sought to introduce a novelty--say a taste for
rural life, though the conditions for its enjoyment exist here as
favourably, at least, as elsewhere. So far as we can judge, the
vesper-bell will continue for all time to gather in the natives to the
cities as rookeries unite their flocks when every sun goes down.

This, of course, does not apply to farmsteads remote from town or
village, where labourers and herdsmen perforce live as in a rural
fortress. It is not surprising that, with the gregarious instincts of
the Spanish people, the lot of such men should be despised; and that
there should arise in these unhappy groups, isolated for weeks from kith
and kin, and with the barest means of subsistence, that spirit of
discontent which resulted in 1883 in the _mano negra_, and this year in
that anarchical furor which, on both occasions, was expiated on the

Agriculture in Spain is thus deprived of that _gracia_ which in other
lands distinguishes it from other commercial pursuits. It is devoid of
that loving, homely interest that in England attaches to it, making the
cultivation of the soil--at least when conducted (willingly) by the
landowner--something of a recreation or "labour of love." Here, nothing
beyond elementary and imperative operations are carried on--those which
a rule-of-thumb experience has shown to give fairly good results with a
minimum of trouble. Experiments are things unknown. There is a settled
conviction among the agricultural class that improvement is impossible,
that their patriarchal system represents perfection. Reward is looked
for rather in a twenty or thirty-fold return once in every four or five
years by luck of favouring climatic conditions, than sought to be
assured by skill and the adoption of modern modes of tillage.

Corn-growing nevertheless does pay in Spain, owing to the import-duty on
foreign grain, which ensures a profit to the home-producer. But fortunes
realized on the _cortijo_ are always ascribed rather to a run of good
luck than to any other specific cause.

He would be a bold man who departed from the traditional systems in
vogue since time began, in this land where "whatever is is best." And a
strange fatality does await experimental changes. The very soil seems to
repel innovation. A firm of practical English agriculturists failed
signally some thirty years ago, and one still hears it satirically told
how the deep-searching iron ploughshares from Inglaterra left offended
fields which for years afterwards refused to yield a crop.

[Illustration: Plate XXIX.


Page 228.]

The minor accessories of farming, such as the dairy, poultry and the
stock-yard, which, we are told, stand between many an English farmer and
ruin, are here ignored. For this, however, there is some excuse in the
vexatious and mistaken system of the octroi (_consumos_), under which
farm-produce and consumables of every kind are taxed on entering the
town. The rural farmer, it is true, escapes the town taxes, but as a
counterpoise, to tax his produce on its way to market, is clearly
saddling the wrong horse.[48] The incidence of such a burden clearly
falls upon the already over-taxed consumer in the towns, increasing the
cost of the necessaries of life. The whole system is, moreover,
arbitrary and irritating. How would one like at home to be stopped every
time he came in from a day's shooting, in order that a "duty" may be
assessed on his bag of partridge, rabbits, or quail? Or, worse still, on
a few bottles of wine which may remain unconsumed at luncheon, but which
the official of the octroi knows perfectly well were taken out into the
_campo_ that same morning?

The principal crops raised (Andalucia) are wheat, barley, beans, and
chick-pea (_garbanzo_), together with rye, alfalfa, vetches, and
canary-seed. Very few oats are sown, barley forming the chief grain-food
for horses.[49] No roots are cultivated, no manure applied, nor any
scientific rotation of crops attempted.

Neither maize nor rice are cultivated in the south, though both form
important items in other parts of the Peninsula. Rice, especially, is
grown on the Mediterranean coast (Valencia, &c.), and in Portugal.
Possibly the Andalucian marismas _might_ form "paddy-fields" that would
make San Lucar a rival of Rangoon, as similarly Cadiz _might_ compete
with Odessa. But may these "improvements" await another age! May some
few outlandish nooks and corners of Europe be left as God made them,
where primæval conditions may yet survive, and wild nature reign in
uncontaminated glory--at least during our time.

Much could easily be done to bring Spanish farming nearer to European
standards. Improvements will come, one day or another: already the dawn
of a more active industrial life is beginning to glimmer. But as yet the
flutter extends only to manufactures, not to agriculture. Capitalists
are beginning to furnish their factories with the appliances of modern
machinery, and Spanish workmen are found capable of adapting themselves,
by their intelligence and attention, to the new conditions, and to bear
a fair comparison with the workmen of other countries.

The wave of progress is at present confined to the foundry, the mine,
and the workshop, but will some day, perhaps, extend to the
_campo_--substitute the steam-plough and reaper for the sluggish ox-team
and sickle, the steam-thrasher for the trotting brood-mares, and
metamorphose into an active industry the present drowsy, old-world
routine of Spanish agriculture.

Progress in Spain moves with halting step, and it were folly to cherish
sanguine expectations. Such a change can only come with altered
conditions in the people. Why, for example, try to improve dairy
arrangements when there is no demand for fresh butter? Why trouble with
the cattle when the fighting bull is the prize animal of the pasture?
What encouragement is there to improve the grazing of stock when an
enthusiast who had stall-fed his beasts is told by the butcher, "if you
wish me to sell any more of your animals, you must send them _without
fat_"? Hitherto this gentleman's efforts to reform the national taste
have resulted in utter collapse. Fattened joints are, in Spain, in
advance of the age, amongst a people wedded to the flesh-pots of the
_puchero_, wherein the beef is required to be, above all things, lean.
The fat of the pig only is appreciated in Spanish cuisine.




Interspersed amidst the monotony of corn-land and vineyard is seen the
peculiar foliage of the olive. Its regular rows of sober green cover
many of the higher lands and hillsides, and its produce, next to corn
and wine, occupies the third place of importance. Outside the ancient
_huertas_, where since Moorish days the orange, lemon, and citron have
been carefully tended and watered, the olive is the only cultivated
tree; and well does it repay the minimum of care which it requires. The
olive enters largely into the economy of every-day existence, forming an
important element both in the food and light of the Spanish people.
Olive-oil is the universal illuminant--in a little saucer with
rudely-fixed cotton wick (the _mariposa_), it lights the herdsman's
choza, the cottage, and cortijo: this oil is also a leading article of
consumption with all classes. To the poor it is an absolute necessary,
taking the place occupied by meat among northern nations, giving flavour
and zest to the hard bread and to the tough dry stock-fish imported from
Newfoundland or Norwegian fjord--besides being an essential ingredient
in the universal gazpacho. The fruit itself, in various forms, gives a
national flavour to nearly every dish. Every one eats olives, from the
wayfarer on the dusty highroad, whose hunch of dry bread is sweetened by
a handful of the piquant fruit, to the Madrilenian epicure who at
Lhardy's restaurant demands the "Reinas" from Seville. These olives are
of large size,--almost like walnuts--and are only rivalled in flavour
by the "manzanillas," a smaller variety more resembling the French
olive, but, to our thinking, of superior taste.

These two kinds are carefully gathered in late autumn, and are in
universal demand throughout the Peninsula. Beyond its boundaries they
are little known or appreciated, though some few have already found
consumers in the north of Europe.

[Illustration: "WAITING FOR DEATH."]

Although the olive-trees are of the hardiest nature--otherwise they
could not survive, without irrigation, the intense heats of summer--yet
the crop is a precarious one. After the fruit has been gathered in
December, or rather beaten off the trees, for that is the method
adopted, the olives destined for the oil-mill are subjected to severe
pressure by rudely-constructed wooden screws, often supplemented by
stone-weights--again the simplest appliances of modern machinery are
often neglected--and the oil extracted is drawn off and separated into
different qualities. None, however, is of that grade--or rather its
manufacture and elaboration are too rough and careless, to enable the
Spanish produce to compete with the refined neutral oils of Italy and
France. With a little more care in its manufacture, and more energy in
its introduction to foreign markets, the rich oils of Spain might
doubtless be made a source of much additional national wealth.

Its substantial qualities, and in particular its power of long
sustaining light, are appreciated in Russia, where it is superseding the
oils of other countries for its reliable illumination of the _icons_, or
sacred lamps. The religious tenets of the Muscovites require that these
small lamps, suspended before their images, should burn brightly,
without trimming, through the longest winter nights of eighteen or
twenty hours. The little glass tumblers of the icons are filled to the
brim with Spanish oil: a perforated metal bar placed across, holds the
lightly-twisted cotton wick, and once lighted the little lamp burns
brightly, without smoke or attention, through the longest nights of the
northern winter.

At present the preparation and export of Spanish oil is almost
monopolized by the port of Malaga.


Andalucia is the breeding-ground of the best horses of the Peninsula:
many of the landowners are possessed of well-known "brands," as they are
called, and the farmers are almost universally interested in horses to
some extent. Great strides have been made of recent years in the
improvement of the breeds through the importation of thorough-bred
English sires, &c. This is, indeed, the one branch of rural industry in
which a decided advance has been made. Since the introduction of racing
into the country by Englishmen, about 1867--Jerez de la Frontera being
the cradle of this, as of most other sports--the superiority of the
present breed has been thoroughly established. Horses of a larger and
better stamp than formerly are now seen bearing the branded device of
the various provincial herds, it being still the custom to brand each
foal with the particular sign of the stud to which it belongs.

For temper and enduring powers the old Spanish hack could never be
improved upon; but in shape and make the race had sadly degenerated
since the Spanish Gennet was the favourite and fashionable steed of the
wealthy both in France and England. The heavy Flemish stallions
introduced by Carlos Quinto--of which Velasquez' pictures give us the
type--account for this falling-off from the earlier form of that
high-bred Arab race which long ago supplied the wants of a nation of
horsemen--the _Caballeros_, whose interests in life were coloured and
directed by a devotion to knight-errantry unparalleled in other lands,
and which still leaves its impress on the thought and habit of the
_Hidalgos_ of to-day.

Now, however, the Andalucian horse bids fair to regain his ancient
prestige; some of the more ambitious _haras_ boast their strings of
pedigree-stock, and the stud-book of Spain is an established
institution, its register having been zealously kept till this year, by
the sportsman-grandee, the late Duke of Fernan Nuñez.

In contrast to these favoured breeds, and at the other extremity of the
scale, we have the almost wild horses of the marismas, which shift for
themselves throughout the year on the open wastes, and fly, like the
deer, from the unaccustomed sight of man. The heats of summer, the cold
and wet of winter, are faced in turn by this hardy race, which, in
return for their freedom, provide their owners with a yearly contingent
of sturdy offspring. These youngsters are only separated from the wild
herds, "rounded up," and captured with great difficulty--after long and
fast chases on the open plains. Perfect little demons of vice and fury
they are, too, when caught, shaggy and unkempt little beasts, coated
with dried mud, biting at each other, quarrelling and screaming with
savage rage--a _corral_ full of them newly-caught is indeed a singular
sight. On many of the old mares of the marisma the hand of man has never
placed a halter.

Of the fine description of Spanish merino sheep, so celebrated till the
beginning of the eighteenth century, and so rigorously guarded and
protected by Spanish Governments, there remains to-day hardly a trace.
France, Sweden, and Saxony found means about that period to obtain
specimens of the Spanish breed, and with them departed the glory of the
privileged race. There remain now in Spain but degenerate
representatives. Years of apathy have left to her little but the
coarsest breed of sheep both as to flesh and fleece. The race from which
nearly all the best European varieties have originated is now, perhaps,
the lowest on the list.

Mutton is comparatively scarce in the southern _mercados_, where for one
sheep may be seen a dozen kids exposed for sale. The latter--strange
parti-coloured little beasts--together with the ubiquitous pig and
tough, stringy beef, provide most of the meat consumed in Spain, whose
scant quantity and poor quality is eked out by vast supplies of small
birds--Larks, Buntings, Quails, and the like--which are caught by means
of a dark-lantern at night, as we have elsewhere described; whole
festoons of small birds, with Partridge, wildfowl, and Little Bustards,
adorn the market-stalls in the Spanish cities, flanked by Roe and Red
Deer from the forests, and sometimes by a grizzly boar from the sierra.

The Spanish markets also afford a wondrous display of southern fruits
and vegetables--whole mountains of golden melons and _sandias_, tons of
tomatoes and pimientos (red pepper), prickly pears, purple-ripe figs,
loquats, apricots, grapes, and other fruit according to season; with
lettuces, wild asparagus and a host of other vegetables. From every
house in the town comes a servant to purchase the day's requirements of
fish, flesh, fowl, or fruit--for everything is bought and consumed from
day to day. There is no "cold mutton" in a Spanish menu! By eight
o'clock, but little remains unsold, so an early start is needed to see
the best of the show.

To return to the muttons: it should be added that Spain is now
practically the only European country which still exports wool to the
London market--upwards of a million and a half pounds' weight of Spanish
wool annually reaching the Thames.


Since writing the above, we have come across an interesting article on
this subject in one of the best Spanish papers (the _Epoca_), from which
we translate the following extracts, giving the native version of the
present agricultural status:--"We must confess that the condition of
Spanish agriculture is sufficiently deplorable, not only by reason of
the apathy of its agriculturists, but also through the difficulties
which the land presents to its perfect cultivation, to the use of
manures, and the employment of modern machinery. It must be borne in
mind that the land of the abrupt mountains of the Asturias, Galicia, and
Cataluña condemns the country-people to the roughest and most laborious
preparation. This is shared, though to a less extent, by the
_labradores_ of the arid regions of Guipúzcoa, Biscay and Navarre; of
the ricefields of Valencia, and on the sunburnt _vegas_ of Andalucia and
Estremadura. Besides these physical difficulties there are other
disadvantages of hardly less importance. A vast extent of terrain now
lies waste and uncultivated through lack of capital and sparseness of
population; through the heavy tribute exacted by the state on
agricultural produce, and the absence of means of communication to
economize the transport of the harvest.

"Notwithstanding these immense difficulties, the Spanish agriculturist
produces on fifty-six million _hectares_ of cultivable land an excess
over the consumption of sixty-one million _hectolitres_[50] in cereals

"The _superficies rustica_ of Spain may be classed in the following

    "Without cultivation of any kind      42·8 per cent.{*}
    Cultivated                            28·6    "
    Pasture (_terreno de pasto_)          14·6    "
    Woods, orchards, and gardens          14·0    "

{*} 45·8 is the figure stated, but as that would exceed the 100 we have
reduced it accordingly.

"The average value of this superficies, according to annual production;
and the capital which it represents, is as follows:--

         Class.           Annual produce.       Capital.
    Cultivated             £180,400,000      £220,720,000
    Pasture                  31,960,000       153,280,000
    Woods, gardens, &c.      31,568,000        49,280,000

"If we take into account that the 42·8 per cent.{*} of uncultivated land
has also its 'prairie value,' it may be safely calculated that the
landed property of Spain represents a sum of £560,000,000 (five hundred
and sixty millions sterling).

"The number of inhabitants of Spain who devote themselves to agriculture
is, according to the census returns, 4,821,875."

The same article gives a summary of the 22,291 mills and flour-factories
of Spain, by which it appears the motive power used is as follows:--

    Steam                           374 (!)
    Wind                            541
    Horses                           56
    Hand                            787
    Water (various systems)      20,533
                       Total     22,291

From a current number of a daily paper we cut the following
advertisement, as showing the value set on _water_ in thirsty
Spain:--"To be let, the grazing-grounds (_dehesa_) of Junco Real, in the
district (_termino_) of Chichlana. Contains 1,075 _fanegas_ of brushwood
and 237 of cultivation (_labor_), with SIX WELLS."




There are features of Spanish bird-life that give the subject a claim on
the interest of British readers. Spain is the home of many of those
species which we call "rare;" some of the rarest are here quite common.
Especially is this the case with the large birds of prey, with many
aquatic species--such as the beautiful Southern Herons--and various
other bird-groups.

Lying midway between Europe and Africa, Spain also affords opportunity
for the observation of migration--nearly all our British summer-birds
can be observed here in transit, during the spring months: some, indeed,
have wintered in Spain, while the rest appear on passage from Africa to
the North.

More than this, Spain possesses a magnificent avi-fauna of her own,
entirely unknown in England. Ornithologically, her southern
provinces--at least in spring--might be included in what Mr. Sclater
designates the "Cis-atlantean Subregion" (_Ibis_, 1891, p. 523), for
their feathered denizens at that season approximate rather to the North
African than to the European _ornis_.

Nor need these spring-notes be interesting _exclusively_ to the
naturalist: for observation in the wilder and more remote regions
involves a degree of hard work and of field-craft that brings this
bird-hunting fairly within the category of _sport_. Cases in point, as
those of the Flamingo and Crane--elsewhere described, and of the eagles
and large raptores. Here, for example, is one day's record from our
diary:--"Camp at Navasso Redondo, _April 18th_.--Our captures to-day
included 3 eagles, 4 kites, 2 large hawks, 5 ducks, an egret, 2
stone-plover, &c. First, Felipe woke me at day-break to say a pair of
_aguiluchos_ had just coursed and killed a hare within 200 yards of the
tent. Turned out in jersey and _alparagatas_, and stalked the spot
indicated, when a small eagle flew from a tree away in the scrub to the
left. I stood up, thinking the game was gone, when a second Booted Eagle
(_Aquila pennata_) rose from the ground not forty yards ahead, and was
secured. Later on, during the mid-day heat, we _thrice_ descried eagles
perched on high trees--unusual luck. Both the first and second stalks
failed, owing partly to bad marking in the first case, and to
'impossible' terrain in the second. The third, however, I killed--a very
handsome tawny eagle. He was sitting on a pine in the centre of a
circular swampy jungle: there was no considerable difficulty in creeping
round the outside, nor till the final, direct approach commenced, when
the ground became very bad--for the last 100 yards, strong briar-bound
thicket and tussocks of spear-grass with deep bog-pools between, water
up to one's waist. Had got to fifty yards when he saw me, and a lucky
shot killed him as he opened his wings. Also stalked to-day two
Harriers--a Marsh-Harrier (female) and a beautiful blue old Montagu: in
the first case the stalk was supplemented by a short 'drive' by Felipe.
At dusk we observed a pair of Serpent-Eagles go to roost in a large
single _alcornoque_: waited till dark, when we crept, barefoot, towards
the tree, one on either side, and I killed the female eagle as she flew
out into the moonlight. During the day we had found five nests of the
Kite--shot four birds for identification, two from nest, the others
after long _puestos_--and also brought in, besides the eagles, &c., two
Gadwall, a Garganey drake, two White-eyed Pochard, an egret, seven terns
(various), several small birds, and twenty-nine eggs--a memorable day!"
To stalk to within gunshot of an eagle, on the open plain, is almost as
difficult an operation as any in our experience--that is unless, as
sometimes happens, the conditions are unusually favourable.

During several springs we have made ornithological expeditions each of a
fortnight to three weeks' duration, in various parts of Andalucia
(itself nearly as large as England), La Mancha, and Southern
Estremadura. Between the great rivers Guadalquivir and Guadiana lies a
wild region, almost abandoned to wild animals, and rich in picturesque
desolation. The district is an undulating plain, its chief physical
constituent being sand, or light sandy soil, clad over wide areas with
pine-forest, elsewhere with open heaths which extend from the Atlantic
to the confines of Estremadura and the border-land between Spain and
Portugal, or rather of the ancient kingdom of the Algarves. The southern
portion is known as the _Cotos del Rey_ and _Doñana_, the latter,
extending some forty miles inland from the sea, the property of the
noble house bearing one of the oldest European titles--that of Medina
Sidonia. The Coto de Doñana, as the name implies, is a preserve, and,
owing to the circumstance of our having for many years been lessees of
the sporting rights, this lovely wilderness has formed a favourite
hunting-ground at all seasons. But we have also traversed some other of
the wilder regions of the south--many quite as rich, zoologically--such,
for example, as the wooded province of Córdova, the _vegas_ of the
Sierra Nevada and the environs of Almaden; and we now believe that, for
the naturalist, the richest field of all is in Southern Estremadura and
the almost unexplored borders of Guadiana. That river, from Daimiel
downwards, flows through wildernesses of cane-brake, abounding both in
large and small game, and in spring-time with infinite variety of birds.

For our present purpose we have divided the Spanish plains into three
sections:--the pine-forests, the open heaths, and the meres or lagoons;
of these we will now take the _pinales_.

The first thing that strikes an Englishman in Spain is the number and
variety of the birds of prey. At home we have practically exterminated
these, but here they are ever in evidence, from massive eagles and yet
larger vultures down to the smallest falcons. Those bald-headed
fellows, hunting low with heavy flight, or "drifting" alternately on
motionless pinions, are Marsh-Harriers; the long-winged hawks, like
giant swallows, are the Montagu's Harrier. Buzzards are of more soaring
flight, resembling in form the eagles, but lacking their regal presence;
while the Kites are recognized by the deeply forked tail. Ever since
Rugby days and the Kestrel's nest in Caldecott's classic spinney, the
birds of prey have had a special attraction to the writer--to whom,
_pace_ the later lights of ornithological science, a hawk still holds
the chief place among birds.

Starting on a bright April morning to traverse the _pinales_ of La
Marismilla, our first find was a nest of the Serpent-Eagle (_Circäetus
gallicus_) built in the main fork of a stone-pine, a curiously twisted
tree growing apart on a heathery knoll in a forest-glade. This, and all
the nests of this eagle we have seen, was small, very thick in
proportion to width, had a layer of dead leaves, and then a lining of
twigs. This bird only lays one egg--large, rough, and white--which fact
perhaps explains the relative smallness of their nests. Below are strewn
many vertebræ of serpents; a female we shot had a snake four feet long
in her beak, only a few inches hanging outside; another, killed at her
nest in a mountain-forest of the sierra, had a rabbit; but snakes and
large reptiles are their chief prey. Snakes abound in Spain, and some
grow to great size, many reaching six feet in length, and we have killed
lizards of nearly three.

The legs and feet of this eagle are pale bluish, and very rough--to hold
their slippery prey. The eye is large, overhung, and very bright yellow;
flight buoyant, but rather unsteady, and they show very white from
below. Most reptiles hybernating, even in sunny Spain, the Serpent-Eagle
is only a summer migrant--we have never observed it in the winter
months. The date of arrival this year (1891) was March 8th. In 1888 we
observed a pair as early as the 3rd.

Both eagles soared around so near that there was no difficulty in
recognizing the species; indeed their heavy heads--almost
owl-like--recurved wings and white under-sides, cannot be mistaken.[51]
Not requiring them as specimens, we continued our ride, and during the
day found two nests of the Buzzard, each with three eggs; the only nests
of this species found this spring--except one with young in June--the
Buzzard being more numerous in winter, when almost every dead tree is
occupied by one of these indolent hawks. All the Spanish-breeding
Buzzards are of the normal dark brown type. The Goshawk (_Astur
palumbarius_) we have also observed in these Andalucian forests both in
spring and winter, but have not chanced to find it breeding here
ourselves, though it is on record that it occasionally does so.

The next two nests discovered were both those of the Kite (_Milvus
ictinus_), each on a lofty pine. There are in Spain two kinds of Kite,
whose wild musical scream is characteristic of these lonely woodlands.
There is the _Milano real_--the Red Kite, resident in Spain, and
distinguishable from the migrant Black Kite (_Milvus migrans_) by the
broad white band on the under-wing, caused by the basal half of the
primaries being white beneath (this band in _M. migrans_ being
smoke-grey), and by the more deeply forked tail. The Black Kite is
altogether a more dusky coloured species.

The eggs of the two species, and those of Buzzards and others, are
indistinguishable; it is therefore necessary to shoot or trap the birds
from the nest to make sure of identification. But the Red Kite breeds
earlier (at the end of March, and early in April) and in more secluded
spots than its ally, whose habits, moreover, are, in places, almost
gregarious. We have seen a score of Black Kites' nests in a small patch
of wood, not two acres--but eggs are not laid till quite the end of
April or early in May.

[Illustration: Plate XXX.


Page 242.]

A singular, but well-known, habit of the Kite (the Red, not the Black
species) is to decorate their abodes with a collection of gaudy rags and
other fantastic rubbish: in one case I found the dead and dried remains
of a White Owl hung up, in others the long quill-feathers of the
Spoon-bill and other birds, a linen shirt-sleeve, old match-boxes, and
similar sundries. But this curious custom was useful in saving many an
unnecessary climb--no nest was worth going up to unless a rag or two
fluttered in the breeze. The Kites, moreover, select the loftiest trees
for their abodes, and owing to the habit of Spanish foresters to lop off
all the lower branches of the pines when saplings, these trees grow up
tall, straight, and slippery as fishing-rods. Fortunately for oological
enterprise, the scant population of the _pinales_ are mostly
_piñaleros_--pine-cone gatherers. These pine-cones are used for fuel and
for making a confection something like _nougat_. The tree-climbing
abilities of the _piñaleros_ are marvellous: in this way we obtained
many eggs of Kite, Buzzard, Booted Eagle, and most of the
forest-breeding species.

After a stiff climb to one Kite's nest, built in a tall branchless
aspen, whose base was barricaded by clinging thorny briars, I was
disappointed to find no eggs. The Kite had sat close, and I had just
shot her from the nest: all around hung the customary decorations, yet
the big nest appeared to contain nothing but a white rag. I turned this
over, and there, beneath and almost wrapt in what proved to be a
delicate cambric handkerchief, embroidered with the name "Antonia M.,"
lay two handsome eggs! The fair Andaluza who had lost this property
might throw an interesting light on the distances traversed by Kites in
the search thereof: Shakespeare warned her (_Winter's Tale_, Act IV.,
Sc. 2), "Where the Kite builds, look to lesser linen."

Another denizen of the _pinales_ requires passing notice--the Raven. It
is curious that in Spain these birds nest later than in northern lands.
In Northumberland the Raven lays early in March, or even at the end of
February, amidst snow and frost. Here, on the last day of April, we
found two nests on pines not far apart. One was warmly lined with
sheep's wool, but still empty; the other with rabbits' fur, and
contained five fresh eggs.

The nests of Ravens, Kites, Buzzards, and Booted Eagles are hardly
distinguishable from below, except that the eagle usually selects the
main fork, the others building out on the lateral branches. In the
crevices and foundations of all these large nests are often inserted the
untidy, grass-built edifices of the chestnut-headed Spanish Sparrow
(_Passer salicicolus_), a forest-loving species, not found in the haunts
of men like his cousin of the streets, and having a special predilection
for sharing the homes of the larger raptores, as our Sparrows at home
build under the nests in a rookery.

The large birds of prey are always difficult to shoot, even at their
nests: and for capturing them the circular steel-traps proved
invaluable, saving much time and being almost certain in their action.
The miseries of a _puesto_, or ambush, of an hour, or even two, lying on
the burning sand, in the stifling heat of the underwood, to await the
return of the birds, one does not forget. For minutes that pass like an
eternity, the keen-eyed Kite will hover and sail overhead; meanwhile a
hissing column of mosquitoes have focussed themselves over one's face:
black ants, like small dumb-bells, and creeping things innumerable,
penetrate up one's sleeve and down one's neck: while at the critical
moment, when one must remain rigidly motionless, a huge hairy spider of
hideous mien gently lowers itself on to one's nose.

A Kite or Buzzard is too cautious to return directly to the nest.
Alighting first on a distant pine, it will approach by three or four
flights, and at last one knows that the coveted prize sits well within
shot, but either directly behind, or in such a position that (from the
ambush) the gun cannot be brought to bear. The trap saved all this, and
rarely failed to secure such specimens as were required--many caught by
the beak and killed instantly.[52]

[Illustration: Plate XXXI.


Page 245.]

A characteristic of the forests of Doñana are the enormous
sand-hills--mountains of blown sand dazzling in the reflected sunlight,
and devoid of green thing or trace of life, beyond the track of prowling
Lynx or Mongoose, or the curious "broad-gauge" _vestigia_ of the
tortoise. Stay: there is a thin black strip of moving objects--they are
all ants, and that is one of their great highways--a beaten track
connecting two great industrial centres. Except on the chosen line--a
mere strip barely an inch wide, though hundreds of yards in length--not
another insect will be visible on the wastes of sand. To the selected
route each member of their infinite community confines his course as
systematically as the steamships of our great ocean lines. One cannot
resist the temptation of interrupting this well-regulated microcosm.
Instantly confusion spreads in the black ranks: around the point of
obstruction the intercepted battalions spread out like a fan: the tumult
and disorder extend backwards along either column till for yards the
sand is carpeted with the fragments of a disorganized host. But these
scattered units are each seeking to re-establish their lost continuity.
The re-formed column deflects a little to pass on one side or the other
(not both), and in a few minutes the "trade-route" has resumed its
former monotonous regularity.

Elsewhere the sand-wastes are clothed, especially in their deeper dells
and hollows, with cistus-scrub or tamarisk, and the stone-pine (_Pinus
pinea_) somehow finds sustenance and even luxuriates. How plant-life can
survive on the remnants of pulverized rock is a mystery--though here,
perhaps, the deep-seated roots strike into alluvial soil below--and no
more comprehensible in view of the analogous fact that the vines
producing the richest Spanish wines also flourish in equally ungenial
soils. The vintages of Jerez are garnered from grapes grown on arid and
silicious soil: the strong red wine of Val-de-Peñas, so grateful in
torrid Spain, comes, literally, from a "valley of stones," and in the
Alto Douro the vineyards occupy hillsides composed of little bits of
(what looks like) broken slate and disintegrated shale, so little
coherent, that the slopes must be terraced before they are cultivable.
Strange anomalies--plant a vine in rich soil, and you get vine
leaves--in tropical lands, the vine becomes a barren evergreen--in arid
soil or shale, it produces nectar.

Firm and compacted as appears the substance of these sand-hills--the
sandstone of a future age--it yet retains, to some extent, its shifty
and unstable character. At intervals its masses elect to move onwards
and to engulf forests over which, for centuries, they have impended.
Immediately below where we sit, the ridge terminates, abrupt as a
precipice. Two hundred yards beyond, the sloping sand-foot is studded
with half-buried pines--several forest monarchs already entombed to
their centres, alive, but struggling in their death-throes. Of others,
farther back, only the topmost branches protrude, sere, yellow, and
dead, from the devouring particles. And beneath those glistening sands,
hidden far from sight, doubtless there rest the skeletons of buried
forests of bygone days.

Just above us in the peak of the stone-pine under whose shade we enjoy
the midday rest, is a huge platform of sticks--a deserted throne of the
king of birds. Now this eyrie is deserted, the daylight shows through
its centre, and the tree is occupied by different tenants--a pair of
Cushats: before now we have seen them share the same tree with the
tyrant. Bird-notes are hushed during the midday heat, and silence reigns
over the forest: presently from afar comes the strident _kark, kark_ of
the Raven, and then from mid-air resounds the musical scream of a Kite
floating in the heaven above.

Riding along the open glades, the most conspicuous birds in spring are
the brilliant Rollers and Hoopoes, parties of Hawfinches and Crossbills,
always shy, an occasional Spotted Cuckoo (_C. glandarius_) or Southern
Grey Shrike (_L. meridionalis_); handsome Woodchats (_L._ _rufus_)
scold in every bush, and various Finches and Woodpeckers, Tits and
Creepers, enliven the woodlands, and sprightly Rufous Warblers the drier
plain. Among the cane-brakes and _carices_ that fringe the marshy
hollows skulk several other warblers--the Great Sedge and Black-headed
Warblers (_S. arundinacea_ and _melanocephala_), Orphean, Cetti's, and
the little Fantail, besides our familiar Willow-Wrens, Chiffchaffs,
Blackcaps, Redstarts and Robins--the latter resident, and very bright in
colour. The Black Redstart has already disappeared (April), but from day
to day one sees our British migrants arriving, resting, or passing
forward on their northern journey. Swallows especially are conspicuous:
to-day the air is alive with them, sweeping along the open glades:
to-night they roost in chattering hosts in the trees around our
camp--to-morrow they are gone, not a swallow remains: and this occurs a
dozen times during April and May.

On April 13th and two following days there occurred a conspicuous
"through transit" of Pied Flycatchers, and two days later (in another
year) the brushwood was alive with Redstarts, all on passage. On the
25th we were visited for a couple of hours by hundreds of Alpine Swifts:
and the same evening the large Red-necked Nightjars (_C. ruficollis_)
arrived, to add their churring note to the crepuscular chorus of frogs
and night-birds for the rest of the spring and summer. One evening in
May, while watching a pair of Golden Orioles to their nest, I witnessed
a rather curious eviction. A Spanish Green Woodpecker (_Gecinus
sharpii_), her gullet crammed with ants, flew to a hole in a wild-olive,
but was met at the entrance by a furious Little Owl (_Athene noctua_),
which soon drove the clumsier bird (which had no idea of self-defence)
screaming to the shelter of some brushwood. Soon after, her mate
returned, but met with a similar reception, the savage little owl
perching meanwhile on an adjacent branch, where he sat bolt upright, all
fluffed out, and snapping with rage. On examining the place, I found the
woodpeckers had a numerous family, nearly ready to fly: while the owl
had deposited a single egg in an adjoining hole. The execution of the
aggressor seemed, at first, the only means of saving this thriving
family, but, on second thoughts, I decided that the justice of the case
would be met by removing the defendant's egg, and filling up his hole
with sticks.

The Orioles' nest I shortly afterwards discovered, built in a white-elm,
at the extreme end of a long pendant branch, the whole of which it was
necessary to cut down. This nest, however, was empty. The Golden Orioles
do not lay till nearly the middle of May, and from the shyness of the
old birds, and the aërial situation of the nest, their eggs are among
the most difficult to obtain.

[Illustration: HOOPOES.]

During the early part of May we found many nests of Hoopoes, some in
hollow trees, one in a ruined outhouse, which we were using as a stable,
and which, in a previous year, had been similarly occupied by a Roller,
and always affords a home to two or three pairs of the Spotless or
Sardinian Starling (_Sturnus unicolor_), a species which, in spring,
replaces the common kind. On the outskirts of the woods were many nests
of Goldfinch and Serinfinch, Common and Green Linnets, Blue and Great
Tit, Willow-Wren, Woodchat, &c.; and in the open rushy glades, those of
Black-headed Warbler, Blackcap and Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Spotted
Flycatcher, Grey-headed Wagtail (_Motacilla cinereocapilla_), and
others. I looked in vain in these pine-woods for the Crested Tit, which
occurs near Gibraltar, and which my brother found numerous in Navarre.
On the 10th May I found a couple of Nightingales' nests in the tiny
garden-patch adjoining a forester's cot, and a week later obtained
several nests of the Melodious Willow-Warbler (_Hypolais polyglotta_)
with their beautiful vinous-pink eggs; later still (May 28th), those of
the Rufous Warbler (_Ædon galactodes_) among the cactus-bushes:--but
this is getting suspiciously like a catalogue.

One circumstance deserves passing remark--the relatively smaller number
of eggs laid in the south than is the case with many of the same species
further north. In Spain, several of the warblers, &c. above mentioned,
lay only four eggs; the Blackbird, as a rule, but three, and these much
brighter coloured than at home.

Delightful days were those spent riding through these pathless forests,
redolent of the exhalations of pine and rosemary, and a hundred aromatic
shrubs, and resplendent with the glory of the southern spring-time. What
words can convey the contrast of dark _pinal_ and dazzling sand-waste,
or catch the play of sunlight glancing through massed foliage on russet
trunks and the soft pale verdure of the brushwood? For long leagues
these forests stretch unbroken save by rushy glades and park-like opens,
where at dusk the Red Deer come to seek rich pasturage, and the Wild
Boar ploughs deep trenches in his search for succulent roots, varied by
a _bonne-bouche_ of mole-crickets.




Leaving the pinal, or pine region, let us spend a fortnight in the open
bush-land beyond. Passing successively the famous manchas of the Alameda
Honda, the Rincon de los Carrizos, and Majáda Real--each coverts of
repute, though all unknown to geographers and marked upon no map--we
traverse next the forest-glades of the Angosturas, and enter upon a
different region, where fresh landscapes and new beauties await
appreciative eyes. Here the swelling sand-dunes trend away
southwards--towards the sea. The dark bushy pine gives place to open
heath and brushwood, stretching away to the horizon, here and there
diversified with scattered clumps of cork-oak, aspen, wild-olive, and

The country around our quarters is a level plain of evergreen
scrub--lentiscus, broom, heaths of varied kinds, and mile upon mile of
sombre grey-green cistus, generally about shoulder-high, but deepening
in places into impassable jungle. Here and there are stagnant pools,
around whose banks grow immense cork-oaks, embedded amidst tree-heath
(_Erica arborea_), giant heather and arbutus, all interlaced with the
twining, thorny fronds of briar. It is in these dank, dark depths that
the old boars select their lairs, and they are the home of Lynx and
Wild-Cat, Badger, Genet, and Mongoose, and of many interesting birds,
from the Eagle to the Turtledove. The following record of some of our
spring rambles will give an outline of the fauna of this region:--

[Illustration: A SERENADE.]

_April 15th._--We were astir early, a few stars shining dimly, and the
last of the frogs still croaking in the _acequias_, as we sipped our
matutinal chocolate upon the verandah;

    βρεκεκεκἑ κοἁξ κοἁξ,
    βρεκεκεκἑ κοἁξ κοἁξ,]

repeat the frogs, as in the Stygian chorus of old. Far away over the
half-lit expanse of cistus a pair of large eagles were already hunting
for their breakfast, and an owl slipped close overhead and disappeared
into a crevice of the roof above, where we could hear the snoring and
snapping of the strigine community as the night's booty was being
discussed. We were away by sunrise, at which hour the singular, resonant
song of the Partridge-cocks (Red-legs) was ubiquitous: from almost every
ilex-grove came the half-choking _chukàr, chukàr_, while the love-sick
bird bowed and gesticulated, standing nearly bolt upright with
half-expanded wings on some dead branch or shattered trunk, sometimes on
the crest of a sand-ridge.[53]

Within a quarter-mile of the lodge we found a Kite's nest, shot the old
bird, replaced her two eggs with two hen's eggs and a steel-trap: and
had hardly ridden two hundred yards ere the male swept down and was
caught. Seldom are so fine a pair of birds secured so easily! During
this day we found no fewer than six nests, for the Kite, as before
stated, prefers the open country to the forest, and almost each clump of
cork-trees was tenanted by a pair. These cork-groves are also occupied
by many other species--by birds of plumage whose resplendent hues appear
almost tropical--such as Golden Oriole, Roller, Bee-eater, Hoopoes,
Woodpeckers, Azure-winged Magpie, and others hardly less brilliant. Amid
the ilex-groves the Golden Oriole hangs suspended, hovering like a
Kestrel in mid-air, his rich orange lustre justifying the Spanish
name--_oropendola_: the Roller, clad in chestnut and azure, and rich
parti-coloured Hoopoes and Pied Woodpeckers flit among the foliage.
Presently a harsh "chack, chack" announces the arrival of a wandering
party of Bee-eaters, most brilliant of European birds; and a score of
these sweep round, alternately rising and poising, or soaring on
clean-cut, hawk-like wing, then darting downwards amidst the masses of
flowering heaths in pursuit of industrious _aphidæ_. The Bee-eaters pass
on: but there is no truce for the insect-world, for other deadly
enemies, the Woodchat and Southern Grey Shrike, sit by on every bush,
intent on impaling heavy-flying bee or beetle. From the alcornoques
there resounds the shrieking maniacal laughter of the flame-coloured
Spanish Woodpecker (_Gecinus sharpii_) as he flies heavily from tree to
tree with rustling, undulated flight: then there is an occasional
Azure-winged Magpie (_Cyanopica cookii_), there are Wood-Pigeons and
Turtle-Doves, Spotted Cuckoos, and Magpies in swarms. The cavernous
trunks are occupied by colonies of Jackdaws, less hoary-naped than ours,
the lesser crevices by Hoopoes, Scop's and Little Owls.

Nearly all the brilliantly-plumaged birds which at this season lend a
semi-tropical character to the Spanish avi-fauna, are
spring-migrants--pouring across the straits during the months of March
and April, and retiring to African latitudes in autumn. Here is a brief
record, showing dates of arrival, &c., chiefly from the observations of
one year (1891), but supplemented where necessary by those of previous
springs, with a few incidental notes.

       *       *       *       *       *

_February 21st._--Many Swallows arrived: in thousands on 23rd--a
complete nuisance while snipe-shooting. On February 28th some were
already beginning to nest.

_February 26th._--A single Hoopoe arrived: numerous by 3rd March. Also
observed a Goshawk.

_February 28th._--A pair of Egyptian Vultures, and many Lesser Kestrels
were seen to-day.

_March 1st._--Great Spotted Cuckoo, and a single Wheat-ear appeared.
Many of the Wigeon and other ducks, and all Golden Plovers are now gone.
Shot four Garganey.

_March 8th._--First Serpent-Eagle (two more on 10th), and many Black
Kites, in _pinales_. The White Wagtails entirely disappeared about this
date. Landrail shot.

_March 10th._--Hundreds of Wood-Pigeons--all gone next day. Shot a pair
of Black Storks (1869).

_March 13th._--Last Woodcock. Not one-fifth of the ducks now remain in

_March 19th._--Shot Scop's Owl in garden at Jerez.

_March 20th._--Observed Kentish and Lesser Ring Plovers, and shot Purple
Heron. Flights of Cranes passing north.

_March 24th._--Observed Short-toed Larks, and Spotless Starling;
Black-headed Gulls still here, in full breeding-plumage. Ruff and
Black-tailed Godwits shot to-day.

_March 26th._--Ring-Ouzel (Sierra Bermeja), and in same district, Booted
Eagle on 29th, Woodchat 30th, and Rock-Thrush on April 3rd.

_March 30th_ (1883).--Woodchats: and first Cuckoo heard in garden.
Starlings, Thrushes and Sky-larks have all gone.

_March 31st_ (1872).--Swarms of Bee-eaters, Eared and Russet Wheatears,
and two or three Rollers.

_March 31st_ (1891).--While away in sierra, the following birds have
appeared: Savi's, Spectacled, and Subalpine Warblers (all obtained),
Cirl-Buntings, Swifts.

_April 3rd._--Nightingales in garden. They do not sing for the first few
days. First eggs laid May 7th.

_April 6th._--Montagu's Harrier arrived (the last Hen-Harrier shot on
10th). Demoiselle Crane shot.

_April 8th._--Turtle-Doves in small flights, and many Bee-eaters and
Rollers arrived. Last Snipe shot to-day.

_April 9th._--Pratincoles, Whiskered and Lesser Terns.

_April 10th._--Pair Marbled Ducks, one Nyroca Pochard, and an Egret
shot. Observed White-faced Ducks.

_April 16th._--Glossy Ibis--Zopiton.

_April 20th._--The following have arrived within the last week or ten
days. Great Sedge Warbler, Orphœan and Garden Warblers, Whitethroat,
Ortolan, and Golden Orioles--the latter seen first to-day.

_April 23rd._--Pair Hobbies observed--_pinales_.

_April 25th._--Alpine Swifts passing over.

_April 27th._--Shot Buff-backed Heron, Isla Menor: and found Bittern's
nest with three eggs; also two of the Great Bustard, each with two eggs.

_April 28th._--Night-Herons observed--marisma Gallega.

_April 29th._--Rufous Warblers (_Ædon galactodes_) arrived in hundreds.
On same date Honey-Buzzards passing northwards, flying quite low against
a north-easterly gale, in large bands. A friend, shooting Turtle-Doves
in the _pinales_ of San Fernando, killed six. These Buzzards pass yearly
in hundreds (both adults and immature), on one or two days at this
period, but usually fly very high.

_April 30th._--Shot the first Russet-necked Nightjar and observed
Melodious Willow-Warblers (_Hypolais polyglotta_). Enormous passage of
Swallows to-day. This is also the date when the Little Bittern and
Squacco Heron are due.

_May 3rd._--Black Terns appeared. The only other nesting species yet to
arrive are the Spotted Flycatcher, Pallid Warbler (_Hypolais opaca_),
and the remainder of the Nightjars, Rufous Warblers, &c.

_May 4th._--Camp in mid-marisma. All this night, commencing about 10
P.M., a stream of migrating birds kept passing overhead. From the dark
sky resounded for hours the cries of gulls and terns, sundry small
land-birds, whimbrels, plovers and sandpipers of various species:
besides harsher shrieks and notes that resembled those of hawks and
herons of some kind.

Amidst such wealth of bird-life lies work for many spring-visits. The
nesting-season, moreover (the most interesting period to the
ornithologist), extends over a greater period of time than is the case
at home. In Spain, with its early spring and warm equable climate, it
might be supposed that most birds would nest both early and more or less
simultaneously. But this is not the case. The period of reproduction,
with birds, appears to be prolonged proportionately as one approaches
the equator. In the far north, where summer is short and sharply
defined, this period is the same. Thus in the arctic lands of
Spitsbergen and Novaya Zemlya, it is limited to six weeks, and in
Lapland and Siberia to two months or so, extending in Central Europe,
roughly speaking, to three. In Andalucia domestic duties last, with one
species or another, over half the year. There are cases in which
nidification commences before Christmas--as with the Lammergeyer,
Bonelli's Eagle, and the Eagle-Owl: the Griffon Vultures and some others
are only a little later. Whereas, on the other hand, some of the herons
do not nest till June: _Ædon galactodes_ and the Little Bustard are
still incubating in July, and the Flamingoes breed so late that their
young can hardly be on the wing before the latter month.

Among the earlier breeders is the Spanish Green Woodpecker, which drills
deep holes in the hard wood of cork-oak or olive, and lays six shining
white eggs in March. Now (April) they had young, but rear a second brood
in May. Though they are so abundant, yet the "tapping" sound
characteristic of the Woodpeckers is not heard in the Spanish forests,
for their food consists of ants and of the small, red and black beetles
that cluster in every crevice of the rough cork-bark.

The Rollers were also laying in mid-April--here in hollow trees,
elsewhere in crevices of rocks or ruins: but wherever their treasure may
be, the silly birds are sure to disclose its position by their incessant
"caterwauling," and anxious, tumbling flight. On the 17th April we found
the first nest of the Southern Grey Shrike (_Lanius meridionalis_) in a
high mastic-bush. The nest resembled that of the Missel-Thrush, the five
eggs larger and more darkly marbled than those of the northern _L.
excubitor_. Nests of the Woodchat (_L. rufus_) may be found in almost
every bush from May 10th onward, and the Bee-eaters have then formed
swarming colonies in the river-banks like Sand-Martins.

As remarkable a freak as any in nature is the system of reproduction by
proxy adopted by the Great Spotted Cuckoo (_Coccystes glandarius_). This
smart and handsome bird, though more abundant in Estremadura and the
Castiles, is fairly numerous on the wooded prairies of Andalucia, where
its curious nesting habits may be observed with ease. The parasitic
habits of the European _Cuculidæ_ are well known--none of these birds
building a nest or rearing their own young. Our British Cuckoo deposits
its eggs singly in the nests of hedge-sparrow, warbler, wagtail, or
other small bird--it is not particular which. The Spotted Cuckoo,
however, does not impose this duty of rearing her young upon her
neighbours generally, but almost exclusively upon the common Magpie:
though exceptionally upon the Azure-winged species (_Cyanopica cookii_)
and the Raven as well. At the Encinar del Visco, during the past year
(1891), the writer found two of the Cuckoo's eggs in a nest of that
bird, along with three eggs (one broken) of the owner.[54]

The Spotted Cuckoo, moreover, lays eggs so exactly resembling those of
the selected foster-mother (the Magpie) as to be hardly distinguishable.
On close examination, it is true, they do differ in their more ellipitic
form and granular surface: but, unless previously aware and specially on
the look-out, no one, probably, would suspect they were not Magpie's
eggs--apparently not even that cute bird itself does so. Even so
experienced an ornithologist as Canon Tristram failed to discriminate
the difference--this was in Algeria--till the zygo-dactylic foot of the
embryos betrayed the secret (_Ibis_, 1859).

The Spotted Cuckoo deposits two, three, and even four eggs in the _same_
Magpie's nest--sometimes leaving the original owner's eggs undisturbed,
in other cases removing all or part of them: we have noticed spilt yolk
and the shells of broken eggs at the entrance to the nest and on the
branches below. Hatched thus, in the domed and enclosed nests of the
Magpie, it seems difficult for the young Spotted Cuckoos to eject their
pseudo-brothers and sisters; but we cannot speak definitely as to this
detail in the early life-history of these curious usurpers of hearth and

The only egg of the Common Cuckoo we have ever found in Spain was in a
nest of the Stonechat. This was on April 23rd, and there were four eggs
of the Stonechat. The Cuckoo is common in Spain on passage, arriving
early in April; a few remain to breed, and we have heard their note up
to the end of May, but the majority pass on northwards at once.

The Azure-winged Magpie, above referred to, is very local in the south.
It nests not far from Jerez, and in some numbers near Coria del Rio, but
is much more abundant in the wooded _vegas_ of Cordova, and still more
so in Estremadura and Castile, actually swarming near Talavera de la
Reyna, at Aranjuez, etc. Their nests, placed on bushes rather than
trees, resemble a Jay's, slightly built of sticks exteriorly, and
completed with green moss, dry grass, etc., and contain five or six
eggs. Half-a-dozen nests may often be found within a hundred yards. An
active, sprightly bird, exclusively confined to the Spanish Peninsula.


The Jay, though common in the mountain-forests, and in Portugal, is not
seen on the South-Spanish plains; but the Magpie absolutely swarms.
During lunch one day I counted upwards of seventy in sight at a time,
and from one spot. A rushy glade before us was dotted all over with
them; their pied breasts surmounted nearly every bush. Further away, I
also counted during the half-hour's halt (without including such small
fry as Kestrels, etc.) no less than twenty-one large birds of
prey--several Kites of both kinds, a soaring Buzzard or two, Marsh-and
Montagu's Harriers, and at least a pair of eagles.

Such a spectacle would probably break the heart of an orthodox British
gamekeeper; to preserve any fair head of game in presence of such an
array of "vermin"--both powerful raptores and cunning egg-thieves--he
would certainly assert to be impossible. So, in England, it probably
would be; yet here our game-books record bags varying from 150 to 300
partridge, besides other game, in a day, and totals of from 1,000 to
1,200 head and upwards in a fortnight's shooting. Yet those who advocate
the _status quo_ in nature and condemn dogmatically any interference
therewith by the hand of man, would be wrong in jumping to the
conclusion that the co-existence in Spain of a considerable head of game
with a host of their most powerful enemies, is any solid substantiation
of their theories, in a _general_ sense.

To this question of nature's balance of life we may devote a little
space; it is seldom so simple as at first sight may appear. Here in
Spain its solution depends on factors some of which do not exist and
would have, consequently, no bearing at home; but the general features
of the particular case in point may be summed up in three lines: (1)
Spain is a land teeming with reptile-life; (2) The reptiles in the
aggregate are the most deadly enemies to game; and (3) it is upon
reptiles that the raptorial birds habitually prey.

The large eagles, it is true, prefer rabbits and partridges to anything
else; but the "catch" of their smaller relatives, the Booted and
Serpent-Eagles, the Kites, Buzzards and Hawks, is composed chiefly of
reptiles--lizards, snakes, blindworms, salamanders, and the like--as
well as the larger insects, such as locusts, cicadas, scorpions,
grasshoppers, the huge horned scarabæi and other coleoptera of which so
great a variety abound in Southern Spain. At the end of this chapter we
annex a brief analysis, the result of a number of post-mortem
examinations of the crops and stomachs of various raptorial birds, which
shows pretty conclusively that while game, etc., is included in their
_menu_, by far the greater portion of their attack is directed against
the reptile race--itself the most pernicious to game and all the
defenceless creation. It is, in fact, a warfare of raptor _versus_
raptorem, of feathered freebooter against scaled marauder, and the
harmless and peaceful balance of creation benefit by that internecine
state of war.


The destruction that is wrought by the larger reptiles is difficult to
exaggerate; both snakes and lizards are inveterate egg-stealers, and
also devour large quantities of young game, whether furred or feathered,
besides other creatures. Gliding noiselessly, rapidly, and with an
infinite stealth, their approach is imperceptible, whether through
brushwood or scrub, through shallow water or yielding sand, whether
above ground or below--they penetrate the deep burrows of rabbit or
Bee-eater, and scale the loftiest fortresses of tree-nesting species.
Equally at home on the ground or amongst the topmost branches, nothing
can well escape the larger serpents and saurians. Were they not held in
check by nature's counterpoise, hardly a young rabbit could survive, or
a Partridge, Quail, or Wild Duck succeed in rearing their broods.
Neither ground nor tree-nesting birds are safe: we have seen a Cushat's
nest which in the morning had contained its two eggs, occupied towards
evening by the sleeping coils of a green Eyed Lizard (_Lacerta
ocellata_), measuring nearly a yard in length, and thousands of
promising families are yearly called into existence only to provide
sustenance for cold-blooded, scaly saurians.

Here are three or four examples extracted from our note-book:--

"_April 23rd._--While on the sand-ridge overlooking the laguna de
Santolalla, watching a pair of Marbled Ducks, some Crested Grebes, etc.,
heard subterranean scuffling and rumblings. Presently two rabbits
bolted, and from a hole close by emerged the writhing tail of a great
green lizard, backing out, and dragging, by an engulfed hind leg, a
half-grown rabbit, too terrified to squeal. In some rushes we lost sight
of the reptile, but two minutes later, put him out and shot him. The
hapless rabbit was then gorged--head downwards."

"_May 18th._--Dug out a Bee-eater's colony--some of the tunnels quite
eight or ten feet deep. In two of the nests found snakes, coiled up. One
big black fellow entombed the remains of four or five Bee-eaters,
swallowed entire, besides many eggs. The smaller snake contained eggs
and a brace of Field-mice."

"_May 23rd._--Heard two Partridges in a great state of excitement;
coming up, saw a snake in the act of devouring a half-feathered chick.
The brute, which only measured three feet, nine inches, already
contained four young Partridges!"

"_June 9th._--Shot a huge _Coluber_, six feet two inches, greatly
distended in centre. On opening him found two nearly full-grown rabbits,
swallowed whole."

Under such conditions, the presence of the hawk-tribe is an actual
advantage to the game-preserver--they are his under-keepers and
vermin-trappers. No doubt, were it possible, _first_, to put down
effectually the rapacious reptiles, and _then_ to thin the ranks of the
rapacious birds, the result would be a prodigious increase in the
numbers of the game and other defenceless creatures on which they prey.
This--_mutatis mutandis_--is practically what game-preservation has
accomplished in England; but in Spain the physical conditions are
different, and it is more than questionable if any similar measure of
success could there be attained. Not Don Quixote himself ever conceived
an enterprise more chimerical than the extermination of the snakes in La
Mancha or Andalucia.

[Illustration: THE EAGLE'S SWOOP.]

With the first of the daylight the eagles and most of the larger
raptores turn out for their morning hunt, and during the heat of the day
retire to enjoy a siesta on the peak of some lofty oak or pine, where
they remain conspicuously perched for hours together. Towards evening
predatory operations are generally resumed. It is curious to observe
their different methods of going to work; the Kites sweep about with
buoyant, desultory flight, not unlike large gulls; the _Circäetus_
wheels in wide circles over the cistus-scrub; Montagu's Harrier hunts
with impetuous flight, in long, straight bee-lines close over the
_mancha_, always appearing about to alight but not doing so. But for
systematic searching-out of a breadth of land, none compare with the
Imperial Eagle; usually in pairs, these noble tyrants choose a line of
country, and with wide sweeps to right and left, crossing and recrossing
each other at the central point like well-trained setters, they beat
miles of scrub in a few hours, while a Buzzard or Marsh-Harrier will
hover and circle round a single spot and spend half a day over a few
acres of rushes. Nothing can well escape the eagles; shortly one of the
pair detects the hidden game--for an instant his flight is checked to
assure a deadly aim, then with collapsed wings, and a rushing sound
which is distinctly audible a quarter of a mile away, he dashes headlong
to earth. A second or two later, he rises with loud vociferations, and a
hapless rabbit suspended from his yellow claws. Their short, sharp bark
is repeatedly uttered by the eagles while hunting. Rabbits seem to
constitute nine-tenths of their prey, to judge from the golgotha of
these little animals' skulls below their nests.

The Stone-Curlew (_Œdicnemus crepitans_) is another fine species
characteristic of the scrub, where it is resident or at least is found
throughout the year, and their rectilineal footprints are everywhere
visible on the sandy deserts. On these flat plains they are most
difficult of access, and if winged, run like a hare; towards evening
they become very noisy, piping something like a Curlew in spring--on the
night of April 16th, while skinning a lynx by the light of our fire, the
air around seemed full of them, their vociferations resounding from
every side. We found the first nest, or rather a single egg lying on
bare sand, on April 18th. We have come across these birds in widely
different situations; high out on the barren stony mountains of the
Minho, in Northern Portugal, packs of them frequented the few damp spots
along the courses of the old Roman aqueducts--how few such weak spots
were, testifies to the solidity of these ancient works. This was in
November. Their local name there was "Mountain Curlew" (Masarico de
montes). Apropos of these hills, the following rather curious incidents
are perhaps worth recording. Far out among the boulder-strewn ridges,
while Red-leg shooting, we used to find numbers of Green Woodpeckers
miles away from trees--they were attracted thither by the swarms of
ants. Nightjars (_Caprimulgus europæus_) and Little Owls also abode
there; the latter fluttered out from under one's feet, and after a most
un-owlish, up-and-down flight, would dive back under some big boulder,
more like a fish than a bird. Small flights of Teal also resorted to
these heights during the day, sitting among the heather, and returning
to the marshes at night.

       *       *       *       *       *

FOOD OF SPANISH RAPTORIAL BIRDS--Analyses of examinations of their
crops--as follows:--

  (_See_ p. 259.)

  KITES examined, 21.
    Snakes, Lizards, Blindworms, &c                9 cases.
    Locusts, elytra of coleoptera, &c              9   "
    Bones and remains of small birds               5   "
    Rabbits and young Redlegs (1 each)             2   "
    Egg-shells                                     0   "

  Note.--We have shot Black Kites fairly crammed with

  HARRIERS examined, 17.
    Frogs, Snakes and other reptiles               8 cases.
    Egg-shells                                     7   "
    Scorpions, coleoptera and other insects        3   "
    Game (1 Quail, 1 young and 1 putrid rabbit)    3   "

  The Marsh-Harrier in spring seeks frogs, eggs, and young
  birds; in winter, frogs, wounded birds, and chance reptiles.

  Montagu's Harrier takes chiefly the lesser reptiles and eggs--occasionally
  rabbits--and departs entirely in winter.

  LARGE EAGLES examined, 8.
    Rabbits, Partridge, &c.                        8 cases.
    Reptiles, eggs, or insects                     0   "

  SMALL EAGLES examined, 10.
    Rabbits and other game                         4 cases.
    Reptiles (no eggs or insects)                  4   "
    Small birds                                    3   "
    Sundries (1 young eagle! _See_ p. 215)         1   "

The large eagles prey on game all the year round; the smaller species
chiefly on reptiles and small birds, secondarily on game. In winter the
latter depart to Africa.

FALCONS.--The smaller species are chiefly insectivorous--the Lesser
Kestrel and Eleanora Falcon exclusively so. The Common Kestrel and Hobby
also take small lizards and snakes. From the crop of one of the large
and powerful Falcons (_Falco punicus_) which, when shot, was in the act
of pursuing a Hare, we have taken nearly a score of Blindworms.

It is corroborative of the predominance of reptiles and insects in their
diet, that so many of the raptores leave Spain almost entirely in
winter. Both the Booted and Serpent-Eagles, Black Kite, Montagu's
Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, and others, migrate at that season to Africa.

[Illustration: BLACK STORK.]




Spain is not a land of lakes; the so-called lagoons are often mere
accumulations of flood-water, the result of the winter's rains which
occupy shallow basins, or swamp the low-lying lands. Many of these
hybernal lagoons dry up entirely as the hot weather sets in; others
remain in greatly reduced proportions, hidden, as a rule, amidst reeds
and dense aquatic herbage.

Few Spanish lakes cover any considerable area, though the Lagunas de
Janda, near Trafalgar, those of Fuentepiedra near Malaga, and the
Albufera of Valencia, are exceptions.

The Laguna de Janda, an inland sea of yellow muddy water, surrounded by
belts of sedge and cane-brake stretching away for miles, is a well-known
wildfowl resort, abounding in winter with Grey Geese, ducks, and divers
of many kinds, besides Snipe, Rails, Bitterns, and aquatic birds in all
their varieties. The dry plateaux on the north are a notable resort of
Little Bustard; and large bags of Quail and Golden Plover are there, at
times, secured. But this is well-known ground, and having been described
by others, we will only add that in spring Janda is noteworthy as one of
the breeding-stations of the Crane (_Grus communis_), which still nests
in some numbers amidst the vast area of reed-beds and thick swamp that
lie towards Casa Vieja.

The nests of the Crane are huge accumulations of flags and aquatic
plants built up in the shallow marsh, and hidden amidst the growing
reeds, which in spring completely conceal the water. The Crane lays two
handsome eggs, greenish in hue, but suffused with brown splashes and
obsolete shades, about the end of April. Formerly the Crane used also to
breed in the marismas of the Guadalquivir, but we have not met with it
there of recent years, and fear it is already banished for ever from
that resort. It may sincerely be hoped that these majestic waterfowl,
whose stately appearance and resonant trumpet-note lend so peculiar a
charm to the wild solitudes they frequent, may meet with more
considerate treatment in their last stronghold at Janda.

Of the Mar Menor of Cartagena, the Albufera of Valencia, and other
noteworthy wildfowl resorts lying outside our limits, we can speak with
less certainty, not having had such opportunities of exploration as in
the districts to the S. and W. The Albufera appears to be the western
limit of the range of the handsome Red-crested Pochard (_Fuligula
rufina_), a duck we have sought in vain in Andalucia; but with this
exception, and that of a few stragglers, such as _Hydrochelidon
leucoptera_ and other species of more Eastern distribution, the spring
avifauna of these localities does not materially differ from that of the
more western marismas and lagoons described either in the present
chapter or in those entitled "The Bætican Wilderness."

The lakes of Doñana are of no great extent, the largest being the
Lagunas de Santolalla, and the broad, reed-choked Rocina de la Madre
extending towards Rocio, all of which we have explored at different

Riding towards the small lagoon of Zopiton on April 16th, its surface
was seen to be dotted all over with waterfowl--ducks and divers, coots
and grebes. Zopiton is a deep, reed-fringed pool where we have often
looked in vain for _Fuligula rufina_. On our approach, several Mallards
and Gadwall flew up: I shot a Gadwall drake from horseback, whereupon
there was commotion among the denizens of that sequestered lagoon--ducks
rose splashing and quacking on all sides, coots "skittered" across the
surface, grebes vanished amidst sedges, whence a Marsh-Harrier soared
from her nest. Among the ducks which whistled around and overhead were
many of a small dark species unknown to us. These appeared loth to
leave, and after the others had disappeared, continued circling round,
high in the air, with rapid rustling flight like that of a Golden-eye.
By creeping out to a rush-clad point we lay concealed between sedges and
a thicket of briar, and here soon shot several of these ducks, as well
as Mallard, Garganey, and another Gadwall or two. The unknown birds
proved to be the White-eyed Pochard, or Ferruginous Duck (_Fuligula
nyroca_) which evidently intended to breed here, though a search for
their nests proved futile. A month later, however (in May), we obtained
nests both of this Pochard and of the Gadwall, both built among rushes
on dry ground. The Gadwall--inappropriately termed in Spanish "_Silbon
real_" (_i.e._ king-wigeon, or whistler)--is a very silent duck, and
always seen in pairs. In May we found them singly, those shot then being
all drakes rising from small sedgy pools.

The Garganey are fairly numerous on these lagoons in spring; yet
though--especially in wet seasons--they certainly breed there, we have
never discovered a nest. The marshmen (who know the different kinds of
duck as well as most people) assert positively that in _very wet_
springs a few pairs of the Common Teal also remain to breed.

[Illustration: Plate XXXII.


Page 268.]

Among the tall _juncales_, or reed-beds, in mid-water, abode numerous
aquatic warblers--notably the Great Sedge-Warbler, Cetti's, and the
Reed-Warbler, the loud grating song of the former is incessant: but
owing to the depth of water and mud, and the maze of rank weeds, such
spots are difficult to explore. The Melodious Warbler (_Hypolais
polyglotta_) nests on bushes and sallows on the drier ground: while the
little Fantails (_Cisticola_) build their pretty purse-shaped nests on
the shorter rushes along the margin. A peculiarity of this tiny bird is
that it lays eggs of wholly different colours--though not in the same
nest--some clutches being pale green, some blue, others of a soft
rose-colour, a few pure white. The elaborate way in which the nest
itself is compacted of intertwined grasses and laced on to a tuft of
rush is no less remarkable. Its Spanish name is _Bolsicon_--a little
purse, and the species remains all the winter. Among the tall _carices_,
floating in about three feet of water, was the nest of the
Marsh-Harrier: it resembled that of a Coot, and had, perhaps, been built
originally by that bird, many of which bred there.

While driving the ducks, five birds of peculiar appearance flew
over--they were Glossy Ibis, and passed within shot of Felipe, who,
however, failed to stop them. This was the only instance of our meeting
with the Ibis--a singular circumstance, as in wet seasons they nest in
numbers in the upper marisma. Their deep blue eggs have several times
been brought to us while bustard-shooting on the Isla Menor, &c., the
boys who brought them saying the nests were in the thick _cañas_, and
not on low trees, where the small herons breed. Very curiously, in all
the time we spent in the marisma, we never again saw this bird in
spring, or found a single nest ourselves.

A ride of a few miles from Zopiton across the sandy heath-land brings us
to the larger lagunas de Santolalla, where numerous wildfowl assemble in
spring. Besides Mallards, Gadwalls, and Ferruginous Ducks, already
described, were many Pintails, Garganeys, Teal, and the pretty Marbled
Duck--(_Querquedula marmorata_). The latter nests at Santolalla at the
end of May: but more numerously in the open marisma, laying ten or
twelve eggs, well hidden among the clumps of samphire. Some of the
Pintails (which are the most abundant of the winter wildfowl) linger
late in spring: for on May 8th we observed a "bunch" of a dozen or so at
Santolalla, all drakes, their snow-white throats glistening in the
sunshine. Near them a pair of Shoveller drakes were swimming, and
presently the binocular rested on six of the most extraordinary wildfowl
we ever met with--gambolling and splashing about on the water, chasing
each other, now above now beneath its surface like a school of
porpoises, they appeared half birds, half water-tortoises, with which
the lagoon abounds. We were well sheltered by a fringe of sedges, and
presently the strangers entered a small reed-margined bight, swimming
very deep, only their turtle-shaped backs and heavy heads in sight. Here
we crept down on them, and as they sat, splashing and preening in the
shallow water, stopped three--two dead, the third escaping, winged. They
proved to be a duck and drake of the White-fronted Duck--_Erismatura
mersa_--heavily built diving-ducks, round in the back, broad and flat in
the chest, with small wings like a Grebe, and long, stiff tails like a
Cormorant--the latter, being carried underwater as a rudder, is not
visible when the bird is swimming. The enormously swollen bill of the
drake--pale waxen blue in colour--completed as singular a picture of a
feathered fowl as the writer ever came across: they were in fact no less
remarkable in form and colour, now we had them in hand, than they had at
first appeared in the water. The head and neck of the drake were jet
black, with white face and cheeks: otherwise their whole plumage was
dark ferruginous (not white below, as represented in "Bree") and with a
silky, grebe-like sheen.

These singular ducks, we found, were well known to the _guardas_ as
"patos porrones" (porron--a knob), and subsequently found several pairs
at the Laguna de Medina, a lake near Jerez, where, on the 23rd May, they
were evidently breeding. The lake was also occupied "by numbers of the
Great Crested Grebe (_Podicipes cristatus_), quaint-looking birds in
their full summer-dress. The nests of the Little Grebe may be found
floating in every rushy pool.

[Illustration: Plate XXXIII.


Page 270.]

The width of the lagoon would barely exceed half-a-mile; its shores all
furrowed by wild boar in their search for _grillos_, or mole-crickets,
and dotted with the skeletons of water-tortoises, and beyond its
glancing waters rolled stretches of grey scrub and heath, backed in the
distance by sand-dunes and corrales, the outliers of the desolate
_arenales_ that extend to the sea-coast. Beneath a straggling belt of
pines there were sheltering from the mid-day heat a group of
wild-bred cattle; and a little apart stood three or four big bulls of
the fighting breed:--formidable beasts that demand a wide berth. More
shaggy cattle, knee-deep in water, were dreamily ruminating, each form
surmounted by a white bird, the Buff-backed Heron--in Spanish
_Agarrapatosa_ or tick-eater--some apparently asleep, others busily
searching for prey. Nearer still, among the islanded patches of sedge
and carices, stalked a pair of Little Egrets, their long, thin necks
arched with infinite grace, and heads poised to strike with deadly
precision any darting larvæ or water-beetle they detect among the
floating weeds.

The heron-tribe is strongly represented in Andalucia; in spring and
summer almost every European form adorns these remote and marshy
regions. During May the Buff-backed Herons were flying all over the
plains in packs of a score to fifty or more, apparently in quest of a
settlement; the pretty little Squacco Herons had then shifted their
quarters from the marisma to the rushy lagoons, and many nests were
ready for eggs in the _juncales_; but all this group breed late, none
laying much before June.

Since we first visited these regions, now nearly twenty years ago, a sad
diminution has taken place in the numbers of these beautiful Herons and
Egrets, due in great measure to the cruel and thoughtless fashion of
wearing their plumes in ladies' hats. Let ladies humanely remember that
these plumes are only attained in the _nesting_ season, when to kill the
male means the sacrifice of a whole family. Fortunately there remain
sequestered nooks, sacred as yet to wild nature. Both in the
neighbourhood of Almonte and in certain marshy regions of vast
cane-brake and wooded swamp on the Estremenian border, there survive
unknown and unmolested colonies of these graceful creatures, where for
many a year to come the Egrets, Buff-backed and Squacco Herons, the
Night-Heron and Little Bittern, Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis and other "rare
birds" may yet find a sanctuary protected by natural fastnesses, and by
legions of leeches and mosquitoes that render human life well nigh
intolerable. The very toads are there as big as small footstools; the
natives yellow and sunken-eyed, with hollow cheeks and parchment skin.

[Illustration: BUFF-BACKED HERON.]

Here, when summer-heats provoke miasma and fetid airs, languor-laden,
from the morass, the herons congregate. In June their slight nests crowd
the sallow-brakes and clumps of gnarled alders and aspens islanded in
marsh, and barricaded with bramble and vicious thorny _zarzas_. Amidst
umbrageous gloom the Night-Heron and Bittern dream away the hours of
daylight, the former among the branches, the latter in thickest sedge.
The Bittern lays its pheasant-like eggs in April, often in March; the
Little Bittern not till June. It is difficult to fix a date for the
rest--so uncertain are they, and so dependent on the seasons and the
quantity of water in the marismas. We have eggs of the Night-Heron taken
as early as May 20th--another year none were laid till June 8th. From
this latter date onwards is perhaps the average time for eggs of that
species, as well as those of the Egret, Buff-back, and Squacco Herons,
and the Little Bittern.

So retiring are the nocturnal species that it is difficult to flush them
without a dog; yet they cannot compare, in this respect, with their
neighbours, the Crakes and Rails, which also abound in the Spanish
morass--the Water-Rail and Spotted Crake most numerous, Baillon's Crake
rather less so, and the Little Crake the scarcest. All these are pointed
and 'roded' keenly by native dogs, but their skulking powers are a match
for the staunchest. _Mataperros_--"kill-dogs"--is their Spanish
nickname, their thin, curiously compressed bodies resembling in section
that of one's hand held vertically, enabling them to glide like rats
through the thickest growth of flags and aquatic herbage.

The nests of all the Rails are hard to find; but to identify the precise
owner of each is a thousand-fold harder. Nests and eggs of all being
closely alike, an _unidentified_ clutch is worthless; but the man who
can work this out knee-deep amidst mud and stagnant water, under a
broiling sun, has patience that nothing can withstand, nor any obstacle

During May a clamorous element is added to the bird-life of these
lagoons by the nesting-colonies of Terns, which hover round the
intruder, filling the air with their harsh vociferations. Santolalla is
a stronghold of the Whiskered and Black Terns (_H. hybrida_ and _H.
fissipes_) whose nests are built on the water-lilies and floating
water-weeds. There are other large colonies in the open marisma, where
the Gull-billed and the Lesser Terns also nest, the former in some


June in Spain is a month of intense heat--heat of that fiery high-dried
sort that scorches as an open furnace. In June, as a Spanish proverb
says--"Nothing but a dog or an Englishman" ventures out of doors; nor
from an ornithological point of view is there much inducement to do so.
The teeming variety of bird-life which characterizes April and May is
now conspicuously absent. Migration is suspended, and there is no
movement of passage-birds. There is no longer the accustomed number of
large hawks hunting the _campiña_, and even those birds which remain
seem to keep out of sight, sheltering from the blazing heat.

Perhaps the most interesting birds at this season are the newly-fledged
young of the Raptores. The young Imperial Eagles are of a beautiful
tawny colour, and during the mid-day heat frequent the trees where they
were hatched. We also obtained young Kites in the same way--very
handsome birds, much ruddier than the old ones in April. The young of
_M. migrans_, on the other hand, are less pleasing than their parents,
being, in fact, a pale, rather "washed-out" reproduction of them.
Towards the end of the month (June) the young Montagu's Harriers are on
the wing; they have dark brown backs, each feather edged with chestnut,
a white nape, and orange-tawny breast. Many of the young of the
Marsh-Harrier are uniformly very dark, bronze-black, with rich orange
crowns--strikingly handsome birds. Some have also patches of the latter
colour on the scapulars, others on the breast--they vary greatly, no two
are alike. This species is not easy to understand; one imagines that
these very dark specimens are all young birds; that the old females are
lighter brown with yellow heads, and that the very old males acquire
half-blue wings and tail--I shot one of these latter with the whole head
pure white, each feather streaked centrally with black. (_See_ photo at
p. 242.) But how is one to account for an individual--otherwise
uniformly black--having a perfectly developed blue tail and secondaries?

During June we were surprised to find the Green Sandpiper tolerably
numerous in the Coto Doñana. It was a very solitary species, a single
bird frequenting almost each small pool or water-hole far out among the
scrub. We at first imagined the females must be sitting, but all
attempts to find the nests were of course futile. The Wood-Sandpiper was
observed, on passage, in May.

As the long summer day draws to its close, the infinite variety of
nocturnal sounds which, during the short twilight, suddenly awake into
being, strikes strangely on a northern ear. During the gloaming the air
has been alive with the darting forms of bats, terns, and pratincoles,
of swifts and swallows, all busily hawking after insects or slow-flying
beetles. But before dark these disappear. Of crepuscular birds, the
first to commence the nocturnal concert is the Russet-necked Nightjar,
which abounds all over the scrub; a few minutes later, from the
cork-trees, resounds the note of the Little Owl, then the sharp ringing
_ki-yōū_ of Scop's Owl--both in sight, flickering against the
darkening sky; while far and near among the grass the loud rattle of the
mole-cricket starts like an alarum and from every pool the united croaks
of literally millions of frogs form, as it were, a background of sound
resembling the distant roar of a mighty city.





The mysterious Rommany race which overruns every nation in Europe, but
intermingles with none, has always abounded in Spain, and particularly
in Andalucia, a land which is peculiarly favourable to the Ishmaelitish
propensities of these human pariahs--as congenial to predatory wild men
as to the wild beasts we elsewhere describe. Thoroughly typical objects
both on the byeways and deserts of Spain, and of the animated scenes at
her rural feasts and fairs, to which the gypsies flock like vultures to
a carcase, it would be inappropriate here to omit all mention of this
singular race, even though it may be impossible for us to add anything
new to the exhaustive description of the Spanish gypsy narrated by
Borrow in "The Zincali," a work based on intimate acquaintance with the
gitanos and their language. To it we are indebted for much historic and
ethnological information respecting the gypsy race, and take the liberty
of quoting two or three passages from its pages.[55]

First appearing on Spanish soil during the early decades of the
fifteenth century, after being driven from land to land, the Zingari
outcasts speedily found a congenial home--if such a term is applicable
to nomadic vagabonds--amidst the lone and sparsely-peopled regions of

Whence they had originally come--whether from Egypt, as they themselves
averred and as their Spanish name imports, or from India, as the term
Zincali indicates--it is not our intention to inquire.[56] Suffice it
that nearly five centuries ago, this invasion of tinkers, horse-thieves,
sorcerers, and all-round rogues poured into Europe, and during the long
period that has since elapsed have maintained themselves there--not, it
is true, in luxury, rather in rags and apparent poverty--by means of
robbery and deceit, at the expense of the various peoples upon whom, as
a swarm of wasps or locusts, they have thought good to descend. All this
time, too, they have maintained intact both their racial individuality,
their peculiar language, and their inveterate habits of lying and

"Who are these gitanos?" querulously asks the learned Lorenzo Palminero
more than three hundred years ago ("El Estudioso Cortesano," Alcalá,
1587). "Who are these Gitanos? I answer: these vile people first began
to show themselves in Germany in the year 1417, where they call them
Tartars, or Gentiles; in Italy they are termed Ciani. [In Spain the
Arabs (Moors) knew the gypsies by only one name, _charami_ = thieves.]
They pretend that they come from Lower Egypt, and that they wander about
as a penance, and to prove this they show letters from the King of
Poland. They lie, however, for they do not lead the lives of penitents,
but of dogs and thieves. A learned person [himself] in the year 1540
prevailed upon them, by dint of much persuasion, to show him the King's
letter, and from it he gathered that the time of penance had already
expired. He spoke to them in the Egyptian tongue. They said, however, as
it was a long time since their departure from Egypt, they could no
longer understand it. He then spoke to them in the vulgar Greek, such as
is used at present in the Morea and Archipelago. Some understood it,
others did not, so that as all did not understand it, we may conclude
that the language they use is a feigned one, got up by thieves for the
purpose of concealing their robberies, like the jargon of blind

From their earliest appearance in Spain the roving bands of the Rommany
were found to be a public nuisance; but so rapidly grew the evil weed
and took root in the soil, that by the middle of the fifteenth century
the gypsies had established a rudely-organized system of violence,
robbery and roguery from Biscay to the Mediterranean. The country roads
were unsafe, infested with dark-skinned highwaymen; while rural
districts were subjected to wholesale depredation, bands of these
outcasts settling themselves in the adjacent hills, wastes, or forests,
whence they plundered and virtually beleaguered the sparse and
defenceless villages of all the country around. Once established amidst
the sierras and wildernesses, it was no easy matter to dislodge them, or
even to hold them in check. Spain has ever been a land of the
_guerilla_--little war--and of the _guerillero_; and the gypsies, though
by no means a warlike race, were not lacking in courage and in those
qualities of hardihood and dash which constitute the most dangerous
_guerilleros_. They possessed, moreover, the strength of union, an
Ishmaelitish bond of brotherhood which held the outlaws together, while
dividing them as by a great gulf from the peoples amidst whom they had
come to dwell. They had also their secret language. Neither civil nor
military power could make itself effective against "Will-o'-the-wisps,"
who are here to-day, gone to-morrow, whose homes were the forest-thicket
and mountain-cave, who, with their fast and trusty horses and donkeys
(their "stock-in-trade") could transport their whole tribe in dead of
night to distant places with a speed almost equal to that of the wild
beasts of the sierras, to whom they were so near akin.

The nominal employment of the gypsies was that of tinkers, workers in
iron, and horse-traffickers: under which guise they really subsisted by
cattle-lifting and horse-stealing, either by force, or fraud, according
as circumstances might suggest. The female gypsies, or gitanas, more
than doubled the ill-gotten gains of their husbands by the arts of
sorcery and divination, by selling charms and love-philtres, stealing by
legerdemain, and exercising the various branches of what are termed the
"occult sciences"--in other words, practising upon the silly credulity
of the weaker portion of humanity--as well as by other and more
loathsome avocations. The credulity of their victims appears incredible,
though it is hardly less marvellous than the tact and effrontery
displayed by the gypsy women in their cozening and charlatan tricks.
Their knowledge of human nature and how to reach its weak points, was
remarkable in a race so low, so degraded, and wholly illiterate. They
possessed the cunning and boldness of the wild beast, and combined with
it a hatred of the "Busné," or Gentile, which the wild beast has not.

The bitterness of hatred which was cherished by the gitanos towards all
of gentile race, appears incomprehensible, unless it springs from some
old-time "first cause," the nature of which is long forgotten.
Treacherous, cruel and vindictive, they had the wit to conceal their
ill-will beneath soft words, and thus obtained means of committing
atrocities against the "gentile," the records of which make one shudder.

Amongst the various devices employed by the gitanos to plunder their
victims, may be mentioned the following:--

_Hokkano Baro._--The great trick, or swindle, varying from the
"confidence trick" in its multifarious forms, up to the boldest and most
barefaced deceptions, often on a grand scale.

_La Baji_, or, in Spanish, _buena ventura_.--Fortune-telling, by
chiromancy, necromancy, and other divinations.

_Ustilar Pastelas._--Stealing by legerdemain or sleight of hand.

_Querelar Nasela._--The evil eye.

_Drao_ = poison.--Both these latter devices were employed to produce
epidemics among men or flocks, when the reputed medical or veterinary
skill of the gitanos was called into requisition; and, being aware of
the origin of the disease, they seldom failed to effect its cure.

The gitanos were, and are divided into two classes: one section have
more or less settled colonies in the Spanish towns and cities, where
they dwell in quarters apart from the natives, known as _gitanerias_,
wherein they ply their trade of tinkers, horse-dealers and shearers,
sorcerers, and general thieves; and from whence, in pursuance of their
inveterate vagabondism, they sally forth from time to time to attend
distant fairs and markets to dispose of their stolen goods; and, as
occasion arises, to perpetrate fresh crimes. The other section is more
exclusively nomadic, roaming at large over the wilds of Spain, having no
home save the shelter of forest or sierra, and to some extent actually

The daily life of the Spanish gypsy has always been characterized by a
squalor and degradation exceeding that of the residuum of any European
nation. They appear to have been devoid of the faintest conception of
religion beyond that undefined sense of superstition which is common to
savage races all over the world, or to possess any sense of morality,
decency, or self-respect. Their food was of the foulest--they shrank not
from carrion, and have been accused, apparently not without reason, of
cannibalism, for which in early days many a gitano swung from the
gibbet. Male and female alike, they were adepts at devilry and crime of
every degree, yet amidst such a category of evil, they still possessed
the one singular virtue of esteeming purity in their women. We quote the
following picture of life in a gitaneria from Borrow ("Zincali," i., p.
76 _et seq._):--"The gitanerias at even-fall were frequently resorted to
by individuals widely differing in station from the inmates of these
places--we allude to the young and dissolute nobility and hidalgos of
Spain. The gypsy women and girls were the principal attraction to these
visitors. Wild and singular as these females are in their appearance,
there can be no doubt, for the fact has been frequently proved, that
they are capable of exciting passions of the most ardent kind,
particularly in the bosoms of those who are not of their race, which
passion of course becomes the more violent when the almost utter
impossibility of gratifying it is known. No females in the world can be
more licentious in word or gesture, in dance and song, than the gitanas,
but there they stop; and so of old, if their titled visitors presumed to
seek for more, an unsheathed dagger or gleaming knife speedily repulsed
those who expected that the gift most dear among the sect of the Roma
was within the reach of a Busné.

"Such visitors, however, were always encouraged to a certain point, and
by this and various other means the gitanos acquired connections which
frequently stood them in good stead in the hour of need. What availed it
to the honest labourers of the neighbourhood, or the citizens of the
town to make complaints to the _Corregidor_ respecting thefts and frauds
committed by the gitanos when perhaps the sons of that very Corregidor
frequented the nightly dances at the gitanería, and were deeply
enamoured of some of the dark-eyed singing girls? What availed
complaints when perhaps a gypsy sybil, the mother of those very girls,
had free admission to the house of the Corregidor at all times and
seasons, and spa'ed the _buena ventura_ of his daughters, promising them
counts and dukes, or Andalucian knights in marriage, or prepared
philtres for his lady by which she was always to reign supreme in the
affections of her husband? And above all, what availed it to the
plundered to complain that his mule or horse had been stolen when the
gitano robber, perhaps the husband of the sybil and the father of the
black-eyed Gitanillas, was at that moment actually in treaty with my
lord the Corregidor himself, to supply him with some splendid,
thick-maned, long-tailed steed at a small price, to be obtained, as the
reader may well suppose, by an infraction of the laws? The favour and
protection which the gitanos experienced from persons of high rank is
alluded to in the Spanish laws, and can only be accounted for by the
motives above detailed."

By the middle of the fifteenth century the bands of the Rommany had
become a serious danger in rural Spain, and their ability to act
daringly in concert was demonstrated by their attempt to massacre the
whole populace and sack the town of Logroño. That town at the moment was
stricken down by a pestilence, which it was more than suspected had been
caused by the Zincales themselves having poisoned with their _drao_ the
springs whence Logroño was supplied with water. Already, before the
gypsy assault, the greater part of the populace had perished of the
disease, and the annihilation of the survivors was only averted by the
singular foresight and energy of one man--Francisco Alvarez. This
Alvarez in his early life was said to have been admitted to the
community of a gitano tribe, to have married a daughter of its chief,
and eventually to have become the chief himself. Around the details of
the affair hangs some uncertainty; but the historic fact that the
gitanos actually attempted the massacre and plunder of a considerable
Spanish town has been well attested, among others by Francisco de
Córdova on his "Didascalia" (Lugduni, 1615).

The beginning of the seventeenth century saw the evil still on the
increase, despite repressive measures. Bands of these human fiends, many
hundreds strong, roamed over the highlands of Castile and Arragon, and
were only dispersed, after plundering and devastating the country, when
sufficient military force had at length been collected. The gypsies
speedily searched out the richest provinces of the land--New Castile, La
Mancha, Estremadura, Murcia, Valencia and Andalucia, and troubled but
little the poor, wild, mountain-regions of the Asturias, Galicia, and
the hill-country of Biscay.

The impunity with which these people set at nought during hundreds of
years the successive laws which were enacted for their repression, is a
curious point in connection with their history. As early as 1499,
Ferdinand and Isabella, at Medina del Campo, interdicted, under heavy
penalties, their vagrant propensities; ordered them to find fixed
occupations, and to settle in the different towns and villages within a
short specified period. In default they were to be expelled from
Spanish soil. This act was confirmed and supplemented with more vigorous
penalties by Charles I. at Toledo in 1539, and again by Philip II. in
1586, at Madrid.

By an enactment of Philip IV. at Madrid, 1633, the former laws were
confirmed, but in order still further to penalize the profession and
race of gypsies, their dress, their language, and even the name of
_gitanos_, were declared illegal, and suppressed under pain of servitude
in the galleys, or banishment. The gypsies were forbidden to form
colonies or tribes, to intermarry, or to trade at markets and fairs;
while the local authorities were commissioned to "hunt them down, take
and deliver them," even beyond the boundaries of their respective
jurisdictions. Still further legal fulminations against the gypsies were
promulgated by Charles II. in 1692 and 1695, but all alike proved

Similarly Philip V., in 1726, again increased the penalties on
_gitanismo_, banishing the sect from Madrid and other royal cities, and
in 1745, by a yet fiercer edict, he directed that they were to be
"hunted down with fire and sword; that even the sanctity of the temples
was to be invaded in their pursuit, and the gitanos dragged from the
horns of the altar, should they flee thither for refuge."

Such, during three centuries (1499-1788), was the set policy of Spain
towards her gypsy population. They were a proscribed race, treated as
aliens and outlaws, forbidden to intermarry, and their very name, dress,
and language were interdicted under severe penalties. Yet in spite of it
all the gypsies continued to flourish, to increase in numbers, and to
ply their customary trades of thieving, sorcery, and the rest, without
the slightest check.

Whether under any circumstances these repressive measures were or were
not the means best calculated to attain the object in view, it is at
least certain that their failure was assured beforehand by the negligent
way in which they were put in force; or rather by the fact they were
never put in force at all. The gypsies, and especially the females, as
we have already mentioned, by virtue of their divinations and certain
other services which they rendered to the upper and ruling classes of
Spain, had secured friends, or at least neutrals, amongst the very
people in whose hands lay the administration of the laws. They were thus
able to annul, and even to ridicule, the successive legal enactments
formulated to exterminate them.

Among the various reasons for the remarkable vitality of the Rommany
sect in thus surviving centuries of oppression, there stand out
prominently the strong tribal cohesion _inter se_ of the Zincali: their
marriage customs and the aversion with which they regarded any alliance
with the Busné, or Gentile. A gitano might, in rare instances, marry a
Spanish female, but in no case did a gitana consent to take a husband
outside her own race. Thus the _errate_--the "black blood" of the
Rommany, on which above all they prided themselves, was preserved
uncontaminated. Whether, had the repressive laws been vigorously carried
out, they would have met with better results, is an open question.

At length, in 1783, a fresh departure in policy was inaugurated by
Charles III., or perhaps it would be safer to say, during the reign of
that monarch, for he was more of a Nimrod than a statesman, and appears
to have occupied himself with grand _batidas_ for stags, wild boars, and
other game, rather than with the welfare of his people, and this at the
very time when the magnificent colonial empire of Spain was gradually
slipping from his grasp. Whoever it may have been that inspired the new
gypsy law of 1783, its author at least recognized the failure of the
penal decrees of the three preceding centuries, and instituted in their
place a more humane method of dealing with the nomads.

Under the new law the gypsies were, in the first place, declared "not to
be so by nature or origin, nor to proceed from an infected root." It was
enacted that to such of them as should abandon their distinctive mode of
life, dress, and language, the whole share of offices, employments,
trades and occupations, should be open equally with other Spanish
subjects. The whole range of trade, art, science, and the professions,
were thrown open to such of the gitanos as should abjure their former
vagabond life with all its evil associations; and penalties were imposed
on any who should attempt to molest them or to oppose their entry within
the pale of civilized life.

Finally, the law was declared to be equal as between a reclaimed gypsy
and any other "vassal" of Spain: but a death-penalty was prescribed
against such of the nomad race as declined this invitation to embrace an
honest life, and who continued their former habits.

The effect of this measure is marked, though the gitano survives. Fifty
years of equal rights accomplished in this case what centuries of
oppression had failed to achieve. Gitanismo is certainly not
extinguished, but it was modified and brought more or less under
control. The numbers of the gitanos have ever since decreased: they are
slowly relinquishing their vagrant habits, and live more in cities and
towns, and less in the mountains and fields. Ages, probably, would be
required wholly to eradicate the inveterate criminality practised from
birth by the Rommany race since unknown times--if, indeed, its entire
eradication is possible. But certainly the humane measure of Charles
III. during the lifetime of a man produced more tangible results than
the persecution of preceding centuries.

The gitano caste in Spain were at one time estimated at 60,000. Fifty
years ago, after half a century of equal laws, their numbers had fallen
to 40,000, of which one-third were inhabitants of Andalucia; while at
the present day, even that total might probably be reduced by one-half.



Hitherto we have dealt with the subject of the Spanish gypsy in a past
tense and from an historic point of view. It remains to add that the
Rommany sect, though decreasing in numbers and largely divested of their
former dangerous character, continues plentiful enough throughout Spain,
and especially in the southern provinces, their best known colonies
being at the Triana suburb of Seville, and in the rock-caves of the
Alpujarras at Granada, where certain tribes form one of the "stock
sights" familiar to travellers in Southern Spain. Though the later laws
have checked their vagabondism, yet the instinct of Ishmael survives,
and, especially in the summer-time, the gypsies wander over the
Andalucian _vegas_ and flock to rural fairs, where the men drive their
ancient trade of dealing in horses--mostly stolen, and all "faked" and
got-up for sale, though in these matters the gypsies are perhaps no
worse than their gentile rivals.

At the fairs the wealthier gypsies also trade in precious stones and
jewellery; the poorer in hardware, "tinkery," and the like. The
_gitanas_, gaudily arrayed in colours of startling hues, and blazing
with heavy golden ornaments, deal in divinations and tell the _buena
ventura_ as of old, the younger girls ever ready to engage in their
lissom dances and in the wild suggestive singing characteristic of the
Rommany race.

In towns and cities some of the gypsy women have a large and varied
_clientèle_: they are admitted to the best houses, and the proudest
señoras deign to inspect the ancient lace, the bric-à-brac and jewellery
that they bring for sale. Of antique lace, elaborately wrought, and of
painted fans and such-like relics, the supply in Spain seems
inexhaustible: and eventually the glib tongue of the gitana may probably
obtain about half the price originally asked.

Despite certain changes--hereafter described--the Spanish gypsy remains
exotic to Hispania, distinct in type both of form and feature; the
restless, suspicious eye of the hunted animal, the lithe build, and
straight supple limbs, even among the _svelte_ and graceful Andalucians,
still distinguish these swarthy sons of the wilderness.[57] The
true-bred gypsy remains a distinct species. Though amenable to the same
laws, and recognized as a Spanish subject, he is distinguishable at a
glance. The youths undergo their allotted period of army service, but
remain not an hour beyond the stipulated time with the colours.

Their normal occupations to-day are chiefly those of butchers--all the
shambles of Spain are in their hands--tinkers, horse-breakers, mule and
donkey-dealers, and basket-makers. But, at a pinch, the gitano now
condescends to engage on the lighter work of the land--hoeing, weeding,
&c. Like the Jew, the gypsy has ever hitherto been conspicuous by his
absence from every field of manual labour: both prefer the lighter
barters of life; and that the gitano should now--even casually--take to
such honest work, is perhaps a sign of the times.

One great change has, however, been wrought by the century of equal
laws--a change perhaps of vital import to the villain crew. The once
sacred _errate_ is contaminated. Marriages between the two races--with
or without the sanction of the church--are now frequent, though the
Spaniard who contracts such ill-savoured union loses caste among his or
her own people, and the children of these mixed marriages never lose the

[Illustration: Plate XXXIV.


Page 289.]

By this means there has sprung into existence, during late years, an
intermediate class, neither pure Gitano nor Spanish, which is daily
increasing, and, being free from all the traditionary observances of the
gypsy, mingles more and more with the national life, carrying with it
much of the ready wit and piquancy of the latter.

The result of this grafting of an element of gitanismo upon the original
Castilian stock is the _Flamenco_ of to-day, and it is a curious satire
on Spanish society that the style and attire, even the language, of this
wanton half-caste breed have become a fashionable craze--have been by
some paradoxical freak adopted by a section of even the higher
Madrilenian circles who revel in copying the garb, the manners, and the
jargon of the once loathed gypsy. Flamencos are found in every
grade--well known among the gilded youth of Madrid or Seville--but the
bull-ring appears to provide the most approved models for this school.
Nor is the mania confined to the men: the bright gala-dress of the
gitana has become fashionable among high-placed señoras who appear at
dance or salon sporting the gaudy Manila shawl with its flowing fringe,
short frock, and with hair coiffeured _á la Flamenca_. To prefer the
raciest and most highly-flavoured Spanish dishes, to quaff freely the
Manzanilla, to smoke cigarettes, to prefer olives to bonbons, to know
the bull-fighters by their pet names, to be loud if not witty, smart in
repartee and slang--this is to be _Flamenca_.

Both sexes of the Flamencos proper retain the dress and manner of the
original gypsy. The brazen beauty of the young Flamencas has the same
seductive charms for the _Busné_; and it is from the half-caste that the
dancing girls of the cities and light-fingered gentry of many
accomplishments are mostly recruited.

A considerable admixture of gypsy-blood is found among the lower strata
of the bull-fighting profession, though its higher ranks are
comparatively free from it. His intensely superstitious nature unfits
the true-bred gypsy from real success in this or any pursuit where nerve
and decision are required. The only gitano _espadas_ of note are
Chicorro and El Gallo. The former has latterly lost nerve and prestige
through a curious practical joke played upon his superstitious nature
by a ventriloquial member of his _cuadrilla_. As he stood, sword and
_muleta_ in hand, facing a black bull of the Duke of Veragua's breed in
the Plaza of Madrid, suddenly the beast addressed him in low sepulchral
tones, "_Te voy á coger!_"--I am going to catch you! Such was the effect
on Chicorro's nerves that his life was only saved by his attendant
_chulos_, who drew off the brute's attack, nor has Chicorro ever since
dared to face a _black_ bull.

[Illustration: GYPSY LAD.]

The resident Spanish gypsies cluster together in some separate quarter
of the town, or form an isolated mud-built _barrio_ outside its walls.
Dwelling apart, and without the slightest bond of sympathy with their
Castilian neighbours, their outward signs of joy or grief--both
demonstrative--pass unheard and ignored. In their religion--adopted
perforce of law, as before set forth, and which savours of idolatry
simple, with a dash of superstition and fanaticism--in their curious
marriage and funereal customs--both occasions of noisy orgy, the latter
resembling an Irish "wake" with its alternations of wailing by the hour
"to order," and feasting in turn--the gypsies are left severely alone.
There is no sympathy with them. On the other hand, when civil or
political disturbances prevail, and southern fervour is all ablaze, the
gypsy _barrio_ remains spectacular and unmoved.

No "patriotic" dreams or soaring ambitions disturb the gypsy's squalid
life--what has he to gain? What can he ever hope to be, but the despised
and rejected, under any form of government? No list of misguided
peasantry, beguiled and betrayed by base agitator, ever registers his
name: the midnight meetings of the "Black Hand" find no gitano present
at their sworn and secret conclaves. The vagabond is too shrewd
uselessly to embroil himself in abortive efforts to upset existing
order: though there is little doubt what his action would be should the
opportunity of pillage with impunity ever present itself.

LOS BOHEMIOS.--There remain to be noticed the bands of nomad gypsies who
flock to Spain during the winter months, but whose true home is said to
be in Bohemia. These are not in touch with the native tribes, speaking
but few words of Spanish or of its gypsy jargon. In summer they infest
the roads and by-ways of Austria, travelling southwards, as winter
advances, thus resembling in habit their British congeners. Their type
of feature is of more Eastern caste, their faces almost black, with long
tangled hair, in both sexes, hanging down to the shoulders. Their home
is the wigwam or rickety waggon with its load of rags and babies, and
its mixed team of mules, donkeys, and ponies. The lurcher-dog and the
snare assist these Zingali to fill their _puchero_. They traverse the
wilds of Spain in camps of thirty to fifty, squatting near village or
outside city walls, ostensibly to occupy themselves with iron and copper
tinkery, kettle-making, and the like. Some of the women of these
Bohemians are striking enough in their gypsy-beauty; the same faces are
seen in successive years, so their journeyings are to some extent

One meets these nomad bands all over rural Spain, laboriously "trekking"
axle-deep, across dusky-brown plain or lonely waste of brushwood and
palmetto--picturesque objects--indeed the only element of life and
colour amidst these desolate scenes.

[Illustration: GYPSY DANCE.]




To the Lammergeyer tradition has assigned some romantic attributes, and
a character of wondrous dash and daring. This is the bird that is
credited with feats of hurling hunters from perilous positions down crag
or crevass, carrying off children to its eyrie, and kidnapping unguarded
babes. Even Dr. Bree, in his "Birds of Europe," while doubting that it
habitually assails grown-up people, gravely asserts that a pair of these
birds will not hesitate to attack a man whom they have caught at a
disadvantage; while one will venture, single-handed, an onslaught on two
hunters who are asleep. Some naturalists now seem inclined to go to the
other extreme, and to regard the Lammergeyer as merely a huge Neophron.

No doubt the great size and weird, dragon-like appearance of the
Gypaëtus have tended to promote exaggeration, while its rarity and
remote haunts have made it no easy subject to study, and few have formed
its acquaintance in its own almost inaccessible domains. Our small
experiences, narrated in the two following chapters, seem to show that
the truth lies between the two extremes.

Towards the end of January we set out for a fortnight's exploration of
the mountains beyond Tempul and Algar, a forty-mile ride to the eastward
of Jerez. Bitter was the cold as we rode off in the darkness at 5 A.M.,
only two stars shining in the eastern firmament; truly the word
_recréo_, as Blas explained to the sentry on duty at the old Moorish
gateway, that we were only bound on _pleasure_, sounded almost
satirical--as some one has said, life would be endurable but for its
pleasures. By dawn we were crossing the hungry gravel-ridges beyond
Cuartillos, and watched the sun rise from behind the stony pile of San
Christobal, bathing the distant mountains, whither we were bound, in
glorious golden glow.

Crossing the Guadalete by the ford of Barca Florida, our route led
through leagues of lovely park-like land--here straggling natural woods
or ferny glades, anon opening out upon stretches of heath and palmetto.
The track, where one existed, a typical Spanish by-way, shut in between
vertical banks of slippery white marl, that barely left room for the
laden mule; its narrow bed was a turgid mud-hole, honeycombed with the
footprints of beasts that had gone before. Where the heath was more open
we could take an independent course; but the scrub, as a rule, was
impenetrable, and left no alternative but to go on plunging through the
clinging mud. At noon we outspanned for _almuerzo_ beneath a cork-oak,
the weather and the scene alike lovely beyond words. The evergreen woods
swarmed with life; over the green expanse of palmetto hovered
hen-harriers: a pair of kites swept over the wooded slopes of Berlanger,
grey shrikes sat perched on dead boughs; chats, larks, buntings, and
goldfinches swarmed, and all the usual Spanish birds, to wit, bustards
great and small, cranes, storks, peewits, red-legs, kestrels, &c., were
observed during the day's ride.

Later in the afternoon we were fairly among the outspurs of the sierra,
and overhead, on heavy wing, soared the vultures. What a curious
commentary on the state of a country are such hordes of huge
carrion-feeders, and how eloquently does their presence attest a
backward and listless condition in the lands they inhabit! In Spain, it
is true, vultures serve a useful office as scavengers; yet in modern
Europe they surely seem an anachronism. No doubt it is due as much to
the physical conditions, to the desert character and semi-tropical
climate of this wild land, as to the apathy of the Spanish people, that
they exist in such numbers. Among nations more keenly imbued with
commercial instincts, the flock-master takes care that his stock shall
support themselves in order to support him. The daily, hourly losses
which are implied in the supplementary support of hordes of huge
flesh-eating birds, each as heavy as a Spanish sheep and voracious as a
hyena, would simply put him out of the market, and eventually land him
in bankruptcy. But Spain cares nothing for modern ideas, and disdains to
put herself about in the universal race for wealth. There is dignity in
her attitude, but there is at least a suspicion of lassitude. Where
Nature is prodigal, man becomes proportionately apathetic. Here her
gifts more than suffice for simple tastes and day-to-day requirements,
and the rural Andaluz seeks no more.


In agriculture, stock-raising, and other pastoral pursuits, the
rudiments of modern system--drainage, irrigation, and the like--are
ignored. In the burning heats of summer, when every green thing is
scorched to death, the cattle die by hundreds from thirst and want of
pasturage; in winter, when plains are flooded, and valleys
water-logged, the death-rate from cold, want, and disease is hardly less
heavy than that of summer. Small wonder the great bare-necked scavengers
of Nature increase and flourish.

Passing beneath the twin crags of Las Dos Hermanas, we struck the course
of the Majaceite, whose rushing stream, embowered amidst magnificent
oleanders, looked more _like trout_ than anything we had then seen in
these sierras. Among the mountain streams above Alcalá de los Gazules
and in the Sierra de la Jarda we have observed its darting form, and
further south some large trout have more recently been captured.

It was necessary to ford the Majaceite, which, in its swollen state and
opaque current, was one of those things that bring one's heart into
one's mouth; the bottom, however, proved sound: we plunged through all
right, and after some stiffish mountain-riding reached the _pueblocito_
of Algar just as the setting sun was bathing the wild serrania in
softest purples and gold.

The posada was a typical Spanish village inn. Our horses we had
ourselves to see quartered in the stable, which occupied one side of the
courtyard, while our dinner was being made ready in a small whitewashed
room adjoining. The sleeping-quarters above consisted of a single small
attic, absolutely devoid of furniture or of contents beyond a pile of
sacks containing corn, or "paja" (chaff), in one corner, and our own
belongings, including saddles, mule-pack, &c., &c., which lay littered
all over the floor. Three trestle-beds ("catres") were produced, and in
deference to the idiosyncrasies of the _extranjero_, a tiny wash-basin
was placed on the window-sill--not that there was any _window_, beyond a
folding wooden shutter. Dinner consisted of an _olla_, in which small
morsels of pork could be hunted up amidst the recesses of a steaming
mass of _garbanzos_ (chick-pea), by no means bad, though we were too
hungry to be fastidious.

[Illustration: DANCE AND GUITAR.]

A small crowd of idlers, as usual, hung about the open courtyard of the
posada, watching for "any new thing," and speculating on our objects in
coming. I overheard the word _minerál_, and remembering that I had been
amusing myself in sifting some of the sands of the Majaceite, thought it
best to dispel any false impressions by inviting the bystanders to share
a _boracha_ of the rough wine of local growth, and the usual cigarette.
It is always best to have some definite object, so I told my guests that
I had come to the sierra to shoot the _quebranta-huesos_, literally,
"bone-smasher." They stared and mumbled over the name; had never heard
of such a thing; the first man one meets probably never has; but there
was in the village a goatherd, _muy inteligente en pajaros_, "who knew
all about birds." I sent for this worthy, Francisco Garcia de Conde by
name, a light-built, wiry mountaineer. Francisco's ornithological repute
was easily acquired, for among the blind a one-eyed man is king; but he
certainly did know the Lammergeyer, and his description of its habits
and appearance passed the evening away pleasantly enough. The
_quebranta-huesos_ he described as a fierce and solitary bird--never
seen more than two together, and discriminated it from the vultures as
being _muy dañino_--very destructive to goats, kids, and other
hill-stock, which it seizes and kills on the spot, or hurls over the
ledge of some precipice. He well described their habit of engaging in
aërial combat--"siempre se ponen peleando en el ayre"--and their loud
wild "pwing! pwing!" resounding through the mountain solitudes. Of their
actual nesting-places, however (which I was most anxious to discover),
he knew nothing, beyond positively stating (and in this he was
corroborated by other hill-men) that they bred exclusively in the
loftier sierras beyond Ronda. We had ourselves spent some time
traversing those very sierras without seeing anything of this bird; but
should add, were not at that time specially in search of it. Their
eyries, Francisco asserted, were only to be found in the region of
"living rocks" (_piedras vivas_), which form the loftiest peaks. In
this, however, as will appear in the next chapter, our friend Francisco
was mistaken.

Our conversation was listened to--I don't imagine enjoyed--by a pair of
lovers, who, with a rather pretty girl, the daughter of the house,
presumably in the capacity of duena, occupied the other side of the
table. The _enamorados_ scarcely ever spoke; he sat looking mutely into
her face, only muttering a whisper at long intervals. She was absolutely
silent, and looked stolid and stupid too.

Leaving Algar, we crossed the bleak plateaux to the eastward, brown,
stony, and sterile; thence descending to a forest region, where the
track followed the course of a clear mountain stream, embedded among
oleander, laurestinus, and myrtle, their foliage forming an evergreen
tunnel, along which we rode in grateful shade. For some distance our
route and the burn ran parallel, their courses sometimes coincident;
then we diverged to the left, ascending the slope of a _garganta_,
amidst noble oaks, chestnuts, and ilex, all, save the oaks, in full
leaf, and from the gnarled trunks hung hare's-foot ferns and masses of
ivy and parasitic plants in green festoons. Of bird-life, but little
beyond a few common small birds was observable, and on a sunny slope we
came suddenly on a big grey mongoose, which, however, got to ground
before the gun could be unslung.

The first range explored was the series of crags terminating the Sierra
de las Cabras; but it proved blank as regarded our chief object. The
summit is a long, narrow, knife-edged ridge, along which vertical strata
of limestone, bleached white as marble, protrude abruptly as the walls
of a ruined city. Amidst these ruinous streets were a few Black Chats,
and on a shoulder of the hill a solitary Blue Rock-Thrush; a small eagle
was sweeping over the slopes, but not a sign of the Lammergeyer could we
see. The day was bright and clear, and the view extensive and wild. On
the north the granite mass of San Christobal, now lightly flecked with
snow, limited our horizon; but in other directions rose an infinity of
grey, stony sierras, range beyond range, some sharp, jagged, and cruelly
bare of vegetation. To the south we could discern the silvery sheen of
the Lagunas de Janda, with glimpses of the Straits of Gibraltar, and the
misty outline of African highlands beyond.

We had a long, hard day ere we reached the cortijo of a hospitable
hill-farmer among the cork-woods of the valley beyond. Here we sought a
night's lodging, and the kindly mountaineer, "Francisco de Naranjo, su
servidor de usted," as with a low bow and typical Andalucian courtesy he
introduced himself, at once made us feel that the Spanish welcome--"aqui
tiene usted su casa"--was, in his case, no empty form of words. We
dined together, Francisco and I, on garbanzos, thrushes, a chicken, and
black puddings! These last, and the consciousness that a newly-killed
pig, whose life-blood no doubt had furnished the delicacy, hung from the
rafters immediately behind my head, amidst store of algarrobas,
capsicums, and heads of golden maize, were the only drawbacks to my
comfort. We discussed agricultural and political subjects, and agreed in
sharing conservative views, though, in Spain, I fancy I might turn
rather more of a reformer; but this I did not hint at. Francisco
observed that should Lord Salisbury's then existing Government in
England fall, it would be a _mal rato_ (a bad time) for property-owners
everywhere! My host told me that he set his watch by the sun, and in
answer to a question when the sun would rise to-morrow, promptly
replied, "At 7.19."[58]

After dinner we adjourned to the large outer room, where among the
miscellaneous crew gathered round the blazing logs were a wild-honey
hunter, and a birdcatcher who was plying his vocation in the adjacent
woods. I was surprised to find among his captures a number of redwings;
of a couple of dozen thrushes which I bought for my own and men's
eating, no less than eight were redwings, and on subsequent days he
caught many more. This man, though he knew that the song-thrushes were
migratory in Spain, saying they were _pajaros de entrada_, which left
when the swallows appeared, did not see any difference between them and
the redwings. He had also caught a Great Spotted Woodpecker, and while I
was examining it, one of the half-wild cats of the farm, cautiously
stalking beneath my chair, seized the prey and made off into outer

It was a typical Andalucian scene around the hearth, the group of
bronzed leather-clad mountaineers, some already "gone to roost"
(audibly) on the low mud settee round the outer wall, while others
rolled the everlasting "papelito," and one, as usual, "touched" the
guitar. My host had a narrow "catre" set up for me in his own room, and
next morning, after an early cup of the delicious thick Spanish
chocolate and the sweet biscuits for which the neighbouring village of
Alcalá bears a local repute, we started on foot to ascend the range
behind the house while yet the hills were wrapped in mist-wreaths.

The ascent at first lay through hanging forests, broken here and there
by grey crags, the home of the chough and the eagle-owl. Here a cushat
occasionally dashed away, or a jay awoke the echoes at safe distance.
Above the trees the climb became harder and the ground of the roughest,
stony acclivities choked with brushwood. Beyond these came the region of
rock, vast monoliths and rock walls beside which a man felt a very mite
in the scale of creation.

On the conical rock-pile, the Picacho del Aljibe, which towers over the
surrounding sierras not unlike a gigantic Arthur's Seat over the
Salisbury Crags, we had enjoyed in a former year a sight of the
Gypaëtus; but now it proved blank, nor could our guides, nor a goatherd
we met on the mountain, give us any information beyond the customary
"hay muchos en Estremadura." Whatever one may seek, it would appear,
abounds in Estremadura! The Spanish peasant, whether from an
over-anxious desire to assist, or from a fear of appearing ignorant, is
apt to err on the side of imagination or exaggeration. Information
received from them needs careful sifting, or disappointment may ensue.
Thus, while on a fishing expedition in the north of Spain, I was
sounding my companion, a Gallegan peasant, as to the bears, deer, and
other game of the surrounding sierras. At first his answers seemed
straight and fair, but a bear story or two took me aback, and presently
he insisted that the _red_ deer in those hills _never cast their horns_,
which grew to a fabulous size. Before abandoning the discussion I said
casually--with a view to "fix" him--"_Y leones?_" "Lions! No, señor,
here there are none; but further over yonder (this with a wave of his
hand to the westward) there are many." The expression, _mas allá hay
muchos_, and the gesture that accompanied it, conveyed the impression
that only a few leagues across the mountains, there were swarms of
lions: but on being questioned more precisely as to the locality, he
replied--"In the United States!" Possibly in that lad's mind, the
_Estados Unidos_ commenced somewhere just beyond the limit of his
view--at any rate, further zoological discussion was suspended.

Many of the crags were tenanted by vultures, but these we expressly
avoided, and directed the search to spots where these birds were not.
For some days we sought in vain: at last we espied an eyrie which
appeared to give promise of success. This was a wide crevice in the face
of a precipice, which from the copious whitewash below, was evidently
occupied. Some broken crags on the left seemed to afford a chance of
climbing within shot of the eyrie; and having reached the spot, Blas
fired a shot below, when there followed a scrambling noise within the
cave, and out swept--not the coveted Gypaëtus, but a huge bare-necked
griffon. I appeased my disappointment with both barrels, and the B.B.
taking effect on the head, the vulture collapsed and fell
down--down--with a mighty thud to the slopes below.

We could find nothing but vultures here: every crag was possessed by
them, and we examined several of their abodes. They were already
beginning to build: the remnants of last year's structures being now
(January 22nd) supplemented by fresh live branches of oak and olive, and
big claws-full of grass torn up by the roots.

'Twere a long tale to tell of fruitless efforts: we never so much as saw
our coveted prize hereabouts, and at length we left the kindly farmer's
house. The pretty Anita who had waited on us, and who, though she never
sat down in her master's presence, joined freely in the conversation,
had, we observed, donned quite an extra stratum of _poudre d'amour_, or
some such compound, upon her fair brown cheeks to bid _adios_ to the mad
Inglés; but neither she nor hearty Francisco would hear of accepting any
return for all the trouble of our visit. We had an idea, in the former
case, that coquetry might have had something to do with Anita's
refusal, but time forbade the solution of the question.

[Illustration: GRIFFON VULTURE. (A sketch in the Sierra.)]

Further explorations had no better result: in the forests of the Sierra
de la Jarda were a good many roe and some pig, but we did not care to
risk the uncertainty of a _batida_ all alone. Partridge are very scarce
on all these hills, and no wonder, since every farmer keeps his pair of
call-birds (_reclamos_). We had gently hinted to Francisco the unwisdom
of shooting partridges to decoys in spring; but he insisted it did no
harm, since _he only shot the cocks_! A pair or two of partridges at
long intervals were all we saw (two or three brace a day was the utmost
we could bag as a rule), and these, with a few hares and a chance
rabbit, are all the small game of the sierra. In the marshy valleys were
flights of peewits (January), and the woods swarmed with thrushes,
blackbirds, chaffinches, green and brown linnets, robins, a few
redwings, and other common species. A striking bird among the dense
scrub on the hillsides was the little Dartford warbler, a creature of
such intensely tame and skulking habits, that it was impossible to get a
shot beyond a few yards--which involved annihilation of so tiny an atom.

After another week's exploration, sleeping at the _chozas_ of goatherds,
or in bat-haunted caves, and enduring much discomfort, we decided to
give it up.[59] On the homeward journey we gave a day to the exploration
of the Boca de la Foz, where on a former occasion we had had a shot at a
Lammergeyer--a grey-brown immature bird; but here again we met with
nothing but the ubiquitous vultures, and in the afternoon we had paid
off our guides and were starting on the homeward ride, when Benitez
pointed out a _pajaraco_ in the distance. At first the bird appeared an
ordinary griffon, some of which were close by; but as it came overhead,
there was no mistaking the outlines of the Lammergeyer. Slowly the
magnificent bird wheeled and sailed overhead, and our eyes feasted on
the object we would have given two little fingers to possess. For some
minutes he treated us to a fine view at moderately short distance. The
general contour and flight was far more vulturine and less falcon-like
than we had expected. The wings seemed fully as heavy, broad, and square
at the points as those of a griffon, but there was rather more curve at
the elbow. A lightish spot near the tips of the quills, the rich tawny
breast and white head, keenly turning from side to side, were very
conspicuous from below; but the distinguishing characteristic of the
bird is its tail. This is very long, and continues broadening out for
half its length, thence narrowing down acutely to the sharp wedge-shaped

Presently the bird appeared to enter some great crags--already hidden
from view by an intervening bluff--and the hopes of a shot revived.
Benitez was protesting against the idea of spending another night here,
with no food for man or beast, when the Lammergeyer solved the question
by re-appearing, and after a few fine aërial evolutions, winged his way
direct towards the distant sierras beyond Grazalema.

That night we reached the little _venta_ of the Parada del Valle: the
landlord could hardly get over the curiosity of our wishing to wash
before dinner, and for some minutes revolved like a swivel-mitrailleuse,
expectorating all over the floor while pondering this thing in his mind.
"Ahora?" at last he inquired. "Si! ahora mismo!" we replied, when he
went and brought a thing that looked like a tin plate, containing about
a breakfast-cupful of water.

El Valle is a straggling little village situate in the mouth of one of
the defiles leading into the mountains, and consists of a few low
cottages and a single country-house--a rare thing in Spain--embowered
amidst orange and olive-groves. The orange harvest was in full swing,
and the villagers one and all busy gathering the golden fruit into
heaps, and packing it upon mules for market; some also in the long
wooden cases one sees about Covent Garden. The only sign-board in the
little one-sided street displayed the words "Dentista y Sangrador"--the
Spaniards, by the way, are strong believers in bleeding: it seems the
one known remedy, efficacious for all the ills of the flesh, as the
writer once learned by experience, when having had a slight sunstroke,
he awoke to find a rural medico in the act of applying the lancet to his

Before dawn we started for Jerez, and in a detached crag of the sierra
we obtained a fine adult male golden eagle which had breakfasted early
on a rabbit. Like most Spanish examples, this eagle was much splashed
with white below, especially on the thighs. Shortly after, on a bare
stretch of maize stubble, we rode fairly into a pack of little bustard,
and though the gun was in the slings a quick shot secured three--one to
the first barrel, and a brace, winged, to the second. A long skein of
cranes came gaggling over as we breakfasted on the banks of Guadalete,
and, passing the Agredera, by evening the long ride was over, and we
were once more amidst the grateful comforts of Jerez de la Frontera.
Only for a brief period, however, did these delay us, for on the
following evening we set out on a night expedition to the marisma.




Since the time of those earlier efforts to scrape an acquaintance with
the Lammergeyer (some of which form the subject of the last chapter), we
have at length enjoyed opportunities of observing this grand bird in its
true home, and here add a short summary of these later experiences.

Broadly speaking, this bird may be said to exist in all the higher
mountain regions of Spain; but, as a rule, in small and decreasing
numbers. In the north, there are eyries in Guipúzcoa and Navarre, one or
two within sight of the French frontier; others in the Cordilleras of
Leon and the Asturias--the magnificent gorge known as the Desfiladero de
la Deva, being an immemorial haunt. We have observed them in the great
central sierras of Castile, and they are known (but probably do not
breed) in the Guadarrama range, within sight of Madrid. Nowhere common,
there are yet more sporadic pairs to be seen sweeping low on the steep
brown mountain-sides of certain Andalucian and Estremenian sierras than
anywhere else in Spain. Here, however, as elsewhere, their numbers are
being yearly reduced by the deadly poison laid by hill-farmers for
wolves, and, in some cases, expressly for the Lammergeyer itself; for,
rightly or wrongly, the great bird bears an ill-repute, and being,
moreover, during the breeding-season, of confiding disposition--more so
than eagle or vulture--is easily killed at the nest.

The Gypaëtus, like the noble eagles, is essentially a solitary bird,
each pair (they remain paired for life) requiring a mountain region
exclusively their own, and shunning the near propinquity of vultures and
other large raptores. It is no doubt this trait of its character that
explains its comparative absence from our "home" mountains round Ronda,
and the failure of our search for it in that district; for the
ramification of mountain-ranges which occupies that southernmost apex of
Europe swarms with vultures, which crowd every crag and precipice in
numbers quite unknown elsewhere. Such conditions are distasteful to the
solitude-loving Lammergeyer.

Yet, while shunned as near neighbours, it appears certain that the
vultures perform services of value to their nobler congener. Their
office consists in stripping the skeleton of flesh, and leaving prepared
for the "quebranta-huesos" (bone-smasher) his much preferred
_bonne-bouche_ of marrow-bones. Thus, while the respective haunts of the
two species remain distinct, their hunting-areas must coincide.

The Lammergeyer disdains carrion; is never seen at those seething
vulture-banquets which form so characteristic a spectacle in rural
Spain; but he loves the _bones_, and his habit of carrying huge tibia
and femora into the upper air, thence dropping them upon rocks, has been
known since the days of Æschylus. Hence the fouler feeders are useful to
him; he requires their assistance, but demands that they keep a
respectful distance. His attitude towards the vultures may be compared
with that of certain high-souled anthropoids of human affinity, who
utilize their humbler neighbours and cut them dead next day!

Thus it happens that while in a range of sierra inhabited by Griffons,
the Lammergeyer will not be found, yet a pair of the latter usually have
their eyrie at no great distance from the vulture-colony.[60]

During our ibex-shooting campaigns among the Mediterranean sierras, we
frequently fell in with this species.

[Illustration: Plate XXXV.

LAMMERGEYER. A sketch from life in the Sierra Bermeja.

Page 308.]

It was almost the first bird seen in the Sierra Bermeja, where a superb
adult passed slowly along our line, carrying what appeared to be a live
snake in his claws, some four feet of writhing reptile dangling beneath.
The Lammergeyer, by the way, like the eagle, carries everything in its
claws, not in the beak. We were rather surprised at seeing this bird
here, the local hunters having specially assured us that only "aguilas
reales" bred in that sierra. This name, however, proved to be that
_here_ applied to the Lammergeyer; its proper recipient, the Golden
Eagle (a pair of which were nesting in a crag not far off) being known
as "aguila negra."

Vultures, it may be mentioned, were chiefly remarkable by their absence
in these mountains--one only saw a solitary Griffon at long intervals,
and in that barren rocky-mountain region (afterwards mentioned), in
which we found the Lammergeyer most numerous, vultures were seldom seen.
Yet _Buiteras_, "Griffonries," so to speak, existed at certain
intervals, say, six or eight leagues apart, throughout the whole of
those sierras.

This pair of Lammergeyers, which we enjoyed watching during some days,
soon disclosed to us both the position of their present abode and also
that of a former year, entering the latter crag almost as often as the
then tenanted nursery.

Perched, as we were, a thousand feet above, it was a glorious
ornithological spectacle to watch these grand birds sailing to and fro
unsuspicious and unconscious of our presence, their lavender backs and
outstretched pinions gleaming like silver in the sunshine. Slowly they
would glide down the gorge till lost to sight around an angle; returning
half an hour later, and passing beneath our post, would circle for a
minute or two round the rock-stack. Not a motion of those rigid pinions
till close to the mouth of the eyrie, then the great wings closed, and
the bird disappeared within its cave.

Both eyries were situate in similar positions--in abrupt stacks of rock
which protruded from the rugged mountain slope, but _both_ quite _low_
down, almost at the bottom of the 3,000-foot gorge across which the two
nests faced each other. The Lammergeyer, we have now ascertained, does
_not_ breed, as we had expected, in those more stupendous precipices
beloved of _Aquila bonelli_, and whose height dwarfs even an eagle to
the similitude of the homely kestrel; but rather, either in rock-stacks
such as those (often not 100 feet high) which flank the lower
_gargantas_, or corries of the sierra, or in those generally loftier
crags which often belt the base of each individual mountain.

The actual site of the nest is a small cave--rather than a crevice--and
a huge mass of material, the accumulation of years, usually covers the
whole floor. In one case, not less than a cart-load of sticks, branches,
and twigs of cistus and heath had been collected, covering a circular
space some six feet in diameter by two in depth. The present nest was
hardly so large, and was completed with dead vine-branches, the prunings
of the previous autumn;--and contained, besides an old _alparagata_, or
hempen sandal, several cows' hoofs, and the dried leg and foot of a
wild-goat. There was, however, no carrion about, nor any very offensive
smell, such as would have characterized the home of a vulture.

To an outsider, the feat of scaling even a 100-foot crag, when fairly
sheer, seems no easy undertaking; but our two mountain-bred lads made
light work of it, one escalading the Lammergeyer's fortress from below,
the other from above (which proved the easier way), and actually meeting
in the eyrie. Some goatherds, hearing of our wish to secure a
"quebranta-huesos," had removed the single young bird an hour or two
previously. This grotesque and most uncouth fledgeling was then (at end
of March) about the size of a turkey, covered with grey-white down, and
with beak and crop so disproportionately heavy that a recumbent position
appeared almost a necessity. The youngster kept up a constant querulous
whistle when visited, and consumed, we were told, four pounds of meat
daily. A month later the feathers were beginning to show through the
down, and the daily consumption of meat had doubled.

In a remote region of the Sierra Nevada, during the spring of 1891, the
writer visited several eyries of the Lammergeyer--each nest, in
construction and situation, resembling those already described, but the
season (April) was too late to secure eggs, this species breeding very
early--in January. The young--usually only one, though two eggs are
often laid--at this season were about one-third feathered. These nests
were in the midst of a peculiarly barren and rocky district of the great
Eastern Sierras, the precise locality of which it may be as well to
leave unwritten. Two of the eyries were in low belts of protruding rock
which broke the steep slope of the sierra, a third in a detached crag
about 150 feet in height. The latter, however, was easily accessible (by
rope) from above. The Lammergeyer, when breeding, is less cautious than
eagle or vulture, sitting close, even while preparations for an assault
on its stronghold are being made close at hand.

The adults measure from 8 feet 6 inches to 9 feet in expanse of wing,
and the wedge-shaped white head with its bristly beard and scarlet
eyelids, its cat-like irides, and the black bands that pass through the
eye, give the bird a peculiarly ferocious aspect. When on the wing, as
Prince Rudolph remarks, these features, together with the long rigid
wings, cuneate tail, and the mixture of hoary grey, black, and bright
yellow in its plumage, distinguish the Gypaëtus at a glance from any
other living creature, and lend it a strange, almost a dragon-like

Its claws, though less acutely hooked than those of the eagle, are sharp
and powerful weapons--quite different to the worn and blunted claws of
vultures, though the central toe in _both_ is much longer than the two
outside ones.

The industry of the peasantry of these wild regions of Nevada deserves a
passing remark. As high as rye or other crops will grow, almost every
foot of available ground is brought under cultivation. Precipitous,
stony slopes are terraced with a perseverance that rivals, though on a
smaller scale, the vineyards of Alto Douro, elsewhere described.
Scanning the heights with a field-glass, one descries a man working on
some jutting point or tiny patch of tillage so steep that a stone would
hardly lie. All these folk, towards nightfall, betake themselves to the
quaint but unsavoury hamlets that hang on some ridge of the sierra--and
not the human folk only, but the pigs, the goats, and the donkeys
forbye--each beast making straight for its own abode. Along each
rock-paved street at dusk they come at a run, looking neither to right
nor left till each beast bolts, without ceremony, into its own abode.
Some five-and-twenty of the larger "domestic" animals (I take no count
of dogs, hens, or the like) shared with me and sundry natives our scanty
lodgment, whence at earliest dawn the braying of asses, cock-crowing,
and porcine squalls, drove us betimes of a morning.


In one hill-village, there being no _posada_, we put up in the outhouse
of a mill: but, amidst sacks of grain and malodorous mules, we passed a
lively evening, for one by one the serranos dropped in to chat with the
"Ingléses"; the wine-skin was replenished, and Manuel struck up some
snatches of "Don Rodrigo de Bivar" and songs of the ancient chivalry.
Maiden figures soon flitted in the darkness outside, and coyly accepting
an invitation to enter, our barn resounded with the music of castanet
and guitar, while lissom forms and light fandango graced its erewhiles
unlovely floor.

Next morning our guide, Manolo Osorio Garcia, was drunk--a most unusual
thing in Spain! We left him to sleep off his _borachera_, and were glad
to get rid of him, for--again, most unusual--he was constantly pestering
not only for wine, but for boots, gunpowder, and other things--requests
that, when luggage is reduced to a minimum, cannot be conveniently
complied with.

Despite their industry there is, nevertheless, woful poverty amid the
peasants of Nevada. Whole tribes live in caves and excavations in the
mountain-sides--filthy holes, shared, of course, by the beasts, and
devoid of the remotest approach to comfort or decency. Even in the
larger villages the ordinary sanitary precautions are utterly neglected,
disease is frequent, and death sweeps in broad swathes. Early one
morning Manuel came in to tell us that in the hamlet, at which we had
arrived the previous night, "the people were dying by dozens each day of
small-pox, that ten children had already succumbed that morning, and
that he was very ill himself." We accordingly left at once, meeting in
the pass above the village a drove of several hundred black pigs. Our
horses planted their feet firmly on the rocks, and for some minutes we
stood encompassed in a torrent of swine, which raced and jostled beneath

In Spain the Gypaëtus is yearly decreasing in numbers. A decade ago they
were fairly numerous in the vast area of rock mountains which stretches
between Granada and Jaen. To-day a week may be spent in that district
without so much as even a distant view of this grand bird. The reason is
unquestionably the use of poison (_veneno_), which is laid out broadcast
by the goatherds for the special benefit of wolves, but which is equally
fatal to the Lammergeyer.

Wolves, by the way, during the severe winter of 1890-1, were
particularly numerous and destructive in the Sierra Nevada, descending
to lower levels than usual, demolishing whole flocks, and even attacking
human beings when found alone. In one instance all that could be found
of a poor goatherd, who had been missing for some weeks, was his boots!

This brings us again to the question of the habits of the Gypaëtus, and
especially of its food. Some naturalists seem inclined to hold that the
bird is only a _vulture_, subsisting on carrion, and fearing to attack
any living prey. The goatherds of Nevada, however (rightly or wrongly),
do not share this view. One kindly old hill-farmer, at whose lonely
cottage we spent a couple of nights, assured us that the "quebrantones,"
as he called them, were as destructive to his new-born kids in
spring-time as the wolves themselves, and added that he laid out the
_veneno_ in special spots for each of his enemies. Only three days
before, he asserted with vehement emphasis, he had witnessed a
Lammergeyer strike down a week-old kid, its mate meanwhile driving off
the dam. So intent was the bird on demolishing its victim that the
farmer approached within a few yards and threw his stick at it as it
rose. The kid, however, was dead. He insisted that the robber was no
Golden Eagle (which he knew well), but "_de los Barbudos
malditos!_"--one of those accursed bearded fellows!

Again, on a single _majada_, or goat-breeding establishment, in
Estremadura, we were told that forty odd kids had been killed that
spring by one pair of Lammergeyers before the enraged tenant was able to
shoot them. We saw one of the birds--a superb adult Gypaëtus.

Here also is the evidence of the veteran _cazador_, Manuel de la Torre,
a man of keen observation and intelligence, and the best
field-naturalist we have met in Spain: "The Lammergeyer seeks far and
wide for prey, preferring bones to anything else, but also eating
carrion on necessity; and in spring, when it has young, kills many young
sheep and goats, both wild and tame. I have seen it take snakes and
other reptiles, and the largest and finest I ever shot (now in Madrid
Museum) was in the act of eating a rabbit I had just seen it kill. This
was in the Pardo. A dead hare or rabbit is the best bait to attract the
Gypaëtus to the gun; it regularly hunts both. The Neophron I have never
seen take any living thing; it only eats carrion, garbage, and offal,
but I have found dead snakes in its nests. The Gypaëtus, like the
vultures and some eagles, feed their young for some months on
half-digested food, disgorged from their own crops." This is the
evidence of one who has seen more of the Lammergeyer than any other
living naturalist, and it is for this reason that, contrary to our
practice, we have accepted what may be called hearsay evidence.

It is for these reasons that we have retained the distinctive title of
Lammergeyer, now generally discarded in favour--on mistaken grounds, we
think--of the name of "Bearded Vulture." Independently of the fact that
our subject is no more a vulture than it is an eagle, surely a
distinctive name is preferable to further iteration of the wearisome
monotony--ay, poverty--of ornithological nomenclature. Have we not run
to death those compound epithets, "long-legged," "black-tailed,"
"white-shouldered," and the like? Even on the assumption--not proven in
this case--that the word conveys an inference not strictly accurate,
there are precedents for its retention, _e.g._, Caprimulgus, Goatsucker,
Nycticorax, Bernicla, the Bernacle Goose, Oyster-catcher, and many more.
We hesitate to accept such substitutes as Tures and Bearded Vulture for
the time-honoured designations of Ibex and Lammergeyer.





For more than an hour we had been lying expectant, Ramon and I. Our
position was in a tumble of rocks, which commanded the approach to a
pass--a little _portillo_, the only one by which the beetling crags
above were surmountable, even to an ibex. The pass was a narrow cleft or
fissure, traversing transversely the whole height of the crags, whose
sheer dolomite precipices otherwise presented an utterly unscaleable
face. Our post was a favourable one, hence it was with a tinge of
disappointment that we observed the appearance of one of our drivers on
the heights of the opposite sky-line.

Ramon lay just in front of me on the narrow shelving ledge, his head
considerably lower than his feet, his lithe body entwined around a
projecting rock-buttress, while his keen eye surveyed everything that
moved in the panorama of wild rock-chaos beneath. During these hours of
meditation I began more clearly to understand one, at least, of the
_raisons d'être_ for that remarkable acuteness of smell which is
attributed to the ibex. The ibex-hunters invariably assured us that the
goats relied more on their sense of smell than on that of sight--"they
have more nose than eyes--_mas nariz que ojos_," in Spanish phrase.
This, I now realized, was not, after all, so inexplicable, for the
skin-clad hunter before me was decidedly aromatic. It became easy of
comprehension that his presence might be more readily perceptible to the
nose than to the eyes; for, while Ramon's serpentine form, curving round
a rock-angle, and appearing to fit into its sinuosities, was all but
invisible, his whereabouts, even to human olfactory organs, might
probably be detected at a considerable distance. No wonder the native
hunter is careful to keep always under the lee of the breeze.

"Do you see where Guarro is now?" presently remarked Ramon, "crossing
the ridge below the glacier-foot." After scanning for some minutes every
inch of the spot indicated with a strong field-glass, I made out at
length a minute moving dot that might be our friend Guarro y Guarro, the
ruddy-faced goatherd, who was in charge of the _batida_.[61] "Well, that
is where I shot the first of the two big _machos_ on Thursday--the other
on these broken pinnacles lower down on the right." To kill two
first-rate males, single-handed, in a day was no small feat, and Ramon's
tale of the achievement was an interesting sporting episode.

"I was attending my goats," he said, "in the Arroyo del Cerradillo, the
ravine above where we shot the small _macho_ yesterday; and as I came
within sight of the high crags at its summit, I crept carefully forward,
'speering' round the rocks to see if any ibex chanced to be in them.
They are a favourite haunt of the goats during the day, and as there are
some large males on that side, it is always worth while to be prepared
and cautious. That morning there were two--both large ibex, with very
long horns, as long as a man's arms. They were at first walking away,
but soon lay down on a ledge where it was possible to crawl to within
fifty or sixty yards of them. Unfortunately, part of the stalk was
through soft snow, and, in consequence, the gun missed fire."

Ramon's gun, by the way, was an exceptionally rickety old weapon, with
many signs of rude repairs, and bore on its single barrel, counter-sunk
in golden letters, the inscription "Plasencia, 1841." No doubt it owed
the Imperial exchequer of Spain something like fifty pounds sterling in
respect of license duty during half a century, not one centime of which
is ever likely to find its way into the Spanish Treasury.

Poor Ramon, though well provided with powder and ball, had but two caps;
hence it was necessary, after the misfire, to draw the faithless charge
in order to save intact the two precious _mitos_. "Meanwhile," continued
Ramon, "the two ibex had moved up the rocks, and soon crossed the
sky-line just above those snow-gullies. They did not appear much
alarmed, never having seen me; so I followed round the shoulder of the
main spur, as the goats had gone downwind. In the afternoon I came up
with them, just where I showed you. There were now four of them--all big
males, and as the two nearer were lying down in a favourable position, I
got a good shot, killing the largest quite dead, with a bullet through
chest and heart.

"The other three, still uncertain whence the shot had come, owing to the
echo reverberating among the hills, hesitated a few moments, and then
sprang downwards, one passing so near that, had I had another gun, I
might perhaps have killed him. My dog, which had followed me, and which
was well accustomed to herding my own goats, now gave chase. I knew the
ibex could not pass the ice-slope of Cerradillo [two miles away], and in
the hope that I might cut off their retreat by the Garganta del Canchon,
I set off, after reloading, to cross the two ravines." (This, by the
way, would have taken an average Englishman at least an hour's difficult
and laborious climbing.) "I reached those steeple-rocks on the second
ridge just in the nick of time to meet the three ibex ascending on the
other side. The dog was nowhere in sight, though he was still following.
I had not gained the pass two minutes when the ibex crossed in front,
travelling slowly over a patch of snow, where I shot the largest of the
three at about eighty paces distant. He fell to the shot, floundering
for some seconds in the loose snow, but recovered and went on some
distance, till the dog at last came up with him and pulled him down."

On surveying the field of operations carefully through the binoculars,
and estimating the distances traversed respectively by Ramon and his
three opponents, we could only marvel at the wondrous feat he had
performed in crossing that fearful gorge, with its miles of snow and
rocks, in time to cut out the hunted and light-footed ibex. The latter,
it is true, had something like four times the distance to cover, but
even that, one would have thought, was far too light a handicap.


These two ibex were both eight-year old males, and their horns measured,

  No. 1.--Length, 28-1/2  inches. Circumference, 9-1/4 inches.
  No. 2.--   "    27-1/2     "          "        9       "



Bernál Gonzalvo was the smartest of all the shepherd-lads in the
mountain village of Valdama, and universally acknowledged as the best
shot and most successful ibex-hunter in that part of the sierra. But in
his wanderings near the clouds, his thoughts of late had often strayed
from his flock: other music than the tinkling of their many bells was
sweeter to his ear. His thoughts would carry him a thousand times a day
to the hamlet which nestled far below. In short, Bernál was in love; for
the first time in his simple life of three-and-twenty years his spirit
was made captive by a daughter of Eve. Concha, the pretty brunette of
the _parador_, had heard the old, old story from his lips, and he had
found favour in her eyes. Concha's good luck made her the envy of all
the girls of the hamlet. For not only was Bernál a handsome lad of the
sprightly, graceful type peculiar to the mountain region, but he was
also rich--he owned over two hundred goats, and had inherited a
two-roomed _choza_ and an acre of trailing vines.

Engagements in these primitive nooks of the world are not of long
duration. The following week it was arranged his betrothal should be
announced, and the _dichos_ declared--the custom of avowing publicly the
mutual acceptance of nuptial obligations, which in Spain corresponds
with our "calling the banns." On such occasions it is customary in
Valdama for the bridegroom-elect to provide a feast whereat the friends
of the _fiancés_ assemble after this preliminary ceremony. The marriage
itself does not take place till some days later. After the _dichos_ the
rest of that day is spent in conviviality.

Bernál owned plenty of goats, but, being a lad of some originality, he
determined to give _his_ "novia" something different to the regulation
marriage-feast of stewed kid. Concha's nuptials should mark an epoch in
the annals of Valdama--nothing less than the venison of a wild ibex
should betoken his plighted troth. He was a mighty hunter, and Concha's
first offering at his hands should be one appropriate to his fame and
skill with the rifle-ball.

The season was mid-winter and the snow lay deep and treacherous on all
the great sierras that overhang his native village. Few are venturesome
enough to brave the dangers and hard work that the pursuit of ibex in
winter must entail. All the more reason why Bernál should distinguish
himself, and all the more acceptable the gift.

On the morning before the ceremony of the _dichos_, he set out at
daybreak; his gun slung on his shoulder, a crust of brown bread, some
meat and olives in his "alforjas," and his favourite dog "Vasco" at his
heel. As the earlier risers among the damsels of the hamlet wended their
way towards the well for the day's supply of water, each with a big
brown _cantaro_ poised on her head, they lingered to scan the hill and
watch Bernál's retreating figure as he leaped upwards from rock to rock,
ascending towards the snowy pinnacles of Las Lanzas. Soon he disappeared
from view, turning off into the snow-filled gullet of the _Salto del
lobo_--the wolfs leap.

The day was bright and glorious as a winter's day in Spain can be, but
before dusk heavy cloud-banks had darkened the western horizon, and the
sun sank in lurid light amidst gathering murk that boded ill for the
night. Darkness had set in, but Bernál had not returned. Hour after hour
passed by without sign of him, and Concha's anxiety grew more and more
intense. Not all the sympathy of her maiden friends could cheer her; but
some consolation the poor girl tried to find in the assurances of the
rough hunters who came to comfort her--Bernál, they asserted, was safe
enough; he had been caught in those scudding snow-clouds, and, as many a
belated herdsman had done before, had sought shelter for the night in
some cave or crevice, awaiting the return of daylight before attempting
the descent. Had he, as was probable, succeeded in shooting an ibex, it
was natural that with such a burden he would find himself unable to
return in the short winter's day. With these and similar assurances poor
Concha was fain to console herself.

Before midnight the threatened storm burst: the gale howled through the
gorges of the sierra and along the narrow street of Valdama. Thickly,
too, fell the snow; before dawn the whole landscape lay enveloped in the
white mantle, and the bye-ways of the hamlet were choked to the lintels.
Snow-wreaths hung in majestic forms over each prominent escarpment,
threatening destruction to the villagers' stock of olives, figs, and
vines which grew beneath. The older men gathered in knots discussing
Bernál's chances of escape from the higher regions; no help was
possible, and the general opinion was that till the gale had partially
swept the dry powdery snow into the ravines and hollows, his descent
would be perilous, even if possible. Again the day passed by without
sign of the missing bridegroom. The _dichos_ were postponed, and the
hamlet slept with a heavy load of doubt and fear oppressing its mind.

Thus passed two days--three since the adventurous hunter had set forth,
but on the fourth morning it was thought an ascent might be attempted.
Three search parties, each composed of three mountaineers, started in
different directions, but at nightfall they returned without news or
trace of lost Bernál.

Next morning the search was renewed. Towards noon the party, led by our
friend Claudio, descried among the bare rocks of a ridge high above them
a moving object. Their cries and shots attracted attention, and
presently poor Vasco, Bernál's faithful companion, struggled to reach
them. The three men decided to continue calling out Bernál's name, in
order to convey to the dog the idea that they were in search of his
master; but this the wise beast seemed to have intuitively understood,
for he immediately set out in the direction whence he had come. Claudio
and his two companions followed Vasco's lead for nearly a league, when
the dog stopped and commenced scratching away the snow from below a
projecting rock. Here were found the "alforjas" (wallet) of the lost
man, still containing the bread and olives with which he had set out.
Vasco at once continued his course, leading the way to one of the
deepest and most magnificent _cañons_ of the whole sierra. Here, on the
very verge of a precipice of a thousand feet sheer, the dog directed the
rescuers to his master's gun, which lay buried in the snow within a foot
of the abyss. The gun was _cocked_--a sure sign to the _serranos_ that
at the moment of leaving it Bernál had been in presence of game,
momentarily expecting a shot. Further the dog would not, or could not,
go; yet no sign of Bernál could be seen on the crag-top. Clearly he must
have slipped, fallen over into the tremendous abyss beneath. The men
separated, two going to right and left to seek some spot, some cleft or
ledge, by which the crag might be descended, the third remaining above
to guide the search. It was a perilous service on those slippery,
ice-clad rocks. After an hour's labour, Claudio managed to reach a ledge
midway down the precipice, just beneath the spot where Guàrro remained
on the height above: and here the dog (which had steadily followed the
climber whose course at the moment led in the right direction) at once
indicated a point above some big boulders which lay balanced on the
narrow shelf. Here, beneath the frozen snow, lay poor Bernál Gonzalvo,
almost every bone in his once shapely form smashed into splinters by
that terrible fall of 500 feet. And there, on that dizzy ledge, his
remains lie still. There they had to be left; for it was found
impossible to remove the body, or to carry it along the ledges and
"chimneys" by which the rescue party had descended. It was, after all,
an appropriate resting-place for the luckless ibex-hunter. The three men
heaped up a pile of stones to protect his remains from the maw of
vulture or prowling wolf, and there we may leave him in peace.

Perhaps it would be wiser to leave the story, too, at this point; but we
are simply historians without aspiration for the novelist's _rôle_, and
are impelled to complete faithfully this sad little story of the sierra.
Concha was, of course, almost beside herself with grief. During the long
winter months, while the snow whirled round the ravines of Valdama, the
poor girl remained inconsolable. But time is a wondrous restorer. When
spring came round, and the vines and chestnuts unfolded their shoots,
making Valdama all green and beautiful, then youth and buoyant spirits
reasserted their power, and, less than a twelve-month afterwards, Concha
had found consolation. Friend Claudio, the discoverer of her lost
lover's remains, and to whom we are indebted for this little tale, had
meanwhile become her husband.

[Illustration: Plate XXXVI.


Page 325.]



It is a pleasant contrast in the blazing month of July, when one passes
from the parched stubbles of the corn-land, or the arid half-shade of
the _olivar_, and enters upon the green luxuriance of the vineyard. Eye
and mind are refreshed by that broad expanse of spreading vines clothing
hill and valley with their close-set trailing verdure.

Before us stands the somewhat pretentious gateway in the fence of
prickly-pear which surrounds the property--a handsome wrought-iron
lattice gate swung on stone pillars which bear the inscription "Nuestra
Señora de Piedad,--de Caridad," "Cruz Santa," or some such title.
Passing through, one walks waist-deep along a narrow pathway amidst
green vines. No need to ask which is Nature's most favoured plant in
this sunny land. Stand on one of the Jerez hills at this season and look
across the districts of the Marcharnudo or Carrascal and see the triumph
of the vine. All other vegetation pants beneath the pitiless sun; tree,
shrub, and bush droop withered and lifeless; the grass and wild-flowers
have disappeared from off the face of the calcined earth, not a blossom
remains; the bees have lost their employment, and already their
persecutors, the Bee-eaters, are departing for less torrid regions. Yet
all around lie thousands of acres of vines in the full exuberance of
life and vigour, drinking in growth and increase from the very rays that
are fatal to all beside. Vine roots reach down very great depths into
the earth--often twenty feet and more, the tap-roots threading their way
through the slightest cracks or cleavages of what _appears_ solid rock,
thickening out again as they reach a wider fissure of "fatter" soil, as
may be seen in road or railway-cuttings.

Nothing can be a greater contrast than the appearance of the vines at
Christmas or in January when not even a branch survives, each vine then
being cut back, till nothing remains but a gnarled, knobby stump some
two feet high, limbless and lifeless. The vineyards then assume a barren
hungry look, a grey expanse studded with rows of the inanimate stocks.

During early spring much care and labour are devoted to the vineyards.
The soil around each vine is drawn back with hoes and small adze-shaped
spades, the blades of which are turned inwards, till the plant stands in
the centre of a hollowed square, the heaped-up earth around serving to
catch and direct the moisture towards its roots. For a time the
vineyards resemble huge chess-boards, till in April the spreading
tendrils and bright green leaves once more hide the face of the earth
from view.

[Illustration: VINES IN MARCH.]

The workmen who are employed upon these operations have assigned to
them a large barn-like room on the ground-floor of the _casa de viñas_,
destitute of any semblance of furniture or fittings. In this they cook
their _pucheros_, smoke infinite cigarettes, and when times are
peaceful, wind up the day with a few touches on the guitar and weird
Andalucian melodies; but during the troublous periods of anarchy and
discontent so frequent in unhappy Spain, politics supplant music and
fierce discussions rage far into the night. Well do we remember the
violence of these disputes during the _mano negra_ fever, and earlier,
in the spring of 1872, when living at a vineyard with only a floor
between us and the peasant politicians. Amidst the babel of contending
voices one heard perpetually bandied about the names of Zorilla,
Castelar, Sagasta, and others of the _haute politique_ of Spain. The lot
of the Spanish labourer is none of the happiest, certainly; but it may
be doubted if they will mend it by argument and wordy warfare any more
than by force. Poor fellows! they are the raw material which the
high-falutin' scoundrels who promote rebellions by popular "cries" and
_pronunciamentos_ use for their own ends, and then abandon to the
bullets of _guardas civiles_ or the sabres of the cavalry. But, good
times or bad, the guitar or the revolutionary rag--whichever it may
be--are at length laid aside, they stretch themselves in rows on their
grass-woven mats, like sardines in a keg, and in sleep the troubled
spirits are at rest.

The vineyards, some of which (especially those in the Cañaleja,
Badalejo, and Caulina districts) have pedigrees that can be traced back
for upwards of six hundred years, are mostly interspersed with fields of
corn and groves of olive-trees, and intersected by sandy roads bordered
with hedges of cane and cactus. Occasional avenues lead to picturesque
villas embowered in flowering shrubs and trees, among which the adelfa,
or rose-laurel, the acacia, eucalyptus and cypress are conspicuous. The
hill-tops are generally crowned with snow-white _casas de viñas_, and
among the vines there rise little huts of esparto called _bien-te-veos_,
perched on four tall aloe-poles. These are the look-outs for the guards
who, armed with old-fashioned fire-locks, keep watch and ward over the
ripening grapes and grain.

The scene around Jerez at vintage time is a busy and picturesque
one--the narrow sandy lanes alive with gaudily-trapped mules bearing
panniers of grapes to the wine-presses, and creaking bullock-carts
conveying newly-pressed "must" to the Jerez bodegas. The vineyards
themselves are thronged with vintagers--all of the male sex, for in
Andalucia woman's right to take any part is altogether ignored.

The vintagers work in gangs of ten, each under the direction of a
_capatáz_, dexterously lopping off the bunches of grapes with their
ever-ready _navajas_, or bowie knives. The bunches are thrown into
"tinetas," square wooden boxes, each holding some twenty-five pounds of
grapes. As these are filled the men hoist them on their heads and march
off to the _almijar_ or court adjoining the presshouse. Here, after all
blighted and decayed grapes are removed, they are then spread out to dry
in the sun, and remain thus exposed for from one to three days, when
they are ready for the press.

The long wooden troughs, or _lagares_, having been partially filled with
grapes, a couple of swarthy bare-legged fellows in striped shirts, and
leathern shoes studded with broad-headed nails, jump into each _lagar_
and, after spreading out the bunches, commence footing it ankle-deep
among the crushed fruit, while the juice pours forth through spouts into
casks placed to receive it. The men dance with a rapid swaying movement
which is held to express the juice from the grapes in a more
satisfactory manner than can be accomplished by any known mechanical

[Illustration: Plate XXXVII.


Page 328.]

After being trodden, the grapes are finally subjected to the action of a
screw, which is fixed over the centre of each _lagar_. The pile of
half-crushed fruit is enclosed in a band of esparto-matting, and the
handles of the screw being turned, a wooden slab descends, and the
remaining juice pours forth through the interstices of the esparto, and
is collected in the butts beneath. These casks, as filled, are
hoisted upon bullock-carts, and sent jolting away to the Jerez bodegas.

The _vindimia_, or vintage, is always an animated scene, whether on the
gently undulating vine lands of Andalucia, or in Portugal, on the steep
terraced slopes of the mountains which shut in the wild Alto Douro. Afar
across those Lusitanian glens resound the musical chant and
characteristic sing-song ditties of the Gallegan peasantry--like
_cicadas_, they sing and answer each other from hill to hill the
livelong day, the happy, despised, bond-slaves of the Peninsula, who, at
vintage-time, flock from their rude barren province of Galicia to revel
in abundance in the Alto Douro on a couple of testoons, say, tenpence a
day, supplemented by an allowance of oil, a few salted sardines, rice,
and stock-fish, and of _broa_, or maize-bread, and the accommodation of
mother-earth to sleep upon, with a roof overhead through which the
star-light and the silvery rays of the harvest moon gleam in at a
hundred chinks and crevices. A happy lot, these Gallegans, happy in the
possession of content, happier far than their more impulsive brethren,
the socialistic peasants of Andalucia, of whom we have just spoken.


Fain would we pause here for a few moments among those rugged hills of
the Douro, amidst which, long ago, we first witnessed the spectacle of
_vindimia_--a sight which has left a deep and pleasing impression.
Everywhere on the terraced slopes are scattered groups of vintagers,
whose not unmusical voices fill the still air. Heavy bullock-carts go
creaking discordantly up and down the dry boulder-strewn gullies which
serve as roads; droves of nimble little donkeys, with pig-skins full of
wine strapped across their backs, or bringing bread for the people
employed in the vineyards, wend their way along zig-zag bridle-paths;
farmers with wine-samples and pedlars with their packs on mules,
equipped with jingling bells, jog leisurely along the mountain roads;
groups of buxom women, with bright-coloured kerchiefs tied over unkempt
tresses, and bare brown legs, dexterously detach the bunches and fill
them into baskets, the men meanwhile lazily smoking under the shade of
some olive-tree till their burdens are ready. Along the mountain-paths
file strings of sturdy Gallegans,[62] each bearing upon his shoulders a
huge basket (_jigo_), crammed with grapes. The _jigo_ weighs nearly a
hundredweight, and the shoulders of the bearer are protected by a woolly
sheep-skin. These burdens they bear to the _lagares_, where, when the
great stone trough is filled, a gang of men step in and commence a sort
of devil's dance, treading out the rich juice, which, after many hours'
fermentation, pours in purple streams to the _tonels_ below.

Within the sombre shade of the _lagares_ that strange dance proceeds, at
first briskly, amid laughter and song, to the squeaking notes of fiddle
and guitar, the rattle of drum, and the chaff of the women who gather
round the open verandas; but as the hours roll by and the air grows
heavy with the exhalations of fermenting "must," the work begins to
tell, and the treaders, all bespattered with purple juice, move slowly
and listlessly. In vain the fiddle strikes up anew, the fife squeaks,
the guitar tinkles, and overseers upbraid. After some eighteen hours of
this tread-mill exercise in an atmosphere charged with soporific
influences, music has lost its charm, and authority its terror. The men,
by this time almost dead-beat, languidly raise first one purple leg and
then the other, working on far into the watches of the night. Thus has
wine been made since before Homeric times.

The wine district of the Alto Douro, whence comes our port wine, is a
singular region, extending some thirty miles along either bank of the
river, but chiefly on the north side, in the province of Traz-os-Montes,
and having a varying width of five to ten miles. The whole _paiz
vinhateiro_ consists of grey and arid-looking mountain-sides, divided by
deep gullies and ravines, and all so steep that their soil of friable
mica-schist, more like bits of broken slate than fertile earth, can only
be cultivated by means of terraces roughly built up, tier above tier.
Mountain after mountain has its sides thus scored with terraced lines
like Cyclopean staircases, and on particular slopes as many as 150 may
be counted rising one above another, the effect of which is most
peculiar. Here and there a gleaming white _casa_, with its grove of
orange and cypress-trees; or a water-mill, shaded by oaks and chestnuts,
breaks the monotony of the landscape. Below, the yellow Douro courses
swiftly, bearing picturesque boats, high-prowed and long-hulled,
impelled by a white cloud of sail, and steered by a huge oar worked from
a pivot in the stern-post, while far above the zone of vineyards rise
mountain peaks in jagged outline.

Grapes are growing by the wayside, hanging from every crag or tree to
which a vine can attach its tendrils, and, perhaps most picturesque of
all, from the _ramadas_ or trellises. These _ramadas_ roof in the
courtyard of cottage or farm, and even span the village street. As one
rides through the hamlets which nestle in the valleys of the Douro, the
heavy purple clusters, six or eight pounds in weight, hang temptingly
just overhead--temptingly to the stranger to raise his parched lips and
snatch a mouthful of the juicy spheres. Partridges, too, appreciate the
luxury of a grape-feast, and in the evening, at this season (September
and October), their call-note is ubiquitous. But it is terrible work to
follow them amidst the tangled vines and crumbling terraces under the
fierce afternoon sun; and a better chance of sport will be found at
mid-day on the heather-clad ridges above. Thither, after their morning
feed, they retire to enjoy a siesta, and with the aid of a good dog
will afford excellent sport till towards 4 P.M., when they return to the
lower grounds. There is a cooler breeze on these heights, and a superb
panorama of the wildest region of Lusitania, bounded by the Serras do
Gerez and Marão and the highlands of Traz-os-Montes. There handsome
Swallowtails (_Papilio machæon_) curvette around on powerful wing, and
among the shaggy heather, rocks, and rough straggling woods, one may
chance upon a slumbering wolf, the _bête noir_ in the winter of the
Douro goatherd; though nothing ever fell in the writer's way more
formidable than a black fox, for the destruction of which was awarded
the premium fixed by law--300 reis, fifteen pence! It is a land of
insects, from the singular mantis and merry grasshoppers of many hues,
to the scorpion, and centipedes of enormous size. As evening falls the
air rings--the earth seems to vibrate--with the rattle of mole-crickets
and cicadas, and the gentle tinkle of the tree-frog: glowworms sparkle
on each dark slope, and by the feeble light of fire-flies we have to
pick a devious way along miles of broken rock and hanging thicket, by
what in Portugal passes for a bridle-path.

Twenty years ago the Alto Douro could only be reached on horseback,
crossing the Serra do Marão by the Pass of Quintella. A pleasant ride it
was, nevertheless, in September, by Cazaes, traversing the valley of the
Tamega to Amarante, famed for its peaches and "vinho verde" (green wine,
so rough as to bring tears to one's eyes); thence up the slopes of the
Marão, and through the granite defiles of Quintella, which look down
upon Pezo da Regoa and the valley of the Corgo. It was here--in the
_Baixo Corgo_--that the port wines of three generations ago were
vintaged; now all the most valued growths come from further east, beyond
the Corgo (Cima Corgo).

The return journey in those days (now there is a railway) was by boat,
down the Douro, seventy miles, which was accomplished in one long day.
Hour after hour we glide down the rapid current, through green
vineyards, all resonant with the long-drawn songs of the vintagers. Now
the cliffs close in, and we pass through a gorge, whose sides rise a
thousand feet sheer from the water, overgrown with masses of broom,
heath, gorse, and a variety of evergreen shrubs wherever a ledge or
cranny afford hold for their roots. Gigantic aloes with broad spiked
blades and towering stalks stud the rocky declivities, and the cactus,
wild fig, and other sub-tropical forms of plant-life lend character to
the scenery. Amidst these crags a pair or two of the handsome black and
white Neophrons may generally be seen.

Dangerous during times of flood are the snag-set rapids of the Douro, as
many a little cross or inscription, cut on the impending rocks, bears
witness. That rude mark indicates the spot where some poor fellow has
lost his life, perhaps a whole boat's crew; and our men, as we pass each
memorial tablet, remove their hats and cross themselves with simple

At intervals we pass picturesque cargo-boats, upward bound, and
laboriously making their way against the current, motive power being
supplied by a gang of watermen hauling on a tow-rope ashore. Where the
path becomes precipitous, one sees the string of bare-legged men
walking, as it were, down perpendicular rock faces like flies on a wall,
each hanging on by the sustaining rope. As already mentioned, there is
now-a-days a railway to the Upper Douro, and much of the picturesque
river life of twenty years ago is a thing of the past.


But we have wandered far from our original subject, and must now leave
Portugal, and return to the Andalucian vintage. We are not going to
enter into the technical details of wine manufacture, which have been
fully described in special treatises; suffice it here to say that from
the wine-press, the _must_ (or juice) is run direct into casks placed
beneath, and in which, almost as soon as made, the process of
fermentation begins. In this state the young wines are removed on
bullock-carts to the bodegas of Jerez, or San Lucar, and there remain
till January, when fermentation is complete; the wine is then placed in
clean casks, and so left to mature. The contents of each cask, however,
are kept distinct and separate--that is the wine-juice that ran from the
_lagar_ into one cask is not mixed or blended with another.

And now follows one of the most curious circumstances known in
œnology. The wines thus made--the uniform produce, be it repeated, of
a single vineyard, gathered the same day, pressed in the same _lagar_,
and subjected to identical treatment--develope wholly different
characters and qualities. Some of the casks prove to be wines of the
highest grade and value; others indifferent, some coarse, and some even
vinegar. Then amongst those casks which have developed into the wines
styled in Jerez _finos_ (_i.e._, soft, dry, and delicate, with a fresh,
pungent flavour), there is found here and there one which has acquired
the rare and highly valued _amontillado_ character.

This singular inequality in development appears to be merely a matter of
chance--of caprice in fermentation; and is quite inexplicable and
uncontrolled by any known laws or causes. Some years ago an attempt was
made to bring the light of modern science to bear on the old
rule-of-thumb methods of "rearing" sherry. An English scientist of high
standing essayed the task of assuring an approximately equal development
of all the wines grown in one year and one vineyard. The result,
however, was unsuccessful; or if an approximate level was attained it
was, unfortunately, the level of mediocrity, or worse; the wines
operated upon were destroyed, and the savant left Spain under a cloud.

[Illustration: Plate XXXVIII.


Page 334.]

Although the vine is almost ubiquitous throughout the south of Spain,
and the production of wine practically unlimited, yet there are only two
districts which yield the specific wine entitled _sherry_. These two
districts are the amphitheatre of hills which surround the city of Jerez
de la Frontera, and a small area of 1,500 acres in Montilla called
Moriles. It must also be remembered that there are differences in the
grape as well as in the soil. The vine has several distinct natural
species, as distinguished from mere varieties (whether artificial or
climatic), and the character of wine is largely dependent on the vine
producing it. Vast quantities of wine are grown in adjacent districts,
good genuine wines, sound and wholesome, but the two localities named
stand out in marked prominence. The area of the choice _vignobles_
around Jerez is some 12,000 acres, divisible into four classes according
to geological formation.[63] The average yield of the fine vineyards
being two and a half butts per acre, it follows that the total annual
production of first-class sherry is some 35,000 butts, or thereabouts.

In addition to the above quantity, there are also grown, as above
stated, large quantities of wine in the adjoining districts. These,
though pure and genuine, are but of second rank. From what we have
already written, it will be apparent that in this land of the vine (and
the same remark applies to Portugal), there is nothing so cheap as the
grape. There is therefore no temptation to seek substitutes for this,
its commonest product, or to employ other materials in its place.

Viticulture abstracts from the soil a smaller proportion of alkalies and
other mineral constituents than either corn or root-crops: hence the
exhaustion of the soil is slower and the vine can be cultivated on land
incapable of yielding any other crop. An acre of vines on sandy soil
will cost but one-half the money to cultivate, and yield three times the
weight of fruit that an acre of the _afueras_ will produce.[64] It is a
curious fact that these sandy soils never yield, even phenomenally, a
cask of fine wine. These better wines require years of keeping to attain
the perfect development of maturity, while the others, being of a
lighter description, are as good at first as they ever will be, although
in appearance and flavour the grapes of the sandy soil may even seem the
best. These facts serve to explain the difference in cost which must
exist between the produce of the two classes of vineyard.

[Illustration: A VINEYARD AT JEREZ.]

So much for the wines of Jerez; but sherry, though in British eyes it
looms the largest amongst the wines of Spain, and is, in fact, of the
greatest intrinsic value, yet represents a mere drop in the ocean as
compared with the whole produce of the land. Spain overflows with wine.
Hardly a village but has its vineyards and its vintage-time, when the
very earth becomes encarnadined, and when the chief care of the
peasantry is rather to find casks, goat-skins, or other receptacles
wherein to store their redundant crop, than wine to fill them withal. In
traversing many a hundred dusty leagues of the wildest parts of Spain,
we seldom failed to replenish our wine-skins with good, rough, red _vino
del pais_, grown on some neighbouring slope; racy of the soil,
refreshing, and delicious after hard work under a torrid sun, and at an
average price of two pesetas the arroba, or about one-third the price of
"small beer"!

One soon grows to like and appreciate these rough red wines of Northern
and Central Spain, whose generous fulness and refreshing asperity are so
requisite in this hot land. After a course of several months of the
Riojas and Valdepeñas of Spain, how thin tastes that first bottle of the
Bordelais--price two francs--at the breakfast-buffet of Hendaye!





Is the Great Bustard polygamous or not? We have watched these birds in
early spring-time, following every movement, and at quarters close
enough, with the binocular, to distinguish the very feathers: we have
inquired of the best and keenest bustard-shooters on the Spanish
plains--men who ought to know--and yet are unable to give a positive
opinion. The best ornithological authorities are also silent on the
point, or treat it in doubtful terms.

The Andalucian Bustards may be divided into two classes:--(1) Those
which inhabit the undulating corn-lands extending from Jerez and Utrera
eastwards--by Marchena and Osuña--to Bobadilla and the borders of Malaga
province, which race is _stationary_ throughout the year; and (2) the
Bustards of the marisma, or flat delta of Guadalquivir and other great
rivers, which seasonally shift their ground.

The corn-land Bustards (as we will call them for distinction) are
altogether a finer and heavier race than those of the marismas, scaling
commonly twenty-nine, thirty, and thirty-one pounds--some huge old
_barbones_ exceeding even this great weight; while birds of the
semi-migratory race run from twenty-four to twenty-six or-seven pounds,
rarely reaching twenty-eight, and show less of the magnificent
ruff-development which, in spring, characterizes the old males of the
campiñas of Jerez.

All the year round these latter are to be seen on the same grounds.
During the months of February and March they are in bands of from five
to fifty, males and females together, though some of the former already
begin at early dawn to "show off" and to indulge in those
ferocious-looking rehearsals preliminary--in appearance--to a pitched
battle, but which always seem to end in smoke. Round and round, in slow
majestic circles, revolve the rival _barbones_, each with trailing wings
and tail expanded, fan-like, over his back, the bristling head carried
low, the neck swollen out to abnormal thickness. Now, on that stately
parade, they meet; the champions stand face to face--intent on mortal
combat. One almost fancies one can hear the rustle as they shake out
their wings and set every feather on end--each striving to daunt and
demoralize his opponent by a display of apparent bulk. But the issue is
disappointing; only on three or four occasions have we seen battle
actually joined, and then the scuffle only lasted a few seconds.

It is, nevertheless, a magnificent spectacle to watch, perhaps, ten or a
dozen of these huge game-birds, all "showing off" under the early rays
of an April sun, and set off amidst the green corn and flower-spangled
herbage--each as he slowly struts round, "echando la rueda," displaying
alternately the swollen gorget and yellow-barred back, then the white

This state of affairs continues during March and into April; rehearsals,
but no actions--at least we have seen none. The males really appear to
show off rather one to another than to the females, which, though not
far off, exhibit no more visible interest or concern than does our grey
hen under similar circumstances. About the 20th of April the hen lays
her two big greenish eggs amidst the growing corn, and disappears; but
even this circumstance has no appreciable effect upon the other sex, who
continue for weeks their complacent performances in spite of the fact
that the females--for whose behoof these displays were presumably
inaugurated--are no longer present to admire, as they have now commenced
the duties of incubation.

During the earlier period of this courtship, and at the time when
pairing presumably occurs, it is extremely rare to see a _single_ male
associated with a circle of females--as is the case with black game.
Each band is composed of mixed sexes, females preponderating. We have
often seen _two_ males along with five or six females, but never _one_
alone; another band consists of three males and seven females; a third
of five and thirteen; a fourth of ten and thirty, males and females
respectively; but _none_, as just stated, are formed of a pair, or of a
single male with his harem, as one would expect if the species were
polygamous in the ordinary sense.


After incubation has commenced the males remain in separate packs during
summer, and take no share in domestic duties.

Turning now to the Bustards of the _marisma_, we must first explain that
there are no bustards in the marisma proper--_that_ is the home of the
Flamingo. But here, for the sake of convenience, we include the whole of
the plains, some pasturage, some arable, which, _together with_ the
_marisma_ proper, form the delta of the Guadalquivir; and especially
those parts known as the Isla Mayor and Isla Menor, so-called "islands"
formed by the triple channel of that great river.

These "islands" comprise vast areas of level pasturage--in winter bare
of herbage, almost dry mud, but by April, knee-deep in richest grass and
vegetation, resonant with the "whit-ti-wit" of unnumbered quail. On
these flowery plains are reared some of the choicest breeds of the
fighting bull--those, for example, of the Marques del Saltillo--which
may here be admired at leisure.

The first point in the life-history of these Bustards of the marisma is
their semi-migratory character. We do not mean to infer more than that
they are _locally_ migratory, shifting their ground according to season
and food-supply, but not leaving the country or crossing any sea. Africa
is the only country they could go to, but _Otis tarda_ appears to be
unknown, or at any rate very scarce, in Morocco and Algeria. Their
migrations are confined to Spanish territory. In the middle of May,
while ibex-shooting, we have observed a flight of seven Bustards in the
heart of the Sierra de Ronda, passing high over those lofty peaks.

On these plains there are Bustard of one sex _or_ the other (not always
both) at all seasons. The males leave the pasturage for the corn in
February and March, followed later by the females as the laying season
approaches. Both sexes are then seen in mixed bands as above
described--two or three up to a dozen males in each band composed of
five or six times that number of females, but _never_ in single pairs or
a single male consorting with a female retinue.

Here also we have enjoyed watching, at sunrise, the imposing
performances of the males--often five or six bands in view at once,[65]
but, as before, without detecting any specific action--nothing beyond

The eggs are laid in the last week of April (we found two females,
already sitting each on two eggs, on the 26th), and about mid-May the
males disappear. To Africa they have gone, the local shooters aver; but
this, we know, is not the case, and are far from sure that the missing
males are not simply hidden amidst the vast stretches of corn, then near
four feet high, pending their moult.

Bustards moult very severely, casting all quill-feathers (as wild geese
do) almost simultaneously. Hence, at the end of May, they become for a
time incapable of flight, and naturally, under such conditions, seek the
utmost seclusion, perhaps deceiving people into the illusion that they
had gone, when they are really simply in hiding, which the rank summer
vegetation renders easy enough. After eggs are laid, the males certainly
desert their mates entirely, forming themselves into bachelor coteries,
and leaving to the female the entire burden of the nursery.

Bustards take two years or more to acquire maturity: the year-old males
are hardly larger than adult females, possess neither ruff nor whiskers,
and do not breed. They probably continue growing for three or four
years, or even more. An old _barbon_, when winged and brought to bay,
will turn and attack its aggressor, hissing savagely and uttering a low
guttural bark, "Wuff! wuff!" Except on such occasions we have not heard
any vocal sound from a Bustard; nor do they, when winged, ever attempt
to escape by running.

Though the general habit of the Bustard is graminivorous--his food
consisting of the green corn, both blades and shoots, of grain and green
herbage of all kinds, yet in summer, when the corn is cut, he develops
for a time a keenly carnivorous character, catching and swallowing whole
the rats and mice which, at that season, swarm on the stubbled plain, as
well as the young of ground-breeding birds, buntings, larks, &c. Nor is
a reptile wholly despised--a small snake or green lizard is readily
included in his menu, and at all seasons they are very fond of insects,
especially grasshoppers and locusts.




While the Great Bustard takes chief place amongst the game-birds of
Europe, both as regards size and sporting qualities, his smaller
relative, the Little Bustard--in Spanish, _Sison_--must certainly head
the list of the wily and unapproachable.

Against the Great Bustard, watchful as he is, fair measures can
successfully be brought to bear, but no skill that we know of--none,
that is, of legitimate sporting kind--will avail against the _Sison_. We
may at once classify him as the most difficult of all game-birds to
bring to bag. That he is frequently shot is no disproof of this
assertion. The birds being abundant, it would be strange indeed if none
fell "haphazard" to chance shots when the sportsman is in pursuit of
other game.

The habits of the Little Bustard are, in general, much the same as those
of the larger species. They frequent, in the main, the same ground; the
young are reared amidst the security of the ripening corn; in autumn
they form into packs or bands, and spend their days upon the open plain.

We have not, however, met with these birds on the dead-level plains, so
attractive to the _Abutarda_, and their preference is undoubtedly for
more undulated lands. We have observed them as far up as corn grows on
the foothills of the sierra.

In the month of April the Little Bustards are _all paired_, differing in
this respect from the free-loving (?) _Otis tarda_. The males have now
acquired the banded throats, and indulge in love-antics, much after the
fashion of the blackcock. Far away on the prairie one's eye catches
something white, which disappears and again appears. On focussing the
field-glass upon the distant object it is seen to be a male _Sison_,
which, with drooping wings and expanded tail, slowly revolves on his
axis. Now he rises to full height, displaying all the white on his
plumage; anon his breast seems depressed to earth, and all the while a
strange bubbling note is uttered, monosyllabic, but repeated in rapid

In vain one scans the surrounding ground to catch a glimpse of the
female; she remains crouched among the scant growth of palmetto, or
rough herbage, invisible: yet, we may presume, admiring the "play" of
her lord.

Not yet have the sentiments of love overmastered those of
self-preservation: hence an attempt to gain closer quarters will be
unsuccessful, the male bird rising on clattering wing at three gunshots,
his partner following soon after. He has not yet, moreover, attained the
fullest beauty of his nuptial plumage. By the middle of May his banded
throat, with its double gorget of black and white, has become distended
like a jargonelle pear, the rich glossy-black plumes at the back long
and hackle-like. At this period--end of May--the males may be secured by
careful approach under the stalking-horse. And now the females, already
beginning to lay, become, of course, tame enough.

The four olive-green eggs are deposited among the herbage at the end of
May--four is the number we have seen in the few nests discovered--and a
second clutch is, according to Mr. Saunders (who, we have found by
experience, makes no statement unless he has good grounds for it),
frequently laid in the latter part of July. The males, all through the
tedious business of incubation, remain hard by, ever constant to their
sitting partners, and not "packing" or deserting them, as is the wont of
their less faithful cousins, _Otis tarda_. Not till the young are on the
wing are the _Sisones_ seen again in packs. This marked difference of
habit between congeneric species so closely allied as the two Bustards
is very curious.

[Illustration: LITTLE BUSTARDS--MAY.]

Possessed of keen powers of eye and ear, combined with the strongest
ideas of self-preservation all round, the Little Bustard is never--in a
sporting season--surprised in covert. His favourite haunts are in rough
country, where he has every opportunity of remaining concealed himself,
while yet able to survey all that passes for a wide radius around.
Rarely does one descry a band of these birds _on the ground_. The loud
rattle of wings as a pack springs 200 yards away is usually the first
intimation of their presence. If, by some lucky chance, they are seen on
the ground, even then the tactics employed to secure the larger bustard,
namely, by ambushing the guns in a half-circle on their front, and
driving the birds towards them, seldom, very seldom, come off. The
_Sisones_ almost invariably take flight, from some unexplained
cause--their extreme shyness and acute senses of sight and hearing are
the only explanation--before the guns and drivers have reached their
respective points. Or, even if the pack is enclosed within the deadly
circle, they will still sometimes manage to escape by springing up high
in air, and passing out at impossible altitudes.

During the fiery heats of summer these birds may be shot by the artifice
of the bullock-cart--already described in the chapter on Great
Bustard--or be exhausted by repeated flights; but neither of these plans
possess the merits of really attractive sport, while the second involves
hard work under a heat that few men can stand.

There are, however, times when the Little Bustard may be secured upon
easier lines. Upon occasion, in autumn, they become so enamoured of
certain spots, beguiled by the plentiful supply of grain scattered
around the _eras_, or levelled threshing-grounds out in the open field,
that, like greedy blackcocks on a Northumbrian stubble, they "take a
haunt" (_toman la querencia_), and allow themselves, evening after
evening, to be surprised and shot. This, however, is not a regular habit
as with the blackcocks, but rather an exceptional case.

Standing, partially concealed by my horse, near one of these _eras_, on
one occasion a band of Little Bustards passed so near and in such close
order that three brace fell to the two barrels. On another memorable
autumn afternoon I bagged, under similar conditions, eight of these
bustards, besides four of the larger kind, the former all shot as they
flew in at dusk towards an open threshing-ground.

The sportsman on the plains is frequently apprised of a passing band of
Little Bustards by the peculiar hissing sound made by their wings in
flight, different from that of any other bird, but most resembling the
rustle of the Golden-eye; but they are rarely so confiding as to pass
within shot. The birds seen in the markets are, however, obtained, in
nine cases out of ten, at such chance moments.

In conclusion, we repeat, that whilst against every other game-bird we
know there is some ordered plan of campaign available, yet all efforts
to outmatch the astute _Sison_ are vain, and end in vexation of spirit.
He is a bird, as the Spanish put it, of very _unsympathetic_ nature
("muy antipatico") towards the fowler, and this is the more to be
regretted as his flesh is of fine pheasant-like flavour.





On a bright November forenoon we embarked from the weed-girt jetty at
Bonanza on a big falucha, manned by four sun-bronzed watermen, and in
whose spacious storage lay a pile of sporting impedimenta--guns and
rifles, baggage, bedding, and the rest.

We were a party of eight--English and Spanish nationalities equally
represented--and old acquaintances, associated in many branches of
sport. All had come some distance to the rendezvous--some from Seville
and Madrid, two from England--to pass a couple of weeks at the historic
preserves of Southern Spain, the Coto de Doña Ana. As the swarthy crew
let fall their oars into the tide of Guadalquivir, all eyes turned
eagerly to the opposite shores, so full of pleasant reminiscences. 'Tis
pleasant, too, to know that as the moorings are cast loose we lose touch
of the world and its civilization; we leave behind us post and telegram,
thought and care, and, with them, perhaps, some measure of ease and
luxury--from all these things the broad flood of Bœtis and leagues of
trackless waste will now divide us; we are free to revert to primæval
savagery, and we greatly rejoice thereat. Amidst these happier thoughts
arose just a qualm of speculation as to whether all the multifarious
arrangements incidental to such campaigns had been duly fulfilled, and
if we should find our people, horses and mules, awaiting us at the
appointed tryst.

[Illustration: Plate XXXIX.


Page 348.]

The mid-day sun was now lighting up the scene after a morning of mist
and rain; to the left lay the town of San Lucar, with its ancient castle
looming above the white crenellated walls and spacious bodegas, and
the busy strand of Bonanza, celebrated by Cervantes in _La Ilustre
Fregona_ as a rendezvous for ruffians, smugglers, and pirates. On the
stream floated craft of many descriptions, from the London steamer
receiving her cargo of manzanilla at the wharf to the falucha-rigged
"ariels" and lumbering fishing-sloops--vessels not unlike the caravels
in which, four centuries ago, Columbus set sail from the neighbouring
port of Palos to discover a New World, when

    "A Castilla y á Leon
     Nuevo Mundo dió Colon ."


The river at this point, close to its confluence with the sea, has a
width of two miles, but the long lateen-sail, bellying out before a
gentle _poniente_, bore us rapidly to the silent strand, where our
horses stood awaiting us under a giant pine. No short time was spent in
landing baggage, for the falucha lay aground a stone's throw from the
shore; but at length all was landed, stowed in the mule-packs, and we
set out on the long ride.

It had been intended to have one "drive" this afternoon, but these
delays, and the customary tardiness of Spanish trains and travel
generally, frustrated this plan, and it was already dark ere the head
of our cavalcade sighted the welcome light displayed from the turrets of
the ancient shooting lodge of Doñana. Though now in a state of partial
ruin, the old Palacio still shows signs of former grandeur, and has
been, in bygone days, a favourite sporting retreat for more than one
Spanish king. As we approached its glimmering lights amidst the darkness
of a November evening, the resonant _konk, konk! kerronk, kerronk!_ of
the wild geese, the mournful cries of plover and curlew, and the
startled splash of wild ducks, are evidence of its lonely marsh-girt
site and prophetic of sport to come.

Around the pile of logs cheerily blazing in the spacious hearth we
gather, relieved to find that all the transport and commissariat
arrangements had this time come off without a hitch--no slight matter
where everything, from a lemon or a hen's egg to a portable bath, from a
match to a mattress, has to be transported on mule-back the whole forty
miles of rough country (and river) we had just travelled. Our Galician
cook and steward, half sportsman, half Bohemian, had come on two days in
advance, and strangers were agreeably surprised to find anything to
eat--except perhaps stewed lynx or fricasseed flamingo--in this outer
wilderness. Then, as we gathered round the blazing hearth, enjoying such
coffee and _breva_ cigars as are only combined in Spain, the keepers
come in with their reports--keepers of a different type to British
ideals, Bartolo, Larrios, and Manolo, copper-skinned, pelt-clad and
unkempt, and Trujillo, the _guarda mayor_, who enters with lordly
salaam, his jacket hung on one great shoulder as on a peg--a picture of
Cervantes' Quixote. These are four of the ten keepers who, from father
to son, have occupied the posts on the property for generations.

[Illustration: Plate XL.


Page 350.]

The intention was to devote the first few days to the small game of the
adjacent plains, but our first operation in the morning was a
deer-drive. This, however, proved blank, for, though several were
seen--five stags breaking back--none, except a few hinds and one
_bareta_, or yearling stag, whose incipient horns (hardly longer than
his ears) were not distinguished by the gun past whom he broke, came
forward to the shooting line. The writer's position was on the crest of
a sand-ridge, with only the covert of a dead cistus bush: nothing,
however, tested his powers of concealment except a few partridge and a
pack of stone-plovers. The sandy glen which the post commanded was,
nevertheless, plentifully tracked over by deer, and three wild pigs had
passed inwards into the covert that morning.

After this beat, shot-cartridges were substituted for ball, and for the
rest of that day and several following ones _caza menor_ was the order
of the day. The system of small-game shooting adopted on these plains
combines both walking up and driving at the same time, and requires a
few words of description. It must be borne in mind that we always have
on one side of us--towards the north and east--the marisma, practically
at this season an inland sea, and upon this circumstance the system is
based. The plan of campaign consists in driving the game down upon the
marisma; a line of eight, ten or twelve guns each 100 or 150 yards
apart, and with several beaters placed in the interval, is formed at a
distance of three or four miles inland. This line occupies upwards of a
mile in length, and as it advances towards the marisma, obviously
encloses whatever game may be concealed in three or four square miles of
country, the greater part of which (the game) has a fair chance of
coming in the way of one point or another of the line of guns. Some care
is needed to preserve the formation of the beat, which is done by
mounted keepers, who also see that the "points" or wings are thrown
slightly in advance.

Presently there occurs an obstacle; already we have waded through some
wettish spots; but how is it possible to cross this broad lagoon? On the
right a _mancha_, one of those thickets of tree-heath and brooms, all
interlaced with thorny briars, bars the way: these _manchas_ are
impenetrable--we have proved this--save to the wild boar or the badger.
In the other direction the water stretches far--we can see the mounted
beaters already splashing through it. In England one does not walk
through river, lake, or pond merely because it lies in one's course,
but this is not England, and as, after all, the bottom is sound and
moderately level, if one can keep the cartridges dry, the sun will soon
dry the rest.

The density of the scrub varies also: sometimes for a short distance one
has to push through thickets where every step is a struggle with hard
dried cistus stems, and where broken ground, ravines and thorny jungle
make perspiration flow, and ill conduce to taking those smart chances
that offer overhead at inopportune moments.

To a northerner it is hard to believe that it is midwinter while almost
every tree remains leaf-clad, and the brushwood all green and
flower-spangled. Arbutus, rosemary and tree-heath (_Erica arborea_) are
already in bloom; while bees buzz in the shoulder-high heather, and suck
honey from its tricoloured blossoms--pink, purple and violet. Strange
flies and winged creatures of many sorts and sizes, from gnat and midge
to savage dragon-flies, rustle and drone in one's ear, or poise on
iridescent wing in the sunlight, and the hateful hiss of the mosquito
mingles with the insect-melody. Over each open flower of rock-rose or
cistus hovers the humming-bird hawk-moth, with here and there one of the
larger sphinxes (_S. convolvuli_), each with his long proboscis inserted
deep in the tender calix. Not even the butterflies are entirely absent.
We have noticed several gorgeous species at Christmas-time, including
the painted lady and red admiral, the southern wood-argus, Bath white
and clouded yellow, with _Lycæna telicanus_, _Thäis polyxena_, _Megæra_,
and many more. On the warm sand bask pretty green and spotted lizards,
apparently asleep, in the sunshine, but all alert to dart off on
slightest alarm, disappearing like a thought in some crevice among the
roots of the cistus.[67]

[Illustration: Plate XLI.


Page 352.]

Gradually, as the line approaches the flat shores of the marisma, the
"driving" shots increase in number and the cry of _pájaro_, the Spanish
equivalent to "mark over," becomes incessant. _Pajaró, pajaró_, the
magic word comes borne on the breeze from right and left, dwelt on by
the Andaluz till the final "ó" dies away in prolonged cadence; and
there, far away ahead, appear sundry dark specks in the sky, rapidly
growing in size as the redlegs wheel back towards the spot where we
crouch behind a lentiscus. Now they are overhead, for two brief seconds
within reach of a well-directed aim--then, in happy moments, a brace of
redlegs will bounce on the bents.

Here every little thicket or clump of brushwood holds some of the birds
that have been driven forward, and even on the barest ground some have
found refuge behind a tuft of grass or palmetto. Everywhere partridges
start up from the slightest covert, and one sees them running forward
ere they rise. But the hottest work occurs in the belt of rush and
reed--in the _juncos_ that border the marisma. The finale is short, but
it is sweet, and the man who has stopped handsomely the rocketers that
sped to his lot has a reputation ready made.

Such is, in outline, the system of an _avero_, several of which can be
carried out on a winter's day.

The partridges, unwilling to run save among the scrub, usually rise at
longish range on bare patches, and mount rapidly in air, their flight
rather resembling that of black-game than of our grey partridge, and as
they wheel back fast and high, and at all angles, they test the best
skill of the gunner. Besides partridge and rabbits, an odd pair of
mallards will often rise from some rushy hollow, and from the drier
reeds a quail or two spring with their smart game-like dash. The small
Andalucian bush-quail (_Turnix sylvatica_) is occasionally shot, and
crossing the more open ground, among short scrub of tamarisk and
juniper, a few hares will be added to the bag. These are of the small
southern race, _Lepus mediterraneus_, weighing only five or six pounds,
more brindled in colour and with warmer shades on shoulders and flanks
than ours. One of them being hemmed in, was this afternoon swimming a
shallow pool when she attracted the attention of a Southern Peregrine
falcon (_Falco punicus_) which was waiting on the partridge in front of
our line. This falcon had already made several fine stoops at the flying
game, all unsuccessfully, when the sight of a hare in difficulties
brought him overhead, and, in the act of poising, a double shot laid
both low.

[Illustration: A ROYAL HEAD--DOÑANA.]

After two or three days with the small game, it was decided to give the
deer a turn. The sun shone brightly as we rode out to the ground
selected for the day's sport, and a gentle breeze blew from a favourable
direction. The first beat, nevertheless, proved blank--only hinds
passing through the line, which served to give us, for a moment, a
flutter of excitement as they crashed through the under-wood, and dashed
away at redoubled speed. On the next drive several stags were seen--some
broke back, but three ran the gauntlet of our line at different points,
offering good opportunities to three of our guns, two of which, however,
were not accepted. The third hart was stopped in the midst of a last
bound by a clean rifle-shot at long range--a fine head of twelve tines.

[Illustration: DEAD LYNX.]

The guns were next placed along a line of gigantic clumps of bulrushes
which extended for miles with narrow glades, and thick, matted jungle
between. This beat resulted successfully: seven shots were fired, two
deer escaped, but two deer and two boars were killed. A curious incident
also occurred with a lynx: the beast was evidently wounded by a lucky
rifle-shot, and presently, the dogs ran her to bay in a neighbouring
_mancha_. Here one of us who had fired the first shot followed, when,
coming unexpectedly upon her in a narrow opening, the lynx being
enclosed between man and dogs, made a desperate spring to pass by; the
writer, in stepping aside, tripped and fell prostrate on his back, right
under the furious beast--never did man rise more promptly! luckily
without a scratch, and the next moment the lynx lay gasping out its life
on the sand.

After this beat rifles were exchanged for smooth-bores, a line formed,
and we shot our way back to the lodge, securing some twenty brace of
partridge and other small game, besides another stag, which, all too
drowsy, had permitted our line to advance too near ere he sprang from
his lair. Shot was quickly exchanged for ball, and as the hart ran
broadside on and within one hundred yards of two guns, he was struck in
three places, and the dogs soon pulled him down. This was a very old
beast, but only carried eight points, the "bay" antlers being entirely
wanting, and the double-tops curiously bent inwards. This small-game
beat having brought us to the verge of the marisma, we finished a
successful day's sport with an hour's flight-shooting, during which five
geese and nearly fifty teal and wigeon were brought to bag. The day's
results were thus:--4 stags, 2 boar and a lynx, 23-1/2 brace small game,
and 54 head of wildfowl.

This evening there was performed the time-honoured ceremony of crowning
with the laurel a neophyte in _caza mayor_. Dark-eyed Petra, the
recognized belle of a region where it must be admitted that rivals were
few, headed the motley procession of guards, beaters, and miscellaneous
folk from the lower regions, and gracefully invested the blushing brows
of Santiago, who knelt before her, with a chaplet of flowering arbutus.
Then the loving cup passed round, and each drank to the health of the
fair donor and the wearer of the crown. There followed a scene of
festivity and ordered revels. The spacious court-yard was lit up by a
blazing bonfire, and in its lambent light danced stalwart figures
arrayed in the picturesque costume of rural Andalucia, while maiden
forms alternately revolved and pirouetted in graceful minuet or
fandango, keeping time to the guitar, and each accompanying her own
movements with the castanets. We were told that a trio of brunettes had
travelled the long four leagues from the hamlet of Rocio to our lonely
quarters to join the festive scene, but felt too much flattered by the
compliment to inquire if such was really the case.


The revelry continued till far on in the night, but for all that, a
faithful few were taking a hasty cup of coffee at 5 A.M. preparatory to
an early attack on the greylags. A strong west wind howled across the
waste, whistling through the cracks of roof and rickety
window-frames--favourable omens--and before the sun rose we were far out
in the marsh, lying concealed on the furthest projecting points of dry
land. Then, as the approaching dawn set the wildfowl in motion, the
half-lit skies were serried with hurrying files, and the cold air
resounded with the cries of the various ducks and geese. Our luck this
morning was hardly so good as expected, but four guns brought in 7
geese, 21 teal, and 8 mallards.

[Illustration: PANNIER-PONY AND GAME.]

This day again proved a lucky one--several deer and a lynx, besides
minor game, being piled on the panniers of the carrier-ponies before
night. The lynx was a specially handsome beast, an old male with bushy
whiskers, his tawny pelt boldly splashed with dark spots. He was killed
by a rifle-ball when going at top speed across a glade. The writer's
mind that evening was, nevertheless, tinged with regret. While posted as
"point-gun," amidst some lovely but very broken forest ground at a
remote _corral_, I observed an object move slightly among some young
pine-scrub in a hollow on my front. It was the antlers of a stag; and
soon, by the forest of ivory tips, I perceived they belonged to a hart
of no ordinary degree. Presently the owner emerged from the covert and
for several seconds stood, fully exposed, at 100 yards, an enormous
beast, looking as black as coal against a background of dead yellow
flags. He presented a certain shot; but, alas! was still _within the
beat_; and though the stag stood in a slight hollow where rising ground
behind rendered the shot perfectly safe, I hesitated to break the rules,
and the chance was lost--the grand beast going away wide to the right.
The vision of that stag, with his broad and branching head and
unnumbered points, his massive frame and glossy coat, haunted me awake
and asleep that night and for many another.


A few weeks afterwards, when "still-hunting" with a single Spanish
companion in the same district, we came somewhat unexpectedly (it was
only 4 P.M.), on a stag quietly splashing through a marsh-belt that
separated two patches of forest. The beast was more than half a mile
off; but on reaching the place after a detour, we observed him standing
under the shade of some trees 400 yards distant. On putting the glass on
him, to my intense joy, I recognized my old friend of a month ago--there
he stood flicking at the flies, the _black stag_ beyond a shadow of
doubt! A nearer direct approach was not possible; but José suggested
that by going round in a wide circuit and giving the stag his wind, he
would probably move him my way. This manœuvre we proceeded to carry
out, and in half an hour's time I had the satisfaction of observing the
great beast's first signs of suspicion. He had, meanwhile, laid down;
now he rose and moved uneasily away, stopping and sniffing alternately.
Then he seemed to have made up his mind, turned deliberately, and slowly
trotted in my direction. José had managed the business in a masterly
way--never showing. Already the stag had reached a long range shot, when
from the nearer, opposite, covert dashed five hinds, which came
splashing through the water, right between me and the big stag. How
persistently those confounded hinds interposed their useless bodies
right between the foresight and its mark! Already the black hart was
within thirty yards of the water's edge and the shelter of the forest;
when, for a few moments, I got a clear view of his broadside at rather
long range, took a full sight with the 100-yard flap up, and fired.
Thud! went the conical Paradox ball right on the point of his shoulder,
and he pitched forward, stone-dead, in the water. It was a pretty shot,
well placed, though rather high, breaking the spine close below the
withers. Such shots are, of course, instantly fatal; but are too risky
to _try for_, since they come within an inch or two of a clean miss!

There is a degree of mental gratification in occasionally "pulling off"
shots of this kind--that is, in killing _clean_ with ball a large animal
in full career, and at long distance--that must probably be experienced
to be appreciated. And, after all, how much is due to the marvellous
precision and power of modern sporting weapons! This stag carried
sixteen points, and his horns measured along the curve 32 inches, with a
sweep of 28 inches. In weight he probably exceeded any we have shot on
the Spanish plains, and his rich velvety pile was conspicuously dark and

One other incident, with a moral: towards the end of one campaign an
afternoon was devoted to burning the _carrizales_, or bamboo-brakes,
which in places form belts of jungle, extending over several miles, and
afford secure harbour for various wild animals, including, occasionally,
deer. These places, owing partly to the impervious nature of the covert
and partly to the quicksands and quaking bogs with which the jungle is
interspersed, cannot be traversed: hence the only effectual means of
driving out the game which may lie within their shelter is by fire. The
writer, to-day, though the first gun in line, was posted some half a
mile back from the commencement of the beat, and was endeavouring to
make a hasty sketch of the beautiful landscape of cane-brake, bamboo,
and marsh-land which stretched away before us. The dry sedges and canes
were fired at several points: but hardly had the distant smoke-wreaths
begun to curl upwards in the clear still air, than a first-rate stag
slowly trotted across the open, right before me. I had not seen him
come; the sketch-book was in hand; the gun--loaded in _both_ barrels
with shot, for cats and the like--lay on the ground; truly a magnificent
bungle! One ball-cartridge was inserted ere the game, still unconscious
of an ambush, was passing, full broadside, at 80 or 90 yards--as easy a
shot as need be wished. But in the flurry of unreadiness, I forgot to
raise the sight, and the ball passed immediately beneath the breast,
missing both forelegs. Again a cartridge had to be changed; and now the
stag was bounding away, end-on, at 150 yards. This time the aim was
refined and nerves braced by a very sense of shame, and the impact of
the ball was distinctly, though faintly, heard. On went the stag,
disappearing over rising ground behind, and hardly had the cartridges
been replaced, than a second hart, breaking back, offered a long and
infinitely more difficult shot; but, after one vertical bound, like that
of a lightly-hooked salmon, dropped stone-dead in his tracks. Soon
afterwards a small stag with three hinds showed on the outer edge of the
jungle; but, though more than one express rifle was levelled at him, the
distance was too great (300 or 400 yards), and the bullets uselessly
ricochetted across the swampy wastes. Towards the end, two wild-cats
bounded from the fringe of burning bamboos, and simultaneous shots
stretched both lifeless among the tamarisks.


The spectacle from our posts was remarkable, the whole area, many
hundred acres, enveloped in smoke; here and there tongues of flame shot
upwards as the flying sparks carried forward the conflagration across
some marsh-channel and renewed the dying blaze. Dense black clouds
rolled away to leeward, amidst which hovered swarms of swallows and
insect-feeding birds with an outer fringe of kites, kestrels and
magpies, all preying on belated locusts and coleoptera. Legions of
mice--common house-mice, as far as we could judge--with land-and
water-rats, fled from the fiery jungle; here and there a grizzly
mongoose hurried off up the sloping dune; otters, genets and badgers
were seen at various points, while coots and bitterns, rails, crakes,
and waterhens flapped about, half-dazed with fright. Over the smoking
brakes swept buzzards and marsh-harriers which, forgetting their fears
in opportunity, pounced boldly on the homeless and helpless.

As soon as it was over, we went eagerly to examine the tracks of the big
stag. Yes! blood was there sure enough--whole streams of it; but the
verdict of the _guardas_ was prompt and emphatic--"that stag you will
never get. See! the blood is all at one side. The bullet has merely
grazed his off-flank, causing a flesh-wound which bleeds much, but does
no vital harm." They were right. Impelled by shame and self-reproach, we
followed the trail for miles; but though we twice sighted our quarry
afar, it was evident he had sustained no serious injury, and as he
headed for a wild region where leagues of jungle afforded secure refuge,
we were fain, at dusk, to acknowledge defeat, and to leave him in peace.

Now for the moral--though perhaps it hardly needs pointing. Never
attempt to sketch, or otherwise play the fool, when every energy should
be concentrated on the sport in hand. One thing well done is as much as
poor mortals are capable of at one time.

Thus, amidst varied and abundant sport, fun and good-fellowship, amidst
lovely scenes and a glorious climate, sped all too quickly those happy
days in Doñana--some devoted to big game, some to small; on others we
divided forces, one party going to the partridges, or quail, another
preferring wildfowl; while those who had confidence in their skill with
the rifle elected to _rastrear_--that is, to track a deer to his lair,
following the _rastro_, or spoor, of some big hart, perhaps for leagues,
across the broken plains and _corrales_, with only the uncertain
prospect of a difficult, often impossible, snap-shot after all. But
there is a reward in seeing the skill in woodcraft displayed by the
Spanish _guardas_, who seem to diagnose by intuition the unfulfilled
ideas and desires which, some hours previously, have been passing
through the mind of the hart, whose faint _rastro_ they follow with
the certainty and patience of a bloodhound. This is, however, a distinct
branch of sport, to which we owe many a pleasant day on the
South-Spanish plains, and a separate chapter is devoted to its

[Illustration: Plate XLII.


Page 365.]

One day we tried a novel method of approaching the wildfowl on the
shores of a lake which lay at a distance of three or four miles. This
was by means of the _cabresto_, or decoy pony--a curious experience. The
wildest waterfowl are at the mercy of a clever fowler provided with one
of these ponies. As there are many half-wild mares pasturing at large
over the swamps, the ducks are accustomed to the sight of them and take
no alarm at their proximity. As we approached the lake, its flat sandy
margin was in places black with wildfowl, while myriads sat on the
surface, splashing and pluming themselves in the sunshine. With each of
the three ponies went its owner, a _patero_, or professional
wildfowl-shooter, each taking with him one of us--almost literally--"in
tow," for, with one hand grasping the pony's tail, the other carrying
the gun, we followed each close behind his _patero_, who directed the
pony towards the thickly-covered shore. We proceeded thus, crouching
behind the pony's quarters, till we had approached within 100 yards of
the fowl. The leading _patero_ now stopped his pony, which at once
commenced to feed, an example followed by the rest--we six men sitting
meanwhile on the grass. No alarm was shown by the ducks. A cord was now
slipped over the neck of each _cabrestro_ and made fast to its off
foreleg above the knee, bringing the heads of the ponies close to the
ground, thus giving them the appearance of grazing, though in truth we
were now on bare dry mud. We continued approaching thus, and the
interval was now reduced to fifty yards; looking beneath the ponies we
could see hundreds of ducks all playing themselves in fancied security.
There, close at hand, sat or swam wigeon and mallards, shovelers,
garganeys, teal and pintails, a few gadwall and several of the curious
heavy-headed "porrones" (_Erismatura mersa_), with diving-ducks and
grebes of many kinds. The nearer shore was massed with teal, and a few
yards beyond a big pack of mallards were daintily pluming themselves. As
the teal came first in line, it was to them we directed our attention:
with alternate progression and feigned halts to "graze" we continued our
slow advance. We were now within twenty-five yards of the teal: already
a movement of preparation had been made by the leading gun, instantly
imitated by the two who followed, when a tremendous scare took place
among the wildfowl, and the whirr of wings threw the whole lake into
confusion. A kite had swept across the birds, and all had taken to the
refuge of the deep waters. "Paciencia," resignedly muttered our friends
the _pateros_. We uncocked our guns and squatted on the mud, each under
cover of his beast, thus spending an hour while the frightened fowl
gradually swam ashore and reformed on the margin. A second time the
moment to pull trigger had almost arrived when the tyrant again swept
over with the same result as before. At last, however, the twice delayed
moment arrived, and our six barrels drove together through the ranks of
teal, leaving upwards of fifty dead or wounded on the shore, of which we
ultimately bagged forty-four. This shot was taken against the wishes of
our friends, who declared that had we waited an hour longer we should
have had the birds thick enough to have killed three times that number.
But we had other sport in view, and could not wait for this golden
opportunity; besides, our rival the kite might have spoiled our game
again. We had, however, seen enough to understand that one of these men
and his sagacious auxiliary can really account for the almost fabulous
number of ducks which they are said occasionally to obtain at a single
shot. These men shoot for a living; hence they never fire except when
they have made certain of a heavy shot. It is not at all unusual for
them to manœuvre for a whole day without discharging their ancient
fowling-pieces. They make the slowest approach, get to the closest
quarters possible, and never unnecessarily disturb the fowl. When they
_do_ fire it is a bumper. In summer their occupation is varied by
fishing and catching leeches in the swamps, which they do by flogging
the surface of the water, when the leeches fasten upon their legs. A
trained _cabresto_ pony, though a rough, shaggy little beast, is of
considerable value to these men, among whom there exists a sort of
brotherhood, and an intruder of their own class fares badly if he
ventures into the lonely districts which they almost regard as their
exclusive domain.[68]

[Illustration: Plate XLIII.


Page 367.]

At length the time for our departure had arrived, for we intended
spending a few days among the big game in the extensive pine-forests
which cover the southern extremity of the Coto Doñana. The pack-mules
with the baggage being despatched by a direct route, we rode off on an
almost summerlike morning, taking a wider course so as to get a "drive"
of some of the wooded _corrales_ that lay towards the west. Here, in one
of the wildest spots, Manolo placed the line of guns. The writer is
posted on a mound of blown sand, one of the many which form the
irregular broken country around. The cocked rifle is placed conveniently
for instant grasp while one surveys the position and speculates on the
likeliest spot for a stag to appear--quickly taking note of the uneven
ground, its hillocks and hollows where it will be necessary to
enterprise a snap-shot, and again where more deliberate aim may be
taken. Every here and there similar mounds present an unbroken view,
spots where the driven sand has collected around some stalwart pine,
taking various picturesque forms and crowned with the dark green foliage
of latest growth.


[Illustration: Plate XLIV.


Page 369.]

Presently the sharp crack of a rifle breaks our reverie and gives
startling evidence that game is afoot. A few seconds later the patter of
galloping feet is heard on the hard sand and the expected quarry bounds
across the glen, his antlers thrown back as he scents danger and
redoubles his speed. Full in the shoulder strikes the express bullet,
stopping his flight and sending him headlong to earth, where a second
shot ends his agony with instant death. In this fortunate drive four
stags and two boars are brought to bag. One of the latter, in a thick
brambled _mancha_, for some time defied the dogs, which declined to face
him at close quarters. He was a brute of unusual size, and each time
he faced the dogs with gnashing tusks, they retired. At last a shot
fired in the air dislodged him, and a quick rifle-shot took effect in
his lower jaw. Again he sought refuge among the brambles, but the dogs
now held the advantage, and inch by inch he was driven forward to a
point where he offered an easy mark to several guns, and soon Manolo's
long _navaja_ was performing his obsequies. Another stag of thirteen
points (_see_ photo, p. 363), and a brace of foxes, right and left, were
secured in a small isolated thicket just before dusk, and the last ten
miles of our ride had thus to be managed in the dark.

       *       *       *       *       *

One more incident before we leave these forests. Early on a winter
morning we had reached the remote covert of Salavar, and owing to its
extent, and the strong wind blowing, which would prevent the shots being
heard, it was decided to drive it in two sections. At the end of the
first beat, which had produced three stags--two lynxes also passing the
line unscathed--the guns and drivers were assembled preparatory to the
second (windward) _batida_, when, from that direction, a couple of
distant gunshots were distinctly heard. Clearly poachers were at work,
and already the forest-guards were conjecturing (and rightly as it
proved) the personality of the depredator--an old offender who had
before given trouble. The man penetrated to the heart of these wild
regions accompanied only by his son, and his mode of procedure was to
station himself to the leeward of any likely bit of covert, and sending
the lad round, to await the chance of the latter driving forward any
deer which might happen to be lying in it. His two shots had been at
hinds. Leaving the main party to surround the _mancha_, two of the
keepers galloped off in the direction of the shots, separating so as to
enclose the poacher and cut off his retreat. Soon one of these came
across the tracks of naked feet on the sand, and shortly overtook the
culprit already preparing a drive of the covert we had just beaten.
Taken by surprise, resistance or flight were impossible; the poacher's
gun was taken from him, and he and his son marched off prisoners to our
main party--an ill-looking ruffian clad in deer-skins, of whom some ugly
tales were told. Brought before our friend representing the proprietary,
the captive showed an undaunted and even impudent demeanour, asserting
that it was the hunger of his children that had brought him from a
village on the Guadiana (some fifty miles away), to kill the deer,
which, he said, belonged to him equally with any other of God's
creatures. Such primitive principles availed but little with these
fierce keepers, imbued with almost feudal respect for forest-game, and
this bold adherent of "commonwealth" was deprived of his gun and ordered
off to the coast, with a warning that he would shortly have to answer
for his conduct before the magistrate at Almonte. As he turned to obey,
old Bartolo, whose estimate of the terrors of Spanish law evidently
stood low, shouted after him, with a significant tap on the stock of his
ancient _escopeta_, "Look here, Cristobal! you have given us a deal of
trouble; you will come here once too often!"

It may occur to the reader to conjecture how the poacher could have
utilized his deer, had he secured one, in so remote a spot. Far away on
the distant boundary of the Coto, he had his donkey hidden in some
thicket of lentiscus, and under cover of night would have returned for
his spoils, and moving stage by stage to the sea-shore, would contrive
to reach his village before daybreak. He was, however, securely caught,
for within an hour another keeper arrived, who also had detected the
trespasser's footprints at a point some ten miles away, and suspecting
they were none of honest man, had followed the trail. Thus, even had
Cristobal not been captured by us, he would still have been intercepted
by this second adversary.




The wildfowl-shooting of the Peninsula in favourable seasons and
situations is probably equal to any in Europe. But much depends on the
place, and everything on the season. There are plenty of provinces and
miles of marsh-land where the hardest work is barely rewarded by a pair
or two of ducks, or perhaps five couple of snipe, and where many a long
day will be registered blank. Then, as just stated, _everything_ depends
on the weather. For climatic conditions vary extremely as between one
winter and another. Some Spanish winters are dry and rainless; hardly
any moisture remaining save in certain favoured spots; and to these
sparse green oases throng the aquatic hosts. Here, at such times, come
the red-letter days for the fowler.

But Spanish winters are not always dry; on the contrary, it frequently
happens that the rains set in in autumn with semi-tropical fury,
converting this drainless land into one vast swamp, and inundating the
_marismas_ till they grow into inland seas. The difference between a wet
and a dry winter is marvellous. We propose in this chapter to describe
the somewhat indifferent sport of a _wet winter_, even in a good
locality, together with its effect on the habits and distribution of

The winter of 1887-8 will serve as a typical example. In November the
rain set in; during December it descended day after day, and by the end
of the month the swollen flood of Guadalquivir had spread itself
laterally over its low riparian terrain to a breadth of perhaps sixty
miles of unbroken water. Miniature breakers dashed up against the
leeward shores; the marsh lands which border the marisma were submerged,
and the whole delta, extending to Seville, was under water. From the
moment we beheld that tawny expanse, it was clear that all hope of
success in wildfowling enterprise must be abandoned. It is not so much
that in a wet season wildfowl are less abundant (for they are there in
thousands), as that they are scattered over so vast an area, instead of
being concentrated at certain spots, which explains the difficulty of
their pursuit and the impossibility of securing any large numbers.

Riding along the shores of this inland sea, we observed numerous packs
of wildfowl floating on its surface, but always at such a distance from
the shore as to be inaccessible by the ordinary Spanish system of the
stalking-pony. The _cabresto_ is only available when ducks are found in
shallow water or in comparatively narrow channels where the ponies can
be worked round them till the fowlers gradually bring their masked
batteries to bear. But now, with the whole country submerged, it was
impossible to concentrate the fowl, and our efforts were generally
directed against scattered packs, nearly always on the edge of perfectly
open water. Instead of being able, by manœuvring at a little
distance, gently to move forward the outside birds, to close up the
ranks, and thus to gather together a compact body upon which to direct
our broadside, we had now to deal with loosely-scattered parties dotted
here and there for miles along what was practically an open shore, and
which simply swam away from us into deeper water. Then, in this deeper
water, the deception naturally lost great part of its efficacy; for
though the sight of a half-wild pony grazing in shallow marsh where
grass and water-plants rise above the surface, has no terror for the
duck tribe, yet the case is obviously altered when the pony is directed
into open water, devoid of all signs of vegetation, and reaching up to
his belly! No sensible beast would ever seek such "pasturage," and
the anomaly is quickly detected by the ducks.

[Illustration: Plate XLV.


Page 372.]

There were, however, abundance of wildfowl; some of the aggregations of
pintails, indeed, were a memorable sight, darkening acres of water, and
in the upper marisma we occasionally enjoyed a degree of success which
would undoubtedly have been gratifying but for loftier anticipations.
Riding along the marshy margins at daybreak, tempting chances at
twenties and thirties offered themselves, but our _pateros_ would not
hear of our disturbing the wastes for such paltry lots--"_veinte ó
treinta pares al primer tiro_" (twenty or thirty couples at the first
shot) was their constant refrain; but sometimes the results belied their
judgment, and more than once before night we regretted those matutinal
scruples. On more fortunate days we did succeed in working our way into
the midst of such assemblages of ducks as it rarely falls to the lot of
wildfowler to see at close quarters all around him. It is necessary, as
a general rule, to keep to leeward of wildfowl; but with the _cabrestos_
this is of less importance, and owing to their numbers and the
straggling area of their phalanxes, it often happened that we had
considerable bodies of duck almost under our lee and actually appeared
to be in the midst of them. Not even in a gunning-punt can such
opportunities of observation of wild creatures be enjoyed; for, then,
one is necessarily lying prone, with eyes barely raised above
water-level; here, merely crouching behind a shaggy little pony, one
commanded a clear and uninterrupted view.

The bulk of the ducks this winter (1888) proved to be Pintails, though
Wigeon were hardly less abundant. Wet seasons suit the tastes of the
former species, which then throng the flooded plains in tens of
thousands all through the winter, whereas in dry years the Pintails
almost immediately pass on into Africa, not reappearing till February,
on their way north. The Pintail with his very long neck, trim, slender
build and sailing flight is a striking-looking bird--its appearance on
the wing suggesting an intensified, or idealized, development of the
duck type, familiar in the common mallard. We could watch them busily
preening themselves, washing and coquetting, some tugging at the sweet
green grasses that grew below, others daintily plucking the white
water-buttercups floating on the surface, all within five-and-twenty
yards, or passing and repassing close overhead, keeping up the while a
wild, lively chatter, mingled with the musical whistle of the Wigeon. We
have never seen elsewhere such splendid examples of the latter species
as some of the old drakes shot here; the metallic colours shone with an
intense lustre, and the rich dark chestnut of their heads was glossed
with green and purple reflections.

At several periods there appeared to offer chances for our four united
barrels to realize from twenty-five to thirty head; but our friends
would not hear of it, and when at last the signal to open fire was
given, the occasion was often less favourable, and the net result little
more than half those numbers. Our friends' anxiety for a big shot had
perhaps tempted them to overdo the "herding" business; it was, however,
a relief to be at last allowed to stand upright. The labour of crouching
along, bent half double for an hour at a stretch, splashing through
water over knee-deep and in clinging mud, is rather severe. There is,
moreover, but scant room for two behind a pony, and the crowding
intensifies the discomfort of the bent position. There is the necessity
to avoid bringing one's heavy-nailed brogues down on one's companion's
naked heels or toes; then again, no part of one's person must show in
outline above or astern, and lastly there is the gun. By an axiom of
sport, it must never point towards man or beast; to carry it pointing
downwards would never do--the muzzle would be a foot under water, and
upwards it would show like a pole-mast above the ponies' quarters. The
gun, in short, for fifty-nine minutes in every hour, is simply a

Though the chief species of ducks against which our operations were
directed were the above-named--Pintails and Wigeon--there were several
other kinds, notably Shovelers--very handsome birds, the drakes, with
their boldly contrasted plumage, glossy green heads and chest-nut
breasts divided by a band of snow-white purity. Besides these there were
the Mallard and Teal, and others to which we will refer presently.

[Illustration: Plate XLVI.


Page 374.]

It was during flight-shooting in the early mornings that the greatest
variety of wildfowl was observed, the numbers of Shovelers being
especially conspicuous. One morning we particularly remember; we had
ridden nearly all night to reach a certain favourite spot before
daybreak. Even the _pateros_ were still asleep when, at 2 A.M., we rode
up to their solitary _choza_ on the verge of the marsh. However, we were
soon in our allotted positions, each on board a tiny _lancha_, or
flat-bottomed punt, far out in the marisma. Towards the dawn a very
great number of ducks were on the wing--Mallards, Pintails, Teal, and
Wigeon, while from an opposite direction the Shovelers streamed overhead
for a couple of hours. These handsome _paletones_ took my fancy, and
drew the bulk of my cartridges; but whether they were too high, or the
powder, in Spanish phrase, too "cold," the results were certainly not
commensurate. In any case it is no easy matter to take fast and high
shots when balancing oneself in a cranky punt. A valid excuse was the
unusual amount of water. This disadvantage is felt, in wet winters, at
every turn; here, in flighting, in the entire absence of covert in which
to conceal our punts. Hardly even the tops of the rushes, tamarisk and
other bog-plants protruded above the surface. Consequently the
high-sided punts loomed far too conspicuous, even in the half-light,
causing the fowl to "sky" or to swerve to right or left. Again by reason
of the punts being fully afloat (instead of lying on the mud) a
difficulty was added to the taking of quick shots, for on any sudden
movement of its occupant, the tiny craft lurched almost to the capsizing
point. In spite of all this, the double flashes from the adjoining
_lancha_ were generally succeeded by one, and often by two, answering
splashes in the dark water.

Pochards and a few Tufted ducks are almost the only members of the
diver-tribe that we have met with in the marisma during wet winters,
though, by February, some of the Ferruginous ducks (_Fuligula nyroca_)
are beginning to return, and probably a few White-fronted ducks
(_Erismatura leucocephala_) will also, by then, be found on the deeper
waters. Of the Red-crested duck (_F. rufina_), which is fairly common
near Valencia, we have never seen a single example in the Andalucian
marismas; nor were any Gadwalls included in the bag this season, though
in other winters, not entirely dissimilar, we have secured several.

The distribution of the Anatidæ is, in fact, somewhat puzzling. Some
species are very regular; others, without apparent cause, are just the
reverse. The movements of Pintail, as just stated, are clearly regulated
by the state of water in the marshes. Those of Gadwall and Garganey, on
the other hand, bear no visible relation to these or other external
conditions, but neither of the two last-named are ever abundant. The
Garganey, a bird of infinite speed of wing, the first to come in autumn,
the last to depart in spring, spends the mid-winter months in Africa;
though one morning at dawn (January 31st) four drakes fell to a double
shot, and during February we secured many more; but this does not occur
every year. The Marbled duck (_Q. marmorata_), a first cousin of the
teal, seldom arrives in time to take part in the wildfowl-shooting;
though we have notes of an occasional straggler being recognized amidst
the slain as early as February.

Sheld-ducks of both kinds are found at all seasons in the Guadalquivir
district, where they remain to breed in spring; the common species in
rabbit-or disused badger-holes among the sandhills, the large Ruddy
Sheld-duck in low cliffs or _barrancos_. A few of either species usually
fall to our guns while flight-shooting during the winter months.

[Illustration: "_ANSERES SON!_"]

Next to ducks, the most important wildfowl of the marisma are the Grey
Geese, which resort thither from November till February. Their habit is
to spend the night on the open water and to fly up in successive parties
about daybreak to the grassy shores, where, if unmolested, they spend
the day feeding, preening, and washing in the shallow water. In these
situations, we frequently fell in with them while fowling with the
_cabrestos_. "Anseres son!"--"geese they are"--was Vasquez's verdict,
as he slowly shut up the glass after a long and particular survey of the
distant foreshore. The words were spoken sadly, as though soliloquizing,
for the Grey Lag is altogether too wary and suspicious a bird to fall
readily into the snare of the fowler. Barely indeed is it possible, by
this stratagem,[69] to approach within the short range which alone is
fatal--forty yards is the maximum for these ironclads, and twenty-five
much more desirable. Except when in very small numbers--twos and threes
together--it is barely worth while to attempt a stalk; our friends only
undertook the operation under protest, saying it was a _compromiso_--a
thing calculated to compromise their aucipial repute. _Anseres son!_
there, sure enough, on the utmost verge of the plain, sits a straggling
line with detached groups of big, blue-grey forms, some slowly moving
about, others squatted on the ground or resting in various attitudes of
repose. Such big packs are inaccessible; only once, that winter, did we
seem to be really on the road to success. The bulk of the geese--some
seventy in number--appeared to be peacefully sleeping away the mid-day
hours, some sitting on the grass, others standing on one leg with heads
snugly tucked away under their back feathers. We had already reached the
critical point, and the ponies well know now the importance of
caution--step by step, with a halt at every fourth or fifth to crop a
mouthful of grass, they slowly advance. We had proceeded thus to within
a shot and a half of the still silent geese, when from an intervening
belt of rush there sprang a couple of the half-wild, black pigs of the
wilderness. Away they scampered, jostling and fighting with each other
in their fright, and squealing as only pigs can squeal. In an instant
the geese were on the alert--every neck at full stretch, every eye
seeking keenly the cause of the unwonted uproar. From the sentinel
gander came the low, clear alarm-note--Honk! honk! The rest were still
silent, but they knew full well the significance of those low warning
notes. A few seconds more and, despite our utmost care, the whole
pack rose on wing, amid deep Spanish execrations on the mothers and
female relatives of those _malditos cochinos_.


[Illustration: Plate XLVII.


Page 378.]

The geese have particular spots along the shore to which they show a
predilection--usually the point of some flat promontory or tongue of
land, to which they daily resort. By placing a few decoys before dawn,
and lying in wait at these _querencias_, several shots may be obtained
at the "morning flight." The difficulties of wild-goose shooting are,
however, proverbial, and these big Grey Lags are, moreover, the hardest
and most invulnerable fowl. Yet if the bag is sometimes light, those
mornings spent in the marisma will never be regretted, nor the sights
and sounds heard during the lonely hours of vigil be forgotten. Within
one hundred yards of the damp hole where we lie hidden are three or four
separate packs of Grey Lags swimming on the silvery water, while fresh
parties constantly keep arriving to join the assemblage, sailing with
lowered pinions and cautious croaks towards the fatal decoy.

The geese of the Spanish marismas are principally the Grey Lag (_Anser
ferus_) and the Bean-goose (_Anser segetum_) in much less numbers. The
latter usually flight singly or in small trips; their note is also
different--like that of a large gull. The Lesser White-fronted Goose
(_Anser erythropus_ of Linnæus), appears also to occur in the marisma.
Lord Lilford mentions having observed a single example in company with
Grey Lags, and has skins of this small species obtained at Seville. As
regards the other European species, there is no evidence of their winter
range extending to Southern Spain, though it is possible that stragglers
of both the Pink-footed and White-fronted Geese may occasionally do so.
Of wild Swans we have only once met with a bunch of four, as elsewhere
related, and one of our _pateros_ told us he had killed two or three
during an exceptionally severe winter several years ago. He regarded
them as extremely unusual, and in fact did not know what they were till
he took them to San Lucar for sale.

Ducks and geese are not the only denizens of the wilderness. The genus
of wading birds is a natural complement, and their beauty and variety
almost always lend an additional charm to shooting-days by marsh, mere,
and coast; but this winter they disappointed us. The simple fact was
that the whole of their wonted haunts were submerged, and they had
sought their desiderata elsewhere. Whether they had passed on southward
through the tropics or eastward towards Egyptian lagoons, or returned
whence they had come--at any rate, in Spain they were not. During the
days spent behind our _cabrestos_ we saw hardly any of these birds.


[Illustration: Plate XLVIII.


Page 381.]

Another loss caused by the adverse season was the absence of snipe; they
had arrived as usual, in October and November, but during the rains of
the following month had disappeared--and not without reason, since
nearly the whole of their favourite haunts now lay submerged. Among the
birds which remained may be mentioned curlews, and peewits in large
numbers, a few golden plovers, redshanks, dunlins and Kentish
plovers; on several occasions, chattering packs of stilts were met with,
and on January 30th a large flock of avocets were feeding on the slobby
mud-flats--these the _pateros_ assured us had just arrived, which
probably was the case. Once, by night, we recognized the well-known note
of the green-shank, and at intervals a green sandpiper would spring from
some muddy pool. Beyond the fringe of rushes stood sedate herons; here
and there a party of storks, and further out still, the flamingoes,
whose rosy ranks impart a thoroughly southern character to the scene.

There was, therefore, no lack of bird-life, though many of the more
interesting species were gone. Amidst the feathered population,
apparently unnoticing and unnoticed by all, the Marsh-Harriers
ceaselessly wheel and drift. After watching them for hours we have never
seen them take a bird on the wing, or pursue anything at all, unless
wounded. Now and then a harrier would pounce fiercely upon some
object--we could not see what--among the rushes, and remain poised on
outstretched wings for some minutes, evidently struggling with some
victim--perhaps a frog or wounded bird--and then quietly resume his
hunting. The Hen-Harrier in dry seasons we frequently observe while
snipe-shooting--now, the few seen were all on the dry plains, and not on
the marisma.

One day, towards the end of January, while endeavouring to circumvent
the greylags, we fell in with a pack of some forty Sand-Grouse--the
Pintailed species--_Pterocles alchata_. They were intensely wild, and at
the end of two hours' stalking, the end of the operation seemed as far
off as ever. One point in our favour was that the _Gangas_ had a strong
haunt at that flat, sandy spit--perhaps it was the only ground suitable
to their habits that remained uncovered by water. At any rate, they
refused to leave it entirely, and though at times the pack would soar
away up into the blue heavens till lost to sight, and we could only
follow their course by the harsh croaking notes, yet they invariably
returned, descending direct to earth with superb abruptnesses, headlong
as a shower of falling stars. At length patience and perseverance
prevailed, and a couple of raking shots produced just half a score,
seven males and three females. Some of the former were already assuming
the black throat of spring-time, but otherwise they were all in full
winter-dress, the males having few, or none, of the large pale yellow
spots that, later on, adorn their backs and scapulars, and both sexes
being paler and less vivid in colouring than at the vernal season.

The carriage of these birds when on the ground is very game-like and
sprightly; they sit half-upright, like a pigeon, and on our final
(successful) approach we observed several of them lying down on their
sides nestling in the warm sand. Their flight resembles that of golden
plover, but is bolder, and the narrow black bordering to the under-wing
is conspicuous when passing near. At times, when high in air, they might
be mistaken for teal. We found them excellent eating; their crops
contained small seeds and shoots of the samphire and other bog-plants;
their flesh is dark brown throughout (that of _Syrrhaptes paradoxus_ is
half white, like a blackcock), and was as tender and well-flavoured as
that of a grouse. The Spanish name of "_ganga_," signifying a bargain,
goes to corroborate this opinion.

At length our sojourn amidst these desolate scenes came to its close.
The pack-mules set out, literally, by the way of the wilderness, while
we took a longer route by the shore for a final attempt on the ducks,
and had a pretty _finale_ to our sport. A pack of forty mallards were
descried, and as the _cabrestos_ drew up to the deadly range, there
caught the writer's eye what might have been a bed of stones amongst
some rushes, but which were in fact a fine spring of teal huddled
together as close as they could sit. Towards these, when the signal to
open fire was given, one gun directed his cartridges, while the other
remained faithful to the _patos reales_. The result, seven mallards and
eleven teal, was a satisfactory climax to a pleasant campaign under
adverse conditions. For if heavy shots were scarce, the scenes and
sounds we have feebly endeavoured to describe--the clouds of ducks
and geese, the soaring flight of the harriers, or graceful forms of a
passing trip of pintails, the stately flamingoes, or the bark of an
eagle overhead--all these are essentially exotic--they breathe the
spirit of wild Spain, and are full of fascination to a naturalist.

[Illustration: Plate XLIX.


Page 382.]





For days the report had reached us of the myriads of aquatic birds that
had settled in the marisma. The keepers at the distant Retuerta had
passed the word along to those nearer the boundary, and from these the
news was transmitted by boatmen to our factotum at San Lucar. Every day
the exhortation to come became more and more urgent--"come at once, or
in a few days the geese will have devoured every blade of aquatic weed,
every green thing that remains, and will perforce be obliged to shift to
other quarters." But come we could not. The 29th November was the day
previously fixed for opening the campaign, and to cross the Guadalquivir
before that date was not possible. Some of our party were coming out by
P. and O. to Gibraltar, others by the quicker route of the _Sud_
express. With that malignant perversity of fate that ever seems to
snatch from us the realization of one's ideal, we had, this year, fixed
the day a week too late.

Mid-November was already past; autumn had given place to winter, yet not
a drop of rain had fallen. Since the scorching days of summer the
fountains of heaven had been stayed, and now the winter wildfowl from
the north were pouring in only to find the marisma as hard and arid as
the deserts of Arabia Petræa. They found not what they sought--instinct
was at fault. True to their appointed season came the dark clouds of
pintail, teal, and wigeon, the long skeins of grey geese; but where in
other years they had revelled in shallows rich in aquatic vegetation,
now the travellers find in their stead a calcined plain devoid of all
that is attractive to the tastes of their tribe. For the parched-up
soil, whose life-blood has been drained by the heats of the summer
solstice, whose plant-life is burnt up, remains panting all the autumn
through for the precious moisture that comes not. The carcases of cattle
and horses that have died of thirst and lack of pasturage strew the
plains; the winter-sown wheat is dead ere germination is complete.

In such years of drought many of the newly-arrived wildfowl--especially
pintails--pass on southwards (into Africa) not to return till February;
but numbers crowd into the few places where the precious
element--water--still exists. Such a spot is the Retuerta; and along its
ten-mile length of tasselled sedge and 30-foot bamboo are concentrated
such hosts of wildfowl as seldom entrance the sportsman's eye. In this
favoured nook in distant Andalucia let us now live again a few of those
eventful days.

At length our party of ten guns are assembled in the shooting-box. Never
before, at this season, have we ridden those thirty miles across so
thirsty a land. Vasquez and his _confrères_ received us
reproachfully--Why have we not come sooner? But are all the geese gone?
_Hay, hay anseres, pero no la decima parte de qué habia_--"there are
some geese," he replies, "but not the tenth part of what there were."
Then a smile came over his Red-Indian countenance, as he added--_pero
todavia hay para divertirse_--"there are yet enough for sport." When
Vasquez reckons there are enough for sport we know that, allowing for
Andalucian exaggeration, there will be hot barrels before the day is
done. What he calls, in his expressive language, a _salpicon_--a
sprinkling, may mean several acres in a flock; a _puñado_, or handful, a
thick mass of several thousand! When he talks of a _tiro regulár_--an
_ordinary_ shot, we know he means about thirty couples of mallards with
one barrel. For Vasquez has striven for a living, as his fathers did
before him, with the ducks of these wilds; and when he _did_ let off his
ponderous blunderbuss it was at very close quarters, and meant
execution. Quantity was his desideratum, for he had to make a large bag
for little money, depending on others to realize his spoils in the
distant market, and, as usual, much of the hard-earned coin stayed in
the hands of middlemen. Thus Vasquez, with other marsh-men, was tempted
by our offer of a fixed wage, and has for years been keeper on the
marisma, where his reed-thatched _choza_ is barely visible amidst waving
sedges and bulrushes hard by the most favoured haunts of his aquatic
charges. Vasquez cannot tell you who is Prime Minister at Madrid, and
cares not whether England may wish to surrender Gibraltar to Spain; but
he _can_ tell you whither that pack of duck, like a small cloud on the
horizon, is hurrying to alight; he can point out to you the birds fresh
come from the north, as distinguished from earlier arrivals, as he can
also tell you when ducks, which, to the uninitiated, appear quite happy
and content, are packing up, and will be gone with the morning's light.
He will take you where the snipe are in hundreds when you have searched
their favourite haunts in vain; and will place you at dusk, if you have
faith in him and wait till sunset, where the greylags will pass within
ten yards. So Vasquez is a useful man, though he knows nothing of the
great world outside of the Retuerta. We felt, nevertheless, that we were
a week too late, and had perhaps lost the best chance of a century.

The plan of campaign was to line the northern end of the marsh for some
five or six miles, placing a gun in each one of certain selected spots.
For this purpose, large casks are sunk at intervals, some well hidden
among rushes, others in open pools; but in these latter cases the tubs
were cunningly concealed by cut tamarisks and other water-plants.


To place the guns in their respective tubs, extending over six miles of
bog, and the nearest tub almost the same distance from our quarters, is
a lengthy operation, necessitating a very early start. Long before dawn
we were in the saddle. Dark and rough at first was the ride just
preceding that impressive change--the lifting of night's mantle from
the earth. Gradually grew these first rays, and soon the whole east was
aglow, gleaming across parched plains, as the glorious morn awakened. To
the enticing oasis of the Retuerta pushed forward the long cavalcade,
but the sun was high ere all the strategical points could be
simultaneously occupied. For it was arranged that each gunner should
advance at a given signal to his post, and that no shot should be fired
till all were in position. Of the difficulties and dangers in reaching
those points, through marsh and quaking bog, we will not stop to speak;
at length all were in place, and ducks already streamed overhead within
half gunshot while we awaited the signal to open. Then from the distant
land a shot resounded, and simultaneously, all along our line, rang out
a merry fusillade; here comes my first chance, a pack of wigeon,
straight for the tub. A bright-winged drake paid first tribute, and two
more from "the brown" fall to the left. As fast as cartridges can be
slipped into the breech they are required, and two guns are kept going
continuously--now at a swinging flight of teal or swift garganey,[70]
then at the more stately pintails, next at a single shoveler-drake on
his straight and hurried course. Now the ten-bore is useful for a string
of mallards which are already seeking safer altitudes, and for a couple
of curlews, for once at fault. But we need not recapitulate, even were
it possible to remember, the rapid sequence of shots, which for an hour
were almost continuous. Shots of every kind there offered--incoming,
outgoing, to right and left, direct or oblique, and at every height and
angle, acute, obtuse, and perpendicular. Now a flight of wigeon,
skimming low on the water-level, suddenly fling themselves in one's
face, all unseen till far too near; then from behind, with a rush as of
a whirlwind, a trip of swift-winged teal or swifter garganeys almost
take one's hat off, then "sky" like rockets, on seeing the
danger--difficult to stop are these! At intervals, there is a variation,
when, during the earlier part of the action, the files of grey geese are
seen and heard as they sail along, looming so huge among the smaller
fowl. They are not too high as, outward-bound, they cross our posts; but
let them get _well_ over-head, as near as ever they will come, ere you
open fire, or no mighty splash in the water behind will gratify your
ear. The bulk of the shooting, however, is at files of duck speeding
fast and straight in bee-lines overhead: high as a rule, mostly _very_
high, the sort of shot that, once learnt, can be generally pulled
off--and satisfactory shots they are, requiring an infinite degree of
_faith_ and forward allowance.

At the end of an hour the file-firing slackened, but still for another
hour it continued fairly fast. The larger ducks and the geese had
betaken themselves to the sea, or to the dried marisma respectively; but
great numbers of wigeon and the smaller ducks still sought
resting-places up and down the long Retuerta. Of the geese but few
comparatively had fallen, though thousands were seen in air. Hardly had
the firing commenced than these betook themselves to the dry marisma
where they made shift to feed on the roots of the _castanuela_
(spear-grass). This circumstance, however, was foreseen, and troubled us
little; it is the geese _coming in_ that offer sport, not the geese
going out, and we well knew that before night they would be needing a
cool draught at the pools of Retuerta.

At the end of two hours, the writer left his battery to collect his
spoils; a goodly pile of ducks, besides three geese and two flamingoes,
though perhaps not in due proportion to the heap of emptied cartridges.
About a quarter-mile away lay the shore, to which, during the mid-day
interlude, I made my way through water, mud, and matted tamarisk. The
nearer strand, where cattle had cropped the rush, was alive with snipe,
while amidst the heavier covert beyond, numbers of teal had sought
asylum. With these, and passing ducks, there was plenty of employment,
and at the end of an hour, when it was necessary to flounder back to the
battery, I had exhausted my cartridges and formed sundry piles of
slain--in all nineteen ducks, two geese (right and left) and over twenty
snipe, besides a bittern and a few "various."


The sun was now lowering, and the return of the geese might be looked
for. I had started none too soon on the return "plodge," for with the
heavy walking and yet heavier burden, I had hardly ensconced myself in
my battery ere the welcome konk! konk! was audible, and some twenty
greylags came gliding in. Straight for the sunken tub they held their
course, and not till almost overhead did they descry the lurking gun.
Then with redoubled flaps they swerved off, changing the downward
gliding flight for an upward movement; but, though for a moment they
hung in air, yet, somehow, it took both barrels ere the leader
collapsed. Shot after shot at what appeared a fatal range failed to stop
them _clean_, and I decided to let the next come in even nearer. This
time only three came drifting down. They passed within shot, but I
refrained; wheeled round the pool, and headed straight in; there was no
mistake this time--the geese were not twenty yards off, and two of the
three fell stone-dead. I breathed more freely now; and let the geese
come in to a range that for any other fowl would be _too near_, holding
even then well forward, and sundry heavy thuds on the darkening waters
attested the success of these waiting tactics, and registered the death
of another greylag or bean-goose. These latter came in singly, or in
twos and threes, and are distinguishable by their harsher note and
rather smaller size; the greylags average eight pounds, some old ganders
turning the scale at ten. Every minute it became more difficult to see;
night was closing in apace, but with it came more and more geese. The
rattle of gunshots and rustling of strong pinions was incessant--hardly
had one gone down than another flight swept in. At last the geese came
silently; the call-note which during daylight announced their approach
was now no longer uttered, and they drifted so fast on to the water that
one only became aware of their arrival by the heavy ploughing splash as
they alighted. Presently only those that came low against the dying
after-glow in the west could be seen at all, and after a shot one had to
listen for the splash that bespoke a kill. Gunshots now became fewer, a
mere dropping fire, and in a few minutes more even this shooting at
ghosts became no longer possible. Then came the splashing of horses, and
I knew that Caraballo was coming to look for me, and a good line he took
in the dark and featureless morass.

[Illustration: GREYLAGS--DAYBREAK.]

Half an hour later we were beginning to assemble at the bonfire of
blazing samphire-bushes which had been lighted as a beacon to gather
around. The day ended with a slight _contretemps_: one of our party with
his servant was missing. No answer could be obtained to our signals: nor
on our arrival at the lodge were the lost ones there. Though there could
be no danger, yet it would be most unpleasant for our friend to pass the
night in the wilds without food or shelter. At ten o'clock keepers were
despatched to scour the country, but it was four hours later ere Manuel
(at 2 A.M.) returned with the luckless wanderers in charge. They had
mistaken our beacon, and had steered for what proved to be a
charcoal-burning miles away.

When the tale of slain had been told off, and Vasquez brought in the
totals as 81 geese and over 300 ducks (besides sundries) for the day, we
were inclined to forget those unresponsive greylags, and to imagine
that, for flight-shooting, with 12-bores, at passing fowl, such results
were not to be obtained every day, nor in every land.[71]

Three other field-days followed with the wildfowl, besides two
interludes with small-game, and a two-days snipe-shoot along the remote
Rocina, which produced 353 snipe,[72] a few duck, teal, bitterns, and
sundries: and, when these happy days were over, the total score stood:--

    713 ducks.
    247 wild geese.
    402 snipe.
     15 woodcock.
    161 partridge.
      8 quail.
     36 rabbits.
      7 hares.
      9 bitterns.
     44 sundries.

Among "sundries" were included common and ruddy sheldrakes, gadwall and
garganey, marbled ducks (a few), common and white-eyed pochards
(several), many coots, an egret, stilts, and a pair of oyster-catchers.


Never in our experience of well-nigh a quarter of a century had such
extremes of cold been known in this sunny land as those of December,
1890. Nor will the destruction wrought by that phenomenal winter be
remedied for many a long year, as brown and blasted oliveyards, and
thousands of acres of orange-groves, almost every tree cut back to the
bole and grafted as a last resource, bear testimony.

Here, in a sporting sense, is the report of that winter, and its effects
on fowl and fowling. _December 8th_, 1890.--Not a drop of rain fell this
year till the 2nd inst., and the conditions for sport appeared as
favourable as those of last year (already described above). Cold as
Siberia was our ride to Vasquez's _choza_ (November 28), in the teeth of
the bitter east wind which swept across the dry marisma, and cut into
our very marrow.

[Illustration: Plate L.


Page 393.]

_Valiente helada va caer este noche!_ say the keepers, and verily a
terrible frost _did_ fall that night: for when Caraballo awakened us at
six in the morning, the poor fellow's teeth chattered, his limbs shook,
and he declared that never before had _Dios_ made so cold a morning.

My luck favoured me for once, and by lot, No. 5 was placed by the deeps
of "El Jondon," flanked by miles of bamboo and cane-brakes of tropical
dimensions. The oozes were covered with ice, at first so thick as almost
to bear the horses; but as the water deepened, the ice broke and cut
their fetlocks; so we had to seek our posts on foot, dry shot for the
first time on record. It fell to me to fire the signal-shot, so I took
an opportunity of sending to speedy end just nine teal with the two
barrels. I had never before held the luckiest number; to-day I was in
the _flor_ and the _nata_ of the fray; it will give some idea of the
character of the sport this day that, at times, it was desirable to
decline _all_ offers from the duck-tribe, and to reserve one's
attention, and cartridges, exclusively for the geese.

The solid ice around my battery lent a novel feature to experiences of
wild sport in Spain. The ducks, even heavy mallard and pintail,
rebounded from the ice-bound surface; and a goose, falling obliquely,
also slid for twenty yards before remaining still. No ducks broke the
frozen coverlet; but geese came crashing down through the ice, each
making itself a captive in its own chasm. I was soon surrounded by these
ice-bound prisoners, bringing down, during the day, over thirty
greylags, besides some eighty ducks. Many of these, however, fell in the
tall canes and reed-brakes behind, and as we shot till well after dark,
it was impossible to gather all--even of the dead. The whole bag, which,
had the shooting been uniform, should have been much greater, amounted
to 363 ducks and 72 geese, besides snipe and 39 "various."

A note on the subsequent movements of the wildfowl may be an appropriate
complement to this chapter. During the severe weather of December, most
of the ducks disappeared. At the New Year comparatively few remained,
and a second shoot resulted, as regards wildfowl, in failure. This,
however, did not greatly disturb us--other game demanded attention, and
we knew our web-footed friends had only bid us _au revoir_. "They will
return at the end of February," asserted Vasquez; and return they did,
to find the sunken tubs at El Jondon and along the cane-brakes of
Quebrantiero again "occupied in force"--once more along the line rang
out a fusillade.

The transit of the aquatic birds to and from Africa often presents
remarkable spectacles. During several days at this season
(February--March), while cruising in the Straits, the sea has been
sprinkled in every direction--both Atlantic and Mediterranean--with
bands of duck coming off from the African shore and skimming low on the
waves on a northerly or north-westerly course. They do not proceed
direct to the Far North, but linger for some days on the Spanish side.
Here, early in March, their numbers almost equalled those of November;
that is of ducks, for the geese had almost entirely withdrawn. On March
5th clouds of wigeon gyrated at vast altitudes--mere specks in the upper
air, while others assembled, massed together in hordes on the water,
_echando corros para irse_--arranging travelling parties, as Vasquez
puts it: sure signs both, of the coming change. By March 10th fully
four-fifths had disappeared; while on the 15th scarcely a duck of all
their thousands remained, except of those species which habitually nest
in Spain--_e.g._, mallards, sheld-ducks, &c., or which come there in
spring expressly for that purpose, such as the white-eyed pochards,
marbled and white-fronted ducks, and the like.



During wet winters in Spain, when marismas and submerged marshes form
miniature seas, the customary methods of wildfowling are no longer of
any avail. Opportunities of employing the _cabresto_ are few and far
between: while flight-shooting on an area indefinitely extended is
profitless and uncertain to the last degree. But the marismas, with
their myriads of winter wildfowl, appeared to offer, during such
seasons, an exceptional--indeed an ideal field for the use of the
gunning-punt, and stanchion-gun.

During the wet winter of 1887-8, when we were constrained helplessly to
contemplate floating flotillas, all, in effect, inaccessible to our
guns--these tantalizing spectacles urged us to seek "some new thing." A
gunning-punt with its artillery appeared to be the one thing needed, and
with it, we felt confident that from fifty to a hundred duck might often
be secured at a shot. Accordingly, in the autumn of that year (1888), we
sent out from England boat, gun, and gear--in short, the complete
equipment for "the wildfowler afloat."

The little craft duly reached the Guadalquivir in September; but here an
unexpected difficulty arose. The Spanish custom-house took alarm. True,
the little vessel was an entire novelty and an innovation; even in the
Millwall Docks she had created some surprise, and here, she was
incomprehensible. No such vessel had ever before floated on Spanish
waters, and the official mind took time to consider. That oracle, after
several weeks of cogitation, ordered the removal of the tiny craft from
the obscure port of Bonanza to the full light of the custom-house at
Seville. Here, after many more weeks of delay, it was solemnly declared
that that white-painted six-foot barrel was "an arm of war"; that "the
combination of boat and gun savoured of the mechanism of war"; and,
lastly, that "the boat could not be permitted to pass the Customs until
it had been _registered at the Admiralty_ as a ship of war," thus
forming an integral part of the Imperial navy of Spain.


We were informed, in reply to a respectful protest, that a high official
of the Admiralty at Madrid--the Deputy Chief Constructor, we think, was
his title--would "shortly" be visiting the arsenal at San Fernando,
where a new war-ship was nearly ready for launching, and that he would
then take the opportunity of inspecting our impounded gunboat at

The measurements of this "British Armada" were: length over all, 22
feet, breadth of beam, 3 feet 6 inches, by 9 inches depth of hold; her
armament a gun of eighty pounds weight, throwing sixteen ounces of shot.
Not a very formidable vessel, yet a hostile fleet off Malaga would
hardly have aroused more official fuss.

Six or seven months elapsed before these difficulties were smoothed
away, as difficulties in Spain, or elsewhere, do dissolve when prudently
and properly treated; but the wildfowling season was over, the ducks had
disappeared, ere the "Boadicea" was released from official durance and
allowed to proceed to the scene of action.

The first obstacle was now surmounted, but a second, and more
insuperable difficulty arose, one which forms the real "pith" of the
present chapter. From the first our local wildfowlers reported badly of
the new craft; her trial cruises were not satisfactory, for, while the
_pateros_ experienced no difficulty in approaching the less wary birds,
such as flamingoes, herons, and the like, yet ducks of no sort could be
outmanœuvred; at any rate not on the open waters. On the return of
the ducks in autumn following, the fowlers still reported that they
found the large packs wholly inaccessible, nor could they secure more
than a paltry half-dozen or so at a shot.

These reports, however, did not disturb us greatly; we attributed the
failure of the _pateros_ to lack of experience and technical knowledge
in handling the "Boadicea"; for, despite their skill in fowling, the art
of working a big gun afloat was one of which they could know nothing. It
was, therefore, with unabated confidence that the writer embarked on
board the trim, light craft, and shoved off on his first Spanish
punt-gunning campaign.

An exhilarating prospect lay before us; nowhere in British seas could
such aggregations of wildfowl be seen, nor so favourable a spot be
found: there was no tide or current to fight against, no deeps where one
loses bottom, no hidden shoals nor shifting sand-banks to bar one's
course; and, as too often happens in our tidal waters at home, to snatch
success from one's grasp in the very moment of its realization.


No; here we had smooth shallow water, uniform in depth, practically
stagnant, and with a firm level bed of mud. And everywhere on its
surface, and in the clear atmosphere above, floated or flew those wild
and graceful forms so dear to a fowler's eye--the duck-tribe in endless
variety. Half a mile away, the opposite shores of the sound, the Lucio
de los Caballeros, were dark with multitudes of duck: fresh files kept
streaming in to alight among their fellows, and at intervals the roar of
wings, as some bird of prey put their battalions in motion, resounded
like the rumble of thunder. Close overhead hovered graceful Little Gulls
(_Larus minutus_), adults whose dark under-wing contrasted with the
snowy breast, others in the marbled plumage of immaturity. As the punt
shot forward, hidden amidst islanded clumps of rush and sedge, we
passed, almost within arm's-length, the weird-looking grebes and
singular long-legged stilts in every posture of repose and
security--more rarely in those of suspicion. Rather farther away waded
half a dozen spoonbills, revolving on their axis at each forward step in
their peculiar fashion; a purple heron or two, and sedate storks seeking
a feast of frogs. A pack of avocets swept by in chattering flight: ruffs
and redshanks, green sandpipers, and others of that class, with whole
troops of plovers, splashed and preened in the shallows. All these we
passed silently by. Even a "bunch" of the beautiful garganey teal would
not tempt us this morning, for ambition soared high.

Gradually we stole round the flank of the ducks--a long way off, for it
was necessary to save the wind and get to leeward. In this we succeeded,
and there now only remained between us and the black streak that
represented thousands of keen eyes, some 300 yards of open water: surely
no very formidable obstacle with a well-handled craft. So we thought,
and so a fair experience of ducks and their ways at home justified us in
thinking. Alas! for misplaced confidence: hardly had our bows shot clear
of the last sheltering fringe of rush than the nearer birds began to
rise, and spread the alarm through the deep ranks beyond. Quickly the
danger-signal was communicated to the furthest outposts: the roar of
wings increased, and in a few seconds the whole mass lifted off the
water as one might lift a carpet by the corner--not a living thing
remained afloat, while the heavens grew dark with quivering pinions and
gyrating clouds, and resonant with a babel of bird-music.

Thus ended the first attempt in conspicuous failure; and a second,
third, and fourth shared a like fate: we were never within measurable
distance of succeeding, and began to realize that what our native
fowlers had reported was only too near the truth. It is fair to add that
Vasquez's handling of the punt, after a few preliminary trials, left
little to be desired; his aptitude for the new work was surprising. He
held a capital course, steered accurately to signal, and got a "way" on
the boat that would have satisfied Hawker.

The very numbers of the ducks proved, to some extent, a safeguard; the
smaller packs could occasionally be outmanœuvred under cover of some
reed-bed--but this only with thirties, forties, or fifties; the area
covered by the larger bodies outflanked even the most extensive
_juncales_. On the open water we have never yet succeeded (though we
have tried a hundred times) to approach these main armies of duck, and
believe now that it cannot be done. Why this should be so is another
question, and a curious one. The nature of the duck-tribe is the same in
Spain as in England: wherever they are found they are among the wildest
and most wary of birds. Here, however, we had them in numbers surpassing
anything we have seen on British waters, and frequenting, too, a region
which seemed pre-eminently adapted for the use of punt and big gun. Yet
we found them, on the desolate Spanish marismas, many-fold more
inaccessible to a punt than on the harassed and heavily-shot harbours of
England. The only reason we can suggest is that, these waters never
being traversed by boats of any kind, the fowl are inclined to avoid a
gunning-punt as readily as they do a human being.[73]

The impossibility of obtaining a good shot by fair means being
demonstrated, as a final resource we laid up the punt among the sedges,
at a point where the fowl were wont to congregate. Here, at the end of
two hours, we had about a thousand birds before the gun: wigeon,
shovelers, and a few garganey, all mixed, with about a score of pintails
and three or four gadwall; but, whether purposely or by accident, they
kept at very long range from our sedgy shelter, and when at last, owing
to a leaky seam and evening coming on, we were obliged to risk a long
shot, only some six or eight duck were secured.

[Illustration: Plate LI.


Page 400.]

[Illustration: "THE BITER AND THE BIT."]

To complete this sketch of Spanish punt-gunning, we will briefly narrate
the incidents of two other days' sport, as follows:--_February 28th._
Started at daybreak, taking both the punt and a _cabresto_ pony. The
first shot was at eleven teal, of which eight fell to the two barrels
(12-bore); the second shot realized seven more teal and a marsh-harrier.
The latter capture afforded rather a curious incident: six teal lay
dead, the seventh, being a lively cripple (which could fly some
distance), I sent Vergara after him in the punt, while we proceeded
along-shore with the pony. A large hawk, however, had at once "spotted"
the cripple, and an exciting chase ensued--the hawk making stoop after
stoop, the teal as often escaping by diving. But the dives grew shorter
and shorter, and at last we observed that the bird of prey had
prevailed, for he remained suspended betwixt wind and water and was
evidently making good his hold. Then with heavy flight he bore his
burden straight towards where we crouched, watching, behind the pony,
and settled on the shore. Him we then approached in the customary way,
and as the fierce-looking _aguilucho_ stood on his victim, crushing out
what remained of life, a charge of No. 4 secured both the _biter_ and
the _bit_.

Harriers are so numerous in the open marisma that four or five may often
be seen at once, slowly drifting about over the waste, and marvellous is
the speed with which they detect a disabled fowl. With a lively cripple,
it is often a race between the human and the feathered raptor for rights
of possession, and in flight-shooting the wounded are carried off under
one's very eyes.

After another _cabresto_-shot, which added ten wigeon to the bag, we
reached the broad Arroyo de la Madre, which was "paved" with wildfowl in
numbers that we cannot estimate. Mere numerals convey nothing--unless it
be a suspicion of exaggeration--and any other attempt would only involve
the use of inadmissible superlatives. Suffice to say that for leagues
that broad water was a living carpet of birds. We now entrusted our
fortunes to the "Boadicea" and her big gun. The boat lay near the
junction of a creek with the main channel; the nearer water was dotted
with teal, garganey, and wigeon; a little further off, the white livery
of the shovelers was conspicuous, and beyond again, with the glasses, we
could distinguish, among acres of wigeon, a sprinkling of pintails,
gadwall, and a few white-eyed pochard and mallard. On the slob-land in
front, fed nine spoonbills; a small herd of flamingoes on the left, and
near them a grey line of geese, whose sonorous clamour was
distinguishable above the medley of bird-notes. Ducks, however, of all
kinds are silent enough by day.

Once more the punt proved a failure. No sooner had she emerged from the
cover of the _armajos_ (samphire), than the nearer teal and wigeon began
swimming out, scattering away to right and left in lines all radiating
from the focus of alarm. Ere anything like fair range was reached, not
a single solid point presented itself to our aim. Opportunities there
were to kill, say, a dozen or more, but these paltry chances were
declined without second thought. In the result, some two or three hours'
careful work--"flattened" on our chests all the time--were not rewarded
by a single shot from the big gun.

Towards evening we observed flights of duck--chiefly wigeon--pouring in
constant streams towards some low mud-islets which afforded cover for
approach. Behind these we lay for an hour, awaiting the gloaming, but
the short southern twilight proved a serious obstacle. In the few
minutes occupied in "shoving out" from our shelter towards the floating
phalanxes in front (we had awaited the last possible moment) the light
had disappeared, and it became impossible to distinguish objects _on the
water_, though those in _air_ were yet clear enough. There were, we
knew, hundreds of ducks before the gun; but the shot--like nine-tenths
of those fired at haphazard--was a failure. Fifteen wigeon and two
pintails lay dead; the cripples, if any, it was impossible to recover in
the gloom; and we sadly started to "pole" the long leagues homewards,
reflecting on the singular uncertainty of sports mundane.

This day thus realized 42 ducks--17 to the punt and 25 to the
_cabresto_: though, had we followed the latter system alone, the total
would have been much heavier, while every available chance was given to
the punt-gun, which never, _until after dark_, produced a feather.

As a contrast we will briefly outline the results of our next day's
shooting, employing the trained pony alone. The artillery used was a
single 4-bore and a double 12: six shots were fired, and the net result
was 82 duck, besides minor spoils. The day was perhaps more favourable,
since, March having now commenced, the fowl were congregating into those
closely-packed _corros_, or hordes, which mark the preliminary stage to
departure. Thus, one broadside to-day realized 32 wigeon, and another
should have done better, but for a "hang-fire." Still there was nothing
exceptional about the day's results. We have often much exceeded the
total named, but select this particular day merely because it followed
in immediate sequence to that last described.[74]

Since writing the above, the experience of two more winters has served
to confirm its correctness. From a dozen or fifteen up to twenty ducks
may occasionally be secured at a shot, but the huge bodies of wildfowl
on open water remain actually inaccessible, and the visions of heavy
shots--80 or 100--of which we had dreamed, no longer disturb our
midnight slumbers.


[Illustration: Plate LII.


Page 405.]




By a rush-girt glade in the heart of the _pinales_, or pine-region,
stands the lonely shooting-lodge of La Marismilla. The sombre forests
which surround it are a chief stronghold of the Spanish red deer, which
find shelter in the abundant underwood and rich pasturage in the grassy
dells. The wild pig prefers the more isolated thickets which lie towards
the outskirts of the forest.

The system generally adopted for shooting the forest-deer is "driving."
The sylvan geography of these great areas of pines, devoid to a stranger
of landmark, point, or path, is intimately known to the foresters, who
mentally map out the whole into sections for the purpose of the
_batida_, or drive. The exact boundaries of each section vary, of
course, from day to day in accordance with the wind; for the red deer is
gifted with a fine sense of smell, and instantly detects the human
presence when "betwixt the wind and his nobility." Perhaps the readiest
means of conveying an idea of this sport of forest-driving will be to
relate the vicissitudes that befell the writer before succeeding in
bagging his first stag.

My first _puesto_, or post, was in the face of a sand-ridge clad with
tall pines, and there were, I think, three guns on my right, four on the
left. All these, even my nearest neighbours (200 yards away), were of
course invisible amidst the broken ground and masses of brushwood which
intervened; and their positions were only approximately indicated by
sundry long lines traced in the sandy soil by the gun-stock of the old
forester, Juan Espinal, before leaving me at my post. These lines served
to indicate both the positions of the adjoining guns, and also the
limits _within which_ a shot might not be fired. It is obviously a
paramount necessity in this class of shooting never to shoot
_forward_--_i.e._, into the beat; the game must be allowed to pass right
through and well clear of the line before a shot can be thought of: a
circumstance which adds vastly to the difficulty of placing one's
bullets on the right spot.

The first thing when one is left alone in the solitude of the forest is
to survey carefully one's field of action, to consider all possible
contingencies, and prepare accordingly; the most essential point being
so to place oneself as to see without being seen.[75] My first
impression, in this case, was one of wonder as to where I could possibly
place a bullet at all. My post, as already mentioned, was in the face of
a ridge, or rather in a hillock forming part of the ridge, and having a
deep pass on either hand. Thus the receding ground sloped away so as to
disappear from sight just at the entrances of the passes, forty or fifty
yards away. In short, the possible lines of fire intersected the
probable course of the deer, if any came, at exactly the point at which
I should lose sight of them altogether. It was unsafe to move my
position backwards, and in front I could find no convenient cover; so
returning to my allotted post, I bethought myself to record my fears,
and plot out the situation in my pocket-book. Then I settled down in the
small redoubt of cut bushes I had put together, and waited. The solitude
of the forest was delicious, and the silence only broken by the gentle
fluttering of some small birds in the pines overhead. Continually there
fell upon and around me small objects from above--it was a party of
hawfinches pelting me with scales of pine-cones, broken off in their
search for seeds. These and the crossbills are shy and wild, and, except
on such occasions when unaware of one's presence, seldom allow of
approach. For half an hour I watched their active movements, the
tree-creepers and fire-crests, and the antics of a small animal, I think
a genet, that was performing fantastic feats on a sunny knoll in front:
meanwhile the distant shouts of the beaters were becoming more distinct,
and at last I thought I could recognize the excited cry of _Ya va! ya
va!_--there he goes! The genet vanished down a burrow, the birds ceased
to pelt me, and a few moments later, to my excited eyes, the whole green
expanse of juniper and heath-scrub before me appeared alive with great
tawny beasts, all bounding forward directly towards my position. As the
deer approached the hillocks I observed that a specially fine stag, with
two smaller ones and some hinds, would pass on my right, while three
more stags were making for the pass on the left. I concentrated all
attention on the first, which slowly trotted past my front within thirty
yards; but, as I had foreseen, had already more than half disappeared
ere he reached the firing point and my bullet sped towards him; then,
turning sharp round, I sent the second barrel at the last of the other
three stags, just bounding from sight into the deep pass on the left.
The results were of course invisible; both were snap-shots, but I
_thought_ I had laid on true, and was musing on the possibilities, more
than half inclined to be ecstatic at having, or believing I had, really
"pulled off" a clean right and left in my first interview with the
Spanish red deer, when a rustling in the brushwood in front disturbed
these happy cogitations, and another stag with three hinds appeared.
They came forward quite slowly, evidently suspicious of danger ahead,
and stopping at intervals to look back towards the noisy beaters. They
rose my hillock at a foot's pace, the stag leading--an
eight-pointer--and at last stood actually within five yards. There was,
in fact, nothing between us but the single pine and the slight
breastwork of bushes I had built up as a screen. The stag stood for
some seconds gazing backwards over his shoulder; then, as he turned to
advance, he caught sight of me crouching beneath the junipers, almost
under his nose--and the bound he took at that instant was a sight to
remember. Away they dashed, all four, straight along the line of guns;
but, turning outwards, shortly after leaving my sight, the stag fell to
the rifle of my next neighbour.

Then the beaters came up, and eagerly we went off to examine the result
of my two shots. Alas! no _ingentia corpora_ lay there, and on following
their tracks for some distance, it was quite clear that both stags had
escaped scatheless. The only relief to deep disappointment was that
little memorandum I had made beforehand, foretelling the catastrophe,
which was indeed more attributable to an ill-judged position than to any
want of care.

Then, shortly afterwards, when I did manage to place my bullet in a fine
stag of fourteen points, a wide and splendid head, the coveted trophy
was again lost to me by the rules of sport, owing to the fact that
another leaden messenger had preceded mine. This stag passed through the
line far to my right, receiving a shot in the stomach as he passed, the
effect being to turn him to me, and he passed at full speed not thirty
yards behind. A ball through the heart rolled him over; but the first
wound, in his left side, was unquestionably fatal. After this, for a
long time, no luck fell to my share; only hinds broke near my _puestos_,
and, though they were most interesting objects, with their timorous
graceful movements, their great supple ears inflected hither and
thither, and large affectionate eyes, which gave me infinite pleasure to
watch, yet they were not available quarry, and passed on unmolested. One
hind, which passed within ten yards, was followed (January 8th) by a
tiny fawn. Occasionally a stag came forward, cautiously feeling his way,
step by step, to make sure of avoiding danger ahead; but these always
managed to detect something in time, and broke back, or passed through
at some other point. One of these stood for some seconds almost within
touch, only a thick bush between us, and others had all but reached the
fatal line ere they changed their course.

One chance, however, I certainly lost by my own fault. A buzzard came
sailing along the pine-tops towards me; I was posted on a small plateau
crowning an isolated hillock, and overlooking a sea of dark green pines.
Promiscuous shooting is, of course, debarred; but the _batida_ was
nearly finished; I had seen the beaters cross a ridge within a
quarter-mile, and determined to have the hawk. Just as the buzzard
approached a fair range, I observed that a good stag had ascended my
hillock, and for some twenty yards ran in full view. Then he dropped
down from sight just before it was possible for me to exchange guns. A
downright bungle! I would fain have hidden my disgrace in silence, but
it is a distressing feature of sport on this tell-tale sandy soil, that
it is impossible to conceal or to mitigate one's "_chambonadas_"--call
them misfortunes. Nothing moves but leaves behind it an indelible mark,
and no mark ever escapes the keen eyes of the forest-guards. "Look
here!" exclaims Anillo, "here has passed a good stag--_aqui ha pasado un
buen venado!_" "why did not his worship fire?" Why indeed!

Some days passed and I began to fear the campaign might close without a
change in my luck. Nor were these deep forests particularly interesting
ornithologically: at first sight they appeared rather devoid of
bird-life--that is in winter: we have often ridden for hours without
seeing more than a few ravens or a kite. Among the thick bushy tops of
the stone-pines were the hawfinches and crossbills, with a few other
species, but these were remarkably shy and difficult of approach. On
afternoons when our "drives" were finished before dark, I took the
opportunity of trying to obtain some of the forest-haunting birds; but
in this a singular difficulty occurred. In Andalucia the sun gives us an
hour or two more of his company than on a winter's day at home. All day
long he shines in a blue and cloudless sky; but when he sets, it is
night. Hardly has his rim sunk behind the distant pines than it is
dark, and the nocturnal concert of frogs and owls has commenced; a
clear, strangely deceptive darkness, for on the ground one cannot see to
shoot a rabbit or a low-flying woodcock, yet overhead it is still light,
and day is prolonged for half an hour more. The sunset effects on the
western skies are gorgeous displays of rich colour, and even in the east
there is a rosy reflection which rapidly fades away.

But there is none of that pleasant half-light we enjoy in our northern
clime. The transition from day to night is startlingly sudden, twilight
lasting only a few minutes. The feathered race is well aware of this and
prepare for the event by going to roost a full half-hour before sundown.
One of the first signs of approaching night is the flight of the ravens.
Perhaps one has not realized the fact that the day is far spent, and is
reminded of it by their dark files slowly crossing the heavens towards
their roosting-places while it is yet broad daylight. The same habit is
observable with the smaller birds. All day long they have been abundant
enough; but during the last half-hour of daylight not one is to be seen,
and when their retreat is eventually found they are buried, some in the
pine-tops, others in thickets of myrtle or lentiscus-scrub--fast asleep
in daylight. Hence these half-hours at dusk produced but little. One
evening, while wandering among the pines, a buzzard dipped down from a
lower branch and silently sped away till a shot in the wing brought him
down. This bird proved to be one of the remarkably handsome pale
varieties of _Buteo vulgaris_, the whole plumage of a warm cream-colour,
slightly mottled and splashed above with dark brown; irides dark and
claws _white_. My brothers (H. and A.) obtained buzzards in somewhat
similar plumage in Germany (adults, shot at the nest) in the spring of
1878, but I have not otherwise met with the variety in Spain, the
Spanish type being generally dark. Waiting on the line of the raven's
flight, I dropped a pair of these birds: and shortly afterwards observed
two very large tawny-coloured eagles flap heavily into a pine, but
failed to approach within shot, or anything like it.

[Illustration: SPANISH GUNS.]

To return to our deer, and the delightful days spent among the pinales,
revelling in the lovely winter weather. Luck at length returned: after a
long day, during which several stags and one pig had been bagged, we
reached a small _mancha_ known as "El Rincon del Cerro Trigo." This was
a small beat, and the last of the day; nor was it expected to be
productive, as our beaters on a former drive must have skirted the outer
edge of the Rincon. My position was on the brink of a steep sand-slope,
perhaps fifty feet in height, its summit level with the tops of the
pines in the _mancha_ below. Outside there stretched away open barrens,
some small _corrales_ alone serving to break the monotony of utter
desolation. Hardly expecting a shot, I was sitting idly under cover of a
bushy pine-top which protruded, half-dead, from the verge of the steep
descent, when a hind mounted the slope and broke close at hand. This
aroused me, and a few seconds later she was followed by two
stags--eight-pointers--slowly crossing out over the open, a lovely shot.
They were only fifty yards off; but, owing to the irregular outline of
the _mancha_, my position was somewhat embayed, and it was necessary to
give the stags extra law to clear that part of our line which bent
backwards. I watched them traverse nearly fifty yards ere a shot was
permissible, and by that time they were partly hidden from view among
some slight hummocks. Any dead cistus or remnant of a sand-submerged
pine collects around it that shifting substance, and half-hidden amidst
these my stags were trotting forward when I gave them my double salute.
Both went on, but on emerging from the hummocks, the larger beast was
clearly hard-hit, though they continued cantering down the sloping
ground, and two more bullets at long range only raised little puffs from
the ground beyond. I knew I was sure of this stag; and a few minutes
later a finer beast emerged, the ivory tips of his antlers shining white
in the evening sunlight. Him, I resolved, I must have, and never was gun
laid on with more intense desire. The distance would be some eighty to
one hundred yards, and the stag treated the advent of two bullets with
what looked very like indifference, galloping off at top speed, despite
a third salute from the express ambushed on my right. I watched him away
to the edge of a small _corral_ half a mile off, and in which the two
first stags had sought a retreat. But it was all over with him--poor
beast, his course was run, and his tracks plainly told the tale to those
who could read--though I must admit I was not one of them. The _rastro_
of the first stag showed big blood-clouts almost from the shot, and he
was easily secured close by where he had disappeared from view. The
second was far less distinct; indeed, no sign of a "hit" was discerned
till just before reaching the distant _corral_. Here the faint trace,
tiny drops of blood, all enveloped in sand, quite indiscernible to my
eye, were instantly detected by the _guardas_. The dogs were laid on,
and within a few minutes we heard the crash which told of the stag at
bay. The final scene was just completed when I reached the spot--on
foot, for in the rough scramble through forest and broken ground I had
managed to get thrown, gun and all, and preferred to finish the pursuit
on my legs. The first ball had passed through the ribs, rather far
back; the second ("express") had entered his stern. The first stag was
also shot through the "lisk"--not brilliant performances, perhaps! but I
had got my two stags, the first carrying nine points, the second a
shapely wild head of eleven: and, since those days, we have now and then
succeeded in placing the rifle-ball in more orthodox positions.[76]
Quite the finest hart of this campaign fell on the same beat--a superb
head of fifteen points, having extremely broad and massive horns, though
of no special size of body. Total bag for the day: eight stags (two
royals) and two wild pig.

[Illustration: THE ELEVEN-POINTER.]

[Illustration: A FIFTEEN-POINTER.]

       *       *       *       *       *

As a sequel to the above, it may be interesting to annex the following
diploma of the "Royal and distinguished Order of Mae Corra," conferred
upon the writer shortly after the events narrated. Our readers may
translate it or leave it at their own risk.

     Por cuanto Don A---- B---- C----, vecino de Inglaterra ha hecho
     digno del distintivo que usan los cazadores de la Real y
     Distinguida Orden de la Mae Corra, matando por primera vez un
     venado de nueve puntas en la Mancha de Cerro del Trigo Coto de Dª
     Ana partido de la Marismilla termino de Almonte el 12 de Enero,

     Yo D. Carlos Fernandez Brescaglia, Decano de los cazadores de esta
     ciudad suficientemente autorizado expido el presente Diploma para
     que el referido Don A---- B---- C---- pueda usar libremente el
     mencionado distintivo que debe ser en un todo conforme al modelo

     Dado en San Lucar de Barrameda el 17 de Enero de 1878.

     El Decano,

     El Secretario,
     (Signed)       DOMINGO L. DE VILLEGAS.

     The insignia referred to represent a couple of stags' antlers,
     locked in mortal combat, with the legend:--

     "Ab istis ventis liberet te Deus si maritus es."

[Illustration: "DROPPED IN HIS TRACKS."]




Spanish, _Agachona_, _agachadiza_.

Portuguese, _Narceja_.

The Peninsula has always been famous for its snipe-shooting, but the
sport differs in some ways from that practised on British marsh or moor.
The snipe in Spain does not, as a rule, frequent rushes or other covert.
The Spanish marshes in winter afford scant covert of any kind; hence the
snipe is proportionately wilder. Rarely does the long-bill spring at
close range: the bulk of the bag must be cut down at such distances that
a snipe-shooter at home would very probably decline the offer--without
thanks. But there are exceptions to this. In certain localities,
particularly in Portugal, we have enjoyed excellent snipe-shooting on
wide-spread expanses of rushy marsh and under home conditions. The
rice-stubbles also, in districts where rice is grown, afford perhaps the
finest snipe-shooting, often with abundant covert.

Many of the best snipe-grounds, however, may be described as inundated
pastures. Here the summer-scorched herbage barely hides the naked
earth--or rather fine mud, more slippery than ice. The ground here,
however, is firm; the _deep-mud_ bogs are quite another, but equally
favourite resort. Before one's view there stretches away what appears to
be a verdant meadow, dead level, and clad in rich green grass. Walk out
on it, and you find it is bog, soft as pulp--millions of flat-topped,
quivering tussocks, each separated by narrow intervals of squashy
slime, knee-deep if you are lucky; the tussocks afford no foothold, the
slime no stability--you cannot stand still, yet hardly dare advance.
Before you, behind you, to the right and left, rise snipe in scores--in
clouds: the air resounds with petulant, tantalizing cries. But you
cannot steady yourself for an instant to shoot: to halt on hummock or
balance on mire is equally impossible--not that it matters much, for
hardly a snipe has sprung within fifty yards; the majority at over one
hundred. At length one rises close at hand--a jack, probably--and in a
supreme effort to avenge outraged dignity by his death, equilibrium is
hopelessly lost, and the snipe-shooter slowly sinks to a sitting posture
amidst mire and mud that reaches to his waistcoat-pockets.

So extremely flat and naked are these marshes that not a snipe, one
would imagine, could manage to hide thereon. Yet even with a powerful
field-glass not a single snipe can be detected where hundreds are
squatting. Their power of concealment is marvellous, and is recognized
in the Spanish name, "_agachar_" meaning to hide, or "lie low."

Where the flight of the birds is known, or where two or three
well-frequented marshes lie adjacent, excellent sport may be had by
lying in wait at one bog whilst the others are being shot over. This is
a matter of local knowledge. A driven snipe, or string of snipes, high
overhead, or a jack pitching in to alight, like a butterfly in a breeze,
offer shots as varied and difficult as even our modern masters of
legerdemain in the arts of gunnery can well desire.

Broadly speaking, all the best snipe-grounds in accessible
districts--aye, and some fairly inaccessible ones too--may be said to be
preserved. There may, probably do, exist unknown and unpreserved spots
which would abundantly reward the explorer; but, in a general way, the
casual sportsman on the unpreserved wilds of Spain or Portugal should
not reckon on more than ten, twelve, or perhaps fifteen brace of snipe
per day. On preserved grounds, the following figures, selected at random
from records of over twenty years, will best show the sport that may be
had with snipe in Southern Spain:--

_Nov. 20, 1873._--Catalana (3 guns), 166 snipe, 1 pigeon, 10 quail, 1
landrail = 178 head.

_Nov. 30, 1873._--Catalana (2 guns), 115 snipe, 2 woodcock, 3 rails, 1
waterhen, 1 bittern = 122 head.

_Dec. 21, 1873._--El Torno (3 guns), 108 snipe, 17 woodcock, 3 rabbits,
8 golden plover, 2 pigeons, 1 badger = 139 head.

_Dec. 20, 1874._--Retuerta (4 guns), 160 snipe, 36 duck and teal, a
marsh-harrier, and 8 sundries = 205 head.

_Nov. 18, 1877._--Retuerta (3 guns, half day), 103 snipe, 4 quail, 2
partridge, 6 ducks, 1 goose, 2 rails, 1 eagle = 119 head.

_Nov. 19, 1882._--(3 guns), 155 snipe, 28 sundries.

_Dec. 1886._--(1 gun), 96 snipe: 20 couple shot passing over one spot,
from one marsh to another.

_Dec. 4, 1889._--Rocina (6 guns), 232 snipe, besides partridge, quail,
duck, &c.

_Dec. 12, 1889._--Retuerta (2 guns, W. E. Brymer and W. J. B.), 60
snipe, 58 ducks, 11 geese = 129 head.


Spanish, _Chocha_--(Andalucia) _Gallineta_.

Arrives in November, but never in any quantities--ten or twelve couple
in a day is an unusual bag, and we have none worth recording.

The latest woodcocks shot in Andalucia are about the middle of March.


Spanish, _Codorniz_.

Though not strictly marsh-birds, yet quails at times abound among the
moist rushy prairies, both of Spain and Portugal, and hardly a hillock
of drier ground or microscopic patch of maize-stubble but will yield a
brace or two.

The largest bag we can find recorded in our game-books is 52 brace in a
day; but believe this has been, and certainly easily might be, largely
exceeded. At certain passage-periods the Andalucian _vegas_ simply swarm
with this dashing little game-bird, and at such times, with dogs well
entered to quail, very large bags might be secured by any one specially
following them.

One afternoon, when returning from snipe-shooting, we fell in with an
_entrada_ of quail, in a belt of dry rush and sedges, and had bagged
27-1/2 couples in much less than an hour, when daylight and cartridges
ran short.

ANDALUCIAN QUAIL.--Unlike its larger relative, this small quail is not
migratory; a few are found at all seasons, especially on the dry
palmetto-plains, where at dusk its curious "roaring" note, from which is
derived its Spanish name _torillo_ = little bull, is often audible.

Our friend, Mr. W. R. Teage, meets with a few of this small bush-quail
nearly every year when shooting near Ovar, in Portugal--generally in


Spanish, _Grulla_.

He who eats the flesh of crane, runs a Spanish proverb, lives a hundred
years[77]--and beyond all question the stately _Grulla_ is one of the
wariest and most difficult birds to circumvent.

Cranes are common enough throughout all the open _vegas_ and
corn-growing plains of Andalucia from early autumn till spring: few days
but one sees them either passing high overhead in loudly-gaggling
skeins, or feeding in troops on the newly-sown beans or wheat. In the
latter case, cranes are not infrequently mistaken for bustard, but
rarely permit the cordon of mounted men to be drawn around their
position; for, though rarely sought after, the crane is imbued with even
wilder spirit than the much-prized bustard. For many years, the few
_Grullas_ we succeeded in killing were merely chance-shots at bands
passing over, when we had happened to be concealed by tall sedges or
bulrush; and even these only by virtue of mould-shot at very great

During a recent winter, however, we discovered a means of shooting these
wary fowl. It is the habit of a crane to assemble at some remote marsh
for the purpose of roosting. By day, it should be specially remarked,
the crane is _not_ a marsh-haunting bird, but is only seen on _dry_
ground, feeding entirely on grain, acorns, and the like; but invariably
retiring to the marshes, or wettest spot on the prairie, to roost.
Towards the sequestered swamp selected for their _dormidero_, during the
last hour of daylight, files of cranes may be seen winging their stately
course. As darkness gathers round, the assembling host presents an
animated scene, while the music of their magnificent trumpet-note
resounds for miles around.

Such a spectacle we witnessed one March evening when on a
bustard-shooting expedition; and returning a week later, had, at length,
the wary cranes at our mercy. Ensconced in "blinds" of rudely-woven
carices near the centre of a dreary swamp, we soon had these majestic
birds filing close overhead, or flapping past at pistol-range. Not less
than 500 cranes must have appeared, "flighting" from every point of the
compass, and the sight, with the sound of their clarion-notes, formed,
for half an hour, as impressive a spectacle of bird-life as we have

There is intense gratification in out-generalling any animal that has
long defied one's efforts; but it is rather a sense of supremacy than
mere slaughter that is sought. After shooting seven specimens of the
"flighting" _Grullas_, we were content, and have never since molested
them. This marsh, which, being "ten miles from anywhere," is an awkward
place for evening flight-shooting, continued to be their nightly resort
till well on into April, after which date the crane disappears from
Southern Spain; though (as elsewhere recorded) a small and decreasing
colony continues to breed in the neighbourhood of the Lagunas de Janda.


(_Grus virgo._)

We have seen several examples of this beautiful species shot in the
marismas and corn-plains of Andalucia during the spring-months. It is
just possible that a few pairs may still breed somewhere in that wide
region, though no ornithologist has yet succeeded in establishing the



Spanish, _Cigueña_.

Though not a sporting bird in any sense, and in some respects almost
_sacred_, the stork attracts the sportsman's attention by its size,
boldly-marked plumage, and majestic appearance on the wing. Nesting
chiefly in the towns, on churches and other buildings, as well as on the
peasants' cots and on trees in the country, storks are dispersed in
hundreds during winter over the marshy plains, though many also migrate
to Africa at that season. Their food consists of frogs, as well as
lizards and various small reptiles and insects; in May we have watched
them snapping up locusts by dozens.


Spanish, _Cigueña negra_.

The only birds of this species we have killed are a pair, shot right and
left, near Jerez, in March, many years ago. We have reason to believe
that the black stork breeds on the Upper Guadiana, and in Castile have
observed it in May.

On May 16th, 1891, we watched a pair which evidently had a nest in the
crags overhanging the Rio Alberche, New Castile, but had not time to
discover its exact position. Manuel de la Torre states that it breeds
yearly in the Montes de Toledo.


Spanish, _Ave-toro, garza-mochuelo_.

Twenty winters ago, in the marshes below Ovar, in Portugal, my dog
_Nilo_ came to a "point" near a clump of thick sedges. Two yards before
his nose I espied a strange apparition--a mere point erect amidst the
rank herbage, hardly thicker than and much resembling a sere and yellow
flag: there was no visible semblance of head or form--only a sharp
beak, and an eye which seemed to be a part thereof; the whole slim
object pointing vertically heavenward. Next moment the insignificant
point developed into a huge brown bird--more and more expanses of brown
feathers emerged from the sedge till a pair of heavy green hanging legs
wound up the procession. When both barrels were emptied, I had time to
perceive that a bittern was slowly flapping away.

Those were bitter moments: but since then we have killed many a bittern
while snipe-shooting, and could have killed many more had there been any
object; for they lie very close, and offer a mark like a haystack.

According to the Spanish peasants, the flesh of the bittern is
health-giving (_muy saludable_): and the same worthies also state that
the strange boom is produced with the beak half-immersed in water.


The landrail, reversing its home habits, is only found in Spain in
autumn and winter, its well-known spring-note being never heard in this
southern land. The common water-rail, the spotted crake and Baillon's
crake are all three abundant in winter in the marshes--more so than in
spring: and we have also shot the small (unspotted) crake--on one
occasion, one of these intensely-skulking birds was induced to take wing
by a dead snipe falling right on to his strangely compressed little

Water-hens are as common as at home; and at rare intervals the great
purple water-hen is sprung by the spaniels from some sedgy morass. This
fine bird, like the crakes, is very difficult to flush; but on occasion,
when burning the cane-brakes to drive out deer, wild cats, &c., we have
seen two or three in a day.

Coots (two species) in certain localities afford fine sport, by
"driving" with a number of boats: we have bagged thus over 100 in a day,
besides other wildfowl; and grebes, also of two species, besides the
little dabchick, are also abundant.


It is unnecessary to add more than a mere list of the various _Anatidæ_
to be met with in winter in Southern Spain.

Grey geese arrive in thousands in November to remain till February. Our
best bags (flight-shooting) are: in one day, 81; in four days, 247. This
was in November, 1889. The great majority of these are greylags, the
remainder being of the "bean" description. We have shot no other
species, though others occur. The Spanish name for all geese is
_anseres_ or _gansos_.

Mallard (_pato real_).--Common at all seasons.

Pintail (_rabudo_).--Abundant in _wet_ winters; in dry seasons they pass
on into Africa.

Shoveler (_paleton_).--Abundant every winter.

Gadwall (_friso_, or _silbon real_).--Rather scarce in winter; a few
breed in Andalucia.

Wigeon (_silbon_).--In millions, October till March.

Garganey (_capitanes_, or _caretones_).--Irregular; some years many are
shot in November, and again in March.

Teal (_zarceta_).--Come in clouds in October.

Marbled Duck (_pardilla_, or _ruhilla_).--A summer duck, rarely seen
after the end of November. Returns in March, and breeds in hundreds.

Pochard (_cabezon_).--Only _locally_ common, in winter.

Tufted Duck.--Have shot these occasionally on the rivers in winter, and
up to April.

White-eyed Pochard (_negrete_).--Chiefly a summer duck, but common in
November and early December, and again in February.

White-faced Duck (_porron_).--Another summer duck, not seen in

Scoter (_pato negro_).--In big flights on the coast in winter: shot a
drake on Guadalquivir, April 8th.

Merganser.--Once or twice shot in winter--the only member of the
_merginæ_ we have met with.

Sheld-duck (_pato-tarro_, or _ansareta_).--Several shot in winter in
marisma. Some remain to breed.

Ruddy Sheld-duck (_labanco, pato canelo_).--A few shot in winter and
early spring: breeds in _barrancos_ or low cliffs in the Isla Menor, &c.

NOTE.--The ducks of the Spanish marismas are extremely irregular as to
the species which appear: these varying with the seasons and state of
the water. Thus, one winter, pintails will swarm; another, gadwalls and
garganeys are conspicuous; the next, at corresponding seasons, one or
the other will, perhaps, be almost entirely absent.


Spanish, _Cisne_.

These are rare and exceptional stragglers to Southern Spain. In
February, 1891 (a severe winter further north), we found four wild
swans--two fully adult, one of them a very large bird--frequenting the
Lucios de la Madre, in the marismas of Guadalquivir. They were very
wild, and even when alone and separate from other fowl, refused to allow
the approach of our gunning-punt. Eventually we fired at them at long
range (No. 1 shot), but, though one was badly struck, we failed to
secure it: have little doubt, from their note and appearance, they were


Since writing the above, we have enjoyed a new experience--a
duck-shooting campaign in August. During two days, some 250 ducks were
bagged, of which half were mallards (the drakes already distinguishable
on wing), and of the rest the greater proportion were marbled ducks, the
following species being also included:--gadwall, garganey, ferruginous
and white-faced ducks, ruddy sheld-duck, three or four teal, and two

The latter were probably wounded birds lingering since the preceding
winter; which may also, perhaps, explain the presence of three greylag
geese which were seen but not secured. Several common snipe were also
shot--these facts afford "food for reflection!"

During the shooting, the air was alive with birds; besides ducks, there
were herons of all sorts--old and young--egrets, white spoonbills,
night-herons--many young ones, brown and speckled like
bitterns--together with crested and eared grebes, dabchicks, terns,
coots and pratincoles in thousands; while above all, sailed files of
glossy ibis with curious barking croaks, several cormorants, and a
string of cranes.

Among miscellaneous birds shot were most of the above, with little
bitterns, various rails and one purple waterhen, little gulls, whimbrels
(?) and bar-tailed godwit.

It is worth adding that a dead bird, left floating, was completely
devoured in less than five minutes by water-beetles (_Dyticus_), which
hollowed out the body and left nothing, but empty skin and feathers! One
felt that, had one the bad luck to get bogged, these creatures were
capable of making away with a man well under half an hour.





Though left to the last, the system of "_rastreando_," as it is called
in Spanish--stalking or "still-hunting," as we have rendered it in
English (though neither expression is perhaps a precise equivalent),
affords some of the prettiest sport to be obtained with the rifle in the
Peninsula. As an example of this sport, we have taken our latest and not
least successful deer-stalking expedition, which took place in March,
1892--exactly twenty years after the campaign recorded in the _first_
chapter (p. 23) of our book.

There only remained a few days before the season for deer-shooting would
close. For more than a week we had been ready awaiting a change in the
weather; but heavy rains day by day delayed a start. Never had there
been known so wet a winter. From the Giralda tower at Seville, the whole
country appeared a sea, and the great river, in the early days of March,
was causing serious anxieties to the Sevillanos, having reached a higher
level than local records had hitherto known. Already its angry waters
dashed in foam over the key-stones of Triana bridge; the transpontine
suburb was submerged to the second floors; from its flat roofs starving
men and women cried for bread as boats passed by, navigating,
Venetian-fashion, the flooded streets. The city itself was an
island--only preserved from inundation by incessant labour at the
embankments, over whose topmost stones the menacing waves already
lapped, when a lull in the storm saved Seville. A breach in that
embankment or a further rise, and the stately and historic city had
been swept away--as Consuegra and many a small town or village was swept
away in Southern Spain daring the terrible floods of 'ninety-two.

Such climatic conditions would not be wholly unfavourable for
deer-stalking--reducing the area over which the game is
scattered--provided there should now be some cessation of the down-pour.
A lull had at length occurred, and the writer set out from Seville to
spend the few remaining days of the season in a remote region of those
brush-clad prairies which cover so vast an area in Southern Spain. My
only companions were two Spanish _cazadores_, brothers, men of keen eye
and of tried skill in woodcraft. The object was to endeavour by
_rastreando_, or still-hunting, to secure a few of the old and wary
stags which roamed over these barren down-lands; but which were far too
cunning to lose their lives in the customary Spanish _batidas_, or
drives. Was it possible, single-handed, and on such comparatively open
ground, to out-manœuvre these old forest-monarchs, which, on a former
visit, we had seen make good their escape from six or eight rifles? This
question we decided to solve, and to devote the remaining days to
"still-hunting," abandoning every other form of attack.

The rains had left much of these rolling downs too wet for shelter, many
of the thickets and patches of "scroggy" wood being breast-deep in
water. The _picaros tunantes_, _i.e._, cunning old rogues, as Manuel
termed our friends the big stags, were therefore reduced for dry-lying
to the higher ridges and plateaux of the plains; and these, it chanced,
lay at the greatest distance--a long two-days' ride.


The sun was low ere our horses' hoofs resounded on dry land, instead of
the constant splash, splosh through flooded hollows or standing pools of
rain-water. Here, too, the swelling prairie afforded rather more covert.
We had now reached favourable ground, and from each rising point we
examined the surrounding country with minute scrutiny, scanning each
nook and corner with the binoculars. After a while we made out the head
of a stag, apparently feeding beyond a belt of _abolágas_ and
jungle-grass. A direct stalk--which otherwise seemed fairly
feasible--would, under existing conditions, have necessitated _swimming_
a considerable part of the distance, and the lateness of the hour
forbade our making a long detour, which also seemed to offer a chance of
success. We therefore adopted a third course, and after quickly covering
some two miles, mostly through prickly spear-grass or water, reached a
ridge which my companion reckoned would command the course of the deer
as he led forward. On peering through the bushes on the crest, the stag
was nowhere to be seen--we had overshot the point, and he was now far to
the right. Before us stretched a long tongue of marshy water, choked
with grasses, and aquatic herbage floating on its surface. With a
sardonic grin, M. assured me that that grass would prove the death of
our stag. "He will feed along that pool," he whispered, "nibbling the
water-plants and sprouting grass; but first the daylight must decline."
Ten minutes later, the antlers showed, stealing from some distant
covert; then the beast stepped into the open, advancing towards the
water. But suspicion torments him--between each petulant snatch at the
herbage, he stops and listens, raises his antlered head to gaze back
towards the point whence we had first viewed him: he little thinks the
enemy he fears behind is now close in his front. Presently suspicion
seems allayed: he advances with stealthy strides along the grassy edge,
and already approaches the limits of very long range. The express was
ready cocked when the stag recommenced sniffing and gazing, now he turns
and walks away: the wind is shifty, and to get it full in his nostrils
he bears from us. Clearly he will not now pass our point near enough for
a shot, so back to lower ground we "slither," and run forward at best
speed to cut him out at another point. Still he is out of shot--800
yards off--and another race to the front is necessary, a lung-trying
spin of a quarter-mile. Now, we must perforce rest, panting, for a few
moments, ere we again crawl up the ascent and "speer" over the ridge.
The stag is nowhere to be seen--yes, there he is! he has both heard and
seen us now, and is bounding at top-speed over our very ridge, not
seventy yards in advance. Ere the rifle can be levelled and a ball
dispatched, the stag has dipped the crest: but the second barrel, after
a flying run to the ridge, affords more deliberate aim at about 120
yards. "He has it," quietly remarks my companion, and as the galloping
stag displays his extended flank, the blood-patch on his side is clearly
marked, but _too far back_. Poor beast! though fatally struck, there is
no chance to recover him to-night, for already the sun dips behind the
distant _pinales_--it is too late to think of following him, and sadly
we return to our horses. Ten miles to ride, and the evening spent
discussing "muckle harts" and their haunts on the neighbouring wilds.

All night wind and rain: at daybreak the clouds indicated better things,
but after a few fitful gleams of sunlight, the deluge set in once more.
This and the next day were very bad:--wasted. It was only possible to
pass the time shooting a few rabbits for the use of the _rancho_--the
partridges were all paired long ago; but a lucky shot at a nervous band
of sand-grouse secured four, and in some rush-clad backwaters we picked
up a few snipe and two or three couples of wild-duck.

Next morning, at dawn, we set out to look for deer, the pannier-ponies
following at a distance, with instructions never to come up unless shots
had been fired. Facing the gale, we struck out across far-extending
heaths, where the scrub, as a rule, is of convenient height for shooting
over, but where, in the hollows or dells, are found deep thickets, or
_manchas_. These jungle-patches cover from one or two up to thirty acres
in extent: here the growth of thorny shrub and pampas-grass is much
higher, thicker, and more densely entwined, affording secure "lying" for
deer and other animals.

No rain had fallen since the early hours of the morning: hence the
light, sodden soil exhibited the traces of every beast which had
traversed it to perfection. It was some time before we found tracks
large enough to betoken one of our friends, the _tunantes_. The brothers
had followed two or three _rastros_ for short distances, but were not
satisfied with their importance. Small stags, hinds, lynx, fox and boar
had wandered hither and thither, and were now doubtless sleeping away
the hours of daylight in some of the neighbouring thickets. Hours
passed, but no _rastro gordo_ (heavy track) was discovered, though every
sign and impress on the light sandy soil was read as a book by the
brothers, who quartered the ground to right and left like a brace of
first-rate setters. M. was the first to find: suddenly he stopped and
beckoned:--yes, those prints are undoubtedly of far larger hoofs than
any we have yet seen: nor are they the spoor of one _tunante_, but of
two. Here, says M., look where the two big beasts have stopped together
to nibble the shoots of this _escobon_ (genista)--there they have
stripped a _romero_ (rosemary) of its mauve-coloured blossoms--and here,
along this hollow, they have taken their way at daybreak, direct towards
some thicket-sanctuary. Now, we will not leave them, adds the wild man,
till you have had a _carambola á boca de jarro!_ "a right-and-left at
half-range." For three or four miles, we follow the line, the men hardly
deigning to look on the ground, but making, as by instinct, for points
at which we invariably picked up the trail. At first it was all plain
sailing; but presently we came to places where to our eyes no trace of
spoor existed--to swamps where the uninitiated would detect no sign in
bruised water-flower or bent sedge-shoot; we passed beneath
pine-coppices where the thick-lying needles told _him_ no tale of nimble
feet that had pressed them hours before. At such spots a check
occasionally occurred, when the brothers, muttering maledictions on old
stags in general, and still more scandalous reflections on the maternal
ancestry of these two in particular, opened out till one or the other
caught the thread. The discovery was signalled by holding up a hand, and
on we file, all three pressing quickly forward along the fatal trail. A
pretty sight to watch these men cast like sleuth-hounds, when the trace
was apparently lost--though lost it never was.

Now, after four miles or more, the trail gave certain indications that
were interpreted to mean a desire on the part of the deer to seek
shelter for the day--not a change in their course but its import was
calculated by the hunters. As the spoor approached each small jungle,
the writer went forward in advance, leaving the men to follow the
_rastro_. Several thickets had been tried in this way, but each time the
beasts had passed through and gone on. Now there stretched away before
us a long narrow belt of covert, and approaching this the indications of
the spoor showed that the two deer, as the men put it, _van de
recojida_, _i.e._, had entered the jungle wearily, and would now be
couched within it. The covert was too long to risk putting the gun at
the end, as the game might break on either side; so we decided to walk
through it in line. Unluckily the growth was dense and high--in most
places we could not see two yards in front, a tantalizing situation when
one knew that each step might now bring one to the promised
right-and-left! We had barely progressed 200 yards when the startled
deer arose.[78] I heard the rush and the crash of the undergrowth, but
could see nothing; my ear told me they had gone to the right, and
pushing through the jungle in that direction, a slight clearing in the
long grass showed a glimpse of the two heads appearing now and again
above the scrub as the deer bounded away. I fired both barrels of the
express, directing one at each animal. After the shots nothing could be
seen; but one hart was down, a beast of twelve points. The other barrel
appeared to have been a miss--the larger _tunante_ of the two had
escaped, _Caramba!_ Not for long did such doubts torment us, for, on
cutting off the spoor outside the covert, the tell-tale blood was seen
on the cistus-twigs and on the sandy soil. We followed the wounded beast
for four hours through possible and even impossible places. His pace
never slackened--he seemed to be bound for Portugal. I suggested
slipping a couple of dogs; but the idea was overruled. "The _tunante_ is
struck in the haunch," said they, "and before dogs, would run for hours:
he would reach the big _pinales_, six leagues away. Our chance consists
in his keeping the more open ground and smaller thickets. Before sundown
we will overtake him; but _then_, you must put your bullet in a better
place." These bloodhounds never doubted--on we went, patiently following
the now easier trail, and before sundown we _did_ overtake him. Then, as
he rushed from a clump of big bulrushes in a shallow lagoon, where the
fevered beast had lain down in the water, the express bullet lodged in
_el mismissimo corazon_=in his very heart: and the panniers were
balanced with two of the heaviest old stags that ever roamed on
Andalucian plain.

The next day, a downpour of rain just at the critical moment--when game
and other wild beasts are returning to their lairs--obliterated every
_rastro_, and a fresh stratagem had to be employed. This was to find and
rouse the stag, and then to follow the trail--necessarily a longer and
more delicate operation than that last described, since the suspicions
of the animal are thoroughly aroused; he is alarmed, and traverses great
distances ere again he goes to cover. He is, moreover, apt to go away
very wild on the second approach. The half-inundated condition of the
country, however, was in our favour; and late in the afternoon, having
traced a stag for many weary leagues, I had the satisfaction of pulling
down a beast of "royal" rank by a very long shot.

The next day--and the last of the season--might have been one of those
contributory to the Noachian deluge. Again, despite wind and weather, a
_venado_ of eleven points rewarded our efforts. This stag gave us much
trouble: put up early in the morning, it was night ere he was secured.
My first shot, a long one, struck him heavily, but he ran for hours
before the dogs. We took to our horses in pursuit, but thrice he foiled
us--both scent and spoor being obliterated by the rain. Twice, by wide
"casts" of a mile or more in circuit, we recovered the lost thread, but
the third time not a trace could we discover, and had almost given him
up for lost, when he jumped up, a long way ahead, before the dogs. At
top-speed we ran him to the deep waters of Martinazo, and when at last
we overhauled him, he was making his last gallant fight with the two
hounds, which held him at bay, breast-deep, in the moonlight.

During the long homeward ride on the morrow, we came on the big round
"pugs" of a lynx, and after following them a couple of miles to his
lair, he, too--a big and handsome male--was added to the bag by a single
shot from the express. By nightfall we again reached the outposts of
civilization, well content with the results of the campaign--four good
stags and a lynx--and the wind-up of the sporting season of 1891-92.






The large game, or _caza mayor_, of Spain comprises nine or ten animals,
several of which have been dealt with specifically in separate chapters.
We now describe more particularly those not mentioned elsewhere, and
complete a general review of other Spanish _mammalia_ by a few
supplementary remarks.

The beasts of chase in the Peninsula are the red, roe, and fallow deer;
the Spanish ibex and chamois; wild boars, and bears of two varieties,
the wolf and Spanish lynx.

RED DEER (_Cervus elaphus_).

Spanish: _Ciervo_, _Venado_.

Scattered locally throughout the Peninsula, the Spanish red deer present
two distinct types, both differing from the Scotch animal in the absence
of the neck-ruff, or mane. The forest-deer of the wooded plains, or
_cotos_, carry small and rather narrow heads, measuring from 24 to 28
inches in length of horn, and some 18 to 24 in beam.

The mountain-deer, on the other hand, often exhibit a magnificent
horn-development. We have seen heads from the Sierra Morena, and from
the Montes de Toledo, whose massive antlers rival those of the wapiti,
reaching 36 and even 40 inches and upwards in length, with a breadth of
three feet.

The rutting season of the red deer commences in the Coto Doñana at the
end of August (the last quarter of the August moon), and continues till
the full moon in September. We have seen fawns following their mothers
as early as January, but May is the month when they are usually dropped.

The antlers fall in April--few stags are seen with them in May. During
the hornless period of spring and summer, the stags seek shelter in the
densest thickets with damp lying: they also "lie out," like hares, in
open country, and it is surprising how they conceal themselves--a big
hart will lie completely hidden among rushes not two feet high. The
flies at this season are a terrible torture to them, attacking the
sprouting horns and tender surroundings.

Deer-shooting commences in November, and ends in February or early in
March; and it is only necessary to add that all lands in which deer are
found, both on mountain and plain, are preserved.



                               Length.   Circumference.       Beam.
  No. 1.     8 points (small)   17-3/4        3-1/2        16-1/2 inches.
   "  2.    11   "       "      24-1/4        3-3/4        19-1/2    "
   "  3.    12   "    (royal)   29            5-1/4        25        "
   "  4.    13   "       "      22-3/4        4-1/16       22-1/2    "


                              Length.           Beam.
  No. 1.      12 points    34-1/2 inches.    32     inches.
   "  2.      12   "       36        "       34        "
   "  3.      15   "       37-1/2    "       34-1/2    "
   "  4.{**}  17   "       40        "       36-1/2    "

{**} No. 4. This magnificent beast, of which we annex two photos (see
pp. 360 and 430), was shot near Marmolejos in the Sierra Morena.

FALLOW DEER (_Cervus dama_).

In Spanish: _Gamo_, _Paleto_.

These deer are not indigenous, but were introduced by the Romans,
probably from Asia Minor; and are, as at home, more or less private
property. At the same time they exist in a perfectly wild state, and
quite unenclosed, at several places--especially in the neighbourhood of
Madrid, where the Royal estates of Aranjuéz, Rio-frio, El Pardo, &c.,
have tended to disseminate a wild race outside their boundaries.

The Spanish fallow deer are of the spotted axis-like type.


(_Cervus capreolus_.)

Though plentiful in the wooded ravines of the sierras, where it
frequents sapling-thickets in preference either to scrub or forest
proper, yet the roe is seldom made a special object of pursuit. The few
roebuck--in Spanish, _corzo_--that have fallen to our guns have been
killed when in pursuit of pig or other game.

Yet to this deer we owe as narrow an escape as can be faced; while
roe-shooting in the Sierra de la Jarda, and riding along a precipitous
goat-track, a projecting crag barred the way: in rounding the
obstruction, it was necessary that the horses should simultaneously make
an upward step or two on a sort of rock-stair. During this awkward
manœuvre, one _jaca_ brought his flank sharply in collision with the
crag, struggled for one desperate moment to recover equilibrium, and
then plunged, broadside on, down the precipice. His rider, springing
from the stirrups, clutched a _retamo_ bush, and thus hung suspended
"between the devil and the deep." Poor _Bolero_ fell crashing through
the ilexes that clung to the crag--we could hear the smashing of branch
after branch as he broke his way downwards. We descended to recover the
gun, saddle, and equipments from the killed horse; but, to our
amazement, found him quietly grazing--the gun still in the slings, the
bridle over his nose--hardly, beyond a cut or two, the worse for his
adventure. The fall was over 100 feet, but the stout branches of ilex
and _chaparro_, with a marvellous measure of luck, had saved his life.

Roebuck, in Spain, are mostly killed with large shot (slugs), not ball;
and to those who are content with this game, nearly all the southern
sierras would yield a measure of sport, combined with occasional
chances at pig, and this often on unpreserved grounds.

Roe are confined to the mountains--never found on the plains.

THE SPANISH IBEX (_Capra hispanica_).

Of the _Cabra montés_ we have already treated (chapters xi. to xiii.,
pp. 128-172), and now add some notes which we contributed to the
_Badminton Library_ through our friend Mr. C. Phillipps-Wolley, the
editor of the Big Game volumes.

[Illustration: FIVE-YEAR-OLD IBEX.]

The Spanish mountaineer does not much affect ibex-hunting, though there
are in each mountain-village some who try to earn a few precarious
dollars by it. The peasants who follow this pursuit in the alpine
regions of Spain become fearless climbers: with their feet clad in
_alparagatas_, or hemp-soled sandals, they traverse ridges and descend
crags where nail-shod guide would falter. The first object is to get as
high as possible. Then, crawling to the verge of some fearful abyss, the
hunter commands the depths below, and, if he descry ibex, is enabled to
approach without the warning of the wind. Should he see none, he
imitates the shrill cry of the female, and not unfrequently a ram is
thus betrayed by the whistle of love. The ibex-hunter must be provided
with lungs of leather, a steady hand and eye, and untiring limbs.

The best time for ibex-shooting is during July and August, when
camping-out on the higher regions is practicable and even enjoyable. The
snow-storms and frozen state of the snow render the winter-and
spring-shooting both dangerous and uncertain.

When ibex are known to be frequenting the lower valleys and chasms of
the sierra, guns are concealed among the broken rocks in the higher
regions commanding the ravines by which the _montéses_ are accustomed to
ascend. Then the beaters enter from below, shots and unearthly yells
disturb the timid animals, and slowly they ascend the mountain-side,
listening ever and anon as they look down from some shelving ledge or
giddy point. So slowly, indeed, do they sometimes come that the hunter
may contemplate them for minutes before he can despatch his bullet. At
some vital spot it must take effect or the trophy is lost. Such is the
vital resistance of the wild-goat that unless killed outright he will
manage to gain some inaccessible precipice, and there on a hanging ledge
give up his life.

CHAMOIS (_Antilope rupicapra_).

Spanish: _Rebeco_, _Sario_.

The stronghold of the chamois--the _Izard_ of the French hunters,
_Rebeco_ of Cantabria, and _Sario_ in Arragon--is in the Pyrenees, and
their western prolongation, the Cantabrian ranges of Santander, the
Asturias, &c. They are specially abundant near the Picos de Europa. This
animal is not found on any of the cordilleras of Central or Southern
Spain. Mr. Packe's statement that he saw two on a misty morning in the
Sierra Nevada probably arose from the similarity in size and form of the
horns of the young or female ibex. Chamois inhabit only the loftiest,
most wild and rocky mountain-summits, and are killed (usually with large
shot) in big "_batidas_," or drives. How they manage to sustain life on
these barren snow-clad heights _in winter_--since they never descend to
the lower levels--passes understanding; but the case of the ibex is no
less inexplicable.

Lord Lilford writes:--In my opinion the chamois of the Pyrenees is very
distinct from the chamois of Central Europe and Turkey.


NOTE.--_Wild Sheep_:--It is somewhat remarkable that the moufflon, which
is found as near as Corsica and Sardinia, should be entirely unknown in
the Spanish cordilleras.

BEAR (_Ursus arctos_).

Spanish: _Oso_.

There are in Spain two kinds of bear--it would, perhaps, be more correct
to say two varieties--the large, dark-coloured beast, and the small
brown bear, or _Hormiguero_ = ant-eater. The latter, which is not
uncommon in the Asturias, feeds on roots, ants'-nests, honey, and
such-like humble fare; while the big black bear, distinguished as
_Carnicero_, preys on goats, sheep, pigs, &c., and even pulls down
horned cattle.

Bear-hunting is confined to the north--to the Pyrenees and the
Cantabrian Highlands. A primitive method of pursuit survives in certain
high-lying villages of the Asturias, where the mountaineers face Bruin,
armed only with pike and knife. These men are associated in a sort of
fraternal band, and the occupation passes from father to son. The
_osero_, accompanied only by his dogs, seeks the bear amidst the
recesses of the sierra, and engages him in single combat. His equipment
consists of a broad-bladed hunting-knife and a double dagger, each of
whose triangular blades fits into a central handle.

By less vigorous sportsmen, bear-hunting is carried on by calling into
requisition a large number of men and dogs--usually with the assistance
of the _oseros_, and by the more discreet use of fire-arms, vice cold

The neighbourhood of Madrid was once described as "_buen monte de puerco
y oso_" (good country for pig and bear), and the city itself as "_la
coronada villa del oso y madroño_;" but bears no longer exist in either
of the Castiles. The small _Hormiguero_ is confined to the Asturias: the
larger beast is also fairly common there, and not rare in Navarre,
Arragon, and, possibly, Catalonia.

WILD BOAR (_Sus scrofa_).

Spanish: _Javato_, _Javali_.

The wild boar has always abounded in Spain, and its chase ever held a
chief place among Spanish sports--in olden times on horseback with pike
and lance. During the middle ages the pursuit of falconry took such hold
upon the national taste, that the pigs were almost forgotten, and
towards the close of the fifteenth century they became a positive
scourge, devastating the crops and invading the outlying portions even
of great cities. With the Renaissance came the application of science to
sporting weapons; and, with gunpowder substituted for cold steel, the
boar had a bad time of it; he was shot down as he rushed from his
thicket-lair, or assassinated as he took his nocturnal rambles.

In Estremadura the favourite _chasse au sanglier_ is still with horse
and hound. During the stillness of a moonlight night, when the acorns
are falling from the oaks in the magnificent Estremenian woods, a party
of horsemen assemble to await the boars, which at night descend from the
mountains to feed. Then a trained hound, termed the _maestro_, which
throws tongue only to pig, is slipped: should he succeed in bringing a
tusker to bay, a dozen strong dogs, half-bred mastiffs, are despatched
to his assistance. Off they rush like demons, to the challenge of the
_maestro_, followed by the horsemen, and there ensues a break-neck ride
and a struggle with a grizzly tusker in the half-light, which are
sufficiently exciting to make this sport a favourite with the
_valientes_ of Estremadura.

It is possible that, on the southern plains, pig-sticking might be
attempted. The country is, however, very rough, much intercepted with
cane-brakes and dense jungles of matted brushwood and briar.

In the vast cane-brakes which fringe the Guadiana are found enormous
boars, whose tusks, as they charge, resemble a white collar encircling
the neck.

We have noticed the young following their mothers as early as January.
The piglings are at first pretty little beasts, yellowish-brown, striped
longitudinally with black bars. In May we have observed the old sows and
young associated into herds of twenty or more.

WOLF (_Canis lupus_).

Spanish: _Lobo_.

These Ishmaelites of the animal-world, though common enough in all the
wilder regions of Iberia, rarely present themselves as a mark for the
rifle-ball. Many-fold more cunning than the fox, the wolf never--not for
a single instant--forgets the risk of danger nor his human enemies. When
aroused in a _montería_, or mountain-drive, wolves come slowly forward,
feeling their way like field-marshals in an enemy's country, and on
reaching some strong crag or thicket, lie down, awaiting the arrival of
the beaters, who must pass on one side, when the stealthy brute slinks
back on the other.

Wolves change their residence according to the season. In summer, when
the peasants' goats and sheep are pastured on the hills, they inhabit
the highest sierras; in winter, when the stock is removed to lower
ground, there are the wolves also.

In all parts of Spain, it is customary for herdsmen to remain in
constant attendance on their flocks by day and night, to protect them
from the ravages of wolves and other "beasts of the field." In parts of
Southern Estremadura and in the Sierra Nevada, it is sometimes necessary
to keep fires burning at night, and shots are also fired at intervals,
to secure the flocks from attack. When encamped, in the neighbourhood of
Almadén, some years ago, we used to hear the packs of wolves keep up a
concert of unearthly howls the livelong night.

Too cunning to fall either into trap or ambuscade, yet of late years the
numbers of the Spanish wolf have been largely reduced by means of
poison: they will, however, doubtless hold their own in Spain for
centuries to come.

Like the bear, the wolf is also divisible into two distinct breeds, or
races. There is the large grey wolf (the common kind), and the _Lobo
serrano_, or mountain-wolf, which is smaller, darker, and more rufous in

The following table shows the respective weights in English pounds (25
to the _arroba_), of the two types of wolf, both of which are found in
all parts of Spain:--

                       Males.           Females.
    Lobo grande      125 to 150      100 to 112 lbs.
    Lobo serrano      75  "  90       60  "  75  "

The gait of the wolf, when driven into the open, is a slow, slouching
gallop; but he goes much faster than he appears to do. Well might the
Lusitanian farmer tell Latouche, with an imitative gesture: "Corre,
corre, corre; mas o diablo mesmo não o apanhava"--"Slowly he bounds,
bounds along; but the devil himself could not overtake him!"

FOX (_Canis vulpes--var., melanogaster_).

Spanish: _Zorro_.

The Spanish foxes are all of the black-bellied species, or variety; but
the majority lack the jet black underparts that distinguish Indian
examples--being rather clouded, or marbled, than pure black. We have,
however, shot one (in November) which was far more typically
coloured--quite black below and on legs--than the average, which are
generally greyer and more silvery than our British fox. A few show a
white crescent on the breast. They run about 15 lbs. in weight, and 48
inches in length.

Foxes are not hunted in Spain except by the Calpe Hounds at Gibraltar.

SPANISH LYNX (_Felis pardina_).

Spanish: _Gato cierval_, _Lince_.

This species is also peculiar to the Peninsula, and in the southern
provinces may be called common, frequenting the wilder, scrub-covered
wastes and wooded sierras, where it preys on hares, rabbits, and
partridge. In the spring the large and powerful males are also
destructive among the young red deer.

The spotted lynx is the only species found in Spain, its range extending
(though in decreasing abundance) to the Asturian ranges, and even, we
believe, to the Pyrenees, where we have failed to find any evidence of
the existence of the northern form (_Felis lynx_).

The movements of lynx are most dignified, having rather the demeanour of
the tiger than of the wild-cat: it advances with slow, stately stride
and measured movements, standing at the full height of the long,
powerful legs, and the head carried level with the back.

Though its approach, _per se_, is absolutely noiseless, yet on a still
day it is just possible for an ear attuned to distinguish anything
differing from the ordinary sounds of the wilds, to detect a slight
_crackling_--a rustle, as the dry cistus-twigs re-unite after being
divided by the passage of the lynx's body.

Its stealth preserves the lynx from falling readily into danger, and few
are shot comparatively with their numbers in the wilder regions of
Spain. When a lynx detects an ambuscade, there is an instant's
cogitation ere the big cat bounds off. One moment, from the jungle, the
great yellow eye meets one's own--that cruel, pretty face, full of hate
and shy self-possession, set off by the bushy whiskers and tufted
ears--then, like a yellow gleam, the beast disappears for ever in the

On one occasion, in winter, while redleg-shooting, we noticed a
commotion among some kites hovering at a certain spot. On going there,
the writer came suddenly on a lynx which had killed a rabbit--a morsel
doubtless coveted by the _milanos_. This lynx, though a rather small
female, on being wounded with small shot, made a gallant effort to
attack its aggressor.

The country folk declare that there is no better meat than that of lynx;
but then, it is true, they hold that otter is very good for the health,
_muy saludable_; that bittern is _carne muy fina_, while the flesh of
owls and hawks of all kinds possess medicinal properties, and with such
remedies, various herbs and roots, bleeding, and other simple specifics,
the rural Spaniard relies--perhaps with reason--on giving the _medico_ a
wide berth. We have tried lynx, however, approaching the feast with
perfectly open mind, and found it fairly good. The flesh was short in
grain, white, and devoid of any unpleasant flavour. Without prejudice, a
_guiso_ of lynx is as good as one of partridge or veal.

Lynxes produce their young in April, often using the hollowed trunk of
some cavernous cork-tree, or forming a sort of nest on the big branches
for the purpose. We have reared the young lynxes from babyhood, and
found them at least more docile than the fanatically furious wild-cats:
but that is not saying much: for both are impregnated to the marrow with
hate and treachery, and eventually these attempts to "civilize" the wild
_felidæ_ resulted in a tragic finale. For nearly a year we had kept a
young female lynx (chained) in the garden: though often vicious and
never reliable, she showed some slight "feline amenities"--purring and
rubbing herself against one's leg, when petted, like a domestic tabby.
But at length she perpetrated a terrible assault on a poor woman who
chanced to pass near her kennel. The brute probably mistook her victim
for the woman who daily brought it its food; and, seeing her pass by,
with a sudden tremendous bound she broke her chain, and sprang upon the
poor _lavandera's_ shoulders, tearing open her face with one claw, her
breast with the other. Assistance was luckily at hand, and the savage
brute, after a long chase, was killed. The poor woman was desperately
hurt: for days her life was in danger, and for many weeks she was
obliged to remain in bed under the doctor's care.

The male lynxes are much larger and handsomer than the females, weighing
some 42 to 50 lbs. The ground-colour of both is warm tawny-brown, but on
the males the spots are fewer, larger, and more defined.

WILD-CAT (_Felis catus_).

Spanish: _Gato montés_, _Gato castellano_, or _romano_.

As above remarked, the young wild-cats are quite the most ferocious and
utterly untameable beasts of which we have had any experience; the
mixture of fear and fury they exhibit in captivity is indescribable,
even when only a few weeks old.

Wild-cats are common throughout Spain wherever rabbits abound. In the
sierras, they breed in crags and rabbit-burrows; on the plains the young
are often produced in nests built in trees, or among the tall bamboos in
the cane-brakes.

Weight of an old tom 10-1/4 lbs., of a female 8-1/2 lbs. In some
examples the fur of the underparts is of a warm tawny hue. The general
colour of the wild-cat is a brindled grey, with black stripes.

GENET (_Viverra genetta_).

Spanish: _Gineta_.

A beautiful beast, with clear grey fur, blotched with big black spots, a
long tail, and a head more like a fox-terrier than a cat: common in all
the southern provinces, and as far north as Old Castile; at La Granja,
and in the provinces of Avila and Segovia. Not found (we believe) in
Asturias or Santander.

The genet lives in holes in rocks and crags, and in large woods. In
winter, we have shot them when beating the sallows and cane-brakes for
woodcock. It feeds on small rodents and young birds, occasionally, like
the polecat, plundering hen-roosts, when it eats the brains of its
numerous victims, and leaves the body untouched. In autumn, when the
grapes are ripe, it is said to be very fond of a feast in the vineyards;
but its principal food consists of mice and moles. It is considered a
better _cazador_ than even the lynx, wily as a fox, and twisting as a

Our friend Manuel de la Torre killed three genets in Estremadura that
were _entirely black_, and rather smaller than the average. One of these
specimens is in the Madrid Museum.

MARTEN (_Mustela foina_).

Spanish: _Foina_, _Garduño_.

Common in Andalucia, Estremadura, and Valencia: also observed in the
Asturias and Santander. Only one kind of marten is found generally
throughout Spain, but we have some reason to believe that the "_marta_"
of the Pyrenees is the rarer pine-marten (_M. abietum_).

POLECAT (_Mustela putorius_)--"_Turón._."

OTTER (_Lutra vulgaris_)--"_Nutra_," or "_Nutria_."

BADGER (_Meles taxus_)--"_Tejón._"

All these are common in Andalucia, and generally throughout Spain.
Though so strictly nocturnal in its habits, we have occasionally found
the badger above-ground by day, in our _batidas_ in the Coto Doñana,
&c., and have dug out a brood of young as early as January 29th.

WEASEL (_Mustela vulgaris_).

Spanish: _Comadreja_, _Rojizo_.

Not observed in Andalucia, but common in Provincia de Madrid, Old
Castile; in the Sierra de Guadarrama, and in Estremadura and Arragon.

MONGOOSE (_Herpestes widdringtoni_).

Spanish: _Melón_.

Common in the southern provinces, and as far north as the Sierra de
Gredos (Old Castile). Ichneumons feed largely on snakes and other
reptiles. They seldom offer a shot in the open, clinging tenaciously to
the thickest covert, and are more often taken alive--either dug out of
their burrows or caught by the dogs--than shot.

       *       *       *       *       *

Among minor quadrupeds may be mentioned the hedgehog (_Erizo_), the mole
(_Topo_), the shrew (_Musaraña_), squirrel (_Ardilla_), water-rat (_Rata
de agua_), with the usual family-group of rats and mice. One
particularly interesting species, the trumpeter water-shrew (_Mygale
pyrenaica_), is found in the rivers of Guipúzcoa, Navarre, and, _fide_
our friend Manuel de la Torre, in the Rio de Piedra, Provincia de

The dormouse (_Liron_), and fat dormouse (_Liron campestre_), are both
common in Andalucia.

The Spanish hare (_Lepus mediterraneus_), and rabbit require no further




In the following list we endeavour to indicate the closest possible
point of time for the arrival, nesting, and departure of spring-migrants
to Spain, the dates especially referring to Andalucia. But since the
passage of almost each species, though in many cases punctual to a day
or two in commencing, continues during three or four weeks--and in some
instances over much longer periods--it is only possible to approximate.
Thus there is a distinct arrival of Swallows in February (early in March
many already have eggs), yet the "through-transit" of vast
bodies--destined perhaps to populate Lapland and Siberia--is conspicuous
throughout April, and even into May.

In compiling these lists the recorded observations of other naturalists
have been freely utilized, especially the papers of Lord Lilford and Mr.
Howard Saunders in the _Ibis_, and Col. Irby's "Ornithology of the
Straits of Gibraltar." In ornithological matters the writer has a
weakness for _dates_,[79] and the last-mentioned work fairly bristles
with these valuable facts. For five springs its author maintained a
careful watch on the Straits, and during those years hardly a movement
of feathered fowl betwixt the Pillars of Hercules could escape his


                 |   Arrives.   |  Nests.   |   Departs.   |     Remarks.
                 |              |           |              |
  Egyptian       |              |           |              |
    Vulture      |End Feb.-Mar. |April 1-10 |    Sept.     |
  Montagu's      |              |           |              |
    Harrier      |   End Mar.   | May 1-10  |    Sept.     |
  Booted Eagle   |   Mar. 25    | April 10  |    Sept. }   |   A few winter
  Serpent Eagle  |    Mar. 8    | April 15  |     Oct. }   |     near Malaga.
  Black Kite     |   Mar. 10    | April 30  |  Sept.-Oct.  |
  Honey Buzzard  |End April-May |None breed |Sept. 17, '92 | In transit only.
  Hobby          |    April     |           |    Sept.     |       do.
  Lesser Kestrel |End Feb.-Mar. | April 25  |  Sept.-Oct.  |   Some winter.
  Scop's Owl     |   Mid-Mar.   |  May 10   |  Sept.-Oct.  |       do.
  R. N. Nightjar |    May 1     |  May 25   |  Sept.-Oct.  |
  Swift          |  Mar.-April  |    May    |  Sept.-Oct.  |
  Pallid Swift   |End Mar.-April|    do.    |              |
  Alpine Swift   | Mar. 25-Apl. |    do.    |  Aug.-Sept.  |
  Roller         |End Mar.-April| April 15  |    Sept.     |
  Bee-Eater      |End Mar.-April|  May 15   |  July-Aug.   |
  Hoopoe         |End Feb.-April|   May 1   |  Aug.-Oct.   |
  Cuckoo         |Mar. 25-April | April 23  |  July-Aug.   |
  Spotted Cuckoo | Feb. 28-Mar. | April 15  |  July-Aug.   |
  Wryneck        |    March     |           |    Sept.     |Breeds in Castile.
  Ring-Ouzel{%}  |              |    Few    |              |
                 |  Mar.-April  | breed{%}  |    Autumn    |   Transit.{%}
  Rock-Thrush    |  End Mar.-   |    May    |26 Sept., '68 |
                 | Apl.--early  | (Arragon) |    (Irby)    |
  Wheatear       | Mar. 1-April |None breed |  Oct.-Nov.   |   In transit.
  Eared Wheatear |Mar. 30-April |May 10, '71|    Autumn    |
  Russet         |              |           |              |
    Wheatear     |Mar. 30-April |May 12, '71|     do.      |
  Whinchat       |April 10, '83 |None breed |    Sept.     |  Transit only.
  Nightingale    |  April 8-15  |May 7, '83 |  Aug.-Sept   |
  Redstart{%}    |Mar. 25-April |None breed |  Sept.-Oct.  |     Transit.
  Garden Warbler |  Mid-April   |  May 10   |     Oct.     |
  Orphean        |              |           |              |
    Warbler      |  Mid-April   |  May 15   |    Sept.     |
  Whitethroat    | April 10-20  |  May 12   |  Sept.-Oct.  |
  Spectacled     |              |           |              |
    Warbler      |Mar. 10 (Irby)|           |              |
  Sub-alpine     |              |           |              |
    Warbler      | March (end)  |May (early)|     Oct.     |
  Bonelli's      |              |           |              |
    Warbler      | April-early  |           |     Sept.    |
  Wood-Wren      |   April 25   |  May 25   |     Oct.     |     Scarce.
  Willow-Wren    |    March     | April 10  |              |  Many resident.
  Chiffchaff     |              | April 20  |              |       do.
  Yellow         |              |           |              |
    Willow-Wren  | April (end)  |  May 20   |  Aug.-Sept.  |
  W. Pallid do.  |    May 1     |  June 10  |  Aug.-Sept.  |
  Rufous         |              |           |              |
    Warbler      |    May 1     |  May 28   |    Sept.     |
  Savi's         |              |           |              |
    Warbler.     |  March (?)   |   May 4   | Aug. (Irby)  | Rare and local.
  Great Sedge    |              |           |              |
    Warbler      |    April     |  May 28   |              |
  Reed-Warbler   |  End March   |   May 5   |              |
  Pied           |              |   None    |              |
   Flycatcher{%%}|  April 8-30  | breed[A]  |  Oct. 1-17   |
  Spotted do.    |    May 10    |  May 25   |  Aug.-Sept.  |   In transit.
  Swallow        | Mid-Feb. to  |           |              |
                 |     May      |Mar.-April |  Sept.-Oct.  |A few in winter.
  Martin         |   February   |           |  Sept.-Oct.  |
  Sand-Martin    |  Feb.-Mar.   |May (H. S.)|     Oct.     |A few all winter.
  Crag-Martin    |  Feb.-Mar.   | April-May |  Oct.-Nov.   | Many in winter.
  Woodchat       |  Mar.-April  |  May 10   |  Sept.-Oct.  |
  G. H. Wagtail. |  Feb.-Mar.   | April 25  |  Aug.-Sept.  |
  Tree Pipit     |  Mar.-April  |None breed |  Oct.-Nov.   |   In transit.
  Tawny Pipit    |    April     |           |     Aug.     |Some breed, H. S.
  Short-toed Lark|  Mid-March   | April 20  |  Aug.-Sept.  |
  _C.          |              |           |              |
  Batica_{%%} |      ?       |   May 9   |      ?       |    (Unknown).
  Cirl-Bunting   |     Mar.     | April 12  |  Oct.-Nov.   |  Many resident.
  Ortolan        |    April     |   May 5   |     Sept.    |
  Serin          |   February   |  May 10   |  Oct.-Nov.   |
  Golden Oriole  | April 15-20  |  May 20   |  Aug.-Sept.  |
  Spotless       |              |           |              |
    Starling     |    March     | April 23  |     Sept.    |
  Turtle-Dove    |  April-end   |           | Sept. (end)  |
                 |     May      |    May    |     Oct.     |
  Quail          |  Mar.-April  |    May    | Sept. 15-30  |
                 |              |           |              |
  Landrail       |  Feb.-Mar.   |None breed |     Oct.     |   Many winter.
  Purple         |              |           |              |
    Gallinule    |   February   | April 25  |     Oct.     |  Many resident.
  Stone-Curlew   |  Mar.-April  | April 20  |  Oct.-Nov.   |  Many resident.
  Pratincole     |  April 8-20  |  May 12   |     Sept.    |
  Grey Plover    |     May      |None breed |     Nov.     | On passage only.
  Kentish Plover.|    March     | April 15  |              |   Many winter.
  Lesser Ring    |              |           |              |
    Plover       |  Mid-March   |  May 10   |              |
  Common         |              |   None    |              |
   Sandpiper{%%%}|   April 15   | breed{%%%} |  Aug.-Sept.  |
  Curlew         |              |           |              |
   Sandpiper{$}  |     May      |None breed |              |     Transit.
  Knot           |   May 1-10   |    do.    |              |       do.
  Wood-Sandpiper |  April-May   |    do.    |              |       do.
  Greenshank     |  April-May   |    do.    |  Sept.-Oct.  |  A few winter.
  Black-tailed   |              |           |              |
    Godwit       |  Feb.-Mar.   |    do.    |              |
  Bar-tailed do. |     May      |    do.    |    Sept.     |
  Ruff           |  April-May   |    do.    |  Aug.-Sept.  |   Many winter.
  Great Snipe    |  April-May   |    do.    |  Sept.-Oct.  |
  Whimbrel       |     May      |    do.    |  Sept.-Oct.  |
  Slender-billed |              |           |              |
    Curlew       |    Spring    |    do.    |    Autumn    |  A few winter.
  Purple Heron   |   March 20   | April 10  |    Sept.     |
  Little Egret   | April-early  |  June 8   |  Oct.-Nov.   |
  Buff-backed    |              |           |              |
    Heron        |  Mar.-April  |    do.    |              |
  Squacco do.    |   April 20   |    do.    |              |
  Little Bittern |  April-end   |    do.    |    Sept.     |
  Night Heron    |  April-end   |  May 20   |              |
  Glossy Ibis    |   April 20   |  May 28   |              |
  Spoonbill      |   April 10   |May (early)|              |   Observed in
                 |              |  (Irby)   |              |     winter.
  Crane          |  Feb.-Mar.   | April 25  |    Oct.      |   Many winter.
  Demoiselle     |              |           |              |
    Crane        |  Mar.-April  |           |    Aug.      |
  Stork          |  Jan.-Feb.   |March (end)|    Sept.     |   Many winter.
  Black Stork    | Feb. to May  |    May    |    Nov.      |
  Marbled Duck.  |    April     | May (end) |    Sept.     |
  Garganey       |  Feb.-Mar.   |    do.    |    Sept.     | Very irregular.
  Nyroca Pochard |  Feb.-Mar.   |  May 20   |  Oct.-Nov.   |
  White-faced    |              |           |              |
    Duck         | Mar.-April.  |  May 20   |  Oct.-Nov.   |
  Gull-billed    |              |           |              |
    Tern         |   April 8    |  May 25   |              |
  Lesser Tern    |   April 13   |  May 25   |Oct. 25 (Irby)|
  Whiskered      |              |           |              |
    Tern         |   April 10   |  May 20   |Aug. (Favier) |
  Black Tern     |    May 1     |  May 30   |  Sept.-Oct.  |
                 |              |           |   (Favier)   |

{%} Some Ring-Ouzels nest in Sierra Nevada--eggs received from Colmenar
by H. S.--possibly also some Redstarts.

{%%} Pied Flycatcher believed to breed in Castile (H. S.). _C. Batica_
is perhaps resident.

{%%%} The Sandpiper breeds in Castile and in Portugal, and a few pairs
may possibly do so in Andalucia. The main transit occurs about April 15,
coinciding with their arrival on the North British moorlands.

{$} Many other congeneric species of the Plover and Sandpiper class,
such as Sanderling, Little and Temminck's Stints, Purple Sandpiper, &c.,
might also be included, passing north through Andalucia in millions at
the same period; but many individuals also spend the autumn and winter




The breeding-season in Navarre, owing probably to the high mean altitude
of that province, appears to be relatively later than in other districts
of similar latitude. In mid-April (1891) at St. Jean de Luz and Irun, we
luxuriated in warm sunshine and the shade of leafy trees; but at
Alsasua, on the afternoon of the 15th, we found ourselves transported to
a region as cold and bleak as Northumbria, while at Pamplona, though the
sun shone gratefully, his warmth was marred by a biting wind.

A parched-looking, sterile country separates the capital of Navarre from
Burguete, a small village on the Spanish slope of the Pyrenees just
under the Roncesvalles Pass, whither we were bound. Outside Pamplona, a
single polyglot, or icterine warbler was observed, together with the
following other species:--redstarts, tree-pipits, woodchats, ortolans,
goldfinch, linnets, yellow-hammers, and chaffinches; and on the road to
Burguete were added:--griffon vultures--doubtless from
Yrurzun--Bonelli's eagle, red kites, one marsh-harrier, hoopoes, black
redstarts, white wagtails, bluethroat (white-spotted form), robin,
willow-wren, swallow, ring-ouzel, stonechat, wheatear, calandra lark,
buzzard, kestrel, and grey partridge.

At Burguete, between April 17th and 21st, of raptores observed, with the
exception of occasional kites, the buzzard was the commonest hawk, and
already had eggs. Tawny owls had feathered young, but, beyond
house-martins breeding in the crags, no other species appeared to have
commenced to nest. In the beech woods around Burguete six species of
tits were common, viz., the oxeye, blue, cole, marsh, long-tailed and
crested. The last-named has a pretty rippling note, quite unique in its
way. Nuthatches were numerous and clamorous, and green woodpeckers (?
sp.) were noted. Amongst the box-scrub, fire-crests were common, with
dippers and sandpipers on the streams; while, scattered about in the
woods and hills, we came across wryneck, wren, white and yellow
wagtails, pied and spotted flycatchers, turtle-and stock-doves, serin,
gold-and bull-finches and carrion-crow. Above the Roncesvalles convent
on April 20th, in a grey mist and drizzling rain, numbers of golden
orioles, tree-pipits, skylarks, swallows, stock-doves and other common
birds were picking their way northwards on migration; and a single
spectacled warbler was obtained. This species has very active, sprightly
movements, and a robin-like gait when hopping on the ground.

On April 21st we journeyed, _viâ_ Orbaiceta, to a forest-guard's house
in the great Iraty forest, observing _en route_ grey wagtails and
choughs, Egyptian vultures and ravens, the latter nesting. The change
from the beech woods of Burguete to the endless spruce-fir forests of
Iraty proved disappointing. Doubtless _Picus martius_ breeds here, for
we saw woodpeckers' holes which, from their size, could belong to no
other species; but not a sight either of this bird or of the nutcracker
rewarded our careful search. Bonelli's warbler, with its rather shrill,
monosyllabic note, abounded wherever the nature of the ground suited its
habits, but had not yet paired; nor could we ascertain that any other
species were yet breeding. The hedge-sparrow here was of a noticeably
paler cast of plumage than at home--perhaps explained by the altitude;
while at Burguete, the chaffinches were visibly brighter in colour, and
we also detected a striking difference in the song of yellow-hammer and
some other species, as compared with English birds--possibly the
mysterious beginnings of evolution. On the way back to Burguete, a
sedge-warbler and a lovely specimen of the wall-creeper--the only one we
saw--were obtained.

During our six days' absence, a considerable influx of migrants had
occurred at Burguete, as evidenced by increased numbers of pied
flycatchers (mostly males), woodchats and black redstarts. Blue-headed
wagtails (_M. neglecta_) were running on the grass about the horses'
feet, and, though the bird has been given specific rank, reminded me
strongly of _M. cinereocapilla_, which I knew well in Lapland in 1884.
During a two hours' ramble before breakfast on April 25th, just before
leaving for home, the following were observed:--sparrow-hawk, a pair of
snipe, magpies and jays, one heron, a pale blue harrier and a golden

Our short experience in Navarre is conspicuous more for what we did
_not_ see than for what we did. Extensive forests, thickly-grown,
without underwood, and in a mountainous region, are not favourable to
bird-life. Such places lack rabbits for the raptores, and are deficient
in insect-food for the warblers and other small species, while the
absence of marshy ground explains that of aquatic birds. April is,
however,--at any rate in such seasons as that of 1891--quite a month too
early for ornithological research in Navarre.



The following remarks relate to certain species which have come under
our observation in Spain, but which have not been included in the

Black-winged Kite (_Elanus cæruleus_, Desfont).--Rare: a pair observed
near San Lucar in April. The male fell to a long shot, but rose again
and escaped.

Sparrow-hawk (_Gavilan_).--Most numerous in winter, but some remain to

Merlin (_Esmerejon_).--In winter only.

Lesser Kestrel (_Primilla_).--One of the commonest birds in spring and
summer, nesting in swarms in the towns, on churches, &c., and on the
ruined Moorish watch-towers.

Osprey (_Aguila pescadora_).--Frequently observed on Guadalquivir and
other large rivers: breeds.

White Owl (_Lechuza_).--Abundant and resident.

Brown Owl.--Scarce in south: one shot in December.

Long-eared Owl (_Bujo_).--Rare in Andalucia: the young have been
obtained near Granada. More plentiful in Castile and Biscay.

Short-eared Owl (_Carabo_).--In winter: often very numerous. While
partridge-shooting on the plains, we have noticed five or six on wing at
once. _Asio capensis_ we have not met with.

Kingfisher (_Martin pescador_).--Most numerous in winter: especially so
in Portugal.

Wryneck (_Torce-cuello_).--In wooded sierras--March.

Mistle-Thrush (_Charla_).--Chiefly in winter, but breeds in higher
sierras; have seen eggs taken near Tangier.

Dipper (_Pechi-blanco_, _Tordo de agua_).--Resident on mountain-streams,
but relatively scarce in the south.

Hedge-Sparrow.--In garden at Jerez in January.

Wren (_Ratilla_).--Common and resident; nests in sierras in March.

Fire-crest.--In pine-woods; resident.

Tree-Creeper (_Trepaironcos_).--Resident; nests in the wooded sierras in
April. It is also known as _Arañero_, _i.e._, "spider-catcher," a name
it shares with the Wall-Creeper, which species we have not observed.

Nuthatch.--Common in Castile and the north, but not observed in
Andalucia except in Sierra Nevada. This species is also known as

Crested Tit (_Capuchino_).--Observed in the mountain forests of Castile.
Resident and common near Gibraltar.

Sand-Martin.--Breeds on Guadalquivir--April.

Woodlark.--In winter only; leaves in April. Not common. Our familiar
Skylarks and Titlarks swarm in winter in Spain, but leave the south in
March. The Calandra, Crested, and Short-toed Larks, with the
Corn-Bunting, are among the most abundant of Spanish birds at all

Rock-Bunting (_Emberiza cia_, Linn.).--Common in sierras, where it nests
in April near clearings and cultivated patches.

White Wagtail.--Arrives in swarms in September, remaining till March.
The pied wagtail we have not identified.

Grey Wagtail.--Common in winter, and some nest on the mountain streams,
even in Andalucia.

Serin.--This, with the goldfinch and three following species, the
stonechats, bee-eaters, rufous, and black-headed warblers and
nightingales, is among the commonest and most characteristic birds of
Southern Spain.

Linnet (_Camacho_).

Greenfinch (_Verdon_).

Chaffinch (_Pinzon_).--All common; most so in winter.

Rock-Sparrow (_Gorrion montés_).--Common in the sierras, where it breeds
in holes in May.

Lesser Redpole.--Rare and irregular; in severe winters only. Many in
garden at Jerez in January, 1888.

Siskin (_Lugano_).--Irregular; in winter only. Several obtained in
garden, March 15, 1891.

Rook.--Occasional flocks in winter.

Carrion Crow.--Rare; found a nest with five eggs, Sierra de las Cabras,
March 23rd. B. is sure he has seen _C. corniz_ when shooting in

Sandwich Tern.--Obtained on Guadalete in March and April on passage.

Gannets and Skuas.--Observed in Straits and Bay of Trafalgar in winter
and early spring.

Red-throated Diver.--Several shot in winter.

Shearwaters.--In Straits: observed in hundreds off Málaga in March.

Stormy Petrels.--Common on the coast, and probably breeds on some of the
rocky islands.



     _Á boca de jarro_--At short range.

     _Abolága_--Spanish gorse.

     _Aficionado_--An amateur, enthusiast.


     _Alforjas_--Holsters, saddle-bags.

     _Almuerzo_--Breakfast, tiffin.

     _Alparagatas_--Hempen-soled sandals.

     _Anafe_--A charcoal cooking-stove.

     _Arenál_--Sand-waste, desert.



     _Arroyo_--Stream, watercourse.

     _Bandada_--A flock, or pack.


     _Barbon_, _barbudo_--Bearded.

     _Barranco_--A low cliff.

     _Barrio_--Quarter of a town, suburb.

     _Batida_--A beat, or drive for game.

     _Bebidero_--A drinking-place.

     _Boracha_--A wine-skin.

     _Borrico_--A donkey.

     _Busné_--A gentile--_i.e._, not a gypsy.

     _Cabestro_, or _cabreste_--Decoy, stalking horse.

     _Cama_--Bed, lair of wild beast.


     _Campo_, _campiña_--Country, cultivated land.

     _Cancho_--Crag, precipice.


     _Carabinero_--Carbineer, exciseman.


     _Casuela_--Stewing-pan, also the stew.

     _Catre_--Tressle-bed, camp-bed.

     _Cazador_--Shooter, sportsman.

     _Caza mayor_--_menor_--Large, and small game.

     _Cédula de vecindad_--Certificate of identity.


     _Cerrones_--Panniers, mule-packs.


     _Chapárro_--An evergreen oak.

     _Choza_--Peasant's cot or hut.




     _Corral_--enclosure; belt of forest or jungle.


     _Cuadrilla_--Troop, gang.

     _Dehesa_--Grazing ground, sheep-walk.

     _Despoblado_--Desert, waste.

     _Dicho_--Declaration, troth.


     _Echando la rueda_--"Making a wheel"--_i.e._, describing a circle.

     _Encierro_--Driving in bulls to the ring.

     _Entrada_--Entry, immigration.


     _Errate_--"Black blood" (gypsy).

     _Escopeta_--Musket, gun.

     _Espada_--Sword; a matador.

     _Falucha_--Felucca-rigged boat.



     _Funda_--Saddle-sling for gun.


     _Garrocha_--Long wooden lance.

     _Gazpacho_--A dish of bread, vegetables, oil, vinegar, &c., a


     _Huerta_--Orchard, garden.

     _Jaca_--Riding horse, pony.

     _Junco_, _juncale_--Reed, reed-bed.

     _Ladron en grande_--Robber on a large scale.

     _Lancha_--Small boat, punt.

     _Lidia_, _lidiador_--Fight, fighter (of bulls).


     _Majo_--Dandy, gallant.

     _Malagueña_--Couplet, topical song.

     _Mancha_--Thicket, jungle.


     _Mano negra_--"Black Hand," a secret society.

     _Manta_--Cloak, saddle-rug.

     _Marisma_--Marsh land.

     _Monteria_--Mountain-shooting campaign.





     _Ojéo_--Drive (for game).


     _Olla_--Earthen cooking-pot, stew.

     _Pajaráco_--Large bird, vulture.

     _Pajaréra_--Breeding-place of birds.

     _Parador_--Inn, resting-place.


     _Patio_--Courtyard of house.

     _Pinal_--Pine forest.

     _Piorno_--A species of broom.

     _Podenco_--Hunting-dog (of lurcher type).

     _Poniente_--West wind.

     _Posada_--Village inn, lodging-house.

     _Puchero_--Earthen pan for cooking.

     _Pueblo_--_cito_--Village, hamlet.

     _Puesto_--Post, ambush.


     _Rastro_--Trail, spoor.

     _Reclamo_--Decoy, call-bird.

     _Retamo_--A species of broom.


     _Rodéo_--"Rounding-up" of cattle.


     _Sequestrador_--Bandit who holds to ransom.


     _Suerté_--(1) Luck; (2) the modes of attack or "passes" in the

     _Tentadero_--Trial (of young bulls).


     _Toréo_--Art of bull-fighting.

     _Toril_--Lair of bull, adjoining bull-ring.

     _Toro bravo_--Fighting bull.

     _Tunante_--Cunning rogue.

     _Vega_--Open plain.




[Illustration: SPANISH SPADES.]


Absence of twilight, 403, 409

Adventure with a bull, 10

---- Lynx, 355-6, 447

Æsthetic tastes in birds (?), 112 _et seq._

Agriculture, Chap. xviii., p. 220, xix., p. 231, 294-5-6

Ague, 108

Alpine Accentor, 147

---- Chough, 147, 154 (footnote)

---- Pipit, 147, 155

---- Swift, 154, 216, 247, 254, 451

Altitudes of mountains, 26, 143, 153 (footnote), 159, 168, 179

Alto Douro, 329 _et seq._

Andalucian Quail, 353, 420

Anomalies, Spanish, 151

Ants, 244, 245

Arctic weather in Spain, 392 _et seq._

Asturias, The, 3, 183, 184 _et seq._, 307, 442

Atmospheric effects, 89

Avocet, 75, 77, 84, 86 (breeding), 381, 399

Azure-winged Magpie, 80, 252, 256-7-8

Badger, 108, 250, 364, 449

Balance of Life, 259 _et seq._, 264-5

Basques, The, 5, 176

Bear, 3, 179, 185, 442-3

Bee-eater, 252, 254, 256, 261, 325, 451

Bird-life in Gredos, 147, 154

---- Bermeja, 160

Bird-life in Navarre, 454 _et seq._

Bittern, 80, 254, 272-3, 364, 423-4

---- Little, 255, 271, 273, 427, 453

Blackbird, 147, 249, 304

Blackcap, 247, 349

Black Chat, 147, 216, 299

Black Kite, 82, 242-5, 265, 275, 451

Black Vulture, 146 (breeding), 200 _et seq._

Bleeding, Universal remedy, 305-6, 447

Blue Rock-Thrush, 29, 147, 160, 210 (footnote), 216, 299

Bluethroat, 147, 454

Boar, Wild, Chap. ii., p. 23, Appendix, 443-4

---- 84, 185, 270, 355, 368-9

---- Obstinate nature of, 29, 369

Bohemian Gypsies, 291-2

Bonelli's Eagle, 160, 204, 217-18-19, 255, 454

Booted Eagle, 81, 84, 160, 199, 204, 254, 265, 451

Breeding-season (of birds) prolonged, 255

Brigandage in Spain, Chap. x., pp. 116-127, 163

Bull-fighting, Chap. v., p. 54

---- Attempts to suppress, 58, 59

---- Breeds of bulls, 60, 341

---- _Encierro_, The, 65

---- Life of a fighting-bull, 60-1

---- Mediæval bull-fights, 57-8

---- Modern epoch, the, 59

---- Origin of, 55-6

Bull-fighting, _Tentaderos_, The, 61-4

Bungles, magnificent, 362, 409

Bunting, Cirl-, 147, 254, 452

---- Corn-, 88, 147

---- Ortolan, 88, 147, 254, 452, 454

---- Reed-, 88

---- Rock-, 458

Burning the bamboo-brakes, 361 _et seq._

Bustard, The Great, Chaps. iii., 33, iv., 40, xxx., 338, 254, 294

---- -driving, 38, 46 _et seq._

---- -shooting, at wells, 35

---- ---- with lantern, 36

---- ---- from cart, 37

---- ---- single-handed, 42

---- The Little, 255, 266, 294, 306, 343 _et seq._

Butterflies, 148 (footnote), 212 (do.), 332, 352

Buzzard, Common, 148, 181, 242, 262, 364, 409, 410, 454

---- Honey, 254, 451

Camels, Wild, Chap. viii., p. 94

---- Repugnance towards horses, 99, 101

Capercaillie, 3, 187

Capileira, 168

_Cazador_, The Spanish, 137, 177, 350

Centipedes, 161, 332

Civil Guards, The, 14, 152-3

Chaffinch, 304, 454, 458

Chamæleon, 352 (footnote)

Chamois, 3, 179, 185, 441-2

Character, Iberian, 4, 6, 301, _etc._

Charcoal-burners, 14, 124, 126

Chicorro and the Black Bull, 289, 290

Chiffchaff, 247, 452

Chough, 147, 154, 171, 210, 301

Climate, 24, 352, 371, 384, 392

_Consumos_ (Octroi), 219, 228

Coot, 77, 364, 424, 427

Cork-oak, 16

Cormorant, 74, 427

Cost of a bull-fight, 67

Coto Doñana, 240, 348 _et seq._

Country-life, hatred of, 1, 221, 224-5, 227

Crag-Martin, 147, 155, 160, 210, 452

Crake, Corn-, 253, 419, 424, 452

---- Baillon's, 273, 424

---- Little, 273, 424

---- Spotted, 273, 364, 419, 424

Crane, Common, 253, 266-7, 294, 306, 420-1, 427, 453

---- Demoiselle, 254, 422, 453

Crossbill, 246, 407

Crow, Carrion-, 455, 458

---- Grey-backed, 458

Cuckoo, Common, 254, 257, 451

---- Great Spotted, 80, 246, 253, 256-7, 451

Curlew, 380, 388

---- -Sandpiper, 76, 89

---- Slender-billed, 453

Cushat, 160, 253, 301, 419

Dabchick, 270, 424, 427

Dancing, 20-1, 313, 356-7

Dartford Warbler, 147, 304

Deer, Red, 249, 350 _et seq._ 437-8

---- Fallow, 438-9

---- Roe-, 28, 161, 216, 303, 439-40

---- -shooting, 355, 359 _et seq._ 367, 405 _et seq._, 438 _et

Difficulties of travel, 9, 72, 161

Dipper, 174, 455, 457

Discontent, Agrarian, 12, 212, 227, 327

Disease and epidemic, 313

Doñana, Coto de, 240, 348 _et seq._

Dormouse, 147, 449

Drunkenness, Rarity of, 313

Ducks, _see also_ under Pochard Teal, Wigeon, &c.

---- Gadwall, 267-8, 376, 392, 402, 425

---- Garganey, 73, 77, 253, 268, 376, 392, 402, 425, 453

---- Mallard, 73, 77, 267-8, 375, 402, 425-6

Ducks, Marbled, 77, 84, 254, 269, 376, 392, 425, 426, 453

---- Pintail, 73, 269, 373, 375-6, 402, 425

---- Red-crested, 267, 376

---- Scoter, 74, 425

---- Sheld-, 376, 392, 425-6

---- Shoveller, 73, 269, 374-5, 402, 425

---- Teal, 73, 264, 268, 375, 401, 425

---- Tufted, 74, 375, 425

---- White-eyed, 73, 254, 268, 375, 392, 425, 453

---- White-faced, 77, 254, 269-70, 376, 402, 425, 453

---- Wigeon, 73, 253, 373, 375, 402, 425

Dunlin, 73 (breeding), 75, 88, 381

Eagle, Bonelli's, 160, 204, 217-19, 255, 454

---- Booted, 81, 84, 160, 199, 204, 254, 265, 451

---- Golden, 154, 160, 204, 212, 215, 218-19, 306, 309

---- Imperial, 188 _et seq._, 204, 262-3, 275

---- Sea-, _or_ White-tailed, 199

---- Serpent-, 199, 204, 215, 241-2, 253, 262, 265, 451

---- Tawny, 194 _et seq._, 410

---- -shooting, 192, 239

Eagles in confinement, 203

---- Prey of, 264-5

Eagle-Owl, 24, 210, 255, 301

Eggs, small numbers laid, 249

Egret, 76, 254, 271, 273, 392, 427, 453

Egyptian Vulture, 147, 203, 211-12, 253, 333, 451

_Encierro_, 65

Escape, Narrow, 439

Estremadura, 132, 240, 301, 443, 444

Fairs in Spain, 151

Falcon, Eleanora, 265

Falcon, Peregrine, 154, 160, 265, 353 (Southern)

Fallows and flowers, 225

Fantail Warbler, 246, 268-9

Fire-Crest, 407, 455, 458

Fire-flies and Glow-worms, 332

Fishermen, Spanish, 177

_Flamenco_-ism, 67 (footnote), 288-9

Flamingoes, Among the, Chap. ix., p. 102

---- 74, 109 (breeding), 112 (young), 255, 381

---- -shooting, 105

Flight-shooting, 356, 358, 375, 386 _et seq._, 421 (Crane)

Flycatcher, Pied, 247, 452, 455

---- Spotted, 249, 255, 452, 455

Food of raptores, 264-5

Fox, 29, 100, 108, 332, 369, 445

Frogs, 251, 276

---- Tree-, 332

_Fueros_, of Basques, 5

Gadwall, 267-8, 376, 392, 425, 453

Galicians, The, 4, 329, 330

Gannet, 459

Garganey, 73, 77, 253, 268, 376, 392, 399, 425, 453

Gecko, 352 (footnote)

Geese, Wild, 73, 376 _et seq._, 379, 388 _et seq._, 425, 427

---- Bean, 379, 425

---- Grey Lag, 377, 379, 425, 427

---- Lesser White-fronted, 379

Genet, 108, 250, 364, 407, 448

Glossy Ibis, 76, 254, 269, 271, 427, 453

Godwit, Bar-tailed, 75, 427, 453

---- Black-tailed, 75, 254, 453

Golden Eagle, 154, 160, 204, 212, 215, 218-19, 306, 309

---- Oriole, 80, 247-8, 252, 254, 452, 455

---- Plover, 253, 266, 381

Goldfinch, 84, 205, 249, 294, 454

Goose--_see_ Geese

Goshawk, 160, 253

Granada, 166, 173

Grapes, Abundance of, 331, 336

Great Bustard--_see_ Bustard

---- Spotted Cuckoo, 80, 246, 253, 256-7

---- Spotted Woodpecker, 160, 253

---- Tit, 160, 249, 454

Green Sandpiper, 76, 275, 381, 399

Greenshank, 76, 85, 381, 453

Green Woodpecker, 247-8, 253, 256, 262-3, 455

Grebe, Eared, 77, 398, 424, 427

---- Great Crested, 270, 424, 427

---- Little, 270, 424, 427

Grey Lag, 377, 379, 425, 427

---- Phalarope, 76, 89

---- Plover, 76, 89, 452

Griffon Vulture, 29, 160, 205 _et seq._, 215-16, 294-96, 302, 454

Gull, Black-headed, 90, 91

---- Brown-headed, 78, 254

---- Great Black-backed, 78

---- Herring, 78

---- Kittiwake, 78

---- Lesser Black-backed, 78

---- Little, 78, 398, 427

---- Skua, 459

---- Slender-billed, 90, 91

Gypsies, Chaps, xxiii., p. 277; xxiv., p. 287

Hare, Spanish, 353, 449

Harrier, Hen-, 80, 254, 294, 381

---- Marsh-, 77, 85, 92, 262, 264, 268-9, 275, 364, 381, 401-2

---- Montagu's, 89, 92, 254, 262, 264, 275, 451

Harvest, 225

Hawfinch, 160, 246, 407, 409

Hay, 226

Hazel-Grouse, 3, 187

Hen-Harrier--_see_ Harrier

Herdsmen of Sierra, 16, 25, 295, 301, 317 (note), 320 _et seq._

Herons, 76, 81, 84, 271 _et seq._, 381, 427

---- Buff-backed, 76, 81, 254, 271-3, 453

Herons, Night-, 76, 81, 254, 271-3, 427, 453

---- Purple, 76, 78, 82, 253, 399, 453

---- Squacco, 76, 81, 255, 271, 273, 453

Hobby, 254, 451

Honey Buzzard, 254, 451

Hoopoe, 80, 246, 249, 253, 451, 454

Horse-breeding, 233-4

Ibex, Spanish, Chap, xi., p. 128; Appendix, 440-1

---- Distribution, 131-2

---- Scenting powers, 146 (note), 316

---- Specific distinction, 128-9

Ibex-shooting, Sierra de Gredos, 140 _et seq._

---- Nevada and Alpujarras, 166

---- Riscos de Valderejo, 150

---- Sierra Bermeja, 157

Ibex-stalking, 148, 165, 316 _et seq._

Ibis, Glossy, 76, 254, 269, 271, 427, 453

Ichneumon, Spanish, 28, 108, 250, 299, 449

Imperial Eagle, 188 _et seq._, 204, 262-3, 275

Industry of peasantry, 169, 311

Insect-life, 148 (note), 161, 212 (note), 259, 332, 352

Jackdaw, 253

Janda, Lagunas de, 266, 299, 421

Jay, 160, 258, 301, 456

Justice, Judicial, 11 (footnote), 125, 370

---- Summary, 247-8, 370-1

Kentish Plover, 75, 88, 253, 381, 452

Kestrel, 205, 265, 294

---- Lesser, 253, 265, 451, 457

Kingfisher, 457

Kite, Black, 82, 242-3, 244-5, 265, 275, 451

---- Black-winged, 457

Kite, Red, 242-5, 252, 262, 264-5, 275, 366, 409, 454

Knot, 76, 85, 453

Lammergeyer, 160, 255, 293 _et seq._, 307 _et seq._

Landrail, 253, 419, 424, 452

Lanjaron, 167

Lark, Calandra, 88, 454, 458

---- Crested, 88, 458

---- Short-toed, 88, 253, 452, 458

---- Sky-, 147, 174, 254, 458

---- Wood-, 458

Leeches, 80, 81, 82, 367

Leon, 5, 151, 183

Lesser Kestrel, 253, 265, 451, 457

Lesser Ring-Plover, 75, 88, 452

Linnet, Grey, and Green, 249, 304

Little Bustard, 255, 266, 294, 306, 343 _et seq._

Lizards, 260, 261, 352

Logroño, Sack of, 283

Lunatic, Sad episode of a, 27

Lynx, Spanish, 106, 250, 355, 359, 436, 446-7

---- ferocity of, 355-6, 446-7

Magpie, Common, 253, 256-8, 456

---- Azure-winged, 80, 252, 256-8

Mallard, 73, 77, 267-8, 375, 425, 426

Marbled Duck, 77, 84, 254, 269, 376, 392, 425, 453

Marismas, The, Chaps, vi., vii., pp. 70-93, 94 _et seq._, 103 _et seq._

Markets, fruit, &c., 235

Marriage-customs, 320 _et seq._

Marsh-Harrier, 77, 85, 92 (breeding), 262, 264, 268-9, 275, 364, 381,

Marten, 185, 448

Martin, Crag, 147, 155, 160, 210, 452

---- House, 452, 454

---- Sand, 452, 458

Measurements of horns (deer), 361, 437-8 (ibex), 130, 147, 156, 319

Mediterranean Black-headed Gull, 90, 91

Merganser, 425

Merlin, 457

Migration, 72 and 89 (vernal), 253 _et seq._, 274, 384, 393-4

Mills, Table of, 237

Mirage, 78, 90

Mole-cricket, 249, 270, 276, 332

Mongoose, 28, 108, 250, 299, 363, 449

Montagu's Harrier, 89, 92 (breeding), 254, 262, 264, 275, 451

Moufflon, 442

Mouse, 342, 363, 449; Dormouse, 147, 449

Navarre, Bird-life in, 454 _et seq._

Nightingale, 84, 205, 211, 249, 254, 451

Nightjar, Common, 264

---- Red-necked, 247, 254, 276, 451

Nutcracker, 455

Nuthatch, 147, 454, 458

Olive, Culture of, 231

Orange harvest, 305

Origin of Spanish people, 4

Oriole, Golden, 80, 84, 247-8, 252, 254, 452, 455

Ortolan, 88, 147, 254, 452, 454

Osprey, 457

Otter, 364, 449

Owl, Eagle-, 24, 210, 255, 301

---- Brown, 454, 457

---- Little, 247-8, 253, 264, 276

---- Long-eared, 457

---- Scop's, 253, 276, 451

---- Short-eared, 457

---- White, 251, 457

Oyster-catcher, 392

Paradox gun, 361, 415 (footnote)

Partridge, Grey, 187, 454

---- Red-leg, 29, 252, 304, 331

---- -shooting (Portugal), 332

---- ---- (Spain), 304, 351 _et seq._

Peewit, 76, 88, 294, 304, 380

Peregrine, 154, 160, 265, 353 (Southern)

Petrel, Stormy, 459

Phalarope, Grey, 76, 89

Pintail, 73, 269, 373, 375, 376, 425, 426

Pintailed Sand-Grouse, 85, 89, 381, 432

Pipit, Meadow, 147, 254, 458

---- Tawny, 452

---- Tree-, 452, 454-5

Ploughing, 225

Plover, Golden, 253, 266, 381

---- Grey, 76, 89, 453

---- Kentish, 75, 88, 253, 381, 452

---- Lesser Ring-, 75, 88, 253, 452

---- Ring-, 89

---- Stone-, 262, 351, 452

Poacher caught, 369-70

Pochard, common, 73-4, 375, 392, 425

---- Red-crested, 267, 376

---- White-eyed, 73, 254, 268, 375, 392, 425, 453

_Podencos_ (hunting dogs), 26, 100

Polecat, 449

Portugal, Alto Douro, 329 _et seq._

---- Insect life in, 332

---- Partridge-shooting, 331-2

---- Quail, 419-20

---- Snipe-shooting, 417, 423

---- Trout-fishing, 175

---- Viticulture in, 329 _et seq._

_Posada_, 19 _et seq._, 80, 296-7, 305, 312

Pratincole, 76, 91 (breeding), 254, 276, 427, 452

Ptarmigan, 3, 147, 187

Quail, 205, 266, 341, 419, 452

---- Andalucian, 353, 420

Rail, Land-, 253, 419, 424, 452

---- Water-, 273, 419, 424, 427

Rainbow, Circular, 171

"Rare birds," 72, 238

Rats (land-, and water-), 342, 363, 449

Raven, 147, 160, 171, 181, 243-4, 409-10, 458 (footnote)

_Reclamos_ (call-birds), 304

Red-leg Partridge, 29, 252, 304, 331, 351

Redpole, 458

Redshank, 75, 88, 381, 399

Redstart, 147, 160, 247, 451, 454

---- Black, 247, 454

Redwing, 300, 304

Reptiles, 79, 259, 260 _et seq._, 352 (footnote)

Revolution, 12, 212-13, 227-8, 327

Ring-Ouzel, 147, 171, 254, 451, 454

Ring-Plover, 89

Roads in Spain, 10, 151, 294

Robin, 247, 304, 454

Rock-Thrush, 147, 254, 451

Roe-Deer, 28, 161, 216, 303, 439-40

Roller, 80, 82, 249, 252, 254, 256, 451

Rook, 458

"Rough times," 79, 103, 109, 168, 304

Ruff, 76, 254, 399, 453

Salmon, 176

Sanderling, 76, 453 (note)

Sand-Grouse, Black-bellied, 86

---- Pintailed, 85, 89, 381, 432

Sand-hills of Doñana, 245, 367

Sandpiper, Common, 76, 88, 147, 174, 181, 453, 455

---- Curlew-, 76, 89, 453

---- Green, 76, 275, 381, 399

---- Wood-, 275, 453

Santandér, 179

Scenes described, 89, 100, 159

Scorpion, 161, 332

Scoter, 74, 425

Sea-Eagle, 199

Serin-Finch, 84, 205, 249, 455, 458

Serpent-Eagle, 199, 204, 215, 241-2, 253, 262, 265, 451

Shearwater, 459

Sheep, 151, 234

---- Wild, 442

Sheld-duck, 376, 392, 394, 425

---- Ruddy, 376, 392, 426

Short-toed Lark, 88, 253, 452

Shoveller, 73, 269, 374-5, 425

Shrew, 449

---- Trumpeter, 449

Shrike, Redbacked, 80

---- Southern Grey, 80, 246, 253, 256, 294

---- Woodchat, 84, 246, 249, 254, 256, 452, 454

Siskin, 458

Skylark, 147, 174, 254, 455

Slender-billed Gull, 90-1

Smell, Sense of (ibex), 146 (note), 316 (deer), 405

Smugglers, 12, 14, 120-1, 163, 214

Snakes, 79, 260, 261-2

Snipe, 254, 380, 392, 417 _et seq._, 427

---- -shooting, 417 _et seq._

---- Great, 453

Sparrow-Hawk, 160, 456, 457

---- Hedge-, 455, 457

---- Rock-, 458

---- Spanish, 244

Spoonbill, 76, 84, 271, 399, 426, 453

Starling, 254

---- Spotless, 249, 253-4, 452

"Still-hunting," 359, 364, 428 _et seq._

Stilt, 75, 84, 86 (breeding), 88, 381, 392, 398

Stint, Little and Temminck's, 453 (note)

Stonechat, 147, 257, 454

Stone-Curlew, 262, 351, 453

Stone-Pine, 245

Stork, Black, 253, 423, 453

---- White, 84, 210, 381, 399, 423, 453

Sunstroke, 73, 306

Swallow, 247, 253, 255, 451-2

Swans, Wild, 279, 426

Swift, Alpine, 154, 216, 247, 254, 451

---- Common, 205, 254, 451

---- Pallid, 451

Teal, 73, 264, 268, 375, 401, 424

_Tentadero_, 61

Terns, 76, 276, 427, 453, 459

---- Black, 92, 255, 273, 453

---- Gull-billed, 93, 273, 453

---- Lesser, 93, 254, 273, 453

---- Whiskered, 92, 254, 273, 453

---- White-winged Black, 267

Theories, Danger of, 114

Threshing (corn), 226

Thrush, Blue, 29, 147, 160, 210 (note), 216, 299

---- Common, 147, 254, 300, 304

---- Mistle-, 457

---- Rock-, 147, 254, 451

Tit, Blue, 247, 249, 455

---- Crested, 249, 455, 458

---- Great, 160, 249, 455

---- Various, 247, 455

Titlark, 147, 254, 458

Toads, Immense, 272

Trapping birds of prey, 244, 252

Travel, Incidents of, 10-12, 167-8, &c.

Tree-Creeper, 247, 407, 458

Trout, 171, 173 _et. seq._, 183 _et seq._, 296

Tufted Duck, 74, 375, 425

Turtle-Dove, 80, 253, 254, 452, 455

Twilight, Absence of, 403, 409

Unique Shot (at Bustard), 51

Vegetation, Luxuriant, 83, 352

Vernal bird-notes, 84, 205, 454

Viticulture in Spain, 325 _et seq._, 333 _et seq._

---- ---- Portugal, 329 _et seq._

Vulture, Bearded--_see_ Lammergeyer

---- Black, 146, 200 _et seq._

---- Egyptian, 147, 206, 211-12, 268, 333, 451

---- Griffon, 29, 160, 205 _et seq._, 215-16, 294-6, 302

Wagtail, Grey, 458

---- Grey-headed, 249, 452, 455

---- White, 253, 454-5, 458

---- Yellow, 455

Wall-Creeper, 455, 458

Warbler, Blackcap, 247, 249

Warbler, Black-headed, 247, 249

---- Bonelli's, 452, 455

---- Cetti's, 247, 268

---- Dartford, 147, 304

---- Fantail, 247, 268-9

---- Garden-, 249, 254, 451

---- Great Sedge-, 247, 254, 268, 451

---- Melodious W., 84, 249, 255, 268, 452, 454

---- Orphean, 84, 247, 254, 451

---- Pallid, 255, 451

---- Reed-, 268, 452

---- Rufous, 247, 249, 254, 452

---- Savi's, 254, 452

---- Spectacled, 254, 451, 455

---- Sub-alpine, 254, 452

---- Willow-, 247, 249, 452

---- Wood-, 452

Water, a national drink, 222

Water-beetles, 427

Water-hen, 424

---- Purple, 424, 427, 452

Water-Rail, 273, 419, 424, 427

Water-Shrew, Trumpeter, 449

Weasel, 449

Wheatear, Common, 253, 451, 454

---- Eared, 147, 254, 451

---- Russet, 147, 254, 451

Whimbrel, 76, 255, 427, 453

Whinchat, 181, 451

White-eyed Duck, 73, 254, 268, 375, 392, 425, 453

White-faced Duck, 77, 254, 269-70, 376, 424, 426, 453

Whitethroat, 249, 254, 451

Wigeon, 73, 253, 373, 375, 402, 425

Wild Cat, 84, 108, 250, 362, 447-8

Wild Sheep, 442

Wildfowl, Variety of, 365, 383, 388, 398-9, 402

---- Heavy shots at, 366, 374, 382, 403, 404

Wildfowling, 356, 358, 365, 371 _et seq._, 384, 395 _et seq._

---- with _cabrestos_, 365, 372

---- ---- stanchion-gun, 395 _et seq._

Wine, 24, 245, 332, 334-7

Winter in Spain, 352, 371, 384, 392, 395, 428

Wolf, 153, 167, 313-14, 332, 444-5

Woodchat, 84, 246, 249, 254, 256, 452, 454

Woodcock, 253, 419

Woodpecker, Great Black, 187, 455

---- ---- Spotted, 160, 253, 300

---- Lesser Spotted, 80

---- Spanish Green, 247-8, 253, 256, 262-3

Wood-Pigeon, 160, 253, 301, 419

Wood-Sandpiper, 275, 453

Wren, 160, 455, 457

---- Fire-crest, 407, 455, 458

---- Willow-, 247, 249, 452

---- Wood-, 452

Wryneck, 451, 455, 457

Yellowhammer, 454-5

Zincali, 277 _et seq._, 287 _et seq._

Zurita, 211

Woodfall & Kinder, Printers, 70 to 76, Longacre, London, W.C.

_Demy 8vo, 300 pages, with 50 Illustrations by the Author, 12s. 6d._

Bird-Life of the Borders:





"At last we have a book on birds in their haunts by a writer who is
thoroughly master of his subject--one who has plenty to say, and who
also knows how to place his experiences vividly before the reader. The
portions devoted to the Cheviots and the moorlands recall the scent of
the heather, while the narrative of adventures by day and by night in a
gunning punt along the 'slakes' off Holy Island is pervaded by the keen
salt breezes from the North Sea. In addition to his powers of
description, Mr. Chapman is possessed of considerable abilities as a
draughtsman, and although, through modesty, the fact is not mentioned on
the title-page, this work contains numerous illustrations from his own
pen-and-ink sketches, some of them being really admirable for breadth
and boldness of execution.... As regards the second part, which treats
of wild-fowling with the stancheon-gun, we can only say that nothing
like it has appeared since the publication of Colonel Hawker's classic
work. The haunts and habits of wild-fowl by day and night have never
before been so clearly pointed out in any work with which we are

"One of the pleasantest books conceivable ..., it illustrates the
valuable results of many years' observation, sometimes in the way of
jottings from note-books, sometimes in descriptive sketches that are the
most stirring and animated of pictures. Mr. Chapman is a naturalist of
Gilbert White's school in the keenness and accuracy of his perceptions.
He sees things for himself and takes nothing upon trust. Every lover of
a country life will delight in his vivid sketches.... The author's
enthusiasm is something irresistible. Even the drawbacks of that
'waiting game,' wild-fowling appear as of no weight when estimating the
glories of the sport as set forth in the admirable chapters on
'Wild-Fowl of the North-East Coast,' 'Midnight on the Oozes,' 'Wild-Fowl
and the Weather,' and so forth. Mr. Chapman illustrates his book with
pen-and-ink drawings, chiefly of wild-fowl, which are excellent for the
most part, and excellently reproduced."--_Saturday Review._

"The ardour for sport is tempered in the author's case by a steady habit
of observation, backed by careful note-taking and _reflection_, and
widened by experiences in other lands; and the result is such an
accurate record of the habits and movements of living birds in a single
district, and at all seasons of the year, as is hardly to be found in
any other volume of the same modest size and pretensions.... When the
Southern reader lays down this book he feels quite at home among the
curlew, the golden plover, and the grouse on the moors; he feels that he
has done the next best thing to a personal endeavour to get a sight of
those long lines of wild-geese on the bleak Northumbrian

"An invigorating out-of-doors air pervades this book, and a happy
directness of description.... Although very comprehensively treating of
bird-life, a considerable portion of the book--and that not the least
interesting--is devoted to shooting (open and covert), but mainly punt
shooting. In sporting experience, so far as concerns the north-east
coast, Mr. Chapman stands in the front rank, and discourses of it with
an authority beyond controversy or challenge."--_Land and Water._

"Among the classics of local Natural History."--_Scotsman._

"His pages bristle with curiously minute and interesting facts
concerning 'our feathered friends.'"--_Leeds Mercury._

"Reads with the freshness of romance."--_Glasgow Herald._

"Every page is original, breezy, and fresh, and calculated to arouse the
longings of the sportsman, naturalist, and artist."--_Newcastle

"One of the best books we have ever come across on bird-life, not only
of the borders, but of the United Kingdom."--_Western Daily Press_

"A charming book, of which no true naturalist or sportsman will quickly

"Will enchant all who are fond of birds. Sympathy with all living
creatures, careful observation with cautious deductions, and strong love
for the bleak moors and wild scenery of the Cheviots--such are the
characteristics of this most interesting book.... The illustrations add
a great charm to a book redolent of wild life and careful

"Abounds in subjects of interest; the scientist will not be disgraced
and the lover of sport and outdoor adventure will be more than
pleased.... The illustrations are in every sense an additional charm....
No book we ever read so amply fulfilled the promise of its
title."--_Kelso Mail._

"We predict for it the success to which its originality and charm, no
less than its scientific value, eminently entitle it."--_Northern Whig_

"Transports us to the borderland of England and Scotland, as well as to
that of sport and science, and contrives to give us pictures of Arctic
Northumberland which are appallingly glacial, with episodes of bird-life
on moor or marsh which are astonishingly wild for the British
Islands.... Writes of them all with the picturesque vigour that comes of
thorough knowledge and deep affection."--_Pall Mall Gazette._

"It is doubtful if the birds themselves, if they could read such books,
would not count it folly to wish that their masters were more wise than
they are in the ways of wild-fowl, seeing that such knowledge must be
gathered mainly with the fowling-piece and the stancheon-gun. They might
deem the apathy of King Log preferable to the flattering attentions of
King Stork. Books of Sport and natural history are written, however, for
sportsmen and naturalists and not for birds. Mr. Chapman's volume is one
of the best of its kind. It has blemishes, as every work that has vigour
and originality about it must have. But it is full of keen and
intelligent observation.... Exhilarating and delightful."--_Scots

"Many years of wandering on the hills, moors, and mosses of the
Border-land, and of wild-fowl shooting on the bleak and exposed
north-east coast, have given the author ample opportunity, and he has
evidently made use of his chances, the result being these pleasant and
original chapters, written in the best style, and the perusal of which
must be delightful to every true lover of nature."--_The Naturalist._

"This is an admirable book of its kind ... full of interest to devotees
of the gun and rod."--_Nature._

"For attitudes of wild-geese we have seen nothing better than the
illustrations to Mr. Abel Chapman's 'Bird-life of the Borders.'"--_The

"Although reviewers may play for safety when they are not sure of their
subject as regards an indifferent book, they show a wonderfully quick
appreciation for one that is thoroughly good. The present volume is a
case in point, for the author is at once a true sportsman and a
naturalist, as well as an artist of no mean ability, and from all sides
comes the chorus of praise."--_Annals and Magazine of Natural History._






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[1] The _fueros_ of the Basques comprise certain franchises and
privileges granted or upheld by ancient charters, and are their
undoubted right, though sought to be ignored by Madrid statesmen. It was
largely through his promises to re-establish their _fueros_, that Don
Carlos enlisted the sympathy and support of the Basque provinces. The
subject, however, is an intricate one, and is only alluded to

[2] An amusing little instance of Spanish justice arose out of
this:--Having refused to pay the fine, no further steps were taken for
its recovery, nor to uphold the majesty of the law, until, long
afterwards, the mulcted man's purse was stolen from his pocket in the
bull-ring at P----. On his appearing to prosecute the thief, whose guilt
was clearly proved, the Alcalde declined to restore the money, quietly
pocketing the purse with the remark, "I think, Señor Caballero, this
will just about settle the account between us!" This casual way of
administering justice was amusing enough, and consoled one for the
feeling of having been "bested."

[3] There is an excellent description of one of these tragic scenes in
Borrow (_Zincali_, i., pp. 48, 49).

[4] In a subsequent chapter we give some account of the life--and
death--of Vizco el Borje.

[5] _See_ "El Bandolerismo," by El Excmº. é Ilmo. Señor Don Julian de
Zugasti, late Governor of the province of Córdova (Madrid, 1876).

[6] We have seen an exception to this in the mountain villages of the
Castiles, where, on _fiesta_ nights, a sort of rude valse is danced in
the open street.

[7] The sporting incidents here narrated occurred twenty years ago,
viz., in March, 1872. This was the authors' first shooting expedition
_together_: for which reason we place its record in the first chapter.

[8] _Avetarda_ is old Spanish, the modern spelling being _Abutarda_.

[9] The grand secret of success in this sport (as elsewhere remarked) is
to place the guns _close up_ to the game. The means by which the primary
object is attained can hardly be set down on paper--nothing but
practice, quick and good judgment, and a sportsman's instinct will
effect it. In more than one instance we have found a deadly line
ambushed within 150 yards of the most watchful bustards, and on ground
where, to a novice, the feat would certainly be set down as impossible.

[10] The expression "Bull-fight" is a very inadequate interpretation of
the Spanish _Corrida_, or _Fiesta de Toros_, even in its modern form,
and conveys no idea of the magnificent spectacular displays of the
middle ages. Then, the national heroic life was but reflected in the
arena, in scenes embellished with all the stately accessories and
colouring dear to semi-Oriental minds. The mimic pageantry of to-day is
but a relic of former grandeur.

[11] Spanish writers, however, jealous for the national origin of the
sport, insist that the "Fiestas de Toros" were born in Spain, that there
alone have they increased and flourished, and that in Spain will they
continue while time lasts.

[12] On this point, Sanchez de Nieva writes ("El Toréo," published at
Madrid, 1879):--"The Arabs were much given to bull-fighting, and highly
skilled in the _lidia_, whether mounted or on foot. It must, however, be
borne in mind that these encounters took place in Spain, and that the
so-called Arabs were in reality Spaniards--the Moorish domination having
then lasted for seven centuries. It may be stated, without fear of
error, that nearly all the inhabitants of this country, after the first
two centuries, were, though born in Spain, Arabs in origin."

[13] Attempts were made by other countries to imitate the Spanish
spectacle. Italy, in 1332, celebrated a tauromachian festival which has
left a sad record on the page of history. No fewer than nineteen Roman
gentlemen, and many of lower rank, perished on the horns of the bulls.
After this tragic event bull-fights were prohibited in Italy, though for
a time revived by the Spanish in that country after their conquest of
Flanders and the Low Countries.

[14] De Bedoya's "Historia del Toréo" (Madrid, 1850) gives Francisco de
Romero as the first professional _lidiador_ of the modern epoch.

[15] The better-bred animals are always the more harmless, if not

[16] The following are some of the best known _garrochistas_ of recent
years: Señores Don Antonio Miura, Don Faustino Morube, Don Miguel
Garcia, Don Guillermo Ochoteco, Don José Silva, Don Fernando Concha, Don
Agusto Adalid, Don Angel Zaldos, Don Manuel Sanchez-Mira, Marques de
Bogaraya, Marques de Guadalest, Don Frederico Huesca, Marques de
Castellones, &c.

[17] The bull-fighters and their friends affect a language peculiar to
the Plaza: a dialect of systematic construction. To acquire a knowledge
of this "Jerga" (La Germania), with its idiomatic piquancy and raciness,
is the aim of the "fancy" young men, the _Flamencos_ of Southern Spain.
To be in the circle of the popular bull-fighters, with its perilous
female entourage, is considered _chic_ by certain gilded youth.
Flamenco-ism appears to find its _beau idéal_ in the borderland which
lies between the bizarre existence of the "torero" and the Gitano or
gypsy. (_See_ chapter on the Spanish Gypsy of to-day.)

[18] The _mancha_ of Salavar in the Coto Doñana is an example of one of
these green oases amidst barren, lifeless sand-wastes.

[19] These Godwits (_Limosa belgica_) are more common on passage earlier
in the spring. We have seen flights of many hundreds in February and
March. The Common Bar-tailed Godwit (_Limosa rufa_) we have never
chanced to meet with here, either in winter or spring--only on its
southern passage, in September.

[20] Kittiwakes and Black-headed Gulls in swarms during March and early
April, whitening acres of water. The latter remained till perfect
summer-plumage is attained (by March 21st). Little Gulls frequent: on
two occasions (in February and March) observed in scores. _Larus fuscus_
and _L. argentatus_ were common in March, and on April 5th we obtained
an adult of _L. marinus_ in the marisma. Of British Terns, _S. cantiaca_
and _S. fluviatilis_, were noticed in early spring.

[21] When first hatched, the legs of the young Stilts are quite short;
but by mid-June are of medium length, pale clay-colour, and curiously
swollen about the knee-joint. The upper plumage of the young at that
date is mottled brown, irides brown. By the following January these
young Stilts have acquired a black and white plumage; but the irides
remain dark, and the legs a pale pink. The adults vary in the
disposition of black and white in their plumage, especially on head and
neck, and some few have the breast prettily tinged with roseate.

[22] A pair of the _L. gelastes_ shot this day (together with some other
of our Spanish specimens) are now set up in the Hancock Museum at

[23] From the dates subsequently given, it would appear that the young
camels are produced about the month of February, or perhaps earlier.

[24] With the possible exception of those stated to have been discovered
in the Kum-tagh deserts of Central Asia by Col. Prejevalsky, the Russian

[25] Wild-bred cattle, many of them destined for the bull-rings of Jerez
or Seville.

[26] The repugnance evinced by horses towards the camel was known ages
ago. At the battle of Sardis (B.C. 546) this equine weakness was
utilized by Cyrus in opposing to the Lydian cavalry a vanguard of camels
(Herodotus, Clio, pp. 78, 80). A similar stratagem was proposed by
Amurath I. at the decisive battle of Kossova between the Ottoman army
and the Confederate hosts of Servia, Bosnia, and Wallachia, August 27th,
1389, but was abandoned in deference to the fiery impetuosity of Prince
Bajazet and some supposed precepts of the Koran.

[27] The English language provides no word specially to designate a male
goat. We have, therefore, fallen back on the word _ram_, which, though
not strictly accurate, is the nearest available term.

[28] Horns from Nevada are thinner, more compressed laterally, and the
ridges show the spiral curves less distinctly. It is, after all, the old
question of what constitutes a species.

[29] The horns of the Spanish ibex rather resemble those of the burrell,
or wild sheep of the Caucasus, &c., than typical ibex-horns.

[30] "In the Pyrenees," Sir Victor Brooke writes us, "they are rare, and
live in the worst precipices I ever saw an animal in. They go into far
worse ground than chamois, and are very nocturnal--never seen except in
the dusk and early dawn, unless disturbed."

[31] The ibex of Asia Minor--a quite distinct species, _Capra
ægragus_--appears, according to Mr. E. N. Buxton (_Nineteenth Century_,
February, 1891, p. 261, _et seq._), to have somewhat similar habits,
frequenting the pine forests and lower wooded slopes of the hills, by
preference to the treeless summits. But the Turkish mountaineer is a
very different man to his Spanish representative, and appears utterly
careless of the charms of the chase, seldom molesting the wild goats,
whereas in Spain they are rarely left in peace while there is a chance
of killing them.

[32] A previous expedition in Gredos had proved entirely blank, not an
ibex being secured in a fortnight's shooting.

[33] The ibex are very fond of this shrub, which in summer has a red
bloom; and the zone of the _piornales_ is the lowest to which they
descend, even in winter.

[34] It is worth mentioning, as showing the importance of the wind and
the precarious nature of this pursuit, that on the former occasion a
sudden change in the wind had destroyed all chance for the day, and
rendered useless many hours' hard work and carefully-planned operations.
Even a "flaw" in its direction is often fatal to success, so keen of
scent is the _cabra montés_.

[35] From big game to butterflies is a far cry; yet, on the chance of
having some entomological readers, we may mention the following
_Rhodopalocera_ observed in these Central Spanish sierras: On the wooded
slopes and among the scrub, the speckled wood (_Ægeria_) and a large
wall (? sp.) were common; so also was a small species of azure blue. A
single orange-tip (_Cardamines_) was observed, and several of the
handsome _Melanargia sillius_. A very small copper was perhaps
_Polyommatus virgaureæ, var. Miegii_, Vogel, and of the clouded yellows,
_Colias phicomone_, E., higher, and _C. edusa_ and _hyale_, lower, were
also observed. On the heights was a small orange-, or chestnut-coloured
insect, very active, and quite unknown to us. A hairstreak (? _Theckla
roboris_) and _L. sinapis_ occurred in the lower woods, where the
brilliant _Gonopterix Cleopatra_ was also seen, as well as one or two
examples of a large and very handsome insect, apparently of the
_Limenitis_ group--chequered black-and-white, probably _L. Camilla_, F.
One should, however, be a specialist to identify these exotic species.

[36] Such place-names as Mom-Beltran de Lys, the Torre de la Triste
Condesa, and others, seem to suggest tales of historic lore and legend,
probably long since forgotten.

[37] The highest point of the Riscos appeared to be about 7,000 ft., and
commanded a superb panorama of the whole Sierra de Gredos, with its
towering peaks and snow-fields stretching away to their apex in the
Plaza de Almanzor. With regard to altitudes, we here write with some
uncertainty, as our aneroid, after being depressed to twenty-one inches,
appeared to exhibit some irregularities, and had possibly suffered some
internal or constitutional injury.

[38] We succeeded in taking several eggs of this bird in the crevices of
a sheer crag, after a somewhat perilous climb. These eggs are very
light-coloured; the ground colour is pale cream, faintly spotted with
brown and dull greyish splashes.

[39] Specific names not guaranteed.

[40] We found a nest of the Sandpiper (_Tolanus hypoleucus_) with four
nearly fresh eggs on May 23rd--Provincia de Santandér.

[41] This transformation of colour is well represented (though not
designedly so) by the two plates at p. 88 of Dr. Bree's "Birds of
Europe" (2nd ed.). The "Tawny Eagle" there figured might be a young
Imperial of, say, two months old; while _Aquila culleni_, so far as
colour is concerned, would do duty for the same bird at two years.

[42] Now in the Hancock Museum at Newcastle.

[43] The Rock-Martins' nests were fixed under the roof and upper ledges
of the caves, not unlike Swallows'. Their eggs are white, slightly
flecked with grey. At the same date (May 18th) we also obtained a nest
of the Blue Rock-Thrush, with five beautiful greenish-blue eggs. The
male, during the breeding-season, has a pretty habit of towering up in
the air, singing merrily, then falling back among the rocks like a

[44] Observed at this place and date a greater variety of butterflies
than ever before in Spain--brilliant Painted Ladies and Fritillaries
(?sp.); but most conspicuous were "yellows" of various kinds: _Thäis
polyxena_ and _Colias edusa_, large pale "sulphurs," some
whole-coloured, others with bright orange-tips; in others, again, the
orange adjoined the body. There were also many Heaths and Browns,
Speckled Wood, Bath Whites, and many (to us) unknown species.

[45] One nest still contained an unfledged youngster. On my appearance
at his abode the unsightly little brute at once disgorged a mass of
carrion that necessitated an immediate retreat.

[46] Of the 8,529,600 separate rural properties which exist on the
Spanish land-register, 2,729,600 are administered and cultivated for the
account of their proprietors; and 800,000 are let at a rental, either in
cash or "kind."

[47] Though no hay is made expressly, yet the sun-baked herbage, called
_pastos_, of the fallows and winter grazings is practically equivalent
to hay found ready-made.

[48] Taxation falls heavily enough on the farmer direct. Land-owners are
asked by the State for about one-fourth of the rental. The tax on
tenant-farmers is equally heavy, estimated by a cumbrous assessment,
based on the number of draught-oxen employed, or the head of grazing
stock. A large proportion of the taxation leviable is, however, evaded.

[49] The following table shows the production of _cereals_ (in Spain) in
a normal year:--

    Wheat       32,776,055 hectolitres.
    Barley      17,410,164      "
    Rye          7,392,778      "
    Maize        7,788,183      "
    Oats         2,633,672      "

[50] A hectare is, roughly, about an acre and a half. A hectolitre is
equivalent to two and three-quarter bushels.

[51] The large irides and general appearance of this species seem to
indicate crepuscular tendencies, and an affinity--obsolete or
evolvent--to the _Strigidæ_, which is recognized in its generic name,
_Circäetus_, next to the Harriers. But, in fact, the affinity is more
apparent than real, for the Serpent-Eagle is of purely diurnal habits.

[52] Some Kites (_M. ictinus_), which had been feeding on reptiles, had
a most offensive smell. The beak of the male, in this species, is
_yellow_ to the tip; in the female, horn-colour. The kites all lay _two_
eggs, on the bare sticks--only once, in each case, have we found the
dual number exceeded, viz., _M. ictinus_, three young, on May 2nd; _M.
migrans_, three eggs, on May 10th. We have found the eggs of the
first-named as early as the closing days of March.

[53] Partridges commence this love-song as early as February. In March
it is continuous at sunrise and towards dusk. Here is an attempt to
syllable it:--

    "Chŭck, chŭck ... churroùk, churroùk,
                  Chukàr, chukàr, chōŭk!"

[54] In Egypt the Grey-backed Crow (_Corvus cornix_) is almost
exclusively the Cuckoo's dupe; in Algeria, _Pica mauritanica_.

[55] "The Zincali; or, an Account of the Gypsies of Spain." By George
Borrow. 2 vols. London, John Murray, 1841.

[56] Whatever may have been their origin, their language demonstrates
that the Spanish gypsies are not (as has been suggested) relics of the
expelled Moors, Arabs, or _Moriscos_, with whose tongue theirs has no
affinity. Many of the Rommany words appear to be of Sanscrit derivation.

[57] In speed of foot, the gitano lads carry off the palm, leaving all
competitors behind in the rare athletic contests which have taken place
in Southern Spain.

[58] These particulars are, however, given in nearly all Spanish diaries
and almanacs.

[59] We do not encumber ourselves on these bird-hunting expeditions with
tents, tressle-beds, indiarubber baths, and the other luxuries of the
regular shooting campaigns. Sometimes, after sleeping in the _cerrones_,
if no water was near, one's toilet was confined to a general "shake up,"
like a fox-terrier turning out from his mat, and we rode on till a
hill-burn afforded a chance of a bath and breakfast.

[60] Our own experience on this point would not enable us to assert this
fact so positively--indeed we have observed instances in which the
reverse case _appeared_ to obtain; but the circumstance has been stated
to us by an ornithologist whose authority stands beyond question or

[61] Both my companion Ramon Romatez, and Juan Guarro y Guarro, as well
as several of our other men, were independent yeomen, owning from 150 to
200 goats apiece, which they pastured on the slopes of the sierra. They
were, however, glad to accompany us for the sum of eight _reales_ (one
shilling and eightpence) a day.

[62] Except at vintage-times the Alto Douro is almost uninhabited. Hence
in early autumn, when work is plentiful, there occurs an extraordinary
influx of labourers--men and women--many from considerable distances,
and especially from the Spanish province of Galicia, flocking into the
Alto Douro as the hop-pickers in September pour into Kent from the
_arcana_ of London, or as the Irish harvesters at that season flood the
Midlands and North of England.

[63] The following are the constituents of the four different classes of
soil of the Jerez vignobles, according to Don Simon de Roxas
Clemente:--1st. _Albariza_, chiefly consists of carbonate of lime, with
a small admixture of silex and clay, and occasionally magnesia. 2nd.
_Barros_, composed of quartz or sand, mixed with clay and red or yellow
ochre, which forms horizontal bands extending along the coast from the
mouth of the Guadalquivir as far as Conil. 3rd. _Arenas_, or pure quartz
ore sand. 4th. _Bugeo_, which contains argillaceous loam, mixed with
carbonate of lime, some quartz ore sand, and a large proportion of
vegetable mould.--"History of Modern Wines," by Dr. Alexander Henderson,
p. 190.

[64] Dr. Henderson makes a contrary statement in his "History of Ancient
and Modern Wines," p. 190 (London, 1824); but this we imagine must be
attributed to a slip of the pen, and is, in any case, erroneous.

[65] Nowhere can these spectacles be witnessed with greater ease, or to
better advantage, than on the Lower Guadalquivir, where, from the deck
of our vessel, we have counted as many as forty or fifty _barbones_
within easy reach of a field-glass. It is, however, only in the first
hours of daylight that they are thoroughly "on view."

[66] Col. Irby gives this love-note as "_prut, prut_." Mr. Howard
Saunders describes the rising and falling movement as more of a _jump_,
which may very likely be a more correct definition; or, perhaps, both
actions are executed. At the distance at which observations are
possible, it is difficult to be quite certain what one sees.

[67] It may be appropriate here to add that the curious chamæleon, which
is found nowhere else in Europe, is abundant in this district. It is
not, however, seen in mid-winter. Another remarkable reptile is the
lobe-footed gecko (_Platydactylus muralis_), which swarms about rocks
and old walls. Both the reptiles and insects of Spain would probably
richly repay further research.

[68] Since the above was written we have acquired the sporting rights
over parts of these great marshes, and have engaged the worthy
wildfowlers, Vasquez and Vergara, as keepers. Many pleasant days have we
spent with them and their ponies. But of this sport a fuller account
will be found in another chapter.

[69] That is, with two men behind the pony. We have since then, going
_single-handed_, occasionally succeeded in outwitting even the Grey Lag.

[70] Garganeys are said to be the swiftest of all the duck-tribe, and to
lead the migrating flights, both on their southern journey and also when
steering north. Hence their name: "_capitanes_."

[71] In the previous year (1888) the opening bag was 37 geese, 373
ducks, and 46 various.

[72] The best day, walking for snipe, December 4, 1889, produced 232
snipe--six guns.

[73] This failure of the gunning-punt in Spain is the more inexplicable
as in Egypt--the only other southern land in which, to our knowledge,
this sport has been attempted--the very reverse was the case. An
Englishman who took out a punt to the Nile abandoned the pursuit, as he
found no difficulty in taking the craft to such close quarters that he
bagged fifty to sixty each shot. Similarly, Lord Londesborough found the
fowl in the Egyptian lagoons so easily accessible that, after securing
2,290 geese and 1,800 ducks in the season (sixty-four geese being his
biggest shot), he abandoned further operations as lacking the one
essential condition--that of difficulty. (_Badminton
Library._--"Shooting: Moor and Marsh," pp. 261-2.)

[74] Our biggest shot with the _cabresto_-ponies realized 74 ducks and
teal; guns, a single 4-and a double 8-bore.

[75] The following note, being made from experience and on the spot, may
be worth inserting:--In driving large game of any kind, be careful to
make a good screen: there is always time to build up a breastwork either
of branches, or rocks, or snow, or whatever the material at hand may be.
If placed behind a thick bush, cut a deep nick into it with the
hunting-knife, so that one stands _well back_--_i.e._, right into the
bush, and appears to form an integral part thereof. How glad one is of
these little precautions _when game appears_!

[76] It may, however, fairly be added that we were using, in those days,
spherical bullets and the old cylinder smooth-bores--always erratic in
ball-practice beyond forty or fifty yards. All that is now superseded by
the introduction of the Paradox rifled gun (Col. Fosbery's patent), one
of the prettiest inventions and most remarkable improvements in modern
gunnery. With this beautiful weapon, which shoots ball as accurately as
a rifle, and comes to the eye as handy as a game-gun, no distracting
doubts need flurry one's aim at flying stag or boar within one hundred
yards; even snap-shots in covert are now a luxury instead of the
nerve-and temper-trying ordeal of yore. Such is the power and
penetration of the hollow-fronted conical ball that we have "raked" a
stag from stem to stern at one hundred and forty yards, the bullet
entering his chest, and lodging near the root of the tail almost
undamaged, after traversing the whole of the animal's vitals. For all
Spanish large game, the 12-bore Paradox, weighing 7-1/4 lbs., and
burning 3-1/2 drs. of powder, is an admirable weapon, and, except for
ibex and deer-stalking in the higher cordilleras, where very long shots
may be necessary, it almost takes the place of the heavier express

[77] "Quien come carne de Grulla, vive cien años."

[78] These old and cunning stags do not always break covert so readily,
as the following incident will show. We had tracked a hart for some
miles, till eventually the trail led towards quite a small clump--not
two acres--of 20-ft. gorse and tree-heath with an outer fringe of
bamboo, all growing on dry ground, though entirely surrounded by
flood-water. Every indication pointed to the stag having couched in this
congenial covert; the hunters, however, traversed it without moving
game. The water-weeds outside showed no sign of the stag having passed
onward: but, to make sure, we took a wide cast on the drier ground
beyond, separating so as completely to encircle the _mancha_. No vestige
of a trail could be seen; clearly the beast still lay in the recesses of
his island-sanctuary. The gun once more took up his position to leeward,
and the covert was beaten again--this time more effectively, for
presently, amid crash of branches and bamboos, the stag, which had been
lying like a hare in its form, bounded out across the shallow
marsh--with the usual result!

[79] Where exact dates are mentioned in the following table they refer
to the earliest or the latest occurrences, respectively, that have come
under our notice.

[80] _Corrigendum_:--Though we have stated (p. 243) that the Raven
breeds _late_ in Spain, it also does so early, for Mr. Saunders writes
us:--"At Malaga it was nesting by mid-February, and near Baza I watched
a pair feeding their young between 15th and 20th March."

[Illustration: image of the book's back cover]

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